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YouTube TV review: It's a cable replacement, but it's not for budget hunters anymore

We're four years into the existence of live TV streaming as an option for cable TV cord cutters, and it feels like we're entering the awkward teen phase. While the technology is generally more stable now than ever, the pricing model is still working itself out. Most services are constantly ratcheting up their prices, including YouTube TV's recent jump from $40 to $50 per month.

YouTube TV is definitely one of the best live TV streaming experiences you can buy. The interface is easy to use, slick and fast on a variety of devices, and supports up to six separate family member profiles. Its cloud DVR is the best in the business, with unlimited storage and pretty much all the capabilities of a hardware DVR like TiVo. And its channel selection is top-notch, including numerous cable stables and coverage of all four local networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) in most markets nationwide (note that CBS is the parent company of CNET and Showtime). 

The catch? Given the $50 price tag, it may not actually save you much money over cable TV. Let's dive in.


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Adware Is the Malware You Should Actually Worry About

When you think of malware, it's understandable if your mind first goes to elite hackers launching sophisticated dragnets. But unless you're being targeted by a nation-state or advanced crime syndicate, you're unlikely to encounter these ultra-technical threats yourself. Run-of-the-mill profit-generating malware, on the other hand, is rampant. And the type you're most likely to encounter is adware.

In your daily life you probably don't think much about adware, software that illicitly sneaks ads into your apps and browsers as a way of generating bogus revenue. Remember pop-up ads? It's like that, but with special software running on your device, instead of rogue web scripts, throwing up the ads. Advertisers often pay out based on impressions, or the number of people who load their ads. So scammers have realized that the more ads they can foist upon you, the more money they pocket.


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What to do if your laptop freezes

It feels like your computer only freezes in the middle of the most important tasks, doesn't it? If your computer has slowed to a near-crawl—or become unresponsive entirely—here's how to recover from the problem, and prevent it from happening in the future.

Give It a Minute to Catch Up

If you're performing a particularly CPU-intensive task, sometimes things will hang for a moment, making you think your laptop is permanently frozen—even if it's not. If it seems like your computer has completely locked up, give it a few minutes to catch up and finish what it's doing.

You'd be surprised how many times this actually works, especially if it's a random occurrence (and not a chronic problem). Similarly, make sure your mouse is working properly—it could be that your mouse just got disconnected or ran out of batteries, which can give the illusion of your computer freezing (even if it's working just fine).

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Chrome to Stop Websites From Detecting Browser's Incognito Mode

Google is plugging a loophole in Chrome that can expose to websites whether you're browsing via Incognito Mode.

The decision is bad news for the top media publishers. Many of them use "metered paywalls" to compel incoming visitors to buy a subscription. First you'll be given four or five articles you can read for free each month; then you'll be blocked from accessing anymore unless you pay up.

To circumvent the paywalls, one trick has been to use Chrome's Incognito Mode, which can temporarily reset a browser's internet cookies. The effect can fool a news website into thinking you're an entirely new visitor, and give you access to another round of free articles to read.

However, some publishers have been fighting back by blocking article visits over Chrome's Incognito Mode. Their websites can detect this by examining the browser's "FileSystem" API, which will be disabled when in Incognito Mode.

On Thursday, Google said it plans on closing the API loophole in Chrome 76, which is scheduled to release on July 30. "We want you to be able to access the web privately, with the assurance that your choice to do so is private as well," the company said in a blog post defending the decision.

The tech giant acknowledged the change will affect news publishers with metered paywalls, at time when the media industry is struggling to stay financially afloat. "Our (Google) News teams support sites with meter strategies and recognize the goal of reducing meter circumvention, however any approach based on private browsing detection undermines the principles of Incognito Mode," Google said.

The media lobbying group, the News Media Alliance, is not happy about the upcoming change. "It's disappointing that Google is again unilaterally imposing its will on news publishers," said the group's president, David Chavern in a statement.

"Since incognito browsing circumvents soft paywalls, and therefore free-sampling opportunities, publishers may be forced to build hard paywalls that ultimately make it harder for readers to access news online," he added.

In its defense, Google said: "We remain open to exploring solutions that are consistent with user trust and private browsing principles."


Windows Sandbox: How to use Microsoft's simple virtual Windows PC to secure your digital life

Microsoft may be positioning its upcoming, easy-peasy Windows Sandbox within the Windows 10 May 2019 Update as a safe zone for testing untrusted applications, but it’s much more than that. Windows Sandbox, and sandboxing PC apps in general, give you a solution for trying a “utility” that may be malware, or a website that you’re not sure about. You could leave those potentially dangerous elements alone, but with Sandbox, you can be a little more adventurous. 

Windows Sandbox creates a secure “Windows within Windows” virtual machine environment entirely from scratch, and walls it off from your “real” PC. You can open a browser and surf securely, download apps, even visit websites that you probably shouldn’t. Sandbox also includes a unique convenience: you can copy files in and out of the virtual PC, bringing them out of quarantine if you’re absolutely sure they’re safe.


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Who owns that shady website? These tools provide the details

Have you ever visited a website and wondered where that site and its owners are located? Shopping sites are particularly of interest, because most people want to know who the seller is and where the seller is located. Casual online browsers may also find themselves on sites that dump malware onto unsuspecting PCs, plant malicious pop-up ads, or phish for private information. Others may stumble upon sites that push conspiracy theories, hate rhetoric, or violence, which they may want to avoid or expose.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a service that revealed this information? Well, there is, and here’s how to use it.

Using WHOIS to sniff out shady sites

Many sites and organizations provide identifying site information for free. The most notable is ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a private non-profit corporation that allocates space for IP addresses and manages domain names (among other things). The service is called WHOIS, and it provides a long list of biographical information for every website in the world. 

ICANN emails website owners (or administrators) of new sites and owners of modified existing sites requesting that users verify and update the information on all of their websites. Many people ignore these emails, but new ICANN rules demand that you respond, or ICANN will suspend your domain name (thereby, your website) for 72 hours to 15 days. To avoid suspension, add ICANN to your email whitelist. If you are suspended, visit the ICANN website to discover how to reactivate your website.

ICANN’s diligence is good news for most legitimate websites, but not so good for sites that prefer to remain anonymous. Not all anonymous sites are unscrupulous. Many site owners need to protect their privacy from fans, stalkers, professional competition, or other risks.

01 icann warning message JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide

ICANN warning message

Similar sites such as WhoIsHostingThis and, and dozens of others are just as reliable. Your own host provider may even offer this service.

Keep in mind, however, that many websites use a domain privacy service (aka proxy protection service) like WhoIsGuard, Proxy Protection, or Domains by Proxy to protect users’ private information from being displayed on the Internet. These sites mask the site owner’s information and replace it with the host provider’s or proxy service’s information. 

So, how does one discover the hidden information on a protected website? As of this writing, you cannot legally access protected information without a valid subpoena from a law enforcement agency or representative thereof. There are workarounds, such as querying a passive DNS/WHOIS server (as opposed to a live WHOIS database server) using programs such as SecurityTrails, SurfaceBrowser, Deteque, DomainTools, and dozens more. These programs use a variety of techniques, such as cross-checking data from different datasets, studying WHOIS historical records, or researching associated domains, to name a few. None are simple, easy solutions, which is why most everyday web surfers don’t use these methods.

Scam trackers, fraud lists and site blockers

Because protected “Who Is” information is so difficult to obtain, consider using Internet Fraud Detection services such as your state’s consumer protection agency, the Bureau of Consumer Protection, or the Federal Trade Commission. The U.S. government offers guidance on avoiding and combating scams and frauds, including lists of known perpetrators.

Reputable organizations that track this information for free include the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker, which allows you to search by keywords, scam type, location, and date. Fake INet is another free service that provides a “Scam Finder” search box. Enter the URL of a suspicious website and, if guilty, Fake INet displays the site onscreen. Scam Detector and We Get Scammed For You are among the many dozens of other free services.

02 better business bureaus lists of unscrupulous websites JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide

Better Business Bureau’s lists of unscrupulous websites 

For a comprehensive list of hate group sites, try the Southern Poverty Law Center, Wikipedia’s White Nationalists site by location, or the Anti-Defamation League. If you stumble upon a suspicious site, use these services to find out more, and block it on your web browser if necessary

For propaganda (aka fake news) websites, check Wikipedia’s List of Fake News Websites,” Professor Melissa Zimdars fake news sites, the Daily Dot, Snopes, or Media Bias/Fact Check.

For pornography or other similar offensive sites, install Safernet, OpenDNS Family Shield or OPenDNS Home, Google’s Safe Search, or any of a dozen other products that range from free to $99 a year. If in doubt, just search on the site name or URL, followed by keywords such as “complaints,” “reviews,” “offensive,” “fake,” “fraudulent,” etc., and see what comes up.

If you’re serious about digging up the dirt on a site, there are verification companies that provide current reports for dangerous or disreputable websites. But these services are NOT free. For a hefty fee of $199 for one day’s worth of data or $399 for 3 days’ worth of data, you can receive a report that lists the current fraudulent websites scamming Internet users. However, note that most of these services are owned by companies in the locations you’re trying to avoid.

My advice: Use the reputable “lists” sites that are offered for free.