You can feel good about using the Firefox browser today!
Not many of my clients use the Firefox browser — as their primary way of reaching the internet but since you do — I want to let you know that you can feel very good about them today
They turned on an encryption feature that makes you browsing even more private than before.
You know it’s a good thing when the politicians are ticked off about this feature.
Just about every other browser out there (except Safari) is based some way off of Google Chrome — including Microsoft Edge, Brave, and others.
Firefox is a truly independent and unique browser. How does Firefox make money? They make money through ads shown in Google searches. They have a huge contract with Google.
As you probably have guessed many of my weekly updates are based on client situations. However, there are times when I interact with a client and that situation actually helps to enlighten my perspective about something related to technology or makes me remember a forgotten tip that could be quite relevant.
Here are a couple of points I want to share.
-The “Apple keychain password manager” is not a terrible one. It’s quite good for basic needs. This manager will allow you to sync passwords between Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Sorry, but it doesn’t work in Windows. You will be able to fill in passwords in Safari on all of the devices and in multiple apps that support password managers on your iOS / iPad devices. If Windows is involved in any way or you want a better password manager, I still recommend Last Pass or 1Password. I don’t like that there is seemingly no way to export or print passwords from the Apple password manager, but it is certainly better than no password manager. Google also has a version of this that syncs with Chrome and Android phones, but I trust Google less with my passwords than Apple.
-I think it’s really important to have a second browser on your computer, loaded up with an ad-blocker of course. On Sunday night, a client told me that a website would print better in the alternate browser. Another reason to have access to browser number 2 is that you want to multi task — certain websites will be open in browser 1 (remember you can have more than one — right now I have like 15 open in various tabs) and others will be open in browser 2. Finally, your first browser may get corrupted. A lot of infections these days stay within the browser and do not spread to the computer. Having that second browser can help you get work done or just use your computer safely until you have a chance to contact a tech like me for help. Edge is the default browser in Windows these days (which most people don’t use). Chrome is the #1 browser in the world by use. Safari is the default browser on the Mac. Other browsers you can use include Google Chrome, Firefox, or Brave. Those are my top 3 choices in no order. Brave is kind of cool because they block ads by default. It was created by one of the founders of Firefox. Fire up your alternate browser at least once a month so it updates (though it may happen automatically).
1. Apple updated its Safari browser to 13.0.1 this week. I have never been a huge fan of Safari — but its really growing on me as of late because improvements in browser safety. If you are attached to Firefox or Chrome, this may be less of a priority, but if you use Safari — checking for the update is a must. If you are still running Mac OS 10.13 please go to the App Store and check for Updates. If you have Mac OS 10.14 (with a really new Mac), you will want to go to the Apple Menu (top left), System Preferences and Software Update. If you are not seeing any updates, then you have the latest version of Safari. Recent enhancements to Safari include
-Forcing browser extensions to be installed from the Mac App Store only. If you do not see the “stop sign” Ad Block Plus — please install it for Safari from the Mac App Store
-Starting with version 13.0.1 – you will be required to approve each website that wants to download something to your Mac. If you weren’t planning on downloading something and you get this pop – up — don’t approve it.
2. Mac OS 10.15 is coming out next month. It is known as “Catalina”. And while I usually recommend installing new OS’es (sometimes with my help) for eligible Macs within the first 3 months — you may actually want to hold off if you are using older Mac applications that cannot be updated. OS 10.15 will no longer support older 32-bit Mac apps. Following the few quick steps in this article will show you how to check for 32-bit apps on your Mac. If you depend on any of these apps, you should not update to the next Mac OS until you have found updates for them or replacements. Feel free to get back to me on any 32-bit apps that you have concerns about. I’ll let you know if you should delete it, update it, or put the brakes on Mac OS 10.15. Follow the steps here
My advice for you this week is to be very careful about clicking links or attachments that come in an email or other form of electronic message. If you are expected these items, that is one thing. But if the attachments or links seem out of the blue — this is a red flag! They can easily create a malware infection on your device. In terms of links, one thing that you can often to depending on the email program or devices is point to the link or press and hold on it (iOS) to reveal the true websites. You may be able to right click on the link (computer) and copy the link address. Then you could paste the address in Word or another word processor so that you can see it in print before clicking on it. Not a bad idea. If the true address doesn’t match what you are looking for — steer clear.
Additionally, decide very carefully whether you want to click on ads you see in your browser. You shouldn’t really see that many of them because I have installed an ad blocker in the browser for nearly all of you. Go to a well known technology news site — cnet.com . Unfortunately, they are known for displaying a ton of ads. If you see a lot of ads on their page, it means that you do not have an ad blocker installed. Being properly protected against malicious ads should be something to add to your list for our next visit.
Don’t know if anyone has been following this — but it’s the real deal
Microsoft was the king of the browser world in 2005. Through mostly illegal tactics, they killed off Netscape Navigator. The Mozilla project was underway and Firefox was just being born. Chrome was not even a factor yet.
Fast forward many years later, if you factor in iOS devices and Android phones — which are truly computers in their own right — Chrome and Safari became the dominant browsers. By the time Windows 10 came out in 2015, Internet Explorer was an afterthought. Microsoft buried it in the operating system in favor of a new “E” logo browser, the completely re-written Microsoft Edge. I’ll be honest, it was decent, but it never amassed more than a 2 or 3% market share.
Several months ago — Microsoft decided to do something radical. They began re-working Edge this time based on the open-source Chromium project (the foundation of Google Chrome). Wow. By being part of the Chromium project Microsoft is also able to contribute to development of this browser. It is also available for the Mac!! Think of the new Edge as Chrome underneath — but without any connection to Google services. Some people may really like that, though I think Brave and Vivaldi are also fine Chromium based browsers for those not wanting to be “dialing out” to Google all the time.
After several developer releases, Edge was finally released in Beta last week. Microsoft claims its ready for prime time. It is compatible with the Chrome Web Store for extensions. The official release should be out later this year, we hope.
Official link — https://www.microsoftedgeinsider.com/en-us/
Massive viruses still take over entire computers or networks in the world of computing at large, but most of the “infections” I deal with in terms of my clients are confined to the browser. That’s a good thing actually. It means that the problem is limited in scope. A browser redirect / hijack is as clear as day to me. You need to know how to spot it as well. When you search in the search box / address bar at the top of your browser (be it Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, etc) and the results page is not a Google page you have a problem. Virtually 100% of my clients have Google set as their default search engine. There is nothing wrong with that. It is the standard option in most browsers. However, when your search shows some weird “searchXYZ” in the address (or somewhere on the page) it means that your browser has been corrupted. Your searches are being captured. It’s also possible that everything you typed in your browser, including passwords and other sensitive information, has been transmitted to an unauthorized 3rd party since the date of the infection. This is a serious situation.
You need to reset your browser and remove the offending extensions. If you can’t do these tasks, ask for help. At that point, Google searching should return to normal.
With this said, there are other legitimate search engines out there. One that has come into the spotlight over the past few years is Duck Duck Go. Unlike Google, DDG is making privacy and a lack of censorship their top priorities. Apple has partnered with DDG by making it a default search option on the Safari browser. When you search for places on DDG, the results come up in Apple Maps. You don’t have to make DDG your default search engine to use it. You can simply go to https://duckduckgo.com/ and search at your leisure. While I still use Google for looking up local businesses and phone numbers, I am a big fan of Duck Duck Go.
Google discovered a major security flaw in Chrome and the put out an update for it on Thursday.
In the upper right hand corner of the browser window — you should see a big GREEN ARROW. Please click it and choose the update option. The update will get applied and Chrome will re-open in about 2 minutes or less.
If you don’t see the arrow — it means you probably already have the update. But to be sure — click on the “3 dot menu” in the upper right (where you go to get Chrome settings). Click Help — click About Google Chrome. Version # should be 72.0.3626.121
I hope you are having a great week with your technology.
Update to the Ad Blocker Updates
Google made an important announcement this week. They issued a partial reversal of the planned changes in their Google Chrome browser. There for it seems that ad blockers uBlock Origin and Ad Block Plus will not be rendered useless as previously thought. While they are in the business of delivering ads, Google made it clear that they are not in the business of restricting content blockers. Browse on! I will keep you posted as to further developments.
New Samsung Phones – The Battle is On
The iPhone’s closest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S line of phones, was updated today. If you like Android or are looking to try something high end but different — these Galaxy S10 phones may be for you. Just like the 2018 iPhones, Samsung will have three new phones of note: the Galaxy S10e (think iPhone XR price), the Galaxy S10 (iPhone XS), and the Galaxy S10+ (iPhone XS Max). These phones will be priced starting at $750, $900, and $1000 – with the familiar interest free payment plans available from your carrier. Like the iPhone XR, the S10e will be a premium phone. Think of the larger sized and more expensive siblings as just a higher level trim of an already excellent phone. That is how I see the iPhone XS and XS Max as well. For those in the Apple world, the XR is technically a larger phone than the XS. Pre-orders on the Samsungs start on Friday.
Lower Cost Smart Phones
If you are interested in lower cost smartphones in the $200’s and $300’s – I have a few models in mind that could work on all of the major carriers. You don’t have to feel forced to spend iPhone money to have a decent smartphone experience.
You May Need to Replace Your Verizon Phone
On this train of thought, I also want to let you know that if you or anyone you know is still using an older Verizon flip phone (or even an older smart phone, ie. pre-iPhone 6) you will need a new phone by the end of 2019. Verizon is retiring their older calling network. Your old phone will no longer be able to make calls.
PSA: All of you with a Google account have probably gotten an e-mail from Google recently about the closing of some of their services. I have already advised a couple of clients in a panic over this issue. Please go back and read the e-mail carefully. Your Google account is NOT closing. Your Google + account is closing (Google Plus). Google what? Yeah, most of you probably never knew that Google launched a half baked social network several years back in an attempt to take on Facebook. By default, you also had a Google + account. I thought it was good for sharing photos and longer text posts than were typically the norm on Facebook. It seemed like a great tool for groups. Unfortunately, it never caught fire. Google + is shutting down on April 2nd. Your Google account and Gmail functionality will be just fine.
Browsers and Ad Blockers – Part 2
Taking all Mac and Windows computers into consideration, the Google Chrome browser is by far the most used in the world. Among my Mac using clients, I would say that 50 to 60% of them use Safari as their primary browser. However, even with them, Chrome is still popular. No matter what your browser of choice is, remember that its critical to have a second browser installed on your computer. Your regular browser may become corrupted, infected, or just not work well on certain sites. That second (or even third) browser can be a lifeline.
On your Safari browser, I had no choice but to install the Ad Block Plus ad blocker. On your Firefox or Chrome browsers, I have installed either Ad Block Plus or uBlock Origin. In recent years I have favored uBlock Origin. It was developed by a Canadian programmer named Raymond Hill. It is open source, provided free of charge, with no donations sought. Unfortunately, in recent years, Ad Block Plus has gone on the take — accepting revenue by allowing “acceptable ads”. This option can be turned off, but it left a lot of users with a bad taste in their mouths.
As with the other major browsers, Google Chrome puts out several updates a year which are delivered to you automatically. You have to remember that Google’s primary business is advertising. Frankly, I am surprised that they did not block the ability to limit ads in Chrome a long time ago. That could be changing. In a new version of Chrome, coming out later this year, changes will be made “under the hood” that render uBlock Origin useless. You will either have to stick with the ads or switch to using Ad Block Plus, which may also be rendered less functional but still operational.
These changes to Google Chrome are proposed at this time and not set in stone. Should they become reality, the Firefox browser will remain unaffected in terms of uBlock Origin. It wouldn’t hurt to make sure that you have a browser other than Chrome installed on your computer. After all, having alternate browsers is about more than just one issue. Having options gives you independence and computing stability. Here are links to options beyond Chrome:
Firefox — Firefox.com
Brave (started by former Firefox CEO) — https://brave.com/
Vivaldi (started by the founders of Opera) — https://vivaldi.com/
Find the browser that fits you.
Most of you use the Google Chrome browser. It is my browser of choice as well. However, this message is still applicable if you use Firefox, Safari, or even Microsoft Edge.
The security threat I see most often these days is the browser hijack. This does not mean your whole computer had been taken over by malware. However, your browser has been corrupted. Your homepage may be unfamiliar to you. Google searches are being rerouted to a strange search engine. Its even possible that all of your browser traffic is being intercepted. Scary stuff!
You can tell if you are being hijacked by searching in the search box of your browser or going to Google.com. Search for whatever you’d like, “new restaurants Philadelphia” for example. The results page should CLEARLY come up on a Google page (or possibly Bing if you use the Edge browser). It should be obvious – clear as day.
If you do not see Google search results, you have a problem. It’s likely that you have mistakenly installed a bad extension in your browser. Most often, this is not a crisis requiring the operating system to be reinstalled.
However, your browser history needs to be cleared, the offending extensions need to be removed, and the browser needs to be reset.
Don’t lose hope!