By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers
Some Web sites seem to have one mission in life -- to annoy you. They stick little pop-up windows in your face every time you visit them.
GeoCities, a company that hosts thousands of smaller Web sites, is the worst offender. I try my best to avoid sites that have "geocities" in their addresses.
But sometimes I have no choice. If that happens to you and you can't avoid sites that insist on using pop-up windows, try a pop-up zapper. I tried two, both written for Windows 95 and 98. Both work with Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.
The simpler of the two is Close Popup, from Take a Hike Software. It costs $20. You can download a trial version from http://www.homeonthewww.com/ryan/. The other is from the huge Siemens electronics company in Germany, available from http://www.siemens.de/servers/wwash/wwash_us.htm. It's called WebWasher.
Close Popup has only one task -- to close pop-up windows. It looks for telltale signs of pop-ups by watching for the typical phrases in their windows -- "Welcome to a Tripod Member page!" or "Some words from one of our sponsors..." and so on. You can add to these phrases if you find a site with different pop-ups.
Close Popup runs in the System Tray, out of the way. It blocked pop-up windows without slowing down the browser and without getting in the way of anything else.
WebWasher is much more ambitious. Siemens gives it away to individuals but asks corporate users to pay $20. (Everybody gets the same version and there is no time-out on any of the features, so corporate users are on the honor system to pay.)
WebWasher does much more than block pop-up windows. It has two more useful functions. It blocks advertising on Web pages and it keeps Web sites from knowing what site you came from. (This is called a "referral.") All of WebWasher's functions can be adjusted or individually turned off.
WebWasher is even more flexible if you have a home or office network. You can set up WebWasher as a proxy for all the computers on the network -- Windows PCs, Macs, Linux PCs or what-have-you -- so that all the site filtering goes through just one computer. This computer can be the one with an Internet connection (if you use NAT32, the excellent gateway program I wrote about recently) or it can be whichever PC on the network is least busy.
Like Close Popup, WebWasher runs in the Tray and stays out of the way. Network administrators (and those who keep things running on a small peer-to-peer Windows network) should turn on a logging feature that tells WebWasher to keep track of everything it does. You can diagnose problems easily that way.