Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Proxomitron
by
Chris Taylor

When I first saw the World Wide Web back in 1993, my reaction was, "Well, it is kind of nifty, but it's not like it is going to change my life or anything."

Ok, so I won't make it as a futurist. But, to my knowledge, there is one thing few people predicted correctly about the web back then-the massive amount of advertising we now have on web sites.

I freely admit that I get a lot of free information on the web and I know a lot of it is supplied courtesy of advertising dollars. But I think things are getting out of control. We now have windows popping up over the middle of a page that can't be dismissed for a number of seconds. We have ads that float around the screen. We have pop-under windows that appear as you shut down the windows on top. We have banner ads running in the status bar. For the latest annoyance, read news.com.com/2102-1023-978616.html. It talks about a new technique whereby just passing your mouse over an advertising window will redirect you to the advertiser's site.               Proxomitron kills web annoyances

For years there have been programs that would do various tasks to eliminate pop-up windows, kill JavaScript banner ads, and more. I tried a few, and they may be OK. But I tried them in days when I was not quite so annoyed and I found they frequently prevented legitimate content from being displayed correctly.

As my annoyance level rose and my tolerance for shenanigans dropped, I went looking again. And I found a terrific program called Proxomitron. Besides being completely free-and no, it is not full of spyware, adware, etc.-it is a fantastically configurable program. I downloaded and tested version "Naoko 4.4". Don't ask me about the odd version name.

Proxomitron installs itself as a proxy server. You reconfigure your browser to use a proxy server. You point it to localhost, which is your own machine, on port 8080. Proxomitron listens on that port and intercepts all requests for web browsing. It fetches the content your browser is asking for. But, before it passes the information back to your browser, it acts as a filter. It removes elements you have decided you would rather not see. If you happen to be using port 8080 for something else, you can configure Proxomitron to use a different port.

Proxomitron resides on your machine as a tray icon. Click the left mouse button to bring up the main configuration dialog box or click the right mouse button to bring up a context-sensitive menu. 

Some of the capabilities of Proxomitron are;
 · Stop or limit Pop-up windows 
 · Control MIDI music and other
   sounds
 · Freeze animated .GIFs
 · Kill advertising banner
 · Stop Web-Branding and other
   scripts added by web space
   providers
 · Stop Pop-up alert/confirm 
   boxes
 · Remove slow web counters
 · Stop web pages and ads from 
   "auto-refreshing"
 · Remove Dynamic HTML
 · Prevent getting stuck in 
    someone's frames
 · Remove frames or tables 
   altogether
 · Kill or change selected Java 
   scripts and applets
 · Remove off-site images                                              
 · Kill Flash animations                                                   Web page before Proxomitron
 · Remove orreplaceweb page                          
   and/or table background images                     We now have windows popping up over
 · Force popups to have browser                            the middle of a page that can't be
   controls                                                             dismissed for a number of seconds.
 · Stop status bar scrollers
 ·Unhide URLs obscured by 
  status line text
 · Convert blinking text to bold
 · Remove Layers and Style 
   sheets

There are many more, most of which I don't really understand yet. And if those are not enough, you can define your own filters. Be prepared to spend some time with the documentation, if you want to create filters. The documentation does appear to be well-written and the style is light-hearted and humorous, so who knows, I might actually get around to it.

The defaults for the program are a good starting point. As you get familiar with how the program operates, you can start fine-tuning it by turning various filters on or off. Right after installing Proxomitron, I loaded up a page from the New York Times web site. Proxomitron blocked a total of 11 ads found on the one page. Other than the missing ads, the page looked the same as the unfiltered version.

There is always a chance that some of the information that gets blocked will be information you want, rather than an ad for a wireless video camera from X10 or something. Two clicks are all that it takes to bypass all filtering. And, of course, it only takes two clicks to flip the filtering back on. As well, if you have some site you always want to see unfiltered, you can add the URL to a bypass list.

If you want to see exactly what the program is doing, you can bring up a log window. In colour-coded splendour you can then watch all traffic going back and forth.

If you are worried about the program burying its way deep into Windows and not permitting easy removal if you don't like the program, rest easy. The program installs absolutely no files outside its own program directory. It writes absolutely no information to the Windows registry. To get rid of the program, you simply exit the program, change your proxy setting in your web browser back to the way they were-in most cases this means simply telling the browser not to use a proxy, and delete the program directory.

Same web page after Proxomitron

If you want to try out Proxomitron, you can pick up the latest version at http://www.proxomitron.org/


Bottom Line:

Proxomitron
free
from Proxomitron
Web site: http://www.proxomitron.org/


Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.