Category Archives: Tech Tip

What Can Websites Find Out From Your Browser?

Tech Tip – We all visit different websites on a daily basis. How much can those sites tell about you when you click on a link to a page they host?

It turns out that there is quite a bit of information they can pull. One way to get an idea of the information that can be harvested from your browser is to load Webkay. This web page will then give you a report of the information they were able to pull from your browser.

One way to protect your privacy while browsing is with StartPage.

Cheap, Easy Cable Tags

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Tech Tip – I saw this in a Life Hack article. Many bakery products come in plastic a bags like the bagels and english muffins shown above. Many have a little plastic tab (red and white above) that holds the bag closed. Generally we just throw these away when we are finished with the product. These can be saved though and reused in an entirely different way.

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Those tags can be reused as cheap and easy cable tags. I have saved up a few and just today bought a Sharpie Fine tip marker (I tried using a regular Sharpie and the results wasn’t very readable).

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I made tags for some of the cables that are plugged in to my USB Expansion. Why would you want the cables tagged? I am often changing things around in my office and want to remove one cable and add another. These tags let me know at a glance what the various cables are attached to without tracing the cable back to the device it is plugged into.

Pros

  1. They are free, though it takes time to accumulate them
  2. They do come in different colors

 

Cons

  1. They don’t fit tightly on all cables (see standard white Apple USB to Lightning above)
  2. Colors are limited to what the products you use come with
  3. The space to write on is limited to 1″ x 1/2″

Tech Tip – Private Browsing with StartPage

Product ReviewmacOS Toolkit – I don’t recall where I first saw StartPage, but I installed the extension into Safari a few weeks ago and have been using it on a regular basis.

So, what is StartPage? StartPage is a search engine company based in the Netherlands. The potential benefits of StartPage include:

  • it is outside the reach of US law enforcement agencies
  • it uses secure connections over HTTPS
  • it does not collect search information
  • it provides private click-throughs using a proxy

The basis of the search engine results is Google, so the results of the searches are as good as any when using StartPage. StartPage is provided by Ixquick “the world’s most private search engine. Ixquick has been third-party certified by EuroPriSe, a European Union privacy initiative.” If you visit the StartPage website, you will see the very prominent statement that “StartPage does not collect or share any personal information!“. Many have become concerned with this as some ISPs have begun to ‘harvest’ search history information from their clients.

Beyond the search anonymity, sites listed in the StartPage search results are accessed through a proxy service that “allows users to surf the web with complete privacy. The proxy lets users browse websites safely and anonymously, without passing on any private, personally identifiable information to the websites they view.

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A portion of a search using StartPage is shown above. In the list of search results will be links very similar to those seen in a Google search. If you click on a link there, you leave the protection of StartPage and are browsing just as if you had been using Google. There is a “proxy” button besides each link in the search list. If you click that link then the page is retrieved through a StartPage proxy making your website visit invisible. You will encounter slower page loading when going through the proxy. StartPage provides a full description of how their proxy works here.

I think that this will become a standard part of my macOS Toolbox. While I am using StartPage with Safari, it is compatible with most browsers. There is also a Ixquick Search App that provides anonymous searching on mobile (iOS and Android) devices.  If you are concerned with your web browsing privacy, this may be an option you want to look into.


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macOS Safari Tip – Disable Video Auto-Play

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Tech Tip – Opening a web site in Safari and then having a video on the page begin to play is annoying! Of course I can mute it by clicking the speaker symbol in the tab, but the video is still playing – consuming bandwidth and processor cycles, not to mention being a distraction.

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I came across a means of disabling video auto-play a week or so ago and tried it. It works perfectly! It does involved you dropping into the Terminal interface but the steps are not difficult. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Quit Safari if it is running
  2. Open Finder >> G0 >> Utilities >> Terminal
  3. paste/type this command into your Terminal window
    defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeInternalDebugMenu 1
  4. Hit return and wait several seconds. You will see the command prompt when it has completed
  5. Quit the Terminal
  6. Launch Safari
  7. There will be a new menu item “Debug”
  8. Choose Debug >> Media Flags >> Disallow Inline Video

Now any video embedded in a web page will no longer automatically play once the page is loaded. They can be manually played if desired.

To make the “Debug” column disappear, repeat steps 1-5 above, but enter into your Terminal window:

defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeInternalDebugMenu 0

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macOS Tip – Configure Trash to Auto Delete

It is always important to maintain as much free disk space as possible. You might not think about it but your Trash can accumulate quite a bit of disk space. Of course you can, and should, manually clean out your Trash on a periodic basis. However, we can all get absorbed in other things and before we know it, we have let the Trash grow to a significant size.

This is where setting up automatic file removal can be important. To set this up go to Finder >> Preferences >> Advanced. Check the box for “Remove items from the Trash after 30 days”. With this enabled, any files that have been moved to the Trash folder will be automatically permanently removed when they have been there 30 days. Any files less than 30 days old are left untouched.


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macOS Tip – Killing a Process

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Generally we can use Force Quit to kill a program, but sometimes that won’t work.

I had that case come up yesterday. A window was showing up on my screen for the program, but every time I moved the cursor over it I got the ‘spinning beachball’. The program didn’t show up in ‘Force Quit’, nor did an icon show up in the Dock for the program.

Rather than having to reboot, I was able to terminate the guilty process using Activity Monitor. I opened Utility Monitor by going to Finder ==> Go ==> Utilities ==> Utility Monitor. I scrolled down through the list of running processes until I found the one causing the problem (it actually showed that the process was not responding).

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To kill the process, I clicked on it to highlight it in the list, then on the ‘X’ in the top hand corner of the Activity Monitor window. That killed the process and the errant window disappeared from my desktop.


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macOS Tip – Keyboard Sequence to Open New Finder Window

I came across this useful keyboard sequence to open a new Finder window. Simply hold down the Option & Command keys, then tap the Space bar. You will get a new Finder window (Or a new tab in an existing window) each time.

I find that I need to open Finder windows often during the day and this simple process makes that just a  little easier.


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