Tech News.

Windows 10.


Microsoft Windows 10 is no longer just an OS it is now a service, just like the new Office 365. Microsoft charges their customers monthly or yearly to use office 365 also known as the "service". I have a hunch that it won't be long before Microsoft will charge customers to use Windows as well. I switched to Linux almost immediately after the release of Windows 10 and would never go back. Something tells me if that happens Linux will become very, very, popular.


Cell Phone Batteries.

Cell Phone

Have you ever noticed that most new cell phones do not allow you to remove the battery?

Well, I don't know about you, but I don't think it's by accident. You are being tracked. At the moment it's being blamed on malware and while that is part of the reason for getting tracked, it's not all of it.

The NSA has a diverse range of surveillance capabilities—from monitoring Google Maps use to sifting through millions of phone call records and spying on Web searches. It doesn’t end there. The agency can also track down the location of a cellphone even if the handset is turned off, according to a report released in 2013.

The common explanation is that the non-removable batteries make it possible for the phones to be slimmer, allow for other features and make the phone more water resistant, but I am not convinced.

Industry insiders say turning off your phone wil do the trick, but don't count on it, because there are 10,000 or so unlucky people who have their devices infected by a specimen of Andriod malware called 'PowerOffHijack'.  Once in installed the malware spoofs an authentic shutdown animation and makes your phone appear to be turned off. When in reality, it's still very much on and easily traceable. And who were the original developers of the malware? You guessed it....The NSA.

The NSA passed the malware off as a legitimate update for the phone firmware and they use it to track terrorists and criminals, which I have no problem with, but I am neither of those two things.

At the time of this post, I could not find a way to test a phone to see if it is infected with the PowerOffHijacker and could find no information on how to remove it if a phone is infected. There are virus scanners for phones that say they remove malware, but PowerOffHijacker was never mentioned as one of the detectable infections.

So, it appears the only way to be sure that your phone is not transmitting is the remove the battery and there-in-lies the problem, unless you want to risk breaking your phone and voiding your warranty if it is still covered.

I have heard stories of someone talking about a particular subject while their cell phone was sitting nearby, and then a couple of days later getting ads related to the very subject they were talking about. And I have to say, I am not surprised nor is it not within the realm of possibility. 

So, as an experiment and for a follow up post to this one, a friend of mine and I are going to try it and see. I'll post the results when we do.


It's official you don't own your tractor or your car.

John Deere

It’s official: John Deere and General Motors want to eviscerate the notion of ownership. Sure, we pay for their vehicles. But we don’t own them. Not according to their corporate lawyers, anyway.

In a particularly spectacular display of corporate delusion, John Deere—the world's largest agricultural machinery maker —told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.

Several manufacturers recently submitted similar comments to the Copyright Office under an inquiry into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. DMCA is a vast 1998 copyright law that (among other things) governs the blurry line between software and hardware. The Copyright Office, after reading the comments and holding a hearing, will decide in July which high-tech devices we can modify, hack, and repair—and decide whether John Deere’s twisted vision of ownership will become a reality.

Kyle Wiens is the co-founder and CEO of iFixit, an online repair community and parts retailer internationally renowned for their open source repair manuals and product teardowns.

Over the last two decades, manufacturers have used the DMCA to argue that consumers do not own the software underpinning the products they buy—things like smartphones, computers, coffeemakers, cars, and, yes, even tractors. So, Old MacDonald has a tractor, but he owns a massive barn ornament, because the manufacturer holds the rights to the programming that makes it run.

(This is an important issue for farmers: a neighbor, Kerry Adams, hasn’t been able to fix an expensive transplanter because he doesn’t have access to the diagnostic software he needs. He's not alone: many farmers are opting for older, computer-free equipment.)

Over the last two decades, manufacturers have used the DMCA to argue that consumers do not own the software that powers the products they buy.

In recent years, some companies have even leveraged the DMCA to stop owners from modifying the programming on those products. This means you can’t strip DRM off smart kitty litter boxes, install custom software on your iPad, or alter the calibration on a tractor’s engine. Not without potentially running afoul of the DMCA.

What does any of that have to do with copyright? Owners, tinkerers, and homebrew “hackers” must copy programming so they can modify it. Product makers don’t like people messing with their stuff, so some manufacturers place digital locks over software. Breaking the lock, making the copy, and changing something could be construed as a violation of copyright law.

And that’s how manufacturers turn tinkerers into “pirates”—even if said “pirates” aren’t circulating illegal copies of anything. Makes sense, right? Yeah, not to me either.

It makes sense to John Deere: The company argues that allowing people to alter the software—even for the purpose of repair—would “make it possible for pirates, third-party developers, and less innovative competitors to free-ride off the creativity, unique expression and ingenuity of vehicle software.” The pièce de résistance in John Deere’s argument: permitting owners to root around in a tractor’s programming might lead to pirating music through a vehicle’s entertainment system. Because copyright-marauding farmers are very busy and need to multitask by simultaneously copying Taylor Swift's 1989 and harvesting corn? (I’m guessing, because John Deere’s lawyers never explained why anyone would pirate music on a tractor, only that it could happen.)



Signal Says It Will Leave the US Market If the EARN IT Act Passes Congress.

The end-to-end encrypted messaging app Signal, which is respected and trusted for its transparent, open source design, says that it will be one of the immediate casualties should the controversial EARN IT Act pass Congress. Written by South Carolina Republican senator Lindsey Graham and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal and introduced in the Senate last month, the EARN IT Act claims to be a vehicle for improving how digital platforms reduce sexual exploitation and abuse of children online. But the law would really create leverage for the government to ask that tech companies undermine their encryption schemes to enable law enforcement access. Signal developer Joshua Lund said in a blog post on Wednesday that Signal is not cool with that! More specifically, he noted that Signal would face insurmountable financial burdens as a result of the law and would therefore be forced to leave the US market rather than undermine its encryption to stay. Given that Signal is recommended and used across the Department of Defense, Congress, and other parts of the US government, this would be a seemingly problematic outcome for everyone.