Howdy to all and a big old “Welcome Back” to this edition of The Weekly Geek. This week I want to cover those pesky pop-up ads, or in our case removing and stopping them, not just cover them up.
Pop-up ads along with pop-under ads are a thing of the past when it comes to the technology used to create and install or run them. These ads range from pesky cruise line solicitations to sexual stimulation or enhancements. As a rule of thumb this type of advertising comes from the same people that brought you SPAM (unsolicited unwanted e-mail). Before we get to far, there are legitimate forms of pop-ups, some are satisfaction surveys others occur when you click on a web page link and it pops up a new web page. Some are forms that web sites or their advertisers want you to fill out while others are pure nuisance ads.
Let me begin by stating one fact. NEVER RESPOND TO A POP UP AD! Do not buy anything or send a request to be removed. Especially if the ad looks like an official warning. There are a couple of ads that specifically pray on your fears. With titles or statements like “Your computer is vulnerable”, “Warning 1,234 spyware programs have been found on your computer” or even “You have been exposed”, yeah, I have been exposed, to those crappy ads. These are lies preying on you and trying to make your system vulnerable to even more problems by installing their spyware, malware or crapware.
If you have ads appearing even when you are not on the internet then you have been exploited by a security hole. Go to my top computer security tips and follow them. I strongly urge you to check out the columns in this web site about Viruses, Firewalls, SPAM and Microsoft Updates. In this article I am only covering the how to on stopping or at least minimizing pop up/under ads.
Pop up blocking has come a long way since its inception. Originally all pop up ads were the same size so the original pop up blocking programs kept an eye out for anything in our browser that size. If something “appeared” then the pop up stopping program simply turned it off. In reaction to this advertisers began using different size ads.
Today it would seem that virtually every “add-on” tool bar has some form of pop up blocker, some work part of the time, some work most of the time but none work PROPERLY all of the time. The problem with tool bars is you have to endure the loss of more screen space while traveling the internet. Yahoo and Google are two of the most well known add-on tool bars that purport pop up add stopping power and many of you already use them. My question is ‘Why?’ I mean do you really use the “features” that the tool bar provides such an instant internet searching or the auto-fill options? Most of the time you have another way of doing these things. Also these tool bars are used to track you. No matter how the creators try to word their license agreements, tracking you is tracking you is tracking you, and I believe that being STALKED is wrong.
I am not saying the add-on bars for Yahoo or Google are good or bad just inherently not needed. Other add-on tool bars are totally spyware. They not only have no use but are potential system instability causing problems (slow computer, slow internet, BSOD [Blue Screen of Death] and so much more. Because of this I strongly suggest third party programs that run in the background just like your anti-virus and firewall programs not add-on programs.
Anti-pop up programs range from no cost (free) to about $25. Since I am a cheapskate I have reviewed several of the free products only. There are many computer magazines that have reviewed the products that cost money but I have found no reason the pay versions are better.
The thing to look for in a pop up stopping program is ease of use and flexibility. Pop up Stopper blocks everything that tries to open except the original browser window that you opened. The problem is that many web sites try to legitimately open new windows. This web site for example (TheWeeklyGeek.com) opens new windows when you click on a link that refers to another web site. Pop Up Stopper prevents this from happening thus you might think this site does not work. To give the creators of Pop Up Stopper credit, the icon in the system tray (lower right corner of you screen with the time in it) does flash and if you have speakers on then a tone (beep?) is sent to them. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been called to fix a computer that is not working in the internet and this type of program is running. What happens is that you then shut off the ad blocking program and never get the benefits of the ad blocking.
I prefer a database driven blocker. No-Ads by South Bay Software is such a tool. It has a database of known ads and you can add to that list. When a pop up ad occurs that is in the database, the program simply prevents it from showing on the screen. If the ad is not in the list (and thus appears) you simply open the No Ads program, select the ad from the list of open items in your computer and “add to targets” (the database). Then “poof” the ad is gone forevermore.
Some browsers come with ad blocking utilities. Mozilla and Opera are two of the most common and do a good job. I use both of these browsers (along with Internet Explorer) on different machines and I do use their ad stopping abilities, I also do use No Ads on those same computers at the same time for the extra protection.
So go forth and search, find an pop up stopping program that suits your needs, research it (just in case it is junk) install it and use it. Until we meet again have an ad free week.