Little help here, if you can.
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I’ve a situation that is growing worse by the month. There is a leak that leaves me unable to use the net far sooner each month than I would prefer. That is why I seldom post anymore…ever tried to intertalk using dialup? Slooooooooooow. And I’m Southern, I speak kinda slowly anyways.

Our only source of half-fast internet is satellite internet. It is expensive, not really that fast, and subject to weather related outage even when the weather is not really so bad. Okay, that seems to be the nature of the beast and it is better than dialup. But not great.

One huge leak is the growing proliferation of autoplay video. It seems that virtually everyone embeds autoplay, even when they are simply saying what the text already says. I guess that literacy is not as common as I might wish. Video is a huge band-suck, and if I knew how to disable autoplay I believe that, once again, I would be able to participate all month long (yeah, I know. Some consider that more a feature than bug).

It’s to the point that I no longer even attempt to click on any PJmedia post. Those folks load so slowly that it’s just seldom worth the hassle. Too bad, ‘cause I miss Mr. Hanson’s stuff. There are other sites like that, and as more and more places ‘improve’ their websites the situation worsens.

So, anyone know how to disable autoplay? You boys have been helpful in every previous webnerd inquiry, and I hope that you can help here.

Now I’m going to bitch. I fervently wish that the advertising bots would realize that, once I’ve made an online purchase, I’m done. You can quit sending me info about wristwatches, I bought one. Don’t show me any other mattresses, I bought one (ask me how it was shipped, dayum I didn’t know you could do that). I bought a set of ATV tires, it’ll take years to wear them out, so leave me alone. I could continue, but I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re not really benefiting anyone by the deluge, so far as I see.

Comments

Little help here, if you can. — 20 Comments

  1. I run NoScript on Firefox. There’s an equivalent for Chrome but probably not for IE. (But if you’re using IE, you’re wrong anyway.) NoScript by default disables all JavaScript and Flash, then you can enable it site-by-site. Better, you can enable Flash only case-by-case. I don’t know how well it handles HTML5’s built-in playing of media; it hasn’t come up often enough for it to present itself as a problem.

    A lot of sites, “modern” sites with lots of bells-n-whistles, don’t display content at all unless you enable some JavaScript, and some have rather borked presentation without it. By and large I’m pretty happy with it.

    FWIW, TOR (The Onion Router) runs NoScript by default, configured even more aggressively than normal NoScript for FireFox. TOR will have higher bandwidth needs than non-onioned web page fetching, but filtering out the crap more than makes up for it.

    Another way to go is to use a tablet or phone as your main browsing device. Many websites cut out a lot of the cruft on mobile devices, specifically because of monthly transfer caps. You may be able to set your main PC browser to tell sites it’s a mobile device.

    • The best part about NoScript is that it blocks scripts by domain, so you can say “I want to run scripts from foo.com but not the one where they go to doubleclick.net for an ad” easily.

      Bluntly, it’s the only safe way to look at the internet these days. Nobody wants to take any responsibility for what gets served through their ad networks, and enough “lol this ad will attempt to infect your PC through this week’s vulnerability” are floating around out there that it just ain’t worth the effort. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people whose business model is “you can come here and read something but in exchange I need you to sleep with anyone who comes through this door, and some of them will have AIDS”…

      You’ll be shocked how many sites are trying to run code from a dozen or two dozen locations just to show you a picture of a cat.

      • You’ll be shocked how many sites are trying to run code from a dozen or two dozen locations just to show you a picture of a cat.

        Yah, lots of porn sites are very heavy on the JS to make the pop-up windows, moving and flashing ads, and redundant tracking methods.

        By the way, did you know that “black cat” was Chinese slang for female pubic hair? But it makes me wonder if it’s still called a cat if it’s been shaved. A sphynx cat, maybe. There’s also the Brazilian, which still has some hair.

  2. There is one possibility you probably don’t know about. It’s only for Windows, and it’s fairly technical, but it gives you complete ability to block particular domains from any traffic. I’ve used it for years.

    Windows has a file named HOSTS, which allows redirection of HTTP requests. It’s normally in Windows/System32/drivers/etc.

    If a domain is redirected to 127.0.0.1, then any attempt by a web page to use that domain is rendered unable to proceed. 127.0.0.1 is the address that means “local device”, so you have effectively redirected the domain to your own computer, where the attempt will fail.

    Now, here’s the good part. There’s a guy who maintains a HOSTS file that includes tons of ad servers and other sites from which you probably never want to waste traffic. Go here to get it, along with instructions for deploying it.

    This doesn’t cure the auto-start problem; it’s aimed at general purpose bandwidth savings. However, if particular auto-plays are coming from domains or even sub-domains separate from the pages you are visiting, then you can add the video server’s domain or sub-domain to your personal HOSTS file. That is, you can edit the downloaded file that already contains the ad domains, and place additional domains in it. For example, I have facebook.com, outbrain.com, and a bunch of other domains that do detailed tracking of my web activity. (Did you know facebook tracks you on tons of other sites that show their little “like” button?)

    Once you add the domain that serves up a video, from that point on, auto-play for videos from that location on the web won’t work (in fact, no access from that location of any kind will work).

    You don’t have to be a trained computer admin to use this thing, but you ought to at least be up into power user territory. Note, too, that you can’t edit HOSTS in its own directory because of permission problems. You have to copy it over, edit, and put it back. Plus, you’ll be prompted for admin access, etc. etc.

    If something goes wrong, you always just have the option to delete a bad HOSTS file (assuming you have administrator privileges on your computer) and things will go back to normal. So it’s a pretty low risk option.

    • Hmm. I never advise people to edit a Windows hosts file. I figure that the people who can safely and productively do it already know about it, or will find out about it in the course of researching whatever problem it’ll fix.

      There’s also the PITA of constantly updating it, but I hadn’t known about the MVPS site.

      Billy is right about this being low-risk and recoverable. I do suggest making an off-line set of instructions. If you really bork your hosts file, you won’t be able to go online to get instructions to fix it.

      • Nitpick: hosts files came from Unix, so Linux and, as far as I know, Macs, have them. The nice thing is if you bone yours up, you can just rename it and put back the backup you made before you started messing with it. In Unix-derived OSes, the file is in /etc and only editable by root.

        • Not exactly a nit-pick. Sure, Windows copied ‘hosts’ from *nix, but in practice most people who use Linux or BSD at home already know about it and can do ‘sudo vi /etc/hosts’ or whatever. Mac and Windows users are mostly hapless, a consequence of the user base rather than any inherent difficulty.

          • True–I just said that because Billy said it’s Windows only.

            A real nitpick is that the file isn’t locked by the directory–it’s got read-only perms for non-administrative users. If you open the file by a program started “run as administrator” it’ll be editable in-place. (I think. …/etc/services works that way, and I have to edit it every once in a while at work, because the people who designed our app insist on using service names instead of port numbers, because…well, I don’t know why, actually.)

    • Huh. I used the HOSTS file for years, until NoScript came along. But I’d forgotten all about it.

      Razor, I’m curious about the “leak.” What are you using for getting online? I take it you have no cellphone service at your home?

      • Surprisingly, yes I now have cell service, after a fashion. New tower about seven or eight miles away. I don’t see the need for a cell phone, except for that original throwaway phone. Costs less than eight bucks a month, and I never use all the minutes anyway.

        And I’m curious about the “leak”, too. I went from having a couple of GB left every month (using Hughes Gen 4) to running out about three weeks in. The router is passworded, and I don’t think that I’m supporting someone’s porn habit. Depending on what I’m doing, I use either IE, Pale Moon, or Opera to browse. My time online has actually declined, since looking about for stuff to piss me off isn’t really healthy.

        I have no ‘social networking’ habit. Never joined LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace etc. as I don’t see the benefits. I already have enough people trying to tell me how to live, I don’t need people I’ve never met and never intend to meet sticking their nose in. If it comes to it (meaning the kindness of strangers does not suffice) I’ll have to actually read up on this. I haven’t done that since A+ certification, and I didn’t even bother to keep current with that.

        Hell, I’m so oldskool that I still write letters. With a pen, in cursive, on paper. Weird.

        • If you can get cell service, you likely can get wireless broadband as well. My sister lives on the ass-end of a cornfield, a mile away from cable in one direction, a mile away from DSL in the other.

          We had her on some Huges satellite thing that was horrible – dog slow, cost a hundred something a month, didn’t work half the time, etc., etc.

          I asked her what sort of cellphone she used, and was her service good – turned out it was Verizon, and she did get a strong signal.

          So we went to the Verizon store, bought her a Verizon broadband MiFi gadget, got her a plan that delivered I think five GB a month for $59, and when I tested her signal, she was getting 10mB down, and 3-5 up. She was pretty happy with it, and still is, a year later.

          • Yeah, those earlier satellite-delivered systems were slow, but speed isn’t the issue (my wife used to differ…she would come home to our ‘net from the T1 system at her job and look like a monkey on crack banging enter over and over impatiently). I’ve gone from using less than 8 GB a month to using 10 GB in three weeks. That’s why I called it a ‘leak’. I just wish I could figure out why. The money isn’t the sticking point, since my plan costs less than $50/mo.

            I would never call this cell service ‘good’. Standing on the front porch to get a signal isn’t really ‘good’, it’s just better than before.

            Cable is about 10 miles and ten years away. DSL is not going to happen; the local phone fellows burned through all the sweet government swag without getting within reach and it’s been ‘six months away’ for 5 years now. It’s been about 18 months ago, but last I checked no carrier was able to offer any type of broadband for me.

            • That usage pattern isn’t that implausible, considering all the bloat in modern websites.

              I guess it’s possible your computer is infected. If you have a spare, disconnect your current system from the network and use the spare for a while and see what that does to your usage. But before that, run NoScript, turn off images, or tweak ‘hosts’.

  3. On Firefox, I stopped the majority of videos from loading up and playing automatically by going to Add-Ons > Plugins, scrolling down to Shockwave Flash, and to the right, choosing “Ask to Activate”.

    The only downer is that sometimes it may not be immediately apparent that permission is needed; if a video that is to be watched doesn’t seem to load up, clicking on the video screen will bring up the requisite dialog box.

  4. When I’ve been out at the end of the internet (think central asia) the best thing I found to do to speed things up was to disable images (in IE, Tools, Internet Options, Advanced tab, Multimedia section, uncheck “Show Images”). Chrome does something similar, and Chrome lets you whitelist websites if you always want to see images served from that site. It’s amazing how fast and content rich once the visual clutter is stripped out.
    I also use Feedly, which is a RSS reader. Feed (RSS) readers download text (sometimes just a subset) from posts, which allow you to pick which articles/posts you are interested in without having to download MBs of stuff you have no desire to see. I use Feedly to subscribe to Daily Pundit and DP’s comment feeds, for example.
    At any rate, it’s an easy option to try out.

  5. That usage pattern isn’t that implausible, considering all the bloat in modern websites.

    Everything I can see points there. All five, and I even broke out the ‘break glass in case of emergency’ desktop exhibit the same pattern.

    I believe it’s simply one of those “this thing has been improved to the point of being useless” situations. I probably need just to pony up and join the 21st century.

  6. Ever watch a cat hunt? They amble up to the hunting field and just hunker down and get real still. Pretty soon the prey forgets that they’re there and walk right into the claws and jaws.

    I knew that. I used to recommend that. I forgot. That one piece of advice helps a lot, maybe enough to solve the problem for a bit.

    We’ll know in a few weeks. Thanks, Bashir.