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What’s in the latest Firefox update? Firefox 73 adds to usability and accessibility options

Mozilla this week released Firefox 73, a minor upgrade whose most notable addition was a new default setting for page zooming.

Software engineers working on the open-source browser also patched six vulnerabilities, half of them labeled “High,” Mozilla’s second-most-serious threat rating. As usual, some of the flaws might be used by criminals.

“We presume that with enough effort some of these could have been exploited to run arbitrary code,” the firm wrote of two of the bugs.

Firefox 73 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux from Mozilla’s site. Because Firefox updates in the background, most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. To manually update on Windows, pull up the menu under the three horizontal bars at the upper right, then click the help icon (the question mark within a circle). Choose “About Firefox.” (On macOS, “About Firefox” can be found under the “Firefox” menu.) The resulting page shows that the browser is either up to date or describes the refresh process.

Mozilla last upgraded the browser on Jan. 7, or five weeks ago.

From this point forward, Mozilla will refresh the browser every four weeks. Firefox 74 will end a gradual reduction to the intervals between upgrades: Mozilla announced the release speed-up in September, when it said the original six-week span would be shortened to five weeks, then to four.

Zoom-zoom

Firefox’s faster release tempo comes at a price: the distinct possibility that each upgrade will boast fewer new features, fewer improvements and enhancements. Firefox 73 is proof, as Mozilla was able to highlight just two changes evident to end users.

The first was a new user-set global default for the page zoom level. Rather than monkey with zoom for each site individually – to, for instance, zoom in to make text more readable for older eyes – users can set a default level higher or lower than 100% as the new baseline.

To change the default zoom (which remains at 100% if the user declines to modify it), users must open Preferences (on macOS) or Options (Windows), then under the “General” tab locate “Language and Appearance.” Select the desired default zoom from the box under “Zoom.”

That number – 110%, for instance – becomes the new baseline for all sites. Users can still manually increase or decrease zoom with keystroke combinations or from the menu.

firefox 73 default zoom Mozilla

Firefox 73’s new zoom default lets users set a baseline to, for example, zoom in to 120% on every site. For anyone who is constantly zooming, this saves tons of time.

The other addition trumpeted by Mozilla in Firefox 73’s release notes was labeled “readability backplate” and designed to collaborate with Windows’ high contrast mode. The latter is a setting that replaces the original colors of, say, a website’s text and background, with high contrast combinations for easier reading by people with vision issues.

Previously, Firefox has simply disabled background images when the user enabled high contrast mode. In Firefox 73, the readability backplate “places a block of background color between the text and background image,” Mozilla said. “Now, websites in High Contrast Mode are more readable without disabling background images.”

Days are numbered for TSL 1.0 and TSL 1.1

Mozilla, like other browser makers, is knee-deep in putting an end to the outdated encryption protocols of TLS (Transport Layer Security) 1.0 and 1.1.

More than a year ago, in October 2018, Mozilla announced that the two standards, TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1, would lose Firefox support in March 2020. That’s next to now.

In a Feb. 6 post, Thyla van der Merwe, the cryptography engineering manager at Mozilla, promised that the upcoming Firefox 74 would give the boot to the pair. “Expect Firefox 74 to offer TLS 1.2 as its minimum version for secure connections when it ships on 10 March 2020,” she wrote.

Although van der Merwe said that Firefox would retain an override button (which has been appearing on warnings when users try to reach a website encrypted by TSL 1.0 or TSL 1.1), she noted that with telemetry trends being what they were, “It’s unlikely that the button will stick around for long.”

The next version, Firefox 74, will release on March 10.



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Running Win10 version 1803 or 1809? You have options. Here’s how to control your upgrade.

The older versions of Windows 10 are growing long in the tooth. Microsoft officially released its last cumulative update for Win10 version 1803 (Home or Pro editions) on Nov. 12. It’s scheduled to kill off Win10 version 1809 on May 12 of next year. If you currently run either 1803 or 1809 you should think hard about moving on to one of the next versions, either 1903 or 1909. The good news is that you can control your future version. 

If you leave your version migration up to Microsoft, you’ll get pushed, ready or not. Fortunately, there are relatively easy ways to take matters into your own hands — yes, even for Win10 Home customers.

Which version are you running?

Start by determining, for sure, which version of Win10 you’re running. Down in the search box, type About and click About your PC. Scroll down a bit and you should see a Windows specifications pane like the one in the screenshot.

1809 about Woody Leonhard/IDG

That will tell you, crucially, which version of Win10 you’re running right now, and which edition you’re using — Home, Pro, Education, Enterprise, Pro for Workstations, LTSC, or a handful of variants. In general, the instructions here for Pro also include Pro for Workstations, Education and Enterprise, providing you aren’t attached to a network with an update server. (If you are so encumbered — er, privileged — you have to talk to your network admin to get upgraded.)

Which version do you want?

Each of the three available versions has significant features — and they aren’t the ones you’ll read about in the documentation:

Version 1809 — By far the most stable version at this point. It’s been baking out in the wild for almost a year and, in spite of a horrendous rollout, has had few hiccups lately.

Version 1903 — Has been in final beta testing (er, release) for six months, and in Microsoft’s nebulous “ready for broad development” corral for two months. Each cumulative update still contains enormous numbers of small fixes, combined with a few epic, lingering bugs. That said, 1903 has the single most important feature improvement ever in Win10: The ability for everyone to Pause updates. That’s powerful incentive for all Win10 users, especially Home users, to move to 1903.

Version 1909 — The minimally invasive “service pack” version — has a few bugs of its own, mostly Explorer Search related, but it’s only been available for a few weeks. If you trust Microsoft’s patching ability, there’s no reason to delay moving to 1909. On the other hand, if you want to wait and see what happens, you’d be well advised to wait a couple of months or more.

If you’re on 1803, you want to move with some due haste to either 1809, 1903 or 1909. 

If you’re on 1809, you can wait and see whether Microsoft’s 1903 (and 1909) patches break more things before you’re forced to jump ship.

Most importantly, if you’re running Win10 Home — either 1803 or 1809 — you want to jump ahead to 1903 right away. All of the known and unknown problems with 1903 pale in comparison to the ability to pause updates. 

In the past, I and many other experienced Windows victims have recommended that Win10 Home users pay $100 or so to upgrade to Pro. With Home 1903 (and 1909) and the pause update feature, I no longer recommend upgrading to Pro — Home should be just fine for almost everybody. With Win10 1903 Home, you’re no longer a beta-testing guinea pig.

How to upgrade Win10 Pro

If you’re running Win10 Pro (Education, Enterprise, etc.) and you want to move on to a later version, here’s how to land where you want.

Step 1. Back up

There’s a chance that changing versions will completely hose your computer, or leave your machine tied up in automatically installed knots. Make a full system image backup before you venture down any path. 

I have long recommended both Macrium Reflect Free and EaseUS Todo Backup. Don’t rely on the built-in Windows backup, which dates back to Win7 days and is notoriously unreliable.

Step 2. Set feature update deferral

Upgrading Win10 Pro version 1903 to 1909 is quite straightforward; I have “Download and install now” recommendations in an earlier Computerworld post.

From Win10 Pro version 1803 or 1809, it’s relatively easy to adjust Windows Update to have it land on the version that you want. Using an administrative account, click Start > Settings > Update & Security. Then click Advanced Options at the bottom. See the screenshot.

1809 sac 240 Woody Leonhard/IDG

You’ll see the same screen regardless of whether you’re running Win10 1803 or 1809.

The mathematics is a bit hairy, but you want to set the feature update deferral days so Windows Update will land on your chosen version. 

If you’re running Win10 1803 and want to move to version 1809, choose Semi-Annual Channel and 240 days feature update deferral.

If you’re running Win10 1803 or 1809 and want to move to version 1903, choose Semi-Annual Channel and 180 days feature update deferral. You’ll end up with a version of Win10 Pro that has a “Download and install now” offer to upgrade to 1909.

If you’re running Win10 1803 or 1809 and want to move to version 1909, choose Semi-Annual Channel and 10 days feature update deferral. Or you can skip the middleman and upgrade online using the Windows Media Creation Tool. (Yes, the “Windows 10 November 2019 Update” is version 1909.)

“X” out of the Windows Update advanced options settings dialog.

Step 3. Wait

Don’t do anything else. In particular, don’t click “Check for updates.” Just use your PC as usual, possibly turning it off then on again to awake the upgrade genie. You may have to wait a day, but sooner or later you’ll get upgraded to the version you’ve chosen. 

There’s a tiny chance that your PC will be proactively blocked from upgrading, usually as a result of recently discovered hardware, driver and software incompatibilities. Those are usually listed on the Release Information Status page. At least in theory, you don’t have to sweat the details — Microsoft should hold off on the upgrade until your machine passes muster. 

How to upgrade Win10 Home

If you’re already on Win10 version 1903 Home, you’re in good shape. Simply avoid clicking on the 1909 Download and install now link (screenshot) and you’ll stay on 1903 until the end of time. Or until Microsoft changes its mind, anyway.

1803 download and install now 1 Woody Leonhard/IDG

For those of you on Win10 version 1803 or 1809 Home, there are some additional hoops. Note that I strongly recommend Win10 version 1809 Home folks upgrade to 1903, skipping 1809, specifically so you have access to the new Pause Update feature.

Here’s how to choose the version you’ll get.

Step 1. Back up

Just as in the Pro/Education editions, there’s a chance that changing versions will completely hose your computer, or leave your machine tied up in automatically installed knots. Make a full system image backup before you venture down any path. 

Once again I recommend either Macrium Reflect Free or EaseUS Todo Backup. Don’t rely on the built-in Windows backup, which dates back to Win7 days and is notoriously flaky.

Step 2. Let Windows Update run its course, if you can

If you’re already on Win10 1903 Home, you have full access to the Pause Updates feature. I talk about the proper settings every month on the day before Patch Tuesday. (November’s alert looks like this.) Follow those recommendations, and you’ll stay patched without getting thrown to the beta testing wolves. When you’re ready to move to Win10 1909 Home, you can click the link to Download and install now.

If you’re on Win10 1803 or 1809 Home and moving to Win10 1909 Home, you can simply remove any updating blocks you may have (such as setting your internet line to a metered connection) and let Windows Update run its course. Alternatively, you can use the Windows Media Creation Tool page and get upgraded directly.

Step 3. Install from a saved ISO, if necessary

The  other permutations aren’t so simple.

  • Moving from Win10 1803 Home to either 1809 Home or 1903 Home requires the use of an ISO file — an image of a Windows upgrade disk. 
  • Moving from Win10 1809 Home to 1903 Home also requires the use of an ISO file.

There are tricky ways to avoid using the ISOs — you can even manually block the 1909 upgrade — but for most people, the ISO approach is convoluted enough already.

Step 3a. Retrieve the correct ISO

If you’re moving from Win10 1803 Home to Win10 1809 Home, you need to get an ISO for Win10 version 1809. If you’re moving from either Win10 1803 or 1809 to Win10 1903 Home, you need an ISO for Win10 version 1903.

There’s a chance you already have an ISO in your hip pocket. Back in September, I recommended that you download and squirrel away a copy of Win10 version 1903 and in April I recommended that you store a clean copy of Win10 version 1809. Those will work.

If you don’t have a clean ISO to work from, there’s a phenomenal batch program from AveYo available on pastebin that lets you choose and download (from Microsoft!) the official older ISOs. Go to AveYo’s MediaCreationTool site on pastebin. On the upper right, click Download. With an administrator account, right-click on the downloaded MediaCreationTool.bat file and choose Run as administrator. You may need to click through “Windows protected your PC” screens (click More info, Run anyway) but in the end you’ll have a list of ISOs to choose from (screenshot).

media creation tool bat Woody Leonhard/IDG

Click on the version you want. Windows takes a while to download the package, but in the end, you’re tossed directly into the Win10 installer, as described in Step 3b.

Step 3b. Install Windows from the ISO

If you have an ISO file and want to use it to upgrade your Win10 Home version, using an administrator account, double-click on the ISO file, then right-click setup.exe and choose Run as administrator. The Win10 installer kicks in and will guide you through the process. You have the option to either install clean, or to keep your files and settings (“Choose what to keep”) and install the new version. 

Step 4. Reboot

Restart your machine if you haven’t been forced to do so already, and you’ll be running that new version.

You can double-check that the upgrade succeeded by typing About in the search box and looking for the version number.

Remember that you have 10 days (by default) to roll back to your previous version of Win10 — just click Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Go back to the previous version of Windows 10.

It’s funny how something so simple — controlling your upgraded version — has turned into something so horrendously complex. 

If you have any suggestions for this procedure, or need help, skilled volunteers await on the AskWoody Lounge.

Thx, @PKCano, @abbodi86.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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5 iPhone and iPad Gaming Options to Supercharge How You Play

Your iPhone is always in your pocket when you want to play a game to kill a few minutes. But do you actually enjoy the mobile games you play?

From freemium nonsense that makes you pay up or wait hours, to lousy games that aren’t fun in the first place, iOS gaming has some issues. But if you know where to look, there’s a treasure trove of great gaming content available for your iPhone or iPad.

There’s Never Been a Better Time for iOS Gaming

Apple never appeared to hold gaming as a priority across any of its platforms. This has always been especially true for iOS. However, everything has changed with the release of iOS 13.

In the past, you could use a controller with your iPhone or iPad, but it only worked with certified Made for iPhone (MFi) models. Because of this, few games bothered to support controllers.

Now you can pair PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controllers, meaning you don’t need a specific controller for iOS. We have a guide to pairing your controllers with iOS 13


How to Connect a Game Controller to Your iPad or iPhone




How to Connect a Game Controller to Your iPad or iPhone

Here’s how to connect a PS4 or Xbox One controller to iPhone, plus the best alternative game controllers for iOS.
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to help you get started.

That’s not all, however. With the arrival of iOS 13, Apple took another major step forward in gaming on all of its platforms. Let’s look at it and other essential options that make iOS gaming better than ever.

1. Apple Arcade

Apple Arcade represents the company diving headlong into supporting gaming on its platforms. For a monthly fee, you get access to an entire library of games. These are available on your iPhone or iPad, as well as on your Apple TV or a Mac running macOS Catalina or later.

All these games feature controller support on macOS or Apple TV. And while not all of them work with controllers on iOS, the vast majority of them do. Games range from the wacky What the Golf? to arcade gems like Chu Chu Rocket! Universe to more serious games like Overland.

In the weeks following its release, a handful of new games arrived on the service regularly. Even better, these are standalone games with no paid expansions or in-app purchases.

Apple Arcade costs $4.99 per month which, at least right now, seems like a decent value. There is no commitment, so you can cancel any time you want. Get started with the free month-long trial to decide if the service is for you.

Visit: Apple Arcade

2. Steam Link

Steam Link initializing

Valve’s Steam Link has been available on Android for some time now. Valve planned to bring the app to iOS at the same time; though after a delay of roughly a year, it was easy to doubt if it would ever appear.

After what seemed like forever, Steam Link is now available for iOS. Just like the physical Steam Link device, this lets you stream PC games to your iPhone or iPad. You shouldn’t count on playing games outside your home, but if you want to kick back on the couch with Stellaris, this is a great way to do so.

Getting started with Steam Link is easy. Download the app and you’re a few simple steps away. For more in-depth instructions, see our guide to getting the Steam Link app up and running. The instructions focus on Android, but the process is very similar on iOS.

Download: Steam Link (Free)

3. PS4 Remote Play

Most people don’t consider the PlayStation Vita a shining star of Sony’s hardware lineup, but it did have one major perk: Remote Play. This let you play PS3 and PS4 games on the Vita as if they were handheld titles. Sony has recognized how cool this is, as the company has brought Remote Play not just to Windows and Mac, but also mobile devices.

You can use the PS4 Remote Play app with touchscreen controls, but you’ll have better results if you use a controller. PS4 owners already have a DualShock 4, so you don’t need to worry about buying any other hardware.

Using an iPad is ideal for this, as a bigger screen will work better. Still, using an iPhone is acceptable, especially if you’re just using it as a companion app. As you’d expect, a fast and stable Wi-Fi connection will provide the best results here.

I’ve used this a fair amount since the release of iOS 13 and it works surprisingly well. Playing Destiny 2 on an iPad feels strange, but it’s convenient if someone else is using the TV your PS4 is hooked up to.

Download: PS4 Remote Play (Free)

4. Retro Game Collections

Sonic the Hedgehog main screen

If you don’t want to stream console or PC games or sign up for Apple Arcade, you’re not stuck playing free-to-play nightmares. You can find some decent versions of classic games available on your iPhone or iPad as well.

SNK, Sega, and other companies have made single games—or in some cases, collections of games—available on mobile platforms. On Sega’s App Store page, you can download Sonic the Hedgehog and other well-known Genesis games, while several of SNK’s Metal Slug titles are available in a single compilation.

Most of these games support MFi controllers, so with iOS 13, they’ll work with your PS4 or Xbox One controllers as well.

Download: Sonic The Hedgehog Classic (Free)
Download: Gunstar Heroes Classic (Free)
Download: Metal Slug Pack ($7.99)

5. Jailbreaking and Emulators

Game emulation is one of the areas where Android users have an advantage over iPhone owners. On Android, you have your pick of different emulators in the Google Play Store, and you can always sideload more if you wish.

Technically, emulators are available via the Apple App Store, but these run behind the retro games mentioned above. If you want full access to emulators so you can run the game of your choice, you’ll have to jailbreak your iPhone.

Apple doesn’t make it easy to jailbreak your iPhone, because the company doesn’t want you to. This is also beyond the scope of this article, as changes to iOS often make jailbreak methods obsolete. Still, if you’ve got an old iPhone you want to turn into a gaming machine, this is worth keeping in mind.

Don’t want to jailbreak? Try the workaround methods in our guide to emulating retro games on your iPhone


How to Play Pokemon & Emulate Other Games on Your iPhone or iPad




How to Play Pokemon & Emulate Other Games on Your iPhone or iPad

Pokemon GO has given Nintendo’s franchise a new lease of life, but it’s not the only way you can play Pokemon on your iPhone.
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.

The Future of iOS Gaming: Fewer iOS Games?

If the options we’ve looked at here prove anything, it’s that more and more gaming is moving into the cloud. With upcoming platforms like Microsoft’s Project xCloud, it’s likely that we’ll see more of this. The good news for mobile gaming is that this will probably result in more console-quality games in our pockets.

For more excellent titles, check out the best offline games for iPhone and iPad


The 12 Best Offline Games for iPhone and iPad to Play Without Data or Wi-Fi




The 12 Best Offline Games for iPhone and iPad to Play Without Data or Wi-Fi

Here are the best offline games for iPhone and iPad. Who says you internet access to play games on your iOS device?
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.



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The 5 Best Hearing Protection Options for Your Home Workshop – Review Geek

A red set of noise isolating ear muffs on a workbench.
Victoria Denisova/Shutterstock

Many power tools are loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage. If you have a workshop, you owe it to yourself to wear protective gear, including hearing protection. And it might cost less than you think.

According to OSHA, you should wear hearing protection whenever you’re subjected to sustained levels of 85 decibels or more. Circular saws, woodworking routers, table saws, and more are all capable of noise over 100 decibels. You can experience permanent hearing loss after only 15 minutes of exposure at that level.

Hearing loss is a lifetime cost, but hearing protection doesn’t have to be expensive. You’ll want to keep a few things in mind when you purchase hearing protection.

What to Look For

Not all hearing protection options are equal. Some block more sound than others. Some fit over your ears, and some fit in your ears. And some offer additional features, like Bluetooth.

Here are a few things to consider when you buy hearing protection:

  • Wear type: Hearing protection typically comes in over- or in-ear styles. In-ear protection tends to apply pressure on your ear canal, while over-the-ear muffs can pinch your ears or squeeze your head too tight.
  • Decibel reduction: Any hearing protection should list how many decibels of noise it blocks. It’s then up to you to do the math. For example, if your table saw generates 100 decibels, and your hearing protection blocks 27, you subtract 27 from 100. So, you’ll be subjected to 73 decibels of noise. This is the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR).
  • Compatibility: You should also wear safety glasses and a respirator when you’re in the shop—especially if there’s a lot of dust is in the air. Make sure that all three work together and leave a tight seal against your body to fully protect you.
  • Optional features: Some hearing protection comes with optional features, like Bluetooth or FM radios. Any of these are solely a bonus, and you can skip them to save money.
  • Noise-canceling vs. noise isolation: Noise-canceling headphones are not a good solution for your workshop. They listen for a sound, and then play a different one to cancel out the noise. This technology isn’t fast or accurate enough to cancel out the noise of power tools and leaves you in danger of hearing damage. Noise isolation solutions prevent sound from reaching your ears altogether. None are perfect; you will always hear something. But it’s akin to turning down the volume—easier on your ears and better for your hearing.

For the reasons mentioned above, all the products on our list are noise isolation solutions.

Best Overall: 3M Peltor Optime 105 Over-the-Head Earmuff

The 3M H10A Peltor Optime 105 Over-the-Head Earmuffs in red and black.
3M

3M’s over-the-head earmuffs have earned an NRR of 30 decibels. They’re easy to put on and take off, and the sizing band allows them to fit most heads. Most noise isolation earmuffs don’t promise to block high-pitched frequencies, but this pair does.

Best Overall

Best Budget Option: Mpow Foam Earplugs

A jar of 60 Mpow disposable earplugs overturned and spilling out its contents.
Mpow

If you don’t want to spend too much, Mpow disposable earplugs are a great choice. To use foam earplugs, you squeeze and roll them into a compact form, and then insert them into your ears. They expand, fill up your ear canal, and physically block sound from your ear.

These have an NRR rating of 30 decibels, so they’re suitable for even the loudest of tools. They even come with a carrying case, so you can take a set of plugs with you. Each pack includes 60 pairs of earplugs.

Budget Pick

Mpow Foam Earplugs 60 Pairs with Aluminum Carry Case, 34dB SNR Ear Plugs, Soft Earplugs Noise Reduction for Hearing Protection, Hunting Season, Sleeping, Working, Shooting, Travel-Green

Cheap and effective, this pack comes with 60 pairs of earplugs. Squeeze them tight, insert them into your ears, and they’ll expand to block sound.

Best Over-the-Ears with Bluetooth: 3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector

A man's hand holding 3M Worktunes earmuffs.
3M

Sometimes when you’re working, it’s nice to have some music or a podcast. With the 3M WorkTunes earmuffs, you can do just that. This hearing protection set has built-in Bluetooth, so you can stream audio from your favorite device.

Just keep in mind this set of earmuffs doesn’t reduce sound quite as much as some of the other suggestions on this list—its NRR rating is 24 decibels. If you use this pair, you might want to check your tools’ decibel ratings and stick to anything rated 100 or less.

Best Over-the-Ears with Bluetooth

Best Premium Set: ISOtunes PRO Industrial

A pair of green ISOtunes headphones.
ISOtunes

While earmuffs are fine, they can start to hurt your head after a while. The band hugs your skull, the cups pinch your ears, and they might not fit well with your other protective gear, like safety glasses or a respirator.

ISOtunes, on the other hand, are very lightweight and don’t fit over your ears. Instead, they have memory foam ear tips that slip into your ear canal, which offers better long-term comfort. These have an NRR rating of 27 decibels, so they should help with most, if not all, your tools.

Best of all, ISOtunes have Bluetooth, so you can be entertained while you work.

Best Premium

Best for Children: Mpow 068 Kids Ear Protection

A blue set of Mpow kids hearing protection earmuffs.
Mpow

When your little ones come in the shop, they need to wear protective gear, too. These noise-isolating earmuffs fit children 6- to 12-years-old. They have an NRR rating of 25 decibels, so even while they’re wearing these, you might want to keep them away from your loudest tools.

Color options are blue, green, royal blue, or great pink.

Best for Children





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