6.3 Firewalls

‚   ‚   ‚  

6.2 Pop-Ups and Cookies

Pop-up windows ‚ those pesky ads that "pop up" in front of Web sites everywhere ‚ are threatening to suck all the fun out of browsing the Web. Fortunately, you can employ some seriously effective pop-up exterminators to stamp them out. This section gives you a few options.

Cookies can also make waves as you surf. In the digital world, cookies are bits of data left on your hard disk by Web sites you visit, sometimes keeping track of preferences you've set up at a site, like your user name and password. But Webmasters can also use them to track your online activities in more Orwellian ways. This section explains how to manage cookies so they're under your control ‚ not somebody else's.

6.2.1 Software that Stops Pop-Ups

For all its sophistication, Internet Explorer has no built-in way to stop pop-ups. Fortunately, you can download software to catch the ads before they spring. Here are two good, free choices.

EMS Free Surfer not only kills pop-ups, but it can also shut down every open Internet Explorer window with a single click, including your main browser window, and it includes an add-in tool that cleans your system cache as well as your list of recently visited sites. You can get EMS Free Surfer at http://www.emsproject.com/FS/Support.htm.

Another option is the Google Toolbar, which adds a very handy Google search box to Internet Explorer. It includes an excellent pop-up killer. You can download the Toolbar from http://toolbar.google.com . For tips on installing and using it, see Section 7.2.1.

6.2.2 Alternative Browsers that Stop Pop-Ups

Although Internet Explorer doesn't automatically delete pop-up ads, other Web browsers include built-in pop-up killers. Netscape, Opera, Mozilla, and Firefox are all good options. (Chapter 7 is all about alternative browsers.)

  • To use Opera's pop-up killer , choose File Preferences "Refuse pop-up windows." Another choice you have in Opera is permitting pop-ups to open only in the background (behind your main browser window).

  • To tell Netscape to zap pop-ups , select Edit Preferences Privacy & Security Popup Windows, and choose "Block unrequested popup windows" (see Figure 6-3). Then click OK.

Speeding Up Your Internet Connection

Windows XP has many settings you can tweak to speed up your Internet connection, but changing all these settings yourself can eat up more time than it saves. For a quicker fix, try one of the following software downloads. (Deciding which of these programs to use to quench your thirst for faster Internet is kind of like choosing between Coke and Pepsi ‚ it's somewhat a matter of personal preference.)

Internet Turbo . This program offers a host of features for speeding up your connection, whether you use cable, DSL, or dial-up, by tweaking all kinds of hidden Registry and other settings. It can also prevent your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from disconnecting you every time your connection goes idle. ($19.95 shareware; http://www.clasys.com.)

.NETSpeedBoost . This program, similar to Internet Turbo, makes the most of your bandwidth by fine-tuning your connection settings. .NETSpeedBoost can also stop your ISP from disconnecting you, and includes a special utility that makes sure America Online doesn't sign you off. ($24.95 shareware; http://www.appwalk.com.)

  • Netscape also lets you accept pop-ups from selected sites, which is great if you often visit sites that have legitimate pop-ups, like forms you might need to fill out. From the screen shown in Figure 6-3, choose Allowed Sites and enter the address of any sites whose pop-ups you want to allow. (Some sites use pop-ups to ask your user name and password when you log in, for example; you may want to allow pop-ups on those sites.) Then click OK twice.

    Figure 6-3. You can instruct Netscape to play a sound every time it deletes one of these little pop-up critters. Check the box next to "Play a sound," and then browse to the sound you want to hear. The sounds are built into Netscape, but you can also use any sound that you have stored in a file on your hard drive.

  • To block pop-ups using Mozilla , choose Edit Preferences Advanced Scripts & Windows, and turn off "Open unrequested windows."

  • In Firefox , go to Tools Options, and click Web Features. At the top of that dialog box, make sure "Block Popup Windows" is turned on. Like Netscape, Firefox lets you accept pop-ups from some sites. In the Web Features dialog box, click Add Site, and in the little window that opens, type in the address you want to allow pop-ups for, then click OK.

6.2.3 Shooting the Windows Messenger

A new kind of obnoxious pop-up has emerged in the past year: ads that pop up even when you're not surfing the Web. These pop-ups use XP's Windows Messenger Service, which isn't related to the Windows Messenger instant messaging program. Instead, Windows Messenger Service was designed to send messages over a local area network. It lets a network administrator, for example, alert employees that a server will be down for maintenance. Hardly anyone uses it these days ‚ except resourceful spammers.

Fortunately, it's easy to turn off. At the Run box or a command prompt, type services.msc and press Enter to run the Microsoft Management Console. (To get to the Run box, choose Start Run. To get to the command prompt, choose Start Run, type command , and press Enter.) In the console, scroll down on the right-hand side until you see the entry for Messenger, and then double-click it. The screen pictured in Figure 6-4 now appears. Next to "Startup type" select Disabled and then click OK.

Figure 6-4. Turn off the Windows Messenger Service by selecting Disabled from the "Startup type" menu. Early versions of Windows XP shipped with the Messenger Service automatically turned on, but in more recent versions of XP you may find it's already killed .

To reactivate the Windows Messenger Service, follow the same path and choose Automatic as the Startup type.

Tip: If you'd prefer to use downloadable software to turn off the Messenger service, there's a free program, called Shoot the Windows Messenger, available from Gibson Research at http://grc.com/stm/shootthemessenger.htm. This program lets you turn the Windows Messenger on and off without having to navigate down into Windows' innards.

6.2.4 Crumbling Cookies

Because cookies can be used for both good and evil, Internet Explorer provides a way to block the ones you don't want to let in. In Internet Explorer choose Tools Internet Options Privacy; the screen in Figure 6-5 appears. To change how Internet Explorer handles cookies, move the slider between the various levels of privacy settings, from Accept All Cookies to Block All Cookies (see below to learn how to decode the levels). Click OK when you're done.

Figure 6-5. The slider in this dialog box lets you choose from six levels of privacy settings to indicate how you want your browser to handle cookies. If you turn off all cookies, many Web sites may not function properly, so it's best to choose a less restrictive setting.

Internet Explorer's cookie settings can be difficult to decipher. You need to know both cookie jargon and what the various settings will do. Here's the jargon low down:

  • First-party cookie . A cookie created by the site you're currently visiting. These cookies are often used by e-commerce sites like Amazon to let you log on without retyping your user name and password, or to let you customize how you use the site. First-party cookies don't usually invade your privacy and are generally considered safe.

  • Third-party cookie . A cookie created by a site other than the one you're currently visiting. Advertisers or advertising networks often use these cookies to identify you and track your surfing activities. Thus, some people consider third-party cookies invasive.

  • Compact Privacy Statement . A policy that describes how cookies are used on a site, such as explaining why and how they're used and how long they'll stay on your PC. (Some cookies are automatically deleted when you leave a Web site, while others are saved on your computer until a specified date.)

  • Implicit Consent vs. Explicit Consent . Explicit consent means you've told a particular site it can use personally identifiable information about you. (This type of consent is sometimes referred to as opting in since you usually have to choose an option that says something like "Yes, please send me marketing fluffery.") Implicit consent means you haven't told a site not to use personally identifiable information, or that you haven't opted out . Sites that use an opt-out approach sneakily present you with an already filled in "Yes, please send me marketing fluffery" box, hoping you won't notice.

Table 6-1 gives you the inside dope on the cookie settings. When making your choice, keep in mind that some sites won't function well or at all at the higher privacy settings, particularly if you choose to reject all cookies. Medium High is a decent compromise between protecting your privacy and letting Web sites offer you some personalized features (like Amazon's book recommendations).

Table 6-1. Internet Explorer's Cookie Settings and What They Mean


How the Setting Affects Cookies

Block All Cookies

Blocks all cookies, without exception.Does not allow Web sites to read existing cookies.


Blocks cookies from all Web sites that don't have a compact privacy policy.Blocks all cookies that use personally identifiable information without your explicit consent.

Medium High

Blocks third-party cookies from sites that don't have a compact privacy policy ‚ a policy that describes how cookies are used on the site. Blocks third-party cookies that use personally identifiable information without your explicit consent.Blocks first-party cookies that use personally identifiable information without your implicit consent.

Medium (Default)

Blocks third-party cookies from sites that don't have a compact privacy policy.Blocks third-party cookies that use personally identifiable information without your implicit consent.Accepts first-party cookies that use personally identifiable information without your implicit consent, but deletes them when you close Internet Explorer.


Blocks third-party cookies from sites that don't have a compact privacy policy.Accepts third-party cookies that use personally identifiable information without your implicit consent, but deletes them when you close Internet Explorer.

Accept All Cookies

Accepts all cookies, without exception.Allows Web sites to read existing cookies.

When you surf along and Internet Explorer blocks a cookie, it displays a small cookie-blocking icon in the lower-right portion of the status bar (the section at the bottom of the Internet Explorer screen), as shown in Figure 6-6.

Note: Other browsers, such as Netscape, Mozilla, Opera, and Firefox, also let you control cookies. Look for Privacy settings.

6.2.5 Custom Cookie Settings

If you don't like the pre-set levels Internet Explorer uses to handle cookies, you can customize your browser to act the way you want. For example, you can tell Internet Explorer to reject all cookies except those from certain sites, reject cookies from specific sites you identify, or reject all first-party and third-party cookies. (For details about first-party and third-party cookies, see Section 6.2.4.)

Figure 6-6. Gotcha! Whenever Internet Explorer blocks a cookie, it displays this icon in the lower-right portion of the status bar. Double-click it to see a list of all the cookies that have been blocked.

To accept or reject all cookies from a specific site, choose Tools Internet Options Privacy Edit. The "Per Site Privacy Actions" dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 6-7. Type the name of the site you want to accept or block cookies from, and click either "Block" or "Allow." Now click OK.

Figure 6-7. The "Per Site Privacy Actions" dialog box lets you block or allow cookies from specific sites. Keep in mind that if you block a site from using cookies, you may not be able to customize how the site works for you.

To customize how you handle first-party and third-party cookies, choose Tools Internet Options Privacy Advanced. Turn on the "Override automatic cookie handling" box, as shown in Figure 6-8. You can accept or reject all first-party or third-party cookies, or instruct Explorer to ask you whether to accept them (the "Prompt" option).

Figure 6-8. The Advanced Privacy Settings dialog box lets you override how Internet Explorer handles cookies. You can also decide to allow "session cookies" ‚ cookies that last only as long as you're on a specific Web site. These cookies are then deleted once you leave the site.

6.2.6 Share Your Cookies

While cookies can invade your privacy, they can also be helpful. For example, they can log you into Web sites automatically and customize the way you use and view some sites. So when you buy a new PC, why re-enter all the settings that you've saved in your existing cookie preferences? Instead, you can export your cookies to your new computer with just a few quick steps.

To export or back up cookies in Internet Explorer, choose File Import and Export. The Import/Export Wizard opens. Choose "Export Cookies" and click Next. Browse to the folder or drive you want to export your cookies to, then click Next and Finish. The wizard exports your cookies to a single text file.

To transfer your cookies to another computer, you must import the file you just exported. On the other PC, launch Internet Explorer's Import/Export Wizard, choose "Import Cookies," and follow the wizard's directions to browse to the location where you saved the cookie file. Then click Finish.

Tip: You can also export your cookies and back them up for safekeeping in case you accidentally delete ones that contain useful information.

6.2.7 Examining and Deleting Cookies

If you have the time ‚ and patience ‚ you can examine every cookie on your system in order to decide which ones you want to delete. Since Internet Explorer stores each cookie as an individual text file, you can read and delete those text files like any other file on your PC.

To look inside your cookie jar, open Windows Explorer and go to My Computer Documents and Settings [Your Name] Cookies. (Your Name refers here to your Windows XP account name.) XP displays a list of individual cookies in a format like this:

 your name@abcnews.com[1].txt 

Not every cookie file name follows this exact format, however. For instance, you may not see your name, and the Web site that created the cookie might not be identified either. Each cookie's creator typically appears after the @ sign, but sometimes only a number appears. If the Web site isn't identified in the file name, then opening the cookie file will sometimes reveal the site's name in the first line or two of the cookie. (Open it simply by double-clicking it in Windows Explorer.)

If you want to delete a cookie, delete it in Windows Explorer as you would any other file.

Figure 6-9. When you open Windows Explorer and view your cookie list, you may be amazed at the number of cookies on your hard disk.

6.2.8 Managing Cookies with Add-On Software

If your cookie management needs are really complex, you may want to use a program specifically designed to deal with these morsels. Cookie Pal, available from Kookaburra Software (http://www.kburra.com), is one really good option.

Cookie Pal lets you easily identify the sites you want to accept cookies from, and also includes a cookie manager that lets you read and delete cookies. Furthermore, it lets you accept or reject cookies on a case-by-case basis as you browse the Web. Cookie Pal is shareware and free to try, but if you plan on using it continuously, it'll cost you $15.

6.2.9 Keeping Advertisers Away from Your Cookies

Online ad networks can build a comprehensive profile of all your Web travels and personal interests simply by placing a single cookie on your computer that tracks you across multiple sites. If that prospect troubles you, you can fight back by opting out of some of the biggest ad networks. (Opting out means declaring that you don't want them tracking your activities.) When you opt out, the network places a special cookie on your hard disk that tells various sites not to track what you're doing.

To opt out of the DoubleClick online advertising network ‚ one of the biggest on the Web ‚ visit http://www.doubleclick.com/us/corporate/privacy/privacy/ad-cookie and click the "Ad Cookie Opt-Out" button.

Some other advertising networks let you opt out as well. For details, go to http://www.networkadvertising.org/optout_nonppii.asp and follow the instructions listed.

Windows XP Power Hound
Windows XP Power Hound: Teach Yourself New Tricks
ISBN: 0596006195
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 119

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