Tech Talk #64 – Nov. 11, 2017

Web browsers and extensions

Are you still using Internet Explorer (IE)? If so, we need to talk.

 

Are you tired of seeing “Web page not responding” errors? Tired of seeing “Could not connect to secure page” when you try to connect to your bank’s website? How about “An error has occurred in a script on this page,” tired of that one? You can fix all of these errors by not using IE anymore.

 

Here are a few more reasons to quit IE:

  • IE is more “hackable” than any other browser. Any. Other. Browser. IE has been banished by IT departments in businesses and governments around the world for years for this reason.
  • Known bugs remain unfixed for long periods. Microsoft does updates on a schedule, and sometimes bugs wait a while before getting fixed.
  • The latest version of IE is v11 and is only compatible with Windows7 and up. Still running XP or Vista? You can’t update to v11, and Microsoft has stopped support for IE versions earlier than v11.
  • Many people have Apple or Android phones or tablets and Windows computers. IE is only available on the Windows platform, so you have to use a different browser on your phone or tablet. Different bookmarks, different home pages, a different experience on each device.

 

Using Google’s Chrome browser or Mozilla’s Firefox browser solves these problems, except for the unsupported-on-XP-and-Vista. Since both the XP and Vista operating systems aren’t even supported by Microsoft anymore, it’s not surprising.

 

Using Chrome or Firefox has another huge benefit; you can give yourself some extra protection from phishing sites, drive-by downloads and whatever those lazy internet criminals come up with next.

 

And here’s the secret sauce you get with Chrome or Firefox: extensions.

 

Both browsers support extensions/addons that are available from Google or Mozilla. Of course, just like the App Store or Google Play, there are lots of garbage extensions. We’re just going to talk about security-focused extensions here; these are the extensions I recommend and use:

 

Disconnect – Disconnect blocks backend requests from web pages—where you came from, where you’re going, what you searched for before, whether your Facebook friends like this page, etc.— from Google, Twitter, Facebook, and other services. Disconnect makes your online decision-making and interests less trackable by sites other than the one you’re visiting.

 

HTTPS Everywhere – HTTPS is more than just HTTP with an ‘S’ tacked on. The S stands for Secure and means your connection to that site uses encryption. HTTPS was originally used for banking and financial sites but is being used more and more on shopping and search sites. HTTPS Everywhere makes sure HTTPS is used wherever webmasters make it available, even if it’s not usually switched on or fully implemented.

 

uBlock Origin – uBlock Origin stops websites (and the companies that run them) from gathering information about you by blocking code that can monitor your online activities and ads. That’s right. uBlock Origin blocks ads. If you run across a site that wants you to turn off your adblocker and it’s a site you want to support, uBlock Origin is one of the easiest adblockers to use.

 

Go here to Chrome extensions: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions?hl=en

 

Go here to get Firefox extensions: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/extensions/

 

 

Words of wisdom

Always do the hard part first. If the hard part is impossible, why waste time on the easy part? Once the hard part is done, you’re home free.

Always do the easy part first. What you think at first is the easy part often turns out to be the hard part. Once the easy part is done, you can concentrate all your efforts on the hard part. – Al Schapira, Bell Labs, From More Programming Pearls: Confessions Of A Coder

 

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at greg@tech-hachapi.com.

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