Best Practice Ezine #88 Psycho and IE 7

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Best Practice Ezine #88 – Psycho and Internet Explorer 7

This week I am going to take a whimsical look at Internet Explorer 7 through the eyes of a network administrator.  As you will see his main problem is how to deal with the departmental Psycho; in comparison, IE 7 is well behaved.  Incidentally, legend has it that IE 7 beta 2 is so stable that it’s the first beta which Microsoft officially supports.

Let me start with a Litmus test.  This is the question: How should you minimise the damage caused by the office Psycho?

Professional network administrators are familiar with new products such as IE 7.  As a result they are able to turn their knowledge of features to their advantage and thus control users like Psycho easily.

Amateur network administrators are unsure of new product developments, consequently, Psycho is able to spread misinformation through their organization.

Let me Introduce Psycho

Any company with more than 20 employees always has at least one Psycho.  The main characteristic of a Psycho is that they cause at least 60% of all computer problems.  A strong indicator of trouble is that their own machine is a disaster area.  For example, Psycho pours coffee into keyboards.  As they take at least three sugars, in huge cup with a ghastly logo, their carelessness costs you the hassle of digging out a replacement keyboard.

Mad Mick – no saint himself – said that in one company Psycho’s machine was the only machine running fast, it turned out that the reason the other machine were running so slowly was that Psycho had replaced their 512 mb RAM with 64 mb sticks from his home network.

Another key characteristic of a Psycho is that the bore anyone who will listen with articles from computer magazines, but invariably they get the wrong end of the stick.  Therefore, watch out because he probably has already downloaded and read about IE 7.  You need to be on top of your game to stop Psycho giving the rest of the workforce mis-information and sabotaging your planned browser upgrade from IE 6.  This is what can happen if you don’t know your stuff.

Clear Type Text

Friendly user: ‘Psycho told me that the new IE 7 is useless – worse than IE 6.  He said that all the text on his CRT monitor is fuzzy’.  Now if we did not know better, we may believe Psycho and postpone the upgrade.

Guy to Friendly User: ‘When you get IE 7, Clear Type is designed to improve resolution on your LCD monitor, you will get a crisper picture.  But if like Psycho, you have a CRT monitor, what you can do is turn off Clear Text; just go to the Tool’s menu, Internet Options, Advanced (Tab), then scroll down to Multimedia and remove the tick from ‘Always Use Clear Type’.

Incidentally, the reason that Psycho homed in on this Clear Type feature is that he is not allowed an LCD monitor. This is because last year he misread an article about faster refresh rates curing headaches.  As usual, he got his facts wrong and Psycho hacked his machine’s registry in an attempted to increase the refresh rate to 85,000 MHz instead of plain 85 MHz.  Witnesses say the experiment was spectacular, his monitor started smoking and then finally the cathode tube exploded.  Psycho’s punishment fits the crime, he has an ancient CRT monitor which does not take advantage of IE 7’s new Clear Text feature.

If you leave your workstation unattended, beware, Psycho will send rude messages to your boss purporting to come from you.  If you have a cordless mouse, Psycho will stay late and when you have gone home, he will take out its batteries and use them in his iPod.

The above acts of sabotage single out a Psycho as being exclusively a male preserve, along with hackers, virus writers (and mass murders).  Ask yourself are there any female hackers, or any women writing viruses  I seriously doubt it. Trust me, Psychos are also always male.

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Phishing Controls

You can always wind up Psycho, in fact I often use this strategy for getting him off my back.  Now I happen to know that Psycho had a Sine Die ban from his angling club.  Some misunderstanding about his iPod battery getting tangled with his rod.  As a result, Psycho mysteriously stunned all the fish nearby and thus won the angling competition easily.

Guy: ‘Psycho, have you seen IE’s new Phishing settings, I don’t think Mozilla has anything like that? 

Psycho: ‘I don’t need no phishing controls’. At this point Psycho walks away muttering into his beard, Guy muses at the irony in his inadvertent double negative.

What the Phishing setting does is identify dodgy sites.  Perhaps you fret at emails that pretend to be from a bank telling you something dire will happen if you don’t click a hyperlink and change your password?  With Internet Explorer 7’s Phishing filter, which is displayed in the status bar, it checks each site and does not load the spoof site; instead it displays a huge message saying words to the effect of: ‘Be on alert, this site is not what it’s pretending to be.  Don’t go there’.

Real Life Example of Phishing

PayPal customers subjected to identity theft; Microsoft France hacked
– can you afford to be the next?

Acunetix secures web applications to prevent website defacement and to protect sensitive personal data  London, UK – 21 June, 2006 – An unknown number of PayPal users have been tricked into giving away social security numbers, credit card details and other highly sensitive personal information. Hackers deceived their victims by injecting and running malicious code on the genuine PayPal website by using a technique called Cross Site Scripting (XXS).

The hackers contacted target users via email and conned them into accessing a particular URL hosted on the legitimate PayPal website. Via a cross site scripting attack, hackers ran code which presented these users with an officially sounding message stating, "Your account is currently disabled because we think it has been accessed by a third party. You will now be redirected to a Resolution Center."  Victims were then redirected to a trap site located in South Korea.  Once in this "phishing website", unsuspecting victims provided their PayPal login information and subsequently, very sensitive data including their social security number, ATM PIN, and credit card details (number, verification details, and expiry date).

Internet Explorer 7 – Browser Tabs

Internet Explorer 7 has shamelessly copied Mozilla’s tabs which allow you to display and save multiple sites in your browser.  Be ready to counter Psycho spreading urban myths for example, he will tell other users that in IE you cannot save the tabs when you close the browser. Wrong, you can click ‘Open these tabs the next time IE opens’.  In fact, you can also set not one home page, but a group of tabs to open when ever you launch IE 7.  The trick is so simple at first I missed it, just type multiple pages in the Home page window (Tools, General Tab).

Printing – Best Feature of IE 7

Psycho has told users that IE 6’s printing is so bad that they should copy and paste documents into word, clean them then print them.  It was hard to argue with Psycho about this deficiency in IE 6.  However, with IE 7, printing is now superb.  It intelligently fits the web page on screen to the printed page on paper, there is no need to clean in the on-screen information in a Word Processor.  Guy believes that this probably the killer reason to upgrade to IE 7.

Many of the other cosmetic features are a matter of taste.  I am sure that one day I will get used to the new position for the home and refresh icon, but I cannot honestly say this layout is better than IE 6 (or Mozilla Firefox).

See IE 11 in Windows 8 'Blue' »

RSS Feeds

I overheard Psycho telling a colleague that while IE 7 has an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) button he still had to install a separate client reader.  I took pleasure in telling him that IE 7 automatically adds RSS feeds from those sites offering XML feeds.  Psycho looked really cheesed off when I just clicked on the gold star indicating Favorites and pointed out the feed button.

Control of IE 7 v Group Policy

Group policy offers you an opportunity to pamper normal users by providing proxy settings and also populating Favorite and Links with business related sites.  Naturally, you curb Psycho’s worst excesses by screwing down the Security Zones and Content Ratings.

TrainSignal - Recommended Training VideosTroubleshooting Group Policies is tricky

As an MCT trainer, I can thoroughly recommend TrainSignal because they provide practical hands on training.  In particular, I like the way TrainSignal cover all learning methods, instructor lead, video and of course text material.  You can either take one module, for example Group Policy or go for a combination of modules. See more about Group Policy training here

CSS

When I dropped by to see a user in Psycho’s office I could not help noticing that his IE 7 displayed a familiar site but with a black background and a strange Gothic font, then I realized that he must have taken advantage of the custom CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).  While I can wire-up IE 7 to display custom fonts and other style features, I rather like the rich and individual styles that you see on different websites. 

One thing with Microsoft they always give you options, thus, to add your own CSS go to: Tools, General Tab and Accessibility.  Incidentally, this is what Psycho was looking at.

Summary of Internet Explorer 7

IE 7’s key features are Phishing controls, Better Printing, Clear Type text.  It also has a built in RSS feed and a tabbed browser rather like Mozilla.

See more on Internet Explorer 7


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