Category Archives: Safari

DoNotTrackPlus Gives The Boot To Nosy Internet Trackers

imageSeveral weeks back, I received an invitation from CNET to join a dating website designed especially for those that are 50 years old – or more. OK, it wasn’t exactly an invitation  – it was, in fact, an ad inserted into one of my subscribed  CNET newsletters.

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So what – no big deal you may be thinking. But from my perspective, it is a big deal – here’s why.

In the years that I’ve been Internet connected – 18 years or more – I’ve never referred to, or listed, my actual age (other than to make the point, from time to time, that I’ve been at the computing game for a very long time). Nor, have I ever referred to my marital status (other than in a humorous way in re-commenting on a reader’s initial comment – perhaps).

As it turns out – I am over 50, and I am a bachelor. So, in reality, CNET targeted me precisely. The question is – how did CNET know to target me so effectively and efficiently?

A partial answer is – CNET spies. The fact that CNET spies on site visitors is hardly news. Nor is it news, that the majority of commercial websites engage in spying on site visitors.

SPYING – such a loaded word. Instead of “spying”, let me use a series of descriptors handily thrown around by those engaged in spying on my privacy.

Predictive analytics, customer profiling, customer segmentation, predictive modeling, lifestyle clustering……. all done for my own benefit, of course (according to the intruders). There, now I feel better about being profiled, segmented, and clustered. Not!

I’m certainly not a Luddite and, I understand the cost/benefit associated with using the Internet. But, the rules (such as they were) have changed dramatically in the last year or two. The Data Miner is now on the scene, and gobbling up personal information at a prodigious rate.

Webopedia definition – The two most common forms of data miners are data mining programs that an organization uses to analyze its own data to look for significant patterns, and spyware programs that are uploaded to a user’s computer to monitor the user’s activity and send the data back to the organization, typically so that the organization can send the user targeted advertising.

In a real sense then, it isn’t so much that CNET is aware that I’m 50 plus, or that I’m single that is at issue – since CNET could not/did not develop the specific information I referred to earlier. Instead, this information was undoubtedly culled by any one, or more, of the data miners that have infected the Internet and, using “predictive modeling” rolled out a “best guess” that I’m in my fifties and single.

And that makes me feel not only “profiled, segmented, and clustered” but, as if I’ve been “diced and sliced”. I have, in essence, become a product. A product, I’m afraid, that’s closing in on its “best before date”.    Smile

A product that LiveIntent, working on behalf of CNET, targeted based on (according to the company’s site), gender, age, geo, browser, and time of day. I should point out, that according to LiveIntent’s promotional material, the foregoing “is just the tip of the iceberg”. Of that, I have no doubt.

The other side of the coin is – and there is another side of the coin – Internet users (by and large), have been trained to accept a tradeoff in order to get access to “free” information and services. In return – they buy into the condition that each commercial site they visit has the right to spy and build a profile on their browsing habits – the type of sites they visit and revisit, time spent on sites, their shopping and spending habits, their political views, their marital status (it appears), and much more. Some tradeoff!

In the long term, the personal information gathered will be sold, bartered and traded (to bypass the disclaimer – “we will not sell your information”), so that it can be used in multiple ways that generate profit. And, that’s the upside. If there’s one thing the Internet has taught us, it’s – if information can be abused – it will be abused.

If you’re like me, and you staunchly oppose the collection of your personal information, then you’re likely aware of any number of Browser tools which claim to shutout nosy data miners. In fact, I’ve reviewed many of these tools here.

One free tool which I haven’t reviewed until now (although, I wish I had earlier) is DoNotTrackPlus – a free Browser add-on from Abine (the online privacy company).

In the several weeks I’ve been running with DoNotTrackPlus, I’ve found that this add-on lives up to it’s reputation for excellence.

The following screen captures emphasize just how pervasive online tracking has become. And, more importantly, how DoNotTrackPlus puts the boots to these invasive parasitic data miners.

A selected result, from earlier today, while reading my local newspaper online.

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Cumulative results since installing this add-on. You’ll note, the rather staggering tracking company total.

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Abine’s Internet privacy view:

There is a huge difference between sharing personal information and having it taken. That’s why we’ve created Internet tools and services for those who want a say in how and when their information is used. And since we think exercising your right to online privacy should be easy, our solutions allow regular people just like you to regain and maintain control over their personal information – while continuing to enjoy all the wonderful things the web has to offer.

If you find yourself agreeing with this concept – and, you want a say in how and when your privileged information is used – take DoNotTrackPlus for a test drive. I suspect that you’ll be reluctant, in future, to surf the Internet without DoNotTrackPlus in place.

Fast facts:

Free tool that puts you back in control of your information.

Stops more than 600 trackers.

When you visit a website DoNotTrackPlus blocks tracking technologies from:

· Seeing and collecting your web activity such as what sites you visit and what you view.

· Putting cookies on your machine that would continue to store information about your Internet browsing.

· Displaying ads with tracking capability, including the annoying ads that seem to follow you everywhere you go.

Compatible with Mac or PC for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

Automatically updates to catch new trackers.

Download at the developer’s site: Abine

Click on the graphic below to view a video of DoNotTrackPlus in action.

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Additional information is available on the company’s FAQ site.

17 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Online Privacy, Safari

Is Awesome Screenshot Browser Add-on, Really Awesome?

So, is Awesome Screenshot, a screen capture add-on for Firefox 4.0 (which I recently installed), Chrome, and Safari really awesome? If you’re an active Blogger and you have a need to capture web graphics, or you’re the type of web enthusiast who likes to share unique content, then I think you’ll agree that it just might be.

Using Awesome Screenshot by activating its Browser toolbar push button icon

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(which launches the add-on’s toolbar), you can capture a visible part, a selected part, or an entire web page. You then have the option to annotate the screen capture with rectangles, circles, arrows, lines and even text.

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Sample Capture

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Saving the image to your Hard Drive, or sharing – by uploading the image to the Pict image hosting site, is a snap. In the following illustration, I’ve uploaded the sample capture to http://awesomescreenshot.com/0879qyp64, which, when clicked, (try it), opens the following.

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This neat add-on doesn’t stop there though. You can share your capture on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Buzz – and even email it with Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail.

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Fast facts:

Capture

  • Capture visible part
  • Capture any region
  • Capture the whole page
  • Crop any portion and show crop dimension

Annotate

  • Annotate it with rectangles, circles, arrows, lines and text
  • Erase the sensitive information with blur tool

Share

  • One-click Upload the screenshot to awesomescreenshot.com
    and get a sharable link
  • Hard to guess URL to allow private sharing
  • Share the link to Twitter, Facebook, email etc.

To see  Awesome Screenshot in action, watch this YouTube video.

Compatible with: Firefox 4.0, Chrome, Safari.

Download at: Mozilla, or the developer’s site.

Note: No restart required for Firefox 4.0 add-on.

Just a quick word on Firefox 4.0, which I’ve been running for a few weeks.

Contrary to most of the hype I’ve been reading regarding Firefox 4.0 which attempts to reposition Firefox 4.0 as the “reinvention” of the Browser, it’s simple not so.

Yes, there are major differences under the hood in this latest version, some of which you may find valuable, but in terms of productivity increases, I doubt if an average user will notice. For example, I have a very high end Video Card which Firefox 4.0 is designed to take advantage of – I have yet to see any improvement in performance based on this.

The following type of pseudo scientific testing is misleading, and really just twists reality out of shape – “performance tests on the Kraken, SunSpider and V8 benchmarks, for example, Firefox 4 blew away previous versions of the browser, with performance results between three and six times better.” The test results may be accurate, but unless you can count in milliseconds, I doubt if you’ll notice any appreciable increase in speed.

Nevertheless, if you’re a Firefox user, you do need to upgrade for security reasons. But don’t expect that you’ll be walking into a new and exciting Browser world.

With all the new releases, upgrades, and what have you in the Browser market in the last few weeks, and the accompany trumpeting of “were the best”, “we’re the fastest”, “we’ve got the best technology”, ad nauseam – it very much reminded me of children bragging in the school yard.

It would be helpful for average users if certain tech journalists, and the product developers, stopped trying to “sell” browsers as if they were used cars, it seems to me.

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23 Comments

Filed under Blogging Tools, Browser add-ons, Browsers, Chrome Add-ons, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Gmail, Google Chrome, Image Editors, Interconnectivity, Safari, Safari add-ons, Screen Capture Utilities, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Who’s Still Using IE 6? – Some Outrageous Surprises

image One of the most frequently repeated pieces of advice on this site is – “Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched, and up to date”. Sounds like good, practical advice – and it is. But as those of us involved in computer security know; this is advice that is not always followed.

Up to a point, I can understand why an occasional user might not be as careful when it comes to following this advice, as a more seasoned user. But what I will never understand is – why a company (of any size), or a government agency, would not recognize the critical need to follow this advice.

We’re all familiar with this statement – “Microsoft issues security advisory on IE vulnerability.” I’m not picking on Microsoft, since experience has taught us that every Browser can be compromised by cybercriminals. And current statistics indicate, Internet Explorer 8 may, in fact, be the “safest” Browser – at least for the moment. Some may dispute this, and that’s fair enough, since many of the metrics used to measure Browser safety are highly variable.

What’s beyond dispute though, is the continued use of Internet Explorer 6 delivers an invitation to the cybercriminal world to play havoc on computer systems.

Internet Explorer 6 has been referred to, in addition to many other flavorful descriptions, as “the least secure software on the planet” and “the worst tech product of all time”.

So, I find it difficult to understand why an 8 year old Browser, (it was released in August, 2001, shortly after the completion of Windows XP), with an horrendous reputation for system safety, continues to be used by any reasonably informed user. But it is being used – and you might be surprised to learn, just who it is that continues to use it.

As a serious Blogger, I use a number of tools including StatCounter, which allows me to listen to my readers, and to determine what it is they need – what they want to read, and what’s important to them. One of the information metrics produced by StatCounter is information on the Browser used by the reader, along with the Host name and location.

In the following example, (December 4, 2009), 2 visits are from a business, and one visit is from a bank – both using using IE 6. Host address is not included here for privacy reasons.

IE 6

Just to be clear – the following Browsers (in order of preference), are used to reach this site:

IE 7 and 8

Firefox 3.0 through 3.5

Chrome 3.0 through 4.0

Safari 3.1 through 4.0

*Internet Explorer 6

Opera 10

Various flavors of the Mozilla Browser

What I find surprising in these statistics is, the continued use of Internet Explorer 6. Even more surprising though is, who’s still using this outdated and incredibly insecure Browser – many U.S. Government sites (including some Defense Department sites), and some very well know commercial enterprises. There are of course, some non-commercial users in this IE 6 group – but not many.

To put this in perspective – approximately 25% of the 3,000 (+ or -), daily visits to this site, are from Universities/Colleges, Government agencies (local and national), Business, and Law Enforcement Agencies (local and national), and roughly 15% of these business and government visitors are still using Internet Explorer 6.

I have yet to see an educational institution, or a law enforcement agency, visiting this site, still using IE 6. But 15%+ of business and government visitors are still using this Browse despite the increased security risk doing so creates.

In January of this year, security advisory site Secunia reported 142 vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 6 – 22 of which were unpatched at that time. Many of these vulnerabilities were rated moderately critical in severity.

Even today (December 5, 2009), Secunia’s advisory affecting Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.x, with all vendor patches applied, still rates this application’s security vulnerabilities as “Highly critical”.

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So here’s my question: With the increasing sophistication of cybercriminals, particularly in cybercrimes directed at business and government, (and we know that cybercriminals are currently targeting small and medium sized businesses), why would a business or government agency continue to use Internet Explorer 6?

It would definitely impact my decision as to whether to do business with a particular organization (holding my confidential information), if I was aware that business still employed Internet Explorer 6.

This is not a scientific survey of Internet Explorer 6 usage in business, or government, and I’m aware of the lack of applied methodology. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence is often reasonably representative of reality, and in this case, I believe it is, since I’ve been watching IE 6 usage here for over a year.

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8 Comments

Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Internet Safety, Microsoft, Online Safety, Personal Perspective, Safari, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Safari 4 for PC – Review

Safari 2 I am always intrigued by applications that offer more speed and more features. I am also interested in checking out new competitors takes on the web browser application.

Safari 4 claims to be both faster than IE7 and FireFox, so I figured I would give it a try and a review. My initial take was one of surprise.

I was not expecting to like this browser much at all, but I found a few of the features to be very impressive. The browsing was speedy as advertised, and I really enjoyed some of the auto-installed bookmarks.

I also was satisfied with the way Safari 4 used tabs. I was a bit worried Apple would try to do too much with the tabs. One other cool feature was a “Top Sites” page. This feature had a well laid-out visual representation of my selected top sites. This was also a useful feature in which IE and FireFox had no comparison for.

One more thing I really enjoyed as a power user was the cookie viewer. IE doesn’t have one of these, and I had to download 3rd party software to view my cookies in IE. I did, however, think that the cookie viewer in FireFox was a bit better though.

Lastly, the search bar that was pre-installed was well done. It gave the user the option of searching either Yahoo, or Google. The built in auto-complete was also helpful. I liked the search bar a lot since most browsers try to promote their own search engine with the search bar. Apple realized that most users would be annoyed if Google or Yahoo were not the primary search engine for the toolbar.

Safari 1

Even though I was impressed with Safari 4 to start, there were a few things I didn’t like. The first thing I didn’t like was that most of the menu buttons were on the top right side of the browser. In Windows, the menu buttons usually go from left to right. It took a little getting used to these buttons on what seemed to be the unnatural part of the application.

The second thing that was a little annoying was the auto-complete in the URL bar. I am sure there is a way to turn this off, but by default it is on and it made typing in a URL a little tougher than expected.

There were also a few features missing from this browser that I find useful in other browsers. Drop-down history in the URL bar, drop-down history on the back/forward buttons, and a quick link to my homepage were a few missing features to name a few.

Overall, I am not switching from my primary web browser. I currently use FireFox and I am pretty happy with the way it performs. However, I would suggest checking out Safari 4, especially if you are an Apple fan.

The main reason I am sticking with FireFox is – Safari 4 didn’t impress me enough to switch from something I am used to. Also, I am pretty happy with the web security FireFox offers, and I am a little concerned with web security from Safari 4, since it is new and untested.

Guest Writer: This is a guest post by Dominic Acito, who brings a background as a high level super user, to the Blogging world.

Why not pay a visit to Dominic’s site at Computer Too Slow.

4 Comments

Filed under Browsers, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Networking, Safari, Safe Surfing, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Does Using FireFox Make You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

I run a number of website tools that provide the type of information that allows me to make available a better experience for readers of this Blog, than I might otherwise be able to provide.

One of these tools makes available information on which web browser readers of this Blog use while visiting. It’s of no strategic value really; but it does provide some interesting statistics nonetheless. I’ve noticed over the course of the last year, or so, that by far the most popular browser used by readers of this Blog is, wait for it, and yes it’s FireFox.

Take a look at the chart below and you’ll notice that in one two hour period, this week, the browser wars went like this:

Browser Stats updated

(Click pic for larger)

So, 47% of visitors to this Blog use FireFox/Mozilla in one flavor or another. You might think that these are isolated or non representative numbers. In fact, these numbers with reasonable small changes up, or down, characterize the daily Browser activity on this Blog.

It struck me, that given the fact that FireFox currently has approximately 21% of the Browser market, then why are approximately 47% of this Blogs readers choosing FireFox?

Is it because they’re smarter, more technically knowledgeable, more security aware, more net savvy than the average IE user, or more familiar with the services/products that the Internet has to offer?

I think all of the above are more than likely true. Well perhaps not smarter. But it would be hard to argue that they’re not more technically savvy: after all this is a tech Blog.

I’d love to know what drives users to FireFox, so if you have a personal observation, let me know. I’d be glad to hear it.

7 Comments

Filed under Browsers, Firefox, Freeware, Google Chrome, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer, Internet Safety, Safari, Safe Surfing, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Take a Virtual Trip on Your Browser – Get PicLens 1.6 Free

piclens.jpgWant to take a virtual trip on your browser? Want to wander outside the reality of the Web? Well I just did, and you can too!

PicLens 1.6, a wonderfully fluid and superbly crafted add-on for Safari, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, will take you to places you never thought possible on a web browser.

I took a trip to the Louvre in Paris, courtesy of PicLens and Google Images, (search: art in the Louvre). With the sweeping panorama displayed by PicLens I felt as if I was wandering casually down an immense hall hung with the world’s finest art. The reflective quality of the bottom strip of pics added a slightly surreal quality to the experience. What a trip! What a price!

If you’re a FaceBook fan, (and who isn’t), PicLens will definitely enhance your experience as you browse your FaceBook friends’ pics.

The developers of this free, neat Internet Browser add-on, as well as being the developers of Cooliris Previews, a tool I couldn’t function without on the Web, are a superbly talented group of people with a great insight into how to create and develop tools to expand the internet horizon.

Expand your own Internet horizons, download and install PicLens 1.6, and while you’re at it download Cooliris Previews. You’ll be glad you did.

PicLens Features:

  • Enjoy photos in full-screen mode
  • New! Quickly drag, click, and zoom in a “3D Wall” interface
  • New! Search for web images within PicLens
  • Play a slideshow of image search results and photo albums
  • Fly through 1000s of images in a split second
  • Search in multiple languages
  • Jump from PicLens to the corresponding webpage
  • Sit back and explore photos with your Apple® remote

 

 Take a look at a couple of videos on PicLens!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utySPFH_HlA
http://www.vimeo.com/653047

Supported Browsers: Firefox, IE, Safari

Download at: PicLens

Comments Off on Take a Virtual Trip on Your Browser – Get PicLens 1.6 Free

Filed under FaceBook, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Graphic Software, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Multimedia Tools, Safari, Windows Tips and Tools