Fed up of using your computer? Browsing the internet used to be a pleasure, but now it irritates and frustrates you? Popup adverts, spam emails, weird message boxes. When will it end?
As computers have become more popular, unscrupulous people have tried to exploit them in antisocial ways. The real world equivalent to this would be someone spray painting an advertising slogan onto someone else's shop window. Just as in the real world, the law will get stronger, but that will take time. Just as in the real world, you can help protect yourself now.
Five things you can do to make your computer experience a pleasure again.
Follow these instrucitons. A vital tonic in a garish world.
Sometimes when you install an unfriendly piece of software, it secretly installs "spyware" alongside. This noxious stuff pops up windows with advertisements even when you're not using the internet. It can track what you are doing and violate your privacy.
To remove spyware, download and install special spyware removal software. Either Spybot or Ad-aware will do the trick, and both are free.
Have you had message dialogs repeatedly appear, all containing gross text adverts? Windows has a feature to let network administrators send messages to other machines on the network. This is only of use inside a company office, but by default it is enabled so anyone can send you a message across the internet. Crazy!
To disable it, you can install a firewall. That's a bit of software that stops anything on your computer sending or receiving data from the internet without your permission. Try the free version of Zone Alarm, or check out this list of free firewalls.
Web pages can open new windows containing adverts. Sometimes these pop up in front of the web page. Sometimes they appear behind, so you don't see them until you close the web browser. These pesky things interfere with how you browse, making you repeatedly have to perform a fiddly mouse action to close the windows.
To remove them, it's easiest to upgrade your browser — click the Firefox button below.
Alternatively try the browsers Opera or Safari (Safari is Mac only).
The adverts inside web sites animate, flash and distract. Wouldn't it be nice to get rid of them? They are not unethical like the other nasties on this page. Indeed, some consider it stealing from the site's ad revenue to block them. Others either don't believe in the need for such self sacrifice, object to adverts in principle, or say that since they never click on them anyway no revenue is lost. You decide.
Here's a simple way to remove particular adverts that annoy you. Install Firefox, then right click on the adverts and choose "Block images from...". Or try the fancy Adblock extension for Firefox. You can download Firefox here.
For more sophisticated and automatic advert removal, install some web filtering software. This sits between your browser and the internet, detects the advertsing images and eliminates them. There is a full list of all advert blocking software elsewhere on my website.
Email used to be an enjoyable form of communication. But now your inbox is full of unsavoury adverts. There is a whole immoral industry of so called "spammers", who gather as many email addresses as they can and send these messages out in bulk.
To remove them, the best way at the moment is to run a spam filter. This is most easily done by your ISP. Ask them if they run Spam Assassin, or if they could do so. Alternatively, you can install a filter on your own machine - try SpamPal, or use the filter built into the Thunderbird email application. In the medium term, spam needs to be stopped by law. You could help this by lobbying your local politicians for better anti-spam legislation.
Send me a mail to let me know how you got on.
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