The Continuing Search for a New Web Browser

Since more and more sites are becoming even ruder about browser use–going well beyond simply browser sniffing, now–Opera 12.18 is starting to become a little more difficult to use as a default browser. It still does work fairly well, apart from aggressive attempts to lock “old” browsers out by some sites, but only in Windows 7 and 8/8.1. Windows 10 seems to simply not “like” it.

Sad, because it has many features other “modern” browsers–including Opera ASA’s “Chopera” (an Opera browser based on the Chrome rendering engine)–either lack or do not implement as well. Mouse gestures as clunky or just weird in most other browsers that implement them natively, and mouse gesture extensions have uniformly proven to be crap. Newsreader integrated into the browser, no add-in required? Nope. Granular–really granular–control of features/customization? Nope. Bookmarks that really work and can be easily organized? Nope. Even the best at importing Opera bookmarks and allowing organization requires laboriously reorganizing each separate folder and sub-folder, one at a time. That’s a bit tedious when one has a couple of hundred folders and thousands of bookmarks. (I treat bookmarking sort of like a library card file catalog: I want everything saved where and how I want it, organized into subject folders and searchable any way I want. Yes, I weed my “catalog” pretty regularly to eliminate dead links. Doesn’t everyone? 😉 )

I could go on and on, because there are many, many features baked into the “old” Opera that are just not present or are poorly implemented in all the other browsers I have tried. The one that comes sort of close to being a replacement, but even it doesn’t allow real customization, has clunky mouse gesture implementation, lousy bookmark organization, no built-in newsreader, and doesn’t let me choose my preferred default search engine, even though it shows a procedure for doing so! #gagamaggot

OK, so just checked again. Since the last time I tried and became disgusted with it, Vivaldi Browser at least does now import my bookmarks and does–almost–sort them, at least closely to their original organization. Manual sorting thereafter looks straightforward (though still tedious). But the rest? *meh* Notsomuch, it seems. *sigh* For example, it limits the number of “Speed Dial” columns to six. I prefer ten. Why bake in such stupid limitations? That’s just one of many such dumb ideas.

Still hunting.

Computer Security: the Value of Resident Anti-Malware

So, how important is having a resident, up-to-date anti-malware product for Windows users?

Middlin’. No, seriously.

Here’s a wee experiment I recently did:

  • Windows 7 box, mostly updated (I did not accept some problematic M$Office 2010 updates, but then I rarely fire up M$Office).
  • Removed all resident anti-malware products.
  • Surfed normally for a month.
  • Scanned with offline standalone scanners and online scanners from reputable anti-malware companies.

Result? No malware.

A properly-configured modern(ish) browser (Opera 12.17), decent firewalling and simple safe computing practices were all that was needed for me to avoid infections/infestations with malware.

When One Is a Windows User. . .

. . .no matter how experienced, educated and “crafty” *heh* sometimes the best answer is to throw one’s hands in the air and. . . go check OPE (Other People’s Experiences). Almost invariably, someone, even someone with all sorts of certs and official qualifications, has had the same intractable problem and has fumbled around and eventually churned up a workaround from the muck on the stable floor.

So it was with this problem/answer.

Short and sweet(er than not): error message stating some third-party security apps were blocked from running by group policy. Checked group policy editor and even did a “gpresult /h” (to have a nice html file report to read in a browser) and no, they were not. . . according to Windows. Still blocked, though.

Kludge-around: back up the Policy keys in the registry. Delete those keys. Force a GP update. Ta-da! All’s well. But. . . I really hate deleting keys, even when they’re backed up, so I’d not gone that far. I would have preferred fixing the problem the right way–in Group Policy Editor. Nope. *head-desk* “It’s Windows, dummy. Do it the roundabout, kludged-up way.”

*sigh*

When Windows Borks

I had occasion, recently, to do a *meh* “rescue” *meh* of a different flavor to the procedure(s) described in a previous post. A hard drive began causing Windows errors on a Win7 installation on my most-used Windows notebook and imaging the drive to a newer, larger drive seemed the perfect solution, once I determined there were no unrecoverable errors in the OS itself.

It was, except. . . As usual with Windows, the story didn’t end with complete success. When a Windows OS borks for any reason–even if it’s not actually the OS’s fault exactly, any fixes tend to complicate things.

And so it was. The Windows install booted just fine, and everything worked. Scans with a few low- and mid-level tools said all was well with the OS and the data.

Cool.

Except, next day: Windows popped up the “Windows Genuine Advantage” notice that my installation of Windows was bogus. It offered to resolve the problem online, which resulted in being notified that M$ would be MORE than happy to “fix” my problem. . . for $200 (by selling me a new license key).

*arrrgggh!*

Nope. Not going to happen. Ran other checks with built-in and add-on M$ tools (MGADiag, slmgr.vbs) and they returned reports saying various things, but nothing indicating the OS was not genuine. Windows property page noted no problem, and the watermark warning that a bogus Wininstall is supposed to place on the desktop didn’t appear. Nevertheless, I got the error message and Windows update reported the WU service was not running, even though services.msc did report it running. System file checker run in scan and repair mode reported corrupt files it could not repair. Ran it in Repair Mode/command prompt, pre-Windows. Again, no joy, but a more verbose response (added a coupla switches).

Dropped to an elevated command prompt and did numbers of things (stopping/starting services, checking key registry files, etc.). Nope. No useful info, so. . .For whatever reasons, I don’t see that kind of thing often, and it took me a while to recall “slui 4” to load the lil app to allow phoning for a code to eliminate the WGA notice. (The “slui 3” command would just allow re-entering one’s product key, and I already knew that would be a waste of time. Other parameters would do other also useless things.).

Finally, after a pleasant time visiting with a nice guy somewhere on the Indian subcontinent, I had my verification code and all is now well. I hope.

We’ll see, won’t we? 😉


Yep. Message gone. Windows Update works. Other errors reported by MGADIag, et al (“tampered file” this that or ‘t’other, etc.), all gone.

All this might seem like a real PITA to some folks, but it was a little fun for me, especially since it got me back fiddling around at the command prompt for a while, banging on “the little grey cells” to recall appropriate commands, parameters, switches, etc. . . . and then “solve” the problem with a phone call and entry of a 48 numeral key. Toughest part was dealing with Indian accent, telephone speaker and my tinnitus. *heh*

UPDATE 2: Woke this A.M. to a WGA notice, no access to Windows Update, etc.. ?!? Rebooted a couple of times and *poof* No more notice, Windows Update available, etc. Needed more reboots? Oh, so tired of this silliness and almost ready to scrub this notebook (my most casually-used computer) and just use a ‘nix OS on it. Almost. I’d lose my 5,557-to-0 score in Freecell, though, so. . . *heh*

A Heads Up for Windows Users

careful with computer use and practice safe computing, but you may want to pass this on to other Windows users, since the scam referenced in the linked article is aimed at that demographic.

Security alert: Bogus tech-support phone calls (https://windowssecrets.com/top-story/security-alert-bogus-tech-support-phone-calls/)

The article details the scam. I’ve actually received a call like this recently. It boggles my mind that whole call centers (I heard the typical cheap, mass call center sounds in the background) can be run funded by suckers who fall for this scam, but there you are: one born every minute, I suppose.

Microsoft offers a simple security audit (referenced in the article linked above) that can get casual computer users started.

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2534555/en-us

Be aware: if you prefer managing your Windows Updates manually, the Fixit applet will tag that as a security problem. It’s not IF you are faithful in performing your manual updates.

If you want to perform a more detailed security scan, consider Secunia PSI (“Personal Software Inspector”– http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/). It’ll scan for any known security holes in installed software and prompt you to update the software. Good stuff, Maynard.

Feel free to pass this along to folks you feel might need the information.

This is just wrong, wrong, wrong…

…in so very many ways, but (I tell myself), I just can’t help myself. *heh*

So, I have an HP wireless adapter for an HP Wireless Printing whatchamacallit thingy to use making some ordinary USB-connected printer into a printer that’s connected to one’s wireless network. *meh* Worked OK, but has been superseded. Just gathering dust so… will it work as an ordinary wireless adapter to connect a Windoze computer to the Wireless network? Urm, no.

*pouts*

OK, so fire up Linux Mint in a VM. Hey! Mint sees the thing as a Realtek wireless adapter and will use it to connect to my wireless network! Cool.

So now I’m duplexing the VM while connecting with only this lil toy’s internal wireless adapter in the Windows 7 host. I need to “Minty-fy” a more capable RW machine and use this there. Fun.

I’ll Hand This to Apple…

The Iron Fist with which Apple Rules Its Software Realm means that stupid things like I ran into on a lil netbook recently are less likely to happen with Macs. Of course, they simply do NOT happen on ‘nix computers anyway, because of the way apps install and uninstall so very cleanly (for the most part, unlike Windows apps), so the Iron Fist of Apple™ is really not all that necessary, but still: minor advantage to Macs.

OK, here’s the deal. About 2.something years ago, I installed Stardock’s freebie subset of Windowblinds on a lil HP netbook as the easiest way for the user to kludge around Win7 Starter’s stupid “No, you may NOT change the desktop background!” restriction. Later, I upgraded that lil netbook to Win7 Pro for the user and the Stardock app was no longer necessary, so I uninstalled it. I thought.

“No, no!” said Stardock, “While we know you want to uninstall the product and you have explicitly stated that you want ALL the product uninstalled, we’ll leave the Stardock service to run on the computer, eating up limited Atom chipset resources. Because we can (and because we just don’t give a damn what YOU want).”

After disabling the Stardock “service” and manually deleting files and references to the product in the Registry, it’s FINALLY gone.

I think. *heh*

I swear, Stardock software is almost as inconsiderate and intrusive as Apple software on a Windows computer. Almost.

Well, I’m Keepin’ the T-Bird…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkBr0fxqr9w

Yeh, yeh, I don’t have a T-Bird, but I had fun, fun fun, didn’t I? 😉

What?!?

It’s been a little over a year now since I picked up this lil Asus P50IJ notebook. It’s been really useful for web browsing, email, a few VMs (mostly Linux VMs) and other light computing stuff. Like it. About a month after I bought it, I went ahead and used an extra (perfectly legal, from Technet Plus membership) license for Win7 Ultimate to do “Windows Anytime Upgrade” from the Win7 Home Premium (just two features I wanted, and I ought to have used a Win7 Pro license instead, I guess).

But as with all Windows installs, after a time things became crufted, system files became screwed up, etc. It happens. I use a few techniques and utilities to keep things relatively clean, but… it’s Windows, you know?

So, time for a reinstall. But. I hate backing up (although I do that anyway), wiping, reinstalling Windows, then reinstalling applications, etc. So…

Non-destructive reinstall. Just the ticket, right? Simply pop in the appropriate Windows installation DVD and select Upgrade when the prompt finally loads for Upgrade or Custom Installation. Seems simple enough. Continue reading “Well, I’m Keepin’ the T-Bird…”

Just Askin’

Saw this on the “home” page* for my lil toy 15.6″ Asus, an OK lil thing with notalotta horsepower but just enough for common tasks, and wondered…

“The ASUS P50IJ notebook is the best business computing companion you could ever own…”

Really? What about that sexy slave girl with the abacus over there? Hmmm?


Continue reading “Just Askin’”

Passing Shot at Windoze

OK, I use Windows. I have to for various reasons. But I still have some ‘nix boxes–mostly VMs–because I really like some of the Linux and BSD distros that are out, and I just like FOSS period.

I also like Windows 7, for the most part. Definitely THE best desktop OS from Microsoft since Win2K Pro, IMO.

But.

Showed Son&Heir just ONE of the advantages of a modern ‘nix OS. I had done some work on a Toshiba A205 that required putting a new OS on it (long story), so I installed Linux Mint 10–based on Ubuntu 10.04 but much slicker and with all the multimedia codecs necessary for an ordinary Windows user to be able to make the switch easily. So, booted the thing. About 30 seconds. Shut it down. About 6 seconds. Yep. To fully off.

Heck, it takes one of my Win7 boxes 45 seconds to resume from sleep mode! And shutting it off? Longer.

Advantage: Linux Mint.

BTW, while it’s a really cool distro to use in converting an average Windows user over to a ‘nix OS, PC-BSD 8.2 is just too cool for school.