Author Archive | Steve Bass

Twelve Smart Firefox and Internet Explorer Add-Ons

I can’t get enough of the handy-dandy freebies that clump onto Firefox (and Internet Explorer) and make the browsers smarter and easier to use.

Finding the right one is sometimes just a matter of saying, “gawd, why can’t I…” and sticking it into a Google search field. So here are a few that I’ve found — and integrated into my browsers.

One thought, though, before you start. Adhere to the Bass International one at a time rule. It’s the best way to experiment when modifying your browser with add-ons or extensions. You know the reason: If your browser starts acting hinky, you’ll find the culprit pretty quickly with only one new add-on installed. Also, adding a bunch at a time has been known to cause sunspots and make people faint. No, seriously.

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Hate Flash? Try DivX HiQ

A recently released version of the DivX player comes with DivX HIQ, a plug-in that works with any browser. It’s a replacement for the Flash player that’s used to play videos on YouTube and at other sites–and boy, does it boost performance.

You’ll see the DivX HIQ option right below YouTube’s Start and pause button.

Among other things, DivX HIQ:

• Reduces dropouts indicated by that rotating circle you often see when Flash is downloading the streaming video. The stream is definitely smoother.

• Reduces CPU use, making it ideal for notebook and netbook users, because you’ll save battery life.

• Has a better looking maximized viewing window, plus a nifty, smaller pop-out window you can move to anywhere on your screen.

• Optionally saves YouTube videos automatically to your hard drive.

One thing not to try is DivX’s offer to permanently substitute itself for YouTube’s default player — at least until DivX HiQ is out of beta. For now, I’ve noticed that YouTube’s player sometimes starts first and runs for a few seconds before DivX HiQ kicks in.


Click on DivX HIQ for a smoother ride.


Watch the DivX HiQ product manager take you through an introduction and demo some features. [Thanks, Roger.]

[This post is excerpted from Steve’s TechBite newsletter. If you liked it, head here to sign up–it’s delivered on Wednesdays to your inbox, and it’s free.]


Make Yourself Invisible to Wi-Fi Hackers

You’re at Starbucks, busy working on your Facebook page. Bad news: The guy at the next table is a hacker, and he’s also working on your Facebook page. Sit tight, I have a few ways for you to make yourself invisible to hackers.

One Very Serious Threat

There’s a pervasive, serious Facebook and Twitter exploit that leaves you wide open to any and every hacker who can download a simple-to-use, free tool called Firesheep. It’s a threat if you’re using an unsecured, public Wi-Fi network, typically available at an Internet cafe, airport, hotel, or RV campground.

Last week TechBite paid subscribers got the first dispatch about this in the Extra newsletter; here’s a more detailed version.

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What to Do When Windows’ “Corrupt Files” Message Haunts You

I did the unbelievable — a beginner’s mistake, if I ever heard one. I unplugged  of a USB-attached device without using the Safely Remove Hardware applet. And up from the depths of the system tray came the here-comes-lunch “Windows – Corrupt File” message.

I was worried, and rightly so, because it was a client’s hard drive that now had a corrupt file. (He doesn’t read TechBite, so the secret’s safe.)

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Extra Online Protection: Free, Easy, Effective

This just in: Somebody out there is trying to trick you into clicking a link in an e-mail. Do it and you’ll be delivered to a Web site ready, willing, and absolutely able to damage your PC, steal your passwords, and use your address books.

Just this week, PandaLabs warned of a massive iTunes phishing campaign. E-mails are sent with a well-designed, authentic-looking receipt for $895. Alarmed — and unsuspecting — victims click to see how it happened and they eventually get tagged with the Zeus Trojan.

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Good Grief, I Love Norton Internet Security 2011!

On March 21, 1991, I stopped using Norton’s security programs.

But I like to see what the dark side is up to, so I recently switched back to Norton. And I’m really happy I did.

Of course, knowing how you always like to hear the dirt, I’ll tell you the back story.

It was at the March 21, 1991 user group meeting that a Norton rep was showing off the company’s latest antivirus program. “Give these a spin,” I said, handing the guy doing the demo a floppy disk filled with live viruses.

Not an unreasonable request, I thought. But that’s just me.

He avoided making eye contact, wouldn’t look at the floppy, and said “no.” That’s it. To a roomful of 350 computer users. “No.”

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Two Monitors? Heck, Make It Three!

Listen to this concession: “Okay, yes, once you’ve used a two-monitor setup, going back to a single monitor sucks.”

That from my wife who last year resisted using a second monitor. It’s so darn quaint when she admits she’s wrong.

Judy found that out when I brought home a friend’s PC for repair, needed a monitor, and borrowed hers. (First rule of computing: Use someone else’s equipment whenever possible.)

The repair was taking longer than I expected — funny how computers do that to you — and, my pobrecita was feeling deprived.

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Why I Said No to Free, Off-the-Air HDTV

No doubt, watching a TV show or mobile in high definition is miraculous. The picture is sharper than sharp (so much so that like it or not, you can see the pores on an actor’s face).

I’m a DirecTV subscriber, but I’m too cheap to pay their extra fee for high definition service, so I decided to try an HDTV indoor antenna.

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Getting Started With Google Voice

For the last year or so, Google Voice (formerly called Grand Central, a name I loved) was available only if someone invited you. Yeah, I know; I never did. It’s now open to everyone in the United States (stop whining) and I suggest you look at it.

I’ve hot-linked some of the features I talk about to short YouTube videos that’ll give you more details.

The basics: Google Voice gives you a local number with tons of rich features that becomes the one number you’ll use. You configure Google Voice with all your other phones — smart or dumb cell phones and landlines, at home or work – and, based on who’s calling, have Google Voice route the call directly to voicemail or any of your phones. If you don’t know where you’ll be — say, work, home, or mobile — Google Voice can ring all your numbers; you pick up the one that’s handiest.

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The Straight Skinny on HDTV Calibration

A while back I gave you some advice for calibrating your PC monitor or high-definition TV. I thought it was pretty good stuff, but the very foundations of the Internet began to rumble and experts started writing. (I never know who’s reading my newsletter.) Here’s what I learned.

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