For those of you who have had problems with your web browsing experience, for instance pr0n pop-ups, spyware, or just general slowness, I want to get up on my soap box and recommend some programs that you should be using, instead of the Micro$oft apps you are probably currently using. In addition, I want to mention some other programs to help you clean up the mess you have in the first place.
Why am I doing this? Partially because computer problems like this piss me off. As a rule, I hate marketing because it’s a nasty predator that preys on the weak-minded of us and causes tons more problems than it solves. But when marketing becomes viral, when it infects your computer and prevents you from using it to have fun, when it means you’ll be calling someone like me, a geek, to help you, thus wasting hours and hours of valuable computer-gaming time, well, then it’s time to “drop a train on ’em!”
First off, dump Internet Explorer and Microsoft Outlook Express. They suck. They’re targets. Hackers hate them and like to exploit them. Instead try Firefox and Thunderbird. Both can be found at Mozilla.org. Both are free.
Firefox is an excellent web browser. It’s got features M$ is still trying to cram into its bloated browser, including tabbed browsing (you can have on window with many browser windows open in that window) and the ability to extend its functionality with small programs called extensions. Firefox is also safer than IE; you’ll get less spyware and other nasty things installed.
Thunderbird is an email program that just gets better and better. Built-in spam protection means junk you get will get forwarded to a folder or deleted so you never have to see pictures of the nasty things your neighbors down the street are doing with farm animals, and Thunderbird continually learns from what you mark as junk so the program gets better and better at detecting it. One of the things I really like about Thunderbird is the one-button support for blocking remote images. Remote images are the image files you find in HTML emails that spammers use to determine whether you read the email or not. Once that image loads, it doesn’t matter what you do, the spammer now knows he has a valid address. (Not that many spammers probably worry about that anymore.) Thunderbird has an option to block those images, and when you do, you get a button at the top of each email which allows you to load the images if the email is from a source you trust and it looks like something you would expect to get from them.
So get these two programs. They rock. They will save you all kinds of problems in the long run. And hey, they’re free, so it can’t hurt to try them.
More programs tomorrow.