2006/08/25

Your Browser vs. Your Bank

Sometimes being a MacOS user, a Linux user, or a Windoze user who wants the latest and greatest non-Microsoft utilities, can be a real pain. And one of the most annoying aspects of the bleeding edge is when your bank (broker, insurer, lender, whatever...) doesn't let you surf their site with your browser of choice.

But fear not Blognonyfriends, Kvatch has the solution to your dilema. You see all browsers attach a piece of information called the "user-agent" to requests for a web-pages, and in most browsers you can change that value. Now...is this the all purpose solution? Not really. A really savy web development team can employ "browser-sniffing" to try and figure it out, but most developers are lazy and rely on the user-agent. So here's the bullet:

Firefox (for power users):
1) Type "about:config" into your web address box
2) On the resulting page [ctrl]-click to get a menu that allows you to add a new entry ( "New->String" )
3) Name the entry "general.useragent.override" and for a value use the user-agent string of a browser compatible with the site you want to surf.

Try this for Windows (if you want to masquerade as Mozilla):

"Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.7a) Gecko/20040123"
You can find many, many more user-agent strings are here.

Safari (for power users):
OK, this is a bit more complex...
1) Quit Safari
2) Paste into a terminal window "defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeDebugMenu 1"
3) Start Safari which now has a new "Debug" entry for changing the user-agent
And if you're not a power user, why not try the User Agent Switcher plug-in for Mozilla and Firefox?

(For Sothis (Chasing Orion) who asked me for this information.)

8 Comments:

I think disguising your browser as another browser is illegal under the PATRIOT act. ;-)

[ctrl]-click must be a Mac thing. Right-click works on windows.
I'm having enough trouble posting comments here with a linux/firefox combo. I think I'll pass on the other tweaks...
Well, tweaking it let me get to the front door, but won't let me turn the key (won't let me log on). Something with the way it's dealing with the bank's javascript, I think. Sigh...

Thanks for the info!
Gee, and all these years I've just been running two whole different computers to avoid that problem! It's like having two brains. Just like Steve Martin.
wow - thanks for the techy sharing...
Sothis, sorry it wasn't completely successful. Let me know what browser you're running (and on what OS), and I'll see if I can make a suggestion that will get you into your bank.

Abi, I think it's part of the Patriot Act.

Cartledge, the cross that a user of a "real man's" operating system has to bear, eh?

Lukku, I run three...PowerBook, HP Laptop (WinXP), and a Linux server, but...then it's my job.

AZGoddess...my pleasure.
If I used one of the browser tweaks you recommended, would it become permanent or would I have to type it in the address bar each time?
Kathy, it's permanent until you change. For Firefox, this means going in and removing the field you added. For Safari, it means going into the "debug" menu and changing the user-agent back to it's original setting.

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