All posts by johnbatch

Make searching easier

We all use the web to search for results. The trouble is that all we get is a text list of results and waste lots of time clicking on ones that we find not helpful.

‘Search results previewer’ is a great add-on that add a thumbnail of the web page along side the text results so that you can get a better idea of what the link is about. Look for it in your extensions or add-ons library for your browser. You just need to select the search engines that you want it to work with. Free and brilliant.

Buying stuff for less

Everything costs more right now, so I thought I’d review what you can do to buy stuff for less.

I’ve covered a few things before, like cashback sites such as topcashback who give you money back on purchases from many websites, price checkers and alerters like camelcamelcamel to check the price history or set a target, but now am going to cover voucher sites.

Voucher sites search for online vouchers around the web so that you can use them for your purchases. Examples are vouchercodes, vouchercloud and myvouchercodes where you search for your retailer and see what vouchers are available. Some times you can get the voucher direct – other times you need to supply an email address.

Paypal has bough Honey, who provide an add-on for your browser. This looks for online deals while you shop and applies vouchers automatically at checkout. For some retailers it also has ‘Gold’, which is a way to get points that can be exchanged for gift cards. Just sits in the background and does its job.

Remember that you can also try to combine all these methods.

Keeping private on Google

Google is very good at many things, but also keeps lots of tabs on you that others can see. To check what they know and share with others, go to

Next click on ‘Manage your data and privacy’. This takes you to a page where you can see what they know about you. One important thing is to click ‘info that you can share with others’ to examine your profile and location sharing.

Under profile you can see what can be shared. A people icon shows everyone can see it, whilst a padlock shows that it is restricted. In this age of identity theft I have my gender and birthday kept private.

The security tab will show you what devices are logged into your google account. You may see old ones so use the ‘>’ symbol and sign out on those. You may also see ones that you don’t recognise which may be hackers. Sign out on those as well, then change your google password and ideally set up two-factor authentication.

Beware of USB sticks that you ‘find’

People are naturally curious, so if they find a USB stick or one turns up in the post, they often plug it into a computer to see what is on it.

Don’t. Many are scattered around with malware or worse on them, while others with very convincing programs claiming to be on them are posted out that may well lock your computer.

It’s not worth the risk unless you have an old computer that you don’t mind losing everything and reinstalling Windows.

If you weren’t expecting the stick or any other device, just say no to plugging it in.

See web graphics more easily

If you find seeing the images in search results or some websites a bit small, then Photoshow may help. It is an extension or add-on for Firefox and Chromium-based browsers (practically everything else). Just by hovering over an image on supported websites, like Google search or Amazon, brings up a larger and often HD version. Pressing ‘Esc’ closes the enlarged image and other controls let you save it, change the view, activation settings and so on. I’m testing it out to see if it a great idea or a bit irritating: so far I’m OK with it.

Annotate PDFs with Firefox

The Firefox browser has added the ability to annotate PDFs. Just download from the web or open an existing PDF on your computer and look for the ‘T’ icon at the top-right. This lets you add text notes to the PDF. The pen icon allows you to add ink highlights. Then download the document to save it.

If you don’t see the icons, put about:config in the address bar, accept the warning. Locate pdfjs.annotationEditorMode then click the pen icon and change the value to 0. Save the value and restart Firefox.

More scamming

Most of us are aware that messages from your bank, amazon or other trusted places asking you to click a link, press 1 or call a number are scams.

So are the scammers. The latest technique is to send a message that looks like a social message “Hi, Jim. Are you free tomorrow?’ to you. People are polite so will message back saying that they are not ‘Jim’. Having started a social conversation, it continues on both sides and the scammer reels you in.

It feels like an innocent mistake to the victim as there is no telltale hook, but it is just as dangerous. If you get a message from someone you don’t know, just ignore it.

Writing down passwords

I hope that you have taken my advice to have complex and unique passwords for every site. However, this means we can’t remember them so I recommend a password manager like lastpass or bitwarden.

I know that a lot of people write them down in notebooks or spreadsheets. These are not inherently secure, but are OK if the notes stay at home.

One interesting idea to increase their security is the ‘magic number’ approach. Choose a number (one digit is suggested so it is harder for the bad guys to spot a pattern, but you may want to add a random character before or after your magic number that you also take out) and insert this number randomly into your password record. I’ll choose 6 so you:

written down actual password to use

Ad6$%g^hyt342 Ad$%g^hyt342

45Kl(*Grt6cgr 45Kl(*Grtcgr

$53Ge6Rt-125 $53GeRt-125

You can see that I remove the magic number when I enter the password into the web site. I’ve made the magic number in bold just so you can see the idea – Don’t do it yourself!

A great method to use and I credit Dave. If you want to watch his video and guide to magic numbers then look here:

Finally, keep a printed copy of the file if you keep it electronically or scan/photograph the notebook – just in case you lose the original!

Check downloads for malware

People are getting sneakier and sneakier in getting unwanted and dangerous stuff onto your computer.
Google has updated the VT4Browsers extension for Firefox and Chrome Including Chrome-based browsers like Edge, Brave and Vivaldi). Adding the extension takes you through a simple setup process.
When you download a file you are prompted to send it to VirusTotal to see if it is flagged as dangerous or fails virus checks. This takes just a few seconds.