Adblock Plus Extension for Firefox

Adblock Plus is an indispensable extension for anybody who finds flashing ads distracting.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against ads in general, they pay the bills for a great number of the web sites that you and I get to enjoy for no cost to us at all. But, unfortunately, some folks feel that their ads really need to get in your face in order to be effective. You know the ones I’m talking about, you’re trying to read an article and the sidebar has a banner that is alternately flashing Red and Black and is so gaudy that you put your hand up to block the ad so you can actually see the content.

Some folks try to block all ads from showing up on their browser. I’m a moderate in this sense, I only block ads that are truly annoying. If something is flashing at me and continues to flash, I simply right click on it and chose “Adblock Image”. A customization box comes up that defaults to adblocking the exact image that is currently bothering me. This can be modified with wildcard characters if I choose to block everything from the the same domain/folder or even anything from the same domain (most ads are sourced from a domain other than the one you are visiting). I seldom will block an entire domain unless I am finding that there are a LOT of ads sourced from them that are interfering with my browsing experience.

Similarly, for flash content, I have Adblock Plus configured to show “Obj-Tabs” which show up as a little tab with the word “Adblock” in it associated with flash animations. If a flash animation is in an endless loop after I’ve seen it once or twice I will left-click on it and then click OK to remove it.

In both cases above, the area the image / flash occupied is simply blanked so that the web page formatting is not distorted. The items are blocked permanently so they won’t show up if you refresh the screen.

Again, my philosophy is that ads can be a good thing. They are a fair way for site providers to try to profit from their efforts to provide content that you obviously find useful (why else would you be surfing there?). So I don’t advocate wholesale blocking of all ads. But it is great to have a tool to get rid of tasteless and annoying ads when you get tired of them.

Now I’m looking for a way to block those “Walk-on” ads that come up and wander across the screen after the web page has loaded. My greatest issue with them is that I am never 100% confident that clicking the “Close” button will legitimate close the ad but may actually execute some other code (install software?) that I really don’t want on my computer. And, of course, they are now wandering in front of the text I am trying to read.


Get Firefox!

I use the FireFox browser, maintained by the Mozilla Foundation.

I don’t use it because it’s any faster than the beleaguered Internet Explorer (IE), nor do I use it for its touted security features. I use it because the tabbed browsing experience is VERY appealing to me. That and the plethora of extensions available for this browser makes it a superior browsing platform. I’ll mention the various extensions that I find useful in future postings, but for those of you that fear using Firefox because you know that there are some websites that just won’t work without Internet Explorer I want to mention the “IE View” extension.

This extension adds an entry to your context menu (right-click on your web page to see your current context menu) that allows you to “View this page in IE”. If you find your web page is complaining that you are not using IE or perhaps is not acting the way you think it should, then clicking this context menu item quickly quickly launches IE using the current URL.

The vast majority of web sites work fine under Firefox. Customizing your web browsing experience so that your browser has installed only those features that you use certainly makes for a leaner browser. For myself, I’ve added enough extensions that it now takes about the same amount of time to launch Firefox as it does to launch IE. But the Firefox browser is orders of magnitude more useful to me and the way I like to surf.

Active Words

I’m currently test driving ActiveWords and have to say that I’m impressed so far. The premise initially sounded a little shaky but as I keep working I find more and more uses for it.

I like the fact that I now have an easily configurable word corrector that is active in every application. So I only need to maintain the one set of words. I’m talking about capitalizing proper nouns, correcting dyslexic typing, removing double caps at the beginning of words.

I can also assign short forms to things like “adr” which will expand into my street address or “mp” which will expand into my general email address.

You can even go so far as to create entire macros that will pull windows to the fore and then perform actions against them. A great time saver if you have some repetitive tasks. For me – I don’t like all my apps starting up at once when I (infrequently) reboot the machine. Often if I reboot it’s because I’m troubleshooting or focused on doing something specific. So I have a macro called “Start” that will sequentially initiate (and manipulate) all the applications that I like to have running when I’m ready to have them run.

DirecTV TIVO 30 second skip gone?

*Update 11/21/2005* OK, I don’t know what is different today but trying to apply the TIVO 30 second skip hack works just fine now. I must have attempted to apply it a half dozen times on Saturday and now, *presto*, it works like a charm. I guess it was a false alarm.

I still mean what I say below about making the ads more enticing…
*End Update*

Hey, has anybody else noticed that the 30 second skip is no longer working for DirecTV’s TIVO? I use it all the time to jump past the less imaginative commercials. Now I find that it just suddenly stopped working. As near as I can figure, it seems like it disappeared sometime between November 17 and November 19. 🙁

I don’t see anything about this on the DirecTV site but I’ve sent them an email to ask them to confirm that this is so.

I’m not sure why we have to have this constant battle between advertisers and viewers. Surely it’s obvious that the reason folks don’t watch most TV commercials is that they are dreck.
The existence of TV programs dedicated to airing amusing or well done ads proves that folks are willing to watch them if they are entertaining.

The solution lies not in forcing folks to watch terrible ads, but rather to produce ads that folks are willing to watch. I personally will rewind and watch an ad if it looks like it was interesting or clever. And I will quickly skip past one that is not. It ain’t rocket science to figure out the solution here.

And given the ability of TIVO (and I’m sure other DVR / PVR solutions) to discern what exactly it is that you are viewing (this was highlighted in the Janet Jackson boob debacle) it certainly is not a stretch to believe that advertisers can find out what kinds of ads we are willing to watch and tailor their content to meet our tastes…

Dual Monitors

A while ago I decided to add a second monitor to my system. It was MUCH easier than I thought. I couldn’t use the video adapter built into my motherboard for this, but I *could* pick up a card that had two outputs (in this case a digital and an analog) and then direct each output to a separate monitor. Extending the desktop in XP is trivial.

Then I decided I wanted one of the monitors to read like a sheet of paper. But it wasn’t one of your “new fandangled” ones that can sense its orientation so I picked up a wonderful piece of software called Pivot Pro that allows me to rotate my screen(s) as I see fit. I have has no real issues with it except that PowerPoint presentations insist on displaying on my secondary monitor (the rotated one) and for some reason they insist on ignoring my Pivot Pro settings.

I suspect there is a way to force PowerPoint to behave, but honestly, it’s not that big a deal for me.

Here’s what it looks like: