I’m totally unreasonable.  I don’t want things that are low-maintenance, or even zero-maintenance.  I want things (a house, or a car) that are negative maintenance.  They get better as time goes on.  Totally unreasonable, I know.

Today’s cool tool is close to that, while still not violating the second law of thermodynamics (which says that entropy increases and everything evens out, roughly).

And that’s doubly funny because today’s cool tool isn’t a program, but rather a text file.

I’ll back it up and start from a different, understandable direction.

There’s a lot of stuff on the internet, much of it good, some of it bad, other parts just bothersome.  You want to get to http://www.FreeIceCreamForLife.com, you don’t want to get to http://www.WeWillInfectYourComputerForFree.com, and you could probably live without advertisements served from http://BlindinglyBadFlashAnimation.com.  But how do you get to the good ones, while avoiding the bad ones?

The internet is not based on names, but on numbers (called IP addresses).  These IP addresses are usually shown in dotted quads, like 8.8.8.8.  Your own PC has one, and it’s always 127.0.0.1.  It is called your home address, and of course people make a joke out of it.

(pic from slworking2)

But how do you know how to translate all those web sites out there from words to numbers?  Good news: you don’t have to.  There are groups (and companies) that run a Domain Name System and will help you out.  But you can also help yourself out.

Other people have compiled a list of places you don’t want to go (malware) and places you might rather avoid (advertising), and are giving the assembled knowledge away for free.  To take advantage of it, open up the text file, copy all of it, and add it to the bottom of your hosts file (at C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\DRIVERS\ETC\hosts) using a good text editor.  It will look like this at the beginning:

127.0.0.1  localhost

#start of lines added by WinHelp2002
# [Misc A - Z]
127.0.0.1  fr.a2dfp.net #[server down?]
127.0.0.1  m.fr.a2dfp.net #[server down?]
127.0.0.1  ad.a8.net #[server down?]
127.0.0.1  asy.a8ww.net
127.0.0.1  abcstats.com
127.0.0.1  a.abv.bg
127.0.0.1  adserver.abv.bg

(advanced instructions and explanations available here).  What this file does is to redirect all the bad IP addresses onto your own computer.  So when a site tries to serve an ad from one of these places, it will look on your own machine and not locate it – so no ad on the web page!  Same for malware – they can’t find http://www.BadSite.com/BadProgram.exe, so cannot load it onto your PC.

And without all the ads loading, a lot of web pages appear more quickly than before.

The whole anti-entropy thing from up above?  This list improves over time as more sites are added to be blocked – and somebody else does the work.  So the system as a whole improves, while somebody somewhere does a lot of work.  And they’re willing to share.  Nice people!

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