How to Uninstall the Ask Toolbar

Once upon a time, (formerly Ask Jeeves) was primarily a search engine and was even competitive with the likes of Google and Yahoo.

Sadly, in the years since then, Ask hasn’t aged so well.

In 2005 Ask was acquired by a company named InterActiveCorp, an umbrella organization that owns many other popular websites like, and

InterActiveCorp is also notorious for pushing toolbar downloads through many of its properties, the most well known of which is the Toolbar.

Ask Toolbar and altered Homepage

Ask Toolbar and altered Homepage

While this toolbar is not technically malware, since it does ask permission to install, it is most commonly installed as part of the installation process for other programs. Computer users who aren’t paying close attention or don’t understand the software installation process often install the Ask Toolbar without realizing they’re doing so.

Once installed, the Ask toolbar takes up screen space in your web browser, changes your homepage and redirects your searches so that they use This generates lots of advertising revenue for Ask and InterActiveCorp. So, as you can see, the whole point of the toolbar is the drive traffic to websites owned by InterActiveCorp.

How to Remove the Ask Toolbar

The Ask toolbar can, for the most part, be uninstalled like any other program. Just make sure all browsers that have the Ask Toolbar are closed or the uninstall process will not work.

First, open your Control Panel. On Windows 7, this can by done by clicking the Start button and then clicking Control Panel.

From the Control Panel, click “Uninstall a program”. This will load a list of programs that can be uninstalled.

Find “Ask Toolbar” in the list. It should be near the top since the list is sorted alphabetically.

Right-click “Ask Toolbar” and select “Uninstall”. This will run the uninstallation program that will remove the Ask Toolbar.

Follow the steps in the uninstall program, and the Ask Toolbar will be gone when it is finished.

If the Ask toolbar changed your homepage and search page, you’ll need to change those to the settings you would like. How to change these settings is a little different for each web browser so that’s an article for another day.

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The 3 Most Private Search Engines

I was going to write a big long introduction about why you would want your search results to be private, but I honestly don’t think I need to anymore. We’re all aware that the NSA and probably other government agencies are in the habit of collecting both private and public conversations. And we know that massive internet companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others are built on a foundation of advertising, where knowing as much about your potential customer as possible is the name of the game. These days it seems like everybody wants to know as much as everybody else as possible. The expression “Knowledge is Power” has never in human history been more true, and knowledge comes from information.

But as all of these organizations have built themselves around collecting as much information as possible about their customers, a new market segment has emerged that does just the opposite. Here are 3 search engines


First on our list is the strangely named “Ixquick”.

From the Ixquick About page: “Ixquick does not collect or share any personal information! … When you search with Ixquick search engine, you are searching many popular search engines simultaneously and anonymously. Combined, these engines cover more of the Internet than any one search engine alone.”

As it says about, Ixquick pulls search results from many different search engines, combs through the results and then delivers them to you. Since none of your data is ever sent to the search engines it pulls results from, and because Ixquick says it doesn’t collect any customer information, your searches are essentially anonymous. Ixquick also features a integrated phone search feature, image search and video search which is nice to have.

Also useful for privacy conscious web surfers is the built-in “proxy” feature on the search results page. Next to any search result you’ll see the word “Proxy”. Clicking this link will load that search result, but Ixquick will connect to that web server and load the page for you. That way your unique IP address is never sent to the server hosting that website, which is pretty neat.


DuckDuckGo is a search engine focusing on anonymity and user friendliness. Much like Google, Bing, and other modern search engines, typing a question into DuckDuckGo will often give you the answer without having to visit a single search result. DuckDuckGo pulls the information from various sources it’s aware of and tries to compile it in a useful way at the top of the search results page.

So, for example, if I search for “google” on DuckDuckGo, I’m presented with a short introduction about Google, Inc. pulled from the google Wikipedia page, as well as Google’s trading symbol on the NASDAQ, where Google was founded, who founded it, it’s most recent revenue, and number of employees.


You might notice that StartPage looks an awful lot like Ixquick. That’s because they’re owned by the same parent company. Both search engines have strong privacy guarantees and both have the proxied browsing feature I mentioned before.

Startpage’s search results are different than Ixquick’s. This is because Startpage pulls its search results directly from Google, and not a collection of search engines. Some people may like this, others may not. It’s really a matter of personal preference. Otherwise Startpage and Ixquick seem to be virtually identical, which isn’t a bad thing.

 Worried about the privacy of your data? ZookaWare techs know how to keep your PC safe from attackers and are available 24/7 for remote technical support.

How to Stop Being Tracked Online

2014-06-06 17_38_29-GhosteryOnline advertising is a trillion dollar industry. It is arguably the life blood of the internet and the fuel for almost all of the web’s most popular destinations.

Google alone is valued at nearly $400 billion and the vast majority of that is from online advertising through its AdWords platform. Facebook, Twitter, and most other search engines are also backed almost entirely by the advertising revenue they generate.

If online advertising were to disappear tomorrow, most of the internet as we know it today would disappear with it. Except maybe Wikipedia.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why all of these online advertisers want to know as much about who they’re advertising to as possible. The more they know about their potential customer, the more they can tailor the advertisements you see, the more likely you are to buy what they’re selling. Knowledge is power.

If you’re like me, you’re not really comfortable with these organizations keeping track of everything you’re doing online. Especially when these organizations have been known to sell off information they’ve collected to overzealous government agencies and other even less scrupulous people and organizations.

Today I’m going to show you how to very easily block the vast majority of online advertisers and other groups that want to track you from collecting your data.

We’re going to use a browser plugin called Ghostery to accomplish this task.

According to the Ghostery website, “Ghostery has the largest tracker database available on the web. We meticulously select, profile and cull over 1,900 trackers and 2,300 tracking patterns.

Ghostery acts as a kind of blacklist against online tracking, preventing online trackers them from seeing what websites you’re visiting.

Note that this won’t stop your ISP from seeing what you’re doing, though, so you’re not anonymous. You’re just not being tracked by advertisers.

Downloading and installing Ghostery is very simple. Just visit the Ghostery download page and install the plugin for your browser.

The next time you open  your browser you’ll be asked a few questions about what kind of tracking you want to block. If you’re unsure, you’re probably OK to select everything. You can also unselect it later.

That’s it, you’re now virtually invisible to online advertisers and other trackers!

Spyware got you feeling like you’re always being watched? ZookaWare techs can remove even the toughest spyware and are availabe 24/7 for remote technical support.

How to Search the Web Using Your Voice with Google Chrome

2014-06-04 13_24_24-GoogleWe truly are living in the future. Google has working self-driving cars, Microsoft is testing software that does automatic instant voice translation, and NASA’s Voyager spacecraft has left our solar system and entered interstellar space. All of these developments were merely science fiction 20 years ago.

And now you can even search the web without ever touching your keyboard. OK, maybe that’s not quite as unbelievable as cars that drive themselves and the other stuff I just mentioned, but it’s still pretty cool and would have been hard to believe 15 years ago.

To search the web using your voice, you’ll need Google Chrome. Once you have Chrome installed, open Chrome’s settings by clicking the 3 horizontal line icon next to the address bar. From there, click Settings.

In the settings menu, scroll down and click ‘Show advanced settings”.

Under the Privacy category check the box next to ‘Enable “Ok Google” to start a voice search’.

After you’ve checked that checkbox and closed out of Chrome’s settings, you should be able to start a new Google voice search simply by saying the words “OK Google” and then asking Google any question or search term you would normally search.

Even cooler, if you have your speakers on Google will attempt to respond with an audio response, not just the standard search results you’re used to.

If you have an Android phone, you may notice this is basically the same as the voice activation features that are built into Android. If you have an iPhone, you may also notice that this is suspiciously similar to Siri, Apple’s voice activated helper program. You’d be right on both counts. This is basically the same technology that makes Siri and other voice activated programs possible. But now it’s on your computer.

While this technology isn’t extremely useful or world changing yet, it’s also still in its infancy. I can’t wait to see what it’ll be able to do in another 20 years.

Computer problems not going away, even if you yell at them? ZookaWare technical support agents are here 24/7 for remote technical support.

How to Download YouTube Videos

According to YouTube, more than 100 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute and more than 6 billion hours of video are watched each

That’s more than 680,000 YEARS of video watched every single month on YouTube.

While I’m sure most of those views are from people who only watch a video once, I’m also pretty confident many of those views are from people watching the same video more than once, maybe many times.

If there’s a video you’d like to save for offline viewing, so you’re not having to visit YouTube every time you want to watch it, it’s actually pretty easy to do.

All you need is a free Firefox extension called “Download Flash & Video“.

After you’ve downloaded the extension from the Firefox plugin site, visit the YouTube page of a video you’d like to download. The icon for Download Flash & Video will turn blue indicating there is a video that can be downloaded.

Click the blue button and the downloader extension will show you a list of versions and formats of the video file that you can choose to download.

Generally, I’d choose a version in MP4 format because most media players support that format.

Click the version you want and it will automatically start downloading for you.

Now you have your youtube video saved on your computer, available to be watched anytime without ads and without even the need for an active internet connect.

The Download Flash & Video extension also works on a number of other video sites, according to its extension page, so try it out on different websites you visit.

Need help with your computer? ZookaWare remote support technicians are available 24/7 for online technical support.

How to Easily Encrypt Your Email

2014-06-03 18_05_01-MailvelopeThere are lots of reasons someone may want to encrypt the emails they send.

Maybe they don’t trust their internet service provider or email host with their private data.

Maybe they want to be more sure their messages won’t fall into the wrong hands while being sent over the net.

Or maybe they just don’t want to make it easy for certain 3 letter government agencies to process, analyze, inspect, evaluate, scrutinize or otherwise read their private personal communications.

Whatever the reason, it’s easier than ever now to securely encrypt your email thanks to a free and open source browser extension for Firefox and Chrome called Mailvelope.

Unlike most encryption programs, Mailvelope doesn’t force you to use a particular email provider or a separate  encryption program. Mailvelope works out-of-the-box with Gmail, Yahool Mail, (formerly Hotmail) and If your preferred email provider isn’t listed, it’s not very hard to add support for it through Mailvelope’s options.

To use Mailvelope, visit the Mailvelope plugin page for Chrome or Firefox depending on your browser. Click the install button and it will do the hard work for you.

After it’s installed you should see a new Mailvelope “lock” icon in your browser. Before you can start encrypting messages you’ll need to click this icon and select “Options” from the menu that appears.

In the Mailvelope options menu, click “Generate Key”. Enter your name and email address, and then enter a passphrase to secure your key. You’ll need to enter this key in order to encrypt messages or decrypt messages you receive.

After you’ve generated your encryption key, you’ll also need to give your public key (which identifies you) to the people you want to send encrypted message to. You can email the key to them, or post it to a keyserver (which is beyond the scope of this article).

To create an encrypted message, simply create a new email as you normally would. So, for example, in Gmail click “Compose”.

In the Compose window you’ll see a new lock icon. Click the icon and a new text entry window will appear. Here you can type the message you want to encrypt.

After you’ve finished typing your message you can click the lock icon in the text entry area to select who you want to send the secure message to. After you’ve select who you want to send the message to Mailvelope will automatically encrypt the message. From there you can click send in your email interface just like you normally would to send a message.

When receiving an incoming encrypted message Mailvelope automatically detects that it is encrypted and tries to decrypt the message for you. After you’v entered your passphrase to unlock your private key Mailvelope will display the decrypted version of the message just like a normal email message.

This may all seem complicated to read, but I assure you it’s actually easier than you think. To download Mailvelope and find additional documentation for how to use it, visit the Mailvelope website.

Want to make sure hackers stay locked out of your computer? Zookaware computer experts are here 24/7 for secure remote technical support.

How to Block Ads in Firefox

ABPI love the internet. I think that’s pretty obvious. I spend all of my work day and a lot of my free time using, learning about, and playing with internet technologies.

Internet ads, on the other hand, I don’t like nearly as much. So many websites these days load up their pages with big, obnoxious, annoying ads that they’re almost not worth reading.

Even worse, these ads waste bandwidth that could be used for downloading other things and make it possible for advertisers to track what you’re doing online. Why would I want to make it easy for them to do that?

Fortunately for you and me some smart person came up with the idea of an ad-blocker program many years ago. The original ad blockers where separate programs that ran on your computer and you had to actually pay for them. They also didn’t have a fantastic detection rate so some ads would still sometimes get through.

These day, though, ad blocker programs have improved greatly and are available for free for just about any web browser you can think of.

Here’s how to install one such ad blocking program, called AdBlock Plus, on Mozilla Firefox:

On the Adblock Plus plugin page, click the big green “Install for Firefox” button.

Firefox will ask if you want to allow the installation process, so go ahead and click OK.

If all goes as expected, Adblock Plus should now be installed and running in Firefox. You don’t even need to restart your browser. How cool is that?

Adblock Plus will block the ads on thousands of different websites and hundreds of advertising networks. It’ll even block the video ads on YouTube, which are honestly the most annoying ads in my humble opinion.

Adblock Plus is one of the first things I install anytime I work on a new computer. I’ve gotten so used to browsing the web without intrusive ads that on the rare occasion that I do have to use someone else’s computer without an ad blocker, I’m completely shocked at how many ads I’ve been missing. How do people put up with? I honestly don’t know.

But now you don’t have to. Enjoy your new, faster, ad-free internet experience.

Are adware and spyware programs making you miserable? ZookaWare techs are on-call 24/7 for remote technical support.

3 Money Saving Browser Addons

It’s that time of year again. Time to rack your brain trying to come up with gift ideas for everyone you need to buy presents for this holiday season. And then, once you’ve finally figured out what you think they’ll like, you’ve gotta figure out where you can buy the present and (if you’re smart and not made of money) try to find the cheapest price on that present as well. Just a TINY bit stressful, not to mention time consuming.

If you’re not looking forward to going through that process again this year then rejoice, Dear Reader, for I come to you with solutions. These three browser addons won’t tell you what the best idea for a present is but once you’ve figured that out they will show you the cheapest place you can get it in no time at all. No more manual price checking. More time for drinking eggnog and watching reruns of the same holidays specials that have been on TV for the past 40 years. Or whatever you want to spend your time doing.

Priceblink2013-12-04 16_24_41-PriceBlink - Installation Steps

When you’re viewing a specific product PriceBlink searches the web for lower prices and lets you know if you’ve found the lowest price. Priceblink displays a small banner at the top of the webpage you’re viewing once it has searched for a better price to indicate whether a better price is available as well as which other websites are selling the same product. The small banner is only displayed on pages where it recognizes a specific product for sale, so it does a good job of staying out of your way when it’s not being used.

Download PriceBlink Here

Invisible Hand

2013-12-04 16_31_51-Amazon.com_ APC BE350G UPS System_ ElectronicsInvisible Hand is a lot like Priceblink. It shows a similar small banner on the top of your screen alerting you to any cheaper prices and letting you know what other stores are selling the same product. But Invisible Hand also works for finding the best prices on flights, hotels and car rentals, which could be a nice added benefit if you’re planning on going anywhere this holiday season.

Download Invisible Hand Here

NOTE: Though technically you can use Invisible Hand and Priceblink at the same time, they do very similar jobs and can conflict with each other in some cases. We recommend only using one.

Honey2013-12-04 16_17_53-Place Your Order - Checkout

Instead of searching online stores for cheaper prices on individuals products, Honey searches for coupon codes specifically for the website you’re shopping at and then applies them for you automatically. You’ll see a small “Find savings” button on the checkout page of supported websites. Just click the button and Honey works its magic to get you the lowest possible price. Honey will still work even if Invisible Hand or Priceblink are installed, so I recommend using both to get maximum savings.

Download Honey Here

MyWOT and the Problem with Crowdsourced Rating Sites

As the internet continues to grow by leaps and bounds every day it’s getting harder and harder keep track of what’s safe and what isn’t online.

Online reputation sites attempt to solve this problem by giving each website a rating of some kind to indicate how safe that website is. There are many reputation sites, but MyWOT (which stands for “My Web of Trust”) handles website ratings in a rather unique way.

MyWOT works kind of like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. People from all over the world help build and improve Wikipedia by writing and editing articles. In much the same way MyWOT users from all over the world help build MyWOT by contributing website ratings. Seems like a great idea.

I really like Wikipedia and many other user-powered or “crowdsourced” websites so I was eager to give MyWOT a try.

Problem #1: MyWOT isn’t accountable for their ratings

2013-12-04 16_40_45-MyWOT and the Problems with Crowdsourced Rating Sites « ZookaWare Blog has a poor WOT rating simply because of unpopular opinions.

But there’s a big difference between Wikipedia and MyWOT: Wikipedia has strict rules that every sentence of every article must be supported by verifiable facts. A user cannot post their opinions and have them included in Wikipedia. Any attempts to do so are swiftly removed.

MyWOT doesn’t have any similar rules. MyWOT users are free to rate a website however they feel regardless of the truth of their rating. This results in many sites receiving poor ratings because of unpopular opinions, personal grudges and misunderstandings. For example, the websites of the Recording Industry Association of America ( and Motion Picture Association of America ( both have low scores on MyWOT, not because their website are dangerous in any way but because some MyWOT users simply don’t like these organizations.

2013-12-16 _ WOT Reputation Scorecard _ WOT (Web of Trust)

Monsanto also has a poor WOT score. I don’t like them either, but there is nothing dangerous about their website.

MyWOT could enforce a “facts only” policy like Wikipedia does but chooses not to. Legally they don’t have to. Because of laws set up to help shield internet service providers from being sued for the actions of their users MyWOT isn’t legally liable for the reviews they host.

Users who post reviews on MyWOT are, however, liable for what they post. But most MyWOT users are shielded by the relative anonymity of the internet. It would take a court order to even find out a user’s real identity let alone hold them accountable for what they say. While large corporations may have the resources to hold anonymous trolls accountable, it’s simply too expensive for individuals and small businesses to protect their reputations in this kind of system even when what is being said about them is provably false.

Problem #2: The rating system is dominated by “power users” on power trips

While anyone is free to sign up with MyWOT and begin rating websites right away, MyWOT’s rating system doesn’t treat all users equally. MyWOT likes to call their rating system “meritocratic” which really just means users who have been around longer and rated more websites have much more rating power than average users.

At first that sounds like a good idea. In theory this would keep scammers from making a bunch of fake accounts and rating themselves highly. But a closer look shows this system creates at least as many problems as it solves.

Websites that criticize MyWOT very quickly receive poor ratings.

Websites that criticize MyWOT very quickly receive poor ratings.

Because MyWOT gives preference to users with a long history of site ratings it’s much harder for individual users who have no interest in becoming power users to affect the scores of sites they feel are rated incorrectly. It does, however, give power users a much greater ability to influence the ratings of websites they personally dislike. The expression “Power Corrupts” definitely holds true here.

This “meritocratic” system also creates some twisted incentives for scammers to become MyWOT power users. What better way for scammers to give their sites some legitimacy than to use their power user status on MyWOT to give their websites a nice high rating and negatively influence the ratings of their competition at the same time.

Of course, to pull off a task like that, a scammer would need access to a lot of computers all over the world in order to build up a bunch of fake reputations over a period of time. This isn’t something most website owners are capable of, but it’s exactly the type of scam botnets are great for. By designing their system this way it’s almost like MyWOT is actually trying to encourage hackers and scammers to cheat the system.

Problem #3: MyWOT’s management are secretive and hard to contact

As if the other problems with MyWOT aren’t bad enough the organization behind it, WOT Inc., is notoriously difficult to get ahold of. While the founders of WOT are publicly known, the only way to contact the MyWOT team is through a contact form their website that isn’t easy to find. And if you have a problem with how your website is being rated they make it pretty clear they have no interest in talking to you.

It’s also pretty difficult to get any specific details about the rating system MyWOT uses. For example, MyWOT makes it clear that user ratings are weighted differently depending on the “merit” of the user. What algorithm do they use to determine whose rating is more important? They don’t say. They won’t even tell you how many ratings a website has, only its overall rating score. Presumably all this secrecy is an attempt to make it harder for scammers to game the system (which I’ve already explained doesn’t work) but it also makes it impossible for website owners and third-parties to verify that websites are being rated fairly. This lack of openness seems a bit strange especially for a “community-driven” reputation website.

MyWOT’s financial situation is also a bit confusing. MyWOT has more than a handful of high profile investors like Risto Siilasmaa, the founder of F-Secure, and Michael Widenius, founder of MySQL. MyWOT also has business deals in place to provide website rating data to several popular websites like Facebook and For a period of time MyWOT also sold “Trust Seals” that website owners could purchase and post on their websites to show off their MyWOT ratings. (MyWOT stopped selling Trust Seals due to suspicion that these purchases led to favoritism for certain website owners.)  Yet MyWOT still solicits donations from its users to stay in operation. Why does a website with millionaire investors and business deals with the most popular websites in the world need to beg for donations to stay afloat?

Because of problems like these MyWOT has earned a less than stellar reputation on other online rating sites. It’s not unusual to find dozens of complaints about unfair and inaccurate ratings. This is the case on every rating site except for MyWOT itself. Of course, it’s hard to blame the MyWOT community for being a bit biased but this kind of bias is exactly the behavior that has generated so many complaints.

Better Alternatives

There are other flaws in MyWOT but these 3 stand out as the most glaring examples. If you want to protect yourself online but don’t want to deal with the problems that MyWOT brings with it there are a few alternatives you can choose from. The browser addons listed below are produced by reputable security companies. These organizations can actually be held accountable for the ratings they provide so they are more likely to be accurate and can make your web surfing safer.

Browser Addons:

“AVG Secure Search alerts you before you visit dangerous webpages to make sure your identity, personal information, and computer are protected.”

“…a free cross-browser add-on that intercepts, processes, and filters all Web traffic, blocking any malicious content and taking browser security to new levels.”

Reputable Review Sites:

On its face TrustPilot looks just like any other internet review website. But it’s more than that. Unlike other review sites TrustPilot makes the effort to verify reviews it receives are coming from actual customers of the websites they are reviewing. This makes it much harder for anonymous internet trolls to create a bunch of fake accounts and post fake reviews.

Free Firefox Addon Loads Complete YouTube Videos


A fully loaded YouTube Video. Amazing, I know.

In the early days of YouTube, before it was assumed that everyone in the world has a broadband internet connection, it was possible to simply pause a YouTube video and let it continue loading while paused. This was great for people with slow or unreliable internet connections. If the video wasn’t buffering fast enough to keep up with playback you could just pause the video and let the whole thing load while you went to the kitchen to make a sandwich or a cup of tea or whatever it was we did back then. When you returned to your video it would be completely loaded and you could watch the whole thing without interruption. Yep, it was pretty great.

Sadly those days are gone.

Somewhere along the way YouTube and parent company Google decided too much bandwidth was being wasted by fully loading videos people never finished watching. It would be better, they thought, if the video only loaded a few seconds in advance and then stopped loading until the viewer caught up. This would save them bandwidth while still loading videos fast enough for “most people”. So that’s what they did.

The consequence is that anyone with a connection that isn’t super fast and reliable now has to wait for their video to buffer every few seconds. Pausing the video to let it fully load just doesn’t work anymore.

But there is hope! Some rather smart person has created a browser addon for Firefox called YouTube Center which allows you to return YouTube to its old method of loading videos.

Here’s how you enable fully loading YouTube videos:


After you’ve installed YouTube center in Firefox click the gear icon at the top right of your browser window to open the YouTube Center settings.


Click to zoom in.

Next click the “Player” category and uncheck the box next to “Dash Playback”. That’s it. Now YouTube videos will continue to load even when they’re paused.

YouTube Center also has a bunch of other cool features but there are too many to name here. Some of the highlights include the ability to save YouTube videos to your hard drive, block ads on YouTube, and “Lights Off” mode for a more theater-like viewing experience.

YouTube Center can be downloaded and installed for Firefox here: