Tag Archives: Mozilla

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.

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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.

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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

Not Using Google Shortcuts? Here’s What You’re Missing

The following article was originally posted September 6, 2010.

Comments from readers:

I have to say that is such a great plugin. It is so customizable and puts all the Google services at one place. I can even remove the separate plugins I have for Gmail and reader.

Great find, Bill. I’m going to be putting this to good use!

Looks fabulous Bill. I removed the Google Toolbar from Firefox as it refused to untick some checkboxes, so this could be a great substitute.

imageDespite my personal view that Google trashes personal privacy rights, I continue to use a fairly large number of Google services, including Gmail, Google Reader, Maps, Calendar, and so on.

Until now, I’ve used my Bookmarks menu in Firefox to access these services, since this method is very convenient. But, when I came across the Google Shortcuts extension for Firefox, all that changed.

An  add-on that can display over 160 Google services as buttons next to the address bar, or in a one-click popup menu, is a sure fire winner with me. And Google Shortcuts for Firefox, or Chrome, can do that – and more.

Adding this extension to either Firefox, or Chrome, is accomplished in the usual manner that most of us are familiar with (you’ll find the download links at the end of this article).

Following installation, I jumped right in – setting up the extension to best serve my particular needs.

You can place your most commonly used Google services as buttons beside the address bar in Firefox, as the following screen capture indicates. This seems like an awkward way to display – eats up a lot of screen real estate.

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The option of using a dropdown menu option instead, as I’ve done here, is a better alternative – at least for me.

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The number of services available is really astonishing. In fact, there are services listed here that I was completely unaware of. Hopefully, G+ will be added shortly.

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Additional control options are available on the advanced options setting screen.

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Requirements: Firefox 2.0 – 6.*, or Chrome

Download at: Mozilla or Google Chrome Extensions

For super convenience, this is one of the better Firefox add-ons I’ve come across – I highly recommend it.

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6 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Chrome, Chrome Add-ons, Cloud Computing Applications, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google, Google Chrome, Google Software, Interconnectivity, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Tile Tabs 4.9 – Firefox Tabbed Horizontally, Vertically Or In A Grid

This past week, I’ve reviewed Dexpot – an application which, in the freeware version, will allow you to work with up to twenty separate and distinct virtual Desktops, as well as Slickscreen – an Internet Browser which takes advantage of high resolution displays by dividing the screen into separate windows.

In keeping with this theme, regular reader Michael Fisher recently introduced me to Tile Tabs, a very cool Firefox browser add-on which gives a user the ability to arrange tabs in a tile format – horizontally, vertically or in a grid. Additional tile control features include – re-sizing by dragging splitter bars – dragging links from one tile to another  to open in the selected tile (I found this feature very useful).

Following installation, you’ll notice a new menu has been added to the Firefox Menu Bar.

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Additionally, you have the option of  adding a Tile Tabs button to the Toolbar by right-clicking the Toolbar and choosing “Customize”.

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More important, at least from my perspective (as a context menu fanatic), are the new commands added to the “right click” context menu.

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Setting your specific preferences is easy using the options menu – available through the Add-ons Manager.

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The focused tab (currently selected tile), is bracketed by a colored border. The border color is selectable.

Tile Tabs Options

Here’s a view of Tile Tabs in action showing four opened tabs.

Click on graphic to expand to original.

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System requirements: Firefox 3.6 – 6.

Download at: Mozilla

You might not need this add-on every time you surf the Net. Still, just having it available for those times when it could come in handy, seems like a smart move.

I must admit, I’ve found it very useful, these last few nights, as I watched the Stanley Cup Finals hockey games (streaming live), in a tiled tab – as I continued with my regular work on the Net. Thank you Michael!

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3 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Browsers, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Add Some Color To Firefox With Colorful Tabs

When I installed Firefox 4, certain add-ons were not yet compatible (some, including VTzilla and Xpnd.it, are still not compatible). The non-compatible add-on I missed the most – which really surprised me – was Colorful Tabs.

Without Colorful Tabs running, I was back to the same old flat, uninspiring, and unfocused Firefox.

Running without Colorful Tabs  – boring! Click on graphic to expand to original.

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Running with Colorful Tabs, which adds a different color to each tab, not only adds a little oomph to Firefox’s GUI, but helps me sort out loaded Tabs quickly.

Click on graphic to expand to original.

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You’ll notice that the currently active Tab has a slight 3D look – making it easy to stay focused.

Options menu:

Colorful Tabs can be optimized to meet your personal specifications.

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System requirements: Firefox 3.7 – 4.0.

Download at: Mozilla

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8 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Spice Up Your Blog And Forum Comments With BBCodeXtra Firefox Add-on

imageI must admit – I love to pore over readers’ comments following articles I’m checking out on other sites. Courteous comments (which by their nature, raise the level of intellectual persuasion), will often elevate a mundane article above the crowd of similar articles. The article may be the main meal, but reader comments are, in many instances, the spices that give it the oomph, the zest and the zing…….

If you’re the type of Internet user who likes to express your point of view, or share your wisdom and your insight by commenting on forums, on Blogs, or on any site which engages with its readers by supporting comments – then you’ll find BBCodeXtra (which adds Bbcode, HTML, and XHTML context menu commands to Firefox), very useful.

With BBCodeXtra installed you can markup your comments to display bold, italic, or underlined text, and more. As well, additional submenus increase functionality substantially.

Here’s an example in which I’ve selected “cool application” for italicizing, “just one more” for underlining, “you” to reference a URL, “much more closely”, for a block quote, and finally, “Always good to see your comments), for bolding.

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The BBCodeXtra context menu commands makes it very easy to add emphasis to your comments – without the need to learn coding.

BBCode

Settings menu

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You can create a custom tag to insert a fixed plain text or symbols like ©, ® e ™ (both HTML entity or UTF characters).

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System requirements: Firefox, Seamonkey.

Download at: Mozilla

Note: A comment tip from regular reader Michael F. pointed the way to this terrific add-on. Thank you Michael.

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8 Comments

Filed under Blogging Tools, Browser add-ons, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Software, Windows Tips and Tools, Writing

Firefox Update (3.6.12) Fixes Zero Day Vulnerability

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Yesterday, we reported on a critical zero day vulnerability in both Firefox 3.5, and Firefox 3.6., which could have allowed remote code execution in the Browser.

Mozilla jumped on this issue immediately, and has provided a fix by releasing Firefox version 3.6.12. Firefox 3.5 users, can ensure protection is in place against this vulnerability by updating to version 3.5.15.

If you haven’t updated your version of Firefox yet, then go to Help – Check for updates. Not all users allow automatic updates and installation – I’m one, as the following graphic illustrates. However, I do allow the update to download.

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For an overview of Browser security add-ons you should consider installing, read – An IT Professional’s Must Have Firefox and Chrome Add-ons, here on this site.

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Filed under Application Vulnerabilities, Browsers, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox, Freeware, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

October 27 – Firefox Zero Day Vulnerability

imageMozilla confirmed yesterday, that a critical vulnerability exists in both Firefox 3.5, and Firefox 3.6. Sources confirm, that the vulnerability is currently being exploited by cyber criminals.

According to Mozilla, the Nobel Peace Prize site is/was, carrying a Trojan which could have effected visitors to that site. However, if Mozilla is correct, this malware could be live on other sites.

Mozilla is actively addressing the issue and are working on a fix which will be released following testing to ensure its reliability. In the meantime, users are cautioned to disable JavaScript, and to install the NoScript Add-on – something we have long recommended on this site.

For an overview of additional Browser security add-ons you should consider installing, read – An IT Professional’s Must Have Firefox and Chrome Add-ons, here on this site.

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Application Vulnerabilities, Browser add-ons, Browsers, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, trojans