Internet Privacy Laws change?

Extra, Extra, read all about it!  Internet privacy under assault!  Net neutrality coming to an end!  Typical reporting by the main stream media; not necessarily true in this case.  Yes congress, under pressure from ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) and some commercial interests, have passed a bill that could allow ISP’s to release traffic information; but not user or source identities (unless a court order asks for that).  However, this very information has been available to advertisers, spammers, and similar such ilk for quite some time.  In order to access this kind of data, they merely had to pay the owners of the destination websites to provide their traffic information.

First off, this isn’t happening immediately; Congress is not in direct control of the behavior of ISP’s.  This is the provence of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and it will require a rules making on their part in order to change what ISP’s can and cannot divulge and how much remuneration may be charged.  Back in 2015 the FCC, responding to law changes a few years before, performed a rules making resulting in the current privacy and net neutrality rules.  In summary:
As a refresher, that rule, which the Commission passed in Feb. 2015, sets down three bright-line rules for internet service providers:
. Broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
. They may not impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of content, application, services, or any classes thereof.
. They may not favor some internet traffic over other internet traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—no paid prioritization or fast lanes

Oddly enough I don’t see any reference here to net privacy and I am not trying to confuse the issue; rather, I am trying to make a point, that the FCC continues its support for the safety of the internet user and his or her choice for a desired level of privacy.  The new law opens the door for the FCC to allow (at the FCC’s sole discretion), through new rules, for the ISP’s to have the same opportunity to make money from describing internet traffic in bulk to potential buyers as the web hosts have had for many years.

Any time the FCC makes or alters rules, there exists the potential for unanticipated consequences; but what those consequences may be will have to wait until the FCC acts.  In the mean time, very little has changed in the last 2 years regarding our privacy, access to information, priority of traffic, or safety while surfing.  If you have questions about how the laws impact you or your business, please call Benediktson Computer at 575-956-9723 or email us at help@benediktson.com

Are all Computer Vendors alike?

So, rant on. Not only does Dell computer continue to contract with the lowest bidder to produce their equipment; but they have ended all meaningful support for equipment which is out of warranty.

 

I understand that this is part of their system which favors those who accept the additional markup in product cost called extended warranty and penalizes those who believe they are buying a quality product that should not require an extended warranty. By my reading of the Microsoft Windows license, vendors are responsible for providing media to allow reload of all windows products during the entire product life and if said media is not included with the product, then they are responsible for providing it at no cost to registered owners of products including Microsoft Licenses at the time of purchase.

This is in stark contrast to what I have experienced this last week while trying to service a 2-year old Dell Laptop. With high hopes, I contacted Dell support through their website to find that replacement media was not available for this product; thinking this must be in error, I opened a chat with a Dell support specialist who confirmed that they had discontinued that service. I asked how this was possible given their contract with Microsoft to provide Windows products. He replied that they would sell me media (at a price very much like full original retail) and that was their commitment to their contractual obligations.

Just for some background; companies like Dell buy licenses for windows at a reduced rate (bulk / quantity discount rate) and do not provide a COA (certificate of authenticity) number with the product; the product ID is pre-loaded on the machine. The result is that the owner of said machine must have either the original media that came with the machine (for cost reasons no such media is shipped with most of these systems) or use an install package specific to their make and model of product. Otherwise, the equipment is not legally licensed to run Windows. Some may not have had the experience of trying to run unlicensed Windows products; quite simply, they refuse to start up once they become unlicensed.

So here I hold what is now a $1400 boat anchor that belongs to a client in need of a functioning computer; I will invest $130 in a new license for it (which Dell is morally and contractually responsible for but not going to pay) and install a fresh retail copy of Windows 10 on the machine and the client who purchased the machine in good faith from Dell is caught in the middle.

As consumers, we all can influence the behavior of manufacturers and vendors alike; choose carefully when you purchase, and when possible, spend the 30 minutes to make your own “original media” on a DVD or on a USB stick. I highly recommend that once you have your computer working “just right”, that you have a complete duplicate made of the hard drive / SSD.

If any of this seems overwhelming, I do this regularly and will be delighted to do it for you. It really is so much more cost effective to do before “things” go wrong; and for when things do go wrong, Make regular backups of your data to protect your work.

Frustrating Security Measures.

Ah the frustration of it; my browser has just refused to load a video and I have this popup saying I need to update some module. What should I do now? Whatever you do, DO NOT click on the popup; it may be legitimate or it may be an attempt to infect you with viruses.

Please bear with me as I explain what causes this annoying behavior. Many web elements are precompiled to include a player, the necessary codecs (audio and video compression interpreters), and the actual audio and video material (the part we are waiting to experience) into a single web object. We click on the object and instead of watching a video we get some annoying request to upgrade. Our system is likely already fully updated to the latest elements; upgrading it won’t help one bit. Let me repeat that, no amount of upgrading will resolve this problem.

The problem is in the web object we are tying to watch; it contains elements which are out of date. What can we do? In many cases, you will have another popup or status message which further warns you but also gives you the option of accepting the risk or of activating this specific item or maybe even all items like it. If you trust the source of the item, you can go ahead and activate, or allow, or whatever positive option is offered, watch the video, and get on with your browsing.

Adobe Flash alerting that it contains an out of date component
Adobe Flash alerting that it contains an out of date component

If you do not trust the source of the item, maybe it is best to heed the warnings and not watch, listen, or whatever. If you simply must watch, regardless of all warnings, verify that your firewall and antivirus are functioning and up to date (I do this daily; weekly is adequate) and go for it.

When firefox has alerts, you can choose to allow using the box that pops up in the upper left region
When firefox has alerts, you can choose to allow using the box that pops up in the upper left region

If there is no option to bypass the warnings, then try to identify which “module” (Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, etc.) is being accused and go directly to the author’s download page / service and try performing an update to the module in question. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, you can try contacting the author of the video or sound file to get an updated version of the media item you were trying to experience. (I make these last two recommendations based on issues with how Java and Adobe media products function; sometimes updating the installed module will allow you to safely view media items that contain out of date components).

One final note, sometimes one browser (Internet Explorer, or Firefox) will flag a web item as unsafe but another browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Edge) can safely handle that item.

If you have questions regarding what is unsafe versus what is relatively safer, or want help upgrading or just want help understanding this topic or many others please contact Benediktson Computer, Inc.

email: help@benediktson.com or

call 575-956-9723.