Pipes Feed Preview: gHacks Technology News

  1. Windows 10 version 1903: new Windows Update policy

    2019-03-21 09:43:02 UTC

    Windows 10 version 1903, the soon-to-be-released next feature upgrade for Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system, features a new Windows Update related policy. Windows Update is a core updating service that is an […]

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    Windows 10 version 1903, the soon-to-be-released next feature upgrade for Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system, features a new Windows Update related policy.

    Windows Update is a core updating service that is an integral part of every Windows installation, especially on the consumer side. While there are other means to download and install updates, using the Microsoft Update Catalog or third-party tools, it is fair to say that the majority of consumer-based Windows systems gets updated through Windows Update.

    Windows 10 version 1903 will launch with a new policy that gives administrators options to set deadlines for automatic updates and restarts.

    Specify deadlines for automatic updates and restarts

    windows 10 specify deadlines

    Path: Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update

    The policy offers two main options:

    1. Set a deadline for quality updates and/or feature updates.
    2. Set a restart grace period.

    Deadlines for feature updates or quality updates may delay the installation of updates by up to 30 days. The restart grace period may be delayed by up to 7 days.

    The policy lets you specify the number of days that a user has before quality and feature updates are installed on their devices automatically, and a grace period after which required restarts occur automatically.

    Updates and restarts will occur regardless of active hours, and the user will not be able to reschedule.

    The policy overrides several existing policies if configured:

    • Specify deadline before auto restart for update installation (delay quality or feature updates by up to 30 days).
    • Always automatically restart at the scheduled time (set a restart timer to give users up to 180 minutes before automatic restart).
    • Specify Engaged restart transition and notification schedule for updates (set transition, snooze, and deadline for feature updates and quality updates).
    • No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations (blocks Windows from restarting the computer automatically if a user is logged on).

    Windows Registry

    The following Registry values are linked to the Group Policy options (thanks Deskmodder)

    Path: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate

    • SetComplianceDeadline
      • Type: Dword
      • Value: 1
    • ConfigureDeadlineForQualityUpdates
      • Type: Dword
      • Value: 7
    • ConfigureDeadlineForFeatureUpdates
      • Type:Dword
      • Value: 7
    • ConfigureDeadlineGracePeriod
      • Type: Dword
      • Value:2

    The values of ConfigureDeadlineForQualityUpdates, ConfigureDeadlineForFeatureUpdates, and ConfigureDeadlineGracePeriod set the number of days before quality or feature updates are installed automatically on the device and before an automatic restart is required.

    Download

    Download the following Registry file to apply the settings automatically. Please note that you may want to modify the values if you don't want to use the default 7 day deadline for feature and quality updates, and the 2 day deadline for automatic restarts.

    Click on the following link to download the Registry file: windows-update-deadline-windows-10-1903.zip

    Now You: How (and when) do you download and install updates for Windows?

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Windows 10 version 1903: new Windows Update policy appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

  2. Google adds Sensor permission controls to Chrome

    2019-03-21 06:58:19 UTC

    Google added "Motion and light sensors" permission controls to Chrome Canary recently so that users of the web browser may control the functionality. Browser makers like Mozilla or Google add new functionality […]

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    Google added "Motion and light sensors" permission controls to Chrome Canary recently so that users of the web browser may control the functionality.

    Browser makers like Mozilla or Google add new functionality to their browsers regularly. New APIs, the Sensor API is just one example, add new functionality that sites and applications may make use of.

    APIs may expose data to sites and services, and may even give sites control over functionality. Web browsers like Firefox or Chrome support permissions that give users control over these features.

    Sensor permissions are available in Chrome Canary only right now; the Android version and the desktop version supports the option.

    Canary is a development version of Google Chrome; it takes months usually before features land in stable versions of the Chrome browser.

    chrome sensor access blocked

    Google added global and per-site Sensor access controls to the Chrome web browser which users of the web browser may use to control access to the Sensor API in the browser.

    Access to Sensors is enabled by default.

    chrome settings sensors

    You may disable Sensors globally or on a per-site basis if you prefer that. Here is how you do that:

    1. Load chrome://settings/content/sensors in the Chrome address bar. Doing so opens the Sensor permissions in the browser.
    2. Toggle "Allow sites to use motion and light sensors" to enable or disable Sensors globally.
    3. Sites that you added to the allow or block list are displayed there as well.

    Tip: You can manage permissions for other APIs and features by loading chrome://settings/content/. Most, e.g Microphone or Camera are set to "ask" which means that Chrome displays a prompt whenever it detects attempts to access these APIs.

    chrome motion light sensors

    The option is also available for individual sites. Just activate the icon that Chrome places in front of the web address to get started.

    Chrome may display a direct option to allow or block motion or light sensors on a specific site. You may also access the Site settings by activating that link.

    These display all permissions that Chrome supports. Changes that you may to the site permissions are valid only for the selected site. You may use the options to override global permissions, e.g. to allow a feature on a site or to block it.

    motion light sensor controls

    Closing Words

    The option to block Sensor API access landed in Chrome Canary 75 and Google has not yet revealed when the feature will land in the stable version. Chrome 75 Stable could be that target, a release that is about 2-3 months away.

    Now You: How do you handle site permissions in Chrome or other browsers? (via Genbeta / Techdows)

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Google adds Sensor permission controls to Chrome appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

  3. A look at BleachBit 2.2

    2019-03-20 18:05:56 UTC

    BleachBit is a long standing free alternative to CCleaner and other commercial system cleaners. The open source program was updated to version 2.2 recently. That, and the fact that some people don't […]

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post A look at BleachBit 2.2 appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

    BleachBit is a long standing free alternative to CCleaner and other commercial system cleaners. The open source program was updated to version 2.2 recently. That, and the fact that some people don't like the direction that CCleaner development has taken since the Avast acquisition of Piriform, justifies another look at the program.

    First the basics: we followed BleachBit's development ever since our first two reviews here on Ghacks in 2010. Jack Wallen reviewed BleachBit for Linux, and I took a look at the Windows version of the application in the same year. The developer released BleachBit 2.0 in 2018, the last major update of the software application.

    BleachBit is a system cleaner that supports Winapp2.ini files to improve its cleaning, and also CCEnhancer which does the same thing basically.

    bleachbit

    You can download a portable version or installer from the BleachBit website to get started. The application itself is easy to use but requires some level of expertise when it comes to the choices that it presents to you.

    BleachBit displays the available clean locations sorted into groups for easier access. Each has a checkmark associated with it to either check individual items or entire groups. BleachBit displays descriptions for each item when you select it. While it does not provide a detailed description or information, it should give a rough understanding.

    A click on preview starts a dry run that scans all selected areas without making any changes to the application. The process adds information to the size column so that you know how much space you will free up when you run the clean operation.

    The log on the right side of the interface displays all items that will get deleted or cleaned when you run the clean-up operation.

    BleachBit supports other options: you can add custom locations to clean, add folders to the whitelist, or shred files or free space to remove traces.

    BleachBit 2.2

    BleachBit 2.2 comes with major improvements and features:

    • Additional programs to clean added, e.g. Waterfox, SmartFTP or aMule.
    • Cleaning improvements for Chrome, Firefox, and Chromium.
    • Support for Opera based on Chromium.
    • New --wipe-free-space command line option to remove traces from unused disk space.
    • Startup time improved.
    • Option to shred paths from Clipboard.

    Closing Words

    I like BleachBit: it is portable, open source, and does not nag you or try to sell you upgrades to professional versions. The program needs an interface update in my opinion to take it closer to CCleaner and make it more attractive to users who prefer that.

    Now You: Which cleaner program, if any, do you use?

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post A look at BleachBit 2.2 appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

  4. If you don't want end of support notifications on Windows 7, block KB4493132

    2019-03-20 14:48:58 UTC

    Microsoft announced earlier this month that it would start to show end of support notifications on devices running the company's Windows 7 operating system. Windows 7 support ends in January 2020 for […]

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post If you don't want end of support notifications on Windows 7, block KB4493132 appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

    Microsoft announced earlier this month that it would start to show end of support notifications on devices running the company's Windows 7 operating system.

    Windows 7 support ends in January 2020 for consumer versions of the operating system. Enterprise customers may extend support by up to three years for a fee that doubles every year.

    The update notifications are informative in nature; they won't include actionable options, e.g. to upgrade the operating system to a version of Windows that is still supported according to Microsoft. Whether that remains so as the support end draws nearer is anyone's guess.

    Up until now we did not really know how Microsoft wanted to push these end of support notifications to Windows 7 devices.

    Yesterday's release of KB4493132 for Windows 7 changes that. The update is available through Windows Update and will be downloaded and installed on devices that have automatic updates enabled (which is the default status of Windows Update).

    windows 7 update kb4493132

    Windows 7 users and administrators who don't want to see these prompts may block KB4493132 so that the update won't be downloaded and installed on devices running the operating system.

    One of the easier ways to go about it is to hide the update in Windows Update. How that is done depends on whether it is already installed or just displayed as an available update.

    If it is listed but not installed yet, all you need to do is right-click on the update and select "Hide update" when the context menu is displayed. Hiding blocks the update from being installed automatically by Windows.

    If the update is already installed, you can verify if that is the case by selecting "installed updates" in Windows Update, locating the update, and right-clicking on it to uninstall it. It gets picked up afterward again by Windows Update, and you need to use the hide option then to block its installation.

    Please check our detailed guide on blocking Windows updates for additional information and instructions.

    Closing words

    A quick check in a virtual machine did not list the update KB4493132 for installation on it yet despite it having all the latest patches installed. It is possible that Microsoft is rolling this out over time to all Windows 7 devices with automatic updates installed.

    Now You: do you still run Windows 7? (via Ask Woody)

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post If you don't want end of support notifications on Windows 7, block KB4493132 appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

  5. Opera 51 for Android launches with built-in VPN

    2019-03-20 08:30:40 UTC

    Opera Software released Opera 51 for Google's Android operating system a moment ago. The new version of the web browser is the first stable version that includes VPN functionality. We took a […]

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Opera 51 for Android launches with built-in VPN appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

    Opera Software released Opera 51 for Google's Android operating system a moment ago. The new version of the web browser is the first stable version that includes VPN functionality.

    We took a look at the beta version of Opera for Android in February 2019 and the VPN functionality that it included, and most of what we have said back then is still true in regards to the final release.

    The built-in VPN solution, better browser proxy as it works solely in the web browser, is not Opera's first launch of a VPN service. The company launched a standalone app called Opera VPN back in 2016 and retired the app in 2018.

    Opera 51 for Android: the VPN

    opera vpn android

    The built-in VPN in Opera 51 for Android needs to be enabled before it can be used. You can do so in the Settings under VPN.

    Just toggle the option to get started. You get a couple of extra options that give you some control over the functionality:

    • Set a desired region.
    • Bypass VPN for Search.
    • Use VPN for private tabs only.

    Search bypassing may require explanation. Basically, what this does is reveal your "real" location to the search engine so that it can serve you with local content. While that may be beneficial if you like to get news from a specific region or search results in a specific language, it does mean that you connect using your "real" IP address and not the IP address of the search engine.

    Similarly, if you enable the exclusive private tabs use, all regular tabs won't use the VPN connection.

    The built-in VPN has advantages but also disadvantages over dedicated VPN applications. On the positive side, it is much easier to use it as you just need to toggle an option to do so. Also, you may trust Opera Software more than some of the companies that published VPN solutions.

    Last but not least, it may be used directly without registration, and it is free to use without bandwidth or other limitations.

    One of the main disadvantages of Opera VPN is that it works only in Opera. If you want to use a VPN globally, you need a dedicated VPN solution instead.

    Closing Words

    Opera VPN is a straightforward browser proxy designed specifically for improving your privacy while you are using the Opera web browser. It does not offer perfect anonymity though and lacks some of the features such as automatic disconnects when the VPN connection dies or support for filters that you'd expect from a VPN service.

    All in all though it is a good addition to Opera, especially since it is free and completely optional to use.

    Now You: Do you use a VPN service?

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Opera 51 for Android launches with built-in VPN appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

  6. Windows 10 updates: KB4489894, KB4489890, KB4489888 and KB4489889

    2019-03-20 06:43:58 UTC

    Yesterday was the third Tuesday of the month and that means, usually, that Microsoft releases another batch of cumulative updates for various versions of Windows 10. Microsoft released the updates KB4489894, KB4489890, […]

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Windows 10 updates: KB4489894, KB4489890, KB4489888 and KB4489889 appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

    Yesterday was the third Tuesday of the month and that means, usually, that Microsoft releases another batch of cumulative updates for various versions of Windows 10.

    Microsoft released the updates KB4489894, KB4489890, KB4489888 and KB4489889 yesterday for Windows 10 version 1803, 1709, 1703, and 1607 respectively. The update for the current version of Windows 10, Windows 10 version 1809, is delayed as usually.

    The updates share most of the improvements and fixes. The updates can be downloaded manually from the Microsoft Update Catalog website or installed by running a manual check for updates.  It is recommended to sit them out unless you are affected by the issues that they fix.

    Windows 10 version 1803 -- KB4489894

    KB4489894

    • New version: OS Build 17134.677
    • Support link: KB4489894
    • Windows Update Catalog link: KB4489894

    The update includes the following fixes and improvements:

    • Time zone information update for Kazakhstan, Buenos Aires, Argentina,  São Tomé and Príncipe.
    • Fixed an issue that prevented Microsoft Office updates from downloading from the Microsoft Store.
    • Additional Japan New Era fixes.
    • Fixed an Access 97 database issue if tables or columns have custom properties (stops the operation).
    • Addressed an issue that caused devices to stop sporadically if East Asian languages were used.
    • Fixed an issue that caused laptop screens to remain black when resuming from sleep.
    • Fixed the Group Policy "Turn off app notifications on the lock screen".
    • Addresses an issue that may prevent users from signing in and cause account lockouts when using the App-V client to start applications. Fix involves changing a Registry Key:
      • Setting: UseDcForGetUserInfo
      • Path: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\AppV\Shared\
      • Type: REG_DWORD
      • Value: Setting the following DWORD to nonzero will enable the solution.
    • Fixed an unlocking issue using smart cards that prevented users from unlocking the device under certain circumstances.
    • Fixed an issue that caused the authentication credentials dialog from appearing in Enterprise environments.
    • Fixed a server or client restart issue when attempting to log in using a smart card.
    • Addressed an issue that listed multiple device entries for a single hybrid domain joined device.
    • Addresses an issue that removes the ALLOWCLSIDS policy from the policy XML file when you run the Add-SignerRule for Windows Defender Application Control.
    • Fixed an issue that prevented smart cards from working properly in conjunction with Citrix 7.15.2000 Workstation VDA software.
    • Fixed an authentication issue  that caused Windows Account Manager to fail.
    • Fixed an issue that caused certification renewals to fail.
    • Added new Group Policy "Enable Windows to soft-disconnect a computer from a network" which determines how Windows should disconnect from a network when it determines that the computer should not be connected to the network anymore.
      • Path: Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Network\Windows Connection Manager
      • Enabled: Windows will soft-disconnect.
      • Disabled: Windows disconnects immediately.
      • Not configured: Same as Enabled.
    • Fixed issue for "Stop 0x133" in NTFS.sys.
    • Fixed an issue that made Windows reuse an expired Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) lease if the lease expired during shutdown.
    • Fixed an issue with Virtual Machine Management Service to stop working.
    • Fixed an issue in which the graphics device interface (GDI) DeleteObject() caused the calling process to stop working.
    • "Seamless" integration with Microsoft Cloud App Security (MCAS) for Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection customers.
    • Enhances automated investigation and remediation, including memory forensics, for Windows Defender ATP customers.
    • Addresses minor issues with unknown options (unknown OPT) in the Extension Mechanisms for DNS (EDNS) for the Windows DNS Server role.

    Known issues:

    1. MSXML6 may cause applications to stop responding if "an exception was thrown during node operations".
      1. Microsoft is working on a solution.
    2. Custom URI Schemes for Application Protocol handlers may not start the corresponding application.
      1. Enable Protected Mode in Internet Explorer for local Intranet and trusted sites.
      2. Go to Tools > Internet Options > Security.
      3. Select "Local Intranet" and "Trusted Sites"
      4. Enable Protected Mode.
    3. Stop error may be thrown when using Secure Shell from Windows Subsystem for Linux with agent forwarding using -A or configuration settings.
      1. Disable forwarding of the authentication agent connection.
    4. After installing this update, there may be issues using the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) to start a device from a Windows Deployment Services (WDS) server configured to use Variable Window Extension.
      1. Run from an elevated command prompt: Wdsutil /Set-TransportServer /EnableTftpVariableWindowExtension:No
      2. Open Windows Deployment Services, expand servers, right-click WDS server and open properties, clear Enable Variable Windows Extension on TFTP tab.
      3. Set the Registry key HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\WDSServer\Providers\WDSTFTP\EnableVariableWindowExtension to 0.
      4. Restart.
    5. If you enable per font end-user-defined characters (EUDC), the system will stop working and a blue screen will appear at startup

    Windows 10 version 1709 -- KB4489890

    The improvements, fixes and known issues match those of  KB4489894 for the most part.

    The following improvements are unique to this update:

    • Addressed an issue that causes the “Windows created a temporary warning.” message to appear if you create a page file on a drive with FILE_PORTABLE_DEVICE characteristics.
    • Addressed an issue that causes the user interface (UI) to stop responding for several seconds when you scroll a window while many child windows are open.
    • Addressed an issue with Microsoft Outlook profiles on devices that are domain joined and workplace joined. Creation of new Microsoft Outlook profile may fail, or created Microsoft Outlook profiles may fail to work later.

    The update shares known issues with KB4489894. Issue 3 is not listed, the rest are.

    Windows 10 version 1703 -- KB4489888

    • New version: OS Build 15063.1716
    • Support link: KB4489888
    • Windows Update Catalog link: KB4489888

    Improvements are shared for the most part (but fewer). Microsoft lists three known issues for this update (MSXML6, Custom URI Schemes, and EUDC).

    Windows 10 version 1607 -- KB4489889

    The update shares fixes with the other updates. There are some unique ones, however:

    • Addressed a reliability issue in dxgkrnl.sys.
    • Addressed an issue that caused a yellow exclamation mark to appear in Windows Device Manager on human interface devices (HID).
    • Addressed an issue that caused the touch screen to stop working after a restart.
    • Addressed an issue that prevented App-V applications from starting and generated the error "0xc0000225".
      • Setting the value of HKLM\Software\Microsoft\AppV\\MAV\Configuration\MaxAttachWaitTimeInMilliseconds to a non-zero value resolves the issue. The max is 10,000.
    • Addressed an issue that caused certificate renewal to fail when using CERT_RENEWAL_PROP_ID with the ICertPropertyRenewal interface.
    • Addressed an issue that prevented users from receiving all the available Windows updates using the Unified Write Filter (UWF) servicing mode while UWF is enabled.
    • Addressed an issue in the Microsoft Service Control Manager (SCM) component that caused a system to stop responding at startup.
    • Addressed an issue in Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) that caused a duplicate relying party trust to appear in the AD FS management console.
    • Fixed an issue with previous versions of files becoming unavailable.
    • Fixed an issue that caused a long delay when resuming from hybrid sleep.
    • Addressed an issue in a Storage Spaces Direct environment that led to an error at shutdown during a "restart in a loop" scenario.
    • Addressed an issue that caused a cluster to stop working when a file share witness became read-only.
    • Addressed an issue that occured when updating cluster nodes one by one. If you restarted a node at a lower patched level, the node at a higher patched level became unexpectedly quarantined.
    • Addressed a high Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) Web Application Proxy (WAP) latency issue (over 10,000ms) that occured while Extranet Smart Lockout (ESL) was enabled on ADFS.
    • Enables activation of insider builds of Windows 10 Enterprise for Virtual Desktops in Microsoft Azure.
    • Addressed an issue in which the Policy Replication Status report in the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) consistently displayed one less domain controller than was present in the entire domain or a specific Group Policy.
    • Addressed a character limit issue in the “Settings Page Visibility” Group Policy in the following policy path: "User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel".

    The update shares the known issues MSXML6, CustomURI Schemes, Preboot Execution Environment (PXE), and EUDC. Microsoft lists the following unique issues:

    • For hosts managed by System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), SCVMM cannot enumerate and manage logical switches deployed on the host after installing the update.
      • Run mofcomp on Scvmmswitchportsettings.mof and VMMDHCPSvr.mof.Follow the best practices while patching to avoid a stop error in vfpext.sys in an SDN v2 environment (NC managed hosts).
    • Cluster service may fail to start with the error “2245 (NERR_PasswordTooShort)” if the group policy “Minimum Password Length” is configured with greater than 14 characters.
    • Internet Explorer 11 may have authentication issues.

    Now You: Did you install any of these updates?

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Windows 10 updates: KB4489894, KB4489890, KB4489888 and KB4489889 appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

  7. Paint.net 4.1.6: performance improvements and new options

    2019-03-19 12:24:54 UTC

    Paint.net 4.1.6 was released earlier today. The new version of the image editor for Windows comes with performance improvements, new features, and several fixes. Paint.net is my image editor of choice. I […]

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Paint.net 4.1.6: performance improvements and new options appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

    paint 4.26

    Paint.net 4.1.6 was released earlier today. The new version of the image editor for Windows comes with performance improvements, new features, and several fixes.

    Paint.net is my image editor of choice. I use different image editors, e.g. GIMP as well, but Paint.net offers the right functionality and performance for my use cases (mostly editing of screenshots or images before they are uploaded to the Internet).

    The new version of the image editor was released on March 18, 2019 officially and is the first release of 2019. We reviewed the major release Paint.net 4.1 last year.

    Users who run Paint.net already on their devices may select Preferences > Updates > Check Now to run a manual check for updates to get the update automatically.

    New users and those who prefer manual updates can download it from the official project website. Microsoft Store versions of Paint.net get updated automatically as well.

    Paint.net 4.1.6

    save all

    Paint.net 4.1.6 comes with several new features; some focus on improving the application's compatibility in high-res environments, another improves the save functionality significantly.

    High-res icons were redone completely according to the changelog to support up to 400% scaling and to match the Microsoft Office style guidelines. Plugins get a new option to use a new class to make decisions "about DPI and scaling" easier.

    Users who open and edit multiple images and photos in Paint.net regularly find a new useful Save All option under File to save changes of all images in one operation. You may also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Alt-S to invoke the command if you prefer that.

    Open Recent, an option that displays recently opened images in Paint.net displays ten entries now instead of eight. The menu won't change its size if you move between monitors with different DPI settings.

    Users who close Paint.net with many images open should notice that the application closes much faster in those scenarios thanks to improvements done to speed up the termination of the application.

    What else is new or changed?

    • Image thumbnails react to horizontal mouse wheel or trackpad swiping.
    • Ctrl-Shift-F6 and Ctrl-Shift-F8 reset the floating window sizes for History and Layers.
    • Settings > Plugin Errors shows up even if there are no errors to distinguish between "all plugins loaded without errors" and "plugins still loading" states.
    • Prevented problematic plugins from affecting the "undo" system.
    • Fixed a crash issue.

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Paint.net 4.1.6: performance improvements and new options appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

  8. EU member state websites laden with third-party cookies

    2019-03-19 09:37:46 UTC

    A new report (PDF) reveals that the vast majority of EU member state websites are laden with third-party cookies that are not disclosed to visitors. Cookiebot, a service to make websites GDPR […]

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post EU member state websites laden with third-party cookies appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

    A new report (PDF) reveals that the vast majority of EU member state websites are laden with third-party cookies that are not disclosed to visitors.

    Cookiebot, a service to make websites GDPR and EPR compliant, scanned more than 180,000 EU government web pages over the course of two days to analyze cookie behavior on these sites.

    It discovered that only three government websites out of of 28 did not contain any third-party tracking cookies. All in all, it discovered 112 different ad tracking companies on EU public sector websites.

    Government sites in Germany, the Netherlands and Spain did not contain commercial cookies. France, Latvia, Belgium and Greece sites had more than 15 cookies each during scans, with France taking the crown with 52 different ad trackers found on government web pages.

    The findings come as a surprise for two main reasons. First, because one would expect that official government websites follow regulations in regards to cookie usage and tracking to the letter, especially since they expect public sites to do so.  Second, because these sites don't depend on advertising revenue as they are publicly funded.

    Cookiebot analyzed public health service sites in six member states in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, and Spain, as well and found a large number of ad trackers in most cases.

    ad tracking eu websites

    The percentage of landing pages with ad trackers ranged from 73% in Ireland to 33% in Germany. A German public health service site loaded trackers by 63 different tracking companies alone.

    The company identified 112 different companies that tracked citizens from the EU that visited the analyzed government or public health service sites. Ten of these could not be identified as they masked their identity according to Cookiebot.

    Google dominates the tracking on government and public health sector sites. Three of the top five domains with government site trackers are owned by Google, and two of the top five domains with public health site trackers are owned by the company as well.

    Google tracks visits to 82% of the scanned government websites and 43% of the scanned Public Health sector sites.

    Top 5 trackers on EU government sites:

    1. YouTube
    2. DoubleClick
    3. Twitter
    4. Google
    5. Facebook

    Top 5 trackers on Public Health Service landing pages:

    • DoubleClick
    • Google
    • Adobe
    • AppNexus
    • Mediamath

    Why are these trackers on these sites?

    Third-party service plugins and embeds are the main way in which trackers landed on government and public health sector websites according to the report.

    Examples given include use of analytics software or share plugins, third-party media embeds, or use of third-party galleries or comment plugins.

    What can you do about it?

    One of the easier options is to block third-party cookies in your browser of choice. In Firefox, you can disable all third-party cookies, or configure Firefox to clear cookies on exit.

    Content blockers like uBlock Origin help as well as they block connections to many of these sites automatically and come with options to add undetected connections as well.

    Now You: What is your take on this?

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  9. Firefox 66.0 Release Information

    2019-03-19 06:28:18 UTC

    Firefox 66.0 will be released on March 19, 2019 to the Stable channel. The new Firefox version introduces new features such as sound autoplay blocking, a new storage format for extensions to […]

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    Firefox 66.0 will be released on March 19, 2019 to the Stable channel. The new Firefox version introduces new features such as sound autoplay blocking, a new storage format for extensions to improve performance, or support for the AV1 codec on Windows.

    All versions of the web browser receive upgrades: Firefox Stable to version 66, Firefox Beta to version 67, Firefox Nightly to version 68, and Firefox ESR to 60.6.

    Our release information guide offers detailed information. It covers major and minor changes, developer related changes, known issues, and security information.

    Read up on the Firefox 65.0 release if you missed it.

    Executive Summary

    • Firefox blocks autoplaying sound by default.
    • Support for AV1 codec on Windows and Windows Hello on Windows 10.
    • New extension storage format to improve performance and reduce memory usage.

    Firefox 66.0 download and update

    firefox 66.0 stable

    The distribution of Firefox 66 starts today. Firefox users should receive update notifications automatically when they run the web browser.

    Those who don't want to wait for the browser to pick up the update automatically, can run a manual update check or download the stable version from official sources to install it manually over the old version or anew.

    Firefox 66.0 Changes

    Autoplaying audio is blocked by default

    autoplay sound block firefox

    Mozilla Firefox 66 will block autoplaying (audible) sound on web pages that you visit. Mozilla plans to roll out the feature gradually starting with the release of Firefox 66.

    Firefox users may whitelist sites to allow them to play autoplay media with sound.

    firefox block websites sound

    You can enable or disable the feature, and manage exceptions in the following way:

    1. Load about:preferences#privacy in the Firefox address bar.
    2. Scroll down to the Permissions section.
    3. Check or uncheck "Block websites from automatically playing sound" to enable or disable the feature.
    4. A click on Exceptions gives you options to add sites to the list of exceptions to allow them to play sound automatically.

    Extensions switched to a different storage type to improve performance

    extension storage firefox migrated

    One of the major changes in Firefox 66 is a change in how extension's store data in Firefox. The switch from JSON to IndexedDB should improve performance and reduce memory usage at the same time according to Mozilla.

    Especially extensions that make "small changes to large structures", e.g. content blockers, benefit from the change.

    The migration happens automatically in the background, user interaction is not required.

    Other changes

    • Support for AV1 codec is activated on Windows by default.
    • Windows Hello support on Windows 10.
    • Scroll anchoring support prevents content from jumping around while the page loads when the user scrolls during that time.
    • Certificate error pages have been redesigned to "be more useful" to users of the Firefox web browser.
    • New option to search all tabs from the tab overflow menu when too many tabs are open in Firefox to display all at once.
    • The number of content processes has been raised to 8 (from 4). The move should improve performance, reduce the crash rate, and increase memory.
    • Users may now override keyboard shortcuts that extensions support (and set) from about:addons. To do so, go to about:addons and select "Manage extension shortcuts" from the cogwheel menu on the page.
    • The Private Browsing window features a search field in Firefox 66.
    • Basic support for mac OS Touch Bar.
    • Pocket experiment to test different layouts and "more topical content".
    • System title bar hidden by default under Gnome.

    Firefox 66.0 known issues

    None listed.

    Developer Changes

    • Reduced memory usage when extensions load objects from storage into memory.
    • Scroll anchoring implemented.
    • DevTools Inspector may be used fully if the Debugger is paused.
    • Priority of setTimeout and setInterval lowered during page load to improve performance.

    Firefox 66.0 for Android

    • Sound autoplay blocking functionality implemented in Firefox for Android.
    • Scroll anchoring support.
    • Files from external storage may be opened now.

    Security updates / fixes

    Security vulnerabilities and patches issues are revealed after the release. We will add a link once Mozilla publishes those.

    Here is the link to the security fixes.

    Outlook

    The next stable release is Firefox 67, scheduled to be released May 14, 2019.

    Additional information / sources

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  10. Block Helpdesk and Chat popups in your browser

    2019-03-18 18:07:18 UTC

    Hello Goodbye is a new browser extension for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox that blocks helpdesk and chat popups on websites that you visit. Many sites, especially those that offer services or […]

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    Hello Goodbye is a new browser extension for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox that blocks helpdesk and chat popups on websites that you visit.

    Many sites, especially those that offer services or sell products online, implement helpdesk or chat functionality on their sites to interact with customers.

    While that is useful at times, for instance when you want to interact with a company, it is quite annoying all the other times that these popups are displayed in the browser window. These popups may be distracting and they may block part of the content on a site. Additionally, they add to the loading time of the site and they may even be used for tracking if they originate from third-party domains.

    Hello Goodbye

    Hello Goodbye is available for Chrome and Firefox, and as a filter list. Since it is available for Chrome and Firefox, it will also work in compatible browsers such as Vivaldi or Opera. The filterlist is useful for users who use content blockers like uBlock Origin as they may simply add the list as custom filters to use it that way without installing yet another extension in the browser of choice.

    The filterlist approach is also useful to users who don't run a compatible browser but can use filter lists to block content.

    The extension works automatically on all sites regardless of whether you use the extension or filter list. The filter list highlights the connections that get blocked by the extension.

    The developer claims that it blocks every chat or helpdesk pop up in the browser; a bold claim that is probably not true. It does block major services effectively, however and it is easy enough to add more domains to the filter list manually for use.

    Users who use the extension may want to suggest new domains to block on the project's GitHub page. The extension does not indicate whether a live chat bubble or popup was blocked on the active page; that's a problem as this would help you in case you need to contact support.

    You may disable the extension with a click on the extension icon and the selection of disable. A whitelist would probably be a good idea to allow the loading on specific domains.

    Closing Words

    The filter list is useful, and so are the extensions. It is easy enough to add the filters to a content blocker or create your own filters using them. Regardless of whether you use the extension or the filter list directly, it is clear that the extension does away with a huge annoyance on today's Internet.

    Not all users are exposed to chat or helpdesk bubbles and popups regularly or frequently, and the extension is probably not for them. Those who encounter these regularly however, may want to give it a try.

    Now You: Which annoyances would you like to block on the Web?

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  11. Windows10Debloater: remove Windows 10 components

    2019-03-18 14:40:12 UTC

    Windows10Debloater is a free collection of PowerShell scripts that administrators may run on Windows 10 PCs to remove certain components from these systems that come preinstalled with them. There is certainly no […]

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    Windows10Debloater is a free collection of PowerShell scripts that administrators may run on Windows 10 PCs to remove certain components from these systems that come preinstalled with them.

    There is certainly no shortage when it comes to programs that remove Windows 10 apps and other components that some users and administrators consider bloatware.

    Prime examples of these types of components are games like Candy Crush being advertised on Windows 10 Pro devices, and the Telemetry gathering components and scheduled tasks.

    Windows10Debloater

    windows10debloater

    Windows10Debloater may remove certain components and scheduled tasks. Three different versions are offered that differ only in the level of control the executing user has over the process.

    Note: It is highly recommended that you create a system backup before you run Windows10Debloater. The program will remove certain apps, components and tasks, and make changes to the Windows Registry. Ideally, you run it right after installation of Windows 10.

    The very first thing you need to do to get started is to visit the project's GitHub page and hit the download button there to download the PowerShell scripts to the local system. You can verify the code right on GitHub or after you have downloaded the files by loading them in any plain text editor.

    You can't just run the PowerShell scripts on a regular Windows 10 installation as script execution is blocked by default on Windows 10.

    The author lists several methods to execute the scripts on the GitHub page, e.g. by unblocking script executions on the system.

    The three scripts offer similar functionality by the differ in regards to the level of control that you have once you run them on the device:

    • Windows10SysPrepDebloater.ps1 -- A silent version of the script designed specifically for automated deployment. The script supports parameters:
      • Sysprep -- runs the command within a function which may be needed to properly provision the apps for removal.
      • Debloat -- Removes bloatware apps, removes Registry keys associated with the components, and stops telemetry functions.
      • Privacy --  Removes the privacy components and functions.
      • StopEdgePDF -- Blocks Microsoft Edge from becoming the default PDF viewer.
    • Windows10Debloater.ps1 -- An interactive version that prompts the user to make decisions after execution.
    • Windows10DebloaterGUI.ps1 -- A graphical user interface version of the script. Displays a couple of optional settings, e.g to unpin tiles from the Start Menu or uninstalling OneDrive.

    What Windows10Debloater may remove

    The script may remove the following Windows components:

    3DBuilder, Appconnector, Bing Finance, Bing News, Bing Sports, Bing Weather, Fresh Paint, Get started, Microsoft Office Hub, Microsoft Solitaire Collection, Microsoft Sticky Notes, OneNote, OneConnect, People, Skype for Desktop, Alarms, Camera, Maps, Phone, SoundRecorder, XboxApp, Zune Music, Zune Video, Windows communications apps, Minecraft, PowerBI, Network Speed Test, Phone, Messaging, Office Sway, OneConnect, Windows Feedback Hub, Bing Food And Drink, Bing Travel, Bing Health And Fitness, Windows Reading List, Twitter, Pandora, Flipboard, Shazam, CandyCrush, CandyCrushSoda, King apps, iHeartRadio, Netflix, DrawboardPDF, PicsArt-PhotoStudio, FarmVille 2 Country Escape, TuneInRadio, Asphalt8, NYT Crossword, CyberLink MediaSuite Essentials, Facebook, Royal Revolt 2, Caesars Slots Free Casino, March of Empires, Phototastic Collage, Autodesk SketchBook, Duolingo, EclipseManager, ActiproSoftware, BioEnrollment, Windows Feedback, Xbox Game CallableUI, Xbox Identity Provider, and ContactSupport.

    The script may disable the following Scheduled Tasks

    XblGameSaveTaskLogon, XblGameSaveTask, Consolidator, UsbCeip, DmClient

    The Registry keys that get deleted are:

    EclipseManager, ActiproSoftwareLLC, Microsoft.PPIProjection, Microsoft.XboxGameCallableUI

    Closing Words

    Windows10Debloater is a specialized tool to remove certain components and features from Windows 10 devices. Ideally used right after installation, its primary purpose is for use in automated scenarios.

    Since it is a PowerShell script it is easy enough to customize the script for certain purposes, e.g. blocking certain components from being removed.

    Now You: Did you remove components from your Windows installation, PCs you maintain in the past?

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  12. The major features of Windows 10 version 1903

    2019-03-18 11:59:21 UTC

    The next major version of Windows 10 is Windows 10 version 1903 (the April 2019 Update or 19H1); if things go as planned, it will be released in March/April of 2019. The […]

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    The next major version of Windows 10 is Windows 10 version 1903 (the April 2019 Update or 19H1); if things go as planned, it will be released in March/April of 2019.

    The new version of Windows 10 will be offered as a direct download and via Windows Update. Users need to actively seek for the update using Windows Update in the beginning, and it is only offered to certain computer configurations at first that Microsoft considers optimal.

    Insider Preview builds give us a clear picture of the changes and feature additions in the new Windows 10 feature update release.

    It will also be interesting to see if Microsoft manages to release a build that is more stable and less bug-ridden than the last feature update release Windows 10 version 1809. Microsoft had to pull the release shortly after release.

    Windows 10 version 1903: new features

    Reserved Storage

    windows 10 reserved storage

    The new version of Windows introduces a new storage concept called Reserved Storage. It reserves a certain amount of storage for the operating system for use by Windows updates, applications, temporary files and system caches.

    Reserved storage used about 7 Gigabytes of space on a test system with a 128 Gigabyte hard drive. Windows users may notice a drop in free storage space thanks to reserved storage.

    Microsoft plans to turn on the feature only for new installations and for pre-installed systems. It is possible to enable Reserved Storage on systems that get upgraded to Windows 10 version 1903, however.

    Storage Sense

    Windows 10 version 1903 features Storage improvements. When you open the Storage settings in Settings > System > Storage, you will immediately see how optimization options.

    Windows may display how much storage you may free up by cleaning temporary files or by removing applications or features.

    There is also a new "Optimize Drives" option which launches a defragmentation management window.

    Windows Sandbox

    Windows Sandbox is a new security feature that Microsoft plans to introduce in Windows 10 version 1903. It works similarly to third-party sandboxing solutions and uses Microsoft Hypervisor and hardware virtualization at its core. The sandbox requires Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise.

    You may use it to run any executable file to block it from interacting with the underlying operating system. In other words: what happens in Windows Sandbox stays in Windows Sandbox.

    Sandbox was launched with a basic set of features but has been improved in recent Insider builds. One new feature that Microsoft added was support for configuration files to control certain Sandbox features.

    Windows Sandbox is ideal for testing applications and for privacy / security purposes.

    Smaller changes

    • Command Prompt and PowerShell text zooming support. Just use Ctrl-Mousewheel to zoom in or out. Zooming changes the size of the console window and makes text larger or smaller in the process.
    • Cortana and Search go separate ways. You find a search bar and a Cortana button on the Windows taskbar in the new Windows 10 release.
    • Emoji 12.0 support.
    • Extension: new Chrome extension for Timeline, Chrome and Firefox Windows Defender Application Guard extension.
    • File Explorer may display file dates using a conversational format. You can turn this on or off.
    • File Explorer supports options to access Linux files in a WSL distro from Windows.
    • Focus Assist may block apps from showing notifications in full screen mode.
    • Fonts may be installed using drag and drop in Settings > Personalization > Fonts.
    • Office app is included in this release by default.
    • Protection History is new in Windows Security.
    • Recommended Troubleshooting section under Home > Update & Security > Troubleshoot designed to fix certain issues automatically.
    • Registry Editor: press F4 to jump to the end of the address line and get a list of dropdown suggestions.
    • Reset This PC: improvements to the user interface.
    • Retpoline patch to improve performance of Spectre mitigations is enabled by default.
    • Search features a new Top Apps section that lists regularly used apps (and is pretty useless in my opinion).
    • Search locations (those that Windows indexes) can now be managed from the Settings app. Check Settings > Search > Searching Windows.
    • Sign-in option to sign-in without a password using a (linked) phone number.
    • Swiftkey, a technology to improve the touch keyboard experience, is now available for more languages.
    • Start Menu uses a slimmer design with just one color of application tiles (instead of two).
    • Start Menu option to unpin an entire group from Start.
    • System apps: it is possible to uninstall more system apps using built-in functionality (and not PowerShell magic or third-party apps to do so).
    • Task Manager displays scaling info. Also, legacy program scaling is turned on by default and you may set a default Tab in Task Manager.
    • Troubleshooting: Windows 10 version 1903 may remove installed updates automatically as a last resort to fix non-booting PCs.
    • Windows 10 Active Hours may adjust automatically based on usage. See Settings > Update & Security > Change active hours. Also, other Windows Update changes.
    • Windows 10 Home admins may pause updates now.
    • Windows 10 version 1903 supports the RAW image file format by default. Means: file explorer displays RAW image thumbnails and may use metadata of RAW files.
    • Windows Mixed Reality: run desktop (win32) apps.
    • Windows (light) theme in Themes. You may install it by going to Settings > Personalization > Themes.
    • Your Phone app may support screen mirroring in the new release.

    Now You: What is your take on these improvements and changes?

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  13. Rufus 3.5 with Windows 10 and 8.1 download option

    2019-03-18 06:46:57 UTC

    The next version of Rufus, a small portable tool to create bootable USB Flash drives, includes an option to download the Windows versions Windows 10 or Windows 8.1. Rufus is a popular […]

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    The next version of Rufus, a small portable tool to create bootable USB Flash drives, includes an option to download the Windows versions Windows 10 or Windows 8.1.

    Rufus is a popular lightweight tool to create bootable Flash drives, e.g. to install Windows or Linux on another computer system.

    The process is very simple and straightforward: start Rufus, select an ISO disk image that you want to use to create the bootable Flash drive, connect the Flash drive, and hit the start button to begin the process.

    Rufus offers a selection of configuration options, e.g. to select the partition scheme GPT or MBR, or file system on the Flash drive.

    Check out our review of Rufus 3.0, an updated review of the 2018 release.

    Rufus 3.5

    rufus 3.5 download

    Rufus 3.5, available as a Beta right now, adds a download option to the program. You had to download the ISO image manually previously before you could make use of Rufus; this process changes with the release of Rufus 3.5, at least for Windows installations.

    The Select button in the program interface features a small down arrow icon that you may activate to switch between "select" and "download" when "Disk or Iso image (Please select)" is selected under "Boot selection".

    Rufus downloads a PowerShell script when you select the download option (you have to click on the download button after selecting it to start the process) and starts it.

    rufus download windows

    The script displays the available ISO images that you may download. Rufus supports official versions from Microsoft only, and displays the available operating system versions after you select Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.

    Selections are quite good: you may download Windows 10 version 1809, 1803, 1707, and even earlier versions of Windows using the new download options.

    You are then asked to select the edition that you want to download. For Windows 10, Windows 10 Home/Pro, or Windows 10 Education were offered. For Windows 8.1, regular and Professional were offered (plus special versions such as Windows 8.1 N).

    You need to select the interface language in the last step.

    Tip: The Fido script is available as a standalone PowerShell script as well. If you just want to grab that, you can do so here on GitHub.

    The script downloads the selected ISO image from Microsoft. Make sure that you have enough free disk space to store it on the device.  Once downloaded, you may create a bootable USB drive using the downloaded ISO image.

    Closing Words

    The selection menu was displayed only on one device that I ran Rufus on while it was not displayed on another. Rufus 3.5 is available as a beta currently and bugs like this are to be expected. If you run into the same issue you may download the PowerShell script manually and run it to get a Windows ISO image that way.

    The integration of download options for Windows ISO images is a welcome addition to Rufus. It should make the program more useful even though it is not too hard to visit the official Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 download pages on the Microsoft website to download the images manually.

    All in all a welcome change. The developers should consider adding options to download certain Linux distribution ISOs as well in upcoming releases.

    Now You: Do you use Rufus or similar programs? (via Deskmodder)

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  14. A look at Windows Defender Application Guard extension for Firefox and Chrome

    2019-03-17 09:42:48 UTC

    Microsoft released the extension Windows Defender Application Guard for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox recently. Windows Defender Application Guard is a security feature designed to load untrusted sites and services in a […]

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    Microsoft released the extension Windows Defender Application Guard for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox recently.

    Windows Defender Application Guard is a security feature designed to load untrusted sites and services in a lightweight virtual machine. It requires Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise at the time of writing, and works in standalone and Enterprise-managed modes. It requires at least Windows 10 version 1803.

    The new browser extension brings Application Guard functionality to the third-party browsers Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

    Windows Defender Application Guard extension

    application guard extension firefox chrome

    Installation is slightly more complicated than installing another browser extension. The main reason for that is that you need to make sure that Application Guard is turned on as a feature on the device, and that you have installed the Microsoft Store companion app as well.

    In other words: you may need to install three different applications before you can make use of it.

    The following steps are required:

    1. Enable Windows Defender Application Guard on the device if it is not turned on already. Make sure the system meets the hardware and software requirements.
    2. Install the Windows Defender Application Guard companion application from the Microsoft Store.
    3. Install the Google Chrome extension or the Mozilla Firefox add-on.
    4. Enterprise-only: Define network isolation settings to define a list of trusted sites that you may access using Chrome or Firefox.
    5. Restart the device.

    Using the extension

    windows defender application guard extension

    The extension highlights if all requirements are met after installation. You should see three green lights indicating that the device is compatible, that the companion app is installed, and that Application Guard is turned on.

    How the extension is used depends largely on the edition of Windows 10.

    Note: You may want to turn off diagnostic data collecting that is enabled by default. Just click on the extension icon and toggle "Allow Microsoft to collect diagnostic data" to do so.

    Standalone mode

    Windows 10 Pro users and Enterprise users who choose standalone mode get very little out of the extension as it does not work automatically in that mode.

    All you can do, really, is to click on the extension icon and there on the "New application guard window" button to start a new Application Guard instance of Microsoft Edge.

    More comfortable than having to launch Application Guard instances from Microsoft Edge manually, but not by much and probably not worth the hassle of installing the extension and Microsoft Store application.

    Enterprise-managed mode

    Enterprise administrators have additional configuration options that automate the experience. All that is required for that is to set up network isolation settings; these define trusted sites, e.g. an IP address range, that users may access using the third-party browsers the extension is installed in.

    Any site not on the trust list is automatically redirected to the Microsoft Edge Application Guard instance.

    When users navigate to a site, the extension checks the URL against a list of trusted sites defined by enterprise administrators. If the site is determined to be untrusted, the user is redirected to an isolated Microsoft Edge session. In the isolated Microsoft Edge session, the user can freely navigate to any site that has not been explicitly defined as trusted by their organization without any risk to the rest of system.

    Microsoft plans to extend the functionality by loading trusted sites opened in the Application Guard instance in the third-party browser.

    With our upcoming dynamic switching capability, if the user tries to go to a trusted site while in an isolated Microsoft Edge session, the user is taken back to the default browser.

    Closing Words

    The Windows Defender Application Guard extension is a useful browser extension for Enterprise environments in which supported third-party browsers are permitted.  It seems less likely that it will see a lot of traction on Pro devices though due to the limitations.

    Now You: Do you use Application Guard or other browsing virtualization services?

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  15. Making Ctrl, Shift, and Cmd clicks on Link work all the time

    2019-03-16 07:48:21 UTC

    Link Fixer is a browser extension for the Firefox and Chrome web browsers designed to fix sites that override the default link activation behavior in the browsers. Firefox and Chrome users have […]

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    Link Fixer is a browser extension for the Firefox and Chrome web browsers designed to fix sites that override the default link activation behavior in the browsers.

    Firefox and Chrome users have plenty of options when it comes to opening links: left-clicking, right-clicking and using the context menu, middle-clicking, or holding down modifier keys such as Ctrl-key or Shift-key before activating links.

    For those who need a refresher: Ctrl-clicking or Cmd-clicking (Mac) links opens the link targets in a New Tab in the same browser window, Shift-clicking opens link targets in a new browser window instead.

    These options work well most of the time; some sites, however, use scripts to change the default link activation functionality of the browser. You may notice that modifier keys may not work properly when you activate these links.

    The issue is not new; there is a support request from 2013 on the official Mozilla Firefox website and a support request on SuperUser by users who could not get modifier clicks to work on specific sites.

    Link Fixer to the rescue

    link fixer firefox

    The Firefox add-on and Chrome extension Link Fixer has been designed to restore the default behavior of Ctrl, Shift, and Cmd clicks on links in the browser

    The default behaviour of ctrl+click, shift+click and cmd+click when clicking on links is to open the link in a new tab or new window. This behaviour is sometimes broken by careless developers. This add-on restores the default behaviour, ensuring the modifier keys are always respected.

    All you need to do is install the extension to do so. The extension does not add an icon to the Firefox or Chrome toolbars nor does it come with any options. There is no need for that since it works well without any of that.

    The extension is designed for users who visit websites regularly that block modifier keys from working correctly (either on purpose or by accident). Users who encounter the issue only sporadically or not at all may have no use for the extension though.

    The extension is open source. You find its source code and bug tracker on GitHub. There you also find direct links to the extension repositories to install the extension in the browser of choice. Firefox or Chrome compatible browsers should install the extension fine as well.

    Now You: How do you open links in your browser of choice?

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  16. Adblock Plus 3.5 promises 5x faster blocking

    2019-03-15 12:32:28 UTC

    Eyeo GMBH, the company behind the popular content blocker Adblock Plus, has just released version 3.5 of the browser extension for all supported platforms (it shows up as 0.9.14 in Microsoft Edge). […]

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    Eyeo GMBH, the company behind the popular content blocker Adblock Plus, has just released version 3.5 of the browser extension for all supported platforms (it shows up as 0.9.14 in Microsoft Edge).

    Adblock Plus is one of the most popular adblocking extensions. It has the most users of all Firefox extensions and its Chrome extension is equally popular.

    Adblock Plus 3.5 improvements

    adblock plus improvements

    The company promises that the new version of Adblock Plus is five times "faster at recognizing and blocking ads" than previous versions, and that the extension uses "up to 60 percent less CPU" compared to previous versions as well.

    The company notes:

    In addition to the already fast and battle-tested ad-blocking capabilities of our previous release, one of the most valuable improvements for users is that the new version uses up to 60 percent less CPU, or Central Processing Units.

    Also, Adblock Plus is now 5x’s faster at recognizing and blocking ads.

    The improvements look impressive on paper; it is unclear, however, if the improvements are noticeable by users of the extension. If the benefits are in the millisecond range, users might not see much of an improvement.

    I ran a quick -- unscientific -- test using the latest version in Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome and the results were promising. Page loads were quick and CPU usage was low during the entire operation.

    It is necessary to run comparison tests to really find out how much of an improvement this is for users of the extension.

    I contacted Eyeo GMBH to find out more about the improvements and will update the article when I receive a reply.

    Eyeo GMBH launched Adblock Plus 3.4 in 2018 promising that the new version would reduce memory usage by 50%. It still used more memory than uBlock Origin, another content blocker that many see as the most resource friendly of them all.

    The new version of Adblock Plus is already available on the company website and the Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and Opera extension stores.  Users who have the installed the extension already should receive an automatic update to the new version.

    Anyone else may download and install the extension from the browser's extensions store.

    Now You: Have you tried the new version? What is your take on it?

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  17. CCleaner Free update introduces Tools menu Popup annoyance

    2019-03-15 08:28:47 UTC

    The most recent update for the temporary file cleaning and system maintenance software CCleaner, CCleaner 5.5.5, introduced a new Software Updater tool. Software Updater scans installed programs on Windows PCs to make […]

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    The most recent update for the temporary file cleaning and system maintenance software CCleaner, CCleaner 5.5.5, introduced a new Software Updater tool.

    Software Updater scans installed programs on Windows PCs to make sure that they are up to date. The program checks for new versions and informs the user about these new versions.

    CCleaner's Software Update tool is available in free and professional versions of the desktop application but it is fully functional only in the Professional version of the application.

    The free version of CCleaner features the Software Updater entry in the Tools menu but it is feature limited as it reports outdated versions only but gives users no option to update the programs using the tool's functionality.

    The selection of "update" or "update all" displays the "you'll need to upgrade to use Software Updater" popup.

    ccleaner nag

    All of that would not be much of a problem; it is not uncommon for companies to highlight features of a paid version of a program in the free version. In this particular case, however, it is.

    Piriform decided to bind a popup notification to the Software Updater tools menu. The popup is displayed if Software Updater is selected. Problem is, the company decided to make Software Updater the default tool in the Tools category.

    Means: if you select Tools, you get the popup that advertises the upgrade to CCleaner Professional. There is no option to make another tool the default tool or to block the popup from being displayed.

    The popup is displayed only once per session but it is displayed in every session, at least for now. If you use the Tools menu regularly, you will get the popup once in each session.

    Closing Words

    Piriform introduced advertising popups in CCleaner 5.44 and has been using them ever since to push CCleaner Professional versions. The company ran software bundling experiments previously as well to increase revenue.

    I'm not a fan of nag screens. While I understand the need to sell professional licenses, I'd very much appreciate it if Piriform would display these popups less frequently or introduce an option to disable them entirely.

    These popups may annoy some users enough to switch to a different program such as Bleachbit or use one of these methods to free up space which come without these annoyances.

    Now You: Do you use CCleaner?

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  18. Waterfox 56.2.8: improved web compatibility, security patches, new logo

    2019-03-15 05:26:05 UTC

    Waterfox users who waited for a new version of the web browser to come out patiently can now upgrade the browser to version 56.2.8. Waterfox 56.8.2 was released on March 14, 2019 […]

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    Waterfox users who waited for a new version of the web browser to come out patiently can now upgrade the browser to version 56.2.8.

    Waterfox 56.8.2 was released on March 14, 2019 to the public. The new release is already available via the browser's update checking functionality but also as a standalone download for new users and users who prefer to download the full installer.

    Existing Waterfox users may select Menu > Help > About Watefox to run a manual check for update. The new version should be picked up and installed when the about page is opened.

    Waterfox 56.2.8

    waterfox 56.2.8

    The new Waterfox logo is the first thing that users of the browser may notice. User reactions seem split on the new logo; some users like it, others dislike it and would like to see the old logo being added as an option so that they may switch to it.

    More important than the logo are web compatibility improvements. Waterfox identifies as Firefox 60 ESR now in the latest release. The developer notes that many web compatibility issues should be a thing of the past because of this.

    Services and sites such as WhatsApp Web, Chase, and others should work fine now in the latest version of Waterfox. Waterfox users who had issues solving captchas will benefit from the new release as well as captcha issues, especially issues with Google's recaptcha system, should be resolved in the new version.

    Windows users who use Waterfox to access Gmail on the web should no longer run into issues using the service either. The developer of Waterfox turned off Service Workers by default and that appears to have resolved the issues that users experienced on the Gmail website.

    The method Element.scrollIntoView should work as expected now as well in the new Waterfox release. The fix improves compatibility with websites that rely on the method.

    Waterfox 58.2.8 is a security release next to that. The developer incorporated the latest Firefox security fixes in the release.

    Now You: Do you use Waterfox? What is your take on the overall development?

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  19. How good is CCleaner Professional's new Software Updater?

    2019-03-14 14:32:30 UTC

    The most recent version of CCleaner Professional comes with a new Software Updater tool designed to inform the user about outdated program installations. Software updates are a complicated thing on Windows as […]

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    The most recent version of CCleaner Professional comes with a new Software Updater tool designed to inform the user about outdated program installations.

    Software updates are a complicated thing on Windows as there is no central repository available. Some programs come with custom build updating routines, others come without them.

    Keeping software up to date is essential (most of the time) as updates may patch security vulnerabilities, incompatibilities, and other issues.

    Programs that scan for outdated programs on Windows are anything but new. Programs like SUMO or UpdateStar have been around for over a decade. Developers of security solutions, for example Avira and Kaspersky, introduced options to check for software updates as well.

    CCleaner Software Updater

    ccleaner professional software updater

    Piriform, an Avast company, introduced the Software Updater in version 5.55 of the application released in March 2019. The tool is included in the Professional version of CCleaner only at this point in time.

    You may access it with a click on Tools > Software Updater after you have made sure that you run at least CCleaner Professional 5.55.

    The application lists outdated programs in its interface when you select the tool. It lists the program name, size, the installed version and the new version that is available.

    The Software Updater detected fewer out of date programs than comparable software updaters such as Sumo. CCleaner Professional detected 18 programs with updates, Sumo 35.

    Note: The tool may hang if you hit the "update all" button without selecting at least one program first.

    What you can do currently

    updates complete

    The only options provided at the time are to select programs and to update the selection. There is no option to visit the developer website to find out more about an update, nor are there options to ignore updates or minor updates, include beta versions, or uninstall a program.

    The updating happens in CCleaner; that is comfortable and probably preferred by the majority of users (Sumo redirects to its own website from where you may download the updates).

    CCleaner Professional does not indicate from where the updates are downloaded, however. It would be great if the program would indicate that to the user.

    CCleaner downloads the installer and runs it automatically. It is still necessary to complete the installation manually at this point; silent installations don't seem to be supported.

    The application displays a "completed" message in the end and buttons to restart the PC or ignore the restart option for the moment.

    Closing Words

    CCleaner Professional's software updater is a useful but limited tool. The Software Updater makes it easy to update software that CCleaner has in its database. The database of supported applications could be larger though, and it would certainly benefit from improved functionality on top of that.

    No false positives were detected during tests; this worked properly.

    Now You: Do you use Software Updaters? If so which? If not, why not?

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  20. Firefox Send file sharing service launches officially

    2019-03-14 08:58:01 UTC

    Firefox Send, a file sharing service by Mozilla, maker of Firefox, is now available officially. Mozilla launched Firefox Send as a Test Pilot project in 2017; the first experiment that launched as […]

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    Firefox Send, a file sharing service by Mozilla, maker of Firefox, is now available officially. Mozilla launched Firefox Send as a Test Pilot project in 2017; the first experiment that launched as a web service with accompanying browser extension.

    Firefox Send allowed users to upload files to the service so that they could be shared with others. Files would be encrypted automatically by Firefox Send to protect the data from unauthorized access.

    Mozilla retired Test Pilot in early 2019 but many of the projects lived on either as browser extensions or as standalone web services.

    Firefox Send

    firefox send final

    Firefox Send is a free file sharing service that anyone may use; a copy of Firefox is not required to use it. Just point any modern web browser to https://send.firefox.com/ to get started.

    You may add files with a total size of up to 1 Gigabyte as an unregistered user for sharing. The file size limit increases to 2.5 Gigabytes for registered users. Firefox account owners may sign in using the account, and anyone else may sign up for a Firefox Account to share up to 2.5 Gigabytes and may also manage uploaded files from other devices and change expiration limits. Creation of an account is free; there is no paid version.

    You may drag and drop files that you want to share with others on the Firefox Send site or use the upload button to use the file browser to pick files instead.

    firefox send files

    All selected files are displayed with their name and file size after selection. Firefox Send displays the total file size and options to add more files to the queue.

    Uploaded files expire automatically after a set period or a set number of downloads. The default expires them after one download or after the first 24 hours. You may raise the limits to up to 100 downloads or 7 days. Downloads may expire as early as 5 minutes after a successful upload.

    Password protection is the only other option provided. Firefox Send uses end-to-end encryption to protect files; adding a password improves the protection further.

    Note that some configuration options require a Firefox Account. You need an account if you want to increase the allowed number of downloads or change the time the uploaded files are available. Password protection works without account, though.

    Firefox Send displays a link after the upload that you may copy. Firefox Send users without account may terminate the link at any time if they use the same device and don't leave the page that lets them do so.

    firefox send files ready

    You still need to share the link somehow if you want others to download the files.

    Closing Words

    Firefox Send is a useful service to share files. You may use it to share files with others, or upload files for personal use instead. The use of end-to-end encryption and password protection makes the service very useful for that, and the size limit should be fine for most file sharing purposes.

    The service is ad-free and free to use for anyone at the time. Preventing unlimited downloads and downloads that don't expire makes the service unattractive for large scale file sharing purposes.

    Sören Hentzschel notes that the first beta version of the Firefox Send Android app may be released as early as next week.

    Now You: Do you use online services to share files?

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  21. Lite Page provided by Google in Google Chrome

    2019-03-14 07:18:53 UTC

    Google revealed information about a new Chrome for Android feature called Chrome Lite Pages in a blog post on the Chromium website that extends the capabilities of the browser's Data Saver feature. […]

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    Google revealed information about a new Chrome for Android feature called Chrome Lite Pages in a blog post on the Chromium website that extends the capabilities of the browser's Data Saver feature.

    Lite Pages are designed to make pages load faster in Chrome if the network conditions are unreliable or if the connection speed is very slow.

    Google claims that Data Saver, a data saving feature of Chrome that users need to activate before it becomes available, saves up to 90% of data and makes pages load up to two times faster.

    Real-world tests suggests that most users won't see such impressive savings but that Data Saver may indeed speed up the loading of sites opened in Chrome for Android.

    Data Saver worked only with HTTP pages up until now which made it less useful with every passing month as the Internet as a whole is moving from HTTP to HTTPS in rapid pace.

    Starting with Google Chrome 73, Chrome's Data Saver supports HTTPS sites but that is not the only change.

    Tip: Install the Data Saver extension for desktop Chrome to use it there as well.

    chrome lite page

    Google Chrome for Android indicates to the user if a Lite version of a page has been loaded while Data Saver is active. Users should see "Lite" next to the address of the page, and they may tap on it to display additional information and get an option to load the original page from the website.

    Google notes that its Chrome browser will disable Lite page functionality on select pages if a user opts-out of Lite pages frequently.

    The optimizations are applied only under severe network conditions. Connections that use 2G or slow-2G may cause Chrome to display Lite pages frequently, as do pages that will take more than 5 seconds to reach "first contentful paint" according to Google.

    Google expects this to affect only a small percentage of page loads.

    Privacy?

    Google states that it uses optimization techniques that depend "on what region the user is in" and the page itself. The company notes that only the page URL is shared with Google and that other information such as cookies, login information, or personalized page content, is not.

    Testing Lite Pages

    chrome override connection type

    Website owners and developers may simulate slow connection types in the following way to test Chrome Lite functionality (or how their pages load under slow network conditions):

    1. Load chrome://flags/#force-effective-connection-type in the browser's address bar. Make sure that the Chrome version is at least 73 as the flag is not available in previous versions. See chrome://settings/help for version information (note that this will trigger a check for updates).
    2. Click on the menu (Default) next to it and select one of the available connection types, e.g. Slow 2G.
    3. Optional: Set Ignore Previews Blacklist, chrome://flags/#ignore-previews-blocklist, to True to avoid Chrome disabling Lite Pages entirely if too many opt-outs are detected.
    4. Restart Google Chrome to apply the change.

    Note that you need to enable Data Saver as well on Chrome for Android by selecting Menu > Settings > Data Saver, and toggling the feature on the page that opens.

    Webmasters may add a "no-transform" directive in the cache-control header to block Chrome from showing Lite pages of a site.

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  22. Chrome Portable Updater for Windows

    2019-03-13 13:31:41 UTC

    Google does not really offer portable versions of the company's Google Chrome web browser for download. Chromium, the browser that Chrome is based on, is available as a portable version. It is […]

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    Google does not really offer portable versions of the company's Google Chrome web browser for download. Chromium, the browser that Chrome is based on, is available as a portable version.

    It is possible to run Google Chrome as a portable version but updating is not straightforward as there are not many solutions out there that automate the updating somewhat.

    Chromium users on the other hand have a wide range of programs at their disposal to update the Chromium browser automatically.

    Tip: it is possible to block automatic updates of Chrome.

    Chrome Portable Updater

    chrome portable updater

    Chrome Portable Updater is a portable program for Microsoft Windows systems that downloads portable versions of Google Chrome and updates existing portable versions of Chrome.

    The Windows interface language determines which portable version of Google Chrome is downloaded by the application.

    All you need to do is the following:

    1. Download Chrome Portable Updater from the Deskmodder website.
    2. Extract the downloaded archive to your system.
    3. The program extracts the portable versions of Chrome into folders under the root structure. You may want to move the folder to the desired location.
    4. There are two executable files in root (unfortunately with German filenames).
      1. Chrome Updater x86-x64 Lang_EN Einzel Ordner.exe extracts the selected Chrome channel version to its own folder, e.g. Chrome Dev x64. You may use it to create up to 8 different Chrome portable folders to run them individually (great for testing).
      2. Chrome Updater x86-x64 Lang_EN Nur Chrome Ordner.exe extracts the selected channel version into the Chrome folder (thus replacing any version that exists in that folder already).
    5. In other words: if you plan to use different Chrome editions, run the executable mentioned under 4.1, if you just want one Chrome edition, run the exe in 4.2 instead.
    6. The application displays download buttons for all Chrome channels and supported Windows architectures.
    7. Select the one you want, and wait for the download to complete.

    All files are downloaded to a folder in the directory you executed Chrome Portable Updater from.

    Windows users who prefer to use the command line can do so as well: just append the following parameters to the application name to run the download from the command line or batch files:

    • canary86 == Chrome x86 Canary
    • canary64 == Chrome x64 Canary
    • dev86 == Chrome x86 Developer
    • dev64 == Chrome x64 Developer
    • beta86 == Chrome x86 Beta
    • beta64 == Chrome x64 Beta
    • stable86 == Chrome x86 Stable
    • stable64 == Chrome x64 Stable

    Example: C:\"Chrome Updater x86-x64 Lang_EN Einzel Ordner.exe" canary64 to download the 64-bit Canary version to its own folder.

    Now You: Do you run portable browser versions?

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  23. Windows 7 to show notifications about upcoming support end

    2019-03-13 11:05:36 UTC

    PCs that run Windows 7 will show notifications about the upcoming support end starting in April 2019 according to Microsoft. Support for consumer versions of Windows 7 ends on January 14, 2020. […]

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    PCs that run Windows 7 will show notifications about the upcoming support end starting in April 2019 according to Microsoft.

    Support for consumer versions of Windows 7 ends on January 14, 2020. Enterprise-customers may extend support by up to three years by paying per-user fees to Microsoft that double each year.

    April 2019 was chosen as the starting month by Microsoft to give customers ample time to migrate to -- the company hopes -- Windows 10. Customers do have other options including upgrading to Windows 8.1 which is still supported for another three years, staying on Windows 7, or migrating to Linux.

    By starting the reminders now, our hope is that you have time to plan and prepare for this transition

    Tip: Check out the first and second part of our ongoing migrating from Windows 7 to Linux series here.

    Microsoft has not revealed yet how these notifications will look like. The only information Microsoft provided is that these are of informative nature only and that users may select that they don't want to see further notifications.

    These notifications are designed to help provide information only and if you would prefer not to receive them again, you’ll be able to select an option for “do not notify me again,” and we will not send you any further reminders.

    It seems likely that the notifications will have a similar look and feel to them as the notifications that Microsoft displayed on Windows XP systems in 2014 when that version of Windows was about to reach the end of its support lifetime.

    windows-xp

    The notification listed the end of support date for the operating system, a link to open a web page with additional information, and an option to select "don't show this message again" to block the popup notification from being displayed again on the system.

    Users who just close the popup using the window close control will receive notifications in the future. Checking the box and clicking ok is the only option to block future notifications from being displayed on the device.

    Get Windows 10?

    Veteran Windows 7 users may be reminded of the Get Windows 10 campaign that Microsoft pushed vehemently in Windows 10's first year of release.

    The notifications won't have the same characteristics of that campaign as they don't include options to upgrade the operating system to Windows 10.

    It remains to be seen if Microsoft will resurrect Get Windows 10, even though it said it would not, later in that year.

    Now You: Still running Windows 7? What's your plan in 2020? (via Woody)

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  24. Google plans to improve Chrome's drive-by-download protection

    2019-03-13 09:04:05 UTC

    Google plans to introduce a new protective feature in the company's Chrome web browser that blocks automatic downloads in ad frames. File downloads are usually initiated by users. Users may click on […]

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    Google plans to introduce a new protective feature in the company's Chrome web browser that blocks automatic downloads in ad frames.

    File downloads are usually initiated by users. Users may click on links to download files, use drag and drop (from the browser to the desktop), or use the right-click context menu to download files.

    Google notes that there are not many legitimate use cases for ad initiated downloads.

    Download doesn't make much sense with ads. It happens very rarely in practice and is also difficult to reproduce, which implies that a very small amount of ads are doing automatic downloads. Blocking download in ad frames without user gesture will make the web less abusive and more secure.

    Some downloads are initiated automatically in Chrome.

    Tip: it is a good idea to block automatic downloads in Chrome.

    Google identified two cases of automatic downloads that it considers problematic when they originate from an ad frame:

    • Simulated activation of download links.
    • Navigation-triggered downloads.

    Google engineers plan to block these automatic types of downloads in future versions of Google Chrome. The feature will land in all versions of Google Chrome except for the iOS version as it is based on another architecture.

    google chrome offline installer full

    Downloads will be blocked if the automatic download originated from an ad frame. Chromium's ad detection system, AdTagging, identifies ad frames automatically and Chrome will base the blocking decision on that.

    The change won't disallow all automatic downloads that originate from ad frames though. Downloads are allowed if Chrome recognizes user interaction with the element.

    Downloads in an ad frame without user gesture account for 0.00001% page loads according to metrics that Google collected. The company expects that there won't be major breakage due to the low use number and the fact that a sample of top URLs did not make use of the feature at all.

    Automatic downloads that originate from ad frames without user interaction will be blocked automatically and users won't receive a notification about that.

    The move closes one method to attack user systems with drive-by-downloads. Drive-by-downloads push malicious files to user systems automatically using automated download functions.

    Google has not set a date for the inclusion in the Chrome web browser. The tracking bug is protected at the time of writing.

     

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  25. DirectX 12 comes to select Windows 7 games

    2019-03-13 06:41:24 UTC

    Microsoft revealed on the official DirectX blog that Blizzard's World of Warcraft game is the first game to support DirectX 12 on Windows 7. DirectX, a set of multimedia APIs used especially […]

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    Microsoft revealed on the official DirectX blog that Blizzard's World of Warcraft game is the first game to support DirectX 12 on Windows 7.

    DirectX, a set of multimedia APIs used especially in PC games, is included natively in Windows. Microsoft releases new versions of DirectX regularly that introduce new features and improvements.

    The company announced DirectX 12 in 2014 and launched it officially in Windows 10 in 2015. Microsoft decided to make DirectX 12 Windows 10 exclusive which meant that customers who ran Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 were limited to DirectX 11. This was not the first time that Microsoft decided to limit DirectX though.

    When it released Windows Vista in 2006, it made DirectX 10 a Vista exclusive. The exclusivity backfired back then as the majority of game developers ignored DirectX 10 and focused on DirectX 9.0 instead which Windows XP supported as well.

    According to Microsoft's blog post, it was Blizzard and other game companies that wanted to bring DirectX 12 support to their games on Windows 7. DirectX 12 offers advantages, such as low-level programing APIs or multi-GPU support, over previous versions of DirectX.

    directx 12 windows 7

    Microsoft ported the user mode Direct3D 12 runtime to Windows 7 in response so the request so that select games can use DirectX 12 on the operating system.

    Today, with game patch 8.1.5 for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, Blizzard becomes the first game developer to use DirectX 12 for Windows 7! Now, Windows 7 WoW gamers can run the game using DirectX 12 and enjoy a framerate boost [..]

    Microsoft is "working with a few other game developers" currently according to the blog post. DirectX 12 won't become available universally on Windows 7, but only for select games according to Microsoft.

    It is unclear if the games will use DirectX 12 on Windows 7 only, or if the games will also use it on Windows 8.1. The newer operating system, supported until 2023, is not mentioned once by Microsoft.

    The announcement comes as a surprise for a number of reasons; probably the biggest is timing.

    Windows 7 has a remaining lifetime of just 9 months before Microsoft ends support. Microsoft did not reveal why it caved in and ported DirectX 12 to Windows 7 for select games. Maybe because it was not all that much of an effort to do so, or because it expects that many customers will keep on running Windows 7 for some time after support ends.

    A look back at the end of support for Windows XP suggests that history could repeat itself. It took years after support end before Windows XP usage numbers dropped significantly.

    The move would make sense if Windows 8.1 gamers would benefit from DirectX 12 support as well but that is unclear at this point.

    Another reason why the decision is surprising is that Microsoft does not back port features to older versions of Windows once it made the decision to limit them artificially to new versions of Windows.

    The change may be beneficial to game developers who have a large enough base of users on Windows 7 as they may focus on the DirectX 12 version of the game and introduce performance improvements at the same time.

    Now You: What is your take on this?

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  26. Microsoft Windows Security Updates March 2019 overview

    2019-03-12 17:54:46 UTC

    Today is the third patch day of the year 2019. Microsoft released updates for Microsoft Windows, Office, and other company products on March 12, 2019. The updates are already available via Windows […]

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    Today is the third patch day of the year 2019. Microsoft released updates for Microsoft Windows, Office, and other company products on March 12, 2019.

    The updates are already available via Windows Update, as direct downloads, and through other updating systems that Microsoft supports.

    Our monthly patch overview provides you with detailed information and links to support pages for further analysis.

    The overview starts with an executive summary. What follows are statistics, information about cumulative updates for Windows, links to all security and non-security updates that Microsoft released, information about known issues, direct download links, and more.

    Here is the link to last month's patch overview in case you missed it.

    We suggest that you create backups of the system and data that is important to you before you install any updates.

    Microsoft Windows Security Updates March 2019

    You may download the following Excel spreadsheet that lists all security updates released for all Microsoft products in March 2019. Click on the following link to download it to your device: March 2019 Security Updates spreadsheet Windows

    Executive Summary

    • Microsoft released security products for all client and server based versions of Windows that it supports.
    • The company released security updates for the following products next to that: Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Office and SharePoint, Skype for Business, Team Foundation Server, Visual Studio, and NuGet.
    • Microsoft released SHA-2 Code sign support for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 as a security update. See this support article for additional information.

    Operating System Distribution

    • Windows 7: 21 vulnerabilities of which 3 are rated critical and 18 are rated important.
      • Same as Windows 10 version 1607
    • Windows 8.1: 20 vulnerabilities of which 3 are rated critical and 17 are rated important.
      • Same as Windows 10 version 1607
    • Windows 10 version 1607:  24 vulnerabilities of which 3 are critical and 21 are important
      •  CVE-2019-0603 | Windows Deployment Services TFTP Server Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • Same as Windows 10 version 1709
    • Windows 10 version 1703:  24 vulnerabilities of which 2 are critical and 22 are important
      • Same as Windows 10 version 1709
    • Windows 10 version 1709: 28 vulnerabilities of which 2 are critical and 26 are important
    • Windows 10 version 1803: 33 vulnerabilities of which 6 are critical and 27 are important
      • same as Windows 10 version 1809
    • Windows 10 version 1809: 33 vulnerabilities of which 6 are critical and 27 are important
      • CVE-2019-0603 | Windows Deployment Services TFTP Server Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0697 | Windows DHCP Client Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0698 | Windows DHCP Client Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0726 | Windows DHCP Client Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0756 | MS XML Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0784 | Windows ActiveX Remote Code Execution Vulnerability

    Windows Server products

    • Windows Server 2008 R2: 21 vulnerabilities of which 3 are critical and 17 are important.
      • Same as Windows Server 2016.
    • Windows Server 2012 R2: 20 vulnerabilities of which 3 are critical and 17 are important.
      • Same as Windows Server 2016.
    • Windows Server 2016: 24 vulnerabilities of which 3 are critical and 21 are important.
      • CVE-2019-0603 | Windows Deployment Services TFTP Server Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0756 | MS XML Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0784 | Windows ActiveX Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
    • Windows Server 2019: 33 vulnerabilities of which 5 are critical and 27 are important.
      • CVE-2019-0603 | Windows Deployment Services TFTP Server Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0697 | Windows DHCP Client Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0698 | Windows DHCP Client Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0726 | Windows DHCP Client Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0756 | MS XML Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
      • CVE-2019-0784 | Windows ActiveX Remote Code Execution Vulnerability

    Other Microsoft Products

    • Internet Explorer 11: 14 vulnerability, 4 critical, 10 important
    • Microsoft Edge: 14 vulnerabilities, 7 critical, 7 important

    Windows Security Updates

    Windows 10 version 1809

    KB4489899

    • Fixed a tracking and device calibration issue that affected Microsoft HoloLens.
    • Fixed "Error 1309" when installing or removing MSI and MSP files.
    • Fixed the graphics performance degredation issue.
    • Security updates for various Windows components.

    Windows 10 version 1803

    KB4489868

    • Fixed the "Error 1309" notification.
    • Security updates for various Windows components.

    Windows 10 version 1709

    KB4489886

    • Fixed "Error 1309".
    • Security updates for various Windows components.

    Windows 10 version 1703

    KB4489871

    • Fixed "Error 1309".
    • Fixed _isleadbyte_l() returning 0.
    • Security updates for various Windows components.

    Windows 10 version 1607 / Server 2016

    KB4489882

    • Fixed "Error 1309".
    • Fixed an issue that caused Windows Server to stop working and restarting "when hosting multiple terminal server sessions and a user logs off".
    • Fixed _isleadbyte_l() returning 0.
    • Security updates for various Windows components.

    Windows 8.1

    KB4489881 Monthly Rollup

    • Fixed the "Error 1309" issue.
    • Fixed an issue with a virtual memory leak and depletion of paged pool.
    • Various security updates for Windows components.

    KB4489883 Security-only Update

    • Additional Japanese Era name fixes.
    • Same as Monthly Rollup.

    Windows 7 Service Pack 1

    KB4489878 Monthly Rollup

    • Fixed an issue that prevented the Event Viewer from showing Network Interface Cards events.
    • Various security updates for Windows components.

    KB4489885 Security-only Update

    • Additional Japanese ERA name fixes.
    • Same as Monthly Rollup.

    Other security updates

    KB4489873 -- Cumulative security update for Internet Explorer: March 12, 2019

    KB4474419 -- SHA-2 code signing support update for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7: March 12, 2019

    KB4486468 -- Security update for the information disclosure vulnerability in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4486536 -- Security update for the information disclosure vulnerability in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4486538 -- Security update for the elevation of privilege vulnerability in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4489493 -- Security update for the information disclosure vulnerability in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4489876 -- Security Only Quality Update for Windows Server 2008

    KB4489880 -- Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows Server 2008

    KB4489884 --Security Only Quality Update for Windows Embedded 8 Standard and Windows Server 2012

    KB4489891 -- Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows Embedded 8 Standard and Windows Server 2012

    KB4489907 -- Adobe Flash Player update

    KB4489973 -- Security update for the remote code execution vulnerability in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4489974 -- Security update for the remote code execution vulnerabilities in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4489977 -- Security update for the remote code execution vulnerability in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4490228 -- Security update for the remote code execution vulnerability in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4490385 -- Security update for the information disclosure vulnerabilities in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4490500 -- Security update for the elevation of privilege vulnerabilities in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4490501 -- Security update for the information disclosure vulnerability in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    KB4493341 -- Security update for the information disclosure vulnerability in Windows Embedded POSReady 2009: March 12, 2019

    Known Issues

    4489878 Windows 7 Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (Monthly Rollup) AND

    4489885 Windows 7 Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (Security-only update) AND

    4489884 Windows Server 2012 (Security-only update) AND

    4489891 Windows Server 2012 (Monthly Rollup)

    • Internet Explorer 10 may have authentication issues
      • Create unique user accounts to avoid same user account sharing and resolve the issue.

    4489881 Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 (Monthly Rollup) AND

    4489883 Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 (Security-only update)

    • IE11 may have authentication issues.

    4489882 Windows 10 version 1607, Windows Server 2016

    • System Center Virtual Machine Manager managed hosts cannot "enumerate and manage logical switches".
      • Run mofcomp on Scvmmswitchportsettings.mof and VMMDHCPSvr.mof
    • Cluster service may fail with error "2245 (NERR_PasswordTooShort)".
      • Set the Minimum Password Length policy to less or equal to 14 characters.
    • IE11 may have authentication issues.

    4489899 Windows 10 version 1809, Windows Server 2019

    • IE11 may have authentication issues.
    • Output devices may stop working on devices with multiple audio devices. Affected applications include Windows Media Player, Sound Blaster Control Panel, and Realtek HD Audio Manager.
      • Temporary workaround: set the output device to default.

    Security advisories and updates

    ADV190008 | March 2019 Adobe Flash Security Update

    ADV190010 | Best Practices Regarding Sharing of a Single User Account Across Multiple Users

    ADV990001 | Latest Servicing Stack Updates

    Non-security related updates

    KB4484071 -- Update for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008

    KB4487989 -- Update for POSReady 2009

    KB4490628 -- Servicing Stack Update for Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2

    KB4489723 -- Dynamic Update for for Windows 10 Version 1803

    KB890830 -- Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool - March 2019

    Microsoft Office Updates

    Microsoft released non-security and security updates for supported Microsoft Office products in March 2019. Information is available here.

    How to download and install the March 2019 security updates

    windows update 2019 march

    Windows updates are installed automatically on most systems by default. Windows administrators may speed up the process by searching for updates manually or by downloading them directly from the Microsoft Update Catalog website.

    Direct update downloads

    Cumulative updates that Microsoft releases as well as other updates get uploaded to the Microsoft Update Catalog website.

    You find links to all cumulative updates for client and server versions of Microsoft Windows.

    Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP

    • KB4489878 -- 2019-03 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 7
    • KB4489885 -- 2019-03 Security Only Quality Update for Windows 7

    Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2

    • KB4489881-- 2019-03 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 8.1
    • KB4489883 -- 2019-03 Security Only Quality Update for Windows 8.1

    Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 (version 1607)

    • KB4489882 -- 2019-03 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1607

    Windows 10 (version 1703)

    •  KB4489871 -- 2019-03 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1703

    Windows 10 (version 1709)

    • KB4489886-- 2019-03 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1709

    Windows 10 (version 1803)

    • KB4489868 -- 2019-03 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1803

    Windows 10 (version 1809)

    •  KB4489899 -- 2019-03 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1809

    Additional resources

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Microsoft Windows Security Updates March 2019 overview appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

  27. Windows may uninstall updates that cause startup problems

    2019-03-12 09:07:22 UTC

    Microsoft implemented a new troubleshooting step recently in Windows 10 that improves the operating system's handling of startup problems. Windows 10 may uninstall recently installed operating system updates automatically to address startup […]

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    Microsoft implemented a new troubleshooting step recently in Windows 10 that improves the operating system's handling of startup problems.

    Windows 10 may uninstall recently installed operating system updates automatically to address startup issues as a last resort if all other steps to fix the issue fail.

    Startup problems are one of the most frustrating issues that Windows users may experience. One of the big issues for users is that they have only a few options at their disposal to fix the issue: using built-in troubleshooting options, recovery disks or tools, or restoring backups of the system if they do exist.

    Updates can be the source of startup problems. Updates may cause bluescreens or other startup related issues that prevent the system from booting.

    To name just a few recent incidents:

    We removed some recently installed updates

    we-removed-some-recently-installed-updates-to-recover-your-device-from-a-startup-failure

    Windows 10 may remove recently installed updates as part of a troubleshooting process to restore proper startup behavior.

    The operating system informs the user about the removal of updates on the next successful start:

    We removed some recently installed updates to recover your device from a startup failure.

    Microsoft notes on a support page that this is done only if all other attempts to recover the boot process and system start fail.

    Updates removed in the process will be blocked for 30 days automatically to avoid the issue from happening again. Blocked updates will be downloaded and installed again after the 30-day period, and that may mean that the issue is experienced again if Microsoft did not resolve it in the time.

    Administrators who want to block the update continuously may use Microsoft's update blocking tool to do so.

    Closing Words

    Automatic recovery is great if it works and the new update removal option is certainly a welcome addition to the automatic recovery process. The option speeds up the recovery if it works.

    The new option may resolve some issues automatically but it certainly is not a catch-all option that recovery any issue that is update related.

    Administrators still need to use advanced troubleshooting tools or recovery images to restore a system to a working state if automatic recovery fails.

    Now You: Did you run into update related issues recently? (via Bleeping Computer / Windows Latest)

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  28. A look at Windscribe VPN'S R.O.B.E.R.T domain blocking tool

    2019-03-12 06:28:23 UTC

    Windscribe is a VPN provider that is known for its good free offering and commercial plans, and even an option to build a custom plan. Free accounts are limited in terms of […]

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    Windscribe is a VPN provider that is known for its good free offering and commercial plans, and even an option to build a custom plan.

    Free accounts are limited in terms of server locations, bandwidth, and available protocols. Free accounts get 10 Gigabytes of traffic when they add an email address and verify it; this could be increased to 50 Gigabytes previously, but the coupon does not work anymore. It is still possible to double the limit to 20 Gigabytes though.

    The domain blocking tool R.O.B.E.R.T. is included in free and Pro accounts but the free version is limited to malware blocking and three custom rules.

    Windscribe launched an updated version of the tool recently that introduces categories that you may block, options to toggle lists individually, and custom access rules.

    A look at R.O.B.E.R.T.

    R.O.B.E.R.T. is a DNS-level blocker to block certain types of connections and custom connections right away.

    The main advantage that DNS-level blockers offer is that the blocking happens before the content is analyzed, downloaded, rendered, or executed by the browser or applications.

    robert windscribe

    Select R.O.B.E.R.T. on the Windscribe website after signing in to configure the feature. Pro customers may disable it entirely by switching all enabled blockers to "allowing" in the interface.

    • Blocking -- Windscribe blocks connections that match hostnames or IP addresses that is on the list, e.g. Malware list.
    • Allowing -- No blocking takes place.

    The blocker blocks malware automatically for all accounts, and may block "ads + trackers", social, porn, gambling, fake news, other VPNs, and Cryptominers for Pro account customers.

    The blocking is automated just like it is when you block connections using a hosts file or other DNS-based blocking options. There is no option, however, to check the list of blocked domains; could be a problem if you run into false positive issues.

    Custom Rules work similarly. You may set up rules for individual domains to allow or block them. Blocking blocks connections to the domain, whitelisting bypasses R.O.B.E.R.T.'s default filters to allow connections to the domain.

    Free users are limited to three custom rules, the limit is increased to 1000 for Pro users.

    Changes that you make to the configuration take effect immediately (provided that you are connected to a Windscribe server).

    Closing Words

    DNS-based blocking is a useful feature as it works on the entire device and not just in individual applications. The blocking works as expected; connections are blocked to domains on default or custom lists.

    Windscribe improved R.O.B.E.R.T. recently but there is still room for improvement.

    I'd like to see options to access a log of blocked connections and domains that are on block lists, and options to manage these lists individually. Doing so would move the functionality closer to content blocker extensions like uBlock Origin that users install in browsers.

    Free users have to use it, Pro users can use it. An option for free users to turn this off would be welcome as well.

    Now You: Does your VPN offer filtering and blocking options? Do you (would you) use them?

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  29. Nvidia drops 3D Vision support in GeForce Game Ready Drivers

    2019-03-11 15:06:07 UTC

    Nvidia revealed in March 2019 that future GeForce Game Ready drivers will drop support for 3D Vision, a technology that enables stereoscopic vision for Direct3D video games. Nvidia plans to release the […]

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    Nvidia revealed in March 2019 that future GeForce Game Ready drivers will drop support for 3D Vision, a technology that enables stereoscopic vision for Direct3D video games.

    Nvidia plans to release the last version of the GeForce Game Reader driver 418 in April 2019. Release 418 drivers will be the last release to support 3D Vision. Future drivers, release 419 and newer, won't release the technology and software anymore.

    The company will support release 418 until April 2020 but only to address critical driver issues according to a new support page on the official Nvidia support website.

    Nvidia plans to include the 3D gaming software 3DTV Play with the driver release and to remove the standalone download of 3DTV from its website following the release.  3DTV is used for 3D gaming on 3D capable TVs. The previously commercial software will be offered for free with the release of driver 418 in Apirl 2019.  The 3D Vision Video Player software remains available as a standalone download throughout 2019.

    nvidia graphics driver 397.31

    Nvidia customers who use 3D Vision should stay on Release 418 to use the technology until 2020.

    Support will be dropped completely in April 2020 by Nvidia. While it is still possible to stay on the then-outdated and unsupported driver to continue using 3D Vision, it is not recommended to do so because of the lack of support.

    Nvidia did not mention why it decided to end support for 3D Vision. The most likely explanation is that 3D never caught on in home entertainment let alone in gaming, and that demand likely dropped even further with the release of the first Virtual Reality headsets. While VR technology is facing an uphill battle to win over gamers and consumers in general as well, it has better chances than 3D technology especially since it is possible to use the technology to watch movies in 3D.

    Gamers who use the default installation profile when they install Nvidia drivers will notice that 3D Vision won't be installed anymore once releases reach version 419. Less bloat for users who use the default installation profile.

    Experienced users customize Nvidia driver installations or use third-party software like NVSlimmer to block any component that they don't require from installing on their devices to remove Nvidia Telemetry and other components that may start with Windows or run in the background.

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  30. Mozilla's upcoming mobile browser Firefox Fenix changes tabbed-browsing fundamentally

    2019-03-11 12:48:55 UTC

    Mozilla is working on a new mobile web browser for Android called Firefox Fenix currently; that is the main reason why development for Firefox for Android slowed down in recent months. Fenix […]

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    Mozilla is working on a new mobile web browser for Android called Firefox Fenix currently; that is the main reason why development for Firefox for Android slowed down in recent months.

    Fenix is based on Android Components and GeckoView, and in active development at the time of writing. While it is likely that Firefox Fenix will replace Firefox for Android eventually, nothing appears to have been set in stone yet.

    Note: The following information is based on mockups and development versions of Firefox Fenix. Functionality may change during development.

    Firefox Fenix's tabbed browsing functionality

    A core difference between Firefox Fenix and other mobile browsers such as Google Chrome or Firefox for Android, is that Fenix changes tabbed-browsing significantly.

    All major mobile browsers supported tabbed-browsing. The functionality is more or less identical to how desktop browsers handle tabs. Users may open multiple tabs and open tabs are retained across browsing sessions.

    Sessions

    Fenix supports browser tabs just like any other browser but changes tab management across sessions significantly.

    Firefox Fenix stores open tabs in individual sessions; this happens automatically when the user exits the browser and does not reopen it shortly after exiting the application.

    Means: the browser starts without open tabs from the last browsing session when the user opens the mobile browser at a later point in time.  Firefox Fenix users may save sessions manually at any time next to that.

    mozilla fenix tabbed browsing

    Sessions work differently from browsing sessions of desktop browsers. Fenix handles these sessions individually and gives users access to these tab sessions so that they may reopen sites they visited in the past.

    The browser's homepage lists the current session and recent sessions opened in the browser. Fenix users may access these at any time from there to reopen sites that were open previously.

    Fenix users may delete sessions, e.g. when they don't require access to them anymore. Sessions may also be archived for safekeeping.

    fenix firefox

    Mozilla plans to integrate session share functionality in Fenix next to that; this open may be used to send information about the current session using Android's Share functionality or linked devices or Firefox Sync.

    fenix firefox 3

    Closing Words

    Mozilla's idea to change tab management in Firefox Fenix is certainly an interesting one. One benefit that comes out of it is that the browser won't use as much RAM as other browsers on mobile devices since tabs are only kept open during sessions but not across sessions.

    Will there be an option to restore the classic behavior? We don't know the answer to that. It is certainly possible that some users will dislike the new method. Those who prefer to keep tabs open in the browser may find the new approach less useful as they'd have to reopen tabs frequently.  One way around this would be to allow users to lock tabs so that they remain open across sessions.

    Now you: What is your take on this approach to tabbed browsing on mobile devices? (via Sören)

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  31. Adobe will retire Shockwave on April 9, 2019

    2019-03-11 07:56:46 UTC

    Adobe plans to discontinue Adobe Shockwave, a browser-based platform for interactive games and applications, on April 9, 2019. Adobe will remove downloads for Shockwave Player for Windows on that day from its […]

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    Adobe plans to discontinue Adobe Shockwave, a browser-based platform for interactive games and applications, on April 9, 2019.

    Adobe will remove downloads for Shockwave Player for Windows on that day from its Internet sites and servers. The company notes that Enterprise customers will continue to receive support for Adobe Shockwave until contracts expire.

    Adobe states that the rise of alternative technologies are the main reason for discontinuation of the product.

    As technologies evolve and the use of mobile devices has grown, interactive content has moved to platforms such as HTML5 Canvas and Web GL and usage of Shockwave has declined.

    Developers used Adobe Director to create Shockwave content. The content could be viewed in any compatible web browser provided that the Adobe Shockwave plugin was installed in the browser.

    Shockwave was a common format for CD-ROM based projects and as a format for video games that game creators published on online gaming sites.

    adobe shockwave player end support

    The rise of Adobe Flash put Shockwave on the backburner thanks to support for features that Shockwave did not support.

    Adobe discontinued Adobe Director and Adobe Shockwave Player for Mac OS in 2017 already. The Windows version of Shockwave Player is the last consumer-version of Shockwave still supported by Adobe. Its retiring in April 2019 ends support for all consumer-versions.

    End of support does not mean that Shockwave content won't function anymore after the date. Shockwave won't be offered for download anymore by Adobe, but existing installations can still be used to play Shockwave content.

    Third-party download sites may continue to offer Shockwave Player for Windows, and users may install the program on Windows devices.

    Adobe won't support Shockwave anymore starting April 9, 2019 with the exception of Enterprise licenses that may still be valid.

    Adobe Flash is the next Adobe product that is on the chopping block. Adobe plans to retire Flash in December 2020. All major browser makers announced that they will discontinue support for Adobe Flash in 2020 as well.

    Now You: Are you affected by the end of Shockwave or Flash?

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  32. It is time to defer the next feature update for Windows 10

    2019-03-11 06:47:28 UTC

    Microsoft plans to finish the next feature update for Windows 10, Windows 10 version 1903, sometime later this month. Windows 10 version 1903 will become available then at the end of March […]

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    Microsoft plans to finish the next feature update for Windows 10, Windows 10 version 1903, sometime later this month. Windows 10 version 1903 will become available then at the end of March or the beginning of April 2019.

    First, to administrators of Windows who deploy it actively, then after a while on systems automatically provided that automatic update functionality has not been turned off.

    The release of Windows 10 version 1809, the last feature update for Windows 10, has shown that things can go terribly wrong even with all the Insider build testing and Microsoft's focus on data analysis.

    There is no guarantee that the new feature update will offer a smoother experience and that is the main reason why administrators and users may want to defer the installation of the update. Instead of being among the first to upgrade to the new version and participate in what some call a second beta phase, it seems more reasonable to watch from the second row how things unfold.

    Millions of devices will be upgraded in the first few days to the new version and it does not take long, usually, before reports about issues in the new version emerge.

    It is a good idea to defer the update unless you need to install the new feature update version as soon as possible.

    Tip: Check out our detailed guide on delaying feature update releases on Windows 10 machines.

    How to delay Windows 10 version 1903

    Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education systems include two options to defer feature updates:

    1. Setting the branch readiness level (this option goes away in Windows 10 version 1903).
    2. Specifying the deferral for x days.

    While you may use the Settings application to defer the update, it is recommended that you configure the deferral using the Group Policy editor instead as this option will remain available (it seems as if Microsoft will remove all deferral options from the Settings app in Windows 10 version 1903).

    The Group Policy method:

    feature updates group policy

    1. Make sure that you have elevated rights.
    2. Load the Group Policy Editor, e.g. by opening Start, typing gpedit.msc, and selecting the result.
    3. Go to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update > Windows Update for Business.
    4. Double-click on "Select when Preview Builds and Feature Updates are received".
    5. Set the policy to enabled.
    6. Change the number of days under "After a Preview Build or Feature Update is released, defer receiving it for this many days" to 90 days. Doing so blocks the update for about three months. You may set it to a different number of days, e.g. 120 days or 60 days.
    7. Click ok.

    Doing so blocks the automatic installation of the feature update on the PC for the select number of days.

    Home system administrators can't use that option. They may either make changes to the Registry directly, or try and set the connection to metered. How that is done is explained here.

    Third-party tools like StopUpdates10 or Windows 10 Update Switch may also be worth a try.

    Now You: What is your expectation for Windows 10 version 1903?

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  33. Flickr: Creative Commons photos don't count against free user 1000 photo limit

    2019-03-10 08:21:39 UTC

    Flickr revealed in a new blog post on the official company blog that it made the decision to exclude Creative Commons photos from any limit imposed on users on the site. The […]

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    Flickr revealed in a new blog post on the official company blog that it made the decision to exclude Creative Commons photos from any limit imposed on users on the site.

    The media company SmugMug acquired Flickr from Yahoo, part of Oath and owned by Verizon, in April 2018 for an undisclosed sum.

    Yahoo neglected the once-popular photo hosting community site Flickr for a long time. While Yahoo tried different things to regain some traction, e.g. by redesigning Flickr, it was clear that Flickr was but an afterthought for the company.

    The new owner of Flickr made an announcement in November 2018 that angered many free users of the service. Flickr lets anyone register an account and up until that month, offered 1 Terabyte of free storage to all free users of the service.

    The announcement put an end to the free ride. Free accounts were not going away, but were limited to just 1000 photos or videos. Free Flickr users who had more than 1000 media files in their accounts were offered two options: upgrade to Pro and benefit from a first-year discount to the price of the subscription, or get excess photos deleted automatically on the day the change takes effect.

    Free Flickr users who did not want to upgrade to Pro could download their images to their devices to avoid losing access to them.

    A turn of events

    flickr

    On March 8, 2019, Flickr announced that the company made the decision to put all media released under a Creative Commons license under protection. Means: free users may store more than 1000 media files on Flickr if they release any media file after the first thousand uploads as Creative Commons.

    Flickr announced back in November that it would not delete freely licensed photos to avoid disrupting "the hundreds of millions of stories across the global Internet that link to freely licensed Flickr images".

    In this spirit, today we’re going further and now protecting all public, freely licensed images on Flickr, regardless of the date they were uploaded. We want to make sure we preserve these works and further the value of the licenses for our community and for anyone who might benefit from them.

    The change may not help users of the service who pulled their photos and media from it after Flickr made the initial announcement, but it may help those who stayed on Flickr.

    Closing Words

    The initial announcement back in November was certainly not clear on how Flickr would handle media uploaded under a free license to the site. The clarification that Flickr put out this week makes it clearer.

    Whether that is enough to convince free users to keep on using the site, especially if they were impacted by the changes announced in November, is unclear. Flickr does not reveal usage numbers.

    Now You: What is your take on this? Good move by Flickr?

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  34. Surface Go: how to turn Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Home or Pro

    2019-03-09 07:12:09 UTC

    I bought a Surface Go device recently to check it out and write a thorough review later. I would not have done so if the device would come with a locked Windows […]

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    I bought a Surface Go device recently to check it out and write a thorough review later. I would not have done so if the device would come with a locked Windows 10 S operating system and no option to upgrade.

    Why? Because Windows 10 S limits you to what is installed by default, the Microsoft Store, and web applications. All legacy Win32 programs don't run on Windows 10 S. While some users may not mind, if you just use Office and the Internet, you may not mind that you cannot install Win32 apps, I do mind and it affects my buying decision.

    Microsoft's Surface Go is 10" 2-in-1 tablet that comes preinstalled with Windows 10 S. I bought the 128 Gigabyte SSD 8 Gigabyte of RAM version, an extra Surface Go Type Cover, and a USB-C to USB 3.x and 2.x adapter.

    Anyway, the very first thing I did after I completed the initial setup was to figure out how to turn the Surface Go into a full Windows operating system.

    Note: While you can turn an S mode edition to Home or Pro, you cannot go back to S mode once you have made the change unless you wipe the device and start from scratch.

    Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Home/Pro

    windows 10 home s mode

    The very first thing that you may want to do is verify the version of the operating system. One option to do so is to use the built-in tool winver.

    Open the Start Menu, type winver, and select the result (Tip: see a list of Windows tools like winver here). Windows displays the version underneath the copyright line in the program window that opens.

    The system on the screenshot above returned Windows 10 Home in S mode.

    Microsoft's operating system did not display tips or a suggestion in regards to turning the S version into a full version.

    Here is how that is done in detail:

    The process is straightforward once you know what to do. A restart is not required and the whole operation takes less than ten minutes to complete.

    Step 1: Open Activation in the Settings application

    windows 10 s to home pro

    Open the Settings application with the shortcut Windows-I. If you prefer to use the menu, select Start > Settings instead.

    Select Windows Update > Activation to display the operating system's activation status. It should highlight the version of Windows at the top (again Windows 10 Home in S mode in the case of the device that I used), and the Activation status (usually activated with a digital license).

    Below that you see options to switch to full versions of Windows. The offered version depends on the current edition of Windows.

    If you have Windows 10 Home in S mode, you may upgrade to Windows 10 Home for free. Likewise, if you have Windows 10 Pro in S mode, you may upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free. You may upgrade Home editions to Pro. Microsoft asked for  €99 for the upgrade.

    Select "go to the Microsoft Store" under the "Switch to" link on the page.

    Step 2: Switch out of S mode

    switch out of s mode windows 10

    The second and final step of the conversion happens in the Microsoft Store application. The Store application displays the "Switch out of S mode" page that offers information and an actionable button to start the conversion.

    The only feature difference between S mode and Full mode that is highlighted on the page is the ability to install "any app" in full mode.

    Select the "get" button at the top to start the process; this takes just a moment and changes the "get" button into an "install" button.

    Select install to start the conversion from S mode to Home or Pro depending on the supported edition.

    The process completes silently in the background, a restart is not required and the version that is listed in winver should return Windows 10 Home as the edition afterward.

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  35. Microsoft's data-focused approach to Windows Updates requires an update

    2019-03-08 14:32:56 UTC

    Microsoft uses a data-focused approach to determine if updates are ready for wider distribution and it appears that the company is very content with the approach. Issues of recent updates suggest that […]

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    Microsoft uses a data-focused approach to determine if updates are ready for wider distribution and it appears that the company is very content with the approach.

    Issues of recent updates suggest that Microsoft may need to rethink its strategy when it comes to Windows Updates.

    Microsoft started a new series on the official Windows Experience blog some time ago in which company representatives lift the veil in regards to the company's strive for quality.

    Microsoft told the public that update quality is better than ever, and that the same is true for the quality of released device drivers.

    In "Data, insights and listening to improve the customer experience", information is provided on how Microsoft uses data to determine the quality of updates.

    The fundamental question that Microsoft asks for each release is "Is this Windows Update ready for customers?". Updates go through different stages during development:

    1. Automatic and manual testing of updates.
    2. Evaluation of quality based on diagnostic data and feedback from Microsoft engineers.
    3. Distribution to Windows Insiders and further evaluation of updates.
    4. Distribution to the general Windows population.

    The metrics that Microsoft gathers and monitors need to be equal to or better than the metrics of the previous update.

    By the time we are ready to ship to our customer base, our metrics must be, at a minimum, at or above the quality levels for the previous release, the idea being that every update should make the Windows 10 experience better.

    Is the approach sufficient?

    uninstall KB4482887

    Data plays an important role when it comes to the release of updates. Microsoft, and any other company for that matter, may use it to make sure that certain features behave as intended. It is certainly possible to catch bugs by just looking at data but if you look at recent updates, you will notice that things were not as smooth as Microsoft's data focused appraoch suggested.

    Microsoft had to pause the Windows 10 version 1809 feature update because it caused a lot of issues. To name just a few:

    All of these issues were not detected during tests conducted by Microsoft, by diagnostic data, and by feedback that Microsoft engineers and participants of Microsoft's Insider program provided.

    A game performance related bug was not detected in the most recent update for Windows 10 version 1809. Microsoft had to update the support article to add the performance affecting bug to the list of known issues of the update.

    The problem

    Microsoft engineers and participants of the Insider program may not provide a sufficient sample size to provide data for all major use cases. Gaming might be such a case. It seems unlikely that Microsoft engineers spend a lot of time playing games on their devices. Even if they would, they could never test new versions of Windows on tens of thousands of games that are available for PC. The bulk of Insider participants may not be interested in games as well. Gaming is just one area where Microsoft's approach falls short.

    It is certainly unrealistic to expect Microsoft to catch all issues in all updates before release. The sheer number of hardware and software configurations makes that an impossible task.

    But major issues, like game performance in popular games, should not hit the general population.

    That's one reason why it is a good idea to install updates a while after release and not as early as possible: you never know what is going to happen.

    Now You: Let me know what you think about all of this, and how Microsoft could improve update quality.

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  36. The new Skype for Web does not work in Firefox or Opera

    2019-03-08 08:07:16 UTC

    Microsoft's Skype team unveiled the new Skype for Web officially yesterday after an extended preview phrase that lasted more than two years. I noticed during the preview phase that Microsoft limited access […]

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    Microsoft's Skype team unveiled the new Skype for Web officially yesterday after an extended preview phrase that lasted more than two years.

    I noticed during the preview phase that Microsoft limited access to its own Microsoft Edge web browser and Google Chrome. Attempts to access the preview of Skype for Web were met with "browser not supported" messages and suggestions to either use Edge or Chrome, or to download Skype to the computer to use it that way.

    Some thought or hoped that Microsoft would make the new Skype for Web compatible with other browsers. If you visit Skype with browsers not supported officially, you are greeted with the "browser not supported" message for most of them.

    firefox opera not supported skype

    Most? I tried Firefox, Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave on the site next to Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. Firefox and Opera did not work while Vivaldi and Brave did. It is a bit puzzling that Opera does not work while Vivaldi and Brave do; all three browsers are based on the same code that Google Chrome is based on, and one would assume that this would be enough to ensure compatibility. Something else seems to be going on apparently that blocks Opera (and Firefox) from access.

    Microsoft's announcement on the official Skype Blog confirms the browser requirements and that it works on Windows 10 or Mac OS X 10.12 or higher. Linux is not mentioned, nor are other browsers besides Chrome or Edge.

    A simple user-agent change is not enough to make Skype for the Web work in unsupported browsers. Microsoft offers no explanation as to why the new web-based version of Skype does not work in Firefox or Opera.

    Microsoft released Skype version 8 for Windows desktop yesterday as well which replaces the existing MSI distributable which installed Skype version 7 on desktop PCs. Download links are provided in the article.

    Closing Words

    With Microsoft moving Edge to a Chromium-base, things are likely only going to get worse instead of better. The Chromium dominance on the Internet will certainly have an impact on Firefox and web compatibility issues that users of the browser and its makers will face.

    As for Skype and Microsoft, I think it is a confession of failure if one of the biggest tech companies in the world won't add support for a web browser with a sizeable market share.

    Now You: What is your opinion on the development?

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  37. Blacken Posts on Reddit, Facebook or Twitter based on word matches in Firefox

    2019-03-08 06:41:50 UTC

    Redactor is a new browser extension for Mozilla Firefox that blackens posts on social media sites so that you are not exposed to the content. Spoilers are a good example of why […]

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    Redactor is a new browser extension for Mozilla Firefox that blackens posts on social media sites so that you are not exposed to the content.

    Spoilers are a good example of why Redactor may be useful. If you don't watch Game of Thrones while it airs but plan to watch it later on when the full season is released, you may be exposed to lots of spoilers on social media sites.

    From images to small video clips, and a lot of text. The same may be true for other things you are looking forward to, e.g. movies, games, books, you name it.

    Redactor is also handy if you don't want to be exposed to something, maybe because you dislike it, it is annoying, or problematic in other ways.

    Blacken posts on social media with Redactor

    redactor firefox

    Redactor requires access permissions to the three sites it supports but to no other site; good. The extension does not add an icon to the toolbar and there is no context menu option either to manage it.

    You need to open the add-ons manager using about:addons in the address bar, and activate the options button next to the installed extension.

    blacken facebook twitter reddit

    Adding conditions is straightforward. You specify a term that you want the extension to blacken when you visit the supported sites, and may add OR or AND conditions.

    • OR: the extension checks each term individually and blackens the entire post if any one of them is found (or more).
    • AND: the extension checks for all terms and blackens a post only if all are found.

    The words that you enter are case sensitive; an option to make them case insensitive is not available, unfortunately.

    All matching posts are blackened the next time you visit the page (anew or on reload). The blackening of text works considerably well most of the time. Redactor blackens the entire post but ignores user names and media.

    Some formatting options by post authors may reveal text, however. If the author uses a different font color, it may show even though the text should be blackened entirely.

    You may hover over blackened text to display it.

    What I would like to see

    Redactor is a basic add-on at this point in time. I'd like to see the following improvements to make it more usable:

    1. Option to make entered text ignore case.
    2. Option to blacken/hide media posted if posts match rules.
    3. Support for regular expressions.
    4. Improving the conditions configuration menu, e.g. by adding support for rule titles and making it more comfortable to enter text.
    5. Making sure that all text is blackened even if different colors are used.
    6. Option to disable the hover to reveal feature, or add a modifier key to it to avoid moving the mouse over blackened text accidentally.

    Closing Words

    Redactor is a useful extensions with room for improvements for Firefox. I like that it blackens text instead of hiding posts entirely as it gives you opportunity to reveal posts if you want to.

    Chrome users can check out shush! for Twitter. If you want to block YouTube content, check out Video Blocker for Chrome. Firefox users can check out BlockTube instead.

    Now You: What is your take on extensions that hide posts? Do you use them?

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