Firefox 57 Quantum (was Farewell Firefox)

I’ve been using and promoting Firefox since firefoxnytadthe beginning when it was named Phoenix back in 2002. When the Firefox team wanted to place a full page ad in the New York Times I even chipped in some cash and had my name included in the list of supporters.

However today a new era has begun for Firefox and it eliminates the only reason I’d still been sticking with Firefox for 15 years. With the loss of NoScript I can’t think of any reason to keep using Firefox. Two other extensions I’ve relied on, TiddlySaver and Zotero, had made stand alone desktop programs to replace the loss of local file saving in Firefox. NoScript doesn’t have that option and I’d hoped it would continue but alas the Firefox team obviously felt it wasn’t worth any effort to help get it working :-(.

So long Firefox it was a great 15 years. see 11/18 update

Update 11/15/2017

I failed to mention that there was a perfectly good security reason for removing some capabilities in Firefox extensions. While the security hole shown at the link would not affect me it could easily have hurt normal users.

The NoScript Author has now published an article originally saying a new Firefox 57 compatible version of NoScript would be available today but now saying by the end of the week and adding some screen shots. Looking at the screen shots the new UI is very poor compared to the old NoScript and poor compared the UI of uBlock Origin. Since I spent quite a bit of time getting to know uBlock Origin on Chrome yesterday, I don’t think I’ll bother trying the new NoScript when it eventually comes out (I never count on time promises from solo free software developers). see below

Update 11/18/2017

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone

Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi

This has proven to be so true, after a few days with uBlock and reading up on alternatives I’ve come to the conclusion that with the single exception of NoScript every script blocker out there is really more of an advertising and web analytics blocker. That is not at all what I want! I always white list all the well known analytics companies because as a webmaster I know how useful it is to know about who is utilizing your site. When ever I visit a site and find useful content I immediately do a temporarily allow all to let through the advertising and let the web owner get there revenue (it ain’t cheap to offer good free stuff on the net).

The one thing I absolutely want to happen when I visit a site for the first time is to block every single last bit of scripting that comes from a source not on my white list. AFAICT NoScript is the one and only script blocking system that does this which makes it the one and only true script blocking tool for security purposes. The loss of NoScript has made my web usage so incredibly slow the last few days because I now have to stop and be think about how much danger is in clicking a link.

I have now installed Firefox 52 ESR and NoScript 5.1.7, removed uBlock from Chrome and plan to re-install Firefox 57 as soon as NoScript is ready.

Update 11/19/2017

The Firefox 52 ESR install screwed up my PC very badly, LastPass, Xmarks and Firefox all become incredibly buggy and unstable. In the end I had to uninstall Firefox and all instances of LastPass, manually remove all Firefox profiles, and manually edit the registry to remove every reference to Firefox. Things got so bad that LastPass in Chrome was no longer working properly. I’ve now got LastPass in Chrome working properly and I’ve got Firefox 57 installed with LastPass working. Hoping a compatible version of NoScript comes out soon.

With everything stable again I ran some timing tests to see if Firefox really is faster in my real world usage. I’m sure the benchmark results mentioned by Mozilla are true but benchmarks are a long way from real life web usage. My tests show Chrome is still slightly faster than Firefox on loading a variety of pages I regularly visit by about 3 tenths of a second. So other than the fact that it is the only browser that has NoScript there is no real reason to prefer it over Chrome for me.

Update 11/20/2017

The new version of Noscript is out!
Also, Xmarks came out of beta and is working well now too!

iOS 11 Podcasts App Intentionally Lowers Productivity

I’ve been using the Podcasts App on my iPad to play all the TWiT network shows. With previous versions of the App it automatically played the feed in sequence. The new version removed this feature so now each individual episode has to be manually added to the queue. A real productivity killer 😦

Update 10/18/2017:

Found a way to make the app work like the older version. The trick is to create a station with all the podcasts then when you play the station it automatically plays the next podcast without user intervention. See this Apple Forum post by cyberbiker for detailed instructions.


Scheduling a Windows Defender Full Scan

Currently Microsoft sets up Windows Defender to automatically perform all of the tasks the vast majority of people need. However some people would prefer to have a regularly scheduled full scan. It used to be just a matter of editing one of the preset tasks to set up this function. It appears Microsoft has made some recent changes that makes obsolete all the instructions on the web that I found. So here is my take on setting up a scheduled full scan.

  1. Open Task Scheduler by pressing and releasing the Windows key, or clicking the start menu icon, and then type tas. Then select Task Scheduler from the list.
    ScheduledDefender00  ScheduledDefender01
  2. In the upper right of the Task Scheduler click on Create Basic Task.
  3. When the Create Basic Task Wizard opens, enter a Name for the task and optionally a description then click Next.
  4. Choose the type of trigger you want for the task and click Next.
  5. Set the specific items for the task’s trigger and click Next.
  6. Choose the Start a Program option and click Next.
  7. Enter the Program/script to execute and the argument.
    a. To use the GUI version of Windows Defender enter:

    "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\MSASCui.exe"

    b. To use the command line version of Windows Defender, enter:

    "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\MpCmdRun.exe"
    -Scan -ScanType 2

    There are other variations you can use, see How to use Windows Defender with Command Prompt on Windows 10 for details.ScheduledDefender07

  8. Click Finish to save the task.
  9. Scroll the list to make sure that the …
    task has been scheduled the way you expected.
  10. Test out the program and argument settings by right clicking the task and selecting Run.
  11. If you set up for the GUI version to run you should see this.
    If you set up for the command line version to run you should see this.

After setting this up on my always logged in and awake desktop I realized the settings I used will fail if the Windows 10 PC/laptop logs you out and/or goes to sleep. To make this work in that situation edit the following settings.

  1. Right click on the task you created and select Properties.
  2. On the General tab change the Configure for: drop down list to Windows 10. That change is not strictly needed but it emphasizes that I’ve only tested this on Windows 10 so use on other/older versions may not work.
    Now click the Change User or Group… button.ScheduledDefenderA02
  3. In the text box type system and then click the Check Names button.
  4. The text you entered will change to SYSTEM to indicate it checked out fine. Click the OK button to finish the user change operation.
  5. You’ll be taken back to the General tab and it will show NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM and the Run only when user is logged on radio button is selected and grayed out.
    If after you finish the next steps you check this setting again you will see it has been changed by Windows to SYSTEM and the Run whether the user is logged on or not.
  6. Click the Conditions tab and check the box that says Wake the computer to run this task. Then click the OK button to finish changing the settings.

That should be all you need to get it working, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions please leave a comment or send me an email.

Courier New Font Broken

The Windows 10 Creator’s Update messed up the appearance of the trusty old Courier New font. Most users don’t use that font but for decades it has been a favorite in terminal windows and code editors for programmers and system admins. This Microsoft Community thread, Creator’s Update – Courier New, details the issue and proposes a couple solutions. I didn’t like either solution so I simply switched to the modern Consolas font that is included in modern versions of Windows.

Microsoft Desperately Wants to be Apple

This morning I got the email from Microsoft saying they are downgrading OneDrive to 5Gig making it as useless as iCloud. They also keep pushing out Windows 10 upgrades disguised as recommended updates to people who have declined or rolled back after upgrade incompatibilities as they desperately want to be able to handle their OS like OS-X. They are delusional if they think they can get away with treating their customers the way Apple does and still maintain a large market share (there’s a reason why Apple has never grown beyond being a niche PC company).

It’s sad to see a once great company fall to such low levels. Oh well, as we move forward through the century Google, Amazon and Apple will continue to take away Microsoft’s business. The only remaining question is when will, not if, Google or Amazon make a concerted effort to take away Microsoft’s corporate customers.

Android Audio Problem

I’ve hit this twice now when the Google App has updated so I figured I should note it for future reference.

Symptom 1, trying to record using the stock voice recorder on my LG phone I get a message that says Cannot start voice recording while other application is using audio.  Symptom 2, the alarm clock/timer doesn’t make any sound.

Solution, go to Google Settings -> Search & Now -> Voice -> “Ok Google” detection and turn off the From any screen option.

LibreOffice Windows Explorer Extension Problems

I’ve been struggling to resolve some odd infrequent problems with LibreOffice crashing for about a year now. The problems were not fixed by uninstalling and deleting my user profile as well as many other suggestions that had resolved similar issues for other users. The worst part was how usually the attempts would appear to help but it was always just a perception not a reality.

A couple of weeks ago I upgraded my NAS to a QNAP TS-231 and the problems got worse. I tried a whole bunch of things to fix the problems and nothing really worked. Yesterday the problems got severe enough (trashed ODB file) and repeatable enough that I decided to take some time to research them carefully.

It turns out at least some of the various problems were actually caused by the LibreOffice Windows Explorer Extension which had been a problem for me twice before since 2012. The solution is to simply remove the Explorer Extension as shown in my 2012 post. Now that this feature has caused me major problems for a third time I’m going to have to remember and recommend that whenever installing LibreOffice on a PC that will access files from a *nix based NAS, use the custom option when installing and avoid the Windows Explorer Extension like the plague.

Android Phone as Hiking Companion

As I mentioned in my first post in this series I just started doing frequent hikes this year. I also just started using a smart phone this year and I’ve found it to be an excellent tool for hiking. There are of course the obvious uses, to call for help or a ride home and sending text messages of the hike progress to the person responsible for calling emergency services when you don’t come back.

The first non-standard use is GPS navigation, for my purposes I found that GPS Essentials is the best choice. It’s a versatile and powerful program so be prepared to spend some time getting up to speed using it. There is a support forum where the author and other users, including myself, are happy to help solve problems. Frequently the problems are due to not easily being able to figure out which of the huge number of features will get you the result you want.

Something to be aware of is the possible lack of accuracy with the GPS and compass sensors. On my LG pulse phone the compass is basically useless it has errors of over 30 degrees at times. The GPS accuracy is excellent when there are no hills, clouds or trees blocking the view of the GPS satellites. However my hiking virtually guarantees poor GPS reception sometimes making the error greater than 150 feet. This brings up one of the first field lessons I learned, a GPS in your pocket can be absolutely horrible, I saw errors of over 300 feet. To avoid that problem I bought a wrist strap to hold the phone. In addition to keeping the GPS readings as accurate as possible it also makes it more convenient for other phone tasks. When I’m out exploring new trails I find the only times I need a compass are when I get to an unexpected intersection (frequent occurrence in SE New England forests). To work around the inaccurate compass I simply walk a few hundred feet on one trail and see how the recorded track compares to my trail map. This has the added benefit of recording the unknown trails direction for adding to my map.

One very important thing to keep in mind when using a smart phone as a hiking companion, electronic devices fail. They run out of power and have other problems that will prevent you from using the GPS. This is why I always carry my trusty old Silva compass and a paper map. I have also added a portable phone charger/emergency LED flashlight to my day hiking gear. It has come in handy a couple times allowing me to finish recording my GPS track instead of turning off the phone to save the power for an emergency call if needed. To keep the whole package small and dust/water resistant I replaced the included USB cable with a 6″ cable and installed a pair of RooKaps.

This reminds me of another important safety tip, set your phone to automatically power off at 10% battery left so that you won’t get stranded due to a dead phone battery.

The other smartphone features I’ve come to rely on are the camera, voice recorder and eBook reader. In addition to taking photos of interesting things seen, I like to take pictures of trail signs and oddly shaped intersections. Those pictures come in handy as I build up my comprehensive forest map. The voice recorder is a great way to take down long notes and record odd natural sounds for later identification. On my very first hike I heard a strange cacophony of sound emanating from many areas of the forest but could not see what critter was making the racket. I eventually tracked it down to some type of frog in vernal pools, when I got home I used the recorded sounds for reference and determined it was the mating calls of Wood Frogs. Voice recorded notes have also been very handy for documenting the appearance of birds I see. I can quickly speak a description of what I see and then later use the recording while searching through my bird identification books. This leads me to the last feature the eBook reader, with some field guides downloaded to the phone I can look up the critter while observing it if I’m not in a hurry or wait and look when I’m taking a rest break.

A final thing I’ve learned the hard way about using my smartphone as a hiking companion. CHECK ALL THE FUNCTIONS BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE. On one hike when I went to make some voice notes I got error messages saying the microphone was locked by another application. After trying reboots and other things that came to mind for about 15 minutes I finally gave up and started the hike. When I got home and researched the issue I learned that a recent update to the Google app had set it to take control of the microphone from everything except the telephone app. A simple settings change and I was back in business, if I’d checked it before leaving I would have been able to hike an extra 3/4 mile instead of fumbling round trying to fix the voice recorder.