Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Enhance Google (Also Blocks Ads)

Firefox users will want to know about an Add-on I recently discovered and adopted.

Loyal readers know I hate ads. And they know I use Firefox. I use Firefox for the “Add-ons” (aka “plug-ins”) that give me additional security from cybercrime, enhance my privacy, and the ability to block advertisements — which I consider “musts” for a “better online experience”. (I wrote an article showing my “must have” Firefox Add-ons [and how to get them] here: Winners named, Browsers & Add-ons, Friday Fun.)

I just added to my list an add-on called OptimizeGoogle which, by simply checking a checkbox, tells your browser to automatically use the secure SSL (https://) when connecting to Google services (Gmail, Docs, etc.) and strips out the ads. (Woo Hoo!) Secure sign in and no ads – yup. That’s for me. It does more, too, but I’ll let you discover those things.

1) In Firefox, click on the Tools menu, then Add ons, then the Get Add-ons button.

2) Type OptimizeGoogle into the search pane. Then click on OptimizeGoogle then click Install.

You will need to restart Firefox to complete the installation.

3) Now, again, click on the Tools menu, then Add ons, then click on OptimizeGoogle to turn it blue (aka “select it”).

4) click the Options button.

5) place a check in the Block ads on all Google services checkbox, as shown.

Click OK and you’re done. (Unless you want to explore some of the other settings/options.. that is.)

Reminder: For the complete list of my “must have” Firefox Add-ons, [and how to get them] please see Winners named, Browsers & Add-ons, Friday Fun.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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June 11, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, Firefox, Google, how to, Internet, PC, privacy, security, software | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Careful online shopping (a repost)

My obligations require me to re-post a prior article today. This is the week where many of you will be doing last-minute holiday gift buying, and many of you will doing that on the Internet. This article discusses tips for safe online purchasing. Originally titled Let’s be careful out there, it appeared 12/1–

It appears that we’ve reached a point where more people are doing their gift-buying online than at the mall.  It’s a fact: there are more reasons to do your shopping online this year than there were before ($3½-per-gallon reasons). And, shopping on the Internet has been around for a while now… it is no longer a new, and frightening development. At this point in history (long after the “dot com bust”) most of us have made at least one purchase from the Web — whether it was an airline ticket, a hotel room, a book or video, or a membership in a club or society.
We have “been there”. We have “done that”. We’ve “got the t-shirt”. It’s old hat.

But just because e-commerce has matured, and because we have made prior purchases without getting burned, doesn’t mean we need to let down our guard.. or assume that all the bugs are ironed out.. or think that all the frauds and huckster are so amateurish as to be easily recognized (like the guy selling TVs out of the trunk of his car is easily recognized). No! Be not lulled! Be not complacent!
Let’s, Dear Holiday Shopper, be careful out there!

It is likely that you have read, or heard, warnings about safe Internet shopping (and, I have written such advice here in prior articles) before; but, let’s review the basics:
1) Never enter personal information — much less your credit card number — on a webpage that is not showing two things: a gold lock icon in the address bar of your browser, and the “s” in the https:// beginning of the website URL.
To review my article on this topic, click here.
1A) There a sub-advisory here: click on the gold lock icon– if your browser tells you that there is a “problem” with this website’s “certificate”…
..such as shown above, it does not necessarily mean this is a fraudulent website BUT do not make a purchase here. Err on the side of caution and move on to a different vendor.

2) Hopefully “phishing” is not an unfamiliar term to you, but have you heard of “pharming“? Frequently, this is a ‘look-alike’ website. The idea is to get you to enter your pertinent information, and clearly you want to avoid these pure-fraud website’s whenever possible. To do so, never click on links to websites you recieve in an email. Enter the URL manually into your browser’s address bar (or Copy>Paste it).
Also, when you’re shopping online, turn on your browser’s phishing filter, or do a “spot check”. In IE7, click on the “Tools” button, click on “Phishing Filter”, and then “Check this Website”.

Another very good website checker is McAfee’s Site Advisor. Here you can enter the URL for the website and get a report of the site’s ‘rating’, or you can download a browser “plug in” which will provide an automated Rating indicator.

Well, I’m out of time for today. Shopping on the Internet can be a great time and money saver. Have a good weekend and, please, be careful out there.

Copyright © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 17, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Phishing, privacy, security, shopping for, tech | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gold lock icon, a reader question: Holiday Edition

Greetings to you on my second favorite holiday and, yes, I felt the earthquake. Today I’m going to answer a reader’s question on a security topic you may find helpful– in the Q’s and their A’s format.

Q: Why did the gold lock icon disappear?
A: The gold lock icon is a visual clue that you are on a webpage that is secured by a special, encrypted connection. These special, encrypted pages are used to transmit the information between machines in a way that, if a hacker were to intercept the 1’s and 0’s (or otherwise obtain a copy), he would not be able to read your credit card number, name, and shipping address. It is absolutely essential to your privacy and fiscal security that you never provide your personal information to a website on a page that DOES NOT start with “https://&#8221; (note the “s”, for “secure”; which I discussed in this prior reader questions article) and DOES NOT display a gold lock icon in the address bar. gold_lock.jpg

 Please note, and understand, that an image on a webpage — and I mean on the page itself — can be any graphic the webmaster desires. He could copy and paste a gold lock graphic as easily as I did. The gold lock icon you’re looking for needs to be in (or “on”) your browser itself. It is triggered (in your browser) by the communication protocol — called SSL — and the fact that you are (invisibly to you) switched from the standard HTTP “language” to the encrypted HTTP(S) machine language.

The reason some pages on a website — usually the “log in” and “Shopping Cart” pages — are encrypted and others aren’t, has to do with the fact that https costs money (This helps keep the phishers at bay, btw). A “trust certificate” has to be purchased from a Certificate Authority, like Verisign. There are technical reasons (which I won’t bore you with) why a webmaster will design the website so that only the pages which need encryption are encumbered by it.

The fact is, you only need to see the security indicators on the page that is asking you to send your personal information. You don’t need it when viewing a product catalogue page, and you won’t (if the webmaster is at all competent) see a gold lock icon when viewing these types of pages.
Say you’re shopping for a book on You will not see a gold lock while you’re browsing around the books-for-sale pages, nor the reviews pages, and so on. Now you’ve found what you’re looking for, and it’s time to dig out your credit card (if you’ve memorized your cc number, well… no comment); you place a check on the item you’re interested in and click on a link titled “Proceed to Secure Checkout”, or “Add to Shopping Cart+Checkout”, or some similar thing. Now is when you need to look for and see the gold lock.
Do not type in a single thing if you don’t.

Today’s free link:There has recently been updates to the other free graphics program, mentioned here earlier, that makes it worth reposting: it’s even more like Photoshop now than ever– Gimp 2.4. “GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a freely distributed piece of software suitable for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring. It is a powerful piece of software with capabilities not found in any other free software product.”

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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October 31, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, PC, Phishing, searching, security, tech, Windows | , , | 13 Comments