Category Archives: Things that are bad

Microsoft’s empty promises

I was just talking about a recent announcement from Microsoft, in which they assured the general public that their days of messing around with user settings and defaults on Windows were behind them.

In that post, Microsoft claimed that they are “reaffirming our long-standing approach to put people in control of their Windows PC experience”. Which I called out as baloney, since Microsoft has a long history of reverting user settings and defaults when it suits Microsoft.

That was on March 18. Yesterday, a mere six weeks later, The Verge reported that “Microsoft is forcing Outlook and Teams to open links in Edge”.

So this is Microsoft once again changing the way Windows works, to favour their own applications. I’m sure there are workarounds, but I’d be willing to bet that these workarounds will need to be reapplied after Windows updates.

Look, I understand that once a corporation gets to a certain size, it can be very difficult for one hand to know what the other is doing. But as I pointed out in my earlier post, Microsoft has engaged in these problematic behaviours for years. For them to a) claim that they’re innocent; b) “reaffirm their approach”; then c) keep right on doing this stuff… is incredibly annoying.

What is a worm?

In computing, a worm is a type of malicious software (malware) that replicates itself and spreads to other computers or networks without the need for human interaction. Unlike viruses, worms do not require a host program to attach themselves to, and can propagate independently through computer networks, usually by exploiting vulnerabilities in operating systems or other software.

Once a worm infects a computer, it can perform various malicious actions, such as stealing sensitive data, sending spam emails, launching distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, or installing additional malware. Worms can also consume a large amount of network bandwidth, causing network slowdowns or outages.

To protect against worms, it’s important to keep software up-to-date with the latest security patches, use antivirus software, and avoid downloading or opening suspicious attachments or links in emails.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

What is spyware?

Spyware is a type of malicious software designed to gather sensitive information from a computer system without the user’s knowledge or consent. This information can include personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and online browsing habits, as well as system information such as installed software and hardware specifications. Spyware can be installed on a computer through a variety of means, such as email attachments, infected websites, and bundled software. Some spyware is designed to monitor a user’s activities for advertising purposes, while others are used for more malicious purposes such as identity theft and financial fraud. Spyware can cause a number of problems for a computer user, including decreased system performance, slow internet speeds, and a loss of privacy. It is important to protect your computer from spyware by using anti-virus software and avoiding downloading suspicious files from the internet.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

What is a vulnerability?

A vulnerability is a weakness or gap in a system’s security that can be exploited by an attacker to gain unauthorized access or perform malicious actions. It can refer to a flaw in software, hardware, or a combination of both, that can be exploited to compromise the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of a system or its data. Vulnerabilities can be discovered through various means such as penetration testing, code reviews, or by being reported by external parties.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

What is a DoS attack?

A Denial of Service (DoS) attack is a type of cyber attack in which the attacker attempts to make a network resource or website unavailable to users by overwhelming it with a flood of traffic or requests. This can be accomplished by using multiple computers or devices to send a large amount of traffic to the targeted resource, or by exploiting vulnerabilities in the software or hardware running the resource. The goal of a DoS attack is to disrupt normal traffic and make the targeted resource unavailable to legitimate users.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

What is a computer trojan?

A Trojan, or Trojan horse, is a type of malware that is disguised as legitimate software. It is called a Trojan because it typically presents itself as something harmless, like a game or utility program, but once executed, it can perform malicious actions on the infected computer. These actions can include stealing sensitive information, downloading and installing other malware, or allowing unauthorized remote access to the computer. Trojans are often distributed through email attachments, instant messaging, and social media, and they can be very difficult to detect and remove.

(Editor’s note: I’m going to keep posting these definitions as long as ChatGPT is able to generate accurate and useful text. I have no plans to allow ChatGPT to take over all of my writing duties.)

What is malware?

Malware, short for malicious software, is any software designed to harm or exploit a computer system. There are many different types of malware, including viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, adware, and spyware. Malware can be spread through email attachments, malicious links, infected websites, and other means. It can be used to steal sensitive information, such as login credentials and financial data, disrupt or damage computer systems, and perform other malicious activities. Protecting against malware involves keeping your operating system and antivirus software up to date, being cautious about the emails and links that you open, and avoiding downloading software from untrusted sources.

(Editor’s note: this post was written by ChatGPT, and its veracity checked by me, the human person who runs this site.)

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. When the ransomware is installed on a device, it encrypts the files on the device and displays a message that demands payment in exchange for the decryption key that is needed to unlock the files. Ransomware attacks can be particularly damaging to individuals and businesses because they can disrupt access to important data and systems, and they can be costly to remedy. It is important to protect your devices and systems from ransomware by keeping your software and antivirus programs up to date and being careful about the emails and links that you open.

(Editor’s note: in case you hadn’t noticed, this is another guest post from ChatGPT. I’m going to keep posting these, but they will always be clearly labeled as ChatGPT’s work. You can play around with the chatbot yourself, but you’ll need to create an OpenAI account first.)

What is phishing?

Phishing is a type of cyber attack that involves the use of fraudulent emails or websites that appear to be legitimate in order to trick people into revealing sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and account login details. These attacks often use social engineering techniques to manipulate people into taking action, such as clicking on a malicious link or opening an attachment. Phishing attacks can be difficult to identify because they are designed to look legitimate and can be highly targeted, making them a common and effective method used by cybercriminals to steal sensitive information.

(Editor’s note: This is a guest post by ChatGPT, a chatbot launched by OpenAI in November 2022. I asked it the question “What is phishing?”, and it generated the text above. I verified the response as accurate.)

Also see Phishing – What is it? on the Opera web site. Ars Technica has a post about a particularly nasty phishing web site.

Dark Mode Rant

What you see above is what I see after a few seconds of viewing a web site in ‘dark mode’.

Web sites are traditionally shown with dark text on a light background. Which is reminiscent of something… (checks notes)… that’s right, books! Why change something that’s worked fine for literally millennia? Apparently because a lot of people think light text on a dark background looks cool. And, to be fair, some people claim that using dark view is easier on their eyes.

So now we have a ton of web sites, apps, and other assorted crap showing up on our computer screens that is almost entirely illegible to a large proportion of the population (well, me for sure, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one).

When I look at white text on a dark background, after about five seconds, all the lines start to blur together (see image above), and I’m unable to continue. If I persist, I just end up with a headache. For the record, I’ve had my eyes checked, and aside from needing to update the prescription for my reading glasses, my eyes are fine.

Here are a few links to web sites that default to dark mode:

A request to web designers and developers: if you can’t resist making your web site dark mode by default, please, please at least provide some method for viewing it in light mode.

Some browsers have built-in features that allow viewing dark sites in light mode. But they’re inconsistent. Firefox has Reader View, which reformats a web page to show it like a book, with less clutter and — more importantly — dark text on a light background. Sadly, the Reader View button, which normally appears at the right end of the address bar, doesn’t always show up. That’s apparently because it’s only able to handle individual posts/articles, not other types of pages.

There are many Firefox plugins for showing web pages in dark mode, but initially I wasn’t able to find one that does the opposite. I had been struggling with a plugin called Dark Reader, which sort of worked, but only with a lot of fiddling, presumably because it was designed to do the opposite of what I want.

Recently, however, I discovered a Firefox plugin called Tranquility Reader. This one does exactly what I want, forcing page text to black and page background to white. So far, it’s worked perfectly on every page I’ve tried.

When installed in Firefox, Tranquility Reader adds an icon to Firefox’s toolbar. Click it once to view the current page as black text on a white background. Click it again to go back to the page’s default colour scheme. Simple!

If you ever find yourself struggling to read dark mode web pages, try Firefox with Tranquility Reader. It may save you from a headache or two.