HTTPS Changes in Firefox and Chrome

For as far back as I can remember, browsers have always denoted HTTPS pages with a padlock icon, a tiny warning to let you know that anything you submit on the specific page will be securely encrypted. As with all never-changing warnings though, I imagine you’ve stopped noticing it as much as you used to years ago, and that effect combined with HTTPS usage reaching over half of all web pages and the popularity of extensions like HTTPS Everywhere, has spurred some changes in how Firefox and Chrome approach this.

Launched this week, Firefox 51 and Chrome 56 have reversed that age-old warning. Login forms over HTTP now display a “Not Secure” warning. This new warning should be enough to catch the attention of those of us who have begun to ignore the time-honored padlock, but I imagine site owners might be caught a bit off guard.

If you own a site with a login form over HTTP, don’t worry (sort of), your login form isn’t suddenly not secure … it has never been secure. If you’re the only person who uses that login form, and you never use it over a public internet connection, you generally have nothing to worry about.

If other people are expected to log in to your site over HTTP, or you often log in over a public internet connection, it’s time to start moving your site over to HTTPS. You’ll need to acquire an SSL/TLS certificate from a certificate authority to being with, and in the past those have been ridiculously expensive, but all of that changed when Let’s Encrypt premiered, offering free SSL/TLS certificates for everyone. Today, you’ll most likely find that your hosting provider either offers free or incredibly inexpensive certificates, like all of WordPress’s recommended hosting providers do (as does my hosting provider, Pressable). If your hosting provider still wants to charge you a ridiculous rate for a certificate, you might as well take this opportunity to check out the rapidly growing list of hosting providers who offer free Let’s Encrypt certificates.

Once you have your certificate, setting it up is generally just a matter of consulting the documentation from your hosting provider (though this is typically automated if you acquire the certificate from them) and your website’s software. If you use WordPress, the process is very simple.

As site owners, let’s do what we can to proliferate HTTPS and thus provide a more safe and secure web for everyone.

Spider-Man: Reign

Mary Jane. Aunt May. Uncle Ben. I couldn’t save any of you. Never had the power. Never could handle the responsibility. When I’m buried beside you, will you tell me … why you lied to me?

Spider-Man: Reign, from writer and artist Kaare Andrews, is a powerful and emotional journey through the tortured mind of Peter Parker as he enters the last years of his life and begins to confront everything that he has ever cared for and lost.

Thirty years from now, Manhattan has become an independent and politically corrupt city-state. In exchange for almost a decade of no crime, the people of Manhattan have relinquished their power of government, outlawed their heroes, and accepted the merciless justice of a militaristic police force, The Reign. In a final attempt to forever secure the safety of his city, Mayor Waters is just a few days away from activating The Webb, a protective barrier which will envelope the city, allowing nothing to enter or leave. Enraged by Mayor Waters’ plan, J. Jonah Jameson, an insane and washed-up newspaper editor from days long forgotten, returns from his self-imposed exile. He can no longer stand by and watch his once beloved people destroy themselves by cowering before The Reign, and he knows that the only way to save them is to awaken a long-forgotten hero hidden deep within a broken man named Peter Parker.

Written and illustrated by Kaare Andrews, Spider-Man: Reign was likened to Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns from the moment that it was first announced, but it is far more than Dark Knight Returns could ever hope to be.

While Dark Knight Returns is an action-packed gritty vision of Batman’s future, Reign is is a turbulent and emotional tale which defines the values of humanity and what it truly means to be a hero. Once you open the cover, you will find yourself drawn into a turbulent journey through the mind of an aged and emotionally scared Peter Parker as he attempts to justify his life as a hero and come to terms with everything and everyone that he has lost because of it.

Spider-Man: Reign is a powerful, moving, and thought-provoking tale about freedom, humanity, and the responsibilities of a hero. It is a must-have for any fan of the amazing Spider-Man.

This review was previously published on Splash Panel on August 2, 2007.

Star Wars Infinities: Return of the Jedi

After so long in hibernation, and with damage to the carbonite unit, there’s little hope that Captain Solo will ever regain his sight.

Star Wars Infinities: Return of the Jedi is an adventurous and thought-provoking “What if?” tale by writer Adam Gallardo and artists Ryan Benjamin, Dan Norton, and Juvaun Kirby. It begins in tandem with the original Return of the Jedi script, but when a rescue mission goes terribly wrong, history is forever altered.

The stage is lit, the curtain rises, and the battle for the galaxy begins as we are all too familiar with. But, what is familiar can become unfamiliar in the the blink of an eye. You see, the future is made possible through a series of events, like a chain whose links are defined by the laws of action and reaction. Alter a single link, and the overall position of the chain is altered. Like the position of the chain, the future can be altered by simply altering one of the events that led to it.

On the desert planet of Tatooine, Princess Leia Organa, on a secret rescue mission to free Han Solo in the guise of Boushh the bounty hunter, barters with Jabba the Hutt for the bounty on Chewbacca’s head. When Leia demands “Fifty-thousand, no less,” Jabba angrily lashes out at C-3P0, knocking him to the ground with such force that his head detaches. Without a protocol droid to translate her attempt a Boushh’s native language, Leia is forced to remove her mask and reveal her thermal detonator.

Lando Calrissian, disguised as one of of Jabba’s guards, tries to stop Boba Fett from firing at Leia. He fails, and Fett’s blast hits Leia’s shoulder, accidentally activating the thermal detonator and sending it to the ground.

Events begin to spin wildly out of control as Boba Fett flees with the frozen Han Solo and Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca are forced to flee the palace without Han.

The delay of Han Solo’s rescue will result in the death of Yoda before Luke’s final visit to Dagobah, the capture of both Luke and Leia by Imperial forces, a desperate battle with Boba Fett over the fate of Han Solo, the loss of Han’s eyesight, and a final confrontation between a father and his children.

Star Wars Infinities: Return of the Jedi will introduce you to a Star Wars that you never knew and never thought possible. George Lucas’s script only lasts for one page before Adam Gallardo slightly alters one seemingly insignificant event and ignites a radical domino effect, forever altering history as we know it.

The “What if?” concept has been explored by almost every comic series to date. It gives us a way to experience familiar characters and familiar settings in an unfamiliar way. Will the Empire be defeated? Can the mission to disable the Death Star’s shield succeed without Han Solo’s leadership? Will Darth Vader redeem himself, or will he sacrifice his own children at the will of his master? The possibilities are endless.

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This review was previously published on Splash Panel on September 30, 2006.

Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back

Commander Skywalker, do you copy? This is Rogue Two.

Rogue Two, this is Commander Solo. Come in, Rogue Two.

Commander Solo, I read you load and clear. Are you okay, Commander?

Affirmative, Rogue Two. But Luke . . . Luke is dead.

Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back is an adventurous and thought-provoking “What if?” tale by writer Dave Land and artist Davidé Fabbri. It begins in tandem with the original The Empire Strikes Back script, but when a hero of the Rebellion dies before he can fulfill his destiny, history is forever altered.

The stage is lit, the curtain rises, and the battle for the galaxy begins as we are all too familiar with. But, what is familiar can become unfamiliar in the the blink of an eye. You see, the future is made possible through a series of events, like a chain whose links are defined by the laws of action and reaction. Alter a single link, and the overall position of the chain is altered. Like the position of the chain, the future can be altered by simply altering one of the events that led to it.

On the desolate ice planet of Hoth, Luke Skywalker patrols the frozen tundra surrounding Echo Base for signs of an Imperial invasion, but little does he know that his own problems are more immediate. A hungry wampa has been following Luke. It suddenly rises before him, severely injuring him and killing his tauntaun. Held captive in the wampa’s cave, Luke manages to free his lightsaber and make a daring escape into the frozen wasteland outside.

Alarmed by Luke’s disappearance, Han Solo mounts a rescue, despite the rapidly decreasing temperature. His tauntaun freezes early on during his search, forcing him to continue the rescue on foot. After several hours, he finds Luke lying face-first in the snow, delirious and near death. Before losing consciousness, Luke orders Han to go to the Dagobah system, find master Yoda, and train as a Jedi Knight. He does not live through the night.

Events begin to spin wildly out of control as a glitch in Echo Base’s shield allows a squadron of TIE fighters to accompany the Imperial invasion force and decimate Rogue Squadron.

Han Solo escapes with Princess Leia Organa, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2. His perilous journey to Dagobah will result in the death of Boba Fett, the destruction of Cloud City, a fateful reunion between C-3PO and his maker, the revelation of Luke Skywalker’s twin, and a final confrontation between father and daughter.

Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back will introduce you to a Star Wars that you never knew and never thought possible. Dave Land’s intricate story immediately departs from George Lucas’s script as he begins to ingeniously focus on a series of small events whose alterations will have a profound effect on the original course of history.

The “What if?” concept has been explored by almost every comic series to date. It gives us a way to experience familiar characters and familiar settings in an unfamiliar way. Has the Empire crushed the Rebellion? Will Han become a Jedi Knight? Does he have the strength needed to save the galaxy from the Empire, or will he bow before it? The possibilities are endless.

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This review was previously published on Splash Panel on September 23, 2006.

Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope

The torpedoes detonated prematurely, your Highness. I only hope enough damage was done to buy us some time. Princess, you must get to a transport immediately! The future of the Rebellion depends on your safety!

Future? I’ve seen what that battle station can do, General. The Rebellion has no future.

Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope is an adventurous and thought-provoking “What if?” tale by writer Chris Warner and artists Drew Johnson and Al Rio. It begins in tandem with the original A New Hope script, but when a key opportunity for the Rebellion is lost, history is forever altered.

The stage is lit, the curtain rises, and the battle for the galaxy begins as we are all too familiar with. But, what is familiar can become unfamiliar in the the blink of an eye. You see, the future is made possible through a series of events, like a chain whose links are defined by the laws of action and reaction. Alter a single link, and the overall position of the chain is altered. Like the position of the chain, the future can be altered by simply altering one of the events that led to it.

The Death Star looms like the harbinger of death over the Rebel base on Yavin IV. In its equatorial trench, Luke Skywalker begins his finial attack run. He fires his proton torpedoes and retreats to a safe distance with Han Solo and the remaining Rebel fighters, but the expected explosion never comes. The torpedoes had detonated just short of the reactor and the Death Star is still operational.

The Death Star retaliates by firing its primary weapon on Yavin IV, but the Imperial super weapon had sustained some damage from the premature detonation of the torpedoes and only fires with enough power to severely damage the Rebel base. Princess Leia Organa and the remaining Rebels retreat to their transports, but are taken prisoner by Darth Vader.

Luke, distracted by a dogfight on the opposite side of Yavin, believes that the Death Star’s first salvo had destroyed Yavin IV, thus murdering Leia and the rest of the Rebels. Luke and Han escape to Dagobah to find Master Yoda and complete Luke’s training as a Jedi Knight.

Meanwhile, under the care and tutelage of Darth Vader, Leia is appointed to a position as senator in the newly formed Imperial Senate, which she believes will place the Empire on a path to peace. Luke’s destiny as a Jedi and Leia’s place beside Vader will eventually lead to a final confrontation between both brother and sister.

Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope will introduce you to a Star Wars that you never knew and never thought possible. Chris Warner’s story immediately departs from George Lucas’s script into a tale that is just as intricate and captivating as the original.

The “What if?” concept has been explored by almost every comic series to date. It gives us a way to experience familiar characters and familiar settings in an unfamiliar way. Has the Rebellion been destroyed? Will the Empire prevail? Will Luke become a Jedi Knight? Will he save the galaxy, or destroy it? The possibilities are endless.

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This review was previously published on Splash Panel on September 17, 2006.

Happy New Year! the 2017 edition

2017 begins today, so it’s a great time to start using some basic privacy tools, make sure your browser is up to date, update all of your passwords, and setup two factor authentication wherever you can.

This site’s top five items last year were Modern Aircraft Accident Investigation Equipment and Techniques, Custom Fonts Without Plugins for WordPress Themes, RWBY: Anime Beauty and the Beast?, Fix for Stuck Health App (iOS 8), and Internet Archive: Smart 404 Handler, so I guess those old items really do have some staying power. 🙂

We’ll need more people sharing their voices, the news, and their experiences this year, so please considering launching your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or start posting again if you already have one!

Reviving Splash Panel Reviews

Quite a long time ago, I joined up with Khaled Abou Alfa (who is now bringing his considerable skills to Moon Racket!) to share reviews of graphic novels on Splash Panel. I contributed eleven reviews overall, but it’s been quite some time indeed, and the site is now just a parked domain, after passing hands between a splog or two.

I thought the reviews were gone for good, besides those stored by the Internet Archive of course, but while cleaning out my backup drive today, I stumbled across backups of all my old reviews!

I have been thinking of some new content for my blog here, and I think I’ll start by polishing and re-publishing those old reviews. Unfortunately, I donated most of the eleven graphic novels to various people/places over time, so I’ll have to figure out what to do about those pre-HiDPI scans in a post-HiDPI world, but I’ll take my time and republish them as best I can.

Why am I writing this first? Well, it will give me something to link on all of the re-published reviews, and it will pretty much force me to actually follow through with this plan. 😉

Basic Privacy Tools

A few years ago, I wrote about security, privacy, and resetting the net. We’re still in very interesting times as far as that subject goes, and if you haven’t taken steps to protect your privacy, now might be a good time to reconsider that.

One of the easiest changes you can make is to use DuckDuckGo instead of a major search engine. DuckDuckGo doesn’t store your personal information and doesn’t track you, so using it instead of a major search engine is a great way to start cutting down on your digital footprint. Also, if you’re making the switch to DuckDuckGo, but still using Chrome (which is made by Google), now might be a great time to try Firefox instead.

While we’re talking about search engine tracking, you might as well put a stop to all of the other trackers too. If you’re already using Firefox, you can switch on already built-in tracking protection with their Test Pilot program (this can also be enabled manually by toggling privacy.trackingprotection.enabled to true under about:config). Try uBlock Origin for most other browsers, or for more control in Firefox, and try Firefox Focus for iOS devices.

For the communication end of things, consider switching to Signal for your messaging needs. Signal is fully encrypted end-to-end, so the only two people who can read the messages are the sender and recipient. For email, consider switching to ProtonMail, which is also fully encrypted, and hosted in privacy-friendly Switzerland.

Additionally, you’ll probably want a VPN to keep you safe, at least when you’re on public Wi-Fi. This is where things get a bit tricky. You’ll want to choose a VPN that either doesn’t log your activity, like TunnelBear, or one that’s not based in The Fourteen Eyes, like these. You’ll also want to make sure that your chosen VPN supports both your desktop and mobile devices. For added security in extreme situations, keep a copy of Tor Browser around (use Onion Browser for iOS devices and Orfox for Android devices).

These are just some basic steps to protect your privacy online. They’ll provide some layer of protection, but if you want to lock things down even further, visit Privacy Tools and PRISM Break.

If you want to do even more, please consider supporting an organization that will fight for your privacy, like the Electron Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union.

WordPress 4.7 Released

WordPress 4.7 has been released! This release introduces Twenty Seventeen as the new default theme, tons of Customizer improvements, thumbnail previews for uploaded PDFs, per-user Dashboard language settings, REST API content endpoints, and more!

482 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Helen Hou-Sandí. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.7 has been out for about 4 hours, and has already been downloaded 573,149 times!

All users can now safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

Presenting: I Support New Music

leviathan600Do you like hearing new and original music when you go to orchestral concerts, rather than the same works from years gone by? Then head on over to I Support New Music, where we have the crowdfunding campaign you’re looking for!

We’re crowdfunding for a full professional recording of Sarah’s 25-minute concerto for 6-string electric violin, EWI, Synth, and orchestra: Leviathan. We have lots of rewards available at various levels and are running the campaign ourselves, so there are no fees and no end date (the campaign is done when we get what we need for this project).

The site is powered by WordPress and Give, hosted by Pressable, and so far everything has gone smoother than expected. I’d also like to offer a huge special thanks to the folks behind Give for offering some help, and for featuring us in their Stories. They’re great to work with!

Assuming this current campaign does well, we hope to find some way to extend this to other composers looking to crowdfund their projects, but most importantly we’re learning a little bit more each day and having fun while doing it. If you’re a fan of new music, don’t miss out on I Support New Music!