A security tool that your bank may be encouraging you to use may be giving you grief

Online BankingTrusteer Rapport (which is installed on your computer under the name of “Trusteer Endpoint Protection”) is a piece of security software from IBM that is intended to make your online banking safer by spotting fake banking websites, intercepting emails that contain misleading links to fake banking websites, and so on.

Quite probably, you have never encountered it or heard of it unless your bank installed it on your computer when you established online banking. Some of the banks that I think support it include Santander, Lloyds, and NatWest. So, it’s quite possible that it’s running on your computer now and you’ve never been aware of it. If that’s the case, don’t worry. It’s perfectly legitimate and not in any way malicious. If it hasn’t been causing you any problems up to now then I see no reason to un-install it except, perhaps, that it might be having a deleterious effect on your system’s performance.

On the other hand, you may have noticed that it can have a bad effect on your system in several ways:

  • It can interfere with your other security software to cause freezes and crashes
  • It can slow down your system
  • It can cause your browser to freeze (Google Chrome)
  • It can stop your browser from even loading up (Microsoft Edge)
  • It can produce disconcerting, irritating, and misleading popups suggesting that it is installed but not enabled, and that this situation is easily remedied (Google Chrome)

Trusteer logoI’ve been wrestling with it on behalf of several computer support clients recently, and I came to the conclusion that it’s just not worth the bother. I installed it on my own main machine and it initially caused problems with Chrome (freezing) but not Firefox (but I’ve almost stopped using Firefox, anyway). It doesn’t affect Opera for the simple reason that it doesn’t install an extension to run with Opera. I have to say that the initial problems of freezing when running Chrome seem to have stopped, but there’s no way I would have such a seemingly flakey piece of software running on my main computer if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m testing it.

Looking to find some backing for my opinion that it’s not worth using, I came across a web page entitled “Should you use Trusteer Rapport” from Which? magazine.

Its conclusions include:

  • Rapport interferes with browsers and slows systems down
  • Your browser will, anyway, probably intercept any attempt to connect to a fake banking site
  • Your antivirus program will almost certainly catch “phishing” emails
  • It’s your bank’s job – not Rapport’s – to keep your money safe.

Brian Krebs’ web page on Rapport may be old (2010), but it’s worth looking at if you are interested in gaining a more in-depth view on how Rapport works.

Assuming that you are using Windows 7 or 10, the easiest way to check to see if Rapport is installed – and to uninstall it if it is – is as follows:

  • Press Windows+R to open the Run box.
  • Type “appwiz.cpl” (without the quotes) in the box and click OK.
  • Highlight “Trusteer Endpoint Protection” (by clicking on it).
  • Click on “Uninstall” (located directly above the list of programs).
  • Follow any prompts that come up.
  • Close the Programs and Features window.

The three best ways to keep your finances safe online are quite easy and straightforward:

  • ALWAYS have up-to-date antivirus software running.
  • NEVER click on any link in any email that purports to come from your bank.
  • KEEP your browser updated.
Rapport Chrome Error Message

The error message Rapport shows in Chrome. No point in looking in Chrome extensions – it will not show that Rapport is installed. Click on the link (“Need help?) in the error message and follow the instructions to get Rapport working in Chrome. Not for the faint-hearted.

Are you fed up with browser popups that tell you the website you are about to visit “wants to know your location”?

 
Map PinI find this really irritating. It reminds of the irritation I feel whenever I go into a Nespresso shop. Actually, there are several things that annoy me about Nespresso shops, but the one I mean here is when you attempt to pay and they ask for your postcode. No – you don’t need my postcode to sell me coffee.
 
Back to the point. You can set a preference in your browser that stops websites from asking this question. As you’d probably expect, the method depends on your browser, so here’s how you do it in current versions of the major browsers:
 
Google Chrome

  • Click on Settings (3 vertical dots at the top right of the browser)
  • Scroll down to “Advanced” and click on it
  • Click on “Content Settings”
  • Click on “Location”
  • Against the “Ask before accessing (recommended)” setting, click the “switch” to the left so that the label changes to “Blocked”
  • Close the settings tab (the “x” next to “Settings” at the top of the window)

Firefox

  • Click on Options (3 horizontal bars)
  • Click on the padlock on the left side
  • Scroll down to “Permissions”
  • Click on “Settings” next to “Location”
  • Tick the box next to “Block new requests asking to access your location”
  • Click on “Save Changes”
  • Close the “Options” tab

Internet Explorer

  • Click on the “Tools” menu option
  • Click on “Internet Options”
  • Click on the “Privacy” tab
  • Place a tick against “Never allow websites to request your physical location”
  • Click on “OK”

Edge
 
You can not turn location on/off within Edge. Instead, you need to change Edge’s access to your location within Windows 10 settings: 

  • Click on the “Start” button
  • Type “location” without the quotes
  • Click on “Location privacy settings”
  • If “location” is “off” you do not need to do anything more
  • If “location” is on, scroll down to the list of apps and turn Edge off
  • Close the Settings window

Safari
 
As with Edge (above), the setting is no longer within the browser but is part of system-wide settings:
 

  • Click on the apple (at top left of all screens)
  • Click on “System Preferences”
  • Click on “Security & Privacy”
  • Click on “Location Services” (you may also need to click on the padlock below this to unlock changes to settings)
  • Remove the tick next to “Enable Location Services”
  • Close System Preferences

Map PinsOpera
 
I was unable to find the setting in the current version of Opera. Opera’s own help page suggests the following:
 
“go to Settings > Preferences > Advanced > Network, and uncheck “Allow websites to request my physical location””
 
but, unless I’m losing the plot, that setting no longer exists.

There are at least three reasons why you might want to stop Chrome’s Software Reporter tool from having its way with your system:

  • It is a resource hog
  • It might try to remove desired enhancements/extensions to Chrome
  • It compromises your privacy by reporting its findings to Google

ClouseauGoogle don’t make a fuss about Chrome’s software reporter tool. They simply install it when you install Chrome and run it – when they feel like it and without your say-so. Its purpose is to scour your system to find software and browser extensions that are harmful to the running of Chrome, but I defy you to find out how much of your system it pokes its nose into and how it decides what is, and what is not, harmful to Chrome. It then reports its findings back to Google and, if it has found anything it doesn’t like, it suggests you remove the offending item(s) using the Chrome “cleanup tool”.

I came across it in the same way that I think a lot of people do. My system was unaccountably running slowly so I opened Task Manager and noticed the entry for “software-reporter-tool” and the fact that it seemed to be using a large part of the system’s CPU (the Central Processing Unit – ie the actual “performing work” part of the computer). A bit of research informed me that it can swallow up to 60% of the CPU’s capacity at any one time and that the process can take 20 minutes to run.

The fact that it’s a resource hog is bad enough, but I decided I definitely wanted rid of it when I found that it reports backs to Google on what it finds and seems to base its decisions on what is best for Chrome rather than what I want.

So how do you get rid of it?

Chrome - listeningWell, you could try just deleting the actual program file that is involved, but any update to Chrome is almost certain to bring it back. A better way is to change the “permissions” of the folder that contains all the relevant files so that nobody is allowed to run it. Since all the updated versions of Software Reporter are also installed inside this folder, all new versions should also be incapacitated.

The folder in question is called C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\SwReporter

If you can not see the folder called “AppData” after negotiating to c:\users\username in File Explorer, then this is because you currently have “system folders” hidden. See below for how to reveal system folders.

Once you have located the folder called SwReporter, proceed as follows:

  • Right-click on the folder called SwReporter and left-click on Properties
  • Click on the “Security” tab
  • Click on “Advanced”
  • Click on “Disable inheritance” and then “remove all inherited permissions from this object”
  • Click on “OK”, then “yes, you want to continue”, and then “OK” again

HogThat’s it. Chrome’s Software Reporter Tool should now be unable to run.

To display (hidden) system folders in Windows 10:

  • Open File Explorer
  • Click on the “View” tab
  • Click on “Options”
  • Click on the “View” tab
  • Click on the circle against “Show hidden files, folders, or drives”
  • Click on “OK”

To display (hidden) system folders in Windows 7:

  • Open File Explorer
  • Click on the “Tools” option
  • Click on “Folder Options”
  • Click on the “View” tab
  • Click on the circle against “Show hidden files, folders, or drives”
  • Click on “OK”

Want to move to a different browser?

Favorites folderYou may have thought of trying a different browser, but can’t face the thought of starting afresh with your collection of internet favorites (known as bookmarks in some browsers). Well, don’t let that stop you. It’s fairly easy to copy your favorites from one browser to another (technically, we are “importing” rather than “copying”, but that’s splitting hairs).

So, just look down to find the section relating to the browser you wish to start using, and follow the instructions. As usual with my blog posts of this kind, the instructions relate to the latest versions of the browsers.

Chrome

  • Click on the three vertical dots at the top righthand corner of the browser
  • Click on “bookmarks”
  • Click on “import bookmarks and settings”
  • If Firefox isn’t the browser from which you are copying bookmarks, click on the triangle next to it and choose either Edge or Internet Explorer instead. The last option in the list (“Bookmarks HTML file”) is for when you are transferring Chrome bookmarks between computers
  • Uncheck any items that you con’t wish to copy from your previous browser
  • Click on “Import”
  • If you have your previous browser open, then close it now and then click “Continue”

After the importing has been completed, you can see where Chrome has put your bookmarks and move move them around using the Bookmarks Manager:

  • Click on the three vertical dots at the top righthand corner of the browser
  • Click on “bookmarks”
  • Click on “bookmark manager”

BookmarkFirefox

  • Click on the icon of the clipboard (it has the tooltip “show your bookmarks”) that is next to the star that bookmarks the current page
  • Click on “show all bookmarks”
  • Click on “Import and Backup” at the top of the screen
  • Click on “Import Data from Another Browser”
  • Select the browser and click “Next”
  • De-select any items you do not wish to import
  • Click “Next”
  • Click “Finish” when you see the message “The following items were successfully imported: Favorites”

Firefox leaves you in the Bookmark Manager, so you can see the imported items (in a folder called, for instance, “From Intenet Explorer”) and move them around as desired.

Internet Explorer

  • Click on the “File” command
  • Click on “Import and Export”
  • Ensure that “Import from another browser” is selected
  • Click on “Next”
  • Select Safari or Chrome (note that Microsoft don’t give you the option to import from “Edge” (their other browser))
  • Click on “Import”
  • Click on “Finish”

To organise your favorites in Internet Explorer:

  • Click on the icon of the star (top right of browser)
  • Click on the triangle next to “Add to favorites”
  • Click on “organize favorites”

StarEdge

  • Click on the three horizontal dots (top right of browser)
  • Click on “Settings”
  • Click on “View favorites settings”
  • Select the browser from which to import the favorites (note that Microsoft are happy to give us the option to import from Internet Explorer to Edge, but not vice versa)
  • Click on “Import”

To organise your favorites in Edge:

  • Click on the icon with three unequal-length horizontal bars (apparently, this is called “the hub”)
  • In the popup, click on the favorites icon (the star)
  • You can now drag and drop favorites to move them around, or right-click to rename or delete

Safari (on a Mac)

  • Click on the “File” command
  • Click on “Import from” and then select the browser whose favorites/bookmarks you wish to copy
  • Untick “history” if you do not want to import it
  • Click on “import”

When I tried this, I found my “bookmarks” imported from Chrome were placed inside a bookmarks folder called “favorites” (accessible by clicking on the “bookmarks” command). No, I couldn’t figure that one out.

Chrome filter

Yes, that’s right. Google has become one of the biggest companies in the known universe thanks to its advertising revenues, and it’s going to include an ad-blocker in its browser

Actually, that’s not strictly true. They are not going to block all ads. Instead they are going to try to filter out ads that are just too annoying for even the most laid-back internet surfer.

So who gets to decide that an ad is just too awful? There’s a group including Google, News Corporation, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Facebook, and lots of others, that call themselves “The Coalition for Better Ads“.

They have initially defined four types of ads that fall below the level of acceptability for desktop browsers. These are:

  • Pop-up ads. These appear after the main content of the page has started to load and block some or all of the content.
  • Auto-playing video ads with sound. As the name implies, the sound starts without any interaction on the user’s part. Ads requiring a click to start the sound don’t cause the same annoyance and aren’t included by the Group.
  • Prestitial Ads with Countdown. These ads appear before the main content of the page and force the user to wait a number of seconds before they disappear. Goodness knows what “prestitial” means. You can’t consult the Oxford English dictionary online for free any more. Chambers Dictionary doesn’t know what it means and neither does the excellent (and free) WordWeb.
  • Large Sticky Ads. Sticky ads cling to the page no matter how much you try and scroll to get them to go away. They are deemed to be “large” if they take up more than 30% of the screen.

Coalition for Better Ads logoThere are even more types for mobile devices, but I think you probably get the idea. There’s no attempt (yet) to filter out ads on the basis of taste.

The reason for taking action on the most annoying types of web ads is that online advertisers are worried about ad blockers undermining the effectiveness of their ads. The more annoying that ads become, the more people will install ad blockers, so the more their revenue will be affected. Many, many, websites are only able to function because of the advertising revenue they generate.

Camel Cigarettes advert

The “Coalition for Better Ads” is not yet filtering for ad content

Undoubtedly, there is an argument for saying that the internet will be a better place with fewer of these very annoying advertising practices. Isn’t it just a bit worrying, though, that Google (producer of the Chrome browser and purveyor of most of the ads on the internet) should be instrumental in deciding just what is, and what is not, acceptable as far as online advertising is concerned? I don’t think we can expect any of Google’s own advertising practices to be called into question by the “Coalition for Better Ads” (of which it is a member).

I’ve got a feeling, though, that it might be just a tad too late for the likes of me to start worrying about how much power Google wields! Think I’ll just be grateful that some of the worst online advertising practices might just become extinct in the near future.

And just in case (like me) you still think ad blockers are a good idea – have a look at this blog post about Adblock Plus.

Tip: some websites are now blocking access to users who user ad blockers. If I come across one of these, I usually say “fair enough” and leave the site. If, however, I really do want to access something on such a site, this is how I go about it:

  • I have another browser installed (“Opera” in my case) that I rarely use and in which I haven’t installed an ad blocker.
  • If a site blocks me, I click on the address bar and then click Control c (Command c on a Mac). This copies the web page address into the clipboard.
  • I then open Opera, click on the address bar, and click Control v (Command v on a Mac). This pastes the address into Opera and I can access the content without disturbing the ad blocker on my normal browser.

Globe and Keys

Do you get hassled by your browser offering to save passwords?

All major browsers can be configured to save the username and password of your account at the website you have just accessed. That’s all very well if:

  • You don’t use a password manager (such as LastPass) to handle this for you and
  • You trust the browser to keep the information safe

If either of these conditions is untrue then you may prefer your browser to stop being so eager to help. Detailed below are the instructions for configuring the current versions of the major browsers.

One browser will quite happily display all your passwords without asking for any credentials at all. So, anyone accessing your computer can easily see these passwords. And which one is it? Firefox – see below

Firefox logoFirefox

  • Click on Menu option (three horizontal bars at top right)
  • Click on “Options”
  • Click on “Security”
  • Untick “Remember login for sites”
  • Close the “options” tab (or the entire browser)

Note that, before closing Options, you can click on “Saved Logins” and then “Show Passwords” to display all the passwords you’ve asked Firefox to save for you. I can’t imagine why they make this so insecure.

Chrome logoChrome

  • Click on Menu option (three dots at top right)
  • Click on “Settings”
  • Scroll down to “Advanced” and click on it
  • Scroll down further and, under the “passwords and forms” section, click the arrow to the right of “manage passwords” and slide the blue switch left to the “off” position
  • Close the “Settings” tab (or the entire browser)

Note that, a bit further down, there is a section called “Saved Passwords”. If you click the 3 dots to the right of a saved password then you can click on details. In the popup window, you can then click on the “eye” symbol to see the password. It will then ask you for your Windows password. This is the password you use to log on as a Windows user. It won’t accept a pin (even if that’s your normal logon method). I haven’t tested what happens if you sign on to your computer as a local user with no password.

Safari logoSafari (on a Mac)

  • Click on the “Safari” menu option
  • Click on “Preferences”
  • Click on the “passwords” tab
  • Untick “Autofill user names and passwords”
  • Close the passwords window

IE11 - iconInternet Explorer

  • Click on the Settings “cog wheel”
  • Click on “Internet Options”
  • Click on the “Content” tab
  • Click on “Settings” in the AutoComplete section
  • Untick “User names and passwords on forms”
  • Click on “OK” on each of the two open boxes

Note that there is an option “Manage Passwords”. Clicking on this (in Wondows 10, anyway) will open Windows “Web Credentials”. You will need to supply your Windows user password to access the stored passwords.

Edge logoEdge

  • Click on menu (3 horizontal dots)
  • Click on “Settings”
  • Scroll down and click on “View advanced settings”
  • Scroll down and slide the switch leftwards that is next to “offer to save passwords”
  • Click somewhere to the left of the “Settings” menu to close it

Unless you are a Safari user, you can set your browser to delete any cookies set by websites during the current session (ie cookies set since you opened your browser)

Stamp on CookiesAccording to Wikipedia (source):

“An HTTP cookie (also called web cookie, Internet cookie, browser cookie or simply cookie) is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored on the user’s computer by the user’s web browser while the user is browsing.”

Some cookies are definitely useful. For instance, on a shopping site, the information about the stuff that the user has put into their “shopping basket” is kept in cookies. Other cookies, however, are simply there for the purposes of recording the user’s browsing history. We’re not just talking about which websites have been visited. We’re talking about what pages the user looked at, how long they looked, where they went next, and so on. A lot of people find this intrusive, and even creepy. If you go to a website and look at, say, pink elephants, and then go to a completely unrelated site a couple of days later and are presented with adverts for pink elephants, you can be sure that cookies have been tracking you around.

It is possible to set browsers so that cookies can not be set. This, however, is probably not a good idea as it could make the website difficult, if not impossible, to use. So another approach to improving your privacy online is to delete all cookies as soon as you close your browser. This means that those who would track you around cyberspace have to start all over again each time you open your browser.

The way that you set your browser is detailed below for the major browsers. Note that I’m assuming that you have the latest version of the browser. If you don’t have the latest version then it’s a good idea to get it. If your operating system is too old for the latest version of the browser (you XP users know who I’m talking about) then maybe it’s time to start thinking about a new computer.

Sweep cookies awayChrome

  • Click on the three vertical dots at the top right of the browser
  • Click on “settings”
  • Scroll down and click on “Show advanced settings”
  • Under “Privacy”, click on “Content settings”
  • Click on the button next to “Keep local data only until you quit your browser”
  • Click on “Done” at the bottom right of the screen and close the “Settings” tab (by clicking “x” on the the tab or by closing the browser)

Firefox

  • Click on the three horizontal bars at the top right of the browser
  • Click on “Options”
  • Click on the “Privacy” option at the left of the window
  • Under “History”, next to “Firefox will:”, select “Use custom settings for history”
  • Next to “Keep until:”, select “I close Firefox”
  • Close the options tab (by clicking “x” on the the tab or by closing the browser)

Internet Explorer

  • Click on the gear icon at the top right of the browser
  • Click on “Internet Options”
  • Click on the “General” tab
  • Place a tick in the box next to “Delete browsing history on exit” (by clicking on the box)
  • Click on “OK”

Cookie MonsterEdge

  • Click on the three dots at the top right of the browser
  • Click on “Settings”
  • Beneath the text “Clear browsing data”, click on “Choose what to clear”
  • Place a tick against “Cookies and saved website data” (and any other items you would like to clear)
  • Slide the switch underneath “Always clear this when I close the browser” to the right (so that it says “on” next to it)
  • Close the “Settings” by clicking on the three dots again

Safari

You can’t – but you might want to have a look at this Apple Communities page on Safari and cookies

Padlock with key

Following on from last week’s blog, how do you go about saving usernames and passwords for websites, and how do you go about seeing what has been saved in your browser?

All of the following instructions are for the latest version of the browser (as at 29/10/2015) when viewed on a Windows 10 PC. The exception is, of course, the Safari instructions. All instructions are for desktop/laptop machines.

Firefox-logoFirefox v41.0.2

  • Click on the Menu button at the top right of the Firefox window (three horizontal lines representing, I suppose, a menu)
  • Click on the cog wheel (with “Options” written underneath)
  • Click on the padlock (representing Security) on the left sidebar
  • From here, you can tick or untick the box next to “Remember passwords for sites” and you can see the passwords you have saved by clicking on “Saved Passwords” and then clicking on “Show Passwords”

Note that, in Firefox, you can set a master password that grants/denies access to the saved passwords, but if you do set one Firefox asks you to enter it every time you open the browser – a bit of a pain.

Chrome-LogoChrome v46.0.2490.71

  • Click on the Menu button at the top right of the Chrome window (three horizontal lines representing, I suppose, a menu)
  • Click on the “Settings” option
  • Scroll down to “advanced settings” and click on it
  • Scroll down to the section entitled “Passwords and forms”
  • Click in the box next to “Offer to save your web passwords”
  • To see your passwords, click on “Manage passwords”. Initially the passwords are represented by bullet points. Click on a password entry and then click the “show” button to see the password. You then need to enter the Windows password for the user that is logged in. This is the password for the Microsoft account of the logged-in user. I have no idea how Google Chrome is able to read your Microsoft password and I don’t know what happens if you are on a version of Windows that didn’t require a password for the user. Certainly, Windows 10 would not let me create another Windows user without supplying both an email address for that person and a password with which to log on.

IE9 - Internet Explorer 9 - logoInternet Explorer v11.0

  • To save passwords, just click on “Yes” when Internet Explorer offers to store a password that you have just typed in
  • To view saved passwords, carry out the following instructions:
    • Go to the windows Control Panel
    • Click to open the Credential Manager
    • Click on “Web Credentials”
    • Click on the entry that is of interest and then click on “show”
    • You will then need to enter the password of the currently logged-on Windows user.

Note: the above instructions for all three browsers are for Windows 10. I haven’t had time to check on previous versions of Windows.

Safari-logoSafari (on a Mac) v9.0.1

  • Click on the “Safari” menu option
  • Click on “Preferences”
  • Click on the “Passwords” tab
  • To see a password, click the box next to “show passwords for selected websites” and select the required site by clicking on its entry. You will need to enter the administrator’s password for the logged-in user.

Has something hijacked your home page?

It is quite common for both malicious and benign software to decide (rather arrogantly) that it’s going to replace your browser home page with something else and that it’s not going to ask your permission or even tell you about it. This blog explains how to put it back again.

To begin with, what is your browser home page? It is nothing more than a specific page on a specific website that your browser opens when you first start the browser running or when you click on the browser home button (usually an icon of a house). Also, it may or may not be the same page as is opened when you open a new tab in a browser window (so that you have more than one web page open at once in the same browser window).

There’s room for a bit of confusion here as the term “home page” is also used to mean the “main page” or “beginning page” of any website. As such, a website’s home page is usually (but by no means always) the first page of that website that a visitor will land on. So, it’s quite likely that your browser’s home page (the first page it opens) is also the home page of the website it opens.

All browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari etc) give you the option of deciding for yourself what your home page should be. In practice, I would guess that about two thirds of all the home pages I see on my computer support clients’ browsers are set to the Google Search page (https://www.google.co.uk). A fair proportion of the rest are set to the BBC home page at www.bbc.co.uk. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend the latter as the BBC’s web pages are technically complicated, with loads of images and links to flashplayer etc, so the page may load quite slowly. Fine if that’s where you want to go, but a bit inefficient if the only reason for using that page as your home page is that you’ve got to start somewhere.

If you wish to change your browser’s home page, it’s a good idea to open the browser and navigate to the page you want to make your home page before following the instructions below. This is because you often get the opportunity to choose your “current page” or “current pages” (the web page(s) you are currently looking at) as your home page(s). That way, you can see you’ve got it right before choosing the page(s). Be careful, though: if you currently have six tabs open then all of the six open pages will become home pages, opened whenever you start your browser!


Firefox – see Figures 1a and 1b

  • Click on the menu button
  • Click on “Options”
  • Click on “General” on the sidebar list
  • Enter the webpage address or select “current”
  • Close the current tab (called “Options”) or close the browser and re-open it

Firefox Options 1

Figure 1a) Firefox Options


Firefox Options 2

Figure 1b) Firefox Options


Chrome – see Figures 2a and 2b

  • Click on the menu button
  • Click on the “settings” option
  • Under the “On Startup” heading, select “Open a specific page or set of pages”
  • Click on “Select Pages” and either select “current pages” or type in the website address (also known as the URL)
  • Close the current tab (called “Settings”) or close the browser and re-open it

Chrome Settings 1

Figure 2a) Chrome Settings

Chrome Settings 2

Figure 2b) Chrome Settings


Internet Explorer – see Figures 3a and 3b

  • Click on the “Tools” icon of a cogwheel
  • Click on “Internet Options”
  • Click on the “General” tab
  • Enter the web address(es) or click on “Use current”
  • Click on the “OK” button

Internet Explorer Tools 2

Figure 3a) Internet Explorer Settings

Internet Explorer Tools 2

Figure 3b) Internet Explorer Settings


Safari (on a Mac) – see Figures 4a and 4b

  • Click on the “Safari” menu option at the top of the screen
  • Click on “Preferences”
  • Click on the “General” tab
  • Enter the web address(es) or click on “Set to Current Page”
  • Close the “Preferences” page

Safari Settings 1

Figure 4a) Safari Settings

Safari Settings 2

Figure 4b) Safari Settings


If you are unable to change your Home Page, or if it insists on going back to a page that you have not chosen, then I’m afraid it is likely that you have malware on your computer and more drastic measures are indicated.

Do animated gifs drive you potty?

Google Search - a doodle

The animated version of this gif prompted this blog post

I think it’s been a while since I adopted full-blown “grumpy old man” mode in these blogs, but I’m going for it this week because I’ve just encountered umpteen instances of one of the internet’s most annoying features – animated gifs. Thank you, Google (not). The trite, childish static images on the Google Search page are bad enough without assaulting our eyes and brains with animated gifs. The thing I find most confusing is that Google is widely reckoned to have succeeded over other search engines for the very reason that their search page is clean, uncluttered, and easy to use. Why undermine this with trivia unsuitable for anyone over seven years of age?

What is an animated gif? It’s a series of still images that vary slightly from each other and that can be shown in rapid succession, thereby giving the appearance of animation. All these separate images are contained in one single file called an animated gif. Typically, they are quite small files, so there’s not much “overhead” in displaying them on web pages. The animation that they show is usually of only a second or so’s duration before it repeats and repeats and …

In case you feel like me about animated gifs, you may wish to know how they can be stopped. Actually, there are two main things you can do about them. One is to stop them in their tracks so that they become slightly less annoying as static images and the other is to hide them entirely.

On my main machine I hide them entirely on www.google.co.uk when using my default browser (Firefox), but today I’ve been forcing myself to use my MacBook Pro, so I keep coming across today’s animated gif on Google Search in both Safari and Firefox on the Mac.

That might give you a hint as to how to stop them. Yes, it’s all down to your internet browser. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer actually has a built-in option that you can select to stop such animations. With other browsers you can install “add-ons” to “de-animate” gifs.

Here are example add-ons for the most important browsers:

Internet Explorer 11 - stopping animated gifs

With Internet Explorer 11, simply untick the circled box to stop the animation in animated gifs

Internet Explorer 11 – no add-on needed. Go to “Settings” (the cog wheel at top right), left-click on “Internet Options”, click on the “Advanced” tab, scroll down and untick “Play animations in webpages”. Note that you may have to re-boot for this to take effect.

Firefox – with Firefox loaded, go to this site for the Toggle Animated Gifs add-on and click on “add to Firefox”.

Chrome – with Chrome loaded, go to this site for the Gif Blocker add-on and click on “add to Chrome”. I tried several gif blockers for Chrome before I found this one. None of the others I tried worked. Note that this one doesn’t result in a static gif being displayed. Instead, it removes the gif altogether and lets you know what’s missing by placing the letters”gif” in the middle of a grey box.

Safari – with Safari loaded, go to this site for the Deanimator and clickdownload.

If you need a sample webpage that includes an animated gif, this dancing banana is as good (or bad) as any.

And how do you completely remove both static and animated gifs on the www.google.co.uk page?

Google Search Without Doodles

This is how I like Google Search to look

I do it with the add-on called AdBlock Plus. I’ve blogged about AdBlock Plus before.

To use AdBlock Plus to remove an image that isn’t recognised as an ad (in the following example the gifs and animated gifs on the Google search page), first install it and then go to the add-ons in your chosen browser (in my case, Firefox) and then:

  • Click on the Options button on Ad Block Plus
  • Click on Filter preferences
  • Click “Custom filters” tab
  • Add a filter group called “Ad Blocking Rules”
  • Add the following line as the rule and then ensure that “enabled” is ticked:
    ||google.co.uk/logos/doodles/2015/*
  • Close the “Add On manager” tab.

There you go, making cyberspace a bit more friendly for grumpy old men and women.

© 2011-2018 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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