Some of us may have purchased a Chromebook. It may have been out of curiosity or maybe you just wanted a lightweight “laptop” to just scan your email and surf the Internet. There really isn’t much more you can do with it. If you are “techie” you can install a flavor of Linux to run along with the Chrome OS. The thing about a Chromebook is that the OS is Chromium.
When you do anything on a Chromebook, it is all in the cloud – nothing is on the computer. Now, when it updates, you just get a little message that says to push a button to restart and it comes right back, you log into Chrome again and it’s updated very quickly.
There are limitations on what you can do with them. For instance, I can stream Netflix through the Chrome browser on it, but Prime Video won’t play. The only place you can save files is in your Google Drive.
Google has an Auto Update Policy about their updates. As technology advances and hardware becomes old or outdated, they cannot guarantee the software updates will run any longer. With that in mind, they have set a time limit on updates for Chromebooks. If you have a Chromebook, you can check the date here. It has a list by Manufacturer then Model. I happen to have an HP Chromebook 14, which looks like I cannot get updates past June this year. If it still runs, then that’s fine. If not, I can always install Linux over it and see if that will run.
Last week we posted about some different browsers out there. It seems Microsoft has been actively trying to embrace the open source software community. They recently bought GitHub, a repository used for years by people to store their open source projects.
Last month, they decided to adopt the Chromium open source project to re-develop their Microsoft Edge browser. Many browsers are already built on Chromium, such as Chrome, Opera, Brave, Vivaldi, and Yandex just to name a few.
Some of their reasons make sense. One is web compatibility. When developing websites, developers have to check their sites in at least four browsers to make sure they look right in all of them. This will make it easier by removing one that is often difficult.
My mind is like my Internet browser – at least 19 tabs are open, 3 of them are frozen, and I have no idea where the music is coming from.
What browser do you use? Do you use the default browser that comes with your computer? Or do you immediately download your favorite browser and use that? If you have a Mac, you get Safari browser. If you get a PC, you get (these days) Microsoft Edge. Many people use Chrome or Firefox in addition to the default browser. Did you know there are many more browsers out there?
At one time, many used Netscape or Lynx – Lynx was the first browser. Netscape went away in 2008. Other defunct browsers were Chimera which became Camino, Mozilla, which became SeaMonkey, Phoenix, which became Firebird.
In addition to the above browsers, there is Opera, IE (for users with older PCs), Maxthon, Lunascape, Firefox for Developers, and NetSurf.
There are some lesser known browsers as well like Brave; Vivaldi; Dillo; Konqueror; Epiphany, the Gnome web browser for Linux; Midori; K-Meleon; Pale Moon, forked from Firefox; AdBlock has their own browser; and you can also browse within some applications on your mobile device like in LastPass.
Lynx has been around since 1993 and Opera since 1994. IE came out in 1995. In 1996, Mac came with Mac IE. Firefox has been around since 2002. Chrome came about in 2008.
Wikipedia – timeline of browsers
As of version 69, the Chrome browser will log you in and sync when you visit any Google site like Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs, Google Maps, etc. For whatever reason, you may not want to be logged in, or you may not want them to keep track of everything you do. They are not giving you that choice anymore.
There was a discussion on Twitter about it with Adrienne Porter Felt, a Chrome engineer and manager.
Apparently after these discussions and feedback, Google is going to back down and make some changes come version 70 coming out in mid-October. They will allow sign-in without syncing. If you want to sync between devices, you will need to turn sync on. Signing into a Google owned website will not sign them into Chrome at the same time.
Did you know there are a lot more settings and pages to your Google Chrome browser than you find just in your settings? To find them just type into your address bar “chrome://about” (without the quote marks) and you will find a list of pages you can access.
You will find you are actually on the first page: chrome://about. If you click it there won’t be a change. chrome://chrome will give you the update page. Some of the other pages may or may not look familiar. I clicked on chrome://dino to see what that was – it’s the dinosaur you see when you don’t have an internet connection.
The chrome://flags page will allow you to access some experimental items; chrome://bookmarks will let you see all your bookmarks. Just use caution if you make any changes to the browser.
There is an extension for the Chrome browser called Windows Defender Browser Protection. It extends your Defender protection to include your browser. It will keep you from accidentally clicking to phishing site. You can also turn the protection on or off. If you click to a link from an email it will help by reporting to you that the website is unsafe.
After you install it on your browser, you will see a small defender icon on the top of your browser. You can click it and then you will see the dropdown (shown below). You can turn on or off temporarily.
Get the extension for Chrome here.
Learn more about how it works from Microsoft.
It is important to keep all software you use up to date. There are updates for a reason – most likely some of the code used was found to be vulnerable to attacks.
This past week, a popular extension was hijacked. The developer of the Web Developer for Chrome extension had his own account hijacked. The hijackers phished his Google account, then modified the code in his account and pushed it out to users. The version of Web Developer for Chrome that was pushed out is 0.4.9. You need to make sure you have the updated version 0.5 installed NOW!
The version the hijackers uploaded can force ads on pages, capture passwords, or other unreported problems. Consider changing passwords to pages visited during the time of the compromise. The date was August 2. The developer himself admits he fell for a phishing attack that started this. This effected over one million users.
The developer details the events in his blog. The bottom line is anyone can click on a bad link and it is important to have two-factor verification in place.
Don’t you just love it when you go to a website and you have all these things pop up, music blaring, or you’re reading something and along comes an annoying ad blocking you. There are two sides to this. Some people make their living from these ads. But for the user, it’s no picnic.
Google has joined the Coalition for Better Ads. This coalition has guidelines that should be followed when designing ads for a website. They plan on building a new Chrome browser with this ad-blocking built in. It won’t block all ads and you may only get the most annoying ads from showing.
The up side: maybe you will see fewer annoying ads.
The down side: someone will be making money from this. On the Google post, they mention Funding Choices where publishers can show a customized messages to people who are using ad blockers on their browsers. They can either enable ads or pay for removing the ads on that site through a new Google Contributor program.
So how does Google Contributor work? You buy a $5 pass for a particular website. The site has a per-page fee of their choosing (some are $0.01 per page, some $0.03 per page.) Every time you visit a page without ads, it deducts from the pass. You can add or remove sites from your pass at any time. This is still in beta at this time. They plan the rollout some time in 2018.
Google Post about Ad Blocking
The Victor crew came across an urgent matter. If your browser is Chrome or Firefox, be aware of a new phishing attack. An attacker can send you an email with a link to a malicious website. You could visit a site that will either infect your computer or make you think you are signing in with your credentials as they trick you into thinking you are accessing the correct site.
The people from Wordfence, a security plugin for WordPress found this last Friday, April 14, 2017. They set up a demo site to show what is happening. It is well worth it to check their article and see if you are affected and what to do. They have set up a demo using a medical site, epic.com, so you can test your browser and browser settings. You can visit their demo site here in Chrome or Firefox. To compare the demo site with the real site they faked for comparison, you can click here to visit the real site here.
This does not affect Windows or Safari browsers. Currently there is a fix for Firefox browsers. Here is what you do:
Open your Firefox browser
Type about:config in the address bar
Search for ‘puny’ (without quotes)
You should see network.IDN_show_punycode set for ‘false’
Double click it to make it ‘true’
Chrome currently does not have a fix for it.
It seems every time you get used to something, it’s taken away! It has been announced recently that Google is going to phase out support for Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux over the next two years. They say existing apps will remain available and can still be updated. They are looking to simplify the Chrome browser. This includes both packaged and hosted apps.
Late 2016, newly-published Chrome apps will be available on Chrome OS. Existing Chrome apps will still be accessible.
In the second half of 2017, the Chrome Web Store will now longer show Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux. They will continue to have extensions and themes.
In early 2018, users will no longer be able to load Chrome apps.
Here are some examples of Chrome apps: https://web.appstorm.net/roundups/the-50-best-chrome-web-store-apps/
The Victor crew
The Victor crew found a few interesting articles this week:
For those who wondered why their laptops have gone through their battery so quickly, Microsoft has tested different browsers. With each browser, they browsed Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, and Amazon. Here’s what they found:
Microsoft Edge lasted 7 hours 22 minutes on Surface Book system
Chrome lasted 4 hours 19 minutes
Firefox lasted 5 hours 9 minutes
Opera battery-saving mode lasted 6 hours 18 minutes.
There’s a new gadget that allows you to play your original Nintendo Gameboy cartridges on your phone. It costs $59 and works on Android phones now. iPhone versions will be out by December. It is made by Hyperkin.
With smart home technology growing leaps and bounds, there are more entry points for hackers to try to get your information. One thing they are now attacking is smart TV sets. Most security options have been focused on computers and smartphones so TVs have been neglected thus far. This article has some steps you can take to help prevent this.
Is “Do Not Track” being turned on in your browser helpful? That is what the Victor Crew wants to find out.
If you use Firefox, you will see under the privacy tab that there is checkbox to “Request that sites not track you”. When you click on Learn more, it will take you to this page: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/dnt/
They qualify it by saying they offer a Do Not Track feature “that lets you express a preference not to be tracked by websites.” They go on to explain that it tells them you want to opt-out of behavioral advertising. This does not block ads, but it may change the type of ads you see. It may affect certain ways you view sites, like maybe the need to enter your zip code on a weather site.
In Chrome you can go to Settings and scroll down to click Show advanced settings and find it under Privacy there.
In Edge you will go to settings and go to Advanced settings and find it under the Privacy settings there.
There are many sites that will honor this request, but there are many others that will choose to ignore it. We hardly think they will be honored by the likes of Facebook, Google, YouTube, Pandora, Netflix, LinkedIn for some.
The FCC has chosen not to enforce the requests in a major blow to Internet privacy for users in the past week as per a the Consumer Watchdog Petition to require the requests be enforced. http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db1106/DA-15-1266A1.pdf
Last week several sites reported that Chrome OS was merging with Android to make one system that will run on Chromebooks and Android devices.
Examples of the reports:
These rumors are not true. At least not to the extent they’ve been reported. Chrome OS will always be Chrome OS according to Google’s Chrome blog. In the article they say that Chromebooks are listed as the best-selling laptop computer on Amazon.com. They say they will keep developing Chromebooks and they will only get better over time.
The Victor crew found a program you can download to help protect you from exploits. There is a free version and a paid version from Malwarebytes called Malewarebytes Anti-Exploit. Once you download and install it, it will add some layers of protection to your browsers, browser add-ons and Java. The paid version will also shield some Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) and Media Players, and allow you to add and manage custom shields. The paid version costs $24.95/year and will cover 3 PCs.
This is not an anti-virus program, but will give real-time protection against vulnerable sites. It will protect Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and others.
What makes the Apple Watch so easy to steal? It doesn’t come with enough security. If a pick-pocket were to grab it, he can easily reset it and you’re dumb out of luck. There is no activation lock to keep someone from a major reset and taking it over.
There were also reports of people easily drawing funds from bank accounts through refillable Starbucks accounts. Starbucks claims they weren’t hacked but rather hackers figured out users credentials and got into their accounts that way. Just another reason not to use public wi-fi.
If you are a Chrome user, there is a new plugin you can add to help you gain some more of your memory. In your browser that is. It is called The Great Suspender. I twill automatically suspend unused tabs. How many times do you have a bunch of tabs open? You can only look at one at a time. You can configure when it will suspend a tab or do it manually. All you have to do is click to reload a suspended tab. It’s worth checking out.
Jody‘s crew likes to stay up to date on some of the latest news in tech out there. Here are a few interesting finds:
Verizon FiOS – Upload speeds will now match download speeds. If you have 75mps download speed, you will now have 75mps upload speed as well. If you are enrolled in the MyRewards+ program, you will get your equalizing speeds sooner than those not enrolled. This will continue through the fall. Read about it here.
Google Chrome – Google is finally addressing a bug in its Chrome browser that eats up system resources. It seems to show more on laptops where resources are more noticeably affected by it. Rather than changing the rate of usage by what it’s doing, it stays clocked at the highest possible rate as long as it is open. Solution for laptop users – use a different browser.
Toyota – The newest Toyota Sienna minivan has an optional built-in microphone to amplify the driver’s voice through the speakers. It only works one way. It is called “Driver Speak Easy.” So “stop fighting or I’ll pull the car over” will be heard more readily! There are a some other new features on this minivan like a pull-down mirror so the driver can check on the kids without turning around, a Blue-ray entertainment system in the back.
If you are using Chrome and haven’t signed out of the browser, and you share your computer or your computer is stolen, then you have shared any passwords you have saved in the browser. Anyone can simply go to chrome://settings/passwords to view the passwords you have saved. There is no other security applied.
Unlike Firefox. You can set a master password that you have to enter before you can see the saved password. This adds a layer in Firefox’s security.
IE encrypts passwords and you can’t easily view them. You can download IE Passview to see them.
The bottom line is, if you share a computer or travel with your laptop, make sure you are logged out of all your browsers and logged out of the operating system. Make sure all user accounts are password protected.
~ Jody Victor