Subject to Change by Rudy Yniguez: Free software can improve your Internet expereince

February 12, 2002

There exists the proverbial love-hate relationship between me and my computers. As with most, I love it when my computers work properly, but I hate it when they do not. Lately there has been more of the latter than the former, especially when it comes to the computer I use at work.

In this column, I'll tell you where you can find some free software on the World Wide Web you can use to stop those annoying pop-up window ads and one that acts as a firewall. The firewall will prevent others from accessing your computer while you are online, allow you to limit which applications can go online and will keep a log file of attempts to access your computer while online with the domain name number which is attempting access.

The best pop-up ad stopper I have tried is called "Pop-Up Stopper." A free version is available from (what a surprise). The application is just under one megabyte in size. The preferences allow for the selection of "aggressive" pop-up stopping, whether to have the application launch when Windows launches and whether to play a musical note when it blocks an ad from opening. I am running version 2.6 at home and work (despite our system guy's disapproval that it is on my computer at work at all). I allow Pop-Up Stopper to load when I start both computers.


Version 2.6 works exceptionally well and is simple to install. It works so well that it prevents a second Internet Explorer window from opening even when I try to follow a link. In those cases, all you have to do is hold down the "control" and "alt" keys simultaneously, click the link and the new window will open.

Panicware offers a professional version for $19.95 and offers other privacy software products.

Another free application I use whenever I cruise the Internet is a firewall called Zone Alarm. It is available at and it too offers a professional version that will look up the Internet address of whoever is trying to access your computer. The free version no longer offers this feature but there are other Web sites that will, and for free.

The latest free version of Zone Alarm is 2.6.362 and is 2.8 megabytes in size.

Zone Alarm includes four interlocking security features: a firewall, an application control, an Internet lock and zones. The firewall controls the door to your computer and allows only traffic that you understand and initiate. The application control allows you to decide which applications can and cannot use the Internet. The Internet lock blocks Internet traffic while your computer is unattended or while you are not using the Internet, and it can be activated automatically with your computer's screen saver or after a set period of inactivity. Zones monitor all activity on your computer and alert you when a new application attempts to access the Internet. (I copied this paragraph from, where I sometimes find free software.)

Because Zone Alarm says most attempts to access your computer are relatively harmless, I delete the logs each time I disconnect my computer from the Internet. This particular application is not on my work computer, as I assume the network already has some sort of protection.

Zone Alarm works quite well also.

One application that does not work well is the Windows operating system. I've been using Windows off and on since before MS-DOS 3.3, including Windows 3.1, 95, 98, 98 Second Edition and Millennium Edition.

I am not aware of any software product that crashes or freezes the way Windows does. Each time Microsoft releases a new version of Windows we are told how much better it is and how secure it is. Within days we find out how different reality is from the hype.

To make matters worse, computer manufacturers take an unstable operating system and modify it to add their companies' ideas of what is important. My Compaq Internet Presario at home is loaded with useless and annoying software. I have gone to extremes to deactivate the Compaq stuff, but I've paid a heavy price. I've had to restore the computer to its original state about seven times.

I'd like to find someone who knows exactly how to remove Windows Me from the computer and install 98 Second Edition, for which I have an authorized disk.

If you are thinking about buying a computer, I suggest you have one custom made for you by a local computer shop and forgo a name brand.

For my friends' sake who are fans of Microsoft's Bill Gates, I appreciate the fact that he has created so many jobs allowing Mazda to sell so many Miatas to the Redmond, Wash.'s campus employees. What irks me is the loss of productivity as a direct result of Windows.

What I would like to see is an in-depth investigative report by a newspaper with the wherewithal on what the cost of lost productivity to this nation has been as a direct result of Windows.

I've got 10 bucks that says it is in the billions of dollars.

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