No Go: Reviewing Parental Control Software for Smartphones

Fair to say that these days – more than ever before – it’s necessary for parents to establish some boundaries as to where their children are able to go on the Internet. We imagine that’s fairly apparent, even for those who aren’t parents. Impressionable minds do need to be kept safe from bad influences, and accordingly more and more Moms and Dads are actively seeking ways to restrict their children’s use of their mobile devices and where they ‘go’ with them.

Many of us here at 4GoodHosting are similarly minded, and as a Canadian web hosting provider we know it’s safe to assume that this is a priority for a good many of our customers too. For this reason we’re choosing to make a review of the best parental internet browser controls our topic for the blog today. And considering most parents are extremely busy people who’d prefer to spend as little time as possible on any one task, we imagine this review will be well received.

The Pocket Problem

It’s easier to keep tabs on your children’s browsing habits when you’re at home, and parental controls for desktop and notebook computers are much more commonplace and understood. When it comes to putting constraints on what they can do with their smartphones, however, it’s much more of a grey area and more challenging as a result. It’s something of a pocket problem, because they can be accessing data or finding a Wi-Fi connection pretty much anywhere, and not only are you not around to oversee them, but you may have thought there’s nothing you can do to their device to put restrictions on it.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. There are good smartphone parental controls out there, and so let’s not waste any more time in getting to discussing which ones are best. The best parental control apps offer ways to limit time spent on devices, track usage and location, and block apps or games. There are some free parental controls built into most devices nowadays, so you may not need to pay for a third-party app at all. There’s Google’s Family Link, Amazon’s parental controls are excellent, and Apple offers some parental controls too.

Alright, here’s our list:

  1. FamilyTime (Android and iOS)

This parental control app does everything, allowing you to explicitly customize what content your young ones will have access to, set time limits, track location, and more. Tool let your incorporate homework and bedtime limits, or create overall time limits. You can also get geofencing support that sends alerts when that phone enters or leaves a specific area, plus location tracking that allows you to see where your child is. You can also block or control on an app-by-app basis, place internet filters, monitor calls and texts, and overviews contact lists on the device.

There is a free version of this one, but you only receive a small subset of features. Premium ones for FamilyTime come with different plans available. $27 per year will set you up in full for one device, and $69 per year will do the same for up to 5 devices.

  1. Qustodio (Android, iOS, Kindle, Nook)

Qustodio gets high marks for user-friendliness and efficiency, and is a very good choice for parents for whom time is a scarce commodity. Its dashboard is particularly impressive, showing you all recent mobile activity for any of the connected devices. Reports include time spent on specific services like Instagram or Twitter, and you can set time limits, track texts, filter out sites you deem inappropriate, as well as block games or apps.

Add a host of customization options and it’s a great parental control app to use when managing devices for kids of multiple ages. Lastly, it works on Kindle or Nook devices, and is one of the only ones that does.

Qustodio costs $55 annually for the five-device plan. However, there is a free version with limited controls that you can use on just 1 device.

  1. ESET Parental Control (Android)

ESET is quite a good parental control app, but it’s limitation is that it’s only for Android devices. The free version lets you engage in app blocking, time limits on games, and basic reporting. The premium version allows website blocking, tracking location, parental messaging, and more detailed reports about what the smartphone user is doing.

ESET does have one especially smart feature – the parental message feature. It allows you to send out a message that your child must respond, otherwise they will not be able to continue using the phone. There’s a free 30-day trial for premium features, but following that it costs $30 per year, per device.

  1. Web Watcher (Android and iOS)

Web Watcher may be the best choice for those of you who see keeping tabs on your child’s text messaging as a priority. You’ll see all of them, including deleted texts, as well as photos, web browsing, call log, and location. Web Watcher also lets you oversee their activity on certain apps, including Tinder, WhatsApp, Kik, and Viber. Setting time limits and even capturing screenshots of your kid’s phone screen are also possible.

One of the things about Web Watcher is that because it’s essentially spyware, with a stealth mode, it has to be installed outside of the official app store. Be aware that serious security permissions are required, and it’s very invasive. However, it’s true that that is what some parents are after. It’s also far from cheap – it starts at $130 per year per device.

  1. Norton Family Premier (Android and iOS)

Norton is the premier name in antivirus software, and Norton Family Premier is a smartly designed program for restricting and monitoring what children do online. Family Premier offers parents a variety of features that are easily managed with the clean interface. Number 1 among its useful features is its robust web supervision; you can block sites entirely, or keep a general log of sites visited. You can make it so that warnings will be issued for sites that you choose not to ban outright, but where you would prefer your kids to proceed with caution.

You’re also able to set time limits, prevent device operation during specific hours of the day or night, and of course block apps too. The cost is $50 per year, but there’s no limits to the amount of devices you can use it with.

  1. Net Nanny (Android and iOS)

This feature-packed parental control allows you to track location, block apps, set time limits, and get a real-time feed of your child’s activity. You also have powerful web filtering controls for cutting out pornography, weapons, drugs and other content that is indisputably inappropriate for young people. Net Nanny does not allow for call or text snooping or monitoring of messenger apps, but you can see when they’re using them plus review their web searches.

Net Nanny costs $55 per year for up to five device pass, and can be used for non-mobile internet browsing devices too. There’s also a 20-device pass for $90 per year.

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We’ll conclude here today with some helpful tips – When picking a parental control app, writing down your password or login information isn’t advisable, no matter how well you think you can hide it. Creating a news alert for the software you choose to help keep an eye out for any new vulnerabilities or workarounds is also wise. Keep in mind that some software can be bypassed with phone resets, customer service requests, and other tricks. There’s plenty of information online regarding this.

Chrome Users Encouraged to ‘Rat Out’ Deceptive Sites with New Add-On

Rats have always had a bad rap, and among all the many negative things associated with the rodents is the fact that ‘rat’ is no longer only a noun in the English language. It’s now also a verb. To ‘rat’ out someone or something is to make someone in position of power or authority aware of what that thing or person is doing when they shouldn’t be doing it. An example could be when you were kids and telling the school principal the names of the students you saw scratching their names into the side of the gymnasium.

They’re sure to be punished for it, but only you and the principal will ever know who exactly ‘ratted them out.’

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like any quality Canadian web hosting provider in that we don’t need to be prompted to stay on top of interesting developments in the digital world. We do it quite naturally, and we also have an at-least somewhat vested interest in maintaining a functional integrity for the World Wide Web.

All of which makes this recent news entirely newsworthy for our blog here.

Introducing the Suspicious Site Reporter

Google this week started requesting help in identifying suspicious websites, and to that end is making an add-on that lets them ‘rat out’ suspicious URLs through their Chrome browser. They can add the Suspicious Site Reporter, and what they’ll then see is a new flag-style icon on the top bar of the browser. When they come across a URL that’s fishy looking, all they have to do is click on the icon to report unsafe sites to Safe Browsing for further evaluation by the overlords at Google.

Safe Browsing is a ubiquitous term between Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox, Apple’s Safari, and Android when users are steered away from sites that contain malicious or deceptive content. Google uses robots to scan the web and compile lists of websites that host malware, harmful downloads or deceptive ads and pages. Software developers then have the option of plugging into an API to integrate this list into their own applications.

In honesty, rival browser makers have done this for years, but it’s a fact none have the prestige or visibility that Chrome currently does.

What this ‘see, identify, and click’ results in is a warning that then tells user following in the footsteps of others that the intended destination is shady and proceeding further towards it is inadvisable. With Chrome, you can expect to see an alert reading ‘Deceptive site ahead’ and some explanatory text about why it’s being regarded that way.

So here it is that you don’t need to feel any discomfort about being ‘a rat.’

Different Designations

Some industry experts have stated they find some of the information in the pop-up box deployed after clicking the Suspicious Site Reporter to actually be suspicious on its own. One of them gave the example of visiting a national news organization’s site, and seeing the reason it was flagged as being ‘Haven’t visited site in the last 3 months.’

There’s another good and valuable warning that is issued when the browser is being steered toward a site with a deceptive URL, which is a common trick of hackers and phishers. There’s more than a few people who wouldn’t catch ‘go0gle.com’ instead of ‘google.com’, to use one example. For all these individuals, there will be a warning that helps you get back to safety.

This new feature was launched with Chrome 75, the current version that debuted June 4. As has been the case for a while though, Google commonly rolls out new Chrome features in stages in response to quality control interests.

If for some reason you Chrome 75 doesn’t have it, the Suspicious Site Reporter add-on can be downloaded from the Chrome e-store.

What to Expect From Next Month’s Windows 10 Update from Microsoft

Windows continues to be the most popular and ubiquitous of operating systems for desktops and notebooks around the world, and while there are those who will have nothing to do with it (see Mac devotees) that fact is a testament to the enduring popularity of what is ‘old faithful’ for the most part when it comes to computer operating systems.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a Canadian web hosting provider that’s in the position to see the value of both Mac and PC operating systems, and it’s true that both have their strengths and weaknesses – which is of course true of pretty much everything. One thing that Microsoft has benefited from for decades now is that it was first to the party, and that’s meant that many people will always choose a Windows OS device because it’s especially familiar for them.

And so it is that the next version of Windows 10 — scheduled for a May 2019 update release— is now just around the corner. This is not going to be a massive overhaul of the OS by any means, but there are as it approaches its 4-year anniversary there are some nice tweaks to make it fresher and more well-suited to determined user preferences. Foremost among these are a new light theme and changes to the search experience, Cortana, and more.

Let’s have a look at the most recent update to Windows 10 here today.

On the House

We’ll start by stating for anyone who might be unaware that Windows 10 updates are always free. The May 2019 Update via Windows Update will be provided at no charge for existing Windows 10 users on any device deemed compatible with the update. The noteworthy difference here, however, is with the rollout method – it is no longer automatically downloaded to your PC.

What you’ll get instead is a notification in Windows Update that the May 2019 update is available. From there you’ll have the option of downloading or installing it. However, only those running a version of Windows 10 that is close to end of support will receive the update automatically. Just as with prior releases, rollouts of major Windows 10 updates are gradual to ensure the best quality experience. For this reason you might not see the May 2019 update right away.

Further as regards the timing of this, let’s not forget Microsoft’s troubles with releasing previous Windows 10 versions. Don’t count on this update arriving exactly when it’s expected.

Improvements

Let’s shift to the meat of all of this, and detail all of the improvements to be seen in the new Windows 10.

  • Light Theme & Improved Start Menu

Microsoft debuted a dark mode for Windows 10 in 2018, and a new light theme is being introduced with this update to augment overall contrast with the operating system. Users will see that both the taskbar, start menu and Action Center are a brighter and lighter white color. Some icons in the system tray and taskbar are now also tailored to match the new theme — including both OneDrive and File Explorer.

A new and improved start menu is part of this too. Installing the May 2019 update will give users a single column, and fewer preinstalled apps and live tiles. Plus, they can also now remove more of the stock Windows 10 apps that aren’t used much, including 3D Viewer, Calculator, Calendar, Mail, and Movies & TV, Paint 3D, Snip & Sketch, Sticky Notes, and Voice Recorder.

  • Cortana & Search

The separation of Cortana and Search in the Windows 10 taskbar is one of the most notable changes coming with next month’s update. With previous releases they were integrated with each other, but now the search box in the taskbar will only launch searches for files and documents, and the circular Cortana icon will summon the digital assistant when clicked. Some people have already surmised that this may mean the end of Cortana before long, but it’s likely that a bit presumptive at this point.

Search experience will also be changing, and now Windows will index and search all folders and drives, rather than just limiting it to the default documents, pictures, and videos folders. Along with a new search interface featuring landing pages for Apps, Documents, Email, Web, users can now expect accurate and faster searches when aiming to dig up important files.

  • Reserved Space for Windows Update

It’s true that Windows Updates can cause bugs, data loss, and failures, and there’s been no shortage of people eager to point that out every chance they get. This May 2019 update, however, is going to enable all Windows 10 users to pause updates for up 35 days – something that was for Windows 10 Enterprise and Professional users only up until now.

Having more time to read up and decide on when to install Microsoft’s monthly updates is going to be a nice freedom for many users

The fact that the May 2019 update will also reserve 7GB of disk space for installing general updates promises to be a more contentious point. The move has been made to keep your PC secure, and there reasons this new space cannot be removed from Windows 10 is so that it makes future OS updates more efficient.

The space is also intended for apps, temporary files, and system caches undertaken as your PC sees fit. The size of the reserve will depend on your system, so removing unnecessary files on your hard drive in advance of the update might be a good idea.

  • Sandbox Integrated Feature

Last but not least regarding the Windows update for 2019, we have Windows Sandbox. This integrated feature for Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise lets users create a secure desktop environment that is able to isolate and run untrusted and sketchy apps while keeping them separate from the rest of your system. Thus the term ‘sandbox’ – when a Windows Sandbox is closed, all the software with all its files and state are permanently deleted along with that move.

In our opinion, this is the best and most well-thought out feature added to this Windows 10 2019 update. Especially considering all the different well-disguised threats out there these days. It might not be the most exciting feature for your average, but you can be sure developers are going to be plenty impressed with it.

Will be interesting to see how well received this update is, and it appears we won’t have to wait long to find out.

New Epic Quickly Becoming Browser Of-Choice for Those Big on Privacy

Things change quickly in the digital world, and what was barely even on the radar can become a front and centre issue overnight in some cases. Go back 10 years and the issue of privacy in web browsing wasn’t something the vast majority of people paid even the slightest bit of attention to. Nowadays, however, it’s definitely a hot-button topic given all the news that’s come out about web browsing histories and the like being tracked, monitored, and then made available to whoever doesn’t mind paying for information about what people like YOU search for online.

Some people don’t have a problem with that. Other people have quite a significant problem with that. If you’re part of the second group there then you may have already switched over to using a web browser like DuckDuckGo or something similar. It’s a fine privacy-promoting web browser in itself, but it’s a bit of a generalist in that it works suitably well across the board but not especially well for any one framework.

And that’s where and why Epic coming onto the scene is as noteworthy as it is. It is a Chromium-based browser designed to ensure privacy without giving up anything i speed or functionality. It blocks ads as well as prevents user tracking, and also includes built-in protection against a wide range of surveillance methods cryptocurrency mining scripts among them.

It promises to be just what the Doctor ordered for those who think these types of overwatch activities are unacceptable, and here at 4GoodHosting we’re like any other quality Canadian web hosting provider in that we agree with you wholeheartedly. Let’s take a look at what makes this new no-tracking web browser such a good fit and why it promises to be especially well received.

Surfers 1 / Watchers 0

It’s fair to say that it’s really a shame that the innocence and carefreeness of using the world wide web to gain information is gone now, and that government agencies, corporations, and malicious hackers lurking in the shadows and taking notes is entirely unacceptable. Even those who aren’t overly incensed at having their privacy violated will almost certainly choose to stay ‘incognito’ if the opportunity to do so exists.

Epic’s creator, Alok Bhardwaj, attributes much of his need to build such a resource on coming to understand that on average, there are some 10 or so trackers on pretty much every website you visit. For some still, there’s up to 30 or 40 companies that are logging your visit.

Fortunately, his new Epic browser includes built-in protection against a wide range of surveillance tactics, and without any of the BS like what was seen in 2015 in the States with AT&T’s policy where subscribers had to pay up to 50% more to secure a reasonable level of privacy.

The original version of Epic has been around since August of 2018, but the Chromium-based version of it is still new to the scene. It allows users to enjoy private browsing without sacrificing speed or functionality, and also blocks ultrasound signal tracking and cryptocurrency mining scripts. Plus, with a new mobile browser on the way, Epic continues to take actions that support the company’s belief in a free internet.

 

Sight for Sore Eyes: Privacy-Focused Web Browser

U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2017 decision to cann internet privacy rules as passed by the Federal Communications Commission in the previous year put an effective end to internet users having more rights concerning what service providers can do with their data. Here in Canada we certainly haven’t been immune to the increasingly grey areas of what can and can’t be done as far as monitoring a web browser user’s history.

Likely no one needs convincing that relying on governmental agencies to solve data privacy issues will likely result in little if anything being done. So we’re left to take matters into our hands as much as we can. Good news on that front, as Epic is an exceptionally private browsing experience that’s also fast and intuitive and based on Google’s open-source Chromium project for long-term practicality in the bigger picture of things.

That perspective was very important in the development of this new browser, according to Bhardwaj. Microsoft announced that the company would build their next browser on Chromium, and so the decision was made to build a browsing experience that’s very private, but just as fast as using Google Chrome.

Mission Accomplished

We’d say it is – Epic is one of the most simple, private, and fast browsers on the market today, and it’s really raised the bar that was set by the original private browser, Tor. (which is still a great browser FWIW, still doing very well and also offers an extremely anonymous service)

One area where Epic meets a need that Tor can’t, however, is with malicious cryptocurrency activities. Hackers have used Tor to steal cryptocurrency from users, and fairly recently too.

Long story short, Epic is the only private browser out there that just works out of the box with a high level of privacy and speed, and it doesn’t have any of the issues where advanced security protocols render certain website undeliverable. In the event that one won’t, Epic lets you turn off the proxy and ad blocking feature for a particular website if needed.

Other appealing features:

  • Free VPN
  • 1-click encrypted proxy
  • Blocks fingerprinting and ultrasound signaling
  • Locally stored database of the top 10,000 websites in the world

Coming to Mobile Soon

Epic is expected to launch the company’s mobile browser before long. They expect their mobile browsers to be even more significant than the desktop browsers, given the scale that mobile’s going to operate on. With the extent to which most of us use our smartphones for internet search queries, there’s no doubt that this mobile browser release will put Epic even more in the spotlight in the near future.

Windows 7 End Time Reminders On Their Way for PCs Starting Next Month

It would appear that a good many personal computers out there are still running Windows 7. If they weren’t then we can assume that there wouldn’t be the need for Microsoft to take the action they’ll be taking soon – sending out reminders to PC users still running this admittedly archaic OS that the end is nigh. Microsoft is calling them ‘courtesy reminders’ and while the message doesn’t go so far as to say what’s really the message – update your operating system or your device will become by and large inoperative – it certainly implies as much

Now admittedly as a leading Canadian web hosting provider we’re the type to be updating our OS systems just as soon as the opportunity presents itself each time, but we’re also able to go ahead and imagine that many of our clients will have friends or family members who don’t have the need to be equipped with the latest and greatest in computing technology. As such this might be a prompting to tell those people not to ignore anything that pops on their screen talking about the end of Windows 7.

So what’s all this going to involve? Not a whole lot really, but it’s worthwhile to take something of longer glance at why this is necessary and what PC users can expect if they’re still rocking Windows 7.

Friendly, yet Persistent Reminders

Microsoft has stated that starting in April if you are a Windows 7 user you can expect to see a notification appear on your Windows 7 PC a number of times over the next month. The hope is that one or more of them will be all it takes to make you aware that Windows 7 will officially be unsupported as of January 14, 2020.

As you might expect, users will be able to reject future notifications by selecting a ‘do not notify me again’ option, or if they’d prefer to know a little bit more about why their favourite OS (we have to assume there’s a reason they’ve resisted updating for so many years) is going the way of the Dodo Bird then there’ll also a be a ‘learn more’ button.

FWIW, the same thing happened with Windows XP a few years back. That OS went extinct fairly smoothly, so the expectation is that the same thing will happen here. Just in case that’s not the way it goes, however, Microsoft is trying to be proactive. The Windows 7 notices will appear eight months earlier than those XP warnings.

One big difference will be in that it was only in March of 2014, just a month before XP’s expiration, that Microsoft began placing on-screen reminders of the impending date. After that, they came monthly. Should Microsoft follow the same schedule and cadence, it should begin pushing notices to Windows 7 on April 14 before repeating them on the 14th of each month following.

Accelerated Schedule

The issue behind this sped-up schedule regarding the whole thing is that – believe it or not – Windows 7 is still surprisingly relevant. Check out this stat from Computerworld; it’s estimated that Windows 7 will still be powering more than 40% of all Windows personal computers at the end of January 2020.

If that’s correct, that number is quite a bit higher – about 35% – than the one attached to Windows XP when it was coming to the end of its working life. It would seem that Microsoft’s logic in starting to send out this reminders earlier is that it will reduce the larger fraction of Windows 7 systems before support ends.

As recently as 5 years ago Microsoft pushed on-screen alerts only to systems maintained using Windows Update, working with the knowledge that most small businesses and the like would be utilizing that resource. Windows 7 PCs managed by enterprise IT staff using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) had no such reminder delivered. Administrators were also able to remove and / or prevent the warning by modifying the Windows registry, or by setting a group policy.

We can likely expect that similar options will exist for the Windows 7 notices. As the saying goes, all good things come to an end. We’ll try to pacify anyone who’ll be sad to see Windows 7 go by saying that by putting these OS out to pasture the developers are able to put more of their energies towards improving existing and future ones, and that’s better in the big picture of things.

We’ll conclude here today by leaving you with a Windows 7 to Windows 10 migration guide.

Distractions Begone: Introducing Google Chrome’s Focus Mode

It’s been said that here and now in the 21st century we’ve never had more distractions pulling at our attention day in and out like we do now. This is especially true when we’re in front a screen, and we imagine not many of you need any convincing of that. Distractions aren’t particularly problematic when you’re only web surfing or the like, and more often than not they’re what you might call an irresistible nuisance in those situations.

When you’re on your computer for productive purposes, however, all those distractions can add up to a considerable amount of lost time. That’s where people might wish there was something to be done about them… and it appears as if now there is.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like any industrious Canadian web hosting provider in the way we have our eyes and ears peeled for developments in the computing world. Most of them aren’t worthy of discussing at large here, but considering that nearly everyone has had difficulty staying on task when making use of the Internet then this one definitely is.

Google Introduces Focus Mode for Chrome Browser

As if the Chrome browser needed any more assistance in being the nearly ubiquitous web-browser of choice these days. Google is set to announce focus mode, and while they haven’t actually announced this new feature as of yet, tech insiders have found there’s a new flag to be seen that indicates whether or not ‘focus mode’ is on.

It should be mentioned that they’re not broaching uncharted territory here. Different applications have attempted to take on the problem of getting people to focus while working on a computer, and there have been software solutions available for both Mac and PC that have arrived with little or no fanfare. It goes without saying, however, that no power players commands the attention that Google does these days.

At this time little is known about the Focus Mode feature, asides fro the fact it will soon be implemented with the world’s most popular web browser. The seen flag is reportedly indicating that if ‘#focus-mode’ is enabled, it allows a user to switch to Focus Mode.

What, and How?

We bet nearly all of you will be saying right, right – but how exactly is Focus Mode going to work? At the moment, we can only speculate on the features the new option might offer to users. We think it’s safe to assume that Focus Mode will restrict specific websites or applications from being accessed. For example, Focus Mode may stop a user from browsing sites such as YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook (likely the most necessary for most people!). Other industry insiders have suggested that the mode may integrate with Windows 10‘s Focus Assist when working in conjunction with a PC’s operating system.

That last part there is important, as it appears that – at least initially – Focus Mode will be available on PCs running Windows 10, and it’s believed that it will allow users to silence notifications and other distracting pop-ups. We’re prone to wonder if Focus Mode will also work with Windows 10 to stop websites from screaming out for your attention, or restricting those pop-up announcements that are way too common and explicitly designed to take your attention elsewhere.

Patience, Grasshopper

As mentioned, Focus Mode isn’t quite here yet, but for those who are distracted way too easily (and you can certainly count us among them) when time is a valuable commodity to get needed tasks done then this really has a lot of potential.

We can most likely expect to see Focus Mode in a test build such as Chrome Canary before it becomes a mainstream feature available to one and all with Google Chrome. We’ll be following these developments keenly, and we imagine that now a good many of you will be too.