Monday, January 23, 2012

How to Optimize Internet Explorer 9 for Maximum Privacy

Computer Renaissance found this article useful for Internet Explorer 9 users and would like to share it with you.

Use Internet Explorer 9? It may be sending your entire browsing history to Microsoft. Or, it may be automatically blocking tracking websites. It’s all in how you tweak Internet Explorer’s privacy settings.

Internet Explorer’s tracking protection is a standout feature, but suggested sites, the SmartScreen filter and search suggestions can leak your private information. Tracking protection isn’t enabled by default, so you’ll have to enable it for maximum privacy protection.

Suggested Sites

Internet Explorer 9 automatically sends your entire browsing history to Microsoft is suggested sites is enabled. Microsoft saves your browsing history and compares it against against other similar sites. Internet Explorer displays these similar sites as suggestions when you open the Suggested Sites folder on your favorites bar.

Don’t want Internet Explorer 9 sending every website you visit to Microsoft? Just click the gear-shaped Tools menu icon and select Internet Options.

From there, click over to the Advanced tab, locate the Browsing section in the list and uncheck the Enable Suggested Sites check box. Click OK and Internet Explorer will keep your browsing history private.

Tracking Protection

Internet Explorer 9 allows you to install custom tracking protection lists, which contain a list of scripts and other files that track you. Internet Explorer won’t load these files if you visit a page that uses them, preventing everything on the list from tracking you. Internet Explorer 9 also sends a “do not track” request when you have a tracking protection list enabled. At the moment, most websites will ignore the do not track request.

Internet Explorer 9 doesn’t have any tracking protection lists installed by default, so you won’t get any protection until you install one. Just click the Tools menu, point to Safety and select Tracking Protection to see the tracking protection lists you have installed.

Click the “Get a Tracking Protection List Online” link to see a gallery of available lists on Microsoft’s website.

Install a tracking protection list by clicking its Add button. Here we’re installing the EasyPrivacy tracking protection list. It’s maintained by the same people that work on the EasyList ad-blocking subscription for Adblock Plus.

Internet Explorer 9 will download an updated version of your tracking protection list once a week.

SmartScreen Filter

Internet Explorer 9’s SmartScreen filter helps keep you safe online by detecting known unsafe websites, but it does this by sending website addresses you visit to Microsoft. When you visit a website, Internet Explorer 9 checks a downloaded list of popular, safe websites. If the website you’re visiting doesn’t appear on the list, IE sends it to Microsoft, where it’s checked against a list of unsafe websites.

Be aware that Internet Explorer 9 won’t warn you about malicious websites if you disable this feature. If you still want to disable it, click the Tools menu, point to Safety and select “Turn Off SmartScreen Filter.”

Select the Turn Off option in the window that appears and click OK. You can still manually check a website by clicking the “Check this website” option in the Safety menu.

Search Suggestions

Internet Explorer’s search suggestions feature sends everything you type into your address bar to your default search engine. The search engine sends back related searches, which IE displays in a drop-down box.

Internet Explorer 9 uses a combined address bar and search box, so your default search engine will see website addresses you type if you have suggestions enabled. Disabling search suggestions is as easy as typing something into your address bar and clicking the Turn Off Suggestions link.


Advertising networks and other websites often use cookies to track you online. You can adjust Internet Explorer 9’s cookie settings by clicking the Privacy tab in the Internet Options window.

Drag the bar higher to block other types of cookies. At the top-most position, websites won’t be able to save cookies at all, which will prevent you from logging into websites. Other settings may also cause problems with some websites; lower the slider if you encounter problems.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chrome 15 Beats Out IE8 As World's Most Popular Browser

Computer Renaissance found this article useful and would like to share it with you.

Google Chrome 15 is the most popular web browser in the world overtaking Internet Explorer 8, according to web analytics firm StatCounter. Chrome 15 just barely beat out its Microsoft rival for the first time between November 21 and 27 with 23.63 percent of the global browser market share compared to IE8's 23.5 percent. Mozilla's Firefox 8 trailed behind at a distant third with 12.12 percent of worldwide usage during the same time period.

Chrome 15 Continues Global Surge

Chrome 15's worldwide popularity doesn't appear to be slowing since stepping ahead of IE8 in late November. Between the week of December 5 and 11 (StatCounter's most recent numbers), Chrome 15 not only beat out IE8 overall but was also more popular during the regular workday. "Chrome 14 and 15 have been overtaking IE8 at weekends since the beginning of October," StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen said in a statement announcing the Chrome 15 findings. "It looks as if people [favored] Chrome on weekends at home, but office commercial use has now caught up.”

StatCounter's latest weekly count (December 5-11) has Chrome 15 at 24.55 percent of global market share and IE8 at 22.16 percent.

In the U.S., IE8 is still more popular than Chrome 15, according to StatCounter. IE8 recently accounted for 27 percent of the American browser market between December 5 and 11, compared to Chrome 15's 18.1 percent.

IE Still Bests Chrome By Brand

While Chrome 15 may be gaining steam worldwide, Internet Explorer is still more popular overall when you count all browser version numbers in use such as IE 6, 7, 8, 9 and Chrome 14 and 15. During the period between November 21 and 27, IE owned 40.09 percent worldwide usage while Chrome accounted for 26.31 percent, followed by Firefox at 25.07 percent. Earlier in December, StatCounter reported that Chrome beat out Firefox to become the second most popular browser in the world.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to Adjust the Visual Settings in Windows 7 for Best Performance

Computer Renaissance found this article useful and would like to share it with you.

Many PC users are not aware of the host of visual settings that are available in Windows 7. There are many animation effects, transparency settings, menu fades, and so on. In slower machines, these can be a drag on system performance. Also, not everyone is enamored of a lot of busy visuals.

Here is how to configure the settings to your own liking (some settings will be missing in systems that do not support Aero):

  1. Open the Start menu
  2. Right-click Computer
  3. Choose “Properties” from the context menu
  4. In the left panel, click “Advanced system settings”
  5. In the Performance section, click the “Settings” button
  6. The dialog box shown in the figure below will open
  7. Make sure the “Visual Effects” tab is selected
  8. Remove or add checks to items according to your preference
  9. Click “OK” and “OK”

If you don't mind typing long words, you can get right to step 6 by entering "SystemPropertiesPerformance" (without quotes) in the Start search bar.

An alternative to making individual selections is to use one of the options listed near the top of the dialog box. You can let Windows choose what’s best for your system, adjust for best appearance, or adjust for best performance.

Here are some possible effects to disable for better performance:

  • Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing
  • Animations in the taskbar and Start Menu
  • Enable transparent glass
  • Fade or slide menus into view
  • Fade or slide ToolTips into view
  • Fade out menu items after clicking
  • Show shadows under windows
  • Slide open combo boxes

Naturally, this and all the other possible settings are a matter of personal choice. Also, how performance is affected depends on the nature of your particular system.

Visual performance settings


Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Access Advanced Settings and Information for Your Chrome or Firefox Browser

Computer Renaissance would like to share this article with you.

Both Firefox and Chrome have pages with information and advanced settings that are available from the address bar by entering “about:X”, where X stands for a variety of possibilities.  A list of the possible entries can be obtained in either browser by entering “about:about” in the address bar (without quotes and with no spaces). Below are capsule lists of the available items for the “about” function. Take a look at some of these and you will be surprised at the kind of information that can be found.

Google Chrome 15


Firefox 8



Monday, December 5, 2011

DockShelf Customizes and Adds as Many Docks to OS X as You Can Handle

Computer Renaissance found this article useful for Mac OS X users and would like to share it with you.

Mac OS X: If you've ever found yourself wishing you could add custom docks to OS X, DockShelf is a utility that gives you the ability to create and customize as many as you like.

DockShelf works by providing visual shortcuts to any app or folder of your choosing, just like the standard dock, but allows you to create multiple docks on different parts of the screen for quick access. It also has different workspace settings and support for multiple monitors, so you can customize it depending on the task you're doing. The free version gives you two docks, two workspaces, and a small ad, but the full, $4.99 version lets you stuff as many docks as your desktop will support. You can download both versions from the developer's site below.



Friday, December 2, 2011

Carrier IQ Tracking: Your Questions Answered

Computer Renaissance would like to share this article with you.

Many cellphone users are wondering whether their Android and BlackBerry devices are spying on them after security researcher Trevor Eckhart recently claimed that a piece of diagnostic software on the phones was acting like malware. Eckhart said the software, created by company Carrier IQ and installed on devices by phone manufacturers and carriers, was secretly recording user data such as keystrokes and Web browsing history. Carrier IQ's software is on more than 140 million handsets worldwide.

Carrier IQ denies Eckhart's allegations and says its technology is only used for diagnostic purposes to improve handset performance and network quality.

So is Carrier IQ up to no good? Is the company's software collecting more information from your handset than it should? Or is this just a big misunderstanding about what Carrier IQ's software does?

Here's a breakdown of what we know.

What was discovered?

Eckhart published a report in mid-November about a piece of software created by Carrier IQ. This software is supposed to be a diagnostic tool that helps manufacturers and carriers improve the quality of their services. But Eckhart claimed Carrier IQ's software is actually a rootkit that secretly logs your phone's activity.

Carrier IQ diagnostic software comes installed on many phones including Android and BlackBerry devices, according to Eckhart. Carrier IQ software was later discovered on iOS devices but it appears to be benign.

What was the software doing?

Eckhart posted a video to YouTube showing what he said was Carrier IQ software running on an HTC handset. In the video, the Carrier IQ software appears to be logging key presses (including the phone's number pad), SMS messages, location data, and Web browsing history including encrypted data traveling over https (SSL). It's not clear whether this data was then sent to Carrier IQ.

Does it do the same thing on all phones?

Eckhart's demonstration shows only what Carrier IQ's software was doing on an HTC phone. Samsung devices appear to log some of the same information including screen taps and browser URLs, according to Eckhart's report.

Developer Grant Paul (no relation to the author) claims that on iOS devices, Carrier IQ software was accessing a more limited set of information including your phone number, carrier, country, when a phone call is active, and your location if Location Services is turned on.

The Verge is reporting that Carrier IQ software is not on Motorola's Xoom or Nexus-branded Android phones including the Nexus One, Nexus S, and Galaxy Nexus.

Can Carrier IQ software be removed?

It doesn't appear to be possible to remove this software on an Android phone unless you have a rooted device.

Paul says you can stop Carrier IQ on iOS 5 devices by turning off "Diagnostics and Usage" in the Settings application.


What is Carrier IQ?

Carrier IQ is a California-based company that offers "accurate, real-time data" to carriers and device makers to help them improve their services. Carrier IQ's data is pulled from diagnostic software embedded on handsets that the carrier and/or device maker sells to customers. Carrier IQ says its diagnostic software provides "actionable intelligence" to improve network quality, understand device issues and ultimately improve the user experience.

Carrier IQ software is embedded on more than 140 million handsets worldwide.

Carrier IQ's response

Carrier IQ says its software does not record keystrokes, and does not inspect or report the content of your SMS messages or e-mail. Carrier IQ also said it does not provide tracking tools and does not sell the data it collects to third parties.

Instead, the company claims its software identifies handset performance issues such as dropped calls and poor network service.

Carrier IQ also denied providing "real-time data reporting to any customer." Which is confusing since the company's website states, "Carrier IQ’s Mobile Service Intelligence solution eliminates guesswork by automatically providing accurate, real-time data direct from the source -- your customers' handsets."

Did Carrier IQ do anything else?

On Nov. 16, Carrier IQ issued a cease-and-desist letter to Eckhart. The letter demanded that Eckhart remove his research from the Web and replace it with a statement prepared by the company that rebutted Eckhart's earlier claims.

The company also wanted Eckhart to remove Carrier IQ copyrighted materials that he posted on his website including company training materials that were previously available on the company's site. Carrier IQ also wanted a list of all the people (including their contact information) that Eckhart had shared Carrier IQ's copyrighted information with.

Eckhart received legal support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Nov. 21. Carrier IQ retracted its demands two days later and issued an apology to Eckhart.

What's next?

It's unclear what, if anything, will happen as a result of Eckhart's report. Carrier IQ says it plans on discussing its software with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which may produce some answers as there are definitely some big questions that need to be answered. Not least of which is, "If Carrier IQ software is not logging keystrokes then why does it appear to be identifying them in the first place?"


Monday, November 28, 2011

How to Control the Amount of Disk Space Used by System Protection (System Restore) in Windows Vista/7

Computer Renaissance would like to help you to control the amount of disk space used by system protection in Windows 7.

The shadow copies for Windows Vista/7 can consume quite a bit of disk space. However, it is easy to change the space settings for these System Restore backups. These settings are found under System Protection. There are various ways to access them but here is one that is convenient:

  1. Open the Start menu and right-click Computer.
  2. Select “Properties”.
  3. On the left side of the window that opens, click “System Protection”.
  4. The dialog shown in figure 1 below will open.
  5. Highlight the disk or volume you want to configure.
  6. Click the button “Configure”.
  7. The dialog shown in figure 2 will open. In this case, disk C: has been selected.
  8. Use the slider (shown highlighted) to adjust the space allocated on the selected volume.
  9. Click “OK” and “OK” again.

For a more fine-grained way of changing the settings, the command-line with the command “vssadmin” can be used. The methods given there show how to allocate a numerically specified amount of space or to delete shadow copies.

Be aware that Vista Home Premium does not provide for access to shadow copies nor does Windows XP.

Figure 1. Settings for Windows System Protection
Configure Windows 7 System Protection

Figure 2. Allocating space for Shadow Copies
Configure space