Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

How To Block Websites

Preventing access to websites is called “blacklisting”. (Parents, take note.)

In yesterday’s article, I mentioned that I was going to boycott any website that started showing me image advertising – just won’t go there no more – and I used the Geekspeak word ‘blacklist’. Which prompted a few letters asking how that was done. Today I will show you how it’s done.. and I’ll try to keep the Geekspeak to the very minimum.

acl If you should decide that you want to block access (called “access control”) to websites you do not approve of, or think may be dangerous to you and/or your family, (and yes, there’s plenty of those) there are several strategies and methods — which you choose will probably be decided by how many websites you wish to block and for how many machines.

Simplest first: The web browser.
Say I just wanted to make sure my own, one machine, here, (or perhaps my child’s) never went to MSNBC, regardless of what I accidentally clicked or Googled (or perhaps I discovered a website that tried to do a “driveby” virus download) – I could add that site to my browser’s Do Not Go There list.

In Internet Explorer:

  • Click Tools, and then Internet Options
  • Next click on the Security tab
  • Now click on the red-circle icon for Restricted sites
  • Click the Sites button

IErestrict1

[Notice that the URL for the web page you are currently on is – by default – filling the “Add this site” pane… Which is fine if you happened to be on the site you want to block; but you may (probably) want to manually type in URL for the website. You can add more than one – just separate the URL’s by comma+a space.]

  • Click the Add button. You will now see the URL(s) listed in the blocked Websites list pane. (You can add as many sites as you want.)
    If you make a mistake, click on the list entry, and then the Remove button.
  • Click Close to close that window, then OK to close Internet Options. You’re done.

Other Web browsers can work much the same way (though may use slightly different wording) though my preferred “alternative browser”, Firefox, needs an Add on for this (called Blocksite).

A better way: In the “home computing” environment, it was assumed that it would mostly be parents – wanting to prevent their children from visiting “mature” websites – who would desire to block (blacklist) Internet access. Because of this, most ‘Internet access control’ tools can be found under Parental Controls though, obviously, you do not need to be a parent to take advantage of it.

A good place to get started learning about enabling Parental Controls (to block websites) in Windows is here, Set up Parental Controls (and a brief video can be seen here); and on an Apple Mac, here.

Better yet: The best place to block Internet access is at the front door.. which in computer land is the device known as the “router” (or “wireless router”, or “WAP”), if you have one. Here you can block access by machine, time of day, and more.

This screenshot shows me blocking the website MySpace on a Linksys router, as well as by some “adult” keywords. It is taken from my step-by-step How To article here, Protecting your network–use your router for access control.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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June 23, 2011 Posted by | browsers, computers, Firefox, firewall, how to, IE 7, ie 8, IE 9, Internet, PC, security | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Image Advertising – version 1.0

Web ads’ final frontier

I have been sitting on today’s topic for almost ten days now, because I have been giving myself time to “cool off”. (Because I cannot post an article here using the language I want to use, and say the things I want to say.) It all started with an article I came across in the business section of our ‘big city’ newspaper. It starts out,

“For years, advertisers have complained about “banner blindness,” Internet surfers’ tendency to browse sites without noticing the rectangular ads on the periphery of most Web pages. And most browsers excel at blocking the pop-up and “pop-under” ads that advertisers have relied on for more than a decade.”

And, like much of what you read in the rags, that’s partly true — advertisers have been complaining about p-ing away their dollars on Internet ads. But it is us, the “consumers”, who go to great lengths to block the [expletive deleted] *crud* from our screens (and buy a TiVo so we can ‘skip over’ broadcast ads). The reason I do not use Internet Explorer 9 is because there is no really effective way for me to block ads with it. (If some folks get their way, ad blocking software will become illegal.)

Banner ads don’t work, annoy (anger, even) the viewer, but, Man, being the freakin’ genius that he is — “For all the difficulties that companies face in reaching consumers on the Web, online advertising keeps growing. U.S. companies spent $26 billion on digital ads in 2010, 15 percent more than they did in 2009, according to a study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Yeah. It doesn’t work, so pour more money on it.
That’ll fix it.

Okay, so, there’s going to be a new kind of ad, ads placed in Web photos, and the hope is, this new type will work, and we’ll buy more stuff (Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!).

“Now some of the nation’s largest publishers are starting to sell ad space in what may be the final frontier of digital advertising: the trillions of images displayed across the Internet. If startups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have their way, it will soon be commonplace to mouse over an image and find advertising, e-commerce or other information contained within them.”

Early versions of this exist.

“Mouse over an image of a denim shirt-clad Sean Penn on MSNBC.com and a pop-up image will suggest a similar, less expensive shirt. Click the image and you can buy the shirt.”

I simply cannot print my reaction to that sentence; but I will say, I do NOT want that “feature” on my Internet. And I will say that it gives hackers another way to attack your machine. I will further say that if I find a website doing this, I will take pains never to visit it again (MSNBC is now blacklisted). And companies that elect to advertise this way, I will take great pains to ensure I never purchase their product/service. (My rebellion.)

The entire article is here. I do suggest you put on your thinking cap and read it.

Related: Good-bye YouTube. Enjoy Your Ads.

Today’s free download: I don’t actually see all that many ads when I surf the Internet because I use ad-blocking software/tools. (Don’t worry all you businesses running ads, I never buy stuff because you ran an ad anyway. Usually I boycott you because I detest ads so much).
Firefox: I use the plug-ins (“Add ons”) AdBlock Plus, NoScript, OptimizeGoogle, and FlashBlock
Internet Explorer: I download and install SelectView

There are other products available for you to choose from, both free and for-pay.

I hope people wake up soon.. or this vile and ugly scene is our future..

hong-kong-advertising
Because some *people* think it works…

Think I’m ‘off base’?

For those of you who actually read down this far.. I will say that “tar and feather and run out of town” was the mildest phrase I chose not to print.
I guess this is a “pet peeve”..

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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June 22, 2011 Posted by | Internet, News | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fix Missing Volume Control*

Tech Paul’s Fix for When Clock, Volume, Battery Power or Network Icons are Missing and/or Grayed Out in Windows Vista

Sometimes, unexpected (and unwanted) changes can happen to our computers that we professional repair technicians call ‘glitches’. You install some new program, and some other program you have stops working, for example. Or you uninstall a CD burning program, and find your DVD-RW is now missing. The wonderful world of PC’s! (See, Restore A Missing CD Drive*)

As a tech, solving ‘glitches’ is my game (it’s what I do), and over the years I have seen a few. One such ‘glitch’ I used to see occasionally in XP, and fairly routinely in Vista, is the “missing volume control” (or “network connection”) icon, which is a handy way to control your sound level.

Today, I will tell you the fix that not only restores the missing icon, but keeps it there.

Better still — I won’t have you mucking around in the Registry.

Simple ones first

Fix It #1) Press Ctrl+D to bookmark this page and Reboot (restart).
Make sure this isn’t a “temp glitch”. 9 times out of 10 restarting your computer solves your ‘glitch’. If you have already tried that, keep reading.

Fix It #2) Normally you can re-enable the icons by right-clicking on the Taskbar, choosing Properties and going to the Notification Area tab — place checks in the checkboxes for the icons you want displayed.
If you already tried that, or the checkboxes are “grayed out”, keep reading.

Fix It #3) Restart explorer.exe

  • Open Task Manager (Ctrl+Shft+Esc)
  • Click the Processes tab
  • Find explorer.exe in the list and click on it (turn it blue), then click “End process” button
  • Restart it. Click File > New Task(Run…) then type in explorer.exe and hit Enter

Alternative: Open Control Panel > Taskbar and Start Menu — place checks in the checkboxes for the icons you want displayed.

Now Let’s Keep The Glitch Gone!

If this problem keeps recurring:

  • Open Control Panel >Sound
  • Double-click on your “Playback device” (aka “speaker”)
  • Click on the Advanced tab
  • Un-check “Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device”

Click “Apply” and then OK.

Okay. That’s it. Your missing icon should be back in its proper place in the Notification Area and should stay there.

Note: When I am called upon to fix this particular problem, I usually (like, 99% of the time) find that the person’s machine is not up-to-date with all the Windows Updates – usually a missing Service Pack. I do not know that there is a direct cause > effect there.. But.
Fact: you want Updates. Install them PLEASE. Pretty please with sugar on top? (See, What’s With All These Updates?!*)

Today’s free download: iMapMyRun (health and fitness app) makes running fun and easy, turning your smart phone into a social training partner while tracking your pace, distance, and route using GPS.With 2.5 million users, you’ll definitely be able to find your friend and connect and motivate via this app.
Apps available for Apple, Blackberry, and Android devices.

Today’s reading reco(s):

Today’s quotable quote:Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.”  ~ Bruce Barton

* Orig post: 4/22/11

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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June 21, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, software, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

7 Practices for Computer and Internet Security

Folks, computer security and Internet safety are themes here. Why? Because we are in the midst of the largest transfer of wealth by theft in our history, thanks to the most under-reported threat to our way of life ever — cybercrime (losses are measured in billions [some say trillions] per year, and the victims [you and I] in the thousands each and every day).

Sadly – installing an “Internet Security Suite” is only one of the things a computer owner should do. We must also exercise a certain “paranoid common sense”, and educate ourselves. Who has time for that? Well, unless you want to be a victim, I suggest you make time. Surely you have the 10 minutes it takes to click the seven links I have provided (in the right hand column). Each is a very short “basic lesson” provided – free – by experts.

Safety TOPICS

7 Practices for Computer Security

  1.  Protect your personal information. It’s valuable.
  2.  Know who you’re dealing with.
  3.  Use security software that updates automatically.
  4.  Keep your operating system and Web browser up-to-date, and learn about their security features.
  5.  Keep your passwords safe, secure, and strong.
  6.  Back up important files.
  7.  Learn what to do in an e-mergency.

I would also ask you to bookmark this page, and when time allows, returning and learn even more by clicking links in the left-hand column.

Be a hero, and send this article to your less-savvy friends and loved ones.

This information is not just for Geeks and computer nerds. If you get on the Internet at all (even, “just to check email”) you need to be aware of this stuff. (Or be very, very sorry. Your choice.)

… Even more sadly: I suspect this posting is going to set a personal record for lack of reads.. (You can lead a horse to water..)

Today’s quotable quote:Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”  ~ Anaïs Nin

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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June 20, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, cyber crime, Internet, Internet scam, security | , , , | 4 Comments

Another Netflix Outage

It seems Netflix is totally offline here (SF Bay penninsula) @ 7:45pm

Another outage. Cloud computing is great.

When it works.

June 19, 2011 Posted by | computers | , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Beauty #46

Another pretty picture for your Sunday…

Click on image to see more by this artist

“Ah, Yosemite” by Emily Stanchfield, courtesy of Flickr Commons.

Bonus: Sunday Beauty #46b. Thanks to a certain somebody (you know who you are) I once again have this on my mind…

Click on image to see more by this artist

“Fly Fishing on the Metolius River” by Roy Scribner, courtesy of Flickr Commons.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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June 19, 2011 Posted by | Digital Images | 2 Comments

How To Restore The Menu Bar In Vista And Windows 7

In older versions of Windows, the menu bar was always visible in Explorer. In Vista and Windows 7 the menu bar is now hidden by default, and you must press the ALT key to see it. These simple steps will cause it to always be visible.
(The “menu bar” gives you the familiar File | Edit | View |Tools | Help ‘drop down’ menus)

1) Launch Explorer by opening Computer (or Documents, or Pictures..), then press ALT to access the menu bar.

2) Click on Tools and then on Folder options.

3) In the Folder Options window, click on the View tab, and click to place a check in Always show menus.

menus

4) Click on Apply and then OK.

That’s it. You’re done. (Should you decide you prefer the “more screen real estate” no menu bar look, simply repeat the steps and un-check the box.)

Today’s quotable quote:Action without study is fatal. Study without action is futile.” ~ Mary Beard

Today’s free download: (an “oldie but a goodie”) It has been a while since I have mentioned one of my fave little computer protection apps – WinPatrol.

Clean up your Taskbar, ActiveX, Brower and Startup programs. WinPatrol monitors and exposes adware, keyloggers, spyware, worms, cookies, and other malicious software. This program puts you back in control of your computer with no need for constant updates.
Download WinPatrol 20.5.2011 (Window XP, Vista, Windows 7 including x64 support)

Have a great weekend everybody!

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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June 18, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment