Monday, June 30, 2014
Did you know that in the first eight years of operation, 30 million Facebook users have died? What happened to their accounts? What will happen to your data when you pass?
You’d be relieved to know that most social networks protect your privacy and will only allow aut an authorised person or someone with a legal order to access your data after your death. Read through this infograph by WebpageFX to find out more.
Click to enlarge.
Think Chrome can do everything? Think again. Here are four things Firefox users can do easily that Chrome users basically can’t.
We write a lot about Chrome around here, seemingly neglecting what was long our favourtie browser: Firefox. It’s clear that Chrome can do a lot, but is there anything it can’t do that Firefox can?
As it turns out, yes. Note that most of the things I’m saying about Firefox below also apply to popular forks and remixes of the Firefox browser.
Don’t like Chrome’s minimalistic layout? Too bad. Outside of installing a theme and re-arranging your add-on icons, there’s not much you can change.
Don’t like Firefox’s layout? Fix it. To start: you can drag any interface element anywhere you like. I, for example, wanted to save vertical space by putting my bookmarks toolbar beside my address bar. I also wanted to remove the separate search bar. Doing so took seconds.
As you can see, Firefox even lets me drag elements to the menu – meaning if I want to use my search bar sometimes, but not see it constantly, I can do that.
Of course, this is just the beginning. You can download Firefox themes to change the look of the browser – you can even make Firefox look like Chrome, if you really want.
And even that’s just skimming the surface: you can dig into userChrome.css to customize things even more, if you’re so inclined. For example, you can learn how to customize the Firefox orange bar menu by editing the right files.
Put simply, you can make Firefox look and act however you like – and the same can’t be said for Chrome.
Install Any Extension You Want
For years addons were the main reason to use Firefox instead of Chrome. Put simply: Firefox had what you were looking for and Chrome didn’t.
That’s changed. As Chrome’s market share grows, so does the attention developers give the browser – and it shows. Chrome users switching to Firefox will find the Evernote extension, for example, a trip back in time. I’m sure you can think of other examples: it seems like many developers release on Chrome first and on Firefox if users eventually ask for it.
So if Chrome arguably has the advantage now, why bring addons up in this article? Because Google’s been locking things down.
Earlier this year Chrome prevented users from installing any addons outside the Chrome Web Store. Recently they’ve gone even further: they’re actively deleting extensions users previously installed. Chrome is now the iOS of browsers, allowing only approved addons to run.
This isn’t entirely without reason: there’s a potential for malware in browser extensions, and some extension makers take liberties Google would rather not see (like changing the default search engine). So the filtering may be helpful to some users, but other users want control. On our own computers, we want the freedom to install whatever extensions we want – regardless of whether Google approves of them.
Which brings us to Firefox. There’s an official Firefox addon site, which offers users addons known to be safe. But you’re not limited to using it: you can install addons from any site on the web that offers them – all you need to do is click through a warning. Installing random addons without vetting them first is stupid, of course, but that’s part of what freedom means: the ability to do stupid things.
If you want that freedom, Firefox is the clear choice.
Use Advanced Addons
So Google limits your choice of addons to things they’ve approved for inclusion in their web store, but that doesn’t matter if all the addons you want are there. Are they?
Not necessarily. For good or for ill, Chrome gives extension developers less access to the browser’s core functionally. This means some Firefox addons are capable of things no Chrome extension could be.
For example: DownThemAll developer Nils Maier said in a blog post that providing all the capabilities of his addon – an advanced download manager – would be impossible on Chrome.
“Basically,” wrote Maier, “this new API enables extensions to use the Chrome download manager, but doesn’t give control over the request, data streams and/or low-level details themselves.”
Popular webdev tool Firebug is in a similar situation: Chrome doesn’t give developers as much control, making it impossible to completely recreate Firebug for that browser. Chrome’s built in tools partially make up for this, as does Firebug Lite for Chrome is a mostly web-based compromise. But if you want FireBug, you need to use Firefox.
Add Search Keywords In Just A Few Clicks
Here’s a Firefox tip most users don’t know: you can add any search box to the Firefox URL bar in just a few clicks. Simply right-click the box on any site, then click “add a keyword for this search”.
You’ll see a prompt; simply name the bookmark, then pick a short keyword.
Now you can search your site of choice anytime by typing the keyword, followed by your search terms.
It’s a small thing, sure, but if there are a few sites you search regularly it can save you a lot of time. There are similar tricks out there for Chrome, but none this simple. Troll me if you don’t think this belongs here; I just thought it was useful.
There’s More… Fill Us In!
Of course, there’s more. I could talk about Firefox’s superior autocomplete functionality, or how Firefox isn’t run by a company that primarily profits by tracking users’ web activity for the purpose of showing relevant advertising.
I could, but I think it’s more fun if you make sure points in the comments below. Or, if you’re a huge Chrome fan, you can point out Chrome features fox fans are missing out on. Let the flame wars begin, but keep it civil!
Are you concerned about your privacy? With all the talk about the NSA and sharing of private user data these days, it’s natural to be worried about what happens to your information online. Even your smartphone tracks you in more ways than you probably know.
Facebook is one entity that’s infamous for sharing your information, but if you’re already using it, it’s hard to remove the social network from your life. It’s common knowledge that Facebook is tracking everything you do online, but even if you can’t accept the idea of permanently deleting your account, you can still use alternate apps to access Facebook without being tailed. Tinfoil for Facebook is one such Android app at your disposal.
A Word On Permissions
Chris has written an excellent guide about Android permissions and why you should take the time to understand them. Permissions are the only layer of defense between your phone and an app. If an application has malicious intent, all you have to do is allow it on your phone with invasive permissions to create problems.
This isn’t just theory. The app Brightest Flashlight Free requires a bundle of permissions — none of which are necessary to perform as a flashlight — and it used them to access users’ locations and sell them to advertisers. 50 million people were affected by this tracking, and they willingly agreed to it by installing the app. This isn’t the only problem with Google Play, but because permissions are all-or-nothing, you must be extremely diligent with what apps you install.
Compare Brightest Flashlight’s (which I am intentionally not linking to) permissions with an app like Holo Torch, which only requires access to the camera.
Unfortunately, Google has changed the way Android permissions work in the Play Store recently. Instead of detailing each permission, they are grouped together by type and are less specific. Additionally, the Internet access permission is so commonplace that Google moved it to the lesser-known Other group, making it less visible. Worse yet, an update to an app can add new permissions without your approval if they’re in the same group as already approved permissions.
Read up on what Chris has to say about this change over at the How-To Geek and remember to keep a sharp eye on your permissions.
Facebook’s Android App
Now that the impact of permissions has been reviewed, let’s look at the app in question: Facebook. How many permissions does Facebook’s mobile app ask for? It takes four screenshots to show them all:
Let’s break this down. Facebook has access to:
- Your contacts, including modification and adding or changing calendar events. They know who is in your phone and can contact them.
- Your exact location. They know where you are at any time.
- Your camera, including taking pictures and videos at any time, as well as recording from the microphone. They can get at anything you’re saying or looking at.
- Your text messages, your calls, and can call phone numbers. They can see who you’ve contacted recently.
- Your internal storage, including permission to delete anything. They can see the files on your phone.
- Full Internet access anytime, changing your wallpaper, opening up over other apps, and downloading files. They can make little tweaks without your knowledge.
Facebook has offered explanations for some of these permissions.
Note the example given for accessing SMS. Is this tiny convenience that probably saves you no more than a few seconds really worth unrestricted access to your text messages? Once this procedure is completed, that permission doesn’t go away. Their explanation may be truthful, but seriously think about what’s being asked of you.
If any other app required this much access to what’s on your phone, you’d hopefully run the other way. Yet Facebook, who is known to profit from selling user data toserve more relevant ads has access to all the above information on the devices of the more than 500 million users of its Android app. That’s a terrifying thought.
It’s Getting Worse: The New Audio Identification
Facebook wasn’t satisfied with the long list of invasive features in its app and decided to add some more. You’ve probably heard of apps like Shazam or SoundHound that can identify music you’re listening to. Facebook recently updated its app to include this feature — when posting a status, the app can determine what song you’re listening to or what TV show is on in the background, and will tag your status with this information.
Once again, Facebook has tried to explain itself, this time claiming that the feature is not always listening and that the feature is opt-in. However, Facebook has a poor track record when it comes to new, opt-in features: the old setting to prevent people from looking up your Timeline by name was removed last year. Thus, all users were forced to accept Graph Search, a previously opt-in feature.
As discussed, even though Facebook says that they’re not always listening, they have the ability to do so. It’s just how Android works: if an app can access your microphone, it can access it at any time.
Tinfoil For Facebook Is The Solution
After all this talk about Facebook, you probably want to delete the app. Don’t worry, though — you can be rid of the official app and still have a great Facebook experience on the go. What’s even better is that Tinfoil for Facebook is easier on battery life and doesn’t constantly run in the background. It’s also much smaller in size than Facebook’s official app. Just look at this permissions list:
So, all this app can access is the Internet and your approximate location if you choose to allow it. The developer specifically mentions that the permission is not used unless you enable the check-in feature in the app, which is optional. The source code for the app is available if you have any doubts. If you try to use the check-in feature while you have it disabled, it won’t work.
All that Tinfoil does is create a wrapper for the mobile version of Facebook’s website, just like if you visited Facebook in a mobile browser. You can kill it from the menu when you’re done and it doesn’t constantly run and sync.
Let’s see how it compares in usability to the official app. Here’s the News Feed on both the official app and Tinfoil (on the right):
The official app looks a little prettier, but Tinfoil is just as usable. Both apps have easy access to posting statuses and uploading pictures. Tinfoil can access all of your groups, events, and settings just like the official app. In terms of performance, nothing is different except for some button locations as you can see in the screenshots below where Tinfoil is again on the right.
It’s slightly hidden, but you can slide in from the right at any time to open up Tinfoil’s menu. It allows you to jump to the News Feed or your notifications quickly, as well as accessing the app’s few options and closing it.
You can send messages from Tinfoil, tag friends in comments, and search for people and places. It’s as much functionality as you’d expect from a mobile Facebook experience.
There are few negatives to replacing the native Facebook app. Since Tinfoil is only a wrapper for the mobile version of Facebook’s website, if the site has problems, then Tinfoil won’t work either. This has never been a problem in my time using Tinfoil, however. The app overall may feel a bit less polished than Facebook for Android, but you’ll hardly notice after a week of use.
What About Notifications?
The only other noticeable feature that the mobile website lacks is notifications. If you’re someone who needs Facebook notifications in real-time, this may be a dealbreaker for you. Fear not, however, because IFTTT, which you can already use to automate your Facebook goings-on, has a solution.
IFTTT, which we’ve written plenty about, recently released an Android app thatmakes Android automation even more awesome. Using the new Android Notifications Channel, you can create your own alerts for when you get a Facebook notification.
First you need to get your personalized notification RSS feed, which isn’t as scary as it sounds — there’s even a guide to RSS if you’re interested, though no knowledge is required for this process. Log into Facebook on the Web and head to your notification page, which looks like this:
Once you click on the RSS link, you’ll get a bunch of text. Don’t worry about this; instead, copy the URL of the page, which is your personal notification feed. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need an IFTTT Recipe to send them to your phone. I’ve created a script to do this for you; access it here and simply plug your URL in.
Now, when you get a notification on Facebook, IFTTT will send it right to your notification bar on your phone.
Throwing Out The Official App
Even if you elect to start using Tinfoil for your mobile Facebook browsing, it won’t do you much good if the Facebook app still remains on your phone; it’s best to get it off your device. If you installed the Facebook app yourself, try to uninstall it by heading into Settings > Apps (will vary by device), finding Facebook, and clicking “Uninstall,” just as you would with any other app. if you’re lucky, you can uninstall it from here and be done.
If the app is built into your phone, as it is on many, you won’t be able to uninstall it in this way. You can try a couple other methods, but realize that all Android devices are different and so these instructions may not match your phone perfectly. Chris has covered removing bloatware if you’re looking for a complete guide on this topic. If your phone is rooted, you can use Titanium Backup to remove Facebook —Erez has detailed this process for you.
If you’re on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or above, you have the option to disable apps you don’t want. This does not free up storage on your device, but it will stop the app from running and remove it from your app list. If you can do this for Facebook, that’s your next best option. Head to the app’s page, where you would normally uninstall it, and click “Disable.”
If you can’t disable Facebook, the best you can do is uninstall its updates to roll it back to when it had less permissions. You’ll find this button on the app page, just like the Disable button. After you do that, remove your Facebook account from your phone’s Sync menu by going to Settings > Accounts and Sync > Facebook and click “Remove Account.”
Taking these steps ensures that your Facebook data isn’t being synced over the official app anymore, which is the goal if you want to use Tinfoil. It’s a shame that it can be so difficult to remove completely.
You May Now Browse Privately
For users concerned with privacy, those looking to improve battery life, and those who want Facebook to have less of a grip on their lives, Tinfoil for Facebook is an excellent solution. You may miss a small feature or two from the mobile app, but the short list of permissions will more than compensate for any inconveniences.
If you’re looking to read more about Facebook’s practices, Philip has explained how Facebook might be used to spy on you.
Do you use an alternative Facebook app? Are you concerned about Facebook’s privacy invasions? Will you give Tinfoil a try? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: girl using smart phone Via Shutterstock Source: www.makeuseof.com
Most consumers today view laptops as a tool; it needs to do a job and do it at a fair price. Manufactures know this, so there are many systems available for around $500 or less. But how do you choose the right laptop, and what can you expect from its performance?
Bang for your buck
Restricting your budget also restricts your choice of hardware. There are certain things you simply won’t be able to obtain. A discrete GPU is out of the question, and you’ll struggle to get more than four gigabytes of RAM or a solid state drive with a capacity beyond 32GB.
Within these limits, though, you have a few choices to make. One is the decision to go with an AMD processor or one from Intel. AMD processors usually have slower per-core performance which means they feel more sluggish, but you may be able to grab an AMD with four cores. This could be preferable if you run software that utilizes many cores, such as video or photo editing tools.
AMD also tends to offer superior graphics performance at a given price, but Intel is better for battery life, particularly if you grab a “low voltage” chip designated by the U or Y suffix.
One option I suggest that you avoid is Intel’s Atom processor. Atom was recently re-designed, making it more powerful and adding quad-core models, but it’s still not quick. You can grab an Intel Core-powered laptop for a few hundred bucks, anyway, so there’s not much reason to resort to Atom.
Most budget notebooks will ship with four gigabytes of RAM. Some come with six gigabytes, but whether it does or doesn’t is almost irrelevant; you’re not going to see a benefit from the extra two gigabytes unless you plan on running a specific app that hogs memory. Avoid systems with only two gigabytes of RAM unless they run Chrome OS or Linux.
Most budget notebooks will ship with four gigabytes of RAM. Some come with six gigabytes… you’re not going to see a benefit from the extra two gigabytes…
Connectivity is also worth consideration. USB 3.0 is ideal, as is 802.11ac WiFi and DisplayPort video output (as this supports 2560×1440 resolution, and beyond, for external monitors). You’re unlikely to find all of these things on a budget system in the near future, but they should influence your decision when picking between notebooks.
Consider Chrome OS
Google’s Chromebooks have consistently claimed top slots in Amazon’s best-selling laptop list over the last year, despite the fact that only a handful of Chromebooks are available to consumers. Why? Because they’re inexpensive. The 11-inch Acer C720 Chromebook is only $199, while Toshiba’s 13-inch alternative is $280.
Chromebooks run Google Chrome OS, a stripped-down operating system that handles most everything through the Chrome web browser. Instead of Microsoft Office, you use Google Documents. Instead of a photo editing application you use an online service like Pic Monkey. Even games are played online, though some can save content to the local disk for quicker load times.
Ditching Windows is not an easy decision. You won’t be able to run any of your old Windows apps, and it’s generally not possible to install Windows on a Chromebook as an alternative operating system due to hardware (and hard drive space) restrictions. While not useless offline, you’ll have to be connected to the Internet to perform most tasks.
In compensation for these sacrifices, you receive solid hardware. Despite their price, most Chromebooks have an Intel processor based on a recent architecture, a small solid state drive and a decent display. You’ll end up spending around $100 to $200 less than you would on a comparable Windows 8.1 notebook.
Check out our guide to ditching Windows for Chrome OS before you buy, as it will help you better understand the pros and cons of Google’s alternative.
Don’t Plan On Customizing
Customization is often an option even with budget systems, but you’re better off choosing a factory system configuration. These mass-produced products are less expensive then customized alternatives, and you’re not missing out on much by choosing one. Most major upgrades are outside your price range, after all.
For example, you could buy an HP Pavilion 15t from the manufacturer and customize it your liking. This would set you back $529. Office Depot, however,offers a very similar system for $449. You may not be able to add more RAM or change the processor, but you undoubtedly receive more for your money.
Choosing upgrades from the manufacturer is usually a rip-off, anyway, as you’ll often end up paying as much for the pre-installed upgrade as you would have if you’d installed it yourself – but, because it was pre-installed, you don’t get to choose the brand of component.
Get Ready To Snipe Deals
Picking a reasonable system that fits your need is of course important, but it’s only part of a battle. Finding the right deal is crucial too. Most affordable notebooks have very similar hardware, so the price is ultimately what separates the best from the rest.
There are several tactics you can employ to find the best deals. One is to price track notebooks you like on Amazon using one of several free websites that offer this service. Read our Amazon bargain hunting guideto learn more.
Another choice is to pick up your local newspaper and view local electronic ads, or view those same ads online (when available). In the United States, for instance, you’ll want to pay attention to ads from Best Buy, Office Depot, Staples, Wal-Mart and other major retailers in your area. Limited-time deals from a specific store often provide the best value. In addition, some retailers (Best Buy in particular) offer “exclusive” laptops with hardware that’s not available anywhere else.
Also take a look at Fat Wallet, the coupon and deals website, to scope out any current online deals that might attract your attention. Fat Wallet does a nice job of rounding up the best offers and includes some more obscure retailers like B&H Photo and even K-Mart.
Be patient if you have the luxury of time. Retailers across the globe offer new deals every week, so there’s no need to settle for what’s on sale this week if none of it strikes your fancy. It’s also a good idea to comparison shop any “deal” to see if it’s actually a bargain. Amazon price trackers are, once again, very helpful.
Consider Used Or Refurbished Hardware
Purchasing a used notebook can be a great way to save money. You won’t receive a warranty or the latest hardware, but you may receive features that you otherwise could not afford.
On eBay, for example, you can find a variety of systems that are several years old and sell for $200 to $500. Some of them have a 1080p display, a quad-core Intel processor or discrete graphics, and in rare cases, all three. You simply can’t obtain the same hardware from a new system without blowing the lid off your budget.
Be sure to read our guide to buying used electronics before purchasing any pre-loved laptop. You can’t entirely eliminate risk, but you can greatly reduce your chance of getting screwed if you know what to look for.
Budget laptops are never perfect machines. You’re going to have to make a sacrifice somewhere. Still, it is possible to buy a competent system that can serve you for years. Let us know how your hunt goes in the comments below.
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