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Programming DirecTV remote to control Vizio soundbar

I bought a Vizeo sound bar because the speakers on many of these flat-screen TVs suck. I don't watch TV, but my mom does and one big annoyance was having to use the Vizio remote to control the sound instead of the DirecTV remote, and so i started hunting for a solution.

Controlling the volume and mute functions of the Vizio soundbar with the DirecTV remote is easy enough once you program the remote to operate the soundbar from either the AV1, AV2 or TV modes on the remote, which you have to do anyway, but it isn't at all convenient because you have to switch the remote mode switch back and forth between the DTV mode and whatever mode (AV1, AV2 or TV) you used to control the soundbar.

As it turns out this can be simplified and everything you need to know is in the DirecTV manual for the RC65 remote (other remotes may be similar), but i disregarded the instructions because the manual states "DIRECTV Receivers don’t have volume control, so the remote will not allow the user to lock volume to the DIRECTV mode.". I interpreted that to mean the volume keys on the remote would not work for controlling volume on the speaker bar while the remote was in the DTV mode. Wrong!

In my case the setup is a DirecTV RC65 remote with a Vizio SB3621n-E8 soundbar, however this solution may/should work with other soundbars or any other audio equipment for which you want to control the volume and mute functions using the DirecTV remote, and it may not be specific to the RC65 remote either.

I don't take any credit for this because the solution is clearly in the manual, but i didn't realize it until i saw this post by 'thelavenders' on the AVS Forum. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Set the DTV remote to a mode you're not using (AV1, AV2 or TV)
  2. Program the DTV remote to operate your soundbar (the instructions and codes are likely in the manual for your remote - the RC65 manual is here)
  3. Slide the MODE switch back to DTV
  4. To change the volume lock function of the DTV remote:
    1. Press and hold the MUTE and SELECT keys until the green light under the DIRECTV position flashes twice, then release both keys
    2. Using the number keys, enter 9-9-3 (the green light will flash twice after the 3)
    3. Press and release the VOL+ key (the green light flashes 4 times)
  5. To lock the remote volume, while in DTV mode, to the mode used to operate the soundbar:
    1. Slide the MODE switch to the same position you used in step 1 (AV1, AV2 or TV)
    2. Press and hold the MUTE and SELECT keys until the green light under the selected switch flashes twice, then release both keys
    3. Using the number keys, enter 9-9-3 (the green light flashes twice)
    4. Press and release the SELECT key (the green light flashes twice)
  6. Slide the MODE switch back to DTV

Now the DirecTV remote should control the volume and mute functions of your soundbar while the mode switch is set to DTV.

The Firefox Privacy Guide for Dummies!

See the revision history at the end ... if you make it that far :)

Before embarking on this journey into the bowels of Firefox, you may want to first read, Tor verses a VPN – Which is right for you?. If you choose to use the Tor Browser, you need not bother with this guide.

Introduction

The following video will provide an overview of one aspect of what it is we're up against and why i wrote the Firefox configuration guides. I encourage everyone to view it, especially if you're one of the many people who aren't worried about surveillance because you 'have nothing to hide'.

Video: Prof Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capitalism

You're aware that unethical companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, advertisers, your ISP and governments are spying on your activities and buying and selling the data they harvest, even if you may not be aware of how they're doing it. You're concerned about this invasion of your privacy, but what can you do abut it?

Welcome to the 'for dummies' edition of the Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs!!!

The goal here is to provide a simple guide, to the extent that's possible, which will yield a privacy enhanced configuration of the Firefox web browser whilst breaking as few websites as possible. That said, be prepared to put a little bit more effort into your surfing activities, at least until the dust settles. The pay-off will be a much faster, cleaner, less annoying web that is less able to track and profile you. Note that i said "less", not "not".

WARNING: This guide is not intended for use with the Tor browser which is an already hardened version of Firefox. Configuring the Tor browser as outlined here may result in doom.

Catching the Fox

You want the standard release version of Mozilla Firefox; no Pale Moon, no Waterfox, etc., so if you don't have it, get it. If you run a Linux-based operating system, look in your package manager. Since it's privacy we're interested in, we're way too smart to be screwing around with Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge, though if you have an inferior alternative browser installed you could retain it as a backup.

Profiling the Fox

Start Firefox and enter about:profiles in the address bar -- you can call it the "location" bar or the "awesome" bar, i call it the address bar -- then press your 'Enter' key to load that address. This is where Firefox keeps a list of all your profiles. Profiles are where most of your settings, bookmarks and other junk gets stored.

Firefox Profile Manager
click me

You can have as many profiles as you want, but by default there will be just one named 'default'. We need another one, so click the 'Create a New Profile' button and name the new one 'privacy'. You can change the name later, but leave it be for now else i'll deduct from your internet points. Once you're done, exit Firefox.

Firefox will now annoy you (and let it keep annoying you for the duration of these next few months we'll be spending together) by asking which profile you want to load every damned time you start it and you should (almost) always choose your 'privacy' profile.

Pro Tip

There are many ' about: ' pages in Firefox, but not all are accessible from the various menus. To see some of those that aren't, enter about:about in the address bar, but be careful what you mess with in there!

Training the Fox

Firefox Profile Manager 2
click me

Restart Firefox and this time you should see the Choose User Profile window. Load your privacy profile but don't visit any web pages just yet, other than this one if you want. Firefox may load some default pages when is starts and that's something we'll fix later.

Profile Tip

If you don't want Firefox whining about which profile to load every time it starts, you can select your preferred profile and check the 'Don't ask at startup' option, but don't do that yet! Another way is to create a shortcut to load any profile you want.

For more about profiles, see Use the Profile Manager to create and remove Firefox profiles and Multiple Firefox profiles.

For more about ticklish penguins, go here.

If you're running Windows you will need to un-hide file extensions, and i suggest you keep them un-hidden.

With Firefox up and running, load about:preferences in the address bar or click the Hamburg icon on the toolbar, then 'Settings'. Click the 'Search' menu item on the left and under where it says 'Search Bar', click 'Add search bar in toolbar'.

Next, go to the arkenfox/user.js GitHub repository. We need their prefsCleaner.bat (Windows) or prefsCleaner.sh (Linux) file and the updater.bat (Windows) or updater.sh (Linux) file. Now before you mess up, hear me out: One by one, click on the file names, then click the 'Raw' button, then press Ctrl+S to save the files to your desktop. Failing to heed my advice can cause the file to get messed up which will surely result in Russia nuking us all. If you want to avoid those steps, here's the direct links to the files: updater.sh (Linux), updater.bat (Windows), prefsCleaner.sh (Linux), prefsCleaner.bat (Windows). Now if you're one of those wiz kids, you may have deduced that we're going to need that user.js file too but we'll grab that another way.

Next, go to the 12bytes.org/Firefox-user.js-supplement page at Codeberg.org, click the user-overrides.js file, then click the 'Raw' button and press Ctrl+S to save the file (here's the direct link to the raw file).

Next you'll need a decent code editor (no, not Notepad!) with syntax highlighting. If you're running Wintendo (that's one of my several derogatory names for Windows), PSPad is nice, simple and free. If you're running Linux you've surely got something installed already.

What you need to do now is open that user-overrides.js file in your code editor and follow the directions Very Carefully. Every single little tiny thing you could ever possibly want to know about every single option in that file is in there (except whatever i forgot to put in there).

Now that you've sifted through that convoluted mess (go you!), open Firefox's about:profiles page again. Note that user profiles and web cache are stored in separate folders, thus why you may see more than one directory path for each profile. In the row labeled 'Root Directory' under your 'privacy' profile, click the 'Open Directory' button and then kill Firefox.

In your file manager you may notice that the folder containing your 'privacy' profile actually has a longer name with a bunch of gobbledygook in front of 'profile'. Ignore that like you ignore your goofy neighbor with the tinfoil wallpaper. Next, grab those files from your desktop you pirated earlier and stick 'em in your 'privacy' profile folder where the prefs.js file is.

Now we need to run that updater script. How to do that depends on whether...

...you're running Linux

You will need to make those .sh files executable. You could try meditation or sacrificing a goat, but it'd probably be quicker to just right-click on each of them to open the file properties dialog window and click the 'Is executable' checkbox on the 'Permissions' tab (or similar). If your file browser doesn't have such an option, you can open a terminal in your privacy profile directory and run chmod +x *.sh , or, failing that, see How do I run .sh files?.

We need to run that updater.sh script from a terminal, so open one and change the directory to your privacy profile directory where the updater.sh file is. In the example below you'll need to change 'gobbledygook' to match the correct name of your profile folder:

cd ~/.mozilla/firefox/gobbledygook.privacy/

Now run the updater.sh script by preceding the file name with a dot and a slash:

./updater.sh

...or Windows

To run that updater.bat script, navigate to your Firefox profile directory, hold down the Shift key and right-click in an empty space where the file is, then select "Open Command Window Here". Enter updater.bat and hit Enter. If you have trouble, see How to Run a BAT File on Windows: 13 Steps (with Pictures).

The updater script will spit out some introductory stuff and then prompt you to continue. If by chance everything in the universe is aligned just so, and you've followed the directions you didn't read, the script will download a fresh copy of the 'arkenfox' user.js file to your profile directory and append the contents of your user-overrides.js to it just like it says on the tin.

Pestering the Fox

The 'arkenfox' user.js is updated frequently and so you'll need to check for updates regularly. There's two ways you can check for updates if you're running Linux and one if you're running Windows, however there's only one (easy) way to actually update the user.js and that's by using the 'arkenfox' updater script.

user.js-notify script message (Linux)If you're using a Linux-based OS you can, if you want, use my user.js-notify.sh script to be automatically notified via a desktop notification when:

  • the 'arkenfox' user.js is updated
  • my user-overrides.js is updated
  • this guide is updated

You can add the script to your startup programs so it runs each time you log-on to your desktop (make sure it's executable). Instructions for implementing the script are contained within the script. Open the file with a code/text editor, read the instructions and edit a few options.

To check for a new user.js if you're running Windows, or to actually update the file, kill Firefox and run the 'arkenfox' updater script. If you're running Windows, or if you're running Linux and don't wish to use my user.js-version-checker.sh script, you should run the updater script every week or so in order to check for a new version. You always want the user.js version that corresponds to the major version of Firefox, so if the updater script says Available online: * version 80-alpha and you're running Firefox version 79.0.1, you'll want to cancel the update because 80 doesn't equal 79, unless you're "woke" in which case it all bets are off.

Each time you run the updater script, be sure to follow it up by running the prefsCleaner script using the same method as described earlier for your operating system. The prefsCleaner script will reset any depreciated, removed, or inactive preferences and it's important that you do this.

updater script Pro Tip

If you use Linux you can run the script with the -c switch ( ./updater.sh -c ) which will create a 'diff' file that will list all the differences between the old and the new user.js.

To see all the options for running the updater script for both Linux and Windows, see the Updater Scripts article on the 'arkenfox' wiki.

Fattening the Fox

Now we're going to go to the Firefox Add-ons website, AMO (addons.mozilla.org). Start Firefox and select your 'privacy' profile, then come back here.

Why does he say 'WE' and 'WE'RE' when 'I' am the one doing all the f'n work?!

Plausible deniability. If i screw something up that causes your computer to explode, it's your fault.

One at a time, middle click each of the links below to open their pages in a new tab, then Read What It Says for each add-on and install it. If by chance a particular add-on is not available for some reason, let me know and don't install something you think is equivalent because it probably isn't.

Once you have those installed, find the 'Customize' option in one of the Firefox menus or by right-clicking on an empty space on a toolbar somewhere. With the exception of uBlock Origin, you can drag the toolbar icons for the other add-ons to the Overflow Menu since you will rarely be interacting with them.

A note regarding add-ons...

More add-ons = more bad (generally speaking).

It's pretty important, and especially so if you're new to the game, to NOT install add-ons willy-nilly. The more you install, the more likely things will break and that your privacy will be compromised, so don't go overboard with add-ons!

The selection of recommended add-ons in this guide accounts for not only how your privacy and browsing experience is affected, but also how they interact with each other as well as with a Firefox that has been extensively modified by the 'arkenfox' user.js.

Firefox has comprehensive built-in mechanisms to thwart browser fingerprinting and tracking and safeguard your privacy. While they alone are not quite enough, which is why you fell into this pit of despair, they do cover allot of important ground. If you install additional privacy related add-ons beyond those suggested here that you *think* will enhance privacy, you could very easily wind up doing the opposite.

For more on the subject and what to look for when considering add-ons, see Firefox Extensions – My Picks.

We need to configure some of the add-ons we installed, but first a word to the wise: Unless you know what you're doing, i strongly suggest you configure these add-ons as outlined here, else Russia.

To configure your add-ons, load about:addons in the address bar or find the 'Add-ons and themes' menu item in one of the Firefox menus.

Clear URLs: In the preferences, enable the following options where an [X] indicates the option is enabled:

[_] Allow domain blocking (if you're not using any of the major ad filtering lists in uBlock, then enable this).
[X] Skip URLs on local hosts
[X] Prevent tracking injection over history API
[X] Block hyperlink auditing
[X] Filters ETag headers from requests

The rest of the options are just that; optional :)

uBlock Origin: This is a huge biggie! I know, supposed to be the 'for dummies' guide and all, but you really gotta learn how to use uBlock Origin (uBO). The good news is that it's got a 'dummy' mode and it's enabled by default! To set up uBO, read my uBlock Origin Suggested Settings guide.

Of particular importance, DO NOT select the 'I am an advanced user' option! Don't look at it. Don't think about it. Don't think about looking at it ... at least not until you read all that 'required reading' stuff and understand fully what uBO is, does, how to configure it, and how easy it is to break the entire interwebs if you screw up.

Now it's really important that you read this and this and this, but only up to the 'Medium mode' part for the last one. Once you complete that you'll be a Semi-Certified uBlock Origin Web Filtering Engineer Apprentice.

Break time...

Training the Foxineer

With that all done and Firefox running, close all tabs and click the Hamburger button again to open the Preferences window, then click the Privacy & Security menu item, or load about:preferences#privacy in the address bar. Scroll down to the Cookies and Site Data section and click the Manage Data button. In the Manage Cookies and Site Data window that opens, click Remove All. This will remove (almost) all of the stored data that Firefox has accumulated thus far. We're just doing this to nuke anything that was stored before we installed our privacy add-ons, plus so that you know how to nuke Firefox storage.

A question i get allot...

Q: If i mess up my Firefox profile, maybe by accidentally enabling JavaScript when for a website where i shouldn't have, should i reinstall Firefox?

A: No. The only thing you would achieve is to reinstall the same identical files that make up the core of a Firefox installation while leaving your profile, where most web related data is stored, intact, so there's no point. What you can do in a worst case scenario is save what you need from your profile (bookmarks, passwords, etc.) and then nuke the entire profile after which Firefox will generate a new one. This is a rather extreme and probably unnecessary action to take however when instead you can simply nuke all of Firefox's storage.

If you've used Firefox before there's going to be some changes, one of them being that you'll be searching from the search bar (or a web page that isn't Google hopefully) instead of the address bar. The reason for this is a little creepy, suffice to say it's a privacy/security thing. Live search suggestions will be disabled because it's also a creepy thing, though the search bar will still suggest stuff from your history, bookmarks and previous searches.

Now for some really important stuff...

Remember the part at the beginning when you started reading this last week? You know, where i said we'd be "breaking as few websites as possible"? Kek! Since we disabled JavaScript globally with uBO, every other website you visit is going to be busted, and for good reason too.

There's a few things you need to know about JavaScript: 1), it's awesome-ish, 2) it's a privacy and security nIGhTMarE, 3) almost every website on Planet Earth uses it unnecessarily (even this one).

JavaScript (JS) can be used to do all kinds of cool (and creepy) things like make web pages interactive, make dull things look un-dull, animate stuff, etc.. It's used a lot for making navigation menus work and displaying images, as well as for annoying the bejeezes out of you with ads and pop-ups and other such garbage, however it's almost always necessary when shopping. Of primary importance however is the fact that JS is also leveraged heavily for distributing malware and tracking and profiling you, your web browser, your computer, family history, bathroom habits and more (and i'm exaggerating less than you might think). JS is a privacy and security nightmare (if you want to beat yourself up even more, read Stop pushing JavaScript! by a guy who knows what he's talkin' 'bout).

Disable JavaScript Tutorial Online Security | The Hated One

Now do you see why we disabled JS globally for the entire web? Thing is, it's very easy to enable again For Those Specific Websites Where You Really Need It To Be Enabled. "Need", i said. Not "like" or "want", but "need".

Start Firefox and load up your privacy profile, then middle-click this link to open it in a new tab and click some of the colors on the color swatch and…… well that was boring, but WAIT! THERE'S MORE! Now click the uBlock Origin button on your toolbar and in the lower right corner there’s an icon that looks like a </> , except it has a red ‘X’ through it. That icon is secret code for [CENSORED]. Click it to remove the ‘X’ and you will have enabled JavaScript for that particular domain after which you’ll see a new button appear right outta thin air that has circlely arrows on it. Clicking that (or pressing F5) will refresh the page at www.w3schools.com and this time your browser will allow JS to run for the entire w3schools.com domain. That color swatch page will now look very different and this time when you click the colors, awesome things will appear that will surely dazzle you for hours on end (like that damned triangle puzzle-peg thingy in every Cracker Barrel).

The point of that intensely interesting exercise was to demonstrate the power of JavaScript by showing you how different it can make a website look and work, as well as how necessary it is in some, but not all cases. For example, if you're reading this nail-biting novel with your Firefox privacy profile loaded and JS disabled, it wouldn't make much of a difference because the place looks and works pretty much the same whether JS is enabled or not, thus you should never enable it where it isn't needed. Kapish?

Now you're going to take the JavaScript Oath with me. DON'T LAUGH, this is important shit! OK, repeat after me:

EYE SHALL NOT ENABLE JAVASCRIPT FOR ANY WEBSITE UNLESS A) THE WEB DEVELOPER IS AN ETHICAL BLOOD RELATIVE WHOM I TRUST WITH MY LIFE AND B) IT MUST BE ENABLED IN ORDER TO PROVIDE REQUIRED FUNCTIONALITY THAT WOULD OTHERWISE NOT BE AVAILABLE (AND NO, LOOKING AT BOOBS DON'T COUNT!).

Importing stuff from an old profile

If you're not a first-time Firefox user and you have important bookmarks or other stuff you want to import to your new privacy profile, make a backup copy of your profile and then go ahead and read this.

What to do when the Fox bites

It's inevitable that you're going to have trouble with some websites. Keep calm. Breeeeath! You've already gotten a taste of how a website can be rendered useless with JavaScript disabled and although i let you enable it for the site given in the example earlier, i only did so because it's a trustworthy place. The next website you visit may not be. You're here aren't you?

To make a broken website function again, you'll need to use uBlock Origin to enable the functionality you need for those websites you trust. If you cannot get a website to cooperate by making site specific changes in uBlock, you can always spin-up a fresh, empty profile, but understand that you will be at the mercy of a completely default Firefox configuration with all of our extra privacy protections removed. For websites you don't trust, why are you visiting them? Porn? Warez? If you value your privacy and digital integrity at all, forget that stuff. Seriously.

Another 'gotchya' that will likely creep up at some point is a website not saving settings that you wanted to save, such as your log-on credentials or search engine settings (If you want to learn more about alternative search engines, read Alternative Search Engines That Respect Your Privacy). To save this data you will need to edit the permissions for the domain and there's two easy ways to access them; you can click the padlock icon in the address bar, then the right-facing arrow, then "More information", or simply hit Ctrl + I. In the window that opens, click the "Permissions" icon and scroll down until you see the "Set Cookies" item. Finally, deselect the "Use Default" preference and select the "Allow" preference. Firefox will now save the website data for the domain you're visiting even after it is restarted.

I would not suggest permanently allowing cookies for any privacy-hating social media or mainstream search websites such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc..

Lastly, read the 'arkenfox' wiki. Seriously!

The Fox hole

Even with everything we've done, you're still vulnerable to being tracked and profiled, however you're in a much better position now then when we started out, except for one little problem: Your Internet Service Provider!

At the very least your ISP can see what websites you visit and for how long, when you're surfing the web and when you're not. They may even inject ads, malware or other garbage in your data stream. The solution: Hijack your neighbors unprotected WiFi and... Kidding! Listen, you and i have gotten to know each other throughout this long and difficult ordeal. We're kinda like buddies now. Kinda. And i can already tell you're ethics are of a higher caliber than mine that!

One solution to the problem is a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Ever wanted to be in 30 places at once?

A VPN works by encrypting the traffic between you and another computer run by the VPN service provider which we'll call an 'exit node'. That exit node could be anywhere in the world. From the exit node your traffic flows as normal to whatever website you want to visit and the website then sends the kitty video you clicked on back to the exit node thinking IT is YOU, but alas, IT AIN'T YOU! YOU FOOLS! The kitty video then secretly makes its way back to you through this secret tunnel which was secretly established between you and the exit node. So far as the website is concerned, it doesn't know where the hell you really are and so far as your ISP is concerned, all it sees is gobbledygook that looks like Braille to a quadriplegic tuna. Ever annoyed by that galactically stupid "Sorry, this video is not available in your country" crap? Pfff.

There are truck loads of different VPN service providers and it seems the vast majority do not take customer privacy seriously. In particular i would strongly advise exercising caution regarding any VPN add-on on the Mozilla add-ons site for a few reasons, one of them being that they very likely suck from a privacy perspective and another being that it's only your browser that will benefit and not the rest of your OS and other devices on your network. Lastly, NEVER trust any "free" VPN provider. Full Stop.

For more on the subject and to learn which VPN privider i use, see Tor versus a VPN - Which is right for you?.

WHAT THE FOX!

So now you're all smitten thinking you're invincible and ready to hack NASA to see if aliens really built Taco Bell's on the back of the moon (they did, sorta, pretty sure). You're not, but you've taken one, small step for man, and..... Truth is, there are far more vectors for attack than you and i and many of the so-called "experts" may ever know about, so don't get all uppity. Perfect privacy on the web, as in real life, is a pipe dream and it wasn't the goal here anyway. We've covered some important bases that will help prevent nasty corporations and your ISP from spying on you, but not all of them. Remember that when you're creating fake profiles on Facebook to stalk your ex.

After you've taken plenty of time to get comfortable with your new Firefox configuration, i suggest reading everything in the uBlock Origin wiki and learning how to use it in its advanced mode.

Be safe. Be ethical. And if you need help (after you've tried to help yourself), leave a comment or check the FAQ: Firefox Hardening page.

IMPORTANT: If you incorporate suggestions made in this guide, please check back often for changes or, better yet, subscribe to my RSS feed.

Further resources

Revisions

Click to expand...

22-Jan-2022

  • removed Cookie AutoDelete ('cause dFPI, ya know?)
  • removed HTTPZ - not needed
  • removed much of the VPN info since it's included in the VPN-Tor article
  • several small edits, corrections, deletions

14-Dec-2021

  • very minor edit

13-Jun-2021

  • minor edits, typos

20-Oct-2020

7-Oct-2020

  • added more info about the user.js-notify.sh script

27-Sep-2020

  • reversed the order of this change log so newest changes are at the top

26-Sep-2020

  • well, that didn't last long - after more testing i reinstated Cookie AutoDelete because i think it's easier to use it than it is to be adding cookie exceptions all the time, plus no CAD breaks session restore with the 'arkenfox' user.js and there are other quibbles as well
  • removed Privacy-Oriented Origin Policy - given its limited usefulness, non-noob friendly filter syntax and potential to break a site on rare occasions, i decided it wasn't needed
  • minor edits

24-Sep-2020

  • removed all Cookie AutoDelete add-on info - given the intended audience for this guide, as well as first-party isolation and resist fingerprinting being enabled in the 'arkenfox' user.js, it isn't needed
  • removed all LocalCDN add-on info - given the intended audience for this guide, as well as first-party isolation and resist fingerprinting being enabled in the 'arkenfox' user.js, it isn't needed
  • added instructions for keeping storage items (log-on credentials, settings) for websites
  • minor edits

12-Sep-2020

  • split off part of the 'Fattening the Fox' section into a new section, 'Pestering the Fox', which includes new info about how to automatically be notified when a new version of the 'arkenfox' user.js is available (Linux only)

25-Aug-2020

  • replaced Site Bleacher with Cookie AutoDelete (CAD) - search for "Cookie AutoDelete" to see the edited content
  • minor edits

18-Aug-2020

  • added more info about the 'arkenfox' updater script regarding keeping the user.js version in sync with the major Firefox version

16-Aug-2020

  • minor edit

31-Jul-2020

  • removed the 'Don't touch my tabs!' add-on (obsolete since Firefox v79)

26-Jul-2020

  • replaced Decentraleyes with LocalCDN

5-Jul-2020

  • added the video, Prof Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capitalism

24-Apr-2020

  • updated the URL for the uBlock Origin Suggested Settings Guide

21-Mar-2020

  • removed ETag Stoppa since ClearURLs covers eTag storage filtering
  • added settings details for CLearURLs

24-Jan-2020

  • added more info about circumventing website logon problems due to Site Bleacher add-on
  • minor edits

23-Jan-2020

  • removed 'Font Fingerprint Defender' add-on - i got word that the extensions may be problematic

22-Jan-2020

  • removed 'First Party Isolation' add-on
  • added 'Font Fingerprint Defender' add-on
  • minor edits

4-Jan-2020

  • added ETag Stoppa to extensions section
  • added link to 'FAQ: Firefox Hardening' page
  • minor edits throughout

3-Dec-2019

  • minor edit

15-Nov-2019

  • added a more extensive warning about installing add-ons in addition to those recommended herein

13-Nov-2019

  • misc. edits and clarifications, nothing too drastic

6-Nov-2019

  • stuck the uBlock config stuff on its own page

5-Nov-2019

  • rewrote several bits of the guide in an attempt to clarify things and make it a bit shorter
  • edited some content to bring it up to date with the newest version of Firefox
  • adjusted settings for uBO

27-May-2019

  • added a warning about using this guide with Tor
  • added a resources section

23-May-2019

  • added instructions for enabling the search bar in the navigation bar since setting the preference alone in user.js doesn't work for some reason
  • minor edits

29-Apr-2019

  • added HTTPZ
  • added Site Bleacher and associated information
  • removed temporary profile info
  • lots of minor edits

29-Feb-2019

  • minor edit

22-Jan-2019

  • added better description and screen-caps for how to download user-overrides.js
  • minor edit

12-Jan-2019

  • clarified info regarding the downloading of the configuration files

6-Jan-2019

  • clarified a lot of stuff that may not have been clarified clearly enough
  • eliminated the 'relaxed_user-overrides.js' file - the user-overrides.js is now used for both the advanced and dummy guides
  • updated the user-overrides.js file
  • lots of minor edits, corrections

29-Dec-2018

  • polishing, clarifications

27-Dec-2018

  • added more info about using the user.js updater and prefsCleaner scrips
  • many small changes and polishing

26-Dec-2018

  • first (pre) release

Comments

Note that both reader and my comments, while they may have been accurate at the time, might be inaccurate today. This is a highly dynamic environment so please verify the accuracy of comment content should you wish to utilize it. Failing that, ask me and i'll give it a crack.

Thunderbird, IMAP and a global inbox?

One of the things that nags me with Thunderbird is that there is no easy way to achieve a proper global inbox if you have multiple IMAP accounts. If you use the POP protocol, no problem, but IMAP is another story. One common "solution" is View -> Folders -> Unified and i think the result sucks because it just makes more of a mess of how mail folders are displayed, especially when you have multiple IMAP accounts.

While i think a true unified inbox for IMAP accounts may be in the Thunderbird pipeline, you can achieve something reasonably close with a simple message filter in the interim. Why i didn't realize this sooner, i don't know, because i've been fighting with this for quite a while.

Go to 'Tools' -> 'Message Filters' and select your first IMAP account. Create a new filter and give it a name, then select to run it when getting new mail and after junk filtering. Make sure to select the 'Match all messages' option and then in the actions area, set it up to 'Move message to' and 'Inbox on Local Folders'. Done. Do the same with the rest of your accounts.

Now when you collapse the IMAP accounts in the folder view pane, Thunderbird will just display the names of the accounts followed by the normal Local Folders tree without all the extra garbage.

Thunderbird unified IMAP

Anything else you want to move to the Local Folders tree, such as Drafts, etc., you can do from the account settings.

Manjaro takes 1st place on Distrowatch

Yeah yeah, i'm late to the party, but i just now figured out that Manjaro Linux has captured the number one spot on Distrowatch, displacing Linux Mint. This happened some time within the last few months apparently.

If you're new to Linux, or want to remove the Windows virus, read on, else this could be about as interesting watching ice melt.

I find Manjaro's move to top dog status interesting considering it's based on Arch Linux which is notorious for being one of the more difficult flavors of Linux to install, configure and use. Manjaro however is specifically designed to be an easy-to-use Arch, complete with a capable graphical installer, package manager and software.

I started with Linux Mint a few years ago and i recommend it to anyone wanting to free themselves from the death grip of Microsoft. It's simple to install, feature rich and is probably one of the most polished and easiest to use distributions for newcomers. I became a bit frustrated with it because it's a 'point' release, meaning you have to re-install it when a new version hits the streets which, as i recall, was about every six months. Plus it's based on the LTS (long term support) version of Ubuntu which, in turn, is based on Debian. What that means is that the software in the Mint repository is often kinda old, forcing many to seek out lots of 'untrusted' PPAs, or figure out how to compile packages from source code.

Manjaro, on the other hand, is a rolling release, same as Arch, meaning you install it once and keep applying updates for ever more, in theory. Manjaro has it's own repository of considerable size, but one can also enable the AUR (Arch User Repository) which is also quite large (and can also get you in quite a bit of trouble).

Arch is pretty cutting edge and updates come fast and hard and can sometimes break the system. Manjaro receives a lot of updates too, many of which are quite large and affect somewhere around 100 packages at a shot, but the nice folks that work on the project alleviate some of the scariness by kicking the tires before turning packages loose.

I don't know that Manjaro is suitable for beginners, but it is definitely an attractive distribution. I've been using it for a few months and so far haven't had any major problems. If you're new to Linux and want to try it, just be sure to keep your data safe and learn first how to recover a busted system in the event something does explode, as has happened in the past.

How to access RSS feeds for websites that don't advertise one

intro

The popularity of RSS/ATOM news feeds seems to be declining, so much so that Mozilla has stopped supporting news feeds and Live Bookmarks around version 64 of its Firefox web browser. I find the lack of support for news feeds very discouraging at a time when more people are turning to the World Wide Web for news and especially so given the censorship and purging that is taking place on all of the mainstream social media platforms. In my case i watch roughly 170 websites nearly every day and this would hardly be possible without RSS/ATOM news feeds and a news feed reader which automatically collects all of the latest headlines and article excerpts from all of these websites and presents it a unified way. I've never timed it, but i would guess that even if i checked my feeds only once each day, it probably wouldn't consume more than an hour of my time to scan all of the headlines for all of the websites i watch, whereas if i had to manually visit each website, it might take half a day. And no, social media is not an alternative to news feeds, especially when mega-corporations like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Reddit, etc., are purging, censoring and shadow banning many high quality people and organizations from their platforms as the U.S. descends into the realm of the radical left/communist/woke/politically correct ideology.

But i digress.

To read news feeds you'll need a feed reader. You can find various add-ons for Firefox at the Mozilla add-ons website. If you want to check out my preferred news reader, see the Firefox Extensions - My Picks page. For other browsers, you'll have to check your respective repository. If you would rather use dedicated software instead of a browser extension, check out the article 14 Best RSS Feed Readers for Linux in 2018.

With our feed reader in hand, we should be able to access any RSS or ATOM news feed as long as the publishing platform generates one, regardless of whether the software or the webmaster made the location of the feed obvious. Following are some tips to pull feeds from various platforms which don't make their feed URLs so obvious.

Odysee (LBRY) feeds

LBRY is a decentralized content sharing platform that is proving to be an excellent alternative to the censor-happy gatekeepers like YouTube, Vimeo, etc.. There are several ways to access the platform, including desktop and mobile software, as well as through a web browser. One of the most popular web clients is the Odysee website. News feeds are provided by lbryfeed.melroy.org. Here we will use The Corbett Report channel as our example.

Template: https://lbryfeed.melroy.org/channel/<channel_name>

  1. On any video or channel page for The Corbett Report, note the channel name which can be found in the URL for the page (in your browsers address bar). In this case it is corbettreport
  2. Replace <channel_name> in the template above with the actual channel name:
    https://lbryfeed.melroy.org/channel/corbettreport

BitChute feeds

Like YouTube, BitChute makes this a bit more difficult than it needs to be. Here again we will use The Corbett Report channel as our example.

Template: https://www.bitchute.com/feeds/rss/channel/<channel_name>

  1. On any video or channel page for The Corbett Report, note the channel short name which is located just under the channel title (the short name will always be lowercase with no spaces). In this case the channel the channel short name is corbettreport
  2. Replace <channel_name> in the template above with the channel short name followed by a trailing slash (in my case, eliminating the trailing slash prompts to download the feed summary which could also be useful perhaps):
    https://www.bitchute.com/feeds/rss/channel/corbettreport/

YouTube feeds

The easiest way to find channel feeds is by using the Firefox add-on mentioned prior, but you don't need the extension. Here we will use Carey Wedler's channel as an example.

Template: https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=<channel_id>

  1. Click on any of Carey's videos to load the video page.
  2. On the video page, right-click the channel name below the video (in this case 'Carey Wedler') and select 'Copy Link Location' (or similar) from your browser context menu. Paste that URL somewhere, such as a text editor. In this case the URL is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs84giQmEVI8NXXg78Fvk2g
  3. It is the channel ID that we need which in this case is UCs84giQmEVI8NXXg78Fvk2g
  4. Replace <channel_id> in the template with the actual channel ID:
    https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=UCs84giQmEVI8NXXg78Fvk2g

Vimeo feeds

Vimeo uses a format similar to YouTube. Here we will use the Truthstream Media channel (Aaron and Melissa Dykes) channel as an example.

Template: https://vimeo.com/<channel_name>/videos/rss

  1. From the URL in your browser address bar, copy the channel name or numeric ID, in this case truthstreammedia
  2. Replace <channel_name> in the template with the actual channel name or numeric ID:
    https://vimeo.com/truthstreammedia/videos/rss

WordPress feeds

Websites generated with WordPress can generate several kinds of feeds by default. How best to access them depends on whether the blog owner has enabled permalinks, but regardless of whether they have or not, WordPress will reveal the proper feed address even if we use the wrong URL format. Try adding any of the following to the root domain of the website:

/feed
/?feed=rss
/?feed=rss2
/?feed=rdf
/?feed=atom

Using this website as an example, i have permalinks enabled and so the URL for my main RSS feed is https://12bytes.org/feed , however you can use the format that assumes permalinks are not enabled ( https://12bytes.org/?feed=rss ) and it will forward you to the same URL.

You can also grab more specific feeds from a website powered by WordPress, such as for specific categories. If you were interested in the Tech category for 12bytes.org for example, you can just add feed/ after the URL.

Steemit feeds

Steemit doesn't provide any feeds so far as i'm aware, however you can use the 3rd party website, hiverss.com, to generate a feed for someones Steemit channel. Here again we will use The Corbett Report channel as an example.

Template: http://www.hiverss.com/@<channel_name>/feed

  1. Note the channel name located in the URL of your browser address bar, in this case corbettreport
  2. Replace <channel_name> in the template with the actual channel name:
    http://www.hiverss.com/@corbettreport/feed

Squarespace feeds

Read the Squarespace tutorial, Finding your RSS feed URL.

Medium feeds

Read the Medium tutorial, RSS feeds.

Tumblr feeds

Add /rss to the site domain: https://example.tumblr.com/rss

generic methods for accessing feeds

If none of the above apply to the website you're trying to acquire a news feed for, try these generic methods by adding one of the following to the website's root domain. You can also try adding a trailing slash to these:

/feed
/rss
/atom
/feed/atom
/?feed=rss
/?feed=atom

For example, the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism website does not seem to offer a link to their news feeds, nor do they appear to be running WordPress, but if we simply add /feed after the domain ( https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/feed ) their publishing platform will forward us to their RSS news feed. We can also add /feed/atom to the domain to pull their ATOM news feed. You can try this little hack with any website, though it obviously will not work if the publishing platform does not produce a feed. Also see the article, Find an RSS Feed URL, from 'Gloo'.

getting updates from websites that don't generate feeds

If a website does not produce a news feed at all and you don't want to have to visit it regularly to see if anything new has been posted, then some sort of 3rd party service or browser extension can be utilized. In the case of Firefox there are a few add-ons that can monitor a website for changes, such as Update Scanner. There are also a number of utilities that will help you create news feeds, such as the Feed Creator and FetchRSS.

helpful add-ons that auto-detect news feeds or page updates

If you use Firefox, check out these add-ons:

  • RSSPreview by Aurelien David can find and preview feeds for many websites.
  • Update Scanner by 'sneakypete81' is a nice utility that will check a webpage for updates by comparing the current version of a page to a stored snapshot. This is handy when a site simply doesn't generate any news feeds.

change log

The following are the most recent changes to this page.

  • added LBRY feed info
  • edited most of the content to trim the fat and provide better examples