Category: Software (Page 1 of 9)

Rogue Chromium Browsers

Everyone is free to choose what web browser to use on their computer. Many people use Edge or Safari, because it came as part of the operating system on the computer. Others opt for Chrome or Firefox. But what is worrisome and worth warning about is the use of rogue Chromium browsers. I hope I can teach you what these are, so you can recognize and avoid these.

Let me clearly state: Google Chrome is a good browser to use. If you use Google Chrome, please continue to do so! Chromium browsers are different. A Chromium browser is essentially a modified version of Chrome that has different abilities or behaviors. Many of these tweaks can lead to harm.

Examples of Rogue Chromium Browsers

The first Chromium browser that spread to average computer users was labeled Chromium, and had a blue-tinted icon, very similar to the classic Google Chrome icon.

rogue chromium browsers

This open-source version of Chrome was meant to be used by developers, programmers and other technical experts. To my eye, it really stands out when I find it on a layperson’s computer, and is often my first clue that I’m going to find other unwanted software…

Wave Browser is an example of a modern-day rogue Chromium browser. It is polished, has a classy logo/icon, and appears to be professional and fast to open. Those who use this may feel right at home, because its menus and behavior closely resemble Google Chrome. I’ll get to the devil in the details, though, in the next section.

OneLaunch is another rogue to watch out for. But this one is easier to spot, as it comes with a special bar that permanently eats up the top half-inch of your screen. OneLaunch will function as well as any other browser, but let me describe more of what’s under the hood here:

Detriments of Using a Rogue Browser

Sketchy Search Engine: These browsers often steer their users into using a modified version of the Yahoo search engine. This engine is not anything I would ever use. It’s been altered to include more ads and paid placement than the usual Yahoo engine. Many of the top results you get from this are promotions, malicious links and phishing sites.

I searched for “Xfinity phone number” in a variety of search engines, just now. Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo all returned solid results and the safe trustworthy phone number for Comcast. also gave me good info. But when I use Onelaunch and WaveBrowser to do the same search, the results were riddled with ads and websites I would never want to visit. I can see this behavior leading some users to scams and false information and phishing websites.

Modified Start Page: When I test these rogues out, I notice the Start Page has been customized, to show a lot of strange things. Some are salacious news articles. Others are gross advertorials about health conditions. And even others are lures to bogus antivirus messages.

Eating Up Screen Real-Estate: Some of these browsers take a lot of liberty with your computer. OneLaunch installs a bar of icons across the top of the computer, and it remains up there, even after you close the browser!

Empty Promises: In some of these browsers, I see them boast that they offer Camera Privacy and better ad-blocking. I just can’t even with this nonsense. People desiring camera privacy simply turn off their camera. Close the shutter on their camera. Disconnect their camera. Slap a Band-Aid over their camera! Whatever your concerns might be about webcam surveillance, you should not be turning to a mystery app to solve them.

Constant Nags: These browsers may have various popups, trying to convince you to set them as your Default Browser, try out their extra products and more.

Who Really Makes These Browsers?: It can be hard to tell who’s behind these programs. I went looking into Wave Browser’s pedigree. It’s created by a company called Wavesor. That turns out to be the trade name for Polarity Technologies. Which is a subsidiary for Genimous Technology, a Chinese firm that has been investigated and criticized by our government officials.

What Else Came With This Program?: These rogue browser are downloaded and installed, often without the computer user understanding how or even when it happened! They can be sneaky like that. And if this app showed up unexpectedly, chances are good that they came with other potentially unwanted programs. I often find other adware to remove when I service computers with rogue browsers on them.

Moving Back to a Mainstream Browser

The good news is that if you want to reverse course and go back to your previous browser, that should be easy. Uninstall the rogue app, and your other browser(s) should still be there. These rogues don’t harm or delete anything from your system.

After that, you may want to run a few scans on the system. There could be some junkware, separate from the browser, that needs to go. Your antivirus is just the first tool to consider. I like to run specific tools, like ADWCleaner or Norton Power Eraser, to look for hidden nasties.

If you are struggling with this cleanup and feel in-over-your-head, please know that I deal with this everyday, and can help you in restoring things. Reach out to me if you feel like your computer is still acting “off”, or if any computer task is “above your paygrade.”

I’ll Pass on Copilot

Copilot is Microsoft’s take on the AI craze. If you use a Windows computer, you’ve probably noticed that Copilot has silently added itself to your taskbar and/or web browser. But not everyone appreciates or cares for this AI tool. If you’re saying, “I’ll pass on Copilot,” here are some steps you can take to get it off your plate.

Quick and Easy Methods

If Copilot is on your Windows Taskbar, you can remove its icon:

  • Right-click your taskbar and left-click Taskbar Settings.
  • Look for Copilot (Preview) and click its toggle switch Off.

If Copilot is barging in on your Microsoft Edge browser:

  • With Edge open, click the 3-dots button to the upper-right, and then click Settings.
  • On the Settings list to the left, click Sidebar.
  • On the right, under App Specific Settings, click Copilot.
  • Click the toggles next to the Copilot options to turn each Off.

You may have to repeat these steps in the future, as Windows Updates may re-enable Copilot, without warning.

More Advanced Tactics

Copilot is treated as a component of Windows, and as such, cannot be removed. But it can be strictly disabled, using stronger methods.

The Group Policy Editor can be used to hamstring Copilot, but that is only available to those running Educational or Professional versions of Windows. Sorry, Home users!

Power users can modify the Windows Registry to disable Copilot. But I discourage this for all but the most tech-savvy. Registry changes are not for the faint of heart and are risky.

If you’re open to using 3rd-party software, I’ve tested DoNotSpy11 and found it to be straightforward and malware-free. This app allows people to disable Copilot and other intrusive features in Windows. If you’re the tinkerer-sort, check this freebie out!

Lastly, you can always switch to a non-Microsoft browser to sidestep Copilot and similar Microsoft distraction. Besides Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, there are many solid options out there, including the Brave Browser and the almost-ready-for-primetime DuckDuckGo Browser.

Avoid Using Registry Cleaners

avoid using registry cleaners

The Windows operating system has this central database that it uses constantly, while your computer is running. Better know as the Windows registry, it is essential for your PC’s operation. It’s hidden away where you won’t see it, and only advanced users ever meddle with it. And yet, some helpful apps offer to clean and maintain it. I need to warn you off of that sort of thing, right now. Please: Avoid using registry cleaners!

The Windows registry can take care of itself. Some cleaning software may purport to be able to improve your system performance, by tweaking your registry, but please be wary. Microsoft has long held the stance that you don’t need to “maintain” their registry. Running a registry cleaner can put your system at risk! Malwarebytes echoes this view, and also suggests that registry cleaners only appear to help, due to the placebo effect.

There are plenty of other warnings out there about the uselessness and dangers of registry cleaners, but let me be the latest: You can seriously harm your PC by using a registry cleaner. An explicit example: Joe Customer just called me about his computer that suddenly will not boot up. He presses the power button, the Windows Logo briefly appears, and then he gets a BlueScreen error. His system then restarts and loops back to the same message. As of now, he’s “dead in the water.” And the last thing he did, before this problem, was he ran his Registry Cleaner and then rebooted.

I can get him back on dry ground, with a System Restore, or a Windows Reset. With some luck, we won’t need a complete system wipe. But Joe is currently anguished and panicked, and very worried about his files. I don’t wish these kinds of feelings on anyone. Save yourself some stress and avoid using registry cleaners.

Change Your Browser’s Download Behavior

When you download a file using your web browser, it typically saves that file to your Downloads folder. That’s just the default behavior, for any browser. But what if I told you that we can change your browser’s download behavior, so that you get to choose where a downloaded file goes?

By now, every browser has an option for this. You can tell your browser to ask you where you want to store a file, when you begin to download it. If this sounds useful, find and toggle this feature now!


  • Click the 3-dots button in the upper-right corner.
  • Click Settings.
  • On the left, click Downloads.
  • On the right, toggle the switch next to “Ask where to save each file before downloading.”


  • Click the 3-dots button in the upper-right corner.
  • Click Settings.
  • On the left, click Downloads.
  • On the right, toggle the switch next to “Ask me what to do with each download”


  • Click the hamburger button in the upper-right corner.
  • Click Settings.
  • Scroll down through the General settings until you find Downloads.
  • Check the box for “Always ask you where to save files.”


  • Click the Safari menu in the upper-left corner.
  • Click Preferences.
  • On the General panel, find the row labelled File Download Location.
  • Click the drop-down menu to its right, and select “Ask for each download.”

If you’re like me and want to save every important file, in specific folders, then this feature can save you a lot of clicks and time.

Change Your Browser's Download Behavior

On-Screen Keyboards

Did you know that computers offer on-screen keyboards, similar to mobile devices? They are rarely useful, since the physical keyboard is far easier to type with. But you should know where to find the on-screen keyboard on your computer. You might someday find yourself in a jam, and suddenly need it!

on-screen keyboards

How To Activate

Activating the on-screen keyboard is different for each type of computer.

Microsoft describes how to open the On-Screen Keyboard at this site. But there are others ways to bring it up. If you are at the Windows login screen, you can click the Ease of Access icon to the lower-right and then click On-Screen Keyboard. You may also press WIN + R and enter “osk” in the Open field.

Apple calles this tool the Keyboard Viewer, and this site describes where to find it.

Chromebooks also offer an on-screen keyboard, check out this site for details.

Once this on-screen keyboard is open, you are welcome to click on any key you see, and get the same effect as if you touched the physical keyboard’s key.

Possible Uses

The original intent behind the on-screen keyboard is to help offer a different way of typing, in case it makes the computer more usable and accessible. Let’s say you find yourself in an arm-cast — mouse-clicking might be preferable while you heal up. But consider the on-screen keyboard also as a tool for troubleshooting:

  • If your physical keyboard is typing erratically, or missing keystrokes, open the On-Screen Keyboard and test with it. The results might help you figure out if you have a defective physical keyboard or a systemwide problem.
  • What about when your wireless keyboard depletes its batteries? You’ll be hard-pressed to log in with your PIN or password, if you’re out of AAA’s. The on-screen keyboard will help you get back into your computer and you can go buy more batteries later.
  • Your on-screen keyboard may help you find a hard-to-find key that you want to press. It may even offer you keys that your keyboard lacks!
    Example: the Scroll Lock function on my laptop was disabled. I could not turn it back on, because I had no Scroll Lock key on my laptop. But I could press that key in the on-screen keyboard and fix my situation!

Free Audio Editing Software

free audio editing software

For those looking to edit audio files, or mix and create digital music files, please consider these open source options. There are a lot of free audio editing software options out there!

Audacity is the mainstay for editing and recording, and is available for Windows, MacOS and Linux. It looks like you might even get this to install on a Chromebook. And they still offer legacy downloads that may work on very old computers.

LMMS is comparable to Audacity, but more for editing and not recording. It’s available Windows, MacOS and Linux.

GarageBand is for Apple devices only, and is a digital audio workstation, like LMMS. You can get it for your Apple computer or iOS device, but it is not available for Windows computers. If you encounter anyone offering GarageBand for PCs, beware, it is likely a scam or a virus!

WaveShop is like Audacity, but old-school. Try this one if you like the retro feel, or if you have a very old Windows computer that can’t handle newer software.

Mixxx is more for DJs and mixing together audio tracks. It works on Windows, MacOS and Linux.

Quickbooks Desktop Software – PDF Problem

Right now, I am seeing an uptick with a PDF problem inside of Quickbooks Desktop software. When Quickbooks users first open their software, they get this message:

Quickbooks Desktop Software - PDF Problem

And thereafter, the software will not allow you to create any PDFs, of your invoices, estimates and reports.

Quickbooks has a handy-dandy software tool for you to download and try, but lately, that lovely app doesn’t fix this issue. They also have some more advanced recommendations, but these often do not help, either. And even uninstalling and reinstalling Quickbooks doesn’t do the trick!

If you’re suddenly having this PDF problem: This was caused by a recent Microsoft update. Quickbooks requires a particular Windows component to be turned on, and it’s been turned off. Try these steps to re-enable it:

  • Press Win + R on your keyboard
  • Type appwiz.cpl and press Enter
  • To the upper-left, click on Turn Windows Features On or Off
  • Scroll down the list to find Microsoft XPS Document Writer and put a check in the box next to it.
  • Click OK and wait for Windows to complete the changes.
  • Click Close.
  • Restart your computer.

Note: if the box next to Microsoft XPS Document Writer is already checked, uncheck it and click OK. Then return to that window and check it again.

Free Flight Simulators

free flight simulators

Google isn’t the only one to offer simulated flight. If you’re looking to take to the skies from your computer screen, check out all these free flight simulators:

Google Earth Pro: downloadable for Windows, MacOS and Linux computers, after you launch the software, click Tools and choose Enter Flight Simulator.

Geo-FS: this one is web-based, meaning you should be able to use it in any browser on any type of computer.

YSFlight: downloadable for Windows, MacOS and Linux computers.

FlightGear: downloadable for Windows, MacOS and Linux computers.

DCSWorld: for Windows only, and is more battle/mission-oriented

Free Illustration Software

free illustration software

If you’re looking to create digital drawings and other graphics, you’ll need to find a suitable software. Adobe Illustrator is the professional mainstay for this. But the pricetag for that is considerable, and I like to promote free software choices. Here are some fantastic free illustration software offerings, for you to try!

Krita is highly regarded as a professional-grade painting program. You’re welcome to install it on Windows, MacOS or linux.

Inkscape is a similar full-featured software, and is also downloadable for Windows, MacOS and Linux systems.

Sumo Paint allows you to draw and create in your browser, so it’s largely OS-independent. Use on your Chromebook, if you like!

ArtWeaver has a free version that you may install on Windows only.

Sketchbook is available for Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS. It has a $20 pricetag if you want it for your computer, but is free to download onto any mobile device.

Microsoft offers two apps for digital art creation, one is Paint 3D and the other is Fresh Paint. These are both free, but also only for Windows.

Adobe Fresco is a freemium offering, for iOS and Windows devices. By freemium, I mean that it starts out free, but as you bump into the limitations of the app, Adobe is ready to sell you the extra features they have locked up. Adobe Fresco is not (yet) available for Android or MacOS.

Vectornator is only available for iOS (iPhones & iPads).

You’ll find that some photo-editing apps also help with drawing projects, but what I’ve listed here are focused on art creation and likely offer the best tools for that. Enjoy!

PS: Adobe Express is a new free web-based tool to consider. It’s trying to do a lot of things, ranging from photo-editing to graphics creation to helping with your social media posts and videos. It could be a great freebie for any of your graphic design pursuits!

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