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Saturday, 20 October, 2018
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The Web and Advertisers

Date: 15 March, 2008

By: Chief

Imagelove surfing the web. I really do. I don't buy or subscribe to a newspaper and haven't for many years. I start my day out by reading several on-line papers — the BBC, Drudge and even Pravda. It is a great way to get the news and, as you can tell, from a wide variety of sources.

The singular thing I have come to hate about the web is advertisements. Banner ads. Splash ads. Flash ads. Ads run using Java or Java script. The bloody things are awfully annoying and some of them will lock up a browser, courtesy of terribly poor programming. Text box ads are bad enough but at least they are fairly easy to ignore. The others are not.

But what can you do about it? Can you, a mere user, actually do anything about it? Why yes, yes friends and neighbors, you can.

Fight back

Yeah, fight back but use guerrilla warfare instead of a full fledged frontal assault. In other words — be sneaky.

The reason for being sneaky is not to give the offending web site a way to launch a counter attack. Some sites, if they come to realize their ads are being blocked, will just block the specific browser that is blocking their hideous ads. So every user of a specific browser is blocked from that specific site. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me but it isn't my site so I really don't care if those particular web site owners desire to, and do, cut off their noses to spite their faces.

The first thing you can do is to use a real web browser such as Opera or Firefox (Ice Weasel for Debian users). This is no problem for folks who use free software instead of the propriety crap sold by Crapple or Micro$cum. But it is critical to change to either of the two listed browsers for those of you who for reasons unknown continue to use proprietary crap. Because once you do you shall be able to take advantage of features either contained in the browser software or easily download the necessary plug-in to begin enjoying the web again — sans advertising.

Firefox has a plug-in Adblock Plus for its browser and let me tell you it works more so plenty too gooder and — here is the biggie — it is easy, very easy to install and use. I have been running it for a couple of years and have never, as in ever, had a problem with it or the browser.

Opera has an ad-blocking system built into the browser — just right click (with your mouse) and then select "block content" from the menu. If you are trying to block just a specific ad then right mouse, shift and block content. There you go — ad free surfing. Ain't that loverly? It sure is.

There is however another way. A more sneaky, insidious and bullet proof way to block annoying (aren't they all?) ads. I'm not talking anything James Bond-ish either. You can read all about it on Wikipedia.

The hosts file

The "hosts" file is the 'Holy Grail' of ad blocking if you will. It does nothing more or less than map IP addresses to host names. Here is an example:

(IP address) 63.161.169.137    (host name) whitehouse.gov

To put it another way the IP address 63.161.169.137 or whitehouse.gov are precisely the same thing or same address. You can type the IP address into your web browser, press the "Enter" key and you will end up at the White house web site.

Now the key issue with the "hosts" file is that it is located to your machine. Whatever is contained within the "hosts" file overrides the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS).

Okay, so what does all that technical-eze mean to you — Joe web surfer? If means that if you modify your very own "hosts" file you can block ads from appearing on any web site you visit — if those ads are hosted from the same advertisement hosting company such as doubleclick or adgardner.

Here is how you do it:

127.0.0.1  harvest.AdGardener.com
127.0.0.1  ads.cnn.com

And there you have it. The next time you visit The Drudge Report or CNN you won't see any ads. Period.

There are some sites which use a java script to call up the address of the advertisement or advertising domain site. In a case such as that you may have to look at the web page source code. Yeah, it is a royal pain in the butt, but to me it is worth it. Here are a couple of examples (taken from my "hosts" file):

127.0.0.1  seattlepi.nwsource.com/ak/ads/mjx1.js
127.0.0.1  seattlepi.nwsource.com/ak/ads/mjx2.js

Let me quickly explain the 127.0.0.1 IP address. That specific address is for your local machine. Hence when a web site that does have advertising attempts to query the DNS in order to put the ad on your browser it can't because the "hosts" file overrides the DNS query. An additional benefit is faster load times. To me it is a win-win situation.

There are some web sites that have a modified "hosts" file available for download or as text which you can simply copy and paste into your existing "hosts" file. I do mine on a site-by-site basis. But the choice is up to you.

Here are a couple of sites with modified "hosts" files:

The web belongs to We the People so why not enjoy it? I do.

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