How to enable Firefox WebRender for faster page rendering

how-to-enable-firefox-webrender-for-faster-page-rendering

If you’re looking to speed up Firefox page renders, Jack Wallen shows you how to enable the new composite engine, WebRender.

Image: Mozilla

WebRender has been in the works for some time now. Built as a GPU-based 2D rendering engine written in Rust, the purpose of WebRender is to make the rendering of pages both faster and smoother. Although that feature has been in the planning for a while, it has yet to be rolled out full scale.

If you’re using version 67 or newer of Firefox (which you should be, as that’s a fairly old version of the browser), you can enable this rendering engine. Surprisingly enough, even using version 78.0.2 on Linux, macOS, and Windows or the Nightly version on Linux shows that WebRender is not enabled by default.

Once I enabled the feature, I did see noticeably faster page renders. So even though WebRender isn’t quite ready for mass adoption, it is already showing serious promise and stability.

So how do you enable this feature to enjoy faster and smoother page renders? Let me show you.

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What you’ll need

In order to enable WebRender you’ll need a recent release of the Firefox web browser on any desktop or laptop platform. 

How to enable WebRender

Open your Firefox web browser. In the address bar type:

about:config

You’ll be warned that there are risks looming ahead (Figure A).

Figure A

You’ve been thoroughly warned of the risks.

Click Accept The Risk And Continue. In the resulting window, type the following in the search bar (Figure B):

gfx.webrender.all

Figure B

The about:config main window.

You should immediately see the gfx.webrender.all entry appear (Figure C).

Figure C

The gfx.webrender.all entry in about:config.

Click the right- and left-pointing arrows to the far right of the entry to toggle gfx.webrender.all from false to true. Once you see true in the center, close and restart Firefox. When Firefox reopens, type the following in the address bar:

about:support

Hit Enter on your keyboard and, when the page loads, scroll down to the Graphics section. You should see Compositing listed as WebRender (Figure D).

Figure D

We’ve successfully switched from the basic compositing engine to WebRender.

I was able to enable WebRender for both Linux and macOS versions of Firefox. On Windows 10, however, I was not. Even though about:config showed WebRender was enabled, about:support still listed the Compositing engine as basic. This could simply be because my Windows 10 instance was running as a VirtualBox VM. Interestingly enough, however, an instance of Ubuntu Linux running as a VirtualBox VM did accept the changes, so your mileage may vary.

And that’s all there is to enabling the Mozilla WebRender compositing engine on Firefox. Make this so and see if your page render times are able to reach warp speed. 

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How to enable guest accounts from the lock screen in Android

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If you frequently hand your phone over to others, Guest Mode is a feature you should be using on Android. Jack Wallen shows you how to access the feature from your lock screen.

Image: Google

Guest Mode is a very handy feature on the Android platform. With Guest Mode, you can hand your phone over to other users, knowing they won’t be able to peek inside your personal information. That guest account is prevented from accessing information to other accounts, in similar fashion to what you see on most desktop operating systems.

For anyone who tends to let co-workers, clients, or even children use their Android phones, Guest Mode should be considered a must use. This is made especially so if that device is used for business purposes, where sensitive information could be discovered.

If you’re using the beta version of Android 11, gaining access to the guest account options is quite simple; pull down the notification shade twice and tap the account icon (Figure A). 

Figure A

Accessing the guest options in Android 11.

If you’re not using Android 11, it’s not quite that obvious. Once you enable access from the lock screen, you can then disable it and still be able to access the feature from the notification shade. However, without first enabling the feature on the lock screen, quick access from the notification screen isn’t available.

Let me show you how to access the options and how to enable the feature from the Android lock screen.

SEE: How to become a cybersecurity pro: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

What you’ll need

The only thing you’ll need to make this work is a device running any of the more recent releases of Android. The feature has been available since Android 5.0, so chances are pretty good your device supports the option.

How to enable guest accounts from the lock screen

The first thing to do is to enable guest accounts from the lock screen. There is one caveat that comes with doing this. When you make it such that you can add guest accounts from the lock screen, anyone could pick up your phone, add a guest account, and use your device. That means they can make calls, access wireless, and use some of the apps (apps like Messages will not work). What they cannot do is access your information and use applications that aren’t installed on the phone by default. 

For some, this could be a security issue. If that’s the case, only enable the managing of guest accounts from the lock screen and then disable it, so you can gain access to the quick-access icon from the notification shade.

Here’s what you need to do. Open the Settings app and type users in the search field. After the results appear, tap Multiple Users (Figure B).

Figure B

Locating the Multiple Users option from the Android Settings search.

In the resulting window, tap the On/Off slider for Add Users from lock screen (Figure C).

Figure C

Adding multiple users access from the lock screen.

Once you’ve added the option, back out of the Settings app and pull the notification shade down twice to reveal the Multiple Users icon (Figure D). 

Figure D

Multiple Users access has been added to the lock screen.

If you don’t want to allow switching to a guest user from the lock screen, but want quick access to the feature, reverse the process and the icon will still appear in the notification shade.

How to add a guest user

To add a guest user, simply pull down the notification shade twice, tap the Multiple Users access button and then in the resulting overlay, tap Add Guest (Figure E).

Figure E

Adding a guest user.

By doing this, your device will automatically switch to the guest user account. 

How to switch back to your regular user

To switch back to your regular user, pull down the notification shade twice, tap the Multiple Users access icon and either tap to remove the guest user or tap your regular user name to switch back.

One nice feature is that if you switch to a guest user and switch back to the regular user, you’ll have to enter your PIN/Password or use the fingerprint reader or face recognition to gain access to the regular account. So there’s no way a guest user will be able to sneak attack you and switch to your account.

As with everything within the realm of mobility, use this feature wisely and it will serve you well. Wisely, of course, is the operative word.

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EBay’s new APIs enable developers to create modern buying and selling experience

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The online marketplace, celebrating 20 years, just launched APIs for developers, managed payments, sellers initiated offers, deals, and charity, among others.

Sample of the just-released eBay APIs.

Image: eBay

Developers will be able to manage their sellers’ finances and bookkeeping with eBay’s new payments API (Application Programming Interface) capabilities. This is just one API of several that eBay has either updated or created for its developer program.

The company also released new selling API capabilities designed to enhance partners’ businesses, including promoted listings in France, Italy, Spain, as well as Canada, and by the increased maximum number of items per campaign, bringing it up to 50,000, in marketing API, customer service metrics in analytics API, and offers to buyers in negotiation API. On July 18, eBay will globally expand its managed payments.

EBay has also launched an additional developer tool, deal API, new to the company’s portfolio on the buy-side for affiliates and other partners invested in eBay deals and sales events, and allows the discovery of sale events and retrieval of items associated with events or deals available on eBay. Other essential APIs include account API, fulfillment API, and finances API. Support for active cross-border seller listings (for sellers enrolled in managed payments) will launch in August.

SEE: Apple iOS 14: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

APIs “enable our business to expand into new contexts, allowing third-party platforms to extend their value proposition while also bringing their customers to us,” said Tanya Vlahovic, lead public API architect of eBay, regarding the announcement. “We give our developers data and capabilities at scale, and in turn, they invent and create” buying and selling experiences for their users.

eBay’s payments journey

Image: eBay

Vlahovic has also described APIs in a developer tools/eBay engineering blog as “intermediaries that enable applications to interact,”http://www.techrepublic.com/”contracts that specify how software talks to another software,” and “allow organizations to give their partners access to digital assets at scale.” She also said, “Building such an ecosystem is a progressive journey.”

Vlahovic has simplified APIs into “three simple things”:

  • Perform actions and gather data

  • Format data

  • Serve data

EBay’s portfolio expansion also includes the ability to give buyers and sellers the opportunity to enable charitable organizations with charity API

The Translation API supports new language pairs. And eBay’s website says: “Global Shipping Program import charges, coupons, auto-spelled keyword corrections, eBay guaranteed delivery and eBay Plus eligibility are enabled in Browse API.”

The company wanted to acknowledge its eBay developer program’s 20th “birthday” by launching new APIs to enable developers to create modern buying and selling experiences, and assist those developers with APIs to help businesses thrive.

Evaluating the success of a 20-year-old developer ecosystem entailed citing both successes and failures (or if not failures, then elements that were less successful). As the front door to eBay’s global marketplace platform, APIs allow the company to grow into “new contexts, allowing third-party platforms to extend their value proposition,” while bringing it new customers, Vlahovic said of the announcement. Vlahovic said it gives developers data and capabilities at scale, which gives developers the license to “invent and create” unique buying and selling experiences for users.

The newest selling API capabilities

The new APIs, which will enhance a developer’s ability to promote clients’ listings and businesses include:

  • Marketing API promoted listings, ad campaigns in sponsored placements are supported in France, Italy, Spain, and Canada.

  • Analytics API is for customer service metrics, seller ratings, benchmark data and an understanding if the customer meets eBay’s buyers’ customer-service expectations.

  • Negotiations API for offers to buyers. Released in September 2019, sellers can send offers with customized discounts to buyers interested in products. The goal is to give buyers deals, transparency on savings and sales for sellers. Optimal promotion offers to buyers can be used for high-priced unique items.

  • Taxonomy API and compliance API provide enhanced aspect guidance, the latter points out listings at risk for being noncompliant to eBay listing policies, and the taxonomy AP (which adds expected required dates for specifics) gives developers insight into eBay’s initiative to improve shopping by enrichment aspects across listings, as it also provides an easy way to retrieve aspect metadata via a new bulk method. The aspect relevance indicator is expected in Q3 of this year.

  • The new API feed API, which enables sellers to upload input files and download reports and output files. Merchant integration platform (and large merchant services) will be supported in the future.

  • Inventory API is for auctions, scheduled listings and more, for sellers to specify charitable donation percentages when offers are created. In the future: support for auctions, secondary category, schedule listings and noting availability in warehouse locations.

  • Partner marketplaces for drafts with consumer-selling API was launched in October 2019, listings can be completed and published with guidance and recommendations on prices, aspects and more to help optimize seller listings in searches. 

The company has embraced its worldwide audience and partnered with the UK’s National Health Service by creating an online portal to help health care providers get personal protective equipment (PPE), a solution 100% based on eBay Buy APIs.

EBay is a member of the OpenAPI Initiative, and publishes OpenAPI documents. In Q1 2020, external developers used eBay’s public Sell APIs to create more than 500,000 new listings and manage two-times that number.

Twenty years ago, eBay developers program was initially designed to help sellers manage eBay businesses at scale with SOAP-based APIs, with initial API access granted to a limited number of licensed partners and developers. This was followed by an expansion to include buyer experience capabilities. Many of the original APIs are still in use, but eBay acknowledges the tech was ripe for redevelopment. The initial developer’s program was revamped in 2016. 

Developer ecosystem numbers

  • eBay’s Buy APIs generated $3 billion (as of Q1 2020) in global gross merchandise bought (GMB).

  • eBay serves 150-250 million API hourly calls.

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How to enable Canonical Livepatch from the command line

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If you have Ubuntu Servers in your data center, you should consider adding Canonical Livepatch to keep them up to date with kernel security patches.

Image: Jack Wallen

If you’re serious about your Ubuntu Server security, then you are always on top of updates. Right? Or, do you tend to forget to apply those security patches and hold off until you upgrade the kernel and have to reboot?

That’s so early 2000s.

With the advent of kernel Livepatch, security patches are automatically applied to those running kernels without having to reboot your server. Canonical has made using Livepatch incredible easy when a GUI is involved. But, what about when it’s a command line only server? What do you do then? Fortunately, you’re not at a loss. With just a few steps, you can connect your server to the Livepatch service.

I’m going to show you how to do that.

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What you’ll need

I’m going to be demonstrating on an instance of Ubuntu Server 20.04, but you can make this work on any LTS version of Ubuntu 16.04 or newer. You’ll also need a Ubuntu One account, so you can retrieve a Livepatch token

Once you’ve logged in to your Ubuntu One account, go to the Livepatch token page and retrieve your token. 

Of course there are a few caveats with Canonical Livepatch. Specifically:

  • It is only available on 64-bit versions of Long Term Support releases (so 16.04, 18.04, 20.04, etc.)

  • The server must be running kernel 4.4 or newer

  • You are limited to three machines per Ubuntu One account; if you need to install the Livepatch service on multiple servers or desktops, you’ll need a Ubuntu Advantage plan

What does Livepatch do?

Livepatch is a service that allows you to apply security patches to a running kernel, without having to reboot. By using this service, you are better able to keep that server safe from vulnerabilities–without having to take that server offline for a reboot.

What Livepatch is not is a means to upgrade a kernel without rebooting. If you upgrade the kernel, you’ll still have to reboot. But when it comes to security, the kernel tends to usually only need patching, which Livepatch covers.

So this should be considered a must-have for your Ubuntu Servers.

How to enable Livepatch from the command line

Log in to your Ubuntu server and install the Livepatch service with the command:

sudo snap install canonical-livepatch

When the installation completes, you’ll then need to enable Livepatch with the token you retrieved from your Ubuntu One account. To do this, issue the command:

sudo canonical-livepatch enable TOKEN

Where TOKEN is the token associated with your Ubuntu One account.

When the command succeeds, you’ll see it report that the device has been enabled (Figure A).

Figure A

Livepatch successfully enabled on Ubuntu Server 20.04.

How to check the status of Livepatch

With Livepatch enabled, you can now check the status of the service with the command:

sudo canonical-livepatch status

The command will report back the last server check-in status and if any patches have been applied (Figure B).

Figure B

No patches have been applied to my instance of Ubuntu 20.04.

You can always manually force a check with the command:

sudo canonical-livepatch refresh

Once this is up and running, Canonical will silently apply patches to your running kernel in the background. When a patch is applied, it will be listed in the status command.

And that’s all there is to it. If you manage Ubuntu Servers in your data center, you owe it to yourself, those servers, and your company to add the Canonical Livepatch service. It will ensure your Linux servers are always patched and secure.

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How to enable old-style Outlook notifications in Windows 10

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There is a way to change back to old-style Outlook notifications but it’s convoluted because Microsoft hid it so well. We explain how to work around those restrictions.

At some point in the not too distant past, Microsoft decided to move Outlook incoming mail notifications to the Windows 10 notification system. In the past iteration, Outlook handled incoming notifications itself, displaying the messages in a small rectangular box that allowed you to delete, flag, or open the email. Now, email notifications for Outlook are displayed in the Windows 10 flyout notification screen, intermingled with notifications from other applications.

While the Windows 10 flyout notification screen works well enough, many users would prefer to go back to the old-style Outlook-controlled notification method. Unfortunately, that method is no longer a part of the standard system settings. However, there is a way to change back to the old-style, but it’s convoluted and clunky.

This how-to tutorial explains how to enable the old-style incoming email notification method in the current version of Outlook and Windows 10.

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How to enable old-style Outlook notifications in Windows 10

The current notification system for Outlook and other applications can be found in the Windows 10 Settings menu (Figure A). Click the Start Menu button, select the gear icon for Settings, then select System from the menu. Click the Notifications & Actions item from the left-hand navigation bar.

Figure A

Personally, I turn off the entire Windows 10 notification system and leave it off, but you may leave it on if you want. The Windows 10 notification system will not affect what we are about to change.

The simple answer to enabling the old-style Outlook notification system is to run Outlook in Windows 7 compatibility mode. However, when you examine the properties of the application file (OUTLOOK.EXE), there is no option for a compatibility mode. Microsoft has disabled it, so we have to use an odd work-around.

SEE: Microsoft Outlook: 6 great add-ins for business users (TechRepublic)

Since we will be changing how it runs, close Outlook before you start, then open File Explorer and navigate to this directory:

C:Program Files (x86)Microsoft OfficerootOffice16

Scroll down the list of folders and files until you reach OUTLOOK.EXE, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

For most other applications, we would right-click OUTLOOK.EXE and select Properties from the menu to get to the compatibility tab, but that won’t work—we have to work around it.

Right-click OUTLOOK.EXE and select Troubleshoot Compatibility from the context menu. Windows 10 will try to diagnose the application and then display the message shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Choose the second option (Troubleshoot Program) so the system will grant you permission to make compatibility changes yourself instead of what it recommends.

The next screen (Figure D) will display a list of troubleshooting options.

Figure D

Select the first item in the list: “The program worked in earlier versions of Windows but won’t install or run now.” Click the Next button to reach the screen displayed in Figure E.

Figure E

Select the Windows 7 option and then click the Next button.

You have to test the program, because the Troubleshooting app will not allow you to continue until you do. Outlook should run in Windows 7 compatibility mode without a problem, only now notifications for incoming email will be handled by Outlook using the old style.

Click the Next button and lock in the change on the next screen (Figure F) by clicking the “Yes, save these settings for this program” option.

Figure F

The Troubleshooting app will generate a report for Microsoft, then you can close it to finish the process.

This compatibility change can be accomplished with a specific tweak to the Windows Registry File, but it is even more complex than the method described above, so we will ignore it.

To change back to the current notification style, run the Troubleshoot compatibility application on OUTLOOK.EXE again and change the compatibility setting to Windows 8 or 10.

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How to enable logging for cron on Linux

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If you’re looking to troubleshoot cron jobs, the best way might be to enable logging. Jack Wallen shows you how.

Cron is a time-based job scheduler in Linux that runs system jobs and allows users to create jobs that are executed on a regular basis. Cron does simple things like regularly emptying the /tmp folder, cleaning PHP sessions, running backups, and so much more. 

But the one problem with cron is that, out of the box, it doesn’t have a dedicated log. This can be a problem when you’re creating your own cron jobs and you need to debug them. 

Without a log, you might never know if that job ran. This happened to me recently, when I created two cronjobs to keep Google Drive in sync with a local directory with rclone. I had no idea if the jobs were running, without comparing the folders. Fortunately, it’s possible to enable logging with cron. 

Let’s find out how. 

Open a terminal window on the Linux machine that houses the cron job and issue the command: 

sudo nano /etc/rsyslog.d/50-default.conf

In that file, look for the line that starts with #cron.*. 

Remove the # symbol and then in the second column add:

 /var/log/cron.log

Save and close the file. 

Next, restart syslog with the command:

 sudo systemctl restart rsyslog

At this point, you should now see the new log file /var/log/cron.log. If you don’t see it immediately, it’ll appear the next time a cron job runs. 

You can then read through that file with the command less /var/log/cron.log and troubleshoot any cronjobs that may or may not be running. 

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Image: Jack Wallen