Saturday, March 19, 2016

Why do I use ad blockers?

In this blog I will try to explain why I am using ad blocking software.  To quickly summarize use ad blocking software for four simple reasons.
  1. I have a bandwidth limit and when I exceed it I pay for every byte sent/received.
  2. A number of devices I use are older and slower and most ads will bring them to a complete stop.
  3. Ads have now been used to target us with malware.
  4. Cookies and other tools are being used to peel back what little privacy we have on-line to track us everywhere and try to target us with 'relevant' ads based on where we go.

For a number of years I have been using ad block software.  Publishers for years also have been complaining that we are stealing.  Frankly that is BULLSHIT, publishers you have been hogging my bandwidth that I pay for when you spew ads at me and try to track every move I make on-line.  I monitored a few sites and 80% of what is sent to me are scripts and images for ads and tracking companies!  That is just the scripts, I wasn't even counting the images and flash pages they were sending.  Since I am the one paying for the bandwidth I want to make sure I get what I pay for.  For the good sites with ads that are tasteful, unobtrusive and doesn't suck up every spare CPU cycle I white-list and allow the ads.  The rest I give them a try now and then and if I find them to be resource hogs I black-list again.

Some will say it isn't that bad, well in my not so humble opinion it is.  I have a number of devices and for all of them I must use ad blocking software or when I go to a site in the browser a number of my devices will stop for minutes at a time while it is trying to render that page and serve ads.  The three devices where I must use ad blocking or they are almost unusable are:
  1.  Huawei cell phone.  I use this now and then when i am out shopping.  While resting I may surf Twitter, Facebook and email if the mall has free WI-FI.  Now and then something may catch my eye on-line and I click the link to see more about it. Without ad blockers the browser will take minutes to render a page (looking at you CNN, ABC, CTV and CBC).  At times I just close the window due the scripts running if I don't use ad blockers.
  2. Google Nexus 7 tablet.  This is now retired, but, I used it in a similar manner to my cell phone when traveling.  At home it was my main tool for using Twitter, Facebook, blogging and email.  Like the phone I am forced to use ad blockers or even that machine will slow down to a near stop.
  3. Acer Aspire Net-book.  This is a more robust machine, albeit a low end laptop.  I upgraded the system to 2 gigs of memory, but, everything else is stock.  Before I moved to Linux I was running Windows 7 then Windows 10.  Like the two  devices before I do run ad blockers.  It isn't as bad as those devices, but, it would take up to a minute for some sites to render a page and I watched the CPU usage hit 100% (I like using GKRELLM to see what my system is doing).  I also modified my HOSTS file to kill a lot of ads and trackers.  
I have two more devices that are more modern and higher powered and even there I use ad blockers as even they have problems at times rendering pages with ads.
  1. Samsung Galaxy Tab A.  An android device and works quite well.  Samsung's site is also up-front on their use of cookies!  The browser has an ad blocker.  I can't modify the HOST file as I have not rooted the device.
  2. Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series.  A high end laptop with Windows 10.  Even here I have to use a HOST file and ad blockers as some sites are so bloated they take up to 30 seconds to render.
Now I can hear web sites saying we need the ad revenue to stay in business.  Some have even gone as far as to run scripts to scan for ad blockers and then block their site until we turn off our blockers.  For those companies who actively block me when I run ad blockers I just go elsewhere and a good site gets my 'business' and you get absolutely $0.00 in ads from my visit.
  1. When you use third party ad companies to present ads on your behalf you are trusting them to ensure their sites show us legit ads.  Well check out the links here and here for malware issues.  Why should I open up my machine to malware served by YOU?  You can claim that it is the ad company, but, you picked them, you trusted them, you are taking their money for presenting those ads and in my not so humble opinion the buck stops at your desk!
  2. Your advertising partners are doing their best to track everything I read and where I go in order to 'serve' me more 'relevant' ads.  Relevant in whose opinion?  When I read an article on diabetes does not mean I want to get flooded with targeted ads on blood meters and related items.
  3. I do unblock the good sites.  I understand their need to make money and the ads they serve are good and don't hog my bandwidth or system.  They also respect my privacy and try their best not to track my behavior.
The latest beef I have about ad blockers is that some of them are now white-listing sites and taking the choice out of my hands for what sites can present me ads.  Well that cost them a loyal user as I dropped them from EVERY browser in EVERY device in my house.  When it comes to ads and sites I am the final arbiter and no one else!

For users I have a few things for you to think about.
  1. If you are technically inclined check out using a HOST file.  You can then pick the more annoying sites to block. 
  2. Virus scanner software.  There are a lot of good ones and many are fairly inexpensive.  Personally I use AVAST as it is cross platform (Windows, Mac and Android), inexpensive, doesn't hog system resources and it just works.  
  3. An up-to-date Browser.  This is important and the latest versions have bug fixes to minimize exploits.
  4. Ad blocking software that allows you to white-list sites.  You can then tailor your blocking and allow sites that respects you to be able to serve ads and allow them to stay in business.  For me I like UBlock origin and Flashblock.  They work in Windows, Android and Linux for my Firefox browser.

An example white-list from UBlock origin (hmmm, seems like there is only one site there, probably because I don't want to advertise who I white-list).
White-list options, Slashdot is one of the GOOD sites I allow ads.  I hid the others.

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