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.

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Firefox Security Hole Is Why You Need An Adblocker And An Update

Windows:

  • When I clicked “Help” then “About Firefox” it immediately downloaded the patch.  
  • Click on the “Restart Firefox To Update Button”

Linux (Debian)

Assuming you have “real” Firefox installed and the sources in place.

  • Open Terminal as Root.
  • Smile because you have Root.
  • apt-get update
  • apt-get upgrade
  • Restart Firefox when you click on the button that appears.

Other Linux Distros will vary, of course.

Mac apparently does not have the problem.

What happened?  Hackers.  Simply put, a Hacker exploited a hole in Firefox so that advertisements could push some code onto your machine to take it over.

Now, this business about ad blockers.

I run one and I use it very aggressively. It is for this reason.  It is also that I truly hate being pandered to and watched.

The latest trend is to watch what you are doing via “tags”.  A 1 pixel “dot” of a picture will be pushed to your browser as an anchor for them to watch what you are doing.

The best thing for you to do is to run an ad blocker.  You tell it what to block, and yes, it gets very technical because you have to take responsibility to block these things.  For the most part, an ad blocker with (free) subscriptions will block most, but never all, of these nasties.

When you run an ad blocker you will also notice that your browser runs much faster since it isn’t trying to paint all those ads for all those products that you will never use.

Lets be honest, have you ever actually clicked on an ad intentionally?

Me neither.

Heck, I don’t even see youtube commercials because I run an ad blocker.

The easier one to use is Ad Block Plus.  It is controversial because they allow certain advertisers to pay *them* to be allowed past the blocker.  I would recommend this for basic users because unless you want to learn how to use it, it’s pretty simple.

The one I am using is called uBlock.  I’m still learning how to use it.  It removes the ads, but I haven’t figured out how to make it remove the blank space the ad created.

It’s up to you.  Ads and Hackers, or a better browsing experience.  I know what I chose.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a browser to restart.

Windows 10 New Feature – You Are Sharing Windows Updates Files With Others

There are a lot of things that I am uncomfortable with in the new Windows 10. 

Oh sure, it’s shiny! and new! and free!

But wait, haven’t you heard the old line “If you aren’t the customer, you are the product”?

Microsoft is using that logic on your new free version of Windows 10 Home.

With all the privacy holes that Microsoft created with Windows 10 I really do feel like I’m watching the movie 1984 where the TVs are watching you – and can never be turned off.

Same thing with the book Fahrenheit 451, but I never saw a movie version of the book that did it justice.

You made the choice to go to Windows 10 because Windows 8.1 bleah.  I know, I said the same thing about 8 and 8.1 but I am not at this time going to windows 10 unless I can figure out how to make myself comfortable with it.

I’ll let the bugs get worked out, let the hackers figure out how to stop Cortana from watching over my shoulder, and so forth.  Maybe when the free year is up, I may take advantage of the Free! Windows 10! Upgrade!

But honestly, probably not.   This is being written from Linux and frankly it does everything I need and about twice as fast as Windows 8.1 ever did – on the same machine.  Yes, you can do both.  I am, but if you are an “end user” or “Mom just surfs the web” user, you probably won’t.

Never mind all that.  You made your choice.  Here’s what is happening.

With “old” windows you got windows updates directly from the mothership – Microsoft.  It would go out in the middle of the night, download patches, restart your computer, and you wouldn’t really know what all happened.

Every so often it would glitch and you’d have to talk to your neighbor’s 13 year old who “lives in the basement” to get it fixed, and you’d go back on your way after tossing him a $20.

Now Windows 10 Home goes out, grabs the updates from something called a torrent.  Basically it’s like the old Napster was – grab things from who ever has a piece of it.

Mind you, Torrents can be amazing things.   I grabbed my copy of Debian Linux using a torrent.

But.

Here is why you don’t want that happening.

It can either slow your computer down (especially if you have an older one) or it can easily slow down your network connection. 

Windows Updates now looks on your network for other computers that have Windows 10 and will grab what it needs to assemble the Update, then send it to whoever requests it.

Yeah, I thought it was a bit odd, perhaps heavy handed, too.

So if you made the jump and are happy with Windows 10, Great, but here is how to stop that behavior.

Go to the not-actually-very-obvious Settings Updates and Security Advanced options Choose how you download updates Get updates from more than one place.

Your choices are:

  1. Off. Your computer calls home to Microsoft, and gets updates only from there.
  2. PCs on my local network. WUDO (Windows Update) will “torrent-share” files, but only between computers on your own LAN.
  3. PCs on my local network and on the internet. You’ll potentially get files from, and offer file uploads to, computers anywhere in the world. 

The best one for you at home will be the second selection – PC’s On My Local Network.   It saves you from having all of your PCs using your connection to talk to Microsoft for their updates.

This was adapted from this article at the rather excellent site:

Naked Security from Sophos.

Sophos is well worth an occasional read or a like on Facebook if that’s your sort of thing.

Evicting My Tree Frog

We had to do it.
We had to send a friend away.

Goodbye little tree frog.

We hated doing it too.  For more than a year, maybe two, this little critter has been spending it’s daytime watching over us.

It found a nook between the glass and a piece of Fascia Board on the outside of my Florida Room.  There it would shimmy up before dawn most mornings, and rest the day away.

It got very predictable.  About an hour before dawn I would hear a meaty smack on the window and there it would be. 

Slowly walking up the glass of the Jalousies to the shelter that someone created years ago, it would find its spot.

My intention is to make a Frog Hut.  I saved all of the beaver board and scraps I could find from the construction.  I have a sheet of plywood and some crown molding and from that, if I have the time, I think we can make something just large enough.

If I do make that, I’ll make it so it can be removed for cleaning.  We never could clean that spot on the window because it was too close to the wood for my hands.  The frog’s timing was that I could have gotten out there on days it wasn’t using us as Kermit’s Hotel For Wayward Tree Frogs.

That particular day, the frog arrived when construction had already started.  It was a late morning for it so I figure it was out visiting Miss Piggy and having whatever passes for a frog party.  Maybe Bugs a la Mode?  The one worker had just stepped away from the window after removing the first bit of Fascia board and our friend saw its chance.  I spotted the frog mid window and the worker hadn’t even seen it.  It climbed back up to its spot and we all tried to move it along as gently as possible. 

For now I have shiny Impact Resistant Windows where those leaky Jalousies were.  The house even feels different, so the new ones are markedly more fuel efficient. 

But no home for Frogs.

Sorry little friend, I’ll see what I can do.  Maybe tape a piece of cardboard for the time being.

A Housefull Of Windows Replaced In Two Days

We’re beat.

26 windows down, 1 to go – if I got my count right.

Part of living in South Florida is accepting the environment and preparing for it.  Oh, sure, you do the same in other parts of the country.  Actually you do it everywhere, but you generally don’t give it all that much thought.

When you move in, set down roots in a new place, you begin that process that you learned when you were growing up – but didn’t realize it.  You adapted to your environment, and bent what you could to fit it to your own preferences.

We’re doing that here.

The house was built some time after 1956.  We aren’t completely sure whether it was 1956 or 1968.

Neither is the City.  Records are a bit sketchy.

We do know that nobody did any major renovations here.   A pool was added in the early 1960s, or maybe the 1950s, there isn’t a record of that either.

Someone laid tile in the “Public Areas” of the house.  Right on top of the grey travertine, or what ever it is called.  You could correct me and an hour later I’d get it wrong anyway.  One of those names I can’t keep in my head.

Just like most names.  They just don’t “stick”.

It was actually laid by most of the Police force of the City at the time.  They did a crappy job, just like anyone you’d expect to be drafted to do something by their boss.  Some of the tiles have a hollow sound to them when you step on them, and the grout is crumbling.

Another project for the future.

But past that, the cabinets were put in and left alone, just as most of the rest of the bones of this place.  We’re replacing some fairly major systems here as time goes on.

The first thing to go was the fire hazard of the electrical panel.  Do yourself a favor – find your electrical panel and see if you have the words “Federal Pacific Electric” on it or the initials “FPE”.  If you do, you had better replace it.  Major design flaws resulting in fires.  Such a bad design that the company was bankrupted and stripped for parts.  They actually cheated on the “UL” tests and got the approval they were looking for then sold the hell out of those faulty Stabloc circuit breakers.  Go check, I’ll wait!

But the windows remained.  Leaky Jalousie windows.

Not. Any. More.

Impact resistant windows.  The words “Impact Rating: Large Missile” are written on that sticker on the windows and are waiting for the inspector. 

I won’t test that although I did get a chuckle out of the phrase.

Much quieter too.  I’d say it knocked the noise level down outside to where I can’t hear the cars on the street and I’m hearing different sounds from inside the house.

I may have to let some of the old style mechanical clocks stop because they’re now so prominent when the radio or TV is off.

The sounds changed so much that now Rack is alerting to different things.  He actually “moofed” at the ice maker until he got told it was OK and got used to it.

It was 2 solid days of construction.  Knock out 27 windows, replace with 18 or so, and then caulk everything.  New woodwork.  Stucco where needed.

Oh and lets not forget that while all that is going on, the house is effectively without windows.  No, not “open windows” but “missing”.  Letting in a Mosquito is not an option.  Letting in 50 mosquitoes was what happened. 

And “Letting In” is not exactly correct so much as they let themselves in.

We have a thing that looks like a tennis racket.  It has a set of parallel wires and when you swing it through the air, it will zap any bug it hits into a vapor with a white hot flash and a “SNAP!” sound.

Rack hates it.

But it works.  When the first day of demolition and construction was finished and we were sitting in the chair, one swipe through the air killed 21 mosquitoes.

At One Pass.

Inside the living room.

The next morning I killed one on each arm before construction began anew.

I’m a quart low at this point and the top part of my brain is drying out from the donation.

But it is mostly done.  One window left and we’re done.

What.  A.  Weekend.

*WHEW!*

Another Day, Another Adobe Flash Exploit

Flash used to be what I would call “Update of the Day Club”.  Start your computer and get into doing what you need, and surprise of surprises, there would be an update window popping up for Flash.

We seem to be back to that.

It’s a nuisance because with at least Firefox, it forces you to close your browser and go through the nonsense necessary to restart it.  Since Firefox isn’t exactly 100% accurate in reopening pages and tabs, I hold my breath each time.

In this case, there’s no reason to trash Firefox.  There was an exploit found with “Shockwave Flash” as it shows up in the addons page and it tells you it wants to be updated.

Except.

There is no update as of this writing.

So? What do you do?  Tread lightly, my friend.  What you need to do is put yourself through a bit of annoyance or uninstall the blighted software completely.

Since the annoyance is less of a problem than uninstalling Flash at this time, I’ll show you how to do that.

What I am doing is to tell the browser to ask me to run it.  I was going to uninstall it completely.  Youtube does not use Flash as a default to play videos any longer, favoring the newer HTML5.  Facebook does use Flash and at this point it does not apparently use HTML5.

Here is how to go in and tell Flash to run when you want it.  It will leave an ugly placeholder in Facebook with the a grey Lego brick or the international symbol for no, and some warning messages, but you can always turn it back on to watch that particular video of a dog doing something cute if you really want to.

In Firefox:

In the address bar enter:   about:addons and hit enter to load the page.

On your Addons page:

  • Find Shockwave Flash
  • Click the button that most likely says “Always Activate” and select “Ask to Activate
  • click the link to “Check to see if your plugins are up to date” to open another tab.

On your “Check Your Plugins” Page

  • Click the big red button that says “Update Now” under “Potentially Vulnerable Plugins” and follow the prompts to update your Flash.
  • This space intentionally left blank.
  • Flash will update through multiple steps that are documented on Flash’s site.  
  • They include downloading a program.  
  • Make certain that you clear the box that asks if you want to download any “Optional Offer” like McAfee or any other “helpful” programs since they are not helpful and will simply clutter up your computer or it could even lock it up.
  • Flash’s install will require you to close your Firefox, so save your work.
  • Note:  As Of This Writing, there is no update to Flash that will fix this problem.  That is why I told you to set Flash to “Ask To Activate”.
  • Flash will not be updated on Android, Apple’s IOS, or Linux.
  • Flash will eventually be updated on Windows 7 or newer, or Mac OSX… just not as of this writing.

Youtube Prefers HTML5 Video to Flash – But What About All That Old Stuff?

Flash is one of those necessary evils.  It was like Java, reflexively installed onto computers that weren’t really quite up to the task of running it. Just checked, nope, I don’t have Java – and you should not either.

The computer would bog down, act cranky, and even crash when Flash was running.  Flash also has persistent cookies that you had to remember to delete.  Some people would have those cookies for years.  Security is a bear.

But there is one more nail is in Flash Player’s coffin.  Youtube is now preferring HTML5 over Flash when you watch videos there.

Why is that important?

More and more Flash had been the target of people wanting to hijack passwords, insert viruses, and track your movements with those persistent cookies.  Adobe had put more and more patches into it and it became a joke.  Start the computer, patch Flash, restart the computer and do your work – every single day. 

Worse, some people that I supported would simply tell the update check to go away and never come back.

You are getting closer to the day you can do that for good. Many of us already have.

My Linux computer, currently Xubuntu, is not even supported on current Flash Player, and I did an uninstall of it a couple weeks back.  I didn’t see the value of keeping an old piece of software on something that was running well without it and I almost never used.

My windows computer will get the same treatment.

About the only thing I ever do with Flash is to watch videos on Youtube.  The few games that I have kept over the years will get deleted.

That’s about the only problem that I see with this.  Videos can be streamed using “native tools” but the content that was created in Flash will simply go away.  Quite a lot has been created in Flash over the years, even a few Broadcast TV Programs, and many commercials as well.

After all, when was the last time you played a video tape?  Beta?  VHS?  Vinyl Records?

That is the kind of problem that Librarians have.  Content on a platform that is unsupported.  Music on Cylinder Beeswax Records from the Edison era.  78 RPM records.  Heck, I even have a few 45s floating around here.  Silly looking 7 inch donuts.

For most of us, it’s simply easier to find the track elsewhere and save it on something new.  But for librarians, especially archival libraries, they have to worry about that sort of thing every day.

Anyone still have and use a zip disc?  Nope?  Didn’t think so!

So the net result to you is that if you are running one of the four major browsers in one of the top four major operating systems on the desktop/laptop you’re fine.  Just make sure your browser is up to date.  Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Opera all work with HTML5.

See, that’s easy!

The iPhone and Android based phones will typically use the Youtube client or the browser will take care of it.

One aside though, with Android, it’s usually recommended that you do not use the base browser and go out and grab either Firefox or Chrome.  The reason is that if you are on an older version of Android, Google is not going to support the old “Browser” browser.

So it’s just safer that way.  Listen to big brother even if it is a bother.

Ok?