Now Homeland Security Suggests You Stop Using Internet Explorer Especially With Windows XP

You know things are getting dicey when the Department of Homeland Security gets involved.

Personally I never liked Internet Explorer.   It’s the browser that is baked into every version of Microsoft Windows out there since Windows 95.   The problem is that it’s a single point of failure.   If there’s a deep problem with the browser, your whole computer is at risk.   Slowdowns caused by Internet Explorer are common, and in my own experience it runs like a “Lead Sled”.

I try to use another browser wherever possible.

Now a little more tech jargon.  You may have read about some shadowy problems.  A “Zero Day” or “0-Day” attack.   Simply put, it is an attack at that low level of your software.  You won’t even know that you “got hit” and will be added to a hacker’s portfolio.

Every version of Internet Explorer that is in use since version 2 is involved in this mess.   No matter what version of Windows you are using, you are at risk.  Since they aren’t updating that old software, you really should have upgraded that old copy of Windows 95 well before now.

There is a fix from Microsoft, and you can now get it in Windows Update, and it didn’t even whine at me to restart Windows 8.1.  Until you do there are a few things to consider.

First, get a second browser.   I prefer Firefox, others choose Chrome, still more choose Safari, and there is always Opera.   Pick one and use it.  It is your choice!

Second, if you are on Windows XP, you need to upgrade, Now.  Windows XP will not be fixed at this point.  Microsoft may go back on its word, but you are at this point vulnerable.

Third there is another wrinkle to this mess – Flash.  It’s the most common way most people look at those cute cat videos and the video that I embedded below about this bug.  It has its own Zero Day exploit and needs to be upgraded to version 13. This Flash Bug is also a problem for Mac OSX and Linux, so I will have a busy day upgrading things around the house.  Basically everyone gets hit by this one no matter what computer you have!

With Windows7 and Firefox, you can check by following these steps:

  1. Start Firefox.
  2. Follow this link to the Plug In Checker.  It will open in a new page or browser window.
  3. Any plugins that you run that are out of date will show up with a red button on the right that says “Update Now” – click that button.
  4. It will open another page for Flash.  
  5. Click the check box to refuse the offer of McAfee Security Scan Plus since you just do NOT need that software.
  6. Click the Yellow Install Now Button.
  7. It will open another page, wait a bit, then ask you to save a program.
  8. When your download is complete, run the installer to update.  Flash does not do this behind the scenes.  You will find it in your downloads directory and you will have to run it separately.  The program it downloaded was called “install_flashplayer13x32_mssd_aaa_aih.exe” but it will change through time and versions.
  9. It will ask you if you want to install it, and personally I tell it to tell me to upgrade instead of doing it automatically.   Personal preference.
  10. When you get the green check and the “Installation Complete” message, you can click Finish.
  11. It will then bring up a message saying that you’re done and ask you if you want to get this fantastic deal from someone who I can’t see because my ad blocker has blocked it.   Shoo, Adobe, I don’t want your deals!

Yeah, 11 steps but it goes quickly.

Microsoft has a fix out now for Internet Explorer, but you really do need to get a different browser.   One that supports ad blocking since they’re also a vector for spyware and viruses.

The video from USA Today is at this link if you want to see if your Flash has been updated.

Browser Basics – Where Do I Type The Web Page?

Some of you will look at this discussion and wonder why someone would do what I’m going to describe.

I was looking at the statistics for this blog and thought I’d lend a helping hand.

Most browsers, when you start them, will put you at a search page.  Typically that is Google for Firefox and Chrome.   I think Safari drops you onto www.apple.com on the Mac.  I try hard to forget anything connected with Internet Explorer these days.

So you get a big helpful page with a box to type in your search query.  You typed in Ramblingmoose.  Hit enter.  It gives you a list of articles I wrote.  It should have the base web page at the top – http://www.ramblingmoose.com .

You used your mouse/trackpad/trackball to move the cursor to the link and clicked on it.  

If you did all that before I put this article up on the web page, you would see the picture, minus my writing and the little yellow box.

We all start somewhere, and if you aren’t told how to do something basic, you will figure it out the best you can, and repeat it until someone whispers in your ear an easier way.

That would be me.

The little yellow box is where you should be typing that address, unless you really did mean to do a search.   It is called the Address Bar, generically, although I’ve heard other “Marketing Friendly” terms used.

In Firefox, at least, if you type in the majority of the name, it will try to “make” the most likely URL for you.   URL is the web address like www.ramblingmoose.com or some other website. 

So if you just type in ramblingmoose in the address bar, you may get here.  At least I just did when I tried it out on Firefox 25.0.1 on Windows 7 on this day in 2013…

Why is that important enough to warrant a blog posting? 

It saves you time.
About 10 percent of you do a search each day to get here.
I wanted to help.
That’s why you came here.

Now I’ll go back to finding Just The Right Font for this blog and annoy everyone with changes every couple minutes until I’m satisfied.  I just don’t like Arial or Helvetica.  Bleah.

Your Computer is Slow Because It’s Patch Tuesday

When I worked at a small insurance company Back In The Day, we had a user.   A specific user.

She was someone who my boss called The Squeaky Wheel.  

She was The Wheel for short.

She would field calls and do inquiries on people’s insurance accounts and wonder why “things are slow”. 

Back in that day, computers were not very scalable – you couldn’t make them faster or bigger without some major surgery done by some cadre of people dressed in suits and ties carrying black bags.  If that wasn’t surgery I don’t know what it was.

Basically that company had too small of a computer for the people who needed to use it. 

New Jersey people would recognize that as a “Blivit” – 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag.

Today is Blivit day for everyone reading this.   Even if you don’t use a Windows computer, the internet will be slightly slower.  

Why?

Well Microsoft has done their work.  They squashed some bugs, fixed some exploits, and solved some problems.   That means that your windows computer wants to download those patches which means if you are on a slow connection, like that insurance company, you’re going to have a slow day.

That’s OK, Microsoft did their job, your computer will be safer.   Now if we could just convince them that Windows 8 Interface with the butt-ugly start screen was a mistake and turned our nice little kitten of Windows 7 into the Blivit of the Decade…

This is for Windows XP, Windows 8, Windows Server, and a bunch of other things including Internet Explorer and “stuff under the hood”.

Never mind, just relax.   Switch to decaf.  Oh and lay off the sugar, we all have too much of that.

If you want to read a bit more about it, there is a write up on this link at Sophos’ Naked Security blog.

I think it will be an excellent day for me to work on that graphics project on my Linux machine and bring that one website up to the next level… again.

Web Annoyances – Websites Where Keyboards Don’t Work

This one gets me a lot.  
It’s so basic that I have to wonder who on earth is making these web pages? 
Worse, who on earth is approving and testing them?

Oh, that’s right, you can’t do Proper QA any more since everything is written overseas on the cheap.

You get what you pay for.

Rant aside…

For the most part, even now, the place most people are doing their “heavy duty” web surfing is on a browser.  I’m basing that on this blog’s statistics, and I feel confident that that feeling is backed up by most web services.

The proportion is roughly evenly split between Internet Explorer, Firefox (and its variants), and Chrome.

I personally have noticed this on Firefox and on Internet Explorer, on Windows, Linux, and on Mac OSX.

It just doesn’t happen on a tablet or a phone since the way you use a webpage is different there.  You only have a mouse (touchscreen), you rarely have a keyboard.

I notice this on a daily basis on Monster.com, but it also shows up with many other oddball sites.

Here’s how to find the problem on Monster:

  • Surf Monster and do a search.  Doesn’t really matter what kind of job you search for, your own zip code will be fine.
  • You will be presented with a list.  Pick one from the list.   It doesn’t really matter which.
  • Now that you are looking at a page, a job really, use your Page Up or Page Down keys.

They don’t work.

You actually have to click inside the body of the page to get the page to move.   You can tab around, cursor around, whatever you choose, but it just doesn’t work until you click inside the page.

If you are a web developer and call this done, you are bad and you should feel bad.

Zoidberg doesn’t like you and neither do I.

This also works with the Windows or Linux alternate page down, the space bar.  

Navigation is simply locked down until you click inside the page.

My best guess is that it’s a function of working with the software behind the scenes (Ajax) and having reworked your browser so that all the keys are forced to do a certain special task.  Don’t know but it’s still wrong.

Now go back and fix your web page.  That’s a rookie mistake.  If you’re good, Robot Santa may leave you a gift.

Computer Basics – Resizing Web Pages and Changing Text Sizes – Picture

Yes, I said Basics, and I mean it!

I find myself looking at a lot of long lists in web pages.  A LOT of text.  I found myself getting annoyed at not seeing enough on a single page so I started changing the sizes of the page.  That’s easy and works well, but only on that particular web page.  I wanted all the text to be smaller to fit more “stuff” on a page.

There are two slightly different ways to do it.

First method – Change “this” web page to be larger or smaller.  This is going to work for a given domain (from what I can tell) and will work on Firefox as well as Internet Explorer and probably on Chrome.

Three simple key commands –

  • Larger – Ctrl and + (plus sign) at the same time
  • Smaller – Ctrl and – (minus sign) at the same time
  • Back to “normal” – Ctrl and 0 (zero) at the same time

 What that will do is bump the text up or down a step, and it will make the pictures get larger and smaller at the same time.   It’s like moving closer or farther away from your monitor.

Second method – Change only the text to be larger or smaller.  This will work EVERYWHERE, so be aware.  Going up one or two steps, or down the same, works fairly well but it may make the web page look a little strange since the pictures will not change.   It also may not work at all on a specific web page since the web designer decided to force a specific size of the text on the end user.  Bad form and controlling but it does work.

Since this setting is going to stay stuck everywhere until you change it back, we’ll call it “permanent” and leave things at that.

In Firefox, click Tools and Options to get the basic Options page.

  1. Click on the Content Tab (circled).
  2. Click on Advanced (circled).
  3. Click on the Size Buttons (circled) to change the two sizes.  
  4. Click OK and OK again on each window.

I recommend that you do each by one or two points and see how you well it works for you, but change them both by the same amount.

Do Not Track – It’s A Start But Only A Start

In the “modern” browsers there’s a setting deep down that tells advertisers that you don’t want to be tracked for advertising purposes.

Internet Explorer sets that on by default.
It is also in Chrome and Firefox.

For Firefox you can set it yourself by:
Click on Tools
Click on Options
Click on Privacy

Under Tracking, there is a tick box that promises to tell advertisers that you do not want to be tracked.

Mine is checked, but I don’t believe it actually works.

You see you’re telling someone that you don’t want to be a source of their income.  That’s how advertising works, they have learned that they can watch what you surf and build a profile of what you’re doing.   They can tell pretty much everything you can do.

You can lower their effectiveness but you can’t eliminate what they’re doing unless you do something that is fairly “heroic” by installing all sorts of software or learning another operating system and surfing from that.  There is InPrivate mode in Internet Explorer but it also breaks sites sometimes.  Better solution than most, but nothing is perfect.

When I set up a computer for myself or anyone else, I immediately install a few pieces of software.

Firefox as a browser.

Then I install an extension that is also available for Chrome called “Adblock Plus“.  That breaks some more of the advertising as well as some of their tracking.   The benefit is that I do not see advertising.  I can also block that sort of thing. 

For me, browsing a website on someone else’s computer is a jarring experience.  Ads blink, flash, and sometimes even scream at me.  On my own computer, it’s a blissful experience.

That and it also speeds up browsing. 

I’ve taken it a step further by adding a hosts file onto computers that I am not doing web development on which simply tells the computer not to search any web pages that are at a certain address. 

I went so far as to add a hosts file to my Android phone and it’s quite nice not having to look at ads.  It’s a great “advertisement” for “Rooting” your Android phone.

The software I use on Android is Adfree to help block advertising by placing that hosts file in the right spot.  Just because I want to be “complete” I also installed a Hosts Editor but strictly speaking I don’t really need that.

Both of the above only work on Rooted Android phones.  If you’re not rooted, you’ll need to find a guide on how to do it for your specific phone, model, carrier.   It gets complex but usually there’s a step by step guide to do the work for you.  Once I found mine, it took about 10 minutes.

They can’t track you if they can’t find you.

Fixing Flash Videos Showing Up A Green or White Screen

Over the weekend I got annoyed at the videos I wanted to watch.

They would show an entry picture, then when I clicked play it went to a green frame in the window.

See this video before.  It’s a dog video, completely safe and really kind of cute.  You probably see a picture of a dog park, and a button to play in the middle of the frame.  Click on it.  If it plays you’re good.

If you have Flash 11.3 like I do, it will only play the sound track.

To fix it:

  1. Right click on the video.  
  2. Select settings.
  3. Uncheck the box that says “Enable Hardware Acceleration”.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Close all windows and tabs with Flash running – or just restart your computer.
  6. All Better?  Good, visit the original page for the video.  It’s really a cute video and I am sure he’ll appreciate it!