Windows 10? Not Yet.

I’ve been holding off on this one.  The computers I have run adequately fast on what ever operating systems I use to get my own personal and professional work done.  It is a mix of Windows 8.1 and Debian Linux – primarily Linux by proportion of use.

I’ve been told that I need to adjust my “Tinfoil Hat”, that I’m overreacting.

No, I haven’t drunk the Kool Aid and I don’t have to.

Here’s the deal.  A month or so ago, people were given the option to download a copy and install a “Free upgrade to Windows 10 Home“.

Microsoft doesn’t give anything away for free.  There’s always a hook, even if you have to look deeply for it.

In the case of Windows, it’s best if you remember that “If you aren’t the customer, you are the product”.  I am directly quoting one of my friends who is one of the biggest critics of Android.

I have no doubt that Android is a case of Google simply watching everything you do, and using it to build a profile of you, personally.  It may be to serve advertising.  It may be for future use.  It may be for a friendly or not so friendly government.

Android costs money to make.  Those people have to be paid.  They’re doing it by selling that information to a shadowy “someone” who could be as “innocent” as an advertiser. 

I hate ads.  Did I say that?  I have never clicked on an ad in all the years that I have been using computers intentionally.  Have you?  I doubt it.

Anyway, that free version of Windows 10 Home is exactly the same thing.  Every time you do something, you’re being watched.  Even on the Pro version of Windows 10 you have to go in and turn that garbage off.

Thanks, I’ll pass.  Windows 8.1 has a bit of life left in it.

It might surprise you to hear that if you read this blog at any depth.  I use Windows 8.1 Pro with a program called Classic Shell to give me back a Windows 7 look and feel.  Any time I have to go back into that ugly block land called “Metro” or Modern Interface, I’m jarred with just how hideous and inefficient it is. 

But I’ll stay right here.  I don’t use any Modern programs and for that matter, everything I use on Windows is Free or Open Source.  The GPL License seal of approval.

You can tame the evil kitten called Windows 10 Home but then you have to do without the Microsoft Store. 

Just one example of one issue of many that I have with Windows 10 Home.  It has been shown that your personal typing style is distinct enough to track your self to your specific computer.  Microsoft wants you to help it improve its typing recognition.

Per Lifehacker:

Send Microsoft info about how I write: This feature improves text completion suggestions when you handwrite or type (presumably on the touch keyboard, though it doesn’t say. That’s very broad, and we’ll talk about it more in a bit. I recommend turning this off.

If you want to play Solitaire because you got hooked back on Windows 3.1, you can do so with ads.  Same thing with Freecell. 

There is an advertising ID number that basically stays with you.  If you didn’t like the idea of an advertising company tracking your every move, why would you want Microsoft to do so?

Actually, you can find it on your old Windows 7 machine, copy it across, and I’m told it works.  I don’t know first hand since I’ve got too much to do than to play Solitaire on a computer.  That’s the kind of thing I’d do on Hold with a Client, and I don’t stay on hold long if I’m there.
So to those of you who don’t like the prospect of being watched, you can pay the $100 or so and upgrade to Windows 10 Pro and then look into locking it down.

For me, I’m staying put.  The other machines I have are happily on Debian Linux.  I know Linux well enough to make it do what I need it to.  No ads, No spyware, and it’s all free, including Freecell.

One of those rare cases where you don’t have to worry about evil software getting involved on your computer.

Firefox Now Blocks Flash As Default Until Next Version Of Flash

If you are using Firefox, I have a question:  Is your browser acting up on you?

What happened is that Mozilla pushed through a well intentioned update.  It now blocks Flash as a default, and while you can turn it on if you like through the settings, I’m thinking I got into a chain of weirdness here that ended up with my having to do some tweaks.

Flash is that piece of software who has its origins back before the dawn of time, or rather 1999 or so that serves up videos, games, and the worst of all features of the modern web, advertisements.

You’ve got it on your computer unless you took steps to avoid having it.  I’d be willing to bet on it.  If I lost that particular bet go outside and enjoy the great outdoors since you Win One Internetz you 733t D00D!

For the rest of us, Flash is a bit of an annoyance.  Use is something you may not have thought about, an it’s starting to fade away.  Personally, I won’t miss it but I do keep it up to date and protect myself by only allowing it to run when I tell it to.

Back to that Flash thing.  I am now getting a black stripe at the top of my browser when Flash wants to be activated on any specific website.  In my case, that is exactly how I want it to act.  I want it to nag me when I hit a webpage that wants to use Flash so I know if I’m about to get a virus.

The reality is that when Facebook’s head of security, that time sink of a website that mines what you are doing to serve it back to the advertisers that are paying for the site, says that it is Time For Flash To Die, you are witnessing the beginning of the end of an era.

In my own specific case, it locked my Firefox into “Safe Mode” and refused to let me out.  I had to “Refresh” the browser which meant I lost all my configurations and settings.  It took me the better part of an hour to get them back.  I also lost “Adblock Edge” and am having to retrain myself on something called uBlock Origin which is nowhere near as user friendly as the one I was using.

In order to re-enable Flash, and I do not recommend you turn it on for everyone but leave it nag you when it wants to be on:

Go to your Plug In Check Page
Click the scary “Update Now” button

The midsized scary red button will open a webpage for you to download the latest version of Flash, Manually.  Make certain that you clear the check box for their latest crapware download of McAfee Security software.

In my own opinion, there really isn’t any reason to download anything from McAfee but that’s my opinion.

Once you have done the install, it will force you to restart your browser.

Bad form, Adobe, Bad form.  Then again, it’s always been this bad form so we are used to it by now.

So after you restart the browser, Windows Update had a fix for Flash as well.  After applying that update, and a final reboot, the resulting “about:addons” page that allows you to activate or disable your addons was no longer scary red.

The Plugin Status page still had the scary red big button, but the update now button was green and happy.

Lather, Rinse, and Repeat as necessary for all your computers.  Every IT person will be going through this sort of thought process for a bit, or have someone do it for them.

Patch Tuesday is Following You

Got Windows?

When you get a chance, today, I’m giving you a task.

Shut down your PC.

There, simple, right?

Want the reason behind it?

I didn’t think so but here it is as simple as I can phrase it:  Microsoft found some nasty bugs and they’re fixed.

All better?

Seems like this sort of thing is happening more often, Windows demands you to shut down the computer in an orderly fashion because there’s something scary that needs to be replaced. 

How do you know?

This effects all versions of Windows that are supported including Windows 8 and 8.1.  Touch Screen people, have a look.  If you see a shield, shut it down and come on back later.

In Windows 7 and earlier, Click on the Start Button.  Look at the “shut down” button.  If there’s a gold or orange shield next to it, save all your work, then click it.   It will close all your apps/programs/and what have you, then do its work.

You may continue to have messages come up after you click shut down, but just leave your computer alone, it will do what it needs to do.

After you come back to use it again, you know – turn it on?, it may go through some more churning before you can go back to surfing and playing solitaire.
Oddly enough this effects Mac OSX as well since there’s a security violation over there.  Microsoft Silverlight is the culprit.

If you are still using Windows XP, enjoy it while you can, you’re out of luck on April 8th, 2014 unless Microsoft has a change of heart and decides to fix things.  They’re pulling the plug there and if you don’t replace Windows XP with a newer version of Windows, or install something like Linux on it, you will be serving ads for some spammer in short order.

If you don’t want to go through that, you can buy a new machine that is probably 4 times faster for about 300 dollars.

Now if your old machine is a really cool and thin laptop and you want to rehome it safely, do let me know.  I’d love an Ultrabook to put Debian onto.

Not that I need one mind you, but it would be cool. 

I can also install Debian Linux for you for a minor fee.  The operating system is free and most of the things Mom and Pop like to do on it are free too so you can go on about your business with your old machine, new software, and some street cred while you’re at it.

You know, Surf, Solitaire, Letters… that sort of thing.

But Windows People, Shut Down your computer today.
Mac Folks will be told they have an update.

My Linux Machine … it just keeps going on without a problem.

I’m Sorry, It has Six Months To Live. Windows XP Is Dying.

Sure, lets be melodramatic for a bit.   I kept thinking of a doctor’s office with dark walnut book cases and the doctor talking to the patient in hushed tones. 

I guess I watch too much TV. 

We had this discussion last night.   Sitting on the bench, Bill, Kevin, and I, and our dogs Rack and Ellie, were watching life go by.  Bill’s Mom, Lisa, has an aged Windows XP computer.   We may be able to get some more use out of it by adding more memory since it only has 1 GB.  Maybe not.  But the thing that most needs to change is Windows XP.

On April, 8, 2014, Windows XP support from Microsoft will end.   Customers who pay lots of money will get support, but that won’t help you since Microsoft won’t be sharing that with the world. 

All of the dates for the end of life of Microsoft Windows are on this page.  You are safe with Windows 7 until 2020, although I suspect that you will find your software won’t work with it near the end.  Things might get a bit “weird”.

There are reports of people writing viruses to be set out into “the wild” on April 9, 2014 to create havoc.

Bot-nets, Trojans, and Viruses, Oh My! 

The result is that if you are running XP on your computer on that day or later, you really need to change that to a newer operating system.

So there’s the typical decision tree:

If you don’t need it, recycle the computer or pass it on to someone who can do that for you.  Problem solved!

If you still think you can use it, or you must keep it for “records”, or you’re just one of those paranoid people who can’t stand the idea of your old hard drive falling into someone else’s hands, you may be able to upgrade it.  Just don’t get onto the internet with Windows XP next April.  You’ll have a bad time of it, eventually.

Bad boys, Bad boys, What’cha gonna do when they come for you?!

Ok, so how do you know whether to upgrade?  If you really want to know, here’s a great oversimplification of things, but basically:

  • Windows 8 will work on a machine with 4GB of memory but if you are looking at a computer with XP on it, you’re going to be shocked when you start it with Windows 8.  You might want to stick with Windows 7.

  • You can install Windows 7 or Linux if you have 2GB of memory, an Intel Core Processor, or newer.

  • Assuming you need to keep the software and data on the computer, and your older computer has 1GB of memory and won’t take any more than that, Windows 7 Home can be installed, but it may be slow.  You probably won’t want to use it for much more than that “archive” look around for your old records or recipes.

  • If you don’t need the data and you’re comfortable with playing with new software, look into Linux.  Specifically Ubuntu Linux.   All the software you will need for normal “office” or “web surfing” use is free, including Libre Office to do what your Microsoft Office did for you.  One thing to consider with Linux is that there are very few viruses on Linux.  I don’t even run a virus scanner on my Linux laptops.

  • With older computers it gets more complex, but basically Linux will be your only option to use the machine on the web.  If the computer can’t take 1GB of memory, you really are limited.

Checking your memory is easy.   Start, find “My Computer” and right click on it.   Select Properties and it will be there for you.  Whether your machine can take more than what it has in it is another story, and you will have to do that research on the computer vendor’s website.  Good luck there, there are way too many combinations to fit in the scope of a blog article, so I can’t be all that specific.

Personally I have a mix of things here.   My older machines are either Linux or Windows 7.  While all of my computers are old, and some as old as 10 years old, I haven’t had to throw any out due to this XP thing – they’re all still serving a purpose.  Basically, this is the process I’m going through here as well.   Remember your mileage will vary and one size doesn’t fit all, you’re going to have to actually think this through, but it isn’t that tough, I’ve got faith in you!

Firefox 23 is out – Now With Annoying Changes!

I use Firefox as the go-to browser.  
Internet Explorer is ugly and slow.
Chrome… well that’s a google product and I don’t trust it.  I know, Blogger is a google product, and I accept that.

Still.

I read that it was being updated so I checked to see if it was updated to version 23.  No, but helpfully it told me that it was downloading the update.   I didn’t actually click on anything, but since I wanted it, I accepted this as “magic” and watched the donut roll downhill.

To Check:

  1. Click Help
  2. Click About Firefox
  3. Read – the Version Number will be there and it will tell you “Firefox is up to date”.

Now for the annoyances.   There are two, and they’re connected.

I have more than a passing interest in Security.  Web pages that do things I don’t like really make me go “red zone” fast.  Tricks with javascript under the hood really make me want to reach through the browser and find the webmaster and pretend I’m Homer Simpson strangling Bart.

So I would go in and set two tick boxes:

Do not allow javascript to move or resize windows.   You don’t want this happening either.  Imagine trying to close a window that won’t let you because it moves.   Plus everything is “just so” and I don’t want something going full screen.   It’s this size because I want it this size.

Do not allow javascript to turn off context menus.   If you right click on a web page, you get a pop up asking you what you want to do.   It can be turned off.  Tough, my browser, my rules.

Here is how to set it back – if you don’t want my explanation, go to this link and read the geek speak on Mozilla’s website.

Open a fresh Firefox browser window – Ctrl N
In the address bar type “about:config” and hit enter.  
There will be a helpful warning about not breaking anything, click “I’ll Be Careful”.
You are now in the Firefox configuration screen.  You really can make the browser misbehave here so – be careful.

First change
In the search box type “dom.disable_window_move_resize“.
Click value until it changes to true.

Second change
In the search box type “dom.event.contextmenu.enabled”.
Click value until it changes to true.

You can close that window, you’re all done.

What you did was force Firefox to give you back control, and we will all admit that control is a good thing.

Really, Mozilla, what were you thinking?  Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Got Firefox? Time for an Upgrade to Firefox 22

You know it’s an easy upgrade when you catch it doing it when you go to see where you’re at.

Huh?

Simple…

I’ve been hearing that Firefox has just released version 22.

I looked at my version number to check where I’m at and it was in the process of upgrading.

Here’s how to check:

Start Firefox.
Click Help.
Click About Firefox.
If the version is 22.0, it’s already been done.
If the version is 21.0 click the appropriate button to update.

Mine just needed a “Restart to Update”.

I’m done.   Actually, I used it all this morning and it feels about as fast as before.  It does feel a bit more stable.  I *think* it is using a little less memory and a little less processor.  The laptop feels a little cooler than it had but that could be me just “thinking too much”.

Have fun.  Pretty painless.

Firefox 17 is out, but not for Old Macs

I haven’t upgraded Firefox here to this version.  Maybe later today…

Firefox 17 has been released.   Most of those out there will get a little message saying “Hey, I’ve upgraded, click this and make all your problems go away.   I do mine Manually since I don’t want to have to completely back out of my browser windows and stop what I am doing.

Firefox has been excellent for me.  I don’t want to use another alternate browser such as Chrome or Opera.  I will stay here on Firefox for a while until its time to move on. 

The newest version of Firefox offers integration into the social networks.  I fail to see why that is needed, it just sounds like a massive security and privacy hole, but there really isn’t that much privacy left unless you want to stick your head in the sand.   That’s why I manage what I say online fairly closely, you should too.

There are also other features that will be helpful to the user and you can find the complete list here.

That Mac problem though …

I support a few folks on Mac here.  It’s a pleasant experience and to say I support them is a major exaggeration.  It’s more like I get an occasional question and they go off into their happy world where Unicorns roam free and your kitchen sink gives you hot, cold, and Hot Chocolate.  

I even have a Mac here, but it is an aging beast that is really well past it’s prime.   The old PowerPC platform is the problem.  When the sainted and departed Steve Jobs deigned that it was time to make the move to the same Intel hardware that most of us use in our desktops and laptops, he also said that he would limit the support to the old PowerPC platform to two more revisions of the OSX operating system.

Now we are three versions past that, at least another 5 years along.   Those machines are still around and if you believe the “Apple Distortion Field” they’re heavily in demand.

They aren’t but people who have them are trying to sell them like they are.

The biggest problem with modern computing is the Browser.  It’s a huge security problem because it is where we do most of our “work”.  Since all the major browser programs are stopping support for the older operating systems, you can look forward to more and more spam from friends who are on those computers because they surfed a “bad” page and now have a virus.

Their last modern browser is Opera.  These holdouts on Tiger and Leopard need to stop using anything else and switch over.  It’s a modern browser that has all the things we’ve come to depend on and works fairly well.

If that isn’t what they want to do, there’s always LinuxLinux is a thriving operating system platform that is currently being supported on the ancient hardware.  I can say from personal experience that Linux on PowerPC runs amazingly well and actually faster than the Mac OSX that I replaced it with.  It won’t run the usual programs in the Mac world so it means keeping the old hardware or buying a new computer.  On the other hand, you can run MOST windows programs on Linux using Wine.  I’ve run Wine in the past and it works well.

There you have it!  Happy updating!