Month: February 2014


Personalize Firefox Settings

Mozilla Firefox Logo

A Few Simple ways To Personalize Firefox Settings


Personalized Firefox Settings Begin Here

Firefox Menu Bar Option

To Menu or Not to Menu

One of the first things you may want to personalize in Firefox settings is whether you see the menu bar or not.  As can be seen in this picture the menu bar is checked.  This shows the standard menu.

File   Edit    View   History   Bookmarks   Tools   Help

Firefox without the menu bar When the Menu Bar is unchecked the bar disappears and a single button in the upper left corner of the browser window appears.  This is how you access the menu without the menu bar.  This is also the default view for Firefox.  So if you download and install Firefox this is what you will see.
Firefox options

 Firefox Options

Since the default for Firefox is to not show the menu bar I will show how to access the Options from the standard menu.  With the menu bar you simply click on Tools then options.

Most options are available through this menu selection.  You can click on either “Options” location circled in red.

  Home Page

Firefox Homepage Firefox uses a “Home Page” this can be the first page to load when the browser starts.  There is also a “Home button” that will take you to that page.  This line is where that URL is set.  If you are on the page you want to to use you can simply click the Use Current Page button.  You can set this via one of your bookmarks or you can simply restore the default.  The default is a Mozilla start page that uses Google as a search engine.  It is possible to load multiple pages if you want simply by entering the addresses of sites separated by a pipe |.This is also a trick of some undesirable software uses to make their pages load.  They will hijack this line and make it lead to their site.  To revert back to your desired Home Page simple change this line.
Firefox start page options

When Firefox Starts

You can also choose how Firefox will start up.  You can show your home page or you can show a blank page.  You may also choose to show my windows and tabs from last time.  This option will load up your browser just like it was when it was closed down.  You must have history enabled for this options to work.  Default settings retain browser history so I will not go into that here.

Firefox download location

Where to Download Files

On this same page you can choose the default download location.  The directory may be selected here or you can choose to be asked each time a download is initiated.

Firefox Searching

Searching in Firefox

Searches can be done in either of the two locations circled.  The URL line will conduct a search as well as the search box.  The Search box though is where the desired search engine is selected.

Firefox search list Selecting the default search engine can be done by simply clicking on the pull down in the corner of the search box.  The option can be changed quickly and easily anytime you want.  At the bottom of the list is the Manage Search Engines… That will bring up the window below.
Firefox search engines The Manage Search Engine List is where you can add and remove search engines or change the order.

Pinned Browser Tabs

Firefox Pinning a Tab

Pin Your Most Used Sites

With the availability of tabbed browsing and so many cloud services, the browser has become one of the most used programs on the computer.  We use many of these sites or pages like they were applications: email, calendars, Facebook, news, weather, cloud drive portals. If you visit the site you want to “pin” you simply right click on the tab, then click on the pin tab option.

ff-pinnedtab Once this is done the “Pinned Tab” will be moved to the left of all other tabs and shrunk down as well. These pinned tabs will open by default when you re-open your browser. This keeps these frequently used tabs always in the same spot for easy access. They automatically load up when you start Firefox just like they were applications.

As always if you need more help or you have tool bars and or software taking over your browser experience 12 Stones Tech can help get you back to normal.  For help call 913-893-1123



Zero Day Exploits

Zero Day Exploits

What is a Zero Day Exploit?

Simply put a zero day exploit is a software vulnerability that is found by hackers before the software creator.  They can be the worst kind of security hole as they can be exploited until the software creator is made aware and can fix the problem.

Two On The Same Day

This morning I have run across two articles about zero day exploits and the patches that are available.  The first is a security flaw in Microsoft Internet Explorer.  There is temporary fix for this available from Microsoft until they can get a permanent patch distributed.  When available the patch will be pushed out through the normal update channels for Microsoft software.

The second zero day exploit and fix I ran across is Adobe Flash.  They have a technical bulletin out describing which versions are vulnerable and which are not.   This is the Detail from that bulletin:

Adobe has released security updates for Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Windows and Macintosh and Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Linux. These updates address vulnerabilities that could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system. Adobe is aware of reports that an exploit for CVE-2014-0502 exists in the wild, and recommends users update their product installations to the latest versions:

Update Your Software

I work with many people on their computers.   One of the comments that I cringe at is “That update window keeps popping up and I just close it.”  Most legitimate software vendors out there provide a mechanism to update the software they create.  The reason they do is not only for improvements but also to patch vulnerabilities.  When a software program you have pops up and says there is a update would you like to install it you should do so.  Software producers are not doing this to pester you, they don’t want to be responsible for a breach of your computer.

Why are there so many updates

Most software we use is very complex as are the computers and operating systems we use.  Our computers unlike 20 years ago that occasionally got online are on all the time.  Surfing the web is commonplace and because of that attacks are primarily going to come from the web.  Software creators try to create a good usable and secure program that you can use for some purpose.  There are people out there that are constantly looking for holes in software to gain access to computers.  You may be one who says I don’t have anything on my computer of any importance so if someone gained access it would be no big deal.  You may not have anything to steal but with the right exploit a hacker could commandeer your computer for their own purposes.  They could use it for sending out spam, which will end up getting you in trouble with your
and probably blacklisted so you can’t send out your own email.  They could use it to host websites of all sorts including for illegal activities.  Which will of course get your into trouble with law enforcement at some level.  They could just use it as a bot in a bonnet for attacking other computers.  There are many reasons and none of them do you want to be a part of.

So the more software titles you use the more you will need to keep updated.  Some occur automatically others require you to do some action.  Take a few minutes and get them done.  As always if you need help with any of these issues I am available to assist.

Personalize Your Chrome Browser Settings


A Few Simple Settings To Personalize Chrome


Personalization Begins Here

Chrome menu button All settings in Chrome are accessed by clicking the button in the upper right hand corner with the three horizontal lines.
Chrome Main Menu When the menu pops up scroll down to the settings line and click.

  Default Pages to Load

 Chrome Settings

Chrome Settings
The “On startup” area controls what tabs are opened when a browser is launched.  If the “Open the New Tab Page” is selected a default page with options of what to load is shown.  The second option is the one I prefer and it loads all tabs that were open when the browser was closed.  So if you keep a lot of tabs open for different things you are working on and you have to restart the browser, all your tabs come back.  One exception is if you are using incognito mode.  Then anything you had open is gone when the browser is closed.  The last option “Open a specific page” does just that.  It allows you to choose one or more pages to load into tabs when the browser starts.
Chrome Start up pages If you click on the “Set pages” you are presented with the following dialogue where you can delete entries or add new ones.  This can be the place to come if your browser opens pages you don’t want on start-up.  For instance, search sites you never wanted but now pop up.  Some software that you load can hijack this entry and take you to sites you don’t want to use.  It’s usually a simple matter of deleting the entry you don’t want, and the unwanted tabs will stop.
Default Chrome Search settings Going back to the settings page the next area to understand is the Search.  All modern browsers will now let you type a search into the URL line and they will conduct the search.  This is the location that tells Chrome what search engine to use when you conduct that search.  This is also another location that gets hijacked by software.  You can click on the first button and pull down the list choosing what you want.
Search engine listing When you choose “Manage search engines,” then you get another window listing the default search engines.  You can make one of them the default or you can delete them from the list.  The “Other search engines” are just other sites that can be used for searching.  If you scroll down to the bottom of the “Other search engines” list you can add your own if you don’t see it already.  Most people just use Google, but if you have another site you would prefer to use you can easily change it here.

Pinned Browser Tabs

Pinning a tab With the availability of tabbed browsing and so many cloud services, the browser has become one of the most used programs on the computer.  We use many of these sites or pages like they were applications: email, calendars, Facebook, news, weather, cloud drive portals. I like that Firefox calls this feature an “app tab” but in Chrome it’s simply called “pinning a tab.”  If you visit the site you want to “pin” you simply right click on the tab, then click on the pin tab option.
Chrome showing pinned tab Once this is done the “pinned tab” will be moved to the left of all other tabs and shrunk down as well. These pinned tabs will open by default when you re-open your browser. This keeps these frequently used tabs always in the same spot for easy access. They automatically load up when you start Chrome just like they were applications.



Organizing Digital Photos

Organizing Photos12 Stones Technology Bridging the Gap To Your Organized Digital Photos

We no longer live in the days of a single camera with film, producing precious few paper copies of photos that we stored in shoe boxes and photo albums. In the digital age, we take thousands of pictures on multiple devices.  Trying to locate a photo among thousands becomes a monumental task!  Or we try to back them up, only to create multiple copies in multiple locations, compounding the problem of trying to find that one particular photo.

Keeping the photos taken by a single person with a camera and an iPhone organized can be tough enough, but when an entire family is involved, the problem can grow out of control.  There are some basic steps for organizing digital photos and making them accessible.

In order to assess your situation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where are all the photos located and how many are there? (The number of photos is less important than the size of all the photos.)
  • Do you have one central place with enough file space where you can store all your photos?
  • How fast are you adding photos?
  • Will you have enough space for at least one year of additional photos?
  • How much is your photo collection worth to you?
  • Do you need to share them and with whom?

For most people, storing all your photos online is not an option unless you are willing to pay for storage. This is where the “how much is it worth” comes into play. If you absolutely can’t afford to lose photos, then uploading them to a cloud storage can give you some peace of mind. If you don’t want to pay to store your photos, then you definitely want to have one or more backups. You may also opt for both. You can store some important photos in the cloud while others are kept locally.

If you have a newer desktop computer with enough storage for all your photos, that is the best place to start for your base storage location. A laptop can be used but since it can be carried around and out of your home, it is not the safest location for your treasures.  If you need to share the photos from your base storage location, you will need to set that up on your local area network to make it available to other devices.

All current operating systems offer a location specifically for photos, so begin consolidating your photos there.  Many photo programs can organize photos for you but they don’t usually organize the actual files.  Actually placing files in directories that make sense to you is the best way to go.  Try using a folder structure starting with years and then months. You can break the months down with special event folders or a specific day or whatever you want.

01 Jan
02 Feb
03 Mar

By limiting the number of photos in a directory, it makes it simpler to find the file you need access to for sharing, printing, etc. Fewer files in a directory also reduces problems with similar file names.

So how do you get all your photos onto one computer?  With all the devices we have to take photos, it can be difficult to get them all into one place. There are multiple methods of accomplishing the same thing but here is one method:  For those with iOS devices, a file manager program needs to be installed so you can access your picture files and transfer them to another device. FileExplorer Free is a program that can be installed to do just that.

For those with Android devices there are many options for network explorer programs. One I like to use is ES File Explorer.

Once the app is configured to access your desktop computer or network share, just copy all the photos on your phone to the remote computer.  This should be a photo dump; this is not the time to organize.

After getting all your photos moved to the desktop computer you will need to sort through them and place them in the appropriate directories.  Next, you will need to eliminate duplicates. Duplicate files can cause confusion as well as consuming additional storage space. Running a de-duplication program can help clean up your photos and reduce the storage space required. I have used Super DeDupe  You can download and try the program for 30 days.  If you wish to use it longer, you will need to purchase it for $19.95.

Now that all your photos are organized in one place and you have removed duplicates, it’s time to back them up.  An external hard drive, Network Attached Storage, or even a home server can be used for this.  If the photos are highly important, you can also back them up to a cloud storage solution.  Another off-site backup solution is to give a copy of your files to a family member not living with you. This can be done via an external hard drive you physically give to them or using other file transfer methods to create a backup on their computer.

Once you are all organized you can relax and peruse your photos any time you like.  And, after a filing method is set up, adding new photos becomes much simpler.  If you need help with some or all of this process, please contact me.