Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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April 2004, Week 3 -- Spies Everywhere, Everywhere






   "SpySubtract is a new spy catcher from the makers of AdSubtract, the advertisement blocker. They have a new, beefed up, version of that one too.

   Basically, we are being driven into the ground by spyware. And if you browse the web much, you probably are too. Spyware can bring your computer to its knees (if it had knees). These programs take up system resources and keep your Internet connection blinking like mad as they suck information out of your computer. We were trolling the Internet looking for "Internuts" to pass along to you, for example, and SpySubtract suddenly popped up a notice to tell us we had just been hit with 17 pieces of spyware. It quickly deleted same.


   We wrote on this subject just recently, we know, but now the spyware threat has been moving upward and onward to include identity theft. Things are getting serious.


   SpySubtract Pro warns when spyware comes in as soon as it happens, and takes immediate action. A subsidiary function called "Spy Sleuth" can tell you which program installed the spyware on your computer. You can learn to avoid that web site or avoid certain software and perhaps the company it came from.


   Other SpySubtract functions include a "shredder," which makes erased files unreadable and irrecoverable by spyware or human snoopers. The shredder matches standards set by the Department of Defense. The program can also erase your browsing tracks and records of any files you've called up for viewing. SpySubtract is $30 from They offer a free trial version of this program and AdSubtract.


   AdSubtract has been around for a while and is kind of the gold standard for removing pop-ups, pop-unders, banners, etc. Once in a while the ads are interesting but most of the time they're not, so you can choose whether to block or not. Sometimes I like to see ads, sometimes I don't.


   As with SpySubtract, the program has some other functions. One of these can be set to block so-called "sponsored" listings from internet search engines. For instance, Google recently announced that they have begun accepting payment for placement. This simply means that certain sites appear in your web search results because those sites paid to be there.


   AdSubtract blocks "redirects." These are web site routines that switch your browser's startup preference to their site. You used to start with a news site perhaps, then all of a sudden you're seeing a casino or pornography site at startup. No more of that.


   AdSubtract also lists for $30 from Intermute and there is a free trial version.


Unusual Search Utility


   Mercurius is definitely a different kind of search utility. Enter any word or series of words; the program will then ask you to specify a search engine and will go to work. We selected Google. Typing in "snowy evening" led to thousands of references but also to a list of words that appeared on the lefthand side of the screen. These words were suggested as possible terms to narrow the search. Clicking on Frost for Robert Frost, brought up the poem but also brought up an interesting painting about the poem and led us to a Czech site that had translations of some literary works side by side in English and Czech.


   This is an interesting and useful way to narrow what would otherwise be difficult Internet searches. Mercurius is a British program and comes in a free version and a "deep scan" version for $9 (let's see: that would be about 5 pounds); web site:


They've got your number


   Can't find a phone book? We can't either. And so we often turn to The site claims that on average it gets 4.7 million uses a month, and that last year its users saved half a billion dollars by not calling directory assistance.


   The site covers all of the U.S. and Canada and has links to directories in other countries. They also do what we used to call a  "cheat book" or "flip book" in the news room. If you know a phone number, can give you the address for that number. Or, they'll give you the phone number for any address. The service is free.




--  Enough already! This site pleads for sensible people to help ban the use of currently over-used cliches. Let's start with the letter "X," for example: Generation X, X-Files, Xtreme, Windows XP, X-Box, etc. What is it about X? Other suggestions for banned words or phrases: "embedded journalist," "smoking gun," "sanitary landfill," "captured alive" (Is anyone ever captured dead?), etc. They solicit suggestions. I would like to present the ubiquitous restaurant menu item "Shrimp Scampi." Scampi is Italian for shrimp, so it really just says "shrimp, shrimp." Or how about "white chocolate?" There is no chocolate -- none! -- in white chocolate.

 Economic History

-- --  The "eh" stands for Economic History and this site has plenty of it. But one feature you might like is a clickable "How much is that?" They mean how much is that in today's dollars. Pick a number and a year and it will calculate the change. For instance when I started as a reporter in 1972 in Wilmington, Delaware, I was paid $6,000 a year. That's the equivalent of $26,000 a year today. Check out your own dollar equivalents over the years.


NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at  and Joy Schwabach at