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How blockchain will kill fake news (and four other predictions for 2020)

As blockchain’s hype cycle continues to befuddle many about its potential beyond  cryptocurrencies, businesses and governments are moving ahead with projects involving everything from digital identities to voting and supply chain tracking.

Blockchain has slipped into the “Trough of Disillusionment” (see Gartner Hype Cycle), because it got ahead of its technical and operational maturity. As a result, interest has waned as most experiments and implementations failed to provide expected results.

In most cases, the distributed ledger technology (DLT) has not lived up to expectations that it would drive new societal and business models. And with exception of a few shipping-related projects, most enterprise efforts remain stuck in experimentation mode.

The technology, however, is far from a failure; its promise to deliver a single version of data truth over a secure, distributed and immutable ledger remains compelling and as it matures, many see it becoming a ubiquitous platform for financial services, ecommerce and other markets.

By 2023, blockchain is expected to climb out of the hype cycle. And over the next five years industry experts and analysts agree it will expand into a number of pragmatic use cases in payment processing, data sharing, equity trading and contract/document keeping and tracking.

Defeating fake news

One of the more unique future uses for blockhain may be thwarting fake news, according to a recent report from Gartner.

By 2023, up to 30% of world news and video content will be authenticated as real by blockchain ledgers, countering “Deep Fake technology,” according to Avivah Litan, a Gartner vice president of research and co-author of the “Predicts 2020: Blockchain Technology” report.

Fueled by social media news feeds such as Facebook and Google News, fake news is increasingly used by hostile governments to manipulate elections.

Articles and other content based on false information often attracts more viewers than factual news – a benefit to advertisers and ratings, but a problem for public discourse. For example, the top 20 fake news stories about the 2016 U.S. presidential election received more engagement on Facebook than the top 20 election stories from 19 major media outlets, according to one study.

Websites that spread fake news using bot-controlled accounts are usually hosted anonymously, making it extremely difficult to prosecute the perpetraitors.

“AI models that support text writing and video production can be used to rapidly disseminate customized and highly believable fake content that serves as the new breed of cyber weapons,” Litan said in the study. “Tracking assets and proving provenance are two key successful use cases for permissioned blockchain and can be readily applied to tracking the provenance of news content.”

In August, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began developing software that can discover fake news hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips. And in September, Facebook formed an industry group to develop deep fake video detection tools. Facebook’s Partnership on AI includes Microsoft Amazon, Google, DeepMind, and IBM, as well as academics from Oxford, MIT, Cornell Tech, UC Berkeley and other schools.

If successful, the efforts by DARPA, Facebook and others will “blacklist” fake content to block it from reaching target victims and create an algorithm that authenticates and tracks content movement to “whitelists,” ensuring its provenance.

“Blockchain technology is proven to excel at supporting this use case as it enables a ‘shared single version of truth’ across multiple entities based on immutable data and audit trails,” Litan wrote.

The New York Times is one of the first major news publications to test blockchain to authenticate news photographs and video content, according to Gartner. The newspaper’s Research and Development team and IBM have partnered on the News Provenance Project, which uses Hyperledger Fabric’s permissioned blockchain to store “contextual metadata.” That metadata includes when and where a photo or video was shot, who took it and how and when it was edited and published.

Blockchain, the newspaper explained, will act as a “database that is not housed on one set of servers owned and operated by one entity, but by many entities and servers that are kept updated simultaneously” making the records of each change traceable.

“Files are not so much changed as built upon,” former Times editor and independent consultant Sasha Koren said in a blog.

Blockchain for digital securities exchanges

For the same reason cross-border financial transactions are simpler and cheaper than traditional methods run by central banks, digital securities traded across blockchain ledgers are also likely to become popular in the near future.

“So far, the primary use case is money, led by Bitcoin,” said Bruce Fenton, founder and managing director of Atlantic Financial and a board member of the Bitcoin Foundation.

Today, securities settlement is performed by central, private organizations such as Depository Trust and Clearance Corp. (DTCC) in the U.S. and Euroclear in the European Union. The process of moving stocks and bonds between buyers and sellers can take as long as three days, but delays aren’t uncommon and the actual transfer among financial services firms can take 10 days or more, according to Fenton.

“The challenge with securities now is you need a trusted third party to say what’s true,” Fenton said. “It’s not your broker. It’s not Merrill Lynch or Fidelity and it’s not the issuer either; Apple has no clue who their shareholders are either. The function is performed by these large centralized groups because the brokers don’t necessarily trust each other; they’re dealing with their competitors.”

The problem with central settlement organizations is that transactions become bottlenecked through the use of a single ledger. With blockchain, trust becomes moot as digital tokens representing securities or money are inextricably linked to the funds or securities – and transfers can take place in a day or even hours, Fenton said.

Blockchain could also change how corporate public offerings are done. Many private companies forgo a public offering because of the complexity of the process. With blockchain ledgers, securities linked to digital tokens could move more easily between financial institutions by simply bypassing a central clearance organization.

“Just as you can move [Bitcoin] between one crypto account to another, you could move millions of dollars between crypto exchanges in less than a day,” Fenton said. “If that happens, then it’s exciting because you end up in a world where [there are] a lot more companies that are traded and changing hands. You could have a lot of things that are private now be public and be able to trade shares between investors and between borders.”

One potential problem with blockchain-based securities exchanges is performance; the distributed ledger has proven to be slow, and potentially costly. But new consensus algorithms and off-chain processing promise to speed up throughput by orders of magnitude.

China likely to take the blockchain lead, leave the U.S. in the rearview

The Chinese government recently announced a new focus on blockchains for commerce, a move likely to influence global development and spending. President Xi Jinping in October stressed that the country would have a blockchain-focused strategy; the decision affects Chinese government initiatives, regulations and spending by various regional governments.

Conversely, U.S. and European regulators have made no bones about their cautious, if not adversarial, approach to blockchain and the digital tokens moved across distributed ledgers. Additionally, the U.S. and Europe have well “developed and mature” world economies, so any large-scale move to embrace blockchain could be disruptive.

Because the initiatives in China are top down, they affect not only spending by the single largest entity (the government), but also native business interests who want to remain in good graces, Fenton said.

“Private businesses might choose to implement this technology or in some cases will need to, in order to remain competitive,” Fenton said. “When you have the leader of the country saying they’re going to invest in something, I think you’ll see a lot more of the public and private sector leaders in China and, ultimately, around the world reacting to that. 

“Unfortunately, the U.S. is getting left behind in many areas because of its slow regulatory regime.”

As regulators continue to struggle to provide clear guidance to crypto- and blockchain-based industries, collaboration will continue to occur among companies seeking to self-regulate, according to Katherine Johnson, vice president of compliance and general counsel for Storj Labs. Storj Labs is a cloud storage provider whose technology is based on blockchain.

For example, the Crypto Ratings Council hopes to to rank digital assets on the likelihood of being deemed a security versus a utility token, or a service that can represent API keys that unlock a service (essentially, selling a service using the tokens).

“U.S.-based companies will continue to mitigate the risk posed by the uncertain domestic regulatory landscape by branching out into crypto- and blockchain-friendly jurisdictions,” Johnson said in a statement.

Jonathan Johnson, president of CEO of Overstock.com and its investment arm Medici Ventures, agreed, saying via email that “innovation-friendly jurisdictions (i.e., not the U.S.) will begin to see efficiencies, trust, and transparency in government services as blockchain-based products begin to leave the lab and gain wider adoption.”

Blockchain for identity

Enterprises who’ve dipped their toes into the blockchain ecosystem still aren’t ready to dive in. Skepticism remains, hindering adoption in a meaningful way, according to Ken Elefant, managing director of investment firm Sorenson Capital.

Elefant calls blockchain a “phenomenal technology” that will change industries, but its adoption will be slow because it can’t happen in a vacuum; it will require a shared ecosystem among enterprises; one company can’t simply adopt it and expect returns on its investment without others climbing onboard.

Blockchain will more quickly take root in financial services for security and management of identities – first for businesses and later for consumers. “Identity today is really difficult to manage across the entire ecosystem,” Elefant said.

“Where I think blockchain should be used is in areas where there’s a middleman for know your customer [KYC] applications, anti-money laundering [AML] apps or counterpart reconciliation and other areas where traditional rules-based systems are very manual,” Elefant continued. “There’s huge ROI in those areas.”

Enabling full digital ID coverage could unlock economic value worth anywhere from  3% to 13% of GDP in 2030 in seven key countries – if the digital ID program enables multiple high-value use cases and sees widespread adoption, according to a report by consultancy McKinsey & Company. The seven countries are: Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

The online credentials would be akin to identify information a person might have in his or her wallet: a driver’s license, a bank debit card or a company ID. Instead of a physical card, however, the IDs in digital wallets would be encrypted on a blockchain ledger and link back to the institutions that created them, such as a bank, a government agency or even an employer. Through blockchain and a smart contract, the digital information could automatically verify information to a requestor.

“Think of the [blockchain] distributed ledger as a database and only the individuals or companies authorized have access to that data – unlike the internet today where you and I can be marketed to by anybody,” Elefant said. “That’s the beauty of blockchain. It’s pre-certified and the only entity that has control over their ID is that identity itself.”

Additonally, fintech firms, software makers, telecom providers and other businesses have joined forces to develop blockchain-based networks that will enable anyone to exchange digital credentials online without the risk of unintentionally exposing private data. One consortium is the Sovrin Foundation, a nonprofit organization now developing the Sovrin Network, which could enable anyone to globally exchange pre-verified data with any entity also on the network.

When a business wants to transact with a bank or some other business on the network, they’ll be pre-certified to do so, whether for wire transfers between businesses or cross-border exchanges.



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How Much of Your Favorite Halloween Candy Would It Take to Kill You? – LifeSavvy

woman with a witch hat on looking into a jack o' lantern pumpkin bowl
Ronald Summers/Shutterstock

As a kid at some point, you or one of your friends probably wondered how much candy you’d have to eat to, well you know, die. Curiosity got the better of us, so we decided to do a little digging to crack that morbid little mystery.

How do you even start answering a question like that? Well, the first stop on the journey is a visit to the ol’ LD50 tables. For the unfamiliar, LD50 stands for “Lethal Dose required to kill 50% of the test population” and is usually expressed in a dose per unit of weight form. Most of the LD50 measurements we have are extrapolated from rat models to humans (as it would be, understandably, profoundly unethical to run the tests on humans). We assure you: Nobody was force-fed candy, Hansel and Gretel style, during the research phase of this article.

The LD50 of sugar, in the form of simple glucose, is 30 grams of sugar (administered orally) per 1 kg of body weight. A kilogram is ~2.205 pounds. The average weight of a woman in the United States is 170.6 pounds and the average weight of a male is 197.9 pounds. Let’s round up and down, respectively, to say our average person, in general, is 180 pounds.

At 180 pounds, you’d have to consume 2,449 grams of pure sugar in a sitting to reach the LD50 for your body weight. If you want to calculate an exact amount based on your weight and candy of choice, use this formula:

((Weight in lbs. / 2.205) * 30) / (grams of sugar per serving of preferred candy) = LD50 serving count

Back to our Joe Average though. What does the LD50 of sugar look like when translated into common Halloween candies? To hit the projected Lethal Dose, you’d need to eat:

  • Candy Corn: 1,670 pieces
  • M&M’s Candies: 2,552 pieces
  • Snickers (Mini Size): 545 pieces
  • Milky Way (Mini Size):  299 pieces
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (Regular Size): 234 individual cups
  • Pixy Stix (Standard Size): 1,143 straws

I felt compelled to end with Pixy Stix because some decades ago my friend Jake and I pondered, after eating bags of the things, exactly how many Pixy Stix it would take to kill us. We didn’t die, but we certainly felt awful. Very, very awful.

Which brings us to the real moral of our death-by-candy tale: Good luck figuring out a way to eat 1,670 pieces of candy corn or 1,143 straws’ worth of flavored sugar fast enough to not decide, along the way, that living to see another day (and a more sensible diet) isn’t the better option.





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Did Linux Kill Commercial Unix?

Red Hat logo at the company's office in Silicon Valley.
Michael Vi/Shutterstock.com

Sales of commercial Unix have fallen off a cliff. There has to be something behind this dramatic decline. Has Linux killed its ancestor by becoming a perfectly viable replacement, like an operating system version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

The Beginning of Unix

The initial release of Unix occurred fifty years ago in 1969, at Bell Labs, a research and development company owned by AT&T. Happy birthday, Unix. Actually, at that time it was still called Unics, standing for UNIplexed Information and Computing Service. Apparently, no one can recall when the “cs” became an “x.” It was written on a DEC PDP/7 computer, in DEC assembly language.

There was a need within Bell to produce typeset patent applications. The Unix development team identified that need as an opportunity to get their hands on the newer and more powerful DEC PDP/11/20 computer, so they quickly produced a typesetting program to generate the patent applications.  After this, the use of Unix steadily grew at Bell.

In 1973 Version 4 of Unix was released, re-written in the C programming language. The introduction to the accompanying manual had this to say: “The number of UNIX installations is now above 20, and many more are expected.” (K. Thompson and D. M. Richie, The UNIX Programmer’s Manual, 4th ed. November 1973.)

How little they knew! In 1973 Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, two of the core Unix architects, presented a paper at a conference about Unix. Immediately they received requests for copies of the operating system.

Because of a consent decree that AT&T entered into with the US government in 1956, AT&T had to stay out of “any business other than the furnishing of common carrier communications services.” The upshot was they could license products from Bell Labs, but they couldn’t wholeheartedly productize them. So the Unix operating system was distributed as source code with a license, and costs that covered the shipping and packaging and a “reasonable royalty.”

Because AT&T couldn’t treat Unix as a product and didn’t put the usual wrap-around on it, Unix was given no marketing. It came with no support and without bug fixes. Despite this, Unix it spread into universities, military applications, and eventually the commercial world.

Because Unix had been rewritten in the C programming language, it was relatively easy to port it to new computer architectures, and soon Unix was running on all sorts of hardware. It had broken out of the confines of the DEC product range and could now run almost anywhere.

The Rise of Commercial Unix

In 1982, following another consent decree, AT&T was forced to relinquish control of Bell, and Bell was broken up into smaller, regional, companies. This upheaval released AT&T from some of their previous strictures. They were now able to productize Unix formally. In 1983 license fees were raised, and support and maintenance were finally available.

It was this move towards commercialism that triggered Richard Stallman to create the GNU Project, aiming to write a version of Unix that was utterly free from AT&T source code. Happy birthday, GNU Project, 36 years old this year.

Of course, those who already had the Unix source code under the previous software license were able to stick with that version. They modified, extended, and patched it themselves or with the assistance of one of the Unix user communities that had arisen as technical self-help groups in the absence of support from AT&T.

IBM, HP, Sun, Silicon Graphics, and many more hardware suppliers had their own proprietary, commercial version of Unix or a Unix-like operating system.

Unix steadily became the go-to operating system for mission-critical workloads in markets such as healthcare and banking. Unix was found powering mainframes and minicomputers in the premises of aerospace, automotive, and shipbuilding manufacturers, and universities around the world widely adopted it.

Unix installations rocketed when versions were ported to personal computers, and particularly when the more powerful Intel 80386 processor was released in 1985. Unix was now available on mainframes, minicomputers and personal computers—if you paid for it.

The Unix Wars

The late eighties and early nineties saw a prolonged and messy fight for dominance and standardization between the various flavors of Unix. Obviously, all of the stakeholders wanted to be the one that was considered the gold standard. Eventually, standards themselves were introduced to try to resolve compatibility issues.

This led to the Single UNIX Specification (which also includes the POSIX standard). The uppercase word “UNIX” is now a trademark of the Open Group. It is reserved for operating systems that comply with the Single UNIX Specification. So, “UNIX” is a trademark and “Unix” refers to a family of operating systems, some which can call themselves UNIX.

This is a very condensed summary of a period that was probably more confusing to the would-be Unix buyer at the time than it is for us looking back at it. Needless to say, if customers don’t know what to buy, they hold off to watch developments. Sales slowed considerably.

This was a self-inflicted wound to commercial Unix, but it wasn’t a deadly one.

Happy Birthday, Linux

Linux was 28 years old in August 2019. Happy birthday, Linux. In 1991, Finnish computer science student Linus Torvalds made his famous announcement that he was working on an operating system kernel as a hobby. His motivation was to learn the architecture of the 386 CPU.

Richard Stallman’s GNU Project had written many of the elements of a Unix-like operating system but their kernel, the GNU Hurd wasn’t—and still isn’t—ready for release. Linus Torvald’s Linux kernel plugged that gap.

With the Linux kernel and the GNU operating system tools and utilities, a fully operational Unix-like operating system was born. Purists will refer to this as GNU/Linux, the rest of us use the shorthand version “Linux.” As long as there is appreciation, respect, and acknowledgment for the contributions made by both camps, we’re happy either way.

Since 1991, Linux has been steadily increasing in capability, completeness, and stability. It is now found in a staggering number of different use cases and products.

The oldest distribution which is still maintained is Slackware. It was released in 1993. It is based on an earlier distribution called Softlanding Linux System, which was released in the previous year. Slackware tries to be the most Unix-like of the many Linux distributions out there. It’s great to see that it is still going, with a healthy community and dedicated maintainers.

Slackware command prompt na terminal window
Slackware Linux, alive and well in 2019

The Rise of Linux

The attraction of a no-cost Unix-like operating system, coupled with access to the source code, proved to be a compelling message. Linux is everywhere.

  • It runs the webW3Techs reports that Linux is used on 70% of the top 10 million Alexa domains.
  • It runs the public cloud. On Amazon EC2, Linux makes up 92% of servers, with over 350,000 individual instances.
  • It runs the fastest computers in the world. All of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers are running Linux.
  • It goes to space. The Falcon 9 rocket’s flight computers run Linux.
  • It’s in your pocket. At the heart of Google’s Android is a Linux kernel. There are over 2.5 billion active Android devices. That includes Chromebooks and other devices. (And at the heart of Apple’s iOS is code directly descended from the Unix variant developed at the University of California, Berkeley called the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). So, regardless of your smartphone preference, they both rely on elements from Unix-like operating systems.)
  • It powers your smarthome. Got a smart gadget in your home? It almost certainly runs an embedded Linux.
  • It runs your network. The majority of managed switches, wireless access points, and routers run on embedded Linux.
  • It powers your telecoms. Got a VOIP phone on your desk or a telephone switch in the comms room? They probably run embedded Linux.
  • It is inside your computer. Even if you don’t run a Linux desktop, Microsoft is including a Linux kernel in version 2.0 of Windows 10’s Windows Subsystem for Linux.
  • It’s inside vehicles. Tesla (and other auto manufacturers) use Linux in their vehicles.

RELATED: Windows 10 Is Getting a Built-in Linux Kernel

Everywhere apart from on the PC desktop, Linux is dominating. And even Microsoft is making overtures towards the Linux world from its desktop stronghold with the Windows Subsystem for Linux.

But the point of this discussion is Unix and Linux, not Linux and Windows. And the bottom line is that everywhere Unix was, Linux is now. And Linux is some places Unix never went. Like inside smart TVs. Linux is everywhere.

IBM is one of the last holdouts for commercial Unix, with its AIX offerings. And even IBM is embracing Linux, to the tune of $34 billion. That’s a mighty big embrace: $34 billion for what is effectively a commercial Linux, and a head-on competitor to its in-house offering. Interestingly, the fastest of the top 500 supercomputers is an IBM system, and it is running Red Hat Enterprise Linux, not AIX.

Is Linux Better Than Unix?

No. It’s (more or less) the same, but it comes with benefits like being able to run on just about anything from supercomputers to Raspberry Pis. You can get the source code, there’s a passionate network of users and maintainers, and it’s freely available.

If you want commercial support, that’s available too, from Red Hat, Canonical and Oracle. And that was a critical pointer in Linux being able to replace Unix from some businesses because a lot of companies didn’t trust “free.” They were happier paying for support. The rise of Linux hasn’t all been predicated on Linux being freely available. Commercial Linux helped beat commercial Unix.

Is Linux more successful than Unix? Well, define success. If having a more diverse and widespread usage than any other operating system is a metric, then yes. If it is the highest number of devices running the operating system, then yes.

There was one question I couldn’t find an answer to: Did the sale of Red Hat for $34 billion outweigh the amount of money that all of the commercial licenses from Sun, HP, Silicon Graphics and the rest accrued over the lifetime of the commercial Unix heyday? Perhaps Linux wins on commercial success too, in one transaction.

Did Linux Kill Unix?

Yes, Linux did kill Unix. Or, more accurately, Linux stopped Unix in its tracks, and then jumped in its shoes.

Unix is still out there, running mission-critical systems that are functioning correctly, and operating stably. That’ll continue until the support for the applications, operating systems or hardware platform ceases. If something’s genuinely mission-critical and it’s working, you leave it working. I suspect someone, somewhere, will always be running a commercial UNIX or Unix-like operating system.

But for new installs? There are enough variations of Linux to make the case to go for a commercial Unix very, very difficult.





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What Is VBScript, and Why Did Microsoft Just Kill It?

Internet Explorer shortcut on a Windows 10 desktop.

VBScript is gone. Once a scripting language to compete with JavaScript in web browsers, VBScript is now disabled by default on all supported versions of Windows after a recent Windows update. But VBScript has been fading away for years.

Goodbye, VBScript!

On August 13, 2019, Microsoft disabled VBScript by default on Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 systems via a Patch Tuesday update. Microsoft released a similar update for Windows 10 on July 9, 2019. Now, on any supported Windows system with the latest updates installed, VBScript will be disabled by default.

VBScript was already mostly gone. Microsoft never supported VBScript in Microsoft Edge, which meant it was limited to Internet Explorer 11. Other browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari never implemented VBScript, either.

VBScript Competed With JavaScript

VBScript was a scripting language modeled after Microsoft’s Visual Basic. Its full name is “Microsoft Visual Basic Scripting Edition.”

This language first appeared in a consumer product back in 1996, when it was added to Internet Explorer. Websites could use VBScript just like they could use JavaScript, and Internet Explorer supported both. However, VBScript only worked in Internet Explorer while JavaScript was a cross-browser solution that also worked in other browsers. That’s a big reason why JavaScript won, and most web pages never adopted VBScript for client-side scripts.

Microsoft just disabled VBScript in the browser. By default, Internet Explorer 11 will no longer run VBScript found on web pages. It was rarely used, but there may still be some old internal business websites that rely on VBScript instead of JavaScript.

Microsoft’s Edge browser team wrote about “saying goodbye” to VBScript and other old technologies like ActiveX back in 2015, pointing out that “JavaScript has become the de-facto language of the web.” Edge has never supported VBScript.

VBScript Wasn’t Just For Web Browsers

A VBScript file in File Explorer

While this latest update is all about Internet Explorer, VBScript was for more than that. Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS) web server could run server-side VBScript. The Windows Script Host (WSH) can run VBScript files, often with the .vbs file extension. It popped up in all sorts of places—for example, Microsoft Outlook 97 used VBScript as its macro language, although it was the only Microsoft Office application to do so.

VBScript saw some use by Windows administrators for scripting outside the web browser, replacing batch files. But VBScript mostly fell out of fashion long ago. As Paul Thurrott points out, “by the turn of the century, Microsoft was transitioning to .NET, and VBScript was left behind. ”

System administrators who want to automate things with scripts will generally now use PowerShell instead of VBScript. Modern versions of Microsoft Office block VBScript controls.

Why Is VBScript Going Away?

This update isn’t a surprise. Back in 2017, Microsoft explained that it intended to disable VBScript by default in Internet Explorer in the future—that future is now.

VBScript is too old even for Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer 11 will only show VBScript for web pages executed in a legacy document mode. Microsoft’s Edge browser team wrote that this was a “temporary solution.” Microsoft may be supporting Internet Explorer 11 for the foreseeable future, but the company isn’t supporting VBScript along with it.

Sure, Windows contains many old compatibility features, but VBScript is potentially dangerous. It’s a whole scripting language available to web pages in Internet Explorer, an already old web browser. Few web pages still use it, and no one is developing with it anymore. Disabling it by default is a no-brainer.

How to Re-enable VBScript (If You Absolutely Have To)

This change shouldn’t affect anything for the vast majority of people. If a website required VBScript, it would only work in Internet Explorer. Assuming you don’t use old IE-only websites, you’re fine. Even if you do, most of those old websites don’t use VBScript.

But, if you still need VBScript in Internet Explorer for some reason, there’s still a way to use it. System administrators can enable VBScript for specific security zones via a registry or Group Policy setting.

Microsoft hasn’t made this option easy to find. That’s because this feature really is for businesses that need it. Average people shouldn’t touch it.

In fact, Microsoft says it will offer these options only “for a limited time.” Expect to see them go away in a future version of Windows 10, completely removing VBScript support from Internet Explorer.

Enabling VBScript in Internet Explorer through Group Policy

While this language had a long run, it’s been fading away for a long time. The recent Windows Update doesn’t change much. The vast majority of Windows users won’t notice VBScript has been disabled, and they’ll have no reason to care.

RELATED: How to Open Old Web Pages in Internet Explorer on Windows 10





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The Tech Industry Wants to Kill the Password. Or Does It?

Crossed out passwords written in a notebook.
designer491/Shutterstock

Some people can’t stop talking about the death of the password. Passwords are old, insecure, and easily leaked. Soon, we’ll all be using biometrics, hardware security keys, and other futuristic solutions—right? Well, not so fast.

We spoke to 1Password’s chief of security, Jeffery Goldberg, who said he’s, “cautiously optimistic that this time we might see a dent in the password problem.”

That’s the optimistic take—and it’s far from the death of passwords.

Why People Want to Kill the Password

When discussing the company’s goal of “Building a world without passwords,” back in May 2018,  Microsoft’s Security Team wrote:

“Nobody likes passwords. They are inconvenient, insecure, and expensive. In fact, we dislike them so much that we’ve been busy at work trying to create a world without them—a world without passwords.”

Passwords have become more annoying over time, and we’ve all become wise to the risks of reusing one. If you use the same password on multiple sites and there’s a password leak, yours can be used to access your account on another website. So, you need to choose a strong, unique password for each service you use. Gone are the days of reusing a short, simple password on a handful of websites.

For most people who don’t have superhuman memories, it’s impossible to remember a strong, unique password for every online account. That’s why we recommend password managers—they remember all those strong, unique passwords for you. You just have to remember your master password which is much easier than remembering 100, and much more secure than reusing the same one.

Even with a password manager, though, this isn’t completely secure. Someone with a keylogger on your system could capture your password and log in as you. This is why services add additional security. We often type a password and then have to authenticate a second time with a code or key.

Is there a better way?

What Could Replace the Password?

A Yubikey physical USB security key plugged into the USB port on a laptop.

Goldberg said he’s seen “scheme after scheme” proposed to kill passwords over the last twenty years—many of which didn’t learn from what had failed in the past. But newer ones might have a better chance of succeeding due to advances like more powerful local devices.

Biometrics can replace a password. You might use Touch or Face ID (biometrics) to log in to your iPhone instead of typing a PIN. Android phones have fingerprint and face login features, too.

You can also now create “passwordless” Microsoft accounts to sign in to Windows. Your username is your phone number, and the “password” you type is a code sent to your phone number via SMS.

You can also use a physical security key instead of a password to authenticate your online accounts. You keep the key with you (you can even keep it on your keychain) and use it via USB, NFC, or Bluetooth when it’s time to sign in.

Phones can replace passwords, too. Google now lets Android devices function as FIDO2 keys. You might also have to authenticate with a fingerprint on your phone when signing in to a website on your laptop.

Many companies try to reduce the reliance on passwords by offering “single sign-in” providers. This is when you sign in to Facebook, Google, etc., and then use that account to sign in to other services—no additional passwords necessary.

Password “Replacements” Don’t Replace Passwords

A device passcode screen.

There’s a big problem here, though. Technologies touted as password “replacements” aren’t actually replacements—at least, not yet.

Biometrics, like Face or Touch ID, still require both a passcode and an Apple ID password on your device. Some tasks require a PIN for background encryption purposes, too. Biometric features on Android and Windows Hello on Windows 10 work the same way—basically, as a convenience feature. It’s easier to sign in to your device because you don’t have to type a password each time, but it doesn’t replace your password.

A passwordless account that sends phone codes to you isn’t great, either. Rather than one password for your account, this service generates a new one each time you try to sign in and sends it to you via SMS. This is less secure than the traditional method of a single password plus a security code sent to you when you sign in.

Unfortunately, attackers easily steal phone numbers in many situations, which makes this less secure. It’s a great method to reach people in countries where phone numbers are ubiquitous, and it reduces the friction of signing up for an account, which is why Amazon offers this, too. But it’s not a good solution to replace passwords.

Most services that have adopted physical security keys use them as an additional authentication option. You still sign in with your password, and then provide the security key as a secondary confirmation to get in. The ability to use a key without a password is still a long way off.

There’s a privacy problem with single sign-on services, too. When you click “Sign in With Google” or “Sign in With Facebook,” the service operator—Google or Facebook—knows what you’re signing in to.

There Will Always Be Passwords (in the Background)

Even if Google’s dream of replacing passwords with phones comes to fruition, it won’t eliminate the password. The Verge summarized Google’s plans this way: “If you’re already signed in to your phone, then this could be used to ‘bootstrap’ the next device that you want to sign in to your Google account.”

You might avoid using your password for a long time, but it’s still there in the background. After all, you’ll need it if you lose all your devices.

Passwords are still widespread. They’re easy to set up and use. Password “replacements” offer more convenience or extra security. But you’ll always need a way to regain access if you lose your device and can’t use your biometrics or hardware security.

“I think there are always going to be edge cases that require passwords,” said 1Password’s chief operating officer Matt Davey. For example, Sign in With Apple in iOS 13 offers a web-based sign-in option that uses your Apple ID password when you sign in on a non-Apple device. A password works everywhere and is the universal default when fancy biometrics or hardware security features aren’t available.

As Goldberg said, “Passwords are just really, really easy” for websites to implement. “They’re still the most straightforward thing for service operators to use.”

That’s why 1Password is bullish on the future of password managers. The company said it had seen more new users even as competition grows, and companies like Apple, Google, and Mozilla get more serious about password management.

What Does the Future Hold?

The dream of killing the password is a long way off. Even if the process goes well, the best-case scenario is we’ll inch forward slowly, with more easy alternatives to passwords.

Someday, passwords might be so relegated to the background that they’ll be a long-forgotten account recovery method. But they’ll probably be around for a long time to come. The battle to banish them from daily use for the majority of people will be long and hard-fought. But killing passwords entirely? That’s even harder to imagine.





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It’s time for Microsoft to kill the Microsoft Store — or else fix it

Which of these four things is different from the others: the iOS App Store, Android’s Google Play, the Chrome browser’s Chrome Web Store and the Microsoft Store built into Windows 10?

If you answered the Microsoft Store, you’re right. While the other three download stores host many thousands of useful apps of every type and description, and have a thriving, engaged audience, the Microsoft Store offers very few truly useful downloads and has an indifferent base of users who rarely bother to spend the time to rate and review the software the store hosts.

The problem isn’t that there’s not a lot of great Windows software to download. There’s plenty of it — just not on the Microsoft Store. In November 2018, Mike Fortin, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Windows, said in a blog post that there are “over 35 million application titles with greater than 175 million application versions” available for Windows 10. Having reviewed Windows software for many years, and at one point been in charge of one of the web’s largest Windows download sites, I have no reason to doubt him.

The problem is that you can get very few of those millions of downloads through the Microsoft Store. And that’s why it’s time for Microsoft to either kill the Microsoft Store or fix it so it carries the full breadth of Windows software, instead of a small, largely useless subset of it.

The culprit: UWP

To see why the Microsoft Store has been such a failure, you need to understand what kind of software it hosts. It doesn’t carry popular Windows software such as Microsoft Office, the freeware CCleaner that cleans up Windows, the Google Chrome browser, and millions of others. That kind of software, called Win32 apps, runs on the Windows desktop, and will run on any version of Windows, including Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. The Microsoft Store only carries software that was built using what Microsoft calls the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). UWP was rolled out as part of one of the worst versions of Windows ever devised, Windows 8. Windows 8 was a bifurcated, schizophrenic operating system, with a new interface Microsoft originally called Metro uneasily coexisting with the traditional Windows desktop.

Microsoft hoped to turn the Windows desktop and the Win32 apps that run on it into a side note to Windows, making UWP apps the center of its universe. UWP apps would run not just on Windows 8 (and, later, Windows 10), but also on Windows Phone and any other future Windows operating systems Microsoft might create. The idea was that you’d write one UWP app, and it would magically run everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except on any version of Windows written before Windows 8, and on the desktop portion of Windows 8 and Windows 10.

Things didn’t go well. For one thing, Windows Phone was a colossal flop and Microsoft killed it. For another, developers saw no market for UWP apps, so have largely stayed away from it. Making things worse, UWP apps proved to be severely underpowered compared to Win32 apps. And even when developers create both UWP and Win32 versions of the same app, the UWP version ends up with far fewer features than the Win32 version, and so people stay away from them.

The Windows Store (as the Microsoft Store was originally dubbed) was created as part of Windows 8 to host only UWP apps. And at launch, very few of them existed. I wrote at the time that the Windows Store “seems as barren of goods as a Romanian grocery store during the depths of the Ceauşescu regime.”

These days, it’s not quite that bad. But so much of the software is so inessential that the Microsoft Store feels like a place specializing in cheap, off-brand goods on half-empty shelves that is holding a going-out-of-business sale in an economically depressed area on the way to nowhere.

As the best example of how pointless much of the software is, consider how the Microsoft Store handles the most popular Windows application on the planet, Microsoft Office. If ever there were an application that Microsoft would want to shine on UWP, it would be Microsoft Office, because that would spur other developers to write great apps for UWP as well.

But Microsoft doesn’t even have a version of Office that runs on UWP, seven years after UWP was introduced. When you want to buy Microsoft Office from the Windows 10 Microsoft Store, you’re routed to buying it instead on the web, where you buy the Win32 version.

You could, if you were a masochist, download a Microsoft UWP app called Office from the Microsoft Store — but it’s not really Microsoft Office. Instead, it’s a useless companion to Office. You need to already own a copy of the Win32 version of Office to use it. And what does this companion app do? To give you a sense of how woeful a piece of software it is, I’ll quote Microsoft’s description of it in the Microsoft Store: “The Office app enables you to get the most out of Office by helping you find all your Office apps and files in one place so you can jump quickly into your work.”

Oh, be still my heart! I can’t stand the excitement!

The leading Edge?

Microsoft appears to recognize it’s got a problem on its hands, though. When interviewed for an article about why Microsoft is killing the UWP-based Edge browser app in favor of one that will be based on open-source Chromium, Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Experiences and Devices division, admitted, “It’s not that UWP is bad, but UWP is not a 35-year-old mature platform that a ridiculously huge amount of apps have been written to.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Considering that Microsoft has given up on the UWP version of Edge, it seems clear the company recognizes that UWP will never hit the big time. Even more evidence is that Microsoft has decided that the Windows Store will now carry Win32 games. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, wrote in a blog post at the end of May, “We recognize that Win32 is the app format that game developers love to use and gamers love to play, so we are excited to share that we will be enabling full support for native Win32 games to the Microsoft Store on Windows. This will unlock more options for developers and gamers alike.”

It’s time for Microsoft to give non-gaming Windows users the same kind of support. The company should open up the Microsoft Store to all kinds of Win32 software, not just games. That would turn the store into a thriving marketplace, where people would go whenever they were looking to download Windows software. Isn’t that the point of a download store?

If it doesn’t do that, Microsoft should just kill it. There’s no reason for the Microsoft Store to live if it only carries the kind of software no one wants to use.



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7 Ways to Kill Unresponsive Programs in Linux

Linux software is robust enough to work without causing problems, but sometimes even the best apps might hang. Rather than wait for them to crash, you can kill these unresponsive programs. In fact, there are so many ways to kill Linux programs that you might find you’re spoiled for choice!

If you’re experiencing problems with an application in Linux, here are several ways to kill a program in Linux.

1. Kill a Linux Program by Clicking the “X”

Simply close an app in Linux

You’ve probably already tried walking away and making a hot drink. If you returned to your PC to find that the app is still hanging, it’s probably had enough time to start working again. An unresponsive app typically has grayed-out buttons, or options that don’t appear to work. You may also be unable to move the app window around the screen.

So, what is the solution? Click the X button in the top corner (left or right, depending on your Linux operating system). This should stop the program dead in its tracks. You might see a dialog box, asking you to Wait or Force Quit to end it now.

If all goes to plan, some distros will prompt you to send an error report.

2. Use System Monitor to Kill a Linux Process

Kill a Linux process in the system monitor tool

The next option is to open your Linux operating system’s System Monitor utility. This is typically found in the System Tools menu and displays a list of running processes under the Processes tab.

To close an unresponsive application here, simply select it and right-click. You then have three options:

  • Stop Process: This pauses the process, letting you continue it later. It won’t work in most cases.
  • End Process: The correct way to close a process, this will safely terminate the application, cleaning temporary files on the way.
  • Kill Process: This is the extreme option and should only be used if End Process fails.

It’s best to use these in order. However, if the application is one that hangs regularly, you might prefer to use a command that you know works.

3. Force Kill Linux Processes With “xkill”

Another option you can employ is xkill. This is a force kill tool preinstalled in Ubuntu, but you can install it via the Terminal on other distributions if necessary. When called, xkill will enable you to close any desktop process. Install it with the following command:

sudo apt install xorg-xkill

Once this is done, run xkill by simply typing

xkill

Your mouse pointer will then display a cross (or a skull). Left-click on the offending application to close it

If it’s not possible to close your unresponsive app with any of these desktop-focused methods, the solution might be the command line…

4. Use the “kill” Command

If your app is unresponsive and the above suggestions don’t work (the GUI might be unresponsive), hit Ctrl + Alt + T to open the Terminal.

Several command line options are available to help you to close your app. Better still, these can be used either on your computer or by connecting over SSH from another device.

The kill command can be used here, but first requires a process ID. You can find this by running a command interrogating the application for its process ID:

ps aux | grep 

The result will display the process ID. This can then be used as follows:

kill 

Note that you may need to append the command with sudo.

Close Linux apps with the Kill command

5. Use “pgrep” and “pkill”

What if you don’t know, or cannot find, the process ID? This is where the pkill command comes in. Rather than a process ID, simply use pkill along with the process name:

pkill 

Alternatively, you can use the pgrep command to find the process ID:

pgrep 

…and following this, use pkill with the process ID.

pkill 

Kill a Linux app with the pkill command

As with the kill command, this should close the process within around 5 seconds.

6. Kill All Instances With “killall”

No luck with kill or pkill? It’s time to use the nuclear option: killall.

Fortunately, it isn’t as devastating as it might be. The killall command will end all instances of a specified program. So, rather than killing one Firefox window, the following command will end them all:

killall firefox

All you need is the process name and the killall command (possibly with sudo if demanded by your setup).

killall 

Naturally, you should only use this command when needed. It’s unsuitable for most unresponsive program situations.

7. Create a Force-Kill Keyboard Shortcut

Want to save time closing unresponsive software? The best option is to create a keyboard shortcut. This will give you the immediate option to close an app, but it requires xkill for this to work.

In Ubuntu, open Settings > Keyboard and click on Shortcuts. Select Custom Shortcuts, then + to create a new shortcut. Input “xkill” for both Name and Command, then Apply. This will return you to the shortcuts list—select the shortcut, then press the required keyboard combination that you will use to call it.

Create a shortcut to kill unresponsive apps

Next time you need to close an app, just use the keyboard shortcut. The mouse pointer will become an X, and you can click anywhere on the app you want to close.

Avoid Unresponsive Software: Upgrade Your Hardware

Are unresponsive applications regularly causing problems? You could probably benefit from making some changes to your Linux computer.

Installing additional RAM is the number one way to give your computer more power and might be just the thing you need to keep those temperamental apps from becoming unresponsive in future.

So, the next time a Linux application or utility hangs and becomes unresponsive, all you need to do is apply one of these solutions:

  1. Click the X in the corner.
  2. Use the System Monitor.
  3. Use the xkill app.
  4. Employ the kill command.
  5. Close apps with pkill.
  6. Use killall to close software.
  7. Create a keyboard shortcut.

If none of these solutions works and you’re regularly experiencing unresponsive Linux apps, consider switching to a lightweight Linux operating system


13 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC a New Lease of Life




13 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC a New Lease of Life

These flavors of Linux are light on CPU and RAM, meaninig they run great on older and weaker devices!
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Is Apple really about to kill the iPhone SE?

Apple may dramatically reduce the number of supported older iPhone models when it introduces iOS 13, a the latest rumor claims, but it isn’t yet clear on what consistent basis this decision may (or may not) be made.

Closing the stable door

Apple really did the right thing when it extended backward compatibility in iOS 12, which worked merrily on models as old as the 2013 iPhone 5s and original iPad air.

Critics praised the move.

A move which in part may have been part of the company’s response to criticism of how it had constrained the performance of older devices (until it was found out).

Now it seems like the company plans to close the backwards-compatibility window – with a vengeance.

What is the claim?

The claim is that iOS 13 will not be compatible with the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 series and iPhone SE devices.

Now, in part this makes sense.

It makes sense that Apple may choose to end support for the very oldest (2013) devices on its currently supported list.

It’s also reasonable to imagine that it may choose to close off support for the almost five years old 6-series devices, which shipped in 2014.

What seems less reasonable is any move to end support for the iPhone SE.

Not only is this probably the most popular iPhone model Apple doesn’t ship, but the device is still being manufactured by the company in India.

The four-year old SE shipped in 2015 and includes an A9 chip, the same processor as used in the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus and 2017 iPad, all of which (the rumor claims) WILL be supported by iOS 13.

It seems inconsistent that you’ll still get iOS 13 to run on a 2017 iPad or iPhone 6S device, but not on an iPhone SE.

NB: If the rumor is correct the following devices will be compatible with iOS 13:

  • iPhones: 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, X, XR, XS Max, XS.
  • iPads: iPad mini 3, 4; iPad 5thgen and later, Air 2, iPad Pro models.

What is the justification?

I’ve been reading around and there are no strong, consistent arguments to support the decision to end support for iPhone SE.

Here’s what we have:

  • MacRumors speculates these moves could reflect Apple completely turning its back on 4-inch devices but observes that even then the 4-inch iPod touch remains a supported device.
  • Others claim the company may want to abandon components used in these older devices, Qualcomm modems, perhaps?
  • I’m wondering if it the plans relate in any way to Apple’s plans to improve NFC support in iOS 13 – which would be a good argument, where it not that the SE uses the same (NXP 66V10) NFC chip as the iPhone 6S, which is allegedly supported by iOS 13.

Speculation aside, no clear reason seems to have emerged with which to account for the decision, which suggests the original claim may be flawed or incomplete.

How long is long enough?

Apple’s own environmental pages recognize that most iPhone users purchase their device and then use it for three years before passing it on to someone else.

The company is also improving its take back and recycling schemes on an international basis to reclaim more of the components of really old devices.

Such preparation may seem timely indeed if Apple declares the best-selling iPhone model it ever made End-of-Life, as it will be when it dooms the iPhone 6.

At the same time, with smartphone sales down across the industry it is inevitable that some will construe any move to constrain support for older devices as Apple’s attempt to push iPhone users to purchase new models.

That would be a shame given the company did such excellent work across the last 12-months convincing people it wasn’t deliberately throttling the performance of old devicesto achieve just that.

When will we know?

We’ll find out more on this matter in early June when Apple reveals more about iOS 13 at its annual WWDC developer event on Monday June 3.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.





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How to Kill Processes From the Linux Terminal

Ubuntu-themed stylized Linux terminal

Killing a process is sometimes the only way to get rid of it. Despite the harsh name, “killing” a process just means “forcing it to quit.” Here’s how to do it from the Linux or macOS command line.

What is a Process?

Running programs like your web browser, background processes associated with your desktop environment, and Linux system services are all processes.

You can lump processes into two groups:

  • Foreground processes are ones that have been started or launched by a user. They may be in a terminal window, or they may be a graphical application.
  • Background processes are all of the processes that are started automatically and don’t have any interaction with users. They don’t expect input from users nor do they present results or output to them. Background processes are things like services and daemons.

If the foreground processes are the front of theater staff and the actors, the background processes are the backstage “behind the scenes” team.

When processes misbehave or malfunction, they can hog too much CPU time, consume your RAM, or enter a tight computational loop and become unresponsive. Graphical applications can refuse to respond to mouse clicks. Terminal applications might never return you to the command prompt.

The Humane Answer

“Killing” a process just means “forcing the process to quit.” This may be necessary if the process is refusing to respond.

Linux provides the kill, pkill, and killall commands to allow you to do just that. These commands can be used with any type of process, graphical or command line, foreground or background.

The kill Command

To use kill, you must know the process ID (PID) of the process you wish to terminate. The ps command can be used to find the PID of a process.

To have ps search through all of the processes use the -e (all processes) option. Piping the output through less is advisable, there’s going to be quite a bit of it. Type ps, a space, -e, a space, | (a pipe character), another space and then type less. Press Enter to execute the command.

ps -e | less

ps command in a terminal window

This will give you a process listing that looks similar to the below screenshot. You can search forward in less using the / key and you can search backward using the ? key.

output of ps in a less window

To home in on the process you’re interested in, pipe the output from ps through grep and specify the name—or part of the name—of the process.

ps -e | grep shutter

ps command piped through grep to find the shutter process

Once you have located the PID of the process you wish to terminate, pass it to the kill command as a parameter. To terminate the shutter process identified by the previous command, use this command:

kill 2099

kill command in a terminal window

The kill command is a silent assassin—it does not give you any feedback if it was successful.

The pkill Command

The pkill command allows you to kill a process—or processes—by name. You do not need to identify the process by PID. To use pkill you provide a search term that pkill uses to check against the list of running processes. Matching processes are terminated. So you need to be positive you’ve got that search term spelled correctly.

As a safety net, you can use the pgrep command before you use the pkill command. The pgrep command also accepts a search term. It will list the PID of each process that matches the search term. This is safe because pgrep will not issue any kill signal to the processes, and if you mistype the search term you will not kill another process by mistake. You can make sure you have the search term correctly thought out before you pass it to pkill.  Both pkill and pgrep treat the search term in the same way. Their treatment is so similar that they share the same man page.

Let’s suppose there is a process with “subq” in its name. We’ll use the ps -u dave | grep command to get a peek behind the curtain. You can see that “subq” will match that process and that process alone. That was just so you can see the full name of the process.

ps -u dave | grep subq

ps command in a terminal window

Let’s assume our user hasn’t done that; all they know is the process name contains the substring “subq.” They use pgrep to check that there is only one match to the search term. They then use that search term with pkill.

pgrep subq
pkill subq

pgrep and pkill in a terminal window

You can use pkill to kill several processes at once. Here the user runs pgrep to check how many processes Chrome has launched. They use pkill to kill them all. They then check with pgrep that they have all been removed.

pgrep chrome
pkill chrome
pgrep chrome

pgrep and pkill in a terminal window

If several processes with the same name are running, but you do not want to kill them all, you can use pgrep with the -f (command line) option to identify which process is which. A simple example would be two ping processes. You want to kill one of them but not the other. You can use their command lines to distinguish between them. Note the use of quotation marks to wrap the command line parameter.

pgrep -f "ping 192.168.4.22"
pkill -f "ping 192.168.4.22"

pgrep pkill with ping command line

The killall Command

Warning: In the Solaris and OpenIndiana operating systems the killall command will kill all the processes that belong to you. If are root or if you have issued sudo killall you will reboot your computer! During the research for this article, this behavior was confirmed with the latest version of OpenIndiana Hipster 2018.10.

The killall command operates in a similar way to the pkill command but with a specific difference. Instead of passing a search term to the command you must provide the exact process name.

You cannot provide a partial match to a process name; you must provide the entire process name, as shown:

killall shutt
killall shutter

killall command in a terminal window

The -y (younger than) option allows you to kill processes that have been running for less than a specified period. The period is given in numbers followed by one of these units:

  • s (seconds)
  • m (minutes)
  • h (hours)
  • d (days)
  • w (weeks)
  • M (months, note, capital “M”)
  • y (years)

To kill a process called ana that has just been launched and leave any older instances of ana running, you could use the following parameters with killall, if you’d reacted within two minutes:

killall -y 2m ana

killall with younger than option

The -o (older than) option allows you to kill processes that have been running for longer than a specified period. This command will kill all ssh connections that have been running for longer than a day:

killall -o 1d sshd

killall command in a terminal window

Don’t Be Too Trigger Happy

These commands will allow you to identify and terminate errant processes with accuracy and safety correctly.

Always be cautious. First, make sure the process you’re about to kill is really the one you want. Second, double check— be careful and ensure the targeted process is the one you want to end. Proceed with terminating the process once you’re satisfied.





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How to Kill Unresponsive Programs Without the Task Manager

It’s frustrating when Windows programs crash. Everyone has clicked on something in an app only to have the window gloss over and show the dreaded Not Responding text.

Your first move to force-close frozen programs might be to open the Task Manager, which is fine. However, if you’d like to force-close in Windows even faster, you can create a shortcut to instantly kill any unresponsive programs. We’ll show you this and other methods to force-close easily.

How to Force Close a Program the Easy Way

To force close a program without the Task Manager, you can use the taskkill command. Typically, you would enter this command at the Command Prompt to kill a specific process. However, it’s clumsy to open the command line window every time a program stops responding, and typing the command every time is a waste. You can force close windows much easier with a shortcut.

First, right-click an empty space on your desktop and choose New > Shortcut. You’ll be asked to enter a location for the shortcut. In that box, paste the following command:

taskkill /f /fi "status eq not responding"

windows-task-kill-shortcut

This command is simple to understand when you break it down:

  • Taskkill is the command to kill a process, which you should do when something is frozen.
  • /f tells the command to force-close the program. Without this, Windows just asks the process to terminate, which won’t work if it’s stuck.
  • /fi tells the command to run only on processes that meet the following filter criteria.
  • Finally, the text in quotes is the command criteria. You want it to only kill processes with a status equal to Not Responding.

The shortcut creation box will then ask you to name your new shortcut. Call it anything you like, then press Finish. Now you can force-close a program by double-clicking this shortcut at any time. This will kill any window that’s stuck.

How to Force-Close on Windows With a Keyboard Shortcut

To make this force-close process even faster, we can make a custom keyboard shortcut to run the task killer command.

Right-click on your new shortcut and choose Properties. Under the Shortcut tab, click in the Shortcut key box to set a custom keyboard shortcut. Windows will automatically add Ctrl + Alt to any letter you press, but you can change it to Ctrl + Shift if you like.

Because this shortcut will momentarily launch a Command Prompt window, you can set Run to Minimized. Doing so means you won’t see a disrupting brief flash when you press the shortcut.

windows-task-killer-keyboard-shortcut

Alternative Methods to Force-Close in Windows

The above method is the most straightforward way to force-close programs when they lock up. However, there are some other methods and tools you might want to know for doing this.

Try Closing With Alt + F4 First

A basic troubleshooting step when programs freeze up is pressing Alt + F4. This is the Windows keyboard shortcut for closing the current window, equivalent to clicking the X icon in the upper-right corner of a window.

Thus, it won’t force-close a program that’s really stuck, but you can give it a try if the app just had a minor hiccup.

How to Force a Program to Close With SuperF4

SuperF4 Windows

SuperF4 is a simple program that lets you force-kill any window, even if it’s not responding. Like the taskkill command discussed above, it forces programs to stop immediately instead of asking them nicely.

Because of this, the program won’t check to make sure that you’ve saved your work before it closes, so take care when using this app. SuperF4 also lets you move your cursor onto any window you want to kill.

Force-Close Programs With a Task Manager Alternative

Technically, another way to force-close programs without the the Task Manager is using a Task Manager alternative


5 Powerful Alternatives to the Windows Task Manager




5 Powerful Alternatives to the Windows Task Manager

Task Killer would be a better name for the native Windows Task Manager since we only bring it up to kill unresponsive processes. Alternative Task Managers allow you to actually manage your processes.
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. For instance, if you’re looking for something with more power, Process Explorer will definitely fill that need.

How to Force-Close Programs With AutoHotkey

You can also create a basic AutoHotkey script to force-close windows. You’ll need to download AutoHotkey, then create a script with this line:

#!Q::WinKill,A

Move the finished file to your Startup folder (enter shell:startup into the File Explorer address bar to get there) so it runs every time you log on. Then simply press Win + Alt + Q to kill the current window.

Other Third-Party Apps for Force-Closing Programs

If none of the above options work for you, you’ll find other third-party tools that can force-close Windows programs. ProcessKO is a good option for advanced users, as it offers extras like the ability to kill a specific process after a set time interval.

Most other options are quite similar to the above, so we recommend checking them all out before you look for an alternative.

Force-Closing Windows Has Never Been Easier

Hopefully, you don’t have to deal with programs freezing up too often. If you have a regular problem with a specific piece of software, it might be worth checking for updates or looking for a replacement. Just like when Windows crashes, there’s almost always a reason that a program is having issues.

Despite this, the occasional crash is an unfortunate reality that every computer user deals with. Similarity, another common issue you might come across is locked files in File Explorer. That’s fixable! Learn how to delete a file that’s in use by another program


How to Delete a File in Use by Another Program




How to Delete a File in Use by Another Program

Windows says your file is in use because it’s open in another program? We show you how to force rename, delete, or move the file.
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