Firefox: Turning Off the Download Pop-Up

Firefox 97+ has introduced an annoying new “feature”: when you download a file – any file – the download progress meter pops-up when the download completes, whether you want it to or not. Perhaps the pop-up is helpful if you’re downloading a large file over a slow connection… but if you’re downloading a bunch of smaller image files it’s more annoying than helpful.

It’s pretty easy to stop the pop-up window. Note that the following procedure will ONLY disable the pop-up at completion: the other behavior of the download button on the toolbar is not affected:

– In the address bar, type about:config and press ENTER. Accept the warning message (the exact text varies by Firefox version) and click “Continue”.

– Type (or paste) browser.download.alwaysOpenPanel in the search box at the top of the window.

– The value for the entry should be set to TRUE. Double-click the text and it should change to FALSE.

I honestly don’t remember if this requires a restart of Firefox, so you’ll need to figure it out for yourself (I think it doesn’t, but could be wrong). It probably won’t hurt to restart anyway.

Get Firefox MP3 Save Prompts Back

I love Firefox, I really do. But every so often the browser’s built-in media player will turn itself on, and any video or mp3 I click on will open a new tab with the file being played by the browser’s player instead of loading the download prompt, which is what I want.

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to fix:

– In the address bar, type about:config and press ENTER. Accept the warning message (the exact text varies by Firefox version) and click “Continue”.

– Type (or paste) media.play-stand-alone in the search box at the top of the window.

– The value for the entry will almost certainly be set to TRUE. Double-click the text and it should change to FALSE.

This change should take effect immediately, without having to restart Firefox, although it certainly won’t hurt to restart anyway.

ISSUE: Firefox and Microsoft Subdomains

UPDATE: According to Bleeping Computer, this should be fixed in Firefox 95.0.1, which should be available now.

So… I’m one of the last 25 people still using Firefox. And over the past couple of days, I haven’t been able to access my Microsoft Rewards dashboard. Any attempt to access rewards.microsoft.com gets me this error:

MS Rewards Error Page

For the search engines and people on mobiles:

Secure Connection Failed

An error occurred during a connection to account.microsoft.com. The OCSP response does not include a status for the certificate being verified.

Error code: MOZILLA_PKIX_ERROR_OCSP_RESPONSE_FOR_CERT_MISSING

  • The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because the authenticity of the received data could not be verified.
  • Please contact the website owners to inform them of this problem.

Learn more…

I did some googling of “OCSP Firefox” and found some bug reports from 2015. They didn’t seem to help much. I tried all the usual stuff, but that didn’t help. On a hunch, I opened Firefox’s hidden settings, changed a setting and.. HOORAH! It worked again!

I normally would have left it at that, except I was reading Google News on my phone a few minutes ago and saw this post by Vishal Gupta at AskVG. He was having the exact same issue with docs.microsoft.com and other Microsoft subdomains. Like me, Vishal tried all the usual fixes: dumping the cache, loading the page in “Troubleshoot Mode”, etc. It worked fine in Chromium Edge, just not Firefox.

Vishal and I had the same idea. He also went to Firefox’s deep settings and  turned off two options. I’m sure he knows far more than I do about it, so I’d hope you’d trust his work over mine. But I only set this setting to false:

security.ssl.enable_ocsp_stapling

And that fixed the issue for me. At least until Microsoft fixes the issue with their cert, or Firefox fixes the bug that’s triggering the warning.

If you’re having this issue, please go to Vishal’s page and read his thorough instructions (if you know what “about:config” does in Firefox, you’re halfway there already).

Why the Weird Dates on Windows Drivers?

A Redditor recently asked why Windows Update was trying to install Intel drivers from 1968 on his PC:

Intel Driver Date

There’s actually a good reason for this, and it’s the same reason every Microsoft driver in Device Manager is dated June 21, 2006 – even for devices that were invented long after 2006.

Microsoft’s legendary Raymond Chen explains:

When the system looks for a driver to use for a particular piece of hardware, it ranks them according to various criteria. If a driver provides a perfect match to the hardware ID, then it becomes a top candidate. And if more than one driver provides a perfect match, then the one with the most recent timestamp is chosen. If there is still a tie, then the one with the highest file version number is chosen.

Suppose that the timestamp on the driver matched the build release date. And suppose you had a custom driver provided by the manufacturer. When you installed a new build, the driver provided by Windows will have a newer timestamp than the one provided by the manufacturer. Result: When you install a new build, all your manufacturer-provided drivers get replaced by the Windows drivers. Oops.

Intentionally backdating the drivers avoids this problem. It means that if you have a custom manufacturer-provided driver, it will retain priority over the Windows-provided driver. On the other hand, if your existing driver was the Windows-provided driver from an earlier build, then the third-level selection rule will choose the one with the higher version number, which is the one from the more recent build.

So basically, Windows Update downloads the driver, sees if you have a better one installed, and, if so, either discards the driver or keeps it in its driver library just in case. If not, it installs the driver and waits for a reboot.

But why those specific dates?

In Microsoft’s case, June 21, 2006 is the day Windows Vista was released. This is relevant because Microsoft made major changes to how Windows drivers work in Vista and also (if I’m remembering correctly) required digital signing of drivers, for at least x64 Vista.

As for Intel, July 18, 1968 was the date Intel was founded.

Hope that helps!

 

A Salute to Netgear’s FS105

A shout-out to Netgear for the FS105. Those little switches were BULLETPROOF. It was a beautifully functional steel chassis that people could (and did) walk on. You could drop them on concrete floors, or forget they were there and yank a network cable and slam them into a wall. I had one client where I found an FS105 under a pile of fabric that, as far as anyone knew, hadn’t been touched in years. They just wouldn’t die

They were just built… ya know? We sent almost 650 of those things to clients at one job, and I think we got 1 back as a DOA. There’s no telling how many hundreds of thousands of these are stuck behind bookcases and filing cabinets in offices worldwide, still silently doing their jobs 15 years later. Hell, I noticed that my county’s voting setup still uses FS105s. And why wouldn’t they? If there was ever a device that’ll genuinely work forever, the FS105 beats even some of those late 1990s HP laser printers, or some of those old HP JetDirect boxes.

They’re the Voyager space probes of small office networking.

Netgear FS105

I still proudly use their successors – a 5-port (GS305) and an 8-port (GS308) gigabit switch – on my home network today.

Windows 10’s “New” Clipboard

Did you know that Windows 10 has a multi-clip clipboard built in?

Most people know you can press CTRL+C to copy text and CTRL+V to paste that text. But in most versions of Windows 10 you can press WINDOWS+V to get a list of all the stuff you’ve copied in a session (the time between reboots or shutdowns):

Windows 10 Paste

This is super-handy when you need to copy multiple bits of text. For instance, imagine needing to copy an address from a web page, but need to copy it individual blocks: name, street address, city, zip. Instead of flipping back and forth between the webpage and whatever you’re pasting into, you can copy them all then use WIN+V to paste the right text in the right place. That’s neat!

To use this, you must be on Windows 10’s October 2018 Update (1809) or higher. Go to Settings > System > Clipboard and enable the “Clipboard History” option. If you like, you can also enable the “sync across devices” option for having a unified clipboard between your desktop and laptop computers, or click the “Clear clipboard data” to flush the cache completely (you can click the three dots on any individual entry to delete just that one, if you prefer):

Windows 10 Paste 2
Click to Enlarge

 

Windows 10: Show Seconds on the Taskbar Clock

By default, Windows 10 only displays the hour and minute in the taskbar clock. This is good enough for most people most of the time… but if you’re doing something time-sensitive – like trying to buy concert tickets or rare records on Virtual Record Store Day – you might need to know the time down to the EXACT SECOND.

For years I’ve used an app called TimeSync to synchronize my various computers. Some computers just don’t keep time that well, and other times you might want to sync the computer more often than Windows’ once a week default. Because TimeSync shows seconds – and because I already had it downloaded on my computer – I just used that:

TimeSync

But did you know that you can configure Windows 10 to display seconds in the taskbar clock?Taskbar clock

Just open REGEDIT.EXE and go to:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced

Right-click on the “Advanced” key in the left pane and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name the key ShowSecondsInSystemClock and press ENTER. Lastly, double-click the entry you just created and give it the value of 1. You’ll need to reboot or sign out and in for the change to go into effect.

You can undo this in the future by deleting the ShowSecondsInSystemClock key, or you can set its value to 0.

A BandsInTown Hack

BandsInTown is a service that tracks bands on tour. You download the app for iOS or Android, sign up, then enter a list of bands you want to track (or give the site permission to scan your Spotify or Apple Music\iTunes libraries). That’s it! You’ll get notifications (and emails, if you choose) any time a band you like is playing a venue near you!

There’s one problem with the service, though, and that’s that you can only choose one “home city”.  The concert scene in Charlotte has come a long way in the past 20 years, but if your music tastes could be described as “cutting edge” or “up and coming”, you may find yourself driving to Atlanta or Chapel Hill more often than you’d care to admit. So you can switch your BandsInTown home city to Atlanta… but then you miss out on local shows.  What to do if you’re in a situation like this?

While BandsInTown only allows you to have one home city, the app will allow you to expand your search radius to 150 miles. So in my case, I chose Greenville, SC as my home city and expanded the search radius to the max 150 miles. This way it covers Charlotte, Atlanta, Athens and Asheville:

Bands in Town

Bands in Town
(click to enlarge)

Hope this helps!

The “Smart” Bulb Conundrum

For years, most home and SOHO routers kept 2.4 and 5 GHz networks separate. In fact, you can probably open the Wi-Fi settings on your phone right now and see SSIDs like “Pretty Fly for a WiFi 2G” and “Pretty Fly for a WiFi 5G”.

I recently moved to a new house. Although I hadn’t planned on creating a “smart home”, I kind of did. See, I already owned a couple Google Home Mini speakers when my missus told me that she wanted some kind of “digital” thermostat at the new house. Right on cue, our power company sent us an offer for a Nest thermostat, along with another Google Home Mini and a GE Smart Bulb, for a very reasonable price. So we took them up on the offer, and now had a Nest and several Home Minis.

Due to the layout of my new office – that is, the furniture and power outlets within – the best option for me, lightwise, was to put a lamp on top of a tall bookcase. But it would have been a pain for me to reach up to turn the light on and off, and my missus would have to get a step ladder every time she wanted to turn the light on or off. No worries – we have that smart bulb Duke Energy sent us, right? I can just put the lamp on top of the bookcase then say “Hey Google, turn the lamp on”, yeah?

I could. But the light put out by the “C by GE” bulb is ugly. I’ve always preferred daylight bulbs over traditional “soft white” bulbs, but the “C by GE” light looked more like an interstate rest stop sodium vapor bulb than soft white light. So off to Amazon to buy some new bulbs, and when that failed, off to Home Depot… which almost failed, too.

Why the failure? Well, most modern routers – especially mesh routers – treat 2.4 and 5 GHz bands as the same. My network has both, but only has one SSID, and most devices can automagically switch from 2.4 and 5 GHz, whichever is the best fit at that moment. My Roku TV, for example, typically uses 5 GHz because it needs the bandwidth when we watch The Crown or Jack Ryan in UHD. My phone defaults to 5 GHz, but might switch to 2.4 GHz when I’m out in the yard because 5 GHz won’t travel that far, and 2.4 GHz is better than zero GHz.

Here, at last, is the problem this whole post addresses: it seems like all – or almost all – smart bulbs are 2.4 GHz only. This makes sense, because 2.4 GHz is better at penetrating walls and appliances, and such devices only send small bits of data occasionally. But guess what? Neither the LOHAS bulbs I ordered from Amazon nor the Philips bulb I bought at Home Depot would connect to my mesh network.

One option would have been to go to the router’s settings and have it separate the Wi-Fi signals into discrete 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. You know, the traditional “My WiFi 2G” and “My WiFi 5G” situation. And when I did that, it worked. But I didn’t want separate bands. It’s almost 2020!

So… what to do? Well, I had an old TP-Link range extender – model TL-WA855RE – lying around. Fortunately, the range extender can connect to the mesh network, despite being 2.4 GHz only. And since it’s only 2.4 GHz, the smart bulb can connect to it… and, by extension, the rest of my network.

Setting it up is pretty straightforward:

– If your smart bulb and\or extender requires an app, go ahead and install them from your app store before doing anything else.

– I reset the extender to its default settings, then logged in to its Wi-Fi network with my phone. I believe the SSID is just the model number: “TL-WA855RE”.

– I then used the extender’s app to connect and initiate the setup process. This is basically just “let it scan for networks, then login to the target network”. Keep all other settings at default, unless you want to: a) use a more complex password for this extended network (which I did); b) hide the new SSID (which I didn’t, because the password I gave the extended network looks like I smashed my fist on the keyboard); and c) this extender also has a “power level” setting which I turned to LOW, because I only need to broadcast the signal a few feet. ‘Cos the neighbors can’t steal your Wi-Fi if the signal never reaches them!

– By default, the new network will have the same SSID as the “mother network”, but with “_EXT” added to the end. So: “My Wi-Fi_EXT”. I logged in to the “_EXT” network on my phone and went through the setup wizard for the WiZ software I had to download for the Philips bulb. The WiZ software inherits the Wi-Fi settings from your phone and sends them to the bulb, which is why you have to do this step.

– Once the WiZ setup was complete, I switched my phone back to the regular Wi-Fi network and added the WiZ service to Google Home. That way I can say “Hey Google, turn on the lamp”.

– Finally, just to be safe, I reserved the internal IP addresses of both the extender and the bulb. That way, now that it’s working, there’s no reason it won’t keep working.

So… if you find yourself in a similar situation, you can buy the same model extender from Amazon here for $14.99, or Netgear’s EX2700 2.4 GHz extender here for $24.99.

Random Fact #1604

As you probably know, the Internet works because of something called DNS. Computers only communicate via a numerical IP address, like 64.233.177.113. People are, of course, terrible with numbers. DNS acts as the Internet’s phone book, translating human-friendly domain names like “google.com” into the IP address your computer needs to connect to a site.

While domain names have been around longer than you might think, the idea really isn’t new, though. When telegraphs were the thing, a company, person or organization could set up a telegraphic address. Like a domain name, people could address telegraphs to FORD or STDOIL and they’d be passed down the telegraph lines until someone who knew the actual address sent it to its final destination. Just like domain names and trademarks, telegraphic addresses were a valuable property, and were fought over when companies split up. Competitors even bought addresses similar to legit ones, like COKECOLA or COCOCOLA.

A few companies and organizations are named for the previous telegraphic address.

Interflora rose to fame by using telegraphic (later, telephone) lines to send flower arrangements anywhere in the country. In the pre-Internet days, if your uncle on the other side of the country died, it was difficult to find a florist on in that area on your own. Instead you’d send the order from a local florist via Interflora, who’d telegraph an in-network florist near your uncle’s funeral home… for a cut of the money, of course. Which is kind of a good example of how this whole system worked.

Interpol, the international crime-fighting agency founded in Vienna in 1923, was originally known as the International Criminal Police Commission. It later changed its name to its telegraphic address. So if you wanted to squeal on someone, you just send a telegram to INTERPOL.

Oxfam, a charity founded at Oxford University, but with independent branches all over the world, was founded as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief in 1942, initially to help fight the famine in Greece due to its Axis occupation and the Allies’ retaliatory blockade during the war. OXFAM was, of course, it’s telegraphic address.