Friday, June 13, 2014

Is it ethical (or even legal) to use Ad Blocking software?

   I began using a product called Adblock Plus (ABP) a while back when I had finally had enough of the obnoxious ways many websites choose to display their ads. One of the worst offenders is the local newspaper (see screen capture below). I got tired of having the page jump/scroll up and down (as ads opened and closed) or cars driving across the page while I'm in the middle of reading an article.
   Then there was the problem with Yahoo's ads delivering malware to its visitors. I decided to fight back and installed ABP. Now online life is so much more pleasant. However, as someone who receives ad revenue I find myself being somewhat hypocritical. I like the idea of not being bombarded by advertising, yet I don't want anyone blocking the ads on my Youtube videos, or on this blog page for that matter.
   So that got me to thinking... By my use of ABP am I being unethical? Am I breaking some kind of law? Since I'm blocking ads, therefore denying the website revenue, could that be considered "theft of services" or something? Or, is it a type of self-protection, or maybe even civil disobedience? I don't mind ads in general, but let's face it, some websites have gotten carried away with it. It has gotten to the point where instead of it being "content with some advertising" it has become "advertising with some content". I no longer click on any "article" that touts things like "Top Ten things to do in Austin" because I have learned that I am going to be bombarded with ads as I read "item #1" and then be forced to click a link (and wait for a whole new page to load) just so I can be bombarded with more ads as I try to read "item #2". I rarely make it to item #3.
   Although, not all advertising is obnoxious and obtrusive and ABP recognizes that and allows some forms of advertising through their "firewall". Their website even states: 
"Adblock Plus exists to save its users from annoying ads. However, we don't think that all ads are bad, and we are fully aware that website owners need them to survive. Therefore, we have established strict criteria to identify Acceptable Ads: unobtrusive ones that don't need to be blocked."
   While they make a good case for justifying their product - they convinced me - it could just as easily be said "if you don't like the ads, then don't visit the pages." And that is true - to some extent. However, there are caveats, and instead of reinventing the wheel, I will just point you in the direction of the FCC and regulations it has imposed on radio and television advertising. For example, the 2010 "CALM" Act passed by Congress combats those overly loud TV commercials which sent everyone scrambling for the remote. I'm not a big fan of government regulation, but sometimes it is a necessary evil.
   In the meantime, I think I will keep using Adblock Plus (and another little plugin called "Ghostery") to keep my web browsing a little more under my own control and to avoid crap like this:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Process of Elimination (or, Hold Off on Sending that Email)


A couple of days before Christmas I bought a new laptop. It came with Windows 8.1 preinstalled. I'm not a big Windows fan and would ditch it all together were it not for Netflix and a couple of other minor "deal-killers" (such as being able to connect to my cell phone.) So, I normally install some flavor of Linux alongside Windows so I can switch back and forth as needed. I personally prefer Ubuntu and use that as my main OS, which means I do everything in Ubuntu - edit videos, play music, manage personal records, spreadsheets, etc. Anyway my Christmas holidays went something like this: installing Ubuntu next to Windows, deleting Windows and installing only Ubuntu, deleting Ubuntu and installing only Windows, installing Ubuntu and Windows together again. After much trial and error I got a somewhat stable setup going. The only problem was the laptop wouldn't boot unless I pressed F2 and went into the BIOS settings.  (BTW, It didn't matter whether I saved any changes to the BIOS, or exited without saving.) Only then would the boot process continue. However if I simply rebooted the computer it would work perfectly. It was only when the computer was shut down (turned off) that I would encounter the boot issue the next time it was started. The last thing I had done during the whole installation/update process, during which the computer seemed to work fine (because it was only "restarting"), was to install a video editing program and then turned the computer off for the night. It wasn't until the next day that I discovered the boot issue. So, my logic went like this: computer seemed to work fine, installed a program, computer didn't work fine. Problem must be the program. I was about to send "hate mail" to the program developer when, for whatever reason, I unplugged my USB Modem during startup and the computer started normally. I turned the computer off, plugged the Modem back in, hit the power button, and no boot. After various repetitions of this I realized it's the Modem. The BIOS sees it as a boot device even though the hard drive is listed first. I'm glad I didn't send that email to the programmer.


I ran out of both coffee and coffee filters at the same time. The next time I was at the store I picked up some coffee (Organic Mexican Dark) but forgot to get any filters. Since I use a percolator, filters aren't necessary but they do make clean up much easier. Anyway, the next morning I loaded up the percolator with freshly ground coffee (sans filter) and let it rip. It sucked. The coffee that came out was horribly weak. I've used this brand quite often and never had it come out looking like tea. After several more attempts I concluded it must be a bad batch - wasn't roasted properly, or too old perhaps. A week later I got a different strain (Ethiopian Dark) of the same brand. It too, sucked. I had used the Ethiopian only a couple of weeks before and it had been deliciously strong and bold. What gives? Must have been a bad shipment, not batch. Finally, while grocery shopping I remembered to get some filters (unbleached of course) and bought a completely different brand of beans. So, this morning I popped a filter into the percolator's basket, but was too lazy to drag out the grinder so I used some of the left over shitty stuff from yesterday. This time it came out looking like tar - the stuff a truck driver would be proud of. The only difference between yesterday and today was the addition of a filter. Why does using a filter make the coffee stronger? I can only guess that it traps more water and slows down the drip-time (I just made up that word) allowing the coffee to steep longer. Although this doesn't seem logical with a percolator (since the water continuously recycles through the grounds) it does seem to be true. Now my faith in my favorite brand has been restored and it didn't involve a USB Modem this time.