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Getting Along With Your Computer

New Firefox features

Ten years ago, Mozilla launched the Firefox browser. Last week, they rolled out version 33.1 with some interesting new features.

 

What is a browser?

A browser is a program on your computer (or tablet or smartphone) that allows us to visit websites. You’ve been using a browser all along, even if you didn’t know it. Every time you use your computer to look at Castanet, do your banking online or update your Facebook status, a browser takes you there.

Last week’s column discussed tweaks you could make to Internet Explorer, but there is more than one browser, and you have a choice of which ones you want to use. Microsoft Internet Explorer is built in to Windows and has been since Windows 95. Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Apple Safari are well-known alternatives. This previous column (http://rlis.com/columns/column463.htm) explains more about browsers.

How do you know what browser you’re using? The browser’s logo is one big clue. Internet Explorer’s is a lowercase blue “e” with gold swoosh through it. Firefox’s is an orange fox wrapped around a blue globe. Chrome’s is a circle or a globe with blue in the middle and yellow, red and green on the outer part. A very easy way to get the name AND the version of the browser is to visit http://www.whatsmybrowser.org/.


New Firefox features

I’ve been a Firefox user since version 1.0 and a Firefox evangelist since version 1.3. I love Firefox, and even though we’ve had some lovers’ quarrels over the last ten years, I’m sticking with Firefox. The newest release, version 33.1, includes two new privacy-centric features.

Firefox now includes a Forget button. Clicking there will give you the option to forget your recent browsing history, clear recent cookies, and close all the open tabs and windows. Why? Maybe you’re using Firefox on a public computer. Maybe you’re doing some Christmas shopping and don’t want to leave a trail for your significant other to find. Use this button to forget the last five minutes, two hours, or full day.

Yes, the old way to do this is still available and still available with a long and fairly complicated click path:

Settings | Options | Privacy | clear your recent history | [select time range] | [select details] | Clear Now

But the Forget button is easier!

Another privacy-enhancing option is the inclusion of the DuckDuckGo search engine (https://duckduckgo.com/) in the Firefox search bar. DuckDuckGo search doesn’t track your search history, doesn’t serve up social media information, and can also be faster than Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Learn more about DuckDuckGo here: https://duckduckgo.com/about. I have been using DuckDuckGo in the Firefox search bar for a long time by installing it with the Add To Search Bar add-on for Firefox (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/add-to-search-bar/) so it’s great to see it built in along with the “normal” choices.

Download the current version of Firefox here: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/ and take a quick tour here: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/desktop/.
 

What do you think?


This page (http://clicky.com/marketshare/global/web-browsers/) charts browser market share. Where do you fall? What browser are you using? What do you like or hate about it? Email me at [email protected] and tell me what you think.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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Internet Explorer fixes

Internet Explorer can be frustrating to work with. We have to keep it up to date, but every tweak from Microsoft seems to cause pain to a subset of users. Here’s how to fix a couple of the recent “improvements".

 

Fix the “YouTube Turns Green” problem

A customer wrote to ask about a problem with YouTube:

Have found that if I want to watch a you-tube video, the picture (at pause) turns to a solid green screen throughout the viewing… What’s happened and how do I fix it?  

I have heard about this and witnessed this before in Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 7 and Internet Explorer for Windows 8. There are a couple of things that you can do to fix this.

  • In Internet Explorer, go to a video that is turning green
  • Right-click on the green screen.
  • Click on Settings
  • That opens the settings for Adobe FlashPlayer
  • Click on the display icon in the lower left corner
  • Remove the check mark from the Enable Hardware Acceleration box
  • Click on Close
  • Press the F5 key to refresh the page.  If that makes no sense to you, then just close and reopen the browser.
  • Try the video again; it should play.

Sometimes you’ll find that you have the YouTube HTML5 player instead of FlashPlayer, so you won’t have those settings available to you. If that’s the case or if the first solution didn’t work for you, try this:

  • Click on the gear icon in the video's window
  • Click on 720p

You should then have a working player at a decent resolution.  You don't have to adjust the FlashPlayer settings for every video; it will remember those settings for all the videos you play.  The Quality settings seem to vary depending on who uploaded the video and what they chose.  So you might want to adjust those each time.  The sweet spot for a high speed internet connection is 720p.

There is one more solution that my colleagues have found helpful, although I‘ve never gotten this to work:

"If you are using Internet Explorer, I would suggest you to follow these steps and check if it works:

  1. Open Internet Explorer.
  2. Click the Tools button or press Alt key + X, and then click Internet Options.
  3. Click the Advanced tab, and then browse to the Accelerated graphics section.
  4. Click to select the Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering check box.
  5. Click Apply, and then click OK.
  6. Close all open Internet Explorer window and then test the issue."

If all else fails, you might try a different browser like Firefox (https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/) or Chrome (http://www.google.com/chrome/), at least for watching videos.
 


Fix the “I click on a link for my bank statement and nothing happens” problem

At least three people have told me in the last couple of weeks that when they click on a link on their banking site and expect to see a bank statement (or other document) just like they always did they now see nothing in Internet Explorer.

I don’t know who broke what, but if this happens to you, your pop-up blocker might be too aggressive.

When you’re at the page you’re having trouble with, click on Tools | Pop-up Blocker | Allow pop-ups for this site. That will probably fix the problem. You’ll need to do that for every site where you are having this problem.

Another place to check is Tools | Pop-up Blocker | Pop-up Blocker Settings. If Blocking Level is set to High, try dropping it to Medium and see if that corrects the problem without causing other problems.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



Odds & ends

Free cloud storage, a correction to last week’s newsletter, and a couple of tips. Enjoy this week’s scattered thoughts!


Holy smokes! Microsoft OneDrive offers unlimited storage!

Microsoft announced that Office 365 subscribers will have unlimited storage on OneDrive. Whoa.

OneDrive (https://onedrive.live.com/) is Microsoft’s online file storage system where you can keep files private or share them. Upload or save files to OneDrive and then access them with any web browser or device that has an internet connection. Similar, competing services include Dropbox (https://www.dropbox.com) and GoogleDrive (https://support.google.com/drive/answer/2424384?hl=en)

If you have Windows 8.1, OneDrive is already there for you with a full terabyte of storage. If you also subscribe to Office 365 (http://office.microsoft.com/en-001/products/), you’re going to get unlimited storage when Microsoft rolls it out. They have already begun. You can request to be an early adopter by completing the request form here: https://preview.onedrive.com/?wt.mc_id=oo_blog_onedrive_insertblogtitlehere.


Last week’s column link was wrong in some places

Last week’s column, Should I Allow It? Is a pretty good column, but a little hard to find for my newsletter subscribers. Castanet readers got the correct link, but one of the links in the newsletter directed you instead to the column the week before. Here is the correct link, I promise: http://rlis.com/columns/column479.htm. I caused the problem --- not you folks. Thank you for your patience.
 

Display the menu bar in Internet Explorer or Firefox

People ask me about this all the time. The Menu Bar is near the top of a window, and shows choices for File/Edit/View/Tools, and so on. If you wonder what happened to the Menu Bar in Internet Explorer and Firefox, it’s in there, but by default it’s just turned off. Why is it off by default? Beats me. The good news is it’s easy to turn it back on.

Open Internet Explorer or Firefox, then press the ALT key, and you’ll see the familiar choices displayed in the old familiar places. Nice trick, right? The problem is that as soon as you do anything, the Menu Bar goes into hiding again. If you want it there all the time:

  • Press the ALT key
  • Click on View | Toolbars
  • Place a check next to Menu Bar

There. That does it!

Are you using Google Chrome? Tough luck. No menu bar for you! Click on the list icon over on the right side of the window to get to the items that you would other wise find on the Menu bar.


And while we’re on the subject of browsers…

Several times last week while I was cleaning malicious software out of customers’ computers, people told me they had no idea anything was wrong until the computer became almost completely bogged down.

Here are a couple of early warning signs that something bad is happening:

  • When you open your browser, your Start page is something unexpected. This is called a browser hijack.
  • When you search for something, the search results are ads, and some of them are rude. Again, your browser has been hijacked, and your search results are almost certainly going to take you places you don’t want to go.
  • You receive pop-ups like crazy, even on legitimate sites like Castanet.  The website isn’t infected. Your computer is infected!
  • Programs show up “out of nowhere” telling you about your computer errors and offering to fix them for a fee. Don’t pay. Get some help cleaning this junk out of the computer.

None of these situations is normal, all of them indicate trouble. Get help.

 

Fall back

Enjoy the extra hour of sleep on Sunday, November 2, as Daylight Saving Time comes to an end: http://www.timeanddate.com/news/time/usa-canada-end-dst-2014.html.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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Should I allow it?

Keeping critical programs up to date is an important element of safe computing. I get phone calls and emails from customers who need to know whether to allow something to update. That’s actually the good news. The not-so-good news is when I find someone’s computer with risky non-updated programs. This week I’ll try to help you sort out the good and bad.

Say yes to these updates

There are some updates you always want to allow:

Windows Update – Allow these. Learn how to do this in Windows 8 here: http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/25343-windows-update-check-install-windows-8-a.html, Windows 7 here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/install-windows-updates, and Vista here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/install-windows-updates. Problems do occur, but are rare.

 

Adobe FlashPlayer – Be sure that it’s the real Adobe FlashPlayer (http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/). I’ve spent many hours cleaning malicious software out of computers because a rogue program, pretending to be FlashPlayer convinced someone to install it. You might have more than one version of Adobe FlashPlayer, and they all need to be updated. Firefox and Internet Explorer use different versions. Update them both.

 

Java – Java is a program that enables certain website content and certain other programs to work. If you are using Java at all (http://java.com/en/), you absolutely must keep it up to date. There are security risks with Java, but if you need or want it, you can’t uninstall it. Do you use Shaw Webmail? You need Java. Are you using Sage/Simply Accounting? You need Java. Keep it up to date. And remove out of date versions!

 

Adobe Reader – Allow these updates. (http://get.adobe.com/reader/)

 

Antivirus and Antimalware Programs – Please, please, please. When you set up your antivirus program make sure it’s set up to get updates to the virus definitions daily or even more frequently. (Also make sure you actually have it set up to scan and turn on the real-time protection, but I have covered that many times before.) You should also allow the antivirus program itself to update.

Like antivirus programs, antimalware programs need to update their definitions frequently and the programs themselves from time to time. Be aware that updates and upgrades are not the same thing.

Updates are changes to a program or operating system. An upgrade, however, generally means an entirely new version of a program.


Say no to malware

Malware is a term for malicious software and unwanted programs. It can take over your browser’s home page and search engine, and it can work its way into every part of your computer. It often disguises itself as legitimate programs, and it sometimes disguises itself as familiar update requests. Often it piggybacks on other sketchy downloads. The best way to avoid it is to pay close attention to what you’re agreeing to download and install.

Avast! (http://www.avast.com/en-ca/index) antivirus (the paid and free editions) includes a “software update” component that will alert you to important updates and guide you to safe ways to apply those updates.

If something pops up encouraging you to download, update, or install something and you don’t understand what is going on, don’t agree to install it until you know whether it’s safe. Check the first item in this article for a list of updates you should always apply. Check last week’s column (http://rlis.com/columns/column478.htm) for a tip on how to find out if a file is safe.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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About the author...

Cate Eales has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible and fun for over 20 years. She lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric, and her dog, Sandy. Cate is a partner in Computer Care Kelowna, helping individuals and small businesses with virus, spyware and malware eradication; personal computer training and management; digital image management; music transfer; and website design, hosting and management.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with your comments, suggestions, or questions. To browse the column archives, visit the Real Life Internet Solutions website at www.rlis.com.







The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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