May 1, 2021

Download Indicators in Three Browsers

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

For many years, Firefox was my main browser. It has several features that I were very useful to me. After my bad breakup with it, I ended up using a fork known as Waterfox. It has been pretty good, but is not my default browser and more like a utility that I use on occasion. Something I like in FFX and forks is the download indicators. Those in Chromium-based browsers irritate me. Except...

Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos / Stuart Miles
As stated before, I have the perspective of a Windows 10 user, so this article is unhelpful for users with mobile devices. While I use a smartphone, it's a derringer compared to my .44-40 desktop. When I do research and obtain information, I want the downloads on the big gun, not on the little thing where they are inconvenient to obtain.

Many people like to hate Microsoft. I'll allow that they rush things to market before thorough testing (one reason I don't hurry to download new software releases right away), love money too much, and they have some other problems, but the Edge browser has done right by me. It had dubious beginnings as an upgrade of  Internet Explorer, but then they wised up and gave it an overhaul with Chromium browser software.

Edge is also refusing to use the FLoC tracking software that Google is building into the Chrome browser. Just thought I'd mention that.

A couple of innovations were that tabs can be moved to the right instead of the top (perhaps inspired by Vivaldi?), and the more recent relocation of the downloads indicator. Instead of intruding on browser real estate at the bottom, Edge placed it at the top in a manner similar to Firefox and its forks. Instead of having to close it out like on other Chromium browsers, just click somewhere on the page and it respectfully goes away. Want it back? In the menu, or CTRL+J.

What is shown below is an assemblage of three screenshots. Each was taken immediately after a download. The first part was done in the Avast browser, the second was Waterfox, and the third using Edge. (Waterfox asked if I wanted to replace the existing file, but Edge and Avast simply add (1), (2), and so on.) Positions are not exactly representative of what other people will see.

Although some people like to hate Microsoft, a recent change in the Edge browser makes the downloads indicator less obtrusive.
Click for larger
Inspiration and competition may be at play here. Users will need to make adjustments to control their privacy on any browser, so it's up to them to use due diligence to ensure that they are not broadcasting personal information to the parent companies and sponsors. It is probably best to find more recent articles (such as this one on Edge from 2020) because browsers are constantly updating.

I feel the need to add that I do not let browsers store passwords (preferring a password safe/manager for that), and disabled the coupon and promo code settings in Edge. That's part of the beauty of browser settings and customization instead of a "take it or leave it" approach.

By the way, users can get extensions from Microsoft or grab them from the Chrome store. Kind of ironic to use Chrome extensions in Avast, Brave, Vivaldi, Edge — and Waterfox is working on it.

A few added tidbits here. The main point is that Edge did something I like very much by moving the downloads indicator out of the way, and it can be made to amscray. Competition, innovation, and choice are beneficial to users.

April 4, 2021

Moses and the Resurrection of Jesus?

As many Christian apologists know, all believers must sanctify Christ as Lord and be ready to give a reasoned defense for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Misotheists and other anti-creationists claim to love science and reason, but many are weak in these areas.

An unbeliever had a challenge to the Resurrection of Jesus, thinking he made up the rules of logic as he went along. The response is very useful.
Left: Christ Resurrected / Herbert Gustave Schmalz, 1890
Right: Prayer of Moses after the Israelites go through the Red Sea / Ivan Kramskoy, 1861
God's Word tells us that those who claim that God does not exist are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and are without excuse (Rom. 1:18-23). In addition, the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God (1 Cor. 1:20-25), and we have the Holy Spirit living in us, so we can see through God's leading and the Bible how worldly wisdom is at odds with true wisdom. With these truths in mind, Christians should easily be able to see why it is improper and unbiblical to argue from an evidence-only position that puts God on trial. This is can also be clearly seen when arguing for the Resurrection.

Science is impossible without God, and he is the creator of logic as well. It is common to see atheists attempting to change the rules of discourse (including time-honored rules of debate). Sometimes they attempt to make up their own rules in the process. God doesn't have to jump through hoops or do things their way — and neither do we. What follows is a feedback article that is pertinent to our Easter observances.

I have three questions regarding the Old Testament. An atheist friend of mine claimed that the Resurrection cannot be established as true unless it is first established that God revealed Himself to Moses. He argues that that this is a requirement for the Resurrection to be true as if God did not reveal Himself to Moses, then it would follow that the Old Testament religion evolved over time instead of being divinely revealed to mankind and this in turn provides evidence that the Biblical God does not exist and therefore the Resurrection is already false. My question is how do I respond to this? Also, can the Resurrection be established as true regardless of the Old Testament? I think it can but I am not sure. Finally, can the Resurrection of Jesus Christ be used as evidence that the religion of the Old Testament originated from divine revelation? I am eager to hear your response and Thank you so much for your time and work for the Kingdom of God.

You can read Tim Chaffey's response at "Moses, God, and the Resurrection", and note how the atheist is clearly suppressing the truth by confusing the issues with fake logic.

March 27, 2021

Pop Culture Sexuality Propaganda and "The Good Doctor"

 by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

While many propagandists use heavy-handed tactics such as concentration and repetition, harassment, appeal to ridicule, and so on, others are conniving sidewinders. In "Pop-culture Evolutionism", Paul Price discussed how evolutionism is spread through popular culture. In a similar way, this is happening with sexuality.

Smart propagandists will cause others to agree with their views through repetition and acceptance. This can be seen about abortion on The Good Doctor.
Credit: Pexels / Marcos Flores
Non-Christians easily follow trends in the world, but it's mighty difficult for Christians to resist floating downstream as well. Television, movies, music, performing artists, news media, sports stars, and others influence our way of thinking. People have been duped into thinking that the number of LGBTQ+ people is much larger than it really is, party because of how they are presented on television.

My wife and I watch The Good Doctor, a program about an autistic surgeon and his struggles with the medical community. (An episode inspired me to write an article.) It is made quite well and gets viewers emotionally involved (make a note of that). Sometimes I have to tough it out when they're dealing with homosexual and transgender problems, because in a hospital, people need treatments.

One episode was enraging, because a doctor refused to perform an abortion (as I recall, it was medically unnecessary) because of Christian convictions. The chief of surgery railed at her and talked about saving lives, making light of that doctor's convictions in the process. It was an invalid comparison and an appeal to emotion. Also, the Christian woman admitted to having had an abortion herself. Yeah, ever see Christians in a positive light in movies or on TV? Didn't think so.

Shaun (the autistic doctor) and his girlfriend Lea have been very matter-of-fact about their casual sex and living together; casual sex is the norm in this show and so many others. In an episode called "Teeny Blue Eyes", they learned that she was pregnant. They struggled with questions like, "Are we ready? Will we be good parents? Will the child have autism as well? What about finances?" They were sitting in the abortion clinic when Lea changed her mind and wanted to let the child live after all. By the way, Shaun didn't stand up for his desires, but caved in to make her happy when she was choosing the abortion, then went the other way when she wanted to let the child live. Overly-conciliatory people get dominated and become miserable.

The whole thing is incredibly selfish. Of course, there was no question raised about murdering a human that is an image-bearer of the Creator. It was all about an oops from their joyous fornication, and what they want. Abortion? Whatever you decide is fine. Right and wrong? That'll be the day! Abortion was just matter of fact, even casual, like deleting a file to free up hard drive space.

While we cannot expect enemies of God who make those shows to care about true morality, we can keep a watch on what we put in our minds (Psalm 101:3, also see "What are you Putting in your Head?"). We must also stay with the truth and refuse to compromise our biblical values. We can also try to have an influence in our culture (Matt. 5:13-14). This song captures the intensity of what I think and feel; a gentle ballad just won't make it:

March 16, 2021

Logical Thinking and the Lack Thereof

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

This article will be linked in another about how misotheists and evolutionists try to put Christians and creationists on the defensive, but is a stand-alone example of how logical thinking is useful in daily life. Really. It's not just for apologetics, science, and academia. While social media is a hotbed of irrationality, I challenged someone to see what would happen. It paid off.

Logic is not just for apologetics and academia, but is useful in daily life. This amazing exchange is with someone who preferred to attack.
San Francisco at night image credit: Unsplash / Trevor Wilson
The HBO documentary Allen v Farrow was trending on Twitter. (I don't have or want HBO.) While I liked a few of Woody Allen's movies and a couple of his books long ago, I really have no interest in the subject. Justice may be done and the truth may come out now, but there is no doubt that when he stands before the Creator in judgment, there will be righteous judgment with no appeal.

I noticed a comment by Paul Haynes. (I learned later that he is a co-producer of another HBO documentary that I did not watch called I'll be Gone in the Dark, and got his ownself in front of the camera. This documentary is based on a true crime book by Michell McNamara.) Anyway, he wrote this:

This absurd remark put a burr under my saddle, so I challenged him to back it up:

Instead of doing so, he simply attacked me:


Since he was dodging and attacking, I realized that took logic and civil discourse off the table, so I gave him a few taunts (thread is here). Eventually, he made this astonishing remark:


What in tarnation? There are several fallacies here, and I have seen these tricks numerous times. One is that it is a blatant non sequitur (does not follow). Also, when he claims to be "smart enough" that he never filed for bankruptcy is an abusive ad hominem, irrelevant, and slams millions of people. I replied:


When someone keeps dodging (and even resorts to abuse), we can realize that we are wasting our time, shake the dust off our feet and move on. In my case, also write it up as an object lesson.

By the way, he criticized my vocabulary, but that strikes this child as a mite hypocritical when he makes remarks like this:

March 10, 2021

Browsers, Privacy, and Research Part 3

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Here is the final article in the trilogy. The first part was an introduction, then the privacy and other things were discussed in the second part. Now it is time to examine a few extensions (also called add-ons) that this cowboy has found helpful for productivity and security.

Extensions can be privacy risks, but when selected with care, they can enhance both productivity and internet safety. Especially in strong browsers.
Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos / dfrsce
It doesn't take an architect to add extensions since other people did the construction. Finding them is not much of a challenge, but loading good ones requires discretion. They can easily be added onto the browser's structure. Sometimes, too easily.

Once again, I must point out that I am writing about my experiences using a Windows 10 desktop computer. Do my experiences and learning qualify me as a "power user"?

Some Extensions can be Harmful

Yeah, get the caution out there before discussing what I am using. I was unable to learn how many extensions are available for Firefox, but there are quite a few. Most people use browser extensions. As discussed in earlier articles, the Chromium software is the basis for Chrome, Vivaldi, Edge, Avast!, Brave, and others. Those developers make their own refinements, and for the most part, the approximately 200,000 Chrome extensions work on those browsers.

Both Mozilla (the Firefox folks) and Chrome try to monitor extensions for security, but over seventy malware extensions crept in. Many are deleted from the Chrome store, but people using those extensions on other Chromium-related browsers may want to check this link themselves, and use their search function to check theirr extensions against this list. If someone has an extension that was suddenly deactivated, check to see if there's a reason for it.

When people want to purchase something online, they should check: How long the vendor has been working, total reviews, recent reviews, and so on. In a similar way, it may be a reason for caution if the extension has only a few installs, if it is new, has something like "get free stuff" in the description, and so on. If the extension has less than sixteen installs, consider leaving it alone.

Just for fun, look at this older but undated article which recommends a hundred extensions. I lack belief that they intend for someone to get all of them. It's extremely focused on the Google ecosystem, and I know some of them are bad. Elsewhere, most of the ten on this list strike me as frivolous. Also, readers may want to see ThioJoe's video of interesting extensions, which is a bit more thoughtful.

Just a bit more information so people can make informed decisions. First, "Browser Extensions Are a Privacy Nightmare: Stop Using So Many of Them". Most extensions are free, and the Chrome store is like free day at the candy factory. No need to be in such a hurry to load up! Also see, "Browser Extensions: Are They Worth the Risk?" Two simple tools that you have available are experience and healthy skepticism. You can also look things up when a report crosses your radar about privacy concerns related to the Honey  and Grammarly extensions, for example.

Don't be disunderstanding me, though. Honest and well-intentioned extension developers are out there. Unfortunately, they can be hacked and the sidewinders can strike us. More established extensions have a good chance of being safer, but they are also targeted by hackers.

Bogged Down

This short section is important enough to warrant its own space. Suppose a user has a prairie schooner-full of extensions and all of them are safe. The simplest reason to avoid overcrowding the corral is that they use up bandwidth and slow down the browser. (Compare internet speed with a "clean" browser without extensions.) If there are some extensions that are seldom used, use the extension settings and switch them off. Most of the time that is simply a right-click, select "manage", then turn it off until needed, then switch it back on at that time. If the extension remains unused, it may not be needed it after all, so consider uninstalling it.

Privacy Extensions

It's a mite ironic that while extensions can be hazards, several are made that make your browsing life more secure. Privacy Badger has been highly recommended, and I have it on Chromium-based browsers as well as Waterfox (it can be put on Firefox as well, obviously). There are several extensions that have loyal fans who want to slap leather with each other outside the saloon, especially Ghostery and uBlock Origin (also, AdBlock Plus). I've traded off, but currently have uBlock on some of these. By the way, the three mentioned here each have millions of users.

An interesting extension set for Firefox/Waterfox is Containers. Essentially, web cookies go into their own jars so they don't get crumbs all over each other. Facebook is restricted from tracking you, and that fence can be disabled as desired. There are banking, shopping, personal, and other categories, and users can set up their own containers. Some can be assigned so that every time a bookmark is clicked, it automatically opens in that container. These setting can be changed. I have Fakebook and several Google properties in their own categories so they can't follow me around the web and tell Big Tech where I am and what to suggest for sale.

An interesting advantage to Containers is that since cookies are separated, someone can log in to separate accounts at the same time on the same browser.

Reading Views

It gets so tedious trying to get through all the clutter when wanting to simply read an article. Firefox has a Reader View, and Edge has Immersive Reader. Those let people customize the background to some extent, but they also have an option for TTS (text-to-speech). On Edge, if Microsoft Natasha was real, I would ask her out. But seriously, that voice is almost perfect for my hearing. So is the Michael voice. Computer voices have come a long way in recent years.

However, those options are not always available; they won't saddle up on some sites. Reader View by Yorkis has been extremely good to me. Several options in reading as well as having your installed computer voices read to you. (Natasha reads to me through this extension on Edge as well.) A right-click gives the Reader View option. Also, the user can customize and edit text and save the document. I have used highlighting, bold, italics, deletion, and other things when using an article for reference.

Watch out for imitations. Since a lot of this is open source, people have made rip-offs of the Yorkis version. Out of curiosity, I tried a couple. They were close, but not as good. Also, if they would hijack the original, what other tricks will the developers pull?

Sending to eBook Readers

While we're in the neighborhood, there are other extensions or bookmarklets available for eBook readers. The three here involve Kindle, which is has a large customer base, but one has other options. Amazon's own extension allows editing the title and author's name. I customize several so they show the organization and date, then they are sorted on the device.

Send to Reader has various plans, but I have no use for them. It's simple and fires off the article to the Kindle. It also has a compose area on their site so things can be copied and pasted, or even several articles can be put together with URLs as one document. There is no extension any longer, but a JavaScript bookmarklet can be dragged onto the toolbar. 

Finally, the nice people at Five Filters have a Push to Kindle bookmarklet. The free version is limited to thirty articles a month. Also, after selecting the preview before selecting "send", there is an option to download EPUB and PDF versions.

These have saved me a great deal of eyestrain because I don't have to look at the monitor screen so much. By the way, I have the last two Kindle bookmarklets on Opera, so I got that going for me, which is nice.

Password Managers

There are many of those out there, open source and paid versions. I thought long and hard about going forward with this because all the internet passwords are in one place. They have safeguards in place and a passel of encryption, so I think that even if the provider was hacked, the hacker would get gibberish. However, if the user forgets or misplaces the One Password to Rule them All, it's a huge problem.

Fortunately, it is possible to make backups or even print out the master password list. I have recommended KeePass before, but have not tried its online version. Even so, it is useful to store passwords on the desktop and save backups elsewhere. The manager I'm using now has both browser extensions (Firefox and Chromium) and a desktop version. My desktop and browser extensions all synchronize with each other, so I can log in from Waterfox, Avast!, Brave, or whatever.

Saving Tabs

No, I'm not talking about those aluminum things from soda cans. Tabs on browsers. When I'm doing research, it's not uncommon for me to have a dozen of them open for reference. What if the power goes out or I make a mistake and close the browser? They may be saved in the history of the browser, sure, but it takes a long time to weed through all that. Vivaldi has a tab saver built in, but the user has to actively select it.

Tab Session Manager by Sienori has the user covered for the most part. By default, there are incremental savings of tabs, and it usually saves them when the browser is exited. That means tabs for reference are not gone. Also, if it's time to watch Stargate SG-1, I can save the set to open later. It gets a mite tedious deleting them, but worth the extra clicking. This can be had on Chromium- and Firefox-related browsers.

Visual Bookmarks

There are several of these available, apparently pioneered by Opera's Speed Dial. Chrome, Vivaldi, Firefox/Waterfox, and others have their versions built in. I want all my visual bookmarks to be the same on each browser that I use. While there are several options, I want with Speed Dial 2. Several of my most important bookmarks are available in the same way on each browser. That's because I registered. Also, I paid the small fee for the "pro" version.

Screenshot Extensions

Screenshot, screen cap(ture), whatever you call them, Edge and Vivaldi have the tools built into the browsers. So does Windows 10. There's a whole whack of 'em available (here are some recommendations), and several have worked reasonably well for me over the years. Nimbus Capture is highly rated. This one has various screenshot options and has a screen video recorder as well. However, editing the videos and certain other functions are only available at the paid level. Apparently, Awesome Screenshot has the same capabilities, but very limited on the free level.

Do people need those extensions? They have their convenience, but sometimes someone wants to act quickly. The old "print screen" button (often PRNT SCR or similar) does a fast grab, and then it can be pasted into video editing software for trimming and annotation. Also, there are free video recorders for the computer such as OBS Studio and ShareX to consider.

Taking Notes

This is something that has cost me a great deal of time with researching and testing. The Edge browser has Collections built in so the operator can send a web page to a collection or type out a note there. No spell check, and the amount of text is limited. When I ran out, I added more notes. Collections can by synchronized with mobile-device Edge.

Using Collections on Edge while watching a video
(Used under Fair Use provisions for educational purposes)
Vivaldi has a notes capability as well, but I thought it was so awkward, I searched for an add-on.

I came up empty. Some required registration, others worked with Google (which struck me as a security concern since they make Chrome, after all), and quite a few were baffling. Some "sticky notes" seemed promising, but were cumbersome or had other drawbacks.

ALT+TAB is useful to flip between applications or scroll through them. Two reasons that I did not extend my extension search. First, Edge does this notes thing well. Second, I can open up a word processing document and flip back and forth, or put both screens side-by-side and work that way.

Wrapping Up

These are not all of the extensions I use, nor are they all that I've tinkered with in the past. Using healthy skepticism, a bit of investigation, and moderation, extensions can help with research, privacy, and productivity. Sometimes they can even enhance web experiences. Remember the links furnished within this article so you can be better equipped to make informed decisions.

February 1, 2021

Browsers, Privacy, and Research Part 2

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen
Edited 3-09-2021

In Part 1, I gave a brief overview of things that are happening in the wild world of browsers. After I commenced my research, I learned that there is a prairie schooner-full of possibilities including several I know nothing about, so most of this discussion is based on personal experience. Remember, I am using a Windows 10 desktop.

We need to be secure from spying, tracking, and hacking. Personal experiences and observations using several browsers. Some may even be surprising.
Credit: Freeimages / Armin Hanisch

In this day and age, we need to be secure from spying, hacking, and tracking.

Something else that bears repeating is that most Windows browsers will get you where you want to go — right out of the box. Which browser is the "best"? Looking at reviews, there is conflicting information. Many times, reviewers use benchmarks (of which there are many, and some view them with mistrust), which should explain why reports on which is fastest are inconsistent. I have also seen conflicting information regarding privacy settings.

A brief comment on browser speed is in order: Someone can have the fastest browser this side of the Pecos and an excellent connection, but sites and servers out yonder can be slow. Check connections to other familiar sites before blaming a browser for being slow.

An area of concern is fingerprinting. Actually, this is where being unique is detrimental. I tested eight browsers at once (my computer is thinking about reporting me for abusing it) with Cover Your Tracks, there are other sites to check them as well. It was nowhere near scientific, because some have add-ons, some have privacy protection built in, and Chrome was used mostly "as is" because I did not add privacy extensions. Six were reported as having good protection, with Brave randomizing the fingerprint as well. Vivaldi was good, with "some gaps". The test on Chrome indicated that I am not protected against tracking. Interesting, because there are polarized results between being very secure or sucking rotten eggs.

Ironically, add-ons to enhance privacy such as blocking trackers can make you identifiable. Technology is constantly changing. The best way to avoid being tracked on the web is to stay off it. Unless someone wants to adopt a hermit lifestyle, that doesn't seem possible. We do what we can to mitigate damages. A VPN (virtual private network) can help, but like everything else I've examined, is not an absolute guarantee of privacy. I don't have one except for the one built into the Opera browser and an extension I use on occasion. Interesting that according to customer service, my provider had blocked a creation science site on their servers, so that Opera VPN got me around that. It turns out that the representative was full of hooey, because a new modem solved the problem. Still, the VPN worked in that situation.

To be direct, I think some privacy concerns are overblown. Using a secure browser on a secure website with a padlock in the address bar means it is usually safe for the average user that wants to check banking information, credit card status, or make a purchase. But then, doesn't it help to use fake names on social(ist) media? Asking for a friend.

I suspect that built-in browser anti-tracking as well as related extensions are a good reason that stats for websites are inaccurate. Someone could very well visit a site but it does not register. In fact, when I had a statistics counter embedded to record sites, I usually had information on the operating system, browser, language, location, and so on. I just tried a couple of browsers on a site that has a stats log that is made visible to the public ("see my stats"), and it didn't know I was there.

On the other hand, I get a mite nervous when I need to do some research on a sensitive topic. (No, I'm not exploring the deep dark web, I wouldn't know how.) The internet provider knows where I am going, but I don't want to announce search terms to the world through Google trackers. A secure browser and a non-tracking search engine (I use DuckDuckGo) can help.

A humorous side note now. In Murder by Death, Tess asked detective Sam Diamond, "Why do you keep all those naked muscle men magazines in your office?" Sam replied, "Suspects! Always looking for suspects!" I can imagine someone asking why I was visiting sites of which they may disapprove, and I would answer, "Research!" They can believe me or not.

Now let's consider some browsers themselves. It seems that people are fanatical about their favorites, but like I said last time, there's no need to feel married to one, and using different browsers for different applications helps in the privacy department. No need to cover all the features and things because many are similar in each. You savvy? Also, tests on speed and things vary. People test them in labs (the results between testers disagree at times), but I'm discussing my experiences.

While most offer to store your passwords and seem to be secure, many people do not allow that. I don't. Instead, I use a password safe that generates unique secure passwords — even I don't know them. You have to have a master password to get in, then you can copy and paste, or use a password manager that synchronizes all of them. Mine works on multiple browsers as well as the desktop version. Seems safer that way.

Sure is annoying to tweak each browser's dictionary and add specialized words that I have to use such as uniformitarianism and mitochondrial DNA, but that's the way it goes.

When doing your own research, check the dates. This child has seen harsh reviews of, say, Edge, but they were several years old and the browser has changed quite a bit for the better since then.


Opera

This will be short because it's not in my heavy rotation. Part of the problem is that it's partly or mostly controlled by the ChiComs, and I don't want them in my home any more than they are already. However, it does work. I don't know if it was an earlier release, but if I rightly recollect, there was something a bit off about the way it rendered pages, but I don't see that happening now. It is considered good for privacy concerns such as tracking, and will probably let you make a secure online purchase.


Firefox

This one was an old friend. I lost interest for a while, but it has had substantial upgrades and is my current default browser. It scores well in privacy areas. You can save and synchronize your bookmarks across several devices, and even have them saved in your account. That was helpful when I upgraded to a new computer and installed FFX, but the best (and most detailed) way is to back up your profile. They give you instructions for that on the site. It also has blockers for ad tracking that I supplement with extensions, but more about those next time.

There was a "notes" function at one time, but that was apparently put out to pasture. Well, we do have other software for that. Also, the "Take a Screenshot" function can be accessed with a right-click. I like this one better than in other browsers that have it.

Our break-up was difficult for me. After FFX did a hard left politically and hypocritically promoted internet censorship, I uninstalled it. Too bad for many reasons, one of which is that I didn't want this to be a political article. The rest of it is not, however.

I read mixed reviews of the Pale Moon browser, but those that were most negative were older, so I'm giving it a test drive. There were some features and extensions in Firefox I wasn't happy to go without, but this fork seems adequate. Interestingly, one internet test of browser security rated it higher than the Brave browser, but it appears that my internet fingerprint on it is like sending up a flare. It will be for occasional use. Like the others, it works immediately after installing.

EDIT: Pale Moon was all right, but I replaced it with Waterfox. All the advantages of Firefox (including the ability to install add-ons) but without the political stuff from its owners — that I could find, anyway. 


Forking

Despite the faults of Google, they seem to be looking out for us regarding hacking. This weblog is a Google property, and I have 2-factor authorization enabled. I just signed into this account and had three alerts, including on my Android phone. Coupled with the strong password, that account feels protected.

The rest of the browsers discussed below are "forks" or modifications of the Chromium browser source code, which is the foundation for Google's Chrome. I have used several that are more secure than Chrome. No need to switch and ditch, folks can see what they like. Some are so much like Chrome, the user will have to check to see which browser is currently running. For the most part, extensions are compatible and can be downloaded from the Chrome store.


Avast Secure Browser and CCleaner Browser

For writing this section, I switched to the Avast browser.

Some people have burrs under their saddles because the Avast! antivirus company was allegedly using a company that shared data. This was rectified, but I've seen some sites that are unforgiving. The antivirus itself usually has a high ranking, even on the free version. To complicate matters, Piriform makes CCleaner, which has an almost identical browser — and Avast! owns Piriform now, so why have two browsers? 

Some folks got irritated because there was software bundling going on and suddenly, they found they had a new browser installed! If they weren't paying attention and opting out, they could simply use Revo Uninstaller or something else and remove it.

The CCleaner and Avast browser work, and they seem to try very hard to keep the user safe. Ad blocking, anti-fingerprinting, blocking phishing sites, anti-tracking, webcam guard, and more. They also guard against extensions, so the user needs to confirm that they are indeed wanted. Some malware will try to add something without the user's knowledge, and this guard shows up when I go to the Chrome Web Store to download an extension. I actually had to allow some extensions twice, so that cuts down on browser hijacking. By the way, I did not download adblock extensions and these still scored well in that fingerprint test mentioned earlier.

Again, very much like Chrome, but more secure. If has the Avast! antivirus, their browser links up with it for Banking Mode. Although I do not have it on this computer, I remember how Banking Mode pretty much isolated the browser from other parts of the computer; I needed to use other keys or disengage it to do other things. Check banking information, credit cards, whatever else, then exit and go about other business.

Between, the two, I preferred Avast! to CCleaner. EDIT: I have been using Avast! as my default browser for a few weeks now, and have been mostly satisfied.


Edge

Some people just have to live on the edge. Now I am writing using the Edge browser. Yeah, I know, people love to hate Microsoft while using their products at the same time. Internet Explorer was dreadful, which prompted competition from Netscape. That, in turn, evolved into Firefox. IE was improved over the years, and apparently Microsoft had a chimera of IE that they called Edge for Windows 10 users. Gallop ahead to today, and Edge is another Chromium-based browser that has its own extensions library, but also accepts them from the Chrome Web Store.


It feels  more robust in rendering sites and videos, but I'll allow that it may be just my imagination. Edge has been reliable and fast. It, too, scored well in my fingerprint security test. I also read conflicting reports: great on anti-phishing, bad on being hacked in a test — in 2017! Even so, I gave it a fair trial by making it my system default browser for a few weeks.

It integrates with the user's Microsoft account, but that is not mandatory. I found it helpful. Also, it can synchronize your data (including collections, favorites, extensions, and so on) to the account and also other devices.

A researcher may be interested in something they call "Collections". A page can be saved into a panel that is accessible through a command or keyboard shortcut, then retrieved later:

Ready to add a page to a collection
In addition, text can be selected and added to a collection as well, easily added with a right-click of the mouse. I even made a couple of collections that are only text. This feature seems to work like OneNote, and since it, too, synchronizes in the account, I can work on things with my smartphone. F'rinstance, I pondered a topic, made notes or saved links in collections, and added to it on the go. Don't expect to write a novel in the collections area, space is limited.

Edge also has a built-in web capture (screenshot) capability that is easily accessed through a right-click. From there, notes can be added and there is a "draw" thing that I do not use. It's useful, but when in a hurry, slapping that Print Screen button is mighty handy, and I can paste it into photo editing software right quick-like.

Unless I'm missing something, the ALT+Tab that normally lets one scroll through applications gets troublesome. I can have many tabs open, but when I want to go back and forth between Edge and, say, LibreOffice Writer, it moves to the next tab instead of to the application. Tricky, so I have to use the mouse and click between the two. It's difficult to be me.

EDIT: The ALT+Tab problem had to be solved in my Windows 10 computer settings. Also, Edge has added the option to move the tabs to the side, something available in Vivaldi (with a vengeance). You can do that with a click, and put them back just as easily.

Vivaldi

Now I'm using the Vivaldi browser, and have a few things to say about it. Like the others, it will do what it's supposed to right away. It was initiated around 2015 by someone who was angry with the Opera company's actions. With the enthusiasm to make something else that is better, Vivaldi is lacking in some areas. 

I was unable to import bookmarks very well. It shoved them all into a folder called "Imported", so I had to make my own folders and move bookmarks into them. Reading the forums, there are several items that have not been addressed (such as typing a site name and then pressing CTRL+Enter to reach a destination; a minor detail that could have been easily fixed). It has problems enabling extensions, such as Speed Dial 2, which was ruined by a Vivaldi update. Also, the user has to hunt for solutions to certain things that are not issues in other browsers.

This is another one that I used as a default browser for a few weeks, then I went back to Firefox. It seems clunky and there is a lack of professionalism to it. It promises to be secure, but I lack belief that this is a promise on which I can hang my hat. Seems like they spent a lot of time making it customizable and gimmicky rather than robust.

However, there are a couple of things that I found very useful for writing and research. We can stack tabs and tile them side-by-side. My usual approach when featuring an article is to write an introduction, add some thoughts and other links, excerpt, link to finish reading, and often a video at the end. Some rather involved articles require frequent reference, so I can have them next to each other. However, I can also use side-by-side windows instead, as seen here:

Vivaldi and Firefox on the screen at one time
The "Notes" feature is interesting and useful. Highlight text and send it to a note, or open it up and add some thoughts. Like with the collections on Edge, space is limited. Fine, add another one. Also, a note can be inserted into an article. I need to explore this more fully.

Notes and tab tiling are two big reasons that I have not scrapped this browser. Again, it does browser stuff as well as the others. It also seems to be a bit faster.

Brave

I was afraid of the Brave browser (see what I did there?) because it has some unusual attributes. There are some negative things to say, but let's be clear: it seems to be faster, and I'm trying it out as my default browser for a few days.

Any user can ignore much of this stuff, but it blocks ads and tracking. Sometimes, it can break a site, so the user must switch off the shields for a while, or permanently on certain sites. Brave has a strange cryptocurrency token thing happening with "Brave Rewards" where users get "paid". To do that apparently requires a lot of browsing on participating sites, and someone could make a few grotzits. Ain't no way I'm giving the bank information to Uphold so they can verify my wallet.

This is all opt-in or opt-out, so people don't need to let this overwhelm them. Those who want to investigate and are excited by cryptocurrency, go for it and see how it goes.

People are excited by this newcomer. Brave is by no means the first one with an emphasis on privacy. This one is strong on security and blocking trackers. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but it's fast and gets the job done, and many people are enthusiastic about it. It keeps offering to save passwords even when that is switched off in settings, but that will probably be fixed later.

In the previous article, I mentioned "incognito" or "private browsing". Usually, this works as a "safe mode" where extensions are disabled. No private browsing window is going to give the user added security on the web. They do not store history, cookies, and whatever from that session; my wife won't be able to find out that I was looking to buy her a talking moose head for her birthday. Brave gives you an option of a regular private window or one with the Tor "onion routing" network, which gives more security.

The people behind the Gab social media service have a fork of Brave called Dissenter. It still needs polish, but is supposed to have speed and security. EDIT: Dissenter just went into my Do Not Use warning list. Slow to update (if the user can figure out how to do that in the first place) and other quirks prompted me to uninstall it. Then I had to figure out how to fix the computer so it would go online again. Coincidence? Maybe. So, Dissenter just seems to be a platform for the social media extension of the same name. My recommendation is that if someone really must use Dissenter, they should only use it for that purpose and select a better browser for their primary.

Concluding Thoughts

We covered several browsers. Some of them may have seemed surprising, but I thought they worked well for the most part. I really want to say again that there is no cost or commitment, and people may want to seriously consider different browsers for different purposes. Or maybe family members. If you want to check some out, the links are above in the product names.

Hindering the efforts of trackers and hackers and spies (oh my) does not begin or end with safe browsers. While that is important, we must keep our computers ready. After all, technology is constantly changing, so something might burrow through the shields. A reliable virus scanner is essential, as is malware protection. When the software calls home and wants to apply updates, let it. They are often just facelifts, but we don't want to let repairs get left outside in the rain — updates can contain security fixes.

At one time, I used CCleaner. It would clean out tracking cookies, the cache of browsers, and the registry. Some folks didn't like it, and one made the assumption that since people only use one browser anyway (yeah, right), he had some tedious instructions on how to go without CCleaner. I kept using it until I got this new computer. Free software called Glary Utilities was recommended. Glary Utilities and CCleaner both have free and paid versions, but I don't need the higher level. I run Glary Utilities every day for cleaning out the registry, check for spyware and malware that got through, erase tracks, and more.

The final part in this series is what I consider the most fun: browser extensions. No, I'm not going to throw out a list of "must have" items, but those that have been helpful in my research and writing. Quick note: people who go wild with extensions and customizations are taking risks with their privacy. You can find the third part here.

January 28, 2021

A Bad Breakup with Firefox

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

This is somewhat depressing. I feel like an old friend betrayed me, having used Firefox off and on for several years, and now this. It has made many improvements in speed, reliability, and security, but the Mozilla company has taken the bit of leftist politics into its teeth and jumped the corral fence.

It was disappointing to learn that Mozilla, makers of Firefox, are promoting internet censorship. This is unacceptable, and there are other options.
This derivative image was further modified at PhotoFunia.

Shouldn't web browser companies focus on keeping us secure from tracking, spyware, hacking, and such? The expression "stay in your lane" comes to mind. I was dismayed to learn that Mozilla, makers of Firefox, have called for deplatforming and punishment of President Trump and others. So they are in favor of censorship.

I am not uninstalling Firefox because I'm leaping onto the bandwagon and saying, "Me too!" or to look good to folks who call themselves patriots. This was unpleasant news to me, and I didn't know about it until the night before I wrote this article. Unfortunately, it has some features that really don't want to live without.

Despite some negative reviews, I've saddled up the FFX-derived Pale Moon browser for a test ride. It's reasonably safe, but I can tell right now that it probably won't become my default browser. For one thing, it made writing this article difficult by refusing the "paste unformatted text" function of CTRL+SHIFT+V, and launched some of that web inspection stuff — how many people need that, really?. I moved over to the Brave browser to finish this. Also, some add-ons/extensions upon which I rely are not available in Pale Moon. Still, I can use it as a stand-by and a utility. Great name, too.

EDIT: I uninstalled Pale Moon and installed Waterfox. It has the advantages of Firefox and even allows add-ons, and seems to be working well. 

Firefox, I'll be a fool for your lovin' no more.

While writing this, I saw an article about FFX banning a "Dissenter" plugin. I don't know about it. They should be dropping plugins/extensions/add-ons that are not safe, but this was apparently a slap in the face to free speech. I wonder if the Dissenter browser is any good? Well, I do have quite a few installed now, so I'm only curious.

Now I have to find an alternative to Mozilla's "Thunderbird" desktop email client.

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