Your Own Captain’s Log Arrives on Windows 10

While handwritten journals are nice, electronic journals are more convenient, and they provide ways to record your life that pen and paper simply can’t. my Log allows you to record video journal entries and transcribes into text them for you. Just like on Star Trek.

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The app also has an optional Star Trek theme that lines up nicely with the surge in the franchise’s popularity, thanks to recent films and Star Trek Discovery.

The app is available for free on Windows 10, Xbox One, and HoloLens. You can download the premium version or donate to the developer but this doesn’t seem to add any features.

my Log is centered around video journal entries, but its other features create a fuller journaling experience. The most impressive feature is the app’s voice-transcribing feature. When you record an entry, the app automatically records your words as text. It’s very accurate, though not perfect, and gives you a way to read through your entries without watching your video. As you’d expect, you can edit the text to correct any errors.

In addition to videos and transcribed text, you can also upload photos and gifs to your entries. You can’t upload full videos, though, which is unfortunate.

my Log has some nice features and impressive voice dictation, but the market for journal apps is crowded. my Log stands out with its Star Trek theme and video focus, but it is missing features that would let it replace other popular journaling apps.

One of those missing features is social media and calendar integration. However, in it’s dedefense my Log is a much newer app and it is free.

It would also be nice to see my Log gain the ability to add journal entries without videos having to be recorded. While the app is video focused, sometimes you just want to jot down ideas without recording anything.

Final Thoughts

my Log is a fun app to use, especially if you’ve watched as many Star Trek episodes as me. Anyone who knows anything about Star Trek is familiar with the phrase “captain’s log.” The voice-dictation software works well enough that you won’t have to make a ton of edits to correct errors, and the ability to upload photos and gifs is handy.

There are a lot of competing journal apps for Windows 10 but my Log is unique enough to deserve a look.

You can download my Log in the Windows Store.

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Protecting Your Information This Holiday Season

It’s the holiday season – which means it’s time to also take extra care when shopping online.

According to the National Retail Federation, 59 percent of consumers will make online purchases, up from 56.5 percent from 2016. With credit card numbers flying through cyberspace, make sure you take steps to protect your security if you plan to shop online this year.

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The following tips can keep an online Grinch from ruining your holiday cheer.

  1. Verify the company and website. One of the most important first steps you can take is to make sure you’re actually making a purchase from a legitimate business. Independent websites like Biz Rate will let you read what other consumers have to say about a business. The Better Business Bureau Online offers consumers a list of safe shopping sites. When in doubt, go with a reputable company you already know and trust.
  2. Look for signs of security. When it’s time to input your payment information, look for an “s” after “http” in the website address, ensuring your data is encrypted as it is transmitted. Also look for a tiny closed padlock in the address bar or on the lower right corner of the window. As an added security measure, update your website browser. The most recent versions of website browsers are typically the most secure.
  3. Be skeptical. We’re all looking for a bargain, but approach a deal that seems too good to be true with caution. Submitting your information to an unknown company to purchase a new computer for $25 could be risky. Paying the higher price through a trusted vendor may be the difference between a secure purchase and a compromised credit card number.
  4. Pay with plastic. Yes, financial planners often tell you not to run up your credit card bill, and that still holds, but using your credit card for online purchases offers you some protection that debit cards may not. If there are any problems, you can work with your credit card company to file and resolve a dispute. Incidentally, many credit cards offer protection or insurance on purchases. In lieu of using plastic, many retailers will allow you to use a third-party payment service, such as PayPal, which guarantees your purchase.
  5. Safeguard your Password. It’s time to get a little more sophisticated with your choice of passwords; and “abcd123” isn’t going to cut it. Today’s hackers are smart and determined. Get creative and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. For example, if you want to make your password memorable and use a pet’s name, you could try “$p0tTheD0g” or something similar.
  6. Check it out. When your credit card statement arrives, go over every detail, making certain all of the purchases are yours. If you question a line item, call the credit card company immediately. Don’t forget to check a store’s online purchase policy as well, should you need to exchange or return an item.

Happy online shopping this year – and stay safe.

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Microsoft Launcher Comes to Android

Microsoft has just launched the re-branded Microsoft Launcher on Android.

According to Play Store, the launcher was downloaded 5 million times and it currently has a 4.6 rating.

Microsoft is trying hard to make sure Android users prefer Microsoft Launcher as their default launcher on Android. The company is also sending out quick updates to fix the issues and make sure to give the best experience especially to Microsoft fans moving from Windows Phone to Android.

The launcher lets users customize feeds, download new Wallpapers from Bing, check news, customize gestures on the home screen and many more. On the top of all this, Microsoft Launcher comes with “Continue on PC” which will send files, images, docs, and websites directly to your PC using OneDrive. Microsoft Launcher is a must app for people who love to keep their home screen simple and clean.

If you’re an Android user, head to the Play Store from the link below to get Microsoft Launcher for Free.

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Unifying Your Cloud Storage with DriveUnion

Image result for driveunion app logo pngThese days it’s common to have to use a combination of Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box. You might use one for your personal files while your work or school uses another. DriveUnion aims to ease the process of managing all of your cloud files and does so without taking up storage on your PC.

The app is available for Windows 10 for free but if you want to unlock the ability to use more than three cloud accounts or five favorites you’ll have to buy the premium version for $2.99.

All the Basics

DriveUnion supports four of the biggest cloud storage providers in Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box. You can login to multiple accounts from the same service as well in case you have separate ones for personal files and work or school.

The app has a basic design that is easy to navigate. Each storage account shows up in a panel on the left side of the app and you can expand specific accounts and folders within accounts. You can drag and drop files within accounts or between different providers and also have the option to drag and drop files from your PC to the cloud.

Copying larger files between two cloud providers takes a very long time. That isn’t necessarily DriveUnion’s fault as uploading larger files to the cloud is usually a long process but it’s worth noting.

The app does all of this without storing any of the files on your PC. This means you can browse all of your cloud files without clogging up your PC’s storage. Right clicking on files gives you the option to open them on the web or download them to view them locally on your device. You can also mark any file as a favorite making it easier to navigate back to them.

Navigating to specific files takes a few extra steps but works. Specifically when you click on a folder you then have to click on a specific file or subfolder to see any previews of files. But once you get to a file DriveUnion previews it well.

An exceptional feature within the app is viewing videos from the cloud. I keep a video portfolio on my OneDrive account and watching them within DriveUnion is actually a better experience than viewing them directly through OneDrive. The app takes a few seconds to load videos but streams them smoothly with no buffering or hiccups, which is an issue I face watching them within OneDrive.

More Improvements Please

DriveUnion is a solid app for moving files between cloud providers and viewing files but it has some limitations. The first and biggest issue is that you can’t create new folders. If you want to move files between existing folders DriveUnion is fine but not being able to create new ones is a major drawback.

Two other things that would be a big boost to DriveUnion are a better design and support for more cloud storage providers. The app is very functional but has a far from modern design. The app also has very little in terms of visual customization. This isn’t a huge deal as the app is for managing files rather than looking nice but bringing an app’s design into the present is almost always a good idea.

In Review

DriveUnion is a nice app for people who have to use more than one cloud storage provider. Being able to store and drag and drop files between accounts without ever storing a file on your PC is great.

The app could stand to be updated visually and to add some more features but it is a solid app for managing files in an increasingly cloud-driven world.

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Weaponized Email

Nearly all of the popular domains are inadequately protected from “weaponized” email impersonation by hackers, formerly known as spear phishing.

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One out of every five emails today appears to come from a suspicious sender who’s not authorized to use the sending domain. It has also been found that only 0.5 percent of the top million domains use adequate authentication strategies to protect against email impersonation, even though most systems support stronger defenses.

Better email authentication defenses could help the typical company save $8.1 million each year in costs related to cybercrime.

These findings come on the heels of a report released last week from Google and the University of California-Berkeley that identified phishing as the greatest threat to people’s online identities.

‘Vast Majority’ of Businesses are Vulnerable

DMARC (domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance) is an email security system designed to protect against malicious actors sending unauthorized emails that appear to come from legitimate domains. The DMARC system enables administrators to set policies that validate the “From:” content in email headers comes from legitimate senders at those domains.

“Email has been weaponized by hackers as the leading way to infiltrate networks, and the vast majority of businesses are leaving themselves vulnerable by either incorrectly configuring their authentication systems or forgoing protection entirely,” ValiMail co-founder and CEO Alexander García-Tobar said in a statement. “Businesses are asking their employees to complete an impossible task: identifying who is real and who is an impersonator, by closely examining every message in their inboxes. The only sustainable solution is for companies to take control of their email security at the technology level and stop placing the onus on employees to prevent phishing attacks.”

Of organizations that use DMARC to validate their emails, 77 percent have either misconfigured the system or set policies that are too permissive, the ValiMail study found. In fact, only 15 percent to 25 percent of companies in various industries have properly implemented and maintained DMARC protections, the study noted.

‘Alarming Lack of Understanding’

Close to 100,000 phishing email campaigns were reported every month in the early part of this year, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, an international coalition of businesses, government organizations, and law-enforcement agencies. Several hundred companies see phishing attacks every few weeks, with businesses in the payment, financial services, and Webmail sectors the most vulnerable, the group said.

The year-long study by Google and the University of California-Berkeley released last week found that phishing poses the top threat against people whose online identities were exposed by Internet data breaches. Google said it has taken several steps in response to boost its authentication systems to defend against phishing.

The new research released today “demonstrates the volume of email fraud threats faced by companies today and highlights the alarming lack of understanding of how to combat these threats,” the Global Cyber Alliance’s Shehzad Mirza said in ValiMail’s statement. “These findings highlight that a lack of email authentication is the most prevalent security vulnerability companies face.”

Late last month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a directive requiring all federal agencies to begin implementing stronger email security defenses, including DMARC, within 90 days. The move is aimed at preventing federal emails and Web sites from spoofing and impersonation by hackers.

DMARC usage by federal agencies has grown since 2016, although only 38 percent had established adequate record policies as of October, according to the Online Trust Alliance. The ValiMail study noted that DMARC protection is available to most domains.

“Over three-fourths (76 percent) of the world’s email inboxes support DMARC and will enforce domain owners’ authentication policies, if those policies exist,” the report noted.

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Moving to Firefox Quantum Made Easy

Earlier this week I wrote about Firefox’s new super speedy browser, Quantum. I have been using it exclusively for a couple of days now and I remain very impressed with it. Changing your browser can be a challenging task so I wanted to take a little time to help anyone interested in giving this new browser a whirl, while keeping all of your bookmarks, extensions and settings.

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My biggest problem with Chrome has been the browser’s sluggish performance and gluttony for system memory which can often impact the performance of the PC in general.

The latest version of Mozilla’s browser uses an all-new CSS engine and memory management techniques to load pages faster and handle piles of tabs better than Google’s offering.

I made the switch earlier this week and you can join me by following these simple steps to transition painlessly from Chrome to Firefox Quantum in under two minutes.

1) Install Firefox Quantum

Head to this page to get the installer for Mac, Linux and Windows, and follow the on-screen instructions to set it up. It should only take a couple of clicks.

2) Import your bookmarks and settings

Once you’ve got the browser installed, you can either start afresh with Firefox Quantum or bring over all your settings, bookmarks, history and passwords from Chrome.

The easiest way to do so is to open the Bookmarks Library by hitting Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+B, and then clicking on Import and Backup > Import Data from Another Browser to launch the wizard. Then, choose Chrome (or whichever other browser you’re migrating from); select the items you’d like to import, and you’re good to go.

3) Familiarize yourself with the new interface and features

Quantum’s interface is more sparse than previous versions, so you might need some time to get used to it. For starters, you can now enter search terms in the address bar, and that field now has a contextual button with three dots that contains shortcuts to functions like bookmarking, taking a screenshot, emailing the link, and sending the current tab to a synced device that also has Firefox installed.

You can set up the main toolbar just the way you like by clicking the hamburger menu button all the way on the right and then choosing Customize. Once there, you can add and remove buttons, and the search box (which is useful if you want to query search engines other than the default one, aka Google).

Customize your toolbar, layout and themes

Additionally, you can hide the title bar, show or hide toolbars like the one for bookmarks, configure the size and spacing of buttons, and even switch up themes by clicking the buttons at the bottom of this screen.

There are a couple of bland ones built in, as well as a dark theme and a few whimsical options. Firefox has long had a theme store where you can browse and add more to your collection, and you can access it from this page.

To save your changes and return to your browser, click Done at the bottom of the page.

Quantum has a couple of nice new tricks up its sleeve, including a built-in screenshot tool that lets you snap the visible portion of a page, the entire page, or just any area you choose. It’s accessible from the three-dots menu in the address bar, and it’ll automatically upload your screenshot so you can share it online, download the image, or copy it to your clipboard by hitting Ctrl/Cmd+V.

Firefox Quantum's built-in screenshot tool is pretty handy

The browser also has Pocket baked in, so you can easily save pages to read later with just a click on the address bar. You’ll need to sign into the service before it starts working, of course.

Pocket's read-later service is baked right into Firefox Quantum

Alternatively, you can use any other read-later service you like, such as Instapaper, but you’ll need to install the necessary add-on to do so (and you can then hide the Pocket button by right-clicking it and choosing the option to remove it).

4) Sync your desktop and mobile browsers

Firefox’s browser is also available on iOS and Android, and you can have those versions keep your passwords, bookmarks and history in sync with your desktop browsing activity. Plus, you can beam any active page from your computer to your phone by clicking the option in the three-dots menu.

To enable these features, click the hamburger menu button and choose the first option to set up Sync; you’ll need to create an account with your email address and password. Once that’s done, login to your account in Firefox on your phone, and you’re good to go.

5) Set up your start page and New Tab page

Chrome and Firefox are similar in the way they handle New Tabs and your start page. You can set them up in Quantum just as you did in Chrome by clicking the hamburger menu button and choosing Options, and configuring these settings under General.

I personally enjoy using a customized self-hosted page that contains links to all the sites I frequently browse as my home and start page, so I’ve got that set up for both options.

To configure how New Tabs behave, start by opening a fresh tab by clicking the + button on the tab bar or by hitting Ctrl/Cmd+T. You’ll find a list of ‘Top Sites’ that you visit often, and you can add or remove pages from there at will.

Next, click the gear icon at the top right of the page to show or hide the search bar, bookmarked pages in the Highlights section, and snippets of info that Firefox will surface from time to time.

6) Install essential extensions

While you may not find the exact same extensions you use in Chrome, there are plenty to choose from in Firefox’s store that should help replicate most of the functionality you’re used to in Google’s browser.

To enable these features, click the hamburger menu button and choose the first option to set up Sync; you’ll need to create an account with your email address and password. Once that’s done, login to your account in Firefox on your phone, and you’re good to go.

Here are a few essential add-ons, and some of my favorites that are worth installing in Quantum:

  • LastPass: If you want an easy way to manage and autofill your passwords, LastPass is a good way to go. It’s free to use on multiple devices, and includes handy features like password generation for when you sign up for new services.
  • Momentum – an excellent extension that brings a beautiful background to your New Tabs, along with a clock, a field to describe your area of focus for the day, and a to-do list.
  • OneTab – got too many tabs open? OneTab condenses all the URLs into a single page and closes them, so as to free up memory and keep your links available at the ready when you want to return to them, or share them all at once.
  • AddtoAny – share pages to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.
  • Pushbullet – beam links, text and files between your Android or iOS device and your device in a pinch. Certain features require a paid account, but the free version does a whole lot for the low price of nothing.
7) Set Firefox Quantum as your default browser

If you’re happy with your new setup and want to make Quantum your daily driver, click the hamburger menu button, and click ‘Make Default…’ so it always launches instead of Chrome whenever you need a browser from a different app.

And that’s how you switch from Chrome to Firefox Quantum, and reclaim precious system resources in the bargain. Happy browsing!

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Microsoft’s November Patch Tuesday Arrives

November’s batch of Patch Tuesday updates is now rolling out to Windows 10 users. As per usual, today’s updates include quite a few bug fixes and improvements, but no noteworthy features.

For those already running the Fall Creator’s Update, today’s patches bring the build number up to 16299.64 with update KB4048955. This is the first Patch Tuesday update for the Fall Creators Update. Here’s a look at the fixes included:

  • Addressed issue that causes the Mixed Reality Portal to stop responding on launch.
  • Addressed issue that causes a black screen to appear when you switch between windowed and full-screen modes when playing some Microsoft DirectX games.
  • Addressed a compatibility issue that occurs when you play back a Game DVR PC recording using Android or iOS devices.
  • Addressed issue where the functional keys stop working on Microsoft Designer Keyboards.
  • Addressed issue to ensure that certain USB devices and head-mounted displays (HMD) are enumerated properly after the system wakes up from Connected Standby.
  • Addressed issue where the virtual smart card doesn’t assess the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) vulnerability correctly.
  • Addressed issue where Get-StorageJob returns nothing when there are storage jobs running on the machine.
  • Addressed issue where applications based on the Microsoft JET Database Engine (Microsoft Access 2007 and older or non-Microsoft applications) fail when creating or opening Microsoft Excel .xls files. The error message is: “Unexpected error from external database driver (1). (Microsoft JET Database Engine)”.
  • Addressed issue where application tiles are missing from the Start menu. Additionally, applications that the Store app show as installed don’t appear on the application list of the Start menu. Computers that have Internet connectivity and upgrade on or after November 14, 2017 will receive this preventative solution and avoid this issue. Machines that lack network connectivity or have already encountered this issue should follow the steps in the Microsoft Answers thread “Missing apps after installing Windows 10 Fall Creators Update”. Microsoft will release and document an additional solution in a future release.
  • Addressed issue where Microsoft Edge cannot create a WARP support process and appears to stop responding for up to 3 seconds during a wait timeout. During the timeout period, users cannot navigate or interact with the requested page.
  • Security updates to Microsoft Scripting Engine, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Graphics Component, Windows kernel, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player.

Updates are similarly available for prior Windows 10 releases, each with a lengthy list of bug fixes. Windows 10 Mobile users are also getting an update to build 15254.12, which contains all of the improvements found in update KB4048954. You can find a full list of release notes at Microsoft’s support site.

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Microsoft Apps on Your Android or iOS Device

Although Microsoft’s Windows Phone is a distant memory and I often get choked up missing my old Windows Phone – Microsoft has done a great job embracing both Apple & Android. There are several awesome Microsoft productivity apps that you can download on your smartphone that will help you work better and get that awesome Microsoft tingly feeling (or maybe that’s just me).

Here are my favorite productivity apps that you will want to make sure are installed on your device.

Microsoft Office

Although small screens are not the best UI for major editing jobs, having the ability to tweak a presentation or other document when you are waiting to meet with a customer is valuable and these apps will give you that capability.

In addition, being connected to your e-mail and calendar is critical during the work day and having Outlook on your device for that is a no brainer. The latest versions of Outlook for iOS and Android include the Focused Inbox feature to help you stay focused on the important communications.

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote has become my second brain and allows me to take all of my notes and other information everywhere I go. It is laid out to use a heirarchy of Notebooks which then have Sections and then those areas have Pages which can then be organize with all of the data that enters our daily existence.

Microsoft To-Do

Although this app is not nearly as full featured as Wunderlist which it replaced, much to the chagrin of Wunderlist loyalists, it does integrate with Outlook and enables you to keep track of all the items on your work list.

Microsoft OneDrive

As the cloud continues to become an integrated feature in our work flow having access to it and everything stored there is what makes this app a must on your device. It has recently undergone a significant UI update while makes the experience across iOS and Android nearly the same which reinforces the companies effort to make your experience mobile no matter what platform you use.

Microsoft Authenticator

If you are not using Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on your accounts then you are behind the security power curve. What I love about the Microsoft Authenticator app is that it is platform agnostic, What I mean by that is I am able to setup the app as a second factor of authentication for any platform that supports 2FA. There are options for entering the account data manually or using a QR Code to automatically set 2FA in action.

Bonus Apps to Help You Work

Microsoft Edge

This recommendation reaches both iOS and Android and while Microsoft Edge is still in beta preview mode on iOS and Android (public preview). iOS users can sign-up to begin testing Edge through the Apple TestFlight program.or

This app is a key element of productivity for anyone who is using the latest feature update for Windows 10, the Fall Creators Update, with these two mobile platforms. Within the Edge app there is a method to send a website link to your Windows 10 device which can be opened right then or stashed in your Action Center as an alert that can be opened later. This feature, Share to PC, is some of the early steps Microsoft is working on for their Windows Timeline feature that will make this process easier by sharing activities between a users ecosystem of devices.

Microsoft Launcher

I wish it was possible to tell everyone that this app is accessible on both iOS and Android but unfortunately Apple does not support alternate launchers on their platform so this one is just for those on Android devices.

Microsoft Launcher is one way that users can transform their phone into a pseudo Microsoft device by not using the default Android launcher options and then installing any and all of the Microsoft apps that they want on their handset.

There are options to configure wallpapers, themes, icon packs and many other aspects of the app. In addition, by tying in your Microsoft Account you can easily access your calendar, documents, and other activities. Just like the Microsoft Edge app there are also capabilities built in to share items to your Windows 10 device that uses the same Microsoft Account.

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Fiirefox Quantum Arrives with Promises of Improved Speed & More

Firefox 57 is now available to download — and it’s probably the single biggest update to Firefox in the browser’s 13 year history.

In fact the the changes are so big that Mozilla has given the release its very own name: ‘Firefox Quantum‘.

A fitting title for such a fit release. As you will see, Firefox 57 is a quantum leap over previous versions of Firefox.

Firefox Quantum: Better, Faster, Stronger

There are 3 major changes in Firefox 57 that make it better, faster and stronger:

  • New look & feel including a new theme, new Firefox logo and new ‘New Tab’ page
  • New Rendering Engine that’s multi-core friendly and GPU efficient
  • New Add-on framework that’s designed for the modern web

Let’s take a closer look at each point.

Better: a new look

firefox quantum on ubuntu

Quantum gives an all-new look and feel to Firefox. The angular visual refresh, dubbed Photon, is clean, light and responsive.

Alongside the squared tabs, redesigned toolbar icons, and revamped menus is one striking change: a combined, centre-aligned address & search bar.

I got used to it after a few minutes. Once you get used to the “newness” it recedes into the UI, allowing you to focus on the contents of tabs instead go the Chrome around it. If you don’t like this change you can (pictured above) return to the separate address bar and search box.

The Photon refresh extends to virtually every part of the UI, form the spacing of menus and the color of toolbar icons to transitions and tab loading animations

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Firefox 57’s new look includes new UI assets and animations

A couple of new features are introduced as part of the Photon rejig, including a new “Firefox library” (a menu giving quick access to browsing history, bookmarks, Pocket saves, and synced tabs); “Screenshots” (which does what it says on the tin).

There’s a a totally redesigned new tab page. it makes far more efficient use of space than the old “speed dial” approach, and surfaces some helpful “highlights” from recent web searches and articles being shared on Pocket.

Talking of which, the Pocket save button has been moved out of the toolbar and into the new combined address/search bar.

Faster: Performance Revamp

‘Firefox is 2x as fast as this time last year, and uses 30% less memory than Google Chrome’

According to the bods at Mozilla Firefox Quantum is 2x as fast as last year’s Firefox 49, and uses 30% less memory than Google Chrome.

How?

Well, it’s partly down to all-new CSS engine called ‘Stylo’, true multi-process architecture (a process which began with Electrolysis), plus new smarts in setting tab priority, and more.

“Over the past seven months, we’ve been rapidly replacing major parts of the engine, introducing Rust and parts of Servo to Firefox. Plus, we’ve had a browser performance strike force scouring the codebase for performance issues, both obvious and non-obvious,” explains Mozilla’s Lin Clark in a (thoroughly excellent) write-up.

All of the changes create an effectually new Firefox.

Stronger: a more reliable extensions framework

For many, the biggest change in Firefox 57 won’t be the sleek new interface, or the invisible under the hood tune-ups, but the fact that many much loved Firefox add-ons will no longer work with the browser.

‘Legacy add-ons no longer work in Firefox 57’

For the best part of a year Firefox has allowed you to run both legacy add-ons and the new-fangled web extensions side-by-side. With this release that ends; legacy add-ons no longer work in Firefox 57.

Add-on developers have had a long, long time to prepare for this day. A such a slew of popular add-ons are already available as Web Extensions (hurrah).

You can view a list of web extensions that work with Firefox 57 here.

You may find that one of two of your favourites haven’t been updated and, as such, won’t work in the new release. Alternatives may be available.

Firefox Quantum is just the start

If this post seems overly positive it’s because it has reason to be. Firefox 57 is a monumentally important release for the Firefox project, for Mozilla, and for open-source software in general.

The best part is that none of this is hyperbole: Firefox 57 really is better, faster, stronger. These improvements are tangible. The new combination of change here blasts some air back in to this flagship open-source project’s sagging sail.

Right now, Firefox feels in better shape than a long time and I, as someone who instinctively clicks the colorful Chrome logo when I want some internetz, am super impressed.

Whether this release sways you back to Firefox full-time or not, competition is healthy. Google won’t be oblivious to the praise the resurgent Firefox is getting. It will have improvements of its own to debut, I’m sure.

A new Firefox emerges today, and the improvements on offer serve as one heck of a foundation on which to build on.

Nice job Mozilla!

Download Firefox 57

So that’s the skinny on why you may want to give the latest release a spin for yourself. But how do you get Firefox on Ubuntu?

Well, that depends. If you’re using Windows, macOS or Linux you’ll be able to download Firefox 57 from the Mozilla website later today.

The latest stable release is technically already available to download from Mozilla’s FTP servers (the impatient route).

If you’re using Ubuntu you can relax. Ubuntu users will receive an automatic upgrade to Firefox 57 on supported versions of the distro (which includes Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, 16.04 LTS and the latest Ubuntu release, 17.10) shortly.

The upgrade won’t roll out right away, but it should be available to most at some point in the next day or two — so keep an eye trained on the Software Updater!

 

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Understanding Two-Factor Authentification

If you aren’t using two-factor authentication yet, you’re way behind and leaving your accounts vulnerable to hackers and phishers. In fact – you probably have been exposed to two-factor authentication and do not even realize it. If you ever forgot a password and were sent a text message with a code or if you were required to answer security questions you have already used two-factor authentication.

Image result for two factor authentication

Passwords today are simply not secure enough, especially when considering your personal and financial security.

There are several types of two-factor authentication security. Also not all two-factor authentication methods are equal. Some are safer and more secure then others. Here’s a look at the most common methods and which ones best meet your individual needs.

Two-Factor Authentication vs. Two-Step Authentication

Before diving in, let’s take a quick moment to clear up some confusion between two-factor authentication and two-step authentication. They’re similar, but not quite the same — one’s a square, the other a rectangle.

Two-factor authentication is when you protect an account with two factors. A factor is either “something you know” (e.g. password), “something you have” (e.g. phone), or “something you are” (e.g. fingerprint). To truly be protected by two-factor authentication, your account must require two locks of different factors before granting access.

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication methods

If an account is protected by two locks of the same factor, then it falls under two-step authentication (or two-phase authentication). For example, a password and a security question are both “something you know,” making authentication two-step but not two-factor. Though this can still provide adequate protection, two-factor authentication is preferable.

Just as a square is a rectangle but a rectangle isn’t a square, two-factor authentication is a type of two-step authentication but not the other way around.

Method 1: Security Questions

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication method security

What is it?
When creating an account, you choose one or more security questions and set answers for each one. When logging into that account, you have to provide the right answer to each question to validate that you have rightful access.

The Pros
Security questions are extremely easy to set up. Most of the time, the service provides a dropdown menu of questions — all you have to do is pick one and give the answer. You don’t need any other equipment, devices, etc. The answer is just stored in your head.

The Cons
Many security question answers can be found in public records (e.g. your father’s middle name) or socially engineered (e.g. phishing emails or phone calls). To get around this, you can make your answer gibberish and effectively make it a second password — but be careful that you don’t lose it or forget it!

Method 2: SMS Messages

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication method sms

What is it?
When creating an account, you provide your mobile phone number. Whenever you want to log in, the service sends you an SMS message with a verification code that expires (usually after 15 minutes). You have to input that number to complete the logging in process.

The Pros
SMS messages are extremely convenient. These days, pretty much everyone has an SMS-capable device and can receive SMS messages free of charge. Usually the messages arrive instantly, but even when they don’t it rarely takes more than a few minutes. If you ever lose your device, you can transfer your phone number so you’ll never be permanently locked out.

The Cons
You have to trust the service enough to share your phone number. Some disreputable services may use your number for advertising, or sell it off for monetary gain. And since phone numbers aren’t actually tied to devices, hackers can actually circumvent SMS-based authentication without ever touching your phone (though it isn’t easy).

Method 3: Time-Based One-Time Passwords

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication method totp

What is it?
When you create an account, you’re assigned a “secret key.” After installing a code-generating app (like Google Authenticator or its alternatives), you scan a QR code to load the secret key into the app. It then generates one-time passwords every so often (e.g. 30 seconds) using the secret key as a seed, and you need these one-time passwords to log in.

The Pros
The codes are generated based on a mixture of the secret key and the current time, which means you can get valid codes on your device even when you have no reception and/or no mobile service. And since the secret key is stored on the device itself, it can’t get intercepted or redirected (such as through a phone number takeover).

The Cons
You will be unable to log in if your device runs out of battery or dies altogether. Sometimes internal clocks can desync between device and service, which results in invalid codes. These are two reasons why printing backup codes is essential.

If a hacker somehow clones your secret key, then they can generate their own valid codes at will. And if the service doesn’t limit login attempts, hackers may still be able to compromise your account through sheer brute force.

Method 4: U2F Keys

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication method u2f

What is it?
Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) is an open standard that’s used with USB devices, NFC devices, and smart cards. In order to authenticate, you simply plug it in (for USB keys), bump it (for NFC devices), or swipe it (for smart cards).

The Pros
A U2F key is a true physical factor. Unlike SMS codes, they can’t be intercepted or redirected. And unlike most two-factor methods, U2F keys are phishing-proof because they’re only registered to work with sites you’ve registered. It’s one of the most secure 2FA methods currently available.

The Cons
Because U2F is a relatively new technology, it isn’t yet widely supported. For example, as of this writing, NFC keys only work with Android mobile devices whereas USB keys mainly work with the Chrome browser (Firefox is working on it). U2F keys also cost money, often between $10-$20 but could go higher depending on how rugged you want it to be.

Method 5: Face, Voice, Fingerprint

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication method biometrics

What is it?
Facial recognition, voice recognition, and fingerprint scans all fall under the category of biometrics. Systems use biometric authentication when it’s imperative that you really are who you say you are, often in areas that require security clearance (e.g. the government).

The Pros
Biometrics are extremely difficult to hack. Even a fingerprint, which is arguably the easiest to copy, requires some kind of physical interaction. Voice recognition would need some kind of statement said in your voice, and facial recognition would need something as drastic as plastic surgery. It isn’t unbreakable, but pretty close.

The Cons
The biggest downside, and the reason why biometrics are rarely used as a two-factor method, is that a compromised biometric is compromised for life. Plus, how comfortable would you feel giving up your face, voice, or fingerprints? Would you trust them to be kept safe? Most wouldn’t.

Which Two-Factor Authentication Method Is Best?

Well, it depends on what you value most:

  • For balance, time-based one-time passwords are the best. You just have to be careful about keeping backup codes in case you lose or break your device.
  • For privacy, U2F keys are the best. They can’t be used to track you and you don’t have to give up any personal information to use them. But they cost money.
  • For convenience, SMS messages are the best. Yes, they can be intercepted or redirected, and yes, they fail with bad reception, but they’re quick, easy, and secure enough.

If given the choice, don’t ever rely on security questions as a two-factor method. If you have no other option, then prefer to use it as a second password. Don’t ever answer the question directly, especially if the answer isn’t something that only you know.

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