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[P]
JunkBuster GUI - empowering or dumbing down?

By Dangermouse in News
Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:14:45 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

For a while, I've been using the JunkBuster proxy to block advertising and similar junk while browsing the web, and to control cookies. I'm now considering writing a GUI front end (in Visual BASIC 6.0) for JunkBuster, including a complete (l)user-friendly installation process, a selection of default .INIs, and easy GUI-based customisation.

My question is, is this the right thing to do? If all goes well, I'd be allowing the differently clued to use a powerful, Free utility. However, I'll also be contributing (perhaps trivially) to the general dumbing-down of software to cater to the lowest common denominator.


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comments (24)
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One of the most frustrating aspects of my current job is dealing with people with no understanding computer software. The kind of people who don't understand what a directory is. The kind who write their passwords on post-it notes then stick them to the keyboard.

By writing software like this, I fear that I will be contributing to the problem. If people need a GUI to a program like JunkBuster, isn't that really a problem of theirs, rather than the software? Shouldn't I be encouraging education, rather than nursemaiding?

OTOH, I have an intense dislike of the current commercialism of the WWW, and the predatory behaviour of some unscrupulous advertising companies. This GUI would enable novice users to use JunkBuster to avoid the worst of this behaviour. But, is it worth it? Wouldn't the IT community be better off with people sufficiently educated to do this kind of stuff themselves? I mean, using a text editor to configure a program isn't exactly rocket science.


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Display: Sort:
JunkBuster GUI - empowering or dumbing down? | 77 comments (73 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
Write it (5.00 / 2) (#1)
by Eimi on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 08:39:05 PM EST

It's been mentioned a lot before, but there is a difference between stupidity and ignorance. I don't think your program would contribute to stupidity, and I don't think this is something most users really NEED to learn how to do. If you really care about it, then make it an educational program to use. For instance, it could be pretty explicit about what it's doing, and invite users to interact...show the pattern any time an url is added, and have editing the appropriate config file just one click away.

Re: Write it (none / 0) (#3)
by ramses0 on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 09:56:12 PM EST

There was an article recently (maybe at /.) that talked about bastille linux, there was an interview with the originators. In a nutshell Bastille Linux (actually Bastille GNU/Linux to be correct) is a set of scripts that will take a default RedHat install and tighten up all kinds of security issues.

From reading about it, it severely reduces functionality of some programs, and generally makes your system a -little- more difficult/unfriendly to use, but it educates the user installing the software. Before performing any action at all, the user is presented with the reason why the change will be made, what effects it will have on the remainder of the system, and is supposedly really educational to use.

This is the kind of product that is really useful- but it's more about writing a lot of documentation moreso than writing a lot of code. Something like a big red button that says: NO ADS!, but with a little blue button that says "click here to learn more". List out all the steps that you're making Junkbuster take, and then explain each step if the user clicks on it.

The programming is not too bad, but the documentation could get really boring.

You're never going to force people to learn who only want that big red button, but if there's somebody that cares about it, there should be a way for them to learn about what's happening to their system.

-Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Write it (none / 0) (#5)
by Eimi on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 10:40:29 PM EST

Bastille is a good example, yes. Very good descriptions of the measures it was going to take. One thing that I wish, tho, is that for each action it would also tell me *exactly* what it was doing. For instance, it allows one to require a root password for single user mode, but you have to delve into the source to see what config file it's changing, and how, to effect that.

[ Parent ]
Why VB? (3.00 / 2) (#4)
by forrest on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 10:10:58 PM EST

I guess if you're aiming your program at technically-impaired Win%@#$ users, it might be a bit much to ask them to install Perl or Python, but then again, you're asking them to install JunkBuster, and with the typical size of a Windows program install, they wouldn't bat an eye at installing one of those interpreters (as long as the process was automated for them).

With Perl or Python (and Tk) you could write a tool that could be used by Linuxers as well. I'm very familiar with the Junkbuster file formats, but I (a Linux user) would probably use a GUI tool if it was actually sensibly designed. I usually only meddle with my blockfile when an ad is annoying enough to raise my ire, but if it were easier, I'd probably block a lot more.

Of course you probably know VB, so that's why you want to use it ... that's a good reason, I suppose. Writing it in VB beats not writing it at all.



Re: Why VB? (none / 0) (#11)
by Dangermouse on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 11:02:18 PM EST

Speed of development really. I don't have much free time, and am not familiar with any RAD tools for Linux. I don't know VB *that* well (last used 3.0 many moons ago), but it *is* quick and easy.

Also, at this stage, I see most Linux users as being sufficiently clueful to be able to install and configure JunkBuster in its current form. Of course, a user-friendly port to Linux would be nice, and could possibly encourage more people to implement <asbestos_suit>Linux on the desktop</asbestos_suit>.

I've never done any GUI development in Linux; what kind of learning curve is involved, and what tools do you recommend?


-----
No one has "Rights", neither machines nor flesh-and-blood. Persons...have opportunities, not rights, which they do or do not use. - Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
Re: Why VB? (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by skeezix on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 01:10:17 AM EST

I've never done any GUI development in Linux; what kind of learning curve is involved, and what tools do you recommend?

For rapid application development I would recommend using Python and Gnome. You can design the interface with Glade. It's really a fairly simple tool. A couple of hours fooling around with it and you'll probably start to feel rather comfortable with beginning coding. If you aren't comfortable with Python (I merely suggested it because it seems to be a really easy language to learn), you could use C, C++, or even Perl. GTK+/Gnome has the bindings. Below are some very good articles that may be of interest:

Developing Gnome Application with Python (Part 1)

Developing GNOME Applications with Gnome-Python

The Ten Minute Total Idiot's Guide to using Gnome/Gtk+ & Glade with Python

Python as a First Language

Hope some of this helps...

[ Parent ]

Re: Why VB? (none / 0) (#22)
by forrest on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 02:31:56 AM EST

The reason I suggested Perl/Tk or Python/Tk before is that I don't know how well GTK is supported on Windows. I know there is a Perl for windows you can grab somewhere that has all the Tk stuff with it.

I know a lot less about Python, but Tkinter has been around for a long time, and I'd be kind of suprised if it didn't have Win support.

GTK looks better than Tk, I think, but the basic GUI functionality is the same.

I never really felt the need for a screen-building tool: it might be a little tedious, but it's not too hard to code up GUIs once you know what you want.

On a related topic:
Does VB use absolute positioning to describe where the widgets go? Absolute positioning looks like crap when the user changes the size of the system fonts. With screen resolutions getting higher and higher, more people will be switching to "large fonts" on their windows desktop ... it's something to keep in mind.



[ Parent ]

Re: Why VB? (none / 0) (#29)
by pw201 on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 08:18:29 AM EST

I know a lot less about Python, but Tkinter has been around for a long time, and I'd be kind of suprised if it didn't have Win support.

Tkinter does have Win support. I think the range of platform support is the reason why Tk is still the standard GUI for Python (although wxWindows is gaining ground, so that may well change in the future).



[ Parent ]

Re: Why VB? (none / 0) (#40)
by YellowBook on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:19:51 AM EST

The reason I suggested Perl/Tk or Python/Tk before is that I don't know how well GTK is supported on Windows. I know there is a Perl for windows you can grab somewhere that has all the Tk stuff with it.

PyGTK seems to be fine on windows these days, though you need to be careful to stay away from any Gnome widgets.



[ Parent ]
Re: Why VB? (none / 0) (#36)
by Eponymous, Showered on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:02:43 AM EST

Why not consider building web-based configuration right into Junkbuster itself? I think Junkbuster may already have some sort of http daemon built in for checking setup, etc, so all you'd have to do is write a few routines in C and you're off to the races. Then it's (theoretically) cross-platofrm and you've got some C under your belt.

Good luck, regardless.

[ Parent ]
Re: Why VB? (none / 0) (#33)
by abischof on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 10:11:42 AM EST

I must concur about the concern for VB, though my reasoning is slightly different.. I can see the obvious advantages of using a cross platfrom engine such as Perl or Python. But, to me, I'm against VB because of to its system overhead. That is, I personally have an "embargo" against VB because of its memory and system requirements.

So, if you want to write it, VB or otherwise, go ahead; but, please consider some other languages as well :).


Alex Bischoff
-----------
Run a Free Program and You Could Win $1000 ==> http://www.distributed.net
[ Parent ]

A better way: HTML forms (none / 0) (#44)
by marlowe on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:35:33 AM EST

You write it in C, embed it in the Junkbuster or whatever HTTP proxy. The user types a special URL, say "htpp://configure",and he's in a form to set all the config options. When he's done, he hits the submit button, the browser does a PUT (or maybe a GET) to the proxy, and the proxy makes the changes.

This should work with any decent browser on any decent OS. Maybe it's more work for the programmer. But it's worth it.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Don't do it alone (4.30 / 3) (#6)
by Imperator on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 10:43:15 PM EST

There's a nice (patch-forked) distribution of Junkbuster at http://www.waldherr.org/junkbuster/. Much work has already been done. The RPMs come with scripts that can be dropped in the crontab to update the blocklist, and if you've installed any version of Unix, you should be able to set a proxy server in your browser. The Win32 version has a console that sits in the tray, though it could use some work. A nice installer would be good; bonus points if it detects current proxy server settings and appends a line to the forward file, then replaces them. A really cool feature would be a dialog to choose how to respond to cookies, so you wouldn't have to edit the cookie file manually.

As to your question of whether it's a wise thing to do, I'd say yes. Most people will suffer through ads and privacy invasions rather than learn. They aren't going to change overnight. The real problem is not the number of people who can't edit a text file, it's the number of people who click on banners and encourage the decline of the free Internet. If you help us create something foolproof that any Win32 user can block ads and selectively filter cookies with, it will make a difference.

What... (1.00 / 3) (#7)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 10:45:24 PM EST

What does this have to do with Junkbuster.......?

Re: What... (none / 0) (#8)
by Dangermouse on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 10:50:17 PM EST

Quite simply, I am considering writing a GUI for JunkBuster:

"For a while, I've been using the JunkBuster proxy <snip>. I'm now considering writing a GUI front end (in Visual BASIC 6.0) for JunkBuster <snip>."

That is what this has to do with Junkbuster. The question I am posing covers software in general, not just Junkbuster.


-----
No one has "Rights", neither machines nor flesh-and-blood. Persons...have opportunities, not rights, which they do or do not use. - Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
Interesting Attitude (4.50 / 8) (#12)
by DemiGodez on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 11:17:42 PM EST

I voted for this article because I think it generates a lot of interesting discussion. Personally, I was amazed at the attitude of the author until I realized a lot of people probably share that opinion.

Here is just a fact of life: not everyone is equal in their skills. I can write a kick ass program, but I can't fix my *#$%^$ car when it breaks. Thank god there are people to do that for me. Imagine this conversation among people who are really good mechanics, "Well, I could open an auto care store to make it easy for people to get their cars fixed, but aren't I contributing to stupidity? I mean if someone can't manage to even change their oil, which is soooo easy, shouldn't I advocate teaching them rather than promoting ignorance?" Thank goodness that getting your car fixed is easy because cars are as big a part of life as computers.

Celebrate what you're good at and be really thankful that you don't have to be good at everything. Don't expect everyone to be as good as you at everything. People who can't use software without GUIs may not have that skill and may not be able to ever learn it, or they may have no desire to. If you benefit from the skills of others, be willing to share your skills.

Re: Interesting Attitude (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by Dangermouse on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 11:44:26 PM EST

> "Well, I could open an auto care store to make it easy
> for people to get their cars fixed, but aren't I contributing
> to stupidity? I mean if someone can't manage to even
> change their oil, which is soooo easy, shouldn't I
> advocate teaching them rather than promoting
> ignorance?"

My garage is more than happy to change my oil for me, but will also show me how to perform the procedure myself should I choose to. As people have suggested to me already, this is probably the same approach I should take with this software.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not trying to be snobbish about this. It's just that I've been noticing, of late, a pronounced inverse correlation between average user-friendliness of a users software, and that users level of computer literacy.

I'm just concerned that user-friendly software, which often shields users from the computers inner workings, may be at least partially to blame.




-----
No one has "Rights", neither machines nor flesh-and-blood. Persons...have opportunities, not rights, which they do or do not use. - Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
Re: Interesting Attitude (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by omidk on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:03:03 AM EST

You really have an excellent point here. I am sometimes really disgusted by how ignorant a lot of sysadmins and programmers can be in regards to users. Sure editing a text file isnt rocket science but a computer is supposed to be a tool that makes life EASIER. To go with the car analogy again, how annoying would it be if everyone had to tweak where their automatic transmission shifted before they could get in the car and drive? Just help people out and the next time you go to the doctor pray that he doesnt have the same attitude and tell you to go RTFP (read the fucking PDR) and figure out what drug you should be taking.

[ Parent ]
Help people, don't spoonfeed (none / 0) (#17)
by Dangermouse on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:41:42 AM EST

> To go with the car analogy again, how annoying
> would it be if everyone had to tweak where their
> automatic transmission shifted before they could
> get in the car and drive?

Very annoying. But have you actually thought about the level of complexity involved in driving a car? You have to factor in hazard avoidance, pattern recognition, road rules, variable surfaces, variable vehicle condition, etc. etc. etc.

Do this, and you might find that the level of user skill I am suggesting is a good thing when applied to computing, is in fact no greater than that for driving.


-----
No one has "Rights", neither machines nor flesh-and-blood. Persons...have opportunities, not rights, which they do or do not use. - Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
Re: Help people, don't spoonfeed (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 04:11:27 AM EST

Very annoying. But have you actually thought about the level of complexity involved in driving a car? You have to factor in hazard avoidance, pattern recognition, road rules, variable surfaces, variable vehicle condition, etc. etc. etc.

I agree that users must have some limit of sophistication, but like you asked, where is the cut-off? And I think you answered it. Look at what you mentioned the driver must be capable of doing: everything to operate the vehicle, *NOT* maintain, fix, and in rare cases, upgrade the vehicle. This is left to the mechanics. Therefore, computer users should ask for IT when something goes wrong (obvious), install a program, or upgrade their machine. Look at the world around, do you think if you let people install and upgrade their own machines, the IT workload would decrease? I seriously doubt, there would be just bigger and more complex problems.



[ Parent ]
Re: Interesting Attitude (none / 0) (#15)
by Dangermouse on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:30:02 AM EST

Yes, but it's these self-same people who are always opening themselves up to exploits like VBS worms, trojans etc.

I might not have made myself sufficiently clear in my original post. I agree that people do need easy-to-use tools in areas such as computer security. But, and this is a big but, where do we as developers draw the line between assistance and spoonfeeding?

Using the car analogy, it'd be fine to have an oil-change service, but the user (driver) still needs to know:

- when to have the oil changed
- how much is reasonable to pay for the service
- what will happen if the oil *isn't* changed
- how to change the oil myself if I choose to

In the case of personal computers, too many users take the attitude 'why should I bother learning about the computer, that's what tech support is for'. Few people really bother to learn how computers work, despite the fact that they are essential to the job.

This kind of attitude, for some reason, is accepted in the IT community, whereas it would be ridiculed elsewhere. Computers are becoming essential tools in many fields of work; as IT professionals, it's up to us to ensure people are educated sufficiently to be able to use them.



-----
No one has "Rights", neither machines nor flesh-and-blood. Persons...have opportunities, not rights, which they do or do not use. - Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
Re: Interesting Attitude (none / 0) (#58)
by mdpopescu on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 01:50:37 PM EST

- when to have the oil changed

Whenever the "oil needs to be changed" light goes on.

- how much is reasonable to pay for the service

As for everything else, the least price I can get, taking into account the cost of shopping around, the quality of the service, and about a zillion other factors.

- what will happen if the oil *isn't* changed

The stupid machine will crash with a blue screen of death.

- how to change the oil myself if I choose to

Why? My time is worth much more than that. Yes, it would be nice if I knew how to survive after a comet crashed into the Earth - but are you saying that everyone should go to survival courses?

[ Parent ]

Re: Interesting Attitude (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by Dangermouse on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:30:09 AM EST

Yes, but it's these self-same people who are always opening themselves up to exploits like VBS worms, trojans etc.

I might not have made myself sufficiently clear in my original post. I agree that people do need easy-to-use tools in areas such as computer security. But, and this is a big but, where do we as developers draw the line between assistance and spoonfeeding?

Using the car analogy, it'd be fine to have an oil-change service, but the user (driver) still needs to know:

- when to have the oil changed
- how much is reasonable to pay for the service
- what will happen if the oil *isn't* changed
- how to change the oil myself if I choose to

In the case of personal computers, too many users take the attitude 'why should I bother learning about the computer, that's what tech support is for'. Few people really bother to learn how computers work, despite the fact that they are essential to the job.

This kind of attitude, for some reason, is accepted in the IT community, whereas it would be ridiculed elsewhere. Computers are becoming essential tools in many fields of work; as IT professionals, it's up to us to ensure people are educated sufficiently to be able to use them.



-----
No one has "Rights", neither machines nor flesh-and-blood. Persons...have opportunities, not rights, which they do or do not use. - Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
Re: Interesting Attitude (none / 0) (#50)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:11:03 PM EST

Yes but it doesn't help to purposely make things hard. There is nothing all that edifying about Junkbuster configuration files--it's just one somewhat obscure piece of software among many. People are busy. If you want to educate them, give them the easiest software you can, tell them why they should use it, give them help files that describe how it works, evangelize it. You haven't taught them about the format of Junkbuster text files, but so what--you have taught them about blocking ads and how that works. You've taken them to the point of "I need to get my oil changed down at the NiftyLube." Right now most people are at the "What's an oil change" stage.

[ Parent ]
Re: Interesting Attitude (none / 0) (#52)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:28:37 PM EST

That's a good point.

Maybe we should admit (hmmm... or accept for sake of argument) that ``current GUI's dumb-down the user.''

Then, we can talk about ``how do we create a GUI that is easy-to-use but scales with the user *AND* teaches the user the basic concepts of *WHY* he should be blocking ads and then *HOW* to do it and then *WHAT* is done internally to do it'' (i.e. inform the user about privacy issues, then how to use junkbuster, and then lead him into the basics of HTTP and cookies and those new web bugs or whatever they're called).

Maybe all software should be educational software.

<joke type="half-serious">The only problem is, we might need an annoying paperclip pop up and give them ``interesting facts of the day'' -- otherwise they might never read any of our lovely documentation.</joke>

[ Parent ]

Re: Interesting Attitude (none / 0) (#57)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 01:50:24 PM EST

Maybe all software should be educational software.

I really like that idea. It would be a challenge to figure out how to do it well...gotta be a better way than the paperclip!

[ Parent ]

Re: Interesting Attitude (none / 0) (#39)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:18:23 AM EST

Here is just a fact of life: not everyone is equal in their skills. I can write a kick ass program, but I can't fix my *#$%^$ car when it breaks. Thank god there are people to do that for me.

The popular car analogy is flawed unless, like they do with their cars, people:

  • Have a certified technician install all new parts (i.e. software)
  • Have a certified technician configure all parts (i.e. software)
  • Bring their car (computer) in for regular tune-ups (i.e. review of software, general clean-up of any cruft, drive scans, backups and full defrag)
  • Have a certified technician remove all parts (i.e. software)
  • Read their owner manual and perform some routine maintenance on their own; or pay more to have it done regularly (i.e. clean out their temp directory and run de-frag).


[ Parent ]
Re: Interesting Attitude (none / 0) (#48)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:57:06 AM EST

What's your point? To sum up what you said: People pay for maintenance on their cars, and do some of it themselves. And of course sometimes they neglect to do it at all. Is this not the same with computers? If I buy a new computer widget at CompUSA, I can pay them to install it, or do it myself, just like if I buy an exhaust system upgrade at Pep Boys.

[ Parent ]
Re: Interesting Attitude (none / 0) (#51)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:17:14 PM EST

My point is, it should be the same as cars: but it isn't.

People regularly buy/download the cheapest software, install and configure it themselves, and then complain when it doesn't work or their OS crashes. Even when they haven't done any maintenance.

Yet, for their cars, they'll take it to a mechanic and say ``fix it.'' He'll put in a proper transmission, for example, (either a factory one, or a rebuilt that he has confidence in) and will `configure' it to spec.

The user does not then take their car home and start fiddling with the transmission. Or at least, if they do, they'll understand that they void any guarantee the mechanic gave them, and might cause their car to crash (excuse the pun).

My point is: the car-computer analogy is fundamentally flawed, because they are not treated the same way by the users. This includes ``if cars crashed as often as computers'' -- they would, if everyone treated their car as they do their computer. Or ``cars are much easier to use than computers'' -- not true, if you consider all of the knowledge of road signs, driving idiosyncracies, etc. that people are expected to know. Or ``people should not have to maintain their own machines'' -- damn right, but they *do*, and without knowing anything.

[ Parent ]
Re: Interesting Attitude (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:59:14 AM EST

Celebrate what you're good at and be really thankful that you don't have to be good at everything. Don't expect everyone to be as good as you at everything. People who can't use software without GUIs may not have that skill and may not be able to ever learn it, or they may have no desire to.

Now *that* is an elitest attitude that is plaguing computers: users are either too stupid or too lazy to do anything but use a simple, stripped-down GUI.

Frankly, I prefer the elitest attitude of ``make 'em edit the text files'' or ``RTFM.'' At least those people believe that everyone is capable of learning...

...and this does apply to cars, too. People waste a significant amount of money and do lots of damage to their cars, by not knowing enough to do routine maintenance. (I know, I am one. How the hell was I supposed to know you couldn't drive with that coolant light on? I *wish* when I got my driver's license that I had to take an ``Introduction to the Modern Combustion Engine 101'' course. Plus, I now save ~$40 CDN every year just by changing my own oil, and have saved >$2000 CDN this year alone by helping my dad do repairs to my car using used parts. Frankly, I want to share these savings with everyone who uses a car... or a computer. Well, hell, aren't I a terrible ``elite unix guru'' who looks down on those ``lusers.'')

GUI's have their place. Too often, they dumb down the user until they cripple the computer -- and the user.

Ideally, a good GUI should guide the user in understanding until that user is an expert. They should not lock away the internals and do their best to keep the user ignorant. I have never seen a GUI do the former; too many do the latter (and the rest just assume the user is already an expert).

[ Parent ]

Wonderful idea, but.... (4.50 / 2) (#18)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:50:46 AM EST

have you looked at The Proxomitron ?

The attitude about Maintaining the Mysteries, I don't get. There is enough of that on the *BSD Usenet groups.

Aw, it's Windows only. (none / 0) (#41)
by marlowe on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:26:19 AM EST

Sniff.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Re: Wonderful idea, but.... (none / 0) (#53)
by Mitheral on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:38:25 PM EST

The Proxomitron is what all web filters should aspire to. It is easy to use in dumbed down mode but allows some really moby filters by editting the text config files. Capabilty to share filters by importing them or exporting.

The best thing is that it can perform a find and replace on the entire document so you can get rid of any specific thing you don't like. Don't like pop-up windows on close but need them for some site on open? No problem replace on close actions with blank text. Hate that Tucows makes you wait five seconds before autodownloading (so you have time to read thier ad which you can't see anyways)? Replace the 5 second pause with .05 seconds.

I love this program and use it at work with win9X/NT/2K. Wish a unix version was available for use at home/play.

[ Parent ]

Software is a tool, not an end in itself. (4.80 / 6) (#19)
by dhartung on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:59:56 AM EST

By writing software like this, I fear that I will be contributing to the problem. If people need a GUI to a program like JunkBuster, isn't that really a problem of theirs, rather than the software? Shouldn't I be encouraging education, rather than nursemaiding?

Uh, no. Think back to first principles.

Software is a tool for people. Software should conform to people, not the other way around.

The worst thing I've ever heard in all my years in the business is "The computer makes us do it that way." That is wrong, wrong, wrong. Fortunately people, especially younger people who grew up with computers, share that attitude less and less.

If your job involves dealing with unskilled people, and you don't like it, you're in the wrong job. But face it: computers are not something everyone's good at. Realize that you can make a lot of money exploiting^W er, filling this niche. It's a truism that highly technical people have fewer, or cruder, social skills, but overcoming that cliché is a major accomplishment. Learning how to guide the sheep well is something to be proud of. I honestly believe that if you can't deal with the "lusers" you are in the wrong business, because they are everywhere. They are your customers, and deserve to be treated with respect, not condescension.

Making software easy to use is NOT the same as dumbing down software with wizards that prevent skilled users from doing anything useful. Ideally software should be open to both. But I think if someone is of the opinion that you must be an absolute wizard to, say, run a web server, you're living in the past.

We here at kuro5hin should not be an elite cadre of acolytes admitting only those devoting their lives to our study. We should be the ones using our skills and knowledge to spread the benefits of computing to as many people as possible. The fact that we're doing it out of love, and not money, is what will differentiate us from places like Microsoft.
-- Before the Harper's Index: the Harper's Hash Table

Open to both (l)users and experts (none / 0) (#26)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 05:00:46 AM EST

Oh, pretty please make the wizard/gui-fied version edit text-tables, and offer to show people what it's doing. Then they can do it the easy way, or learn what's going on. And experts can go play with a fine-level of control (or ease of tweaking).

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
Ad blocking is not as easy as it looks. (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by dmarti on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 01:38:39 AM EST

Go to altavista.com. Do a search. See that big ugly-ass banner ad on the search results page? Good. Do a "view image" on it. The URL is probably something like this: http://m.doubleclick.net/viewad/12747-circles_468_ftcaaaaacaaaaaaaa.gif

Block the host "m.doubleclick.net" and all is well, right? Wrong. The image you see is the result of an HTTP redirect from the server that already gave you a doubleclick.net cookie. Even if you block the ad, you're still being tracked.

Not that a GUI isn't a good idea, but to do it responsibly you should have it look in the browser cache and offer to block everything. Combing the cache for standard banner ad sizes might be useful too.

Re: Ad blocking is not as easy as it looks. (none / 0) (#24)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 04:16:01 AM EST

That would indicate a problem with junkbuster not a GUI for junkbuster.

[ Parent ]
Re: Ad blocking is not as easy as it looks. (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by forrest on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 08:54:10 AM EST

It's easy to set up JunkBuster to block all cookies except for those you will allow (e.g. kuro5hin).

You really don't need a lot of cookies. Most things work fine without them.

You may have trouble with some shopping carts, but then you're entering into a "danger zone" and should be aware of it. I shop online infreqently, so for those few times I usually just turn JunkBuster off.



[ Parent ]

Re: Ad blocking is not as easy as it looks. (none / 0) (#65)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 07:35:31 PM EST

you can also configure Netscape to bypass the proxy for certain domains where you need to use cookies, like your bank, or stores you frequently shop at, etc.

[ Parent ]
Not Everyone Likes Using Text Forms (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 04:30:27 AM EST

Look dude, I understand what a keyboard is, what a directory is, etc etc. But I hate using other people's software. Especially if it's hard to configure. I'd rather go out and write my own to do the same thing, know what I mean?

I hate filling out forms (paper, text, whatever) because they always seem too ambiguous. Now, if there is a point-and-click option from which you could select one of say three things, then that is going to make my life easier. I don't know why I should have to spend 3 hours getting the form variables set correct, when there is obviously no need for this.

Anyway, just because not everyone likes firing up a text editor to do things (heck, I know my dad wouldn't!) doesn't mean that they should have to suffer adverts. You're not encouraging nurse maiding, you're encouraging people who wouldn't otherwise use this software to take advantage of it. And what is the point of software if it does not automate some tedious task for us all? What if Richard Stallman had said, "I think people should be able to match up their brackets without my help. Highlighting keywords in colour - nah, that'll just mean that any old person can see what's going on."

Write the software, lose the elitist attitude ... it's elitism in the wrong place.

Re: Not Everyone Likes Using Text Forms (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by fluffy grue on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 10:45:41 AM EST

This wouldn't be for you. You do realize, of course, that most Windows users don't even know what a compiler is, right?
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

So what's wrong with HTML forms? (none / 0) (#42)
by marlowe on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:30:13 AM EST

You got yer checkboxes, pulldowns, all that GUI dialog box stuff. And it shouldn't be hard to build into an HTTP proxy.

Hey, what do we need VB for?

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Why? (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 07:24:02 AM EST

Does it really *need* a GUI? The version I'm using already has most of one; I get a little window that shows me what it's doing, with menus that let me call up my blocklists. The lists themselves have comments (which admittedly could be improved) telling me what each section does and how to get a more updated file.

At best, I could see an argument for something that takes my existing file and merges my personal modifications into the preconstructed blockfile of my choice.

I don't think people have a problem with editing a list on a screen; they can understand that. IMHO, the real problems are making people aware that Junkbuster exists and getting it properly configured on their machines.


Big target market (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by ntagonist on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 07:44:24 AM EST

Although it has been mentioned in earlier replies, I think this issue is important enough to go over it again. You are a programmer, which means that you like to solve difficult problems. To you, editing a configuration file isn't a big deal. However, assuming that there are a couple of million programmers world-wide, the other 99% of this planet's population doesn't give a rat's ass about the inside of computers. All they care about is getting their job done and not feeling stupid. Suppose that this a commercial product (okay, so I know it isn't), who would you rather sell to: 1% of the world or the other 99%?
mp3.com/mothergoose
Check out Guidescope... (3.00 / 1) (#31)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 09:07:29 AM EST

Built ontop of Junkbuster, it is pretty idiot proof. Gui interface via your browser.

Main difference from junkbuster, other than the interface, is the notion of a central block-image? server - nice because images you haven't seen yet are blocked, bad because it introduces a single point of failure into _all_ web pages you look at.

www.guidescope.com

nate

I'll wait for the source code (none / 0) (#46)
by marlowe on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:37:56 AM EST

Too much experience with closed source software had left me cynical and wary.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Banner Ads (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by Neuromancer on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 09:48:04 AM EST

Nah, let me make money off of people who can't type text.

You're missing the point (4.33 / 6) (#34)
by mattc on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 10:37:13 AM EST

My question is, is this the right thing to do? If all goes well, I'd be allowing the differently clued to use a powerful, Free utility. However, I'll also be contributing (perhaps trivially) to the general dumbing-down of software to cater to the lowest common denominator.

You are completely missing the point here! People should NOT HAVE TO KNOW HOW THE COMPUTER WORKS! Do you think most automobile drivers know or care how their car works? No, of course not! For the computer to be useful as a tool, it must be easy to use.

SOME people might like editing kernel source with vi (myself included), but by no means should the average user have to know what a 'kernel' or 'vi' is.

Sorry to flame, but I'm just so sick of the 'religious' attitude amongst computer experts (especially unix ones) that there is some kind of virtue to having a computer be excessively complicated and hard to use. It's just a tool!

So my answer is yes, making a GUI for Junkbuster would be a good thing to do. You could even charge a small shareware fee for those who find it useful. .. and if it saves someone the trouble of having to waste hours reading unix man pages, excellent, you've done a great job.

Re: You're missing the point (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:08:46 AM EST

My question is, is this the right thing to do? If all goes well, I'd be allowing the differently clued to use a powerful, Free utility. However, I'll also be contributing (perhaps trivially) to the general dumbing-down of software to cater to the lowest common denominator.

You are completely missing the point here! People should NOT HAVE TO KNOW HOW THEIR WELDER WORKS! Do you think most automobile drivers know or care how their car works? No, of course not! For the welder to be useful as a tool, it must be easy to use.

SOME people might like doing a proper job and knowing how not to hurt myself or others, but by no means should the average user have to know what a 'safety goggle' or 'acetelyne-oxygen mix' is.

Sorry to flame, but I'm just so sick of the 'religious' attitude amongst welding experts (especially factory ones) that there is some kind of virtue to having a welder be excessively complicated and hard to use. It's just a tool!

So my answer is yes, removing those hard to use valves, and putting a quick lighter on the wand would be a good thing to do. You could even charge a small shareware fee for those who find it useful. .. and if it saves someone the trouble of having to waste hours reading instruction and safety, excellent, you've done a great job.

Note: Actually, I think a GUI for Junkbuster would be a good idea, as long as it guides the user to prevent them from accidentally blocking off too much, causing them to go ``well why the hell should I use this.'' I just find the blanket arguments that ``computers should be easy to use'' to be incredibely naive. Especially when hacking and DDOS are real threats, so someone misusing their computer, or having it set up incorrectly, is a threat to themselves and others.

One thing I would recommend; if you know how to program in something more portable than VB, please do, so that non-Windows users can use the same program! If not, a VB program is better than nothing!.

[ Parent ]

That's a half truth. Serious users need to know. (none / 0) (#38)
by marlowe on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:16:59 AM EST

Anyone who drives a car more than occasionally should have some feel for its perfomance limitations (especially acceleration into traffic), cruising range, maintenance needs, etc. And that implies at least a partial, vague understanding of its workings.

Anyone who drives his car a lot, and depends on it, will need to know its workings less sketchily. If it breaks down in the middle of a desert, he needs to be able to get the thing working well enough to reach a service station. Knowing how to drive is not enough. You need to know how to change a tire, how to safely fill an overheated radiator, etc.

Just knowing how to drive may be enough, but only so long as you don't drive all that much.

Likewise with computers. All this happy GUI stuff is good for the novice user, for the casual user, and even for the power user who's not power using at the moment. But beyond a certain point, you need to understand the computer in order to use it effectively.

Besides which, a computer is a lot more complicated than a car. It does more things.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Re: You're missing the point (3.50 / 2) (#59)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 02:21:17 PM EST

SOME people might like editing kernel source with vi (myself included)... Source code is for wimps.

[ Parent ]
Re: You're missing the point (none / 0) (#67)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 09:34:42 PM EST

I've been a tool user all of my adult life. I strongly disagree with your statement, "For the computer to be useful as a tool, it must be easy to use."


Some of my careers have been nuclear propulsion plant supervisor, electrician, Unix Administrator, forklift operator, hell even a swabbie. Every single one of those jobs absolutely requires understanding your tools and limitations of those tools. In most of those jobs, failure to anticipate the consequences of your actions can kill you.


Go read Neal Stephenson's discussion of tools, particularly the 'Hole Hawg' in his Command Line essay. Every tool more complicated than a mascara applicator can get you into trouble if you aren't careful.


I think your car metaphor is misleading. Sure, most folks use a mechanic to repair them, but the actual day to day operation is licensed only after practical demonstration of the needed skills.





[ Parent ]
Write the GUI, here's a possible way to do it. (3.00 / 1) (#43)
by meldroc on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:31:41 AM EST

Look, you and I both get frustrated with the less-than-clued when they need to be hand-held at a computer keyboard, but the thing that disturbs me is an attitude that all people should know as much about computers as us propeller heads. You and I both like to play with computers, get into them, probe their secrets and figure things out, but most people don't like doing that. They want to get their computers to work, without having to diagnose cryptic error messages, type arcane commands or read 500 page books.

By all means, write the GUI. The way I'd do it, (others' opinions may vary) would be to make it a dual-mode GUI, with a normal mode for performing basic operations, and an advanced mode with the complicated stuff for people who want to tinker. Think again of the car analogy - some people don't care what's under the hood, they just want to get from point A to point B, and take the car to a mechanic when something breaks, other people (you and me) enjoy tweaking things under the hood. The dual mode GUI should help you cater to both types of people. It also helps to educate the user in the best way possible - by encouraging him to learn by playing with the software, but without throwing too much at him all at once.

Re: Write the GUI, here's a possible way to do it. (none / 0) (#55)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:41:40 PM EST

Dual-mode may not work. There tends to be a significant jump from simple-mode to expert-mode. The result is, expert mode is scary and people don't switch.

Could some sort of multi-mode be developed? I'm thinking along the lines of the start menu on Windows 2000 which only shows you the menu options you've used before* (after a little while of use). Could the user be put in simple mode, but as they need to do things, the help tells them how to open up a new layer of functionality (and depth; note that this ``tells them how'' should probably be along the lines of ``click here in the help file''), but that new layers of functionality are not an all-or-nothing choice?

* -- I've never understood how this is ``easy-to-use''. Users always used to get confused when menus changed on them (part of the reason UI design tells you to gray menu items out rather than remove them from the menu), but everyone I've talked to (and myself) love this feature. I like to think this is a sign that the user is a more sophisticated beast than some programmers take him for.

[ Parent ]

we need people viewing ads (1.00 / 2) (#45)
by Sven on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:37:20 AM EST

If everyone were able to use software like Junkbuster easily, wouldn't it mean that advertisers would end up doing more nasty things to make sure their ad was displayed? Maybe put a little Java applet on every page.

I think the situation we have now is good. People like us have the necessary skills to configure Junkbuster so that we don't see ads. Advertisers don't care because there are so few of us. People with lesser skills don't care because most are unaware that software like Junkbuster exists. And I really can't see anything wrong with that. Maybe I'm just selfish.

--
harshbutfair - you know it makes sense

Re: we need people viewing ads (none / 0) (#54)
by dmarti on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:41:04 PM EST

The big problem with banner ads is cross-site tracking by sites like doubleclick.net. Their system is based on being able to directly contact, and issue a cookie to, individual browsers.

Even the simplest ad blocking prevents them from doing this. And any way to check that the ad is being shown would be very expensive for doubleclick.net, and trivial to work around in the browser or proxy.

By taking obvious anti-blocking measures, doubleclick.net would also kick off a round of news stories about blocking, draw more attention to it, and hurt their own stock price.

And some would argue that not helping other users block tracking is shortsighted, anyway.

[ Parent ]

a nice middle ground (4.00 / 2) (#56)
by schwantz on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 12:57:17 PM EST

is the powerful, and somewhat friendly Proximitron: It allows you to create powerful blocking scripts, but has a (hideous) GUI over the top of it. Of course, I think it's only a windows program.

Why can't a GUI be a teaching tool? (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by ImpintheBox on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 02:51:32 PM EST

I think a GUI, especially one which is just a front end to another application, should be an excellent teaching tool. Sure, make it simple to get up and running, but also inform the user exactly what is being done, where and why. Tell them they can view and edit the changes in Notepad or whatever. Offer some info and the file format and a pointer to the rest.
The problem with most GUI tools is that they add to the black box feeling of the computer, "Click here, and things you couldn't possibly understand and are none of your business anyway will be taken care of." Why not "Click here, and I will automatically edit a simple text file for you by adding <whatever> to <filename>. For more info see......"


Make it like SMIT (5.00 / 2) (#61)
by Anonymous 242 on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 03:24:21 PM EST

This is hearsay, so take it with a grain of salt. I've heard that IBM's gui admin tool for AIX (SMIT) lets the admin point and drool his or her self into oblivion, but has a status bar at the bottom that displays the command line syntax to accomplish the same job without the gui.

I SO wish that more tools were built like this, showing in a painless fashion how to do the job easily and efficiently.

Personally, I'm all for GUI tools, on the condition that there is no functionality that can not be done via command line. There are times and places where each of these is the more appropriate.



Ad blocking, and flexible HTML tweaking, should be (3.50 / 2) (#62)
by orabidoo on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 04:23:08 PM EST

Like the subject says: proxies are slow and annoying. When I browse the web, I don't want all pages to go through another daemon on my computer, which then buffers them and feeds them to my browser. It's a slower, often messes up keep-alives, and most importantly, it makes the browser appear less responsive because you can't tell if it's still resolving the hostname, sending the request, or waiting for the results.

In my not-so-humble opinion, flexible filtering and rewriting rules belong in the browser itself. Browsers should have a way to create "profiles" for websites (and add websites to exisiting profile), where each profile explicitly allows or disallows cookies, banners (matched by regexps), java, javascript, and javascript access to things like window.open, other frames' DOMs, and so on. Unfortunately, current mainstream browsers don't have these capabilities. The good news is that Mozilla is going to have something like this; as far as I can tell part of the internal code is written, but it doens't do quite as much, and the user interface isn't there yet. I'm sure hoping they do it.

One thing we can do *NOW*, however, is use an obscure feature called proxy auto-configuration. This lets you use JavaScript on the browser side (even when JS is off), to fetch some content directly and some through a proxy. Make the JS code send ads to the proxy, make the proxy always return errors, and presto, you have a fast ad block! For more details, see here and here.

Dumbing down? Dumb question (none / 0) (#63)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 06:30:50 PM EST

Seriously, are you seriously asking for moral guidance or something? It's all up to you. If you want as many people as possible to be able to use Junkbuster --which btw was the first GNU/GPL anything i ever came in contact with, even before I heard of Linux-- you make a GUI for them. If that isn't your goal, well then i don't know why you're intersted in the first place. Helping people who lack the technical sophistication to deal with an unsophisticated UI and secure themselves against privacy intrusions that they can barely understand is a valiant & worthy act. Kudos. I didn't understand Junkbuster installation when i first encountered in on Windows, very shortly (about 2 weeks) after buying my first PC. I ended up using something with a click-n'-drool install called Anonymous Cookie. A few months later, after plugging into Linux, i tackled the Junkbuster on Unix and finally comprehended. Thereafter i could do it on Windows too. But like i say, at first it was just waay too different from other Windows software for me to feel I was following the description and would be able to install it. But i was green on Windows, too. OTOH My guess is that someone very used to WIndows would be even more likely to look at Jason Catlett's pages and instructions and go "ahhfudgems, it's not for me." There are of course a number of cookie managers out there for Windows. If your front end shows a Windows user that free software is useful and useable, then there's another beneficial contribution you can feel good about.

Empower us NOW (none / 0) (#64)
by BlyndFreddy on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 07:35:19 PM EST

As a IT support person I deal with a seemingly endless array of software that just isn't up to scratch and requires a rocket scientist just to get the damn thing to work at all. I used to think that software (particularly the GUI based variety) was going to put me out of work. 10 years later I still see no chance of that happening in the forseeable future. The bad karma some software engineers are earning by putting crappy code out there I expect some of them to spontaneously combust any day now. On the other hand I will endlessly praise and, by golly, yes, I'll even buy software that makes my life easier. Software that does exactly what is says it will. No fat, no bloat, fast, simple and clean. Can you do that? Where do I send my money?

Muffin, FilterProxy (1.00 / 1) (#66)
by donio on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 09:06:01 PM EST

Muffin is a nice alternative to the junkbuster proxy. It can be run as a GUI program or in the background. Configuration can be done with the GUI or you can edit the config files manually.

In addition to junk filtering it can also rewrite HTML so for example I browse most pages with white text on black background.

FilterProxy is yet another filtering proxy worth checking out

This would help a lot (none / 0) (#68)
by dheretic on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 09:48:08 PM EST

I personally believe that it would actually help a lot. It would also probably be very nice to have for people that do use junkbuster because it would make configuring it faster.

what I think many of us forget is that if we only protect the few of us that can use it now a lot of people will be screwed over. The way to beat the bad guys is not just to save your own ass, it is to help every body stop the bad guys.

Just do it ---and please send me you blocklist (none / 0) (#69)
by n8f8 on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 03:31:02 PM EST

I've tried to get my non_programmer_buddies to use Junkbuster but they find it difficult to use. First, you have to set up the blocklist (I give them mine) and second they have to get it to run when windows starts (no prob, just drop a shortcut into the startup folder). Personally the only problem I have is the stupid DOS button constantly riding in my taskbar.

While we're on the topic, could anyone with their version of the "ultimate blocklist" please mail it to me? i've been working on blocking all non-essential ports to use the program a essentially a firewall.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)

Re: Just do it ---and please send me you blocklist (none / 0) (#76)
by siobibble on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 06:15:01 PM EST

Personally, when i'm in windows, I use proxomitron. It filters most ads, but the reason I use it is that it can block excessive popups (the irony is since their page is on tripod, there is an ad-pop up *shrug*). It can also kill off the geocities thing on the bottom right and it resides in the task bar.

http://members.tripod.com/Proxomitron/

There are many others that I have tried but i seem to prefer this one.

Try checking google.com and searching for "windows ad blocking" if that one isn't suitable for you... unless you're one of those fanatical everything must be GPL to use it.

--siobibble

[ Parent ]
This is not the whole story... (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by Slarty on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 03:55:21 PM EST

I'm new to this site, and if you people are as clueless as the Slashdot crowd, then I may as well not bother. And this may be a bit offtopic, but I feel it should be brought up. But what the heck... Has anyone considered that maybe ads *shouldn't* be blocked? Most sites don't display ads just for kicks or because their owners are greedy capitalists who should be beaten down and spat at.

Take me, for example. A friend and I run a medium-sized site (in the 50K-100K hits per day range), and yes, we display ads - not because we want to, but because somehow we have to find a way to pay the $500/mo hosting fees and other expenses that crop up from time to time. Yes, we sometimes make a profit from the site - usually a very small profit, considering all the time and effort that goes into running it. But there are some months when the advertising check is just barely enough to cover our costs. If a decent percentage of people start blocking our ads, then that's all folks... show's over. Both of us are students who are already in debt as it is (student loans, etc), and there's no way we can afford to run the site if it can't pay for itself.

Think about what advertising *is*: it's one way of paying for what you get. The Internet is rapidly turning into a television-like medium, and just like television, there are basically two ways of financing content: you show commercials (advertisements) or you charge an "entrance fee", like the premium channels. Right now, seems like the main "premium channels" on the 'Net are all porno sites, but if it becomes the popular opinion that it's your "right" not to have to "suffer" through advertisements, then I think it'll become a lot more widespread. Idealism is fine and dandy, but it costs money to run a good site. Information may want to be free (if you buy into that school of thought), but bandwidth and server space certainly don't. Take my word for it - I write the check every month.

Please don't misinterpret this as a defense of Big Brother-style tracking or Doubleclick's actions or anything like that - privacy is important to me, too. And I'm sorry if this went way offtrack... but please think before you block, and remember that the ads are sometimes the only thing that keeps decent sites going. (If you take a real close look, there's even one on *this* site...)

Slarty

While you have a point... (none / 0) (#72)
by Arker on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 04:05:58 PM EST

I don't think it goes so far as to refute the right to control your own computer. Yes, I do think I have a RIGHT to control what displays on my computer. I don't run junkbuster, but I browse with imageloading off when I am "surfing" and only turn it on when I want to. And I probably will turn to some sort of proxy eventually as the invasion of privacy problems continue to grow. I definately think the bottom line is the user has the right to control his computer, and if she doesn't want it to display ads then it shouldn't display ads.

Hopefully folks that are putting up good useful web sites like you talk about can find other ways to fund them. Eventually they will probably have to. This could make another "story" in fact - what are ways that a non-commercial web site that requires the services of a commercial host can pay the bills, besides running banner ads?



[ Parent ]
Re: While you have a point... (none / 0) (#74)
by BigZaphod on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 04:26:33 PM EST

"what are ways that a non-commercial web site that requires the services of a commercial host can pay the bills, besides running banner ads?"

What about commercial websites? Do all sites have to be non-commercial? Personally, I would love to be able to make a living on our website. We have lots of huge plans for it. But with the low advertising rates (because of the insane number of sites out there), and people blocking or not clicking on the banners, our site doesn't bring in enough for that. It pretty much pays for itself and that's about it.

And if you ran a site like Kuro5hin, how you would suggest making money (enough to survive at bare minimum)? Our site has the option of e-commerce, but not all of them do. And that leaves ad banners or donations. And judging by the number of people who download MP3s, pirate movies, warez, etc, donations are pretty much out of the question.

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]
It gets sticky. (4.00 / 1) (#75)
by static on Wed Jul 26, 2000 at 01:02:56 AM EST

Which reminds me, I need to edit my junkbuster ad-blocking config again. :-)

I originally installed JunkBuster to nix cookies from sites like DoubleClick because I disapprove of the fact that they are using them to track you across their clients' sites. It is only recently that I upgraded JunkBuster and got all the ad-blocking, too. It happens to work well, though you've got me questioning it's need. Yeah - some sites deserve to have me see their advertising. What I object to is sites that use a slow web server for their ads. Why is this? Because it stalls their page! The old InfoWorld Electric* used to have that problem, until I started surfing with images disabled whereupon it became much faster.

Wade.

* Don't bother with IW now. Upper management decided to "update" the web site and screwed the whole thing up.

[ Parent ]

I think there's more at stake here than "dumb (4.25 / 4) (#71)
by BigZaphod on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 03:57:56 PM EST

By empowering the masses (ie. everyone) to block banner ads you could potentially be destroying the web. Why? Well, most sites need that ad revenue to survive. If everyone starts blocking all the ads, then sites are going to go away. I know for a fact (as I run a rather large BeOS files site) that ad money is VERY important. Do you really think that two broke college guys could possibly keep a large website up and running without some form of income? If you do, then you must be a heck of a lot better off than we are. Without our regular DoubleClick check (yeah, evil, etc, etc), we wouldn't exist anymore. And without a system as open and easy to get into as ad banners, only the big corporations would have sites of any value (since no one else could afford to spend time building a nice site and then paying the monthly bandwidth fees not to mention generating content). If you want to stick it to the man, then don't go to big corporate websites at all. Simply striping the banners from a site is almost akin to stealing. And as a webmaster, I don't like it.

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
Re: I think there's more at stake here than " (none / 0) (#77)
by Colonol_Panic on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 06:57:42 PM EST

While I certainly understand where you're coming from, I think it's more complicated than that. Personally, I have used Junkbuster (and will again, once I get around to installing it) more of a filter for cookies than anything else. I don't like the idea of a website tracking me unless I let it, and Junkbuster provides a way of doing this.

That is, until I discovered this simple trick: sign on to the websites you want to enable cookies for, and get them in your ~/.netscape/cookies file (I'm assuming you're running a unix varient). Then, as root, chmod it to 400 and then type "chattr +i cookies", which , on an ext2 filesystem, will make the file immutable so that it can only be read from. Not even Netscape can override this.

However, that neat trick only works under Linux, so if you use Windows or some other unix varient, Junkbuster is the most attractive fix. As for the ads, if I visit a website a lot and enjoy it, I will willingly enable ads for that particular website.
Here's my DeCSS mirror. Where's Yours?
[ Parent ]

Blocking adds w/o custom proxy software (2.00 / 2) (#73)
by benwb on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 04:23:41 PM EST

What I generally do to block ad sites is to steal a block list, and then toss all of the machine names in my HOSTS file mapped to 127.0.0.1. Easy to set up and administrate, and doesn't require any other software but what you already have installed.

JunkBuster GUI - empowering or dumbing down? | 77 comments (73 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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