Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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March 2002, Week 3 -- Kill Those Pesky Pop-Up Ads




   Our number one reader complaint concerns pop-up ads, and how on Earth to get rid of them. You only have to browse the Internet for a short time before seeing pop-up ads from an amazing variety of sources. What is to be done, as some philosopher or other once asked. Get one of the tools below, that's what.

   "Ad Subtract"  is for Windows and comes in a free 30-day trial version or full version for $50. This is the most popular pop-up killer; it zaps pop-ups and banner ads like Raid kills bugs. It also removes cookies, browsing history and sets up filters to block animations, sounds and offending senders. Jazzy web site features slow down your line connection and browsing speed and should be killed unless you happen to like them.


   "Smart Explorer" for Windows kills pop-up and banner ads and lets you display multiple web pages on a screen. It can also kill animations and sound effects and wipes away cookies and clears your browsing history from memory. Smart Explorer has a free 30-day trial and comes in 11 languages, including Chinese and Turkish, from


   NOTE: Among their many features, these programs can examine whether other programs contain so-called "spy" routines. Spy routines transmit information about your computer use back to the companies that made those programs. That information is often used to target you for more ads and is sometimes sold to other advertisers. But be advised that sometimes the information is used for nothing more than notifying you when updates and new versions are available. So if it detects a spy routine in something like an anti-virus program, it would probably be best to leave it in place.


Fingers of fire




   Few tools are quite as useful or satisfying as macros. A macro is simply a collection of key strokes and/or mouse movements that can be triggered automatically by a couple of keystrokes or a mouse click. I go on the internet, for example, simply by clicking a Windows icon; this automatically dials and logs me on. That's a simple one; other macros can be dozens or even hundreds of actions long.

-- "MacroMagic" from Iolo  is $40 for Windows, or free for a 30-day trial. It comes with a bunch of macros already set up when you load the program. You can delete those if you don't want them, of course, and add any others you can think of. Iolo is also the maker of the very useful "System Mechanic" utilities. They offer free phone and e-mail support.

-- "AIM Keys"  is also free for a 30-day trial, or $30 to buy. Like MacroMagic, this program comes with a list of already built macros to be used for common and some not so common Windows tasks. It keeps track of macro sets for different programs (MS Word or Excel, for example) and switches easily between them. Two slash marks automatically fills in your company name and address, for example. It has an optional "QuickList" feature that displays a list of macros on your screen and you can activate any one by clicking it with the mouse.



   We've skipped these for a couple of weeks, but they are now back by popular demand. Here are some selections from our recent wanderings in the digital forest.

--  The call letters stand for "Science & Technology News Network," and that what it's about. The site was designed for use by the television press for the most part, but anyone can join in. See pictures of the world's smallest lizard, technology for detecting liars by looking at them, and find out what became of pinball machines.


--  An enormous site. There are more than 7,000 links to help you collect information on almost any topic. For instance,  tracks the status of any federal bill, its background and the voting record of every Congressman. Find almost anyone's phone number and e-mail address. Originally designed for reporters, the site can be used by anyone.


--  Results of nearly 5,000 clinical trials conducted by the National Institutes of Health.

--  Type in your age and the wizard in the machine will tell you how many people there were in the world when you were born and how many now. (If you're 38, there are twice as many people now as when you were born. That's why you can't find a place to park.) The site is from the French National Museum of Natural History, and has some astonishing misinformation. They need a good editor.

--  There are a few bugs in the system, and here are their pictures.

Registry changes, billing, and more


   The following programs were obtained from


-- "Advanced Registry Tracer." Did you ever load a new program and find problems right afterwards? Are frogs waterproof? This utility analyzes the changes made to your Windows registry file. You can compare the before and after files and undo the changes.


-- "Free Budget" calculates time charges based on the number of words, lines or characters in a client's documents.


-- "ESBCalc" is a free business and scientific calculator that keeps a "paper trail" and a history of revious results. There's a button for calculating percentages.


NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or