The Firefox Experiment

Recently, I tried to switch my primary browser from Chrome to Firefox. I noticed that Chrome was slowing down and thought now was the perfect time to switch.

Several years ago, I switched from Safari to Chrome for the same reason. I was a loyal Safari user, but when Safari slowed to a crawl—I knew it was time to move on.

The switch from Safari to Chrome went smoothly. I thought I would never be able to give up Safari reader or the neat share buttons, but I did. In exchange, Chrome offered user accounts that could be used to separate my browsing identities. This proved useful not only for separating home and work accounts, but also for all the organizational accounts I administer.

The problem with switching from Chrome to Firefox is that I have become dependent on these separate profiles. Firefox offers close integration with Pocket, a sophisticated reading list and “Firefox Hello,” an easy to use video chat feature, but these features are not enough to forgive the inability to separate browsing identities. Within three days of switching, I switched back to Chrome.

I hope to switch to Firefox on all devices in the future, but for now it looks like I’m stuck with using Chrome and Safari simultaneously. I use Chrome exclusively on my computers (Mac, Linux and Windows) and Safari for my iOS devices. This experience is fragmented, but I can’t escape from the need to use multiple browser profiles and Apple doesn’t let me truly switch my default browser on iOS. Furthermore, Safari is the only adblocking, mainstream browser available (excluding Dolphin and variants of ad blocker browsers) on iOS.

The lesson learned from this experience is that there are some features that keep us locked in an ecosystem. For me it’s Chrome’s browsing profiles and Safari’s Adblock plugins on iOS. If I didn’t have so many online identities—switching to Firefox for Pocket or Firefox Hello might have been more tempting.

How to Set up an SSL

One way to get a free SSL is to migrate DNS control of your domains to CloudFlare. By default, CloudFlare offers a free “Universal SSL”. Under the “crypto” menu select “Full” for the SSL box.

cloudflare_crypto_ssl_full

The process takes 24 hours before your certificate works consistently. After 24 hours have passed you can force your website to only be accessed through https. This option is found under page rules. You’ll want to create two rules for your non-ssl URL: http://yourdomain.com and http://www.yourdomain.com and turn on “Always use https”.

agarciatv green lock

If you don’t wait to turn on forced https your website will work intermittently for 24 hours in 30-minute intervals. But don’t worry, it will start working tomorrow!

Now Using SSL and DNSSEC

Today, I enabled Secure Socket Layer (SSL, also known as, HTTPS) and Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) on this website; my first time working with these technologies. This is a major milestone for me. Self-taught since 2008, my journey has led me to this day.

For those who know what these technologies are and already use them, try not to laugh. This was a real journey for me. For everyone else, I’ll do my best to explain.

Transport Layer Security (TLS) and its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), both of which are frequently referred to as ‘SSL’, are cryptographic protocols designed to provide communications security over a computer network.

Wikipedia

Basically, I added a green lock to my website (agarciatv.com). By doing so, I have joined the ranks of Facebook, your bank and every payment network that you’ve ever interacted with (assuming they were all legit). Granted there are different levels to these certificates; you’ll notice that Twitter has a really fancy green box next to their lock that says, “Twitter, LLC [US]” while Facebook doesn’t. And I certainly don’t. But, the green lock is good enough for me and obviously good enough for Facebook.

agarciatv green lock
Twitter green lock
facebook green lock

In addition to getting my very own green lock, I enabled DNSSEC. I had been curious about it ever since I had seen it in my registrar’s control panel. It’s my personality to want to fill every box and flip every switch. Some have told me that DNSSEC was unnecessary, but it sounds like a security measure I didn’t want to pass up. Wikipedia explains DNSSEC as:

The Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) is a suite of Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) specifications for securing certain kinds of information provided by the Domain Name System (DNS) as used on Internet Protocol (IP) networks. It is a set of extensions to DNS which provide to DNS clients (resolvers) origin authentication of DNS data, authenticated denial of existence, and data integrity, but not availability or confidentiality.

Wikipedia

I thought Google explained DNSSEC more clearly:

Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) protect your domain from attacks such as DNS cache poison attacks and DNS spoofing. Your DNS provider can provide you with the values you need to activate DNSSEC.

Google Domains

To further simplify, now you will not have to worry about visiting a fake version of my website or hackers snooping on you. At least that’s the idea. I’ve stepped up my game and I hope to continue, as I learn more about security. If you have a website and would like to add an SSL too, ask specific questions in the comment section below and I’ll be happy to answer them!

Mobile First Design

Let’s face it, our readers prefer purchasing a new iPhone every other year than buying a computer. Computers are for nerds. There I said it.

In 2015, designing a website for desktops and laptops when our readers will only view it on their iPhone is embarrassing to say the least. So, when are we going to start designing with the predominate mobile audience in mind?

It’s the dominating statistic: 61% of my website viewers are on mobile. The majority of these views come from iPhone’s Safari browser. This is a trend that I’m seeing everywhere including with older demographics; even 65+ (I work closely with the oldest operating HOA in San Antonio and eight public golf courses).

Using a computer just as much as your iPhone makes you elite. Unfortunately, not everyone is elite. That’s why we cannot design for ourselves anymore (not that we ever should have). Some leave their laptops off most of the time. I guess laptops remind people of work and school.

So moving forward, we need to ask our friends to check out our websites as we are developing them. If they grow impatient with how slowly it loads or how many finger flicks it takes to scroll down the pages – redesign it. The desktop versions of our websites are the best around, scoring a 77 easily in Google’s PageSpeed Insights, but if the mobile site makes our audience put down their phone in boredom, that’s a clear sign of failure.

Use Google Public DNS to Unblock Websites Blocked by OpenDNS

Use the following instructions to improve your browser speed and circumvent blocks by OpenDNS. Enjoy!

Microsoft Windows

DNS settings are specified in the TCP/IP Properties window for the selected network connection.

Example: Changing DNS server settings on Microsoft Windows 7

  1. Go the Control Panel.
  • Click Network and Internet, then Network and Sharing Center, and click Change adapter settings.
  • Select the connection for which you want to configure Google Public DNS. For example: To change the settings for an Ethernet connection, right-click Local Area Connection, and click Properties.
  • To change the settings for a wireless connection, right-click Wireless Network Connection, and click Properties.
  •  If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  • Select the Networking tab. Under This connection uses the following items, select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) orInternet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6) and then click Properties.
  • Click Advanced and select the DNS tab. If there are any DNS server IP addresses listed there, write them down for future reference, and remove them from this window.
  • Click OK.
  • Select Use the following DNS server addresses. If there are any IP addresses listed in the Preferred DNS server or Alternate DNS server, write them down for future reference.
    • For IPv4: 8.8.8.8 and/or 8.8.4.4.Replace those addresses with the IP addresses of the Google DNS servers.
    • For IPv6: 2001:4860:4860::8888 and/or 2001:4860:4860::8844
  • Restart the connection you selected in step 3.
  • Test that your setup is working correctly; see Testing your new settings below.
  • Repeat the procedure for additional network connections you want to change.

Mac OS X

DNS settings are specified in the Network window.

Example: Changing DNS server settings on Mac OS 10.5

  1. From the Apple menu, click System Preferences, then click Network.
  • If the lock icon in the lower left-hand corner of the window is locked, click the icon to make changes, and when prompted to authenticate, enter your password.
  • To change the settings for an Ethernet connection, select Built-In Ethernet, and click Advanced.Select the connection for which you want to configure Google Public DNS. For example: To change the settings for a wireless connection, select Airport, and click Advanced.
  • Select the DNS tab.
  • Click + to replace any listed addresses with, or add, the Google IP addresses at the top of the list:
    • For IPv4: 8.8.8.8 and/or 8.8.4.4.
    • For IPv6: 2001:4860:4860::8888 and/or 2001:4860:4860::8844
  • Click Apply and OK.
  • Test that your setup is working correctly; see Testing your new settings below.
  • Repeat the procedure for additional network connections you want to change.

Linux

In most modern Linux distributions, DNS settings are configured through Network Manager.

Example: Changing DNS server settings on Ubuntu

  1. In the System menu, click Preferences, then click Network Connections.
  • To change the settings for an Ethernet connection, select the Wired tab, then select your network interface from the list. It is usually called eth0. Select the connection for which you want to configure Google Public DNS. For example:
    • To change the settings for a wireless connection, select the Wireless tab, then select the appropriate wireless network.
  • Click Edit, and in the window that appears, select the IPv4 Settings or IPv6 Settings tab.
  • If the selected method is Automatic (DHCP), open the drop-down and select Automatic (DHCP) addresses only instead. If the method is set to something else, do not change it.
    • For IPv4: 8.8.8.8 and/or 8.8.4.4.In the DNS servers field, enter the Google Public DNS IP addresses, separated by a space.
    • For IPv6: 2001:4860:4860::8888 and/or 2001:4860:4860::8844
  • Click Apply to save the change. If you are prompted for a password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  • Test that your setup is working correctly; see Testing your new settings below.
  • Repeat the procedure for additional network connections you want to change.