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Chrome 85 to erase ads that hog network, CPU resources

Google last week said that this summer Chrome will remove resource-hogging web advertisements from websites, including ads that mask unauthorized crypto-mining operations.

Arguing that a very small number of online ads – three-tenths of a percentage point of all on the web – disproportionately account for major portions of total network and CPU consumption, Google plans to scrub sites of such ads starting with a Stable build of Chrome near the end of August.

Chrome 85 is scheduled to release on Aug. 25, and would be the most likely version to debut the feature.

“These ads (such as those that mine cryptocurrency, are poorly programmed, or are unoptimized for network usage) can drain battery life, saturate already strained networks, and cost money,” Marshall Vale, a Chrome product manager, wrote in a May 14 post to the Chromium blog.

When Chrome detects one of the über-aggressive ads, the browser will unload the content from the ad’s frame – the portion of the page in which it’s displayed – and refill the space with an error message stating “Ad removed,” along with a link to more information.

After copious measurements, Google decided to strip out any ad that consumed 4MB of network data, used the CPU during half of any 30-second span or tallied a total of 60 seconds of CPU usage. Those bars were so high that they affected only 0.3% of all ads, but, Google contended, such ads accounted for 27% of all ad-generated network traffic and 28% of all ad-related CPU usage.

Other browsers have addressed bad actors, including crypto-miners, using different approaches. Mozilla’s Firefox, for example, blocks crypto-miners by targeting domains known to harbor such scripts. (Mozilla relies on domain lists produced by Disconnect.) It’s not surprising that Google took a metrics-based route here; it typically bases decisions, or says it does, on data collected by Chrome and/or its search engine.

Chrome users can try out this “Heavy Ad” detection and removal prior to version 85 via the chrome://flags option page. Set the Heavy Ad Intervention flag (which also goes by #enable-heavy-ad-intervention) to Enabled and relaunch the browser.

Site developers and ad content creators should use the time between now and late August to test and, if necessary, alter first-party advertisements, Google said. “Our intent with this extended rollout is to give appropriate time for ad creators and tool providers to prepare and incorporate these thresholds into their workflows,” said Vale.

Detailed instructions on how to track removed ads using an API as well as how to test the resource usage of ad content were provided in this support document.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Sharepoint tips and resources for your COVID-19 communication site

It’s amazing how the tech community has come together to create resources for people now working from home and staying connected during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Microsoft has published a helpful how-to guide to build a crisis management communication site and created a way for SharePoint admins to easily provision the site design in your own tenant from the lookbook.

I’ve created multiple COVID-19 sites for clients in the past two weeks using this template as a starting point. In the course of making these sites and working with some amazing people, I have also gathered some helpful and reliable resources for the pages in these sites. Here’s what I’ve learned and some content you can re-use.

Create a COVID-19-specific site

One of my clients already had a “general” Crisis Management site. We learned pretty quickly that adding the COVID-19 specific content to that site makes it difficult to both manage and maintain – especially across a global organization. We have come to realize that it is better to create a topic-specific site for this crisis.

We know there will be other crises and in the spirit of keeping our site architecture flat and allowing users to follow sites for topics that are most relevant to them – and having a reusable template to deploy the next time a occurs – we have learned (a little painfully in one case), that we need a unique site.

One cool thing we are doing is rolling in COVID-19 specific news from local sites in major locations. We can’t use the News web part to do this, but we can use Highlighted Content web part with a query that looks for Pages on a specific site with (COVID* or corona*) AND Promoted State =2. This query will retrieve news pages where the page content includes COVID or any variation as well as corona. If your page source is a specific site, you can narrow the query to just a specific location or you can search across your entire intranet for any related news content.

Make the site an Organization News site

If you have a crisis-specific site, making it an organization news site allows you to easily “brand” the news about the specific crisis as authoritative. Learn how to create an organization news site.

Reliable external resources for the home page

Pointing people to reliable sources of information is important all the time, but is especially so during a crisis. Here are the links that my clients have added to their sites in a Quick Links web part with a list view and including descriptions:

Twitter feeds for your Twitter web parts:

Starter news posts

Here are some suggested News links for some initial site content. You may need to add a local image for some of these links:

Content for pages

Each organization I work with has a different culture and “personality,” but all of their COVID-19 content is a combination of both facts, policies, and “human” content. Here are some pages and suggested resources for the pages that have been very helpful in these organizations. Before you use them, it’s a good idea to check to see that the links are still valid – and that the content has not been updated.

  • How to Protect Yourself: This page has general information about what COVID-19 (coronavirus) is and symptoms. Some useful links on the page, in addition to text:
    • Call to Action web part: Understand fact from fiction! COVID-19 Myth-busters:
    • Quick Links, button, Self Assessment Resources:
    • Prevention Strategies Videos
    • How to Take Care of Your Mental Health
      • Text web part with content from and a link to:
      • Quick Links web part with links to resources:
      • What to Do if You Feel Sick
        • Text web parts in a two-column section – one column has information for you, “Stay home except to get medical care,” and the other, “If someone in your home is sick.”
        • Resources:
        • Tips for Working from Home
          • You can search online for a lot of articles with great tips. Here’s one that has a lot of content you can adapt.
          • Your IT team hopefully already has a page with resources and “how to” information about working remotely. If not, post support resources on your IT site and link to it from the COVID or crisis site. You will need these resources again – and not just during a crisis. I hope that one thing we all learn from this pandemic is that it is possible to work very effectively from a variety of locations – maybe not while we are also home-schooling our children and maybe not all the time – but it is a great way to support your employees who may want or need alternative work arrangements.
        • Travel Policies and Guidance
          • This has been a key page for every organization I work with – even those where employees do not regularly travel. Some organizations have added a new corporate policy in their Policy Center and others have created a temporary page on their crisis or COVID site to keep employees up-to-date on their current guidance.

I hope these resources can save you some time and help you and your colleagues stay safe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Given enough time and resources, it could be done

Consultant pilot fish is called to a community college to develop an online system for registering students in continuing ed classes. At the meeting to develop specifications for the project are fish, the IT director and the continuing ed director, who says that it’s essential that people can’t input invalid Social Security numbers. Fish and the IT director can’t make any headway when they try to explain that there is no way to prevent that.

All right, then, says the continuing ed director, “If we cannot prevent that, I don’t want the project.”

End of meeting. And for fish, no regrets about that particular lost job.

Sharky doesn’t need your PII, made up or otherwise. Just send me your true tales of IT life at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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