Finding the Date a Page was Last Updated

Ever visited a page and been unable to find a publish date anywhere on the page? It can get really annoying when you’re afraid the information might be old or you need to cite it. Here’s how to find the date even when nobody bothered to put it on.

Note: This method doesn’t work every time. If the page updates dynamically (for example, Facebook, or some news sites), you’ll just get the current date and time. If you do get the current date and time, you’ll just need to try some other method of determining the date. It’s still usually worth a shot, though.

1: Getting Started
The simplest version of this trick is just to type the following into the address bar of your browser (while you’re at the site you want to get the date of):
javascript:alert(document.lastModified)
(Note: This is case sensitive.) This will bring up a small dialog box containing the update date:
2: Simplifying
That’s all well and good, but you’re probably not going to remember that code. So you can create a very simple bookmarklet that brings up this dialog box. (If you don’t know, a bookmarklet is simply a small snippet of JavaScript or a link to a JavaScript file that can be saved as a bookmark. They can do almost anything–for instance, I have one that converts the current page to a PDF.)

 

To create it, just drag and drop the following link to your bookmarks bar: Date Last Modified. If you don’t have a bookmarks bar showing, you can also drag it into your bookmarks menu (tested on Firefox, and no reason why it wouldn’t work on another browser).

 

When you’re done, anytime you can’t find a date, simply click on the bookmark.

 

Note: For no apparent reason, the latest version of Firefox won’t seem to work when I just type in the code into the address bar. (Earlier versions have always worked.) However, the bookmark still works fine.

Six Years of Computer Tips

I’ve been working on this little book that combines a lot of the tips I’ve written in this blog and recently. (I didn’t post it earlier because I was still working on Friday, and also because I gave copies to several people who get this newsletter as Christmas presents).

Anyway, you can check it out online as a PDF here. I’m fine if you want to send copies of this book on to your friends as long as you don’t try to sell it (there is a copyright notice in appendix D, which also tells you that copying it is fine).
If you happen to have a bit of spare time and want to try binding it into an actual book, here’s a version with the pages arranged properly. Instructions are at the end of appendix D. (I did neglect to mention that you need to print double-sided–I thought that would be obvious, but just in case…)

How to Tell if a Web Site is Legitimate

Ever gotten an email like this one? (Click to enlarge the image.)

I often wonder how many people are actually big enough suckers to respond to these emails. It must be a surprising number, whatever it is, because we wouldn’t be getting them if there wasn’t some money in it.

 

Unfortunately, a lot of phishing scams are much more subtle. And that’s when even the most seasoned Internet users can accidentally type their login information (or even credit card information, Social Security number, and so on) into a fake form. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’m quite aware that it might.

 

I got sent a link to an enlightening quiz a few days ago. There are several things that you should watch out for to determine if a website is real or fake (if you look at the examples in the quiz, you’ll see the first two things, and the other two don’t really need screenshots, so I won’t take any):
  • Check the URL in the address bar. Every modern web browser puts the actual domain name (like google.com) in bold. This is because sometimes scammers create URLs that look like this: http://7436et.kjfgk.com/ebay.com/login/7463e8et.php. Then people look at the address bar, see “ebay.com,” and figure that it’s legit. So remember: the part that’s in bold is the only part that matters.
  • Check for a security certificate. If you’re being asked for sensitive information, the connection should always be encrypted, which will be signified with a small lock icon and sometimes the company’s name next to the address bar. SSL (the encryption system used for web browsing) is a really complicated topic, but basically, if you don’t see that icon, beware, and never, ever enter your financial information into a page that doesn’t have the lock. (Some legitimate websites have login pages that are unencrypted but then send your login information over an encrypted connection when you actually press Submit.)
  • If the website doesn’t look quite like the login screen usually does, beware. If at all in doubt, play it safe: close that tab, open a new tab, type the website’s URL into the address bar, and start again from there.
  • If you’re clicking a link in an email, check the status bar before you click. Just hover your mouse over the link and look in the very bottom-left corner of your browser, and you should see the URL displayed. Make sure it’s what you were expecting.
The biggest problem is not determining whether a website is real or fake when you’re suspicious–these four steps should catch just about every phishing attack out there. The real problem is remembering to check. Make it a habit to glance over and check the URL and the lock icon before entering any sensitive information, and if you’re ever asked to log in to a website when you weren’t expecting to (for instance, you click a link on Facebook and are presented with a login screen, even though you were already logged in), be sure to take a long, hard look.

 

If you haven’t taken the quiz yet, I’d encourage you to. After reading this post, you ought to get a perfect score.

 

Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

 

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

 

Copyright 2011 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

The Escape Key: Getting Out of Stuff

“Yeah, if you press Escape enough times, you’ll escape from your problems.” (*)

Nice try. But even though it’s not really a solution to everything, you can still get out of quite a few things using your Escape key.
  • If you open a dialog box you don’t want, just press Escape to close it. For instance, if you choose File –> Open in Microsoft Word and realize you don’t want to open a file after all, you can just press Escape to close the window instead of looking around for the cancel button.
  • If you start dragging a file or text from one place to another and realize you don’t want to move it after all, or you started moving it to the wrong place, pressing Escape will release whatever you’re dragging and put it back to its original location.
  • If a website is hung up or you accidentally browsed to it and don’t want to wait for it to load, you can press Escape to stop it from loading. (You can follow up with F5 to reload it if appropriate, as discussed in this tip.)
  • If you open a menu (or right-click) and you don’t want it, Escape will close all the menus quickly.
  • If you’re in a PowerPoint presentation and want to stop it before the end, pressing Escape will end the show.
There are more uses that I didn’t mention–you can use it almost any time you want to cancel an action you’re in the middle of taking. If you’re not sure if Escape would work, feel free to try it–pressing Escape will never cause anything particularly untoward to happen (unless you just spent five hours filling out a dialog box, in which case you have other problems).

 

(*) I said this a few months back when someone was in a sticky situation in a computer game and another player had told him to press Escape to clear a message box. Nice try!

 

Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

 

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

 

Copyright 2011 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

How to Touch Up Your LCD Monitor

Is your monitor starting to get a bit old? Does it have some scratches and spots on it? Yeah, so did mine. In fact, I was about ready to get rid of it. And then I read something that provided the following novel method for fixing up scratches in your screen: a pencil eraser.

Yes, you read that right. If your monitor’s more than a couple of years old and it has any kind of spots or scratches on it, you owe it to yourself to give this method a shot.
You only need four things:
  • a clean cloth (preferably microfiber, the kind they sell for cleaning glasses or monitors)
  • a few cotton balls (if you don’t have any, a second cloth will do in a pinch)
  • rubbing alcohol (pour a little out into a bowl so you don’t contaminate the rest of the bottle)
  • a clean pencil eraser
Here’s how:
  1. Clean off the pencil eraser if it’s been used to erase anything. Just rub the outer layer of it off until you don’t see any smudges on it anymore. Smashing graphite particles into your monitor isn’t going to help anything.
  2. Open up your web browser and type “about:blank” (without the quotes) in the address bar, then press F11 to display the page full-screen. This will give you a blank white screen. (You do this so you can see all the spots easily.)
  3. Dip a cotton ball into the rubbing alcohol and clean off the monitor with it. Reportedly, this is the method that manufacturers use to clean the displays as they reach the end of the assembly line; regardless of whether that’s true or not, it works well.
  4. Wipe the monitor dry with the cloth.
  5. Take the eraser and carefully rub it onto all the scratches and spots, and watch as they magically disappear, or at least get better. It’s fine to use some pressure as long as you work deliberately and don’t smash the monitor.
  6. Blow off the eraser dust if there’s any left, and clean the monitor again. You can repeat steps 2-6 as many times as you want, until you’re satisfied with the result. It may take a couple of runs to completely get rid of the problems.
  7. When you’re done, press F11 or Escape, depending on your browser, to get out of the full-screen mode.
Of course, this method isn’t going to work for horrible gashes down the center of your monitor, but for relatively minor blemishes, it works like a charm. I had a damaged spot that was about an inch square, and after doing this I can’t even see it anymore.
Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.
Copyright 2011 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.