Tag Archives: Firefox

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.

image_thumb1

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

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

17 Comments

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

Free BootMed For Your Sick PC

imageI’ve covered a boatload of  free Live CDs (a boot disk on a CD) in the last few years, including – Boot, Recovery, Rescue, Antivirus, and so on. To work effectively with such tools generally demands a very high level of user experience with operating systems, which effectively restricts usage to geeks or, the occasional very daring newbie.

I’ve just spent a week, or so, testing BootMed, a Ubuntu Linux driven set of recovery tools which is a little different than most such tool sets – it’s much more new user friendly.

On launch, BootMed defaults to Firefox which opens on the developer’s site – “What can BootMed do”.

image

That’s a bit of a twist on most recovery tools/disks/applications, since the developer has recognized that not all users have the practical background, or the experience, to work with these types of tools unaided.

The tutorials (walk- throughs) on this page (What can BootMed do) – shown below – should make working with the specific applications included on the CD/DVD much easier for less experienced users than it would be otherwise. Kudos to the developer on this one.

Recovery

Misc.

More experienced users will simply venture straight to the Desktop to access the available tools.

image

The following screen capture illustrates the applications available.

Note: Under “Applications”, additional tools are available.

image

You can see from the following screen capture, BootMed allows the user to access all attached devices (and their files), from the “Computer” icon.

image

The following two graphics show the AV’s available. Both AVs will automatically update their definition database – provided the PC is connected to the Internet.

McAfee’s Stinger – a stand-alone utility used to detect and remove specific viruses.

image

ClamWin Free Antivirus – ClamWin is a free antivirus designed for Windows.

image

Two file recovery applications are available including PhotoRec, a powerful recovery application.

image

And TestDisk, which adds additional functionality – including partition recovery.

image

There are many more applications included in this bag of tools including – GParted partition manager, as well as WINE, which will allow you to run Windows applications from within BootMed.

The CD/DVD burning application Brasero (available under “Applications”), is shown in the following screen shot.

image

System requirements: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7

Download 32 bit ISO at: Download.com

Download 64 bit ISO at: Download.com

I particularly like BootMed since it allows a fairly typical user access to complex tools while at the same time, not feeling abandoned in the scary world of operating systems. The developer has recognized this chill factor, and does a fair amount of “hand holding” – I think that’s very cool.

If you’re now a geek, or a high level user, think back to the days when you could have used some “hand holding”. If you were lucky enough to get it, I think you’ll agree that “hand holding” can make a major difference.

Don’t have a CD/DVD drive? Then – install BootMed to a USB flash drive. Easy to follow instructions are here.

10 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, CD/DVD Recovery Tools, downloads, File Recovery Software, Freeware, Live CDs, Software, System Recovery Tools

Update WebMail Notifier To Version 2.9.11 Fixes Broken Gmail Script

imageMy Firefox add-on, WebMail Notifier, stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of my productivity or, lack of the same if it  stops working – as it did over-night. The problem was restricted to Gmail – Hotmail and Yahoo Mail were unaffected – still, what a pain!

From the: Why reinvent the wheel files – Geeks, just like everyone else, turn to Google, or….. – in the event that others have experienced the same problem and, a solution has been posted.

Long story short –

Google has initiated a number of changes in Gmail’s log-in address (which they seem to do regularly), that broke the log-in script in WebMail Notifier. Apparently, this Google rollout is taking place over several days – so, it’s possible that if a user has more than one Gmail account, one or more may be impacted, but not others.

I found a number of manual solutions to this problem – all of which worked. However, if you are currently dealing with this issue – you can avoid all the hassle by simply downloading version 2.9.11 of WebNotifier, which corrects the problem.

Download at: WebMail Notifier

Kudos to the add-on developer for jumping on this quickly – again.

3 Comments

Filed under downloads, Email, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Gmail

Collusion – Internet Trackers Are All In It Together

imageLook – every business organization has the right to generate income and make a profit – and, in the real world, most organizations generate that income and make that profit aboveboard, and in clear view. But, that’s not necessarily the process on the Internet. In far too many cases, companies generate revenue by staying far below a user’s horizon – in an underhanded and sneaky fashion.

The tool of choice – a tool, which by its very nature is sneaky and underhanded, is the appropriately named Tracking Cookie. A tool, which not only tracks a user’s footprints across the Web but, the data generated is then used to analyze the user’s online behavior.

It’s this behavior analysis (analyzing links I click on, the content I view, searches I make ….) where I draw the line. I find it disturbing that I have little or no say, in the manner in which I’m tracked as I surf the Internet. And, equally as important – how that information is used.

It’s fair to say, that many users do not object to being tracked. I wonder though, that if these same unconcerned users were aware of just how insidious and overwhelming tracking has become – if, they’d continue to be unconcerned.

Should an unconcerned user run the recently released Collusion Firefox add-0n – an add-on which graphs in real-time the “following behavior” of tracking cookies, they might feel less confident that their “I don’t care” perspective is the correct one.

Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs, in describing Collusion at the recent Technology, Entertainment, and Design conference pointed out, that Collusion “allows you to see all the third parties that are tracking your movements across the Web. It will show, in real time, how that data creates a spider-web of interaction between companies and other trackers.”

Kovacs went on to say that “Collusion will allow us to pull back the curtain and provide users with more information about the growing role of third parties, how data drives most Web experiences, and ultimately how little control we have over that experience and our loss of data.”

I’ve been tinkering with Collusion for the past several days, and I must admit to a new level of unease with this “behind the scenes” look at the nature of tracking now been practiced.

Here’s a screen shot of a spider-web of interaction between companies and trackers, from a short hop around the Internet which I made this morning.

image

I think you’ll agree, that the connection between and amongst trackers and tracking companies, might be more insidious than you had previously considered.

The graphic below (captured from the Collusion site),  briefly explains the  connections illustrated.

image

The Collusion add-on is available for download at Mozilla.

Back to the previous graphic for a moment – you’ll notice that you can export the graph. Should you do so, you’ll end up with data which will look something like the following. What you see is a very small portion of the exported data from today’s test.

javascript”],”news.com”:[2855341,”image/png”]},”visited”:false},”adtechus.com”:{“referrers”:{“techrepublic.com”:[1070986,”application/x-javascript”],”cnet.com”:[2853754,”application/x-javascript”],”thestar.com”:[5351704,”application/x-javascript”]},”visited”:false},”adnxs.com”:{“referrers”:{“techrepublic.com”:[1071838,”text/javascript”,”image/jpeg”],”baselinemag.com”:[2084558,null],”cnet.com”:[2853938,”text/javascript”,”image/jpeg”,”image/gif”],”thestar.com”:[5352178,”text/javascript”,”image/jpeg”,”application/x-shockwave-flash”]},”visited”:false},”techrepublic.com”:{“referrers”:{“twitter.com”:[1077104,”text/html;charset=utf-8″]},”visited”:true},”stumbleupon.com”:{“referrers”:{“techrepublic.com”:[1073845,”text/html;charset=utf-8″],”pcmag.com”:[1466423,”text/html;charset=utf-8″],”webopedia.com

And yes, there are a truckload of free tools which, to some extent, can impact and reduce the effectiveness of tracking – but, the downside in running with these tools is often a less than enjoyable Internet experience.

18 Comments

Filed under downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Opinion, Privacy

Download Free BootMed – PC Medicine That Works

imageI’ve covered a load of  free Live CDs here in the last few years, including – Boot, Recovery, Rescue, Antivirus ……….. To work effectively with such tools though, demands a very high level of user experience with operating systems which, effectively restricts usage to geeks or, the occasional very daring newbie.

I’ve just spent a week, or so, testing BootMed, a Ubuntu Linux driven set of recovery tools which is just a little different than most such tool sets, inasmuch as it’s much more new user centric than most.

On launch, BootMed defaults to Firefox which opens on the developer’s site – “What can BootMed do”.

image

That’s a bit of a twist on most recovery tools/disks/applications, since the developer has recognized that not all users have the practical background, or the experience, to work with these type of tools unaided.

The tutorials – What can BootMed do – shown below – should make working with the specific applications included on the CD/DVD much easier for less experienced users than it would be otherwise. Kudos to the developer on this one.

Recovery

Misc

More experienced users will simply venture straight to the Desktop to access the available tools.

image

The following screen capture illustrates the applications available.

Note: Under “Applications”, additional tools are available.

image

You can see from the following screen capture, that BootMed allows the user to access all attached devices (and their files), from the “Computer” icon.

image

The following two graphics show the AV’s available. Both AVs will automatically update their definition database – provided the PC is connected to the Internet.

McAfee’s Stinger – a stand-alone utility used to detect and remove specific viruses.

image

ClamWin Free Antivirus – ClamWin is a free antivirus designed for Windows.

image

Two file recovery applications are available including PhotoRec, a powerful recovery application.

image

And TestDisk, which adds additional functionality – including partition recovery.

image

There are many more applications included in this bag of tools including – GParted partition manager, as well as WINE, which will allow you to run Windows applications from within BootMed.

The CD/DVD burning application Brasero (available under “Applications”), is shown in the following screen shot.

image

System requirements: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7

Download 32 bit ISO at: Developer’s site.

Download 64 bit ISO at: Developer’s site.

Installing BootMed to a USB flash drive: If you do not have a cd-rom (e.g. a Netbook), you can install BootMed to a bootable USB flash drive. To do so you first need to download the cd, then follow these instructions.

I particularly like BootMed since it allows a fairly typical user access to complex tools while at the same time, not feeling abandoned in the scary world of operating systems. The developer has recognized this chill factor, and does a fair amount of “hand holding” – I think that’s very cool.

If you’re now a geek, or a high level user, think back to the days when you could have used some “hand holding”. If you were lucky enough to get it, I think you’ll agree that “hand holding” can make a major difference.

6 Comments

Filed under Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Live CDs, System Recovery Tools

Update WebMail Notifier To Version 2.8 – Fixes Broken Gmail Script

imageAbove all my Firefox and Chrome add-ons, WebMail Notifier stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of my productivity or, lack of the same if it  stops working – as it did last night. The problem was restricted to Gmail (thankfully), and Hotmail and Yahoo Mail were unaffected – still, what a pain!

Geeks, just like everyone else, turn to Google, or….., in the hope that others have experienced the same problem and, a solution has been posted.

Long story short –

Google has initiated a number of changes in Gmail’s log-in address (which they have done in the past), that broke the log-in script in WebMail Notifier. Apparently, this Google rollout is taking place over several days – so, it’s possible that if a user has more than one Gmail account, one or more may be impacted, but not others.

I found a number of manual solutions to this problem – all of which worked. However, if you are currently dealing with this issue – you can avoid all the hassle by simply downloading version 2.8 of WebNotifier, which corrects the problem.

Download at: WebMail Notifier

Kudos to the add-on developer for jumping on this quickly.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

Comments Off on Update WebMail Notifier To Version 2.8 – Fixes Broken Gmail Script

Filed under Chrome Add-ons, downloads, Email, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Tech Net News, Windows Tips and Tools