Category Archives: Advertising

Allow more JavaScript, maintain privacy

I’ve long regarded JavaScript in the browser to be one of the biggest security holes in web-browsing, and at the same time the Internet works less and less well without it. In 2008 Joel Spolsky made the observation that for some people the Internet is just broken:

Spolsky:   Does anybody really turn off JavaScript nowadays, and like successfully surf the Internets?

Atwood:   Yeah, I was going through my blog…

Spolsky:   It seems like half of all sites would be broken.

Which is not wrong.  Things have changed in the last five years, and now the Internet is even more broken if you’re not willing to do whatever random things the site you’re looking at tells you to, and whatever other random sites that site links off to tell you to, plus whatever their JavaScript in turn tells you to. This bugs me because it marginalizes the vulnerable (the visually impaired, specifically), and is also a gaping security hole.  And the performance drain!

Normally I rock with JavaScript disabling tools and part of my tin-foil-hat approach to the Internet, but I’m now seeing that the Internet is increasingly dependent on fat clients. I’ve seen blogging sites that come up empty, because they can’t lay out their content without client-side scripting and refuse to fall back gracefully.

So, I need finer granularity of control.  Part one is RequestPolicy for FireFox, similar to which (but not as fine-grained) is Cross-Domain Request Filter for Chrome.

The extensive tracking performed by Google, Facebook, Twitter et al gives me the willys. These particular organisations can be blocked by ShareMeNot, but the galling thing is that the ShareMeNot download page demands JavaScript to display a screenshot and a clickable graphical button – which could easily been implemented as an image with a href. What the hell is wrong with kids these days?

Anyway, here’s the base configuration for my browsers these days:

FireFox Chrome Reason
HTTPSEverywhere HTTPSEverywhere Avoid inadvertent privacy leakage
Self Destructing Cookies “Third party cookies and site data” is blocked via the browser’s Settings, manual approval of individual third party cookies. Avoid tracking; StackOverflow (for example) completely breaks without cookies
RequestPolicy Cross-Domain Request Filter for Chrome Browser security and performance, avoid tracking
NoScript NotScripts Browser security and performance, avoid tracking
AdBlock Edge Adblock Plus Ad blocking
DoNotTrackMe DoNotTrackMe Avoid tracking – use social media when you want, not all the time
Firegloves (no longer available), could replace with Blender or Blend In I’ve have had layout issues when using Firegloves and couldn’t turn it off site-by-site

Advertisers impersonating Facebook ON Facebook

This “Mailbook” advert appeared on Scrabble, just below the normal Facebook toolbar.

"Mailbook" ad seen on Facebook

Seems dodgy to me. It’s a quite misleading way to try and get you to click on the ad.

Surprised Facebook would allow something that appears so similar to their own navigation.

Maybe they haven’t spotted it yet. I wonder if the icons are pixel-for-pixel copies?

Facebook Scrabble unstoppable advert

Oh Scrabble, you bastards.

Facebook Scrabble unstoppable ad

This new advert appears when opening up Facebook Scrabble (the international version).


  • Total advert length might be 45 seconds or more
  • Sometimes it’s a video advert, sometimes it’s a moronic Flash game or one of those stupid “You have a new message!” mock emails
  • Looks like you can’t stop it until there’s only 15 seconds left. After that it seems a Continue button appears
  • For videos, once advert has buggered off and the game fully loaded, the player details don’t appear properly. The video advert has stuffed it. Everybody remains “Anyone”

Apparently we weren’t paying the adverts enough attention, now they want to shove it in our faces.

Way to piss off your users.

Looks like I can stop recommending Scrabble on Facebook to people.

Sensis Yellow Pages

Dug this up from a five-year-old draft:

Sensis are nuts. They’ve totally shot themselves in the foot, and they’ve only got a limited amount of time to plug the gap before their Yellow Pages foot falls off completely.

Yellow Pages on the web doesn’t contain entries for all of the businesses listed in the physical Yellow Pages. Sensis charges businesses extra to list on the web. Not many have taken Sensis up on that option, meaning that YPW has remarkably few businesses listed – and because YPW has few businesses, consumers don’t turn to YPW to find businesses. And because of that, fewer and fewer businesses are listing… and so the death spiral goes.

If anyone there had one ounce of sense (sic), they’d be giving web listing away for free, or even negative price. For a while, while the network effect was being established. Then the charges would start hiking up, and the profits rolling in. But no, they had to try to be profitable before the monopoly was established. Bang! bang! Wow, my foot hurts.

I don’t think I was wrong.  When’s the last time you used the yellow pages online to find… anything?


The interwebs are the kind of place that if you don’t watch yourself, you can find yourself wandering into all sorts of odd locations.  This thing is called a RealTouch.  It’s a USB controlled masturbation aid (like guys need some kind of aid) that synchronizes with especially encoded video pornography streamed from the publisher’s website:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but shoving your junk into a caterpillar track doesn’t seem to be a good idea.  Am I the only one who thinks of radio-controlled toy tanks when I look at this?  Remember to only use it with the shell attached kids!  There’s a heater built-in too.   Again, I’m not sure that strapping an electrical heater to your Johnston is one of the cleverer things you could do today.  There’s also some kind of thing to disperse lubricant.  All this for a bargain-basement US$150!

Apparently, computer controlled masturbation is a well documented field more precisely called Teledildonics.  It appears that geeks, given the opportunity to combine computers and self-pleasuring, didn’t attempt to restrain themselves and went in full-tilt.  There’s even a wiki dedicated to Teledildonics, with a page on this very device; it’s all very technical (your salami experiences Parallel Axis Actuation using two motorized belts).

Which is why you shouldn’t click on weird ads.

Car buying websites think they’re classified ads

I’m in the process of buying another car, and it seems that the major car buying websites are stuck in the classified ads mentality; you drill down by make, model, year, limit for a range of odometer readings (you get to set a minimum! Great! Who would ever set a minimum?) and a price range (you get to set a minimum! Great! Who would ever set a minimum?), then look at what you get. Now that we’re in the 20th century, you can even sort the results by ascending price! Wow, what did we ever do without computers?

But I while don’t know what model I want to buy, I do know I want curtain airbags. Can I search for that? No. Do they have the data on that, for each and every vehicle listed? Yes. They have pre-populated the check-boxes for each feature for every model of car ever sold. That would be a handy database to search, especially in nifty combinations like curtain airbags in five door vehicles getting better than 8l/100km, order by turning circle then price.

Clearly, the presumption here is that you have the slightest idea what you want, and that you care terribly about brands, but not at all about features. For me, in my situation, this is arse backwards. However, in my researching, I discovered that the Peugeot 307 was rated 158th of 159 cars for reliability. Could I exclude that please? No? Oh.

You can do a “keyword search”, which is just a text search of the description attached to the ad – whatever the advertiser types in. Typing in curtain gets a bunch of ads with curtain airbags, which thoughtful advertisers have included in their descriptive text – repeating all the text of the various feature check-boxes – but you also get to see a bunch of Kombi vans (they have actual curtains).

And the useful values, like ANCAP ratings, RACV (or whatever) crash worthiness ratings, RACV reliably ratings, choice vehicle reliability scores, are they in the databases? Can you search them?

Must try harder.

On another note, Toyota Australia’s website is a laugh riot. When you pull up their vehicle comparison tool, they include a bunch of very amusing “features”, such as “Steering wheel” and “door handles”. I wonder if they carry any cars without door handles?

Do you want to appear in adverts on Facebook?

Want to appear in adverts to your friends on Facebook?

I don’t. I don’t see why an advertiser should be able to imply that I use or recommend their product. And I had been wondering why people I know started showing up in ads like this:

Stupid Facebook ad

Note that all three suggested dates are wrong. Pretty stupid.

Anyway, you can stop your profile image appearing in adverts by going to this Facebook settings page.

Or if that doesn’t work, go to Settings / Privacy / News feed and wall / Facebook Ads. Nicely obscure, isn’t it.

Facebook advert options

(via Rae… who also pointed me over to this article about recent changes by Facebook in this area.)

Kaspersky blocks doubleclick

It looks like Kaspersky Anti-Virus is blocking at least some web adverts from prominent advertiser Doubleclick, on the basis that they’re phishing.

Here’s the warning from Kaspersky itself:

And here’s what appears on the web page:

This warning is appearing on sites using Doubleclick, including Yahoogroups and Facebook Scrabble (international).


The dangers of HTML email

See what happens if you don’t properly anticipate how your HTML email might be rendered?

Dangers of HTML email

Yep, the world’s thinnest and lightest 17″ notebook… featuring a really odd-looking askew display, apparently.

(GMail in Firefox 3.0.6 on Windows)

Shut up, damn ads

Usually adverts on web pages don't irritate me. I know some people hate them, and use blockers to prevent them, but they don't bug me.

Except those stupid, moronic, noisy smiley adverts which some GIT has decided should use sound without asking you first. IDIOTS!

It's especially galling when you're trying to watch (and listen) to a video, so you can't even switch to mute.

To kill them (and I have), edit the “hosts” file. On Windows this is at C:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts or thereabouts. Note the file has no file extension. On a Mac, this Apple support article explains how to get at it.

Put the ad servers you want to block in there, against the loopback IP address of In Firefox you can find them by going to Tools / Page Info / Media and look for the embedded SWF files that match the irritating ads. Use a tab character between the IP address and the server name.

Done. Stupid moronic noisy smiley ads gone.