Category Archives: Web hints and tricks

Stop annoying pop ups on your phone’s web browser(s)

When using my Android phone, I’ve become reluctant to click on links to unknown webpages because many — maybe most — of them contain obnoxious pop ups. I’ve stopped this by disabling Javascript in my phone’s web browsers(s). Each browser is different, but in general go to the Settings for your web browser and turn off Javascript. This will work on both Android and IOS (Apple iPhone) phones. 

Most browsers will allow exceptions to this Javascript off rule. Your webmail hosting service, bank, etc. probably require Javascript. Add these sites to your browser’s list of sites on which Javascript may execute.

I know — it’s inconvenient to configure, but you’ll be glad that you did, when you’re no longer bothered by those awful pop-ups.



One-man scan

Tom Tryniski has an unusual hobby. Since 1999, he’s been scanning in old newspapers, converting the scanned images to ASCII text, and indexing that text. According to Wikipedia, “As of September 2014, the site has over 28 million newspaper pages.” Tom has done this all by himself.

Tom’s website home page opens with a brief animated movie (a website design no-no), but his site’s wealth of data is worth the delay. Its search function is excellent. I was able to quickly find decades-old information about old friends from New York state.

The website:

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

How to become a better writer

I’ve recommended Doris and Bertie’s Good Copy Bad Copy blog before as a source of good ideas for writers. Their 50 super-quick business writing tips article begins with,

Doris and Bertie logo1. Each time you sit down to write, remind yourself of this sobering fact: “nobody has to read this”.

continues through

5. Don’t follow “we’re different because…” with clichés about “adding value” and “innovative solutions”.

and winds down with

48. Ruthlessly delete everything that’s not important to your reader (even if it’s important to you or the person who briefed you).

I agree with these tips. Although Doris and Bertie target a business audience, these suggestions could have been written by George Orwell or Winston Churchill, who spoke clearly to everyone. These masters expressed candor, rationality, and resolve, and sprinkled in just enough humor to keep us coming back for more.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Celebs’ photo thefts

The latest celebrities’ accounts breaches underline these truths:

  • The “cloud” is an innocent-sounding word for what is in fact a computer that’s owned by someone else.
  • Security questions — used to reset an account’s forgotten password — are mere guessable passwords. Paris Hilton’s account was compromised because her security question was “What’s your pet’s name?”; her dog’s name is easily found by searching the web.
  • Use two-factor authentication when available
  • Use a unique password on each account
  • Use a password management program. I like Keepass.

I’m guessing that access was gained via Apple iCloud password reset procedures. It’s been done before.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Listen to podcasts when streaming fails

I listen to loads of pre-recorded and live podcasts on my Android phone. podcast icon headphonesMost are technical; others are about ideas, current events, science, and sports. Duration varies from a few minutes to a few hours. My go-to podcast listening app is Tunein. It works fine 9 times out of 10. Occasionally, though, I’m unable to stream the entire pre-recorded podcast file.

Usually the problem seems to reside with the podcast server, but sometimes the IP transport is at fault. Regardless, I then resort to plan B: I first download and save the mp3 file, then use the Winamp or VLC app to listen to the downloaded file. On my (2.3.4 Gingerbread) Android phone, both players are more flexible than Android’s built-in sound player. Winamp works well, but it may no longer be available.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Prevent Java updates from installing annoying toolbars

As of Java 7 update 67, administrators may request that future Java updates not install useless annoying browser toolbars (such as the Ask toolbar).

Java adware disableBy default, Oracle allows Java updates to install this junk. You must explicitly opt out:

  • Within Windows Control Panel, click on the Java applet.
  • Click on the Advanced tab.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the sheet.
  • Beneath the Miscellaneous heading you’ll see “Suppress sponsor offers when installing or updating Java”.
  • Click on its check box. (By default, it will be unchecked.)
  • Click the Apply button.
  • Click the OK button.

You’re done.

I applaud Oracle for giving us this option. I’d give them a standing ovation if they’d add this junky Ask toolbar only if we opted in.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Use to share your location in real time

Are you ever late for appointments? When traveling to rendezvous with someone, you may now use to keep your friend or business contact apprised of your geographical progress. Portable apps for IOS, Android, and Windows Phone smartphones are available.

Glymse dot com

Your friend / business contact (and no one else) will be able to track you from any Internet-connected web browser as you approach your rendezvous point. You can also periodically securely share your location via email, SMS text messaging, Facebook, or Twitter.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

If this then that

A new site, If This Then That (, has begun to offer their beta version of an interesting service. IFTTT (pronounced “Gift” without the G) will do something (defined by you) when a web-based event (also defined by you) occurs. My first impression is that it’s a very high-level simple scripting language with hooks across the web and an easy-to-use graphical programming interface. The creator, Linden Tibbets, describes IFTTT.

ifttt-channelsIFTTT calls user-defined functions “Recipes”. The This part of a Recipe is a Trigger. Some example Triggers are “I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook” or “I check in on Foursquare.” Actions can be triggered by events within an impressive selection of domains (which IFTTT calls Channels): stocks, weather, ESPN, Craigslist, social networking sites, Twitter, Youtube . . . 44 in all.

In a few seconds I created a recipe that sends my cell phone a text message when it’s raining in my zip code. They suggest a recipe that will send me a text message when tomorrow’s forecast calls for rain, which is probably more sensible. Another recipe that interests me is “Email me when a new version of WordPress is released”.

For a beta product, IFTTT looks very polished. Its account creation process was painless and creating a recipe was easy. Give it a try.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Discover a domain’s email address format

Do you need to send an email message to someone at an organization, but don’t know their email address? Would you like to know their organization’s naming convention? may help.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Use your browser to locate ships

SF-Logo-MD-300x49Just as finds planes in flight, finds ships, using ships’ AIS (Automatic Identification System) signals. A ship’s AIS signal contains its identification, position, course, and speed.

All passenger vessels and all ships of any kind over 300 tons must be equipped with AIS transponders.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Follow flights on your smartphone

This is a neat side-effect of a new aircraft-to-aircraft airspace separation and aircrew situational awareness system (“ADS-B”, short for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) that’s being deployed throughout the fleet of U.S. aircraft: How planefinder works. From your smartphone, you can track the progress of any suitably equipped plane while it’s in flight.

ADS-B will provide continuously updated air traffic and weather information to pilots. The FAA has mandated that ADS-B transceivers be installed on most aircraft before 2020. The existing ground-based radar system will become a backup to ADS-B. Here’s the FAA’s description of ADS-B:

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is FAA’s satellite-based successor to radar. ADS-B makes use of GPS technology to determine and share precise aircraft location information, and streams additional flight information to the cockpits of properly equipped aircraft.

ADS-B system illutration:
ADS-B system

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Old app versions

Have you ever regretted updating a program and wished that you could revert to a previous version? Http:// may help. There you can download old versions of popular application programs.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Microcomputer chess in 1977 vs today

I confess: I’m a terrible chess player. Despite my lack of skill I like the game and in the days of 8-bit microprocessors I closely followed the progress of chess-playing programs.

Microchess on Commodore PET
Microchess on Commodore PET
Peter Jennings’ Microchess (“the first game program sold for home computers”) on my Commodore PET (1 MHz 8-bit 6502 CPU and 8 Kilobytes of memory) consistently beat me, so I respected Microchess. I’m pleased as punch to have just found the Microchess 6502 Assembler source code on line! I loved reading about the birth and growth of Microchess on Peter’s Microchess page:

I love programming. It is almost impossible to explain the joy of writing software to someone who has not experienced it.

First and foremost, it is an act of creation. From a simple thought, and the arrangement of a few words and symbols, a reality is created that did not exist before.

No other activity can keep you in the moment the way that writing software can. At each step, one hundred percent of your concentration is applied to the solving of the current problem. Time disappears.

A well written program is a work of art. From conception to final presentation, the activity is that of an artist – the embodiment of a dream world expressed as an interactive experience for the user.

This is the way I have always felt about programming. And in particular, from its early stages, I thought of Microchess as my work of art.

I agree 100 percent.

Today, hosts multiple chess games and provides an online venue where you can play chess against their computer or against players from novice to grandmaster. It also provides free chess apps for iPhone, Android, Java, and Palm mobile phones.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

New Yorker Magazine introduces a way to anonymize sources

News outlets are creating anonymous drop boxes through which sources may communicate with reporters without fear that the source will be revealed. New Yorker StrongboxThe newly created New Yorker Strongbox will protect sources from eavsedropping by Obama’s DOJ — or anyone else. If the source chooses, by using the New Yorker Strongbox, he/she may converse anonymously with a New Yorker reporter via email. It’s designed by Aaron Swartz, similar to github’s Deaddrop.

The New Yorker Strongbox uses Tor (The Onion Router). Tor has become easy to use and in general offers excellent anonymity, if you’re careful. The New Yorker explains,

You will be assigned a randomly generated and unique code name as part of the process. If a writer or editor at The New Yorker wants to contact you about the information you have submitted, he or she will leave a message for you in Strongbox. These messages are the only way we will be able to reach you, and this message can only be accessed using your code name.

The IEEE Spectrum‘s ‘Strongbox’ for Leakers Offers Imperfect Anonymity article claims that “the system’s security still ultimately depends upon the caution of its users”.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695