Daily News Roundup: Google Bans Touchpal App Dev from the Play Store

Google has banned CooTek, the developer behind the Touchpal keyboard and hundreds of other apps, from its ad network and the Play store. CooTek had a history of disruptive ads in its apps, that displayed even after users closed the app.

It was only a month ago that security firm Lookout discovered CooTek’s terrible app practices. CooTek loaded disruptive apps in hundreds of apps that could pop up even when users close the app. The ads were so prevalent they could render the phone unusable.

CookTek developers injected the ads with a BeiTaAd plugin and made an effort to hide what they were doing, even pausing the ads for a day or two after the app was first installed. By holding off on the ads, you might blame a newer installed app instead.

After Lookout reported its findings to Google, the offending apps were removed from the Play Store. CooTek apologized, promised to stop the practice, and uploaded “clean copies” of the apps, with the ad code removed.

While it’s true the company removed the BeiTaAd plugin, Lookout discovered the apps still could display equally disruptive ads. And again, CooTek made an effort to disguise what it was doing. Lookout reported its new findings to Google, who investigated and confirmed the presence of new code to load disruptive ads.

Because of those discoveries, Google banned CooTek from both its ad platform and from publishing apps in the Play Store. In a statement to Buzzfeed, a Google spokesperson said: “Our Google Play developer policies strictly prohibit malicious and deceptive behavior, as well as disruptive ads. When violations are found, we take action.”  [The Verge]

In Other News:

  • Microsoft will auto-update older Windows 10 machines to the May 2019 Update: Last month, Microsoft said it planned automatically upgrade machines running older versions of Windows 10 to the May 2019 Update. Now the company is moving forward with that plan, starting with a slow rollout of the upgrade process. [Microsoft]
  • Apple may fund original podcasts: Spotify and other podcasting companies have been busy funding original (and therefore exclusive) podcats. Now Apple may be jumping into the fray. Bloomberg cites “sources” who claimed Apple reached out to express interest in buying exclusive rights to podcasts. Apple does have a podcast app, so exclusives to drive usage is a sensible move. [Bloomberg]
  • Google Maps now shows bike-sharing stations worldwide: About a year ago, Google Maps began showing bike-sharing station locations in New York City. Now the company is expanding that service in 23 cities across the world, from Barcelona to Zurich. Users can find the closest station, whether to pick up a bike or drop one off. [VentureBeat]
  • Tesla raises Full-Self Driving option by $1000: Tesla offers a Full-Self Driving option add-on you can purchase with its already expensive car. The option doesn’t do anything, as Full-Self driving (or Level 5 Self-Drive) is a dream of the future. Starting in August, that promise of a dream will increase by $1000, to a total cost of $7000. [Ars Technica]
  • Nintendo upgrades the processor in the Switch for longer battery life: When Nintendo announced the Switch Light, it included a better processor than the original Switch used. Now Nintendo is bringing that processor to an upgraded version of the original Switch. Pricing remains the same, but the better processor adds 2 hours of battery life to the handheld — extra time for the tiny buttons to kill your thumbs. [ReviewGeek]
  • Apple is automatically patching latest Zoom vulnerability: In an update to the ongoing Zoom saga, Apple is patching the vulnerabilities in the RingCentral and Zhumu apps. The apps use Zoom’s software and are vulnerable to the same webcam hijacks Apple previously addressed. Apple’s updates are automatic and silent, so you don’t have to do anything to get the patch. [MacRumors]

When he’s not building cars, launching rockets, or drilling holes in the ground, Elon Musk is apparently researching brain implant technology.

His latest venture, Neuralink, came out of stealth mode last night to show off a new thread-like brain implant tech and a robot that sews it into your head. Scientists have been experimenting with brain-computer interfaces for some time, but the current technology is very invasive. The hope has been to solve brain disorders and better understand the human mind.

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How to Download Your Save Games From Steam Cloud

Steam Store on a laptop and desktop.
Casimiro PT/Shutterstock

Steam synchronizes many save files to its servers. They’re automatically downloaded via Steam when you install a game, but that’s not the only way you can get them. You can download them directly from Valve’s website in your browser, too.

Enable Steam Cloud Sync in Steam

If Steam isn’t automatically downloading your old save games after you install a game, ensure Steam Cloud is enabled for that game within Steam.

To do so, locate the game in your Steam library, right-click it, and then select “Properties.” Click the “Updates” tab and ensure the “Enable Steam Cloud synchronization” option is checked for the game. If this option isn’t checked, Steam won’t automatically download your cloud saves—or upload any new ones.

If you don’t see a Steam Cloud option for a game here, that game doesn’t support Steam Cloud. Not all games on Steam do—it’s up to each game developer.

Click "Updates" tab and check the "Enable Steam Cloud synchronization for" option.

Download the Files in Your Web Browser

Valve lets you download your Steam cloud save files via a web browser, too. You can download just your save files without re-downloading the entire game.

To find your save files, visit Valve’s View Steam Cloud page in your web browser and sign in with your Steam account.

You’ll see a list of games using your Steam Cloud storage. Locate the game in the list (hit Ctrl+F to use the browser’s search)—and click “Show Files” to see all the files for a game.

List of Steam Cloud's saved games on the web.

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How to Remotely Open a GUI Application With PuTTY

SSH on laptop concept
Eny Setiyowati/Shutterstock.com

Want to remotely access a Linux machine and launch a graphical application? PuTTY to the rescue, thanks to the “enable X11 forwarding” option. You can even do this from Windows—all you need to do is quickly install an X server.

The PuTTY program was initially written for Windows, 20 years ago. It has been ported to many other platforms since. It is a graphical application that provides a terminal window and remote connection to other computers. Typically, the connection is made using SSH, but other protocols are supported.

As well as the traditional terminal window command line interface, PuTTY can be configured to open graphical applications on the remote computer.

Installing PuTTY

If PuTTY isn’t already installed on your computer, you can install as follows.

On Windows, download PuTTY from the web.

To install PuTTY on Ubuntu, use this command:

sudo apt-get install putty

sudo apt-get install putty in a terminal window

To install PuTTY on Fedora, use this command:

sudo dnf install putty

sudo dnf install putty in a terminal window

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What Is Slack, and Why Do People Love It?

Slack's logo

Slack is a workplace chat app that’s so popular, the company that owns it was valued at more than $20 billion. You’ve probably seen it mentioned in the news. If you haven’t used it yet, here’s what you need to know.

What is Slack?

Slack is a workplace communication tool, “a single place for messaging, tools and files.” This means Slack is an instant messaging system with lots of add-ins for other workplace tools. The add-ins aren’t necessary to use Slack, though, because the main functionality is all about talking to other people. There are two methods of chat in Slack: channels (group chat), and direct message or DM (person-to-person chat). Let’s take a quick look at the user interface.

The Slack interface with the instance name, list of channels and DMs, and the chat window
Slack

There are four main things to pay attention to in Slack:

  1. The name of the Slack instance.
  2. The list of channels you’re a member of.
  3. The list of people you’ve direct messaged.
  4. The chat window.

When a customer wants to start using Slack, they choose a name for their Slack instance. This then becomes part of the unique URL. So, if Wile E. Coyote wants to create a Slack instance for ACME Slingshots, his Slack instance would be https://acmeslingshot.slack.com/. Wile E. can then invite anyone he wants to be a member of his Slack instance.

Channels in Slack can be public, meaning any member can see and join that channel, or private, meaning only members of that channel can see it or invite others to join. DMs are always private, although they can include up to 8 people.

The chat window is where all the actual communication happens. You can read any reply to messages, use emoji reactions, add gifs, see RSS feeds, set reminders, get add-in notifications, and various other bells and whistles. But more than anything, this is where you talk to people.

What’s So Great About Slack?

When Slack came along, there were no real competitors in the market. That’s not to say there weren’t other chat apps, but Slack combined an intuitive UI with both group and person-to-person messaging. It also allows companies to have a measure of control over who can use it through the invitation system. Other tools could do the same, but without the same usability (Campfire, now BaseCamp, was an obvious one). None of the traditional vendors (Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Sun, and so on) had anything comparable to Slack.

This lack of corporate size was also a benefit. Slack was small enough to be responsive and quick when it came to adding new features, like emoji reactions (great for users) and 2-factor authentication (great for admins). For some users, the fact that Slack wasn’t owned by a big traditional vendor was benefit enough, but that doesn’t explain why Slack is so popular.

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How to Sell Your Old iPhone for Top Dollar

iPhone 8s Plus lying on top of three $100 bills.
Mykola Churpita/Shutterstock

The iPhone has one of the best resale values of any smartphone. You’ll get more money if you sell it yourself and skip the trade-in. Here’s how to prepare your iPhone, pick a price, and make the sale.

Before You Start, Create a Backup

If you’re selling your old iPhone to buy a new one (rather than switching to an Android device), the first thing you should do is create a backup. This allows you to transfer the backup to your new device, along with all your personal data, apps, and other information.

The best way to create a backup of your iPhone is by using iTunes on a Mac or PC. You can also create backups using iCloud, but these can take a long time to complete if you aren’t already doing so, and the restore process takes a lot longer, too. iCloud backups are limited by the speed of your internet, so the backup and restore procedure can take hours or even days.

Windows users can download iTunes from Apple’s website.

  1. Launch iTunes and connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC using a Lightning cable.
  2. Wait for the device icon to appear in the top-left corner (screenshot below), and then click it and select your iPhone.
  3. On the Summary tab, click “Back Up Now” and wait for the backup process to complete.

Click the Device Icon in iTunes.

Check “Encrypt iPhone Backup” to save sensitive data, like passwords, Wi-Fi network credentials, Health data, and HomeKit data. You’ll need to create a password to do this. You’ll also need this password to restore the backup to your new iPhone at a later date. We recommend using a password manager to save it for you.

Click the Box next to "Encrypt iPhone Backup."

When you’re ready to restore this backup to your new iPhone:

  1. Turn on your new iPhone and follow the setup procedure to activate the device.
  2. When prompted, choose “Restore from iTunes Backup,” and connect your iPhone to the same Mac or PC you used to back up your old iPhone.
  3. Click on the device icon in the top-left corner, and then choose your new iPhone.
  4. On the Summary tab, click “Restore Backup,” and then choose the backup you made previously. Type your password if you chose to encrypt your backup, and then wait for the process to complete.

Create an iCloud Backup

If you’re backing up your iPhone to the cloud, you can always restore it from iCloud instead, when prompted. However, restoring from iCloud takes much longer than restoring from a Mac or PC, so we recommend doing it locally.

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How to Clean Up Your Messy Car (And Keep it That Way)

woman cleaning her car with a vacuum cleaner
lightpoet/Shutterstock

If you spend a lot of time in your car, be it commuting for work, shuttling the kids around, or both, you know how messy things can get. Here’s how to get things tidy and keep it that way to avoid your car turning into an embarrassing dumpster.

Messy cars happen easily, even if you’re the only person who is ever in your vehicle. You get fast food and drop a fry or two. You toss a tissue or napkin to the side to pick up later, only later never comes. The change falls out of your pockets. Sand and gravel come in off your shoes.

Just like cleaning your house or maintaining your yard, keeping your car clean is an ongoing project, but there are some things you can do to keep your car more organized and make cleaning less of a chore.

Let’s start with cleaning the car so that you have a fresh slate to work with and then look at tips and habits to use to keep it clean going forward.

Cleaning Your Messy Car

There’s a big difference between getting your car detailed to the point that it looks showroom fresh and just getting things tidy. There’s something to be said for cleaning a car to the point where you’re using q-tips in tiny crevices, but if that’s not your style, all that really matters if you give the car a decent cleaning to get rid of garbage, debris, and dust.

Empty Your Car

The first step in cleaning your messy car is to pull everything out of it, whether it’s trash, clutter, or your favorite CDs. Pull out floor mats while you’re at it. You may as well get a nice deep clean while you’re in there.

Toss the stuff that’s trash in the trash and set the things that need to go back in the car to the side. Anything that’s left should get put wherever it belongs inside your home or garage.

Vacuum

Grab a hand vac and vacuum all the nooks and crannies in your car. You’d be surprised what’s hiding under your seats (and in the seats as well). If you don’t have a vacuum at home, take your car to a car wash and use the ones there.

Vacuum the floor mats as well. If you have plastic mats, you can use the hose to clean them off and then let them air dry while you’re reorganizing your car. Some bay-style self-wash car washes will have clips on the wall of the bay where you can clip your mats and use the spray wand to really deep clean them. If so, you can give them a good spray down and then take them home to dry in the sun.

Wipe Down the Surfaces

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Everything You Need to Get Started with Indoor Rock Climbing

A couple indoor rock climbing.
wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Rock climbing is accessible to virtually anyone, and it can be done anywhere in the world. It requires a minimal investment to get started, but it’s a fun way to get active either by yourself or with friends and family.

If you’re ready to take your first steps into this world, this guide to indoor rock climbing is for you. 

Climbing Walls 

While outdoor rock climbing might seem like the most exciting version of this engaging sport, there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Aside from being physically and mentally demanding, it also involves a few limitations, such as location, weather, and the availability of a climbing partner. This is why it’s recommended that beginners start on an indoor wall. In this setting, you can independently work on your technique and learn about the risks involved without having to travel too far. 

Most climbing gyms offer introductory courses for people of all ages and provide you with a certificate of completion once you master all the basics. At certain walls, they take experience very seriously and only allow entry to people who have taken the course or who can prove a certain degree of expertise.

Thus, indoor rock climbing is as practical as it is convenient. Given its recent rise in popularity, indoor walls are now in most cities, and many offer different walls and the gear to practice the most common styles of climbing: bouldering, top-rope, and lead.

Climbing Styles 

Young woman indoor climbing.
Poprotskiy Alexey/Shutterstock

There are three main styles of climbing that can be done both indoors and outdoors, and they differ in gear and skill requirements.  

Bouldering 

Although just as demanding as the other disciplines, this is the most accessible form of rock climbing and the most popular with novice climbers. Bouldering involves low walls with intricate routes that call for good technique, a solid grip, and plenty of strength, as you navigate from the first hold to the last. Thick crash pads are located on the floor along the wall as protection in case of a fall. In some gyms, they require that you have a spotter, which is a person there to prevent you from falling headfirst. 

Like every other style of climbing, the routes are graded according to their level of difficulty. Every new grade requires an increasing amount of core and finger strength, as well as flexibility, rendering this discipline much more challenging than it might seem at first.

Bouldering only requires footwear and a bit of chalk to prevent sweaty hands from slipping from the holds. It’s a great training option for those who are afraid of heights or those who want to build upper body strength and skills.

Top-Rope Climbing

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