OK, so this is not about covering up your tracks ‘coz you’ve been browsing things you shouldn’t have! Nor is it about tidying up your hard disk cache or PC performance… That’s for another tutorial. This is about taking a step towards safer, cleaner browsing and some of the things you can to do to avoid sites with dodgy adverts/code/etc.

The main site this article concerns itself with is Facebook mostly because it is so commonly used, but it will affect/apply to all other websites as well.  Part 2 of this series will have a more advanced clean up for all websites, including a major YouTube tidy, but that’s for later.

Time this takes: About 20-30 mins.

What you’ll need: A PC running Windows (all versions) or Linux, or a Mac with OS X, and a basic understanding of using a computer!  If you’re reading this, then I’d say you’re already qualified!  (You will also need permission from the owner of said computer, which also means you will have the necessary admin settings to install software on it!)

What you’re going to do: Install Firefox and a few simple plug-ins.  (This procedure is also compatible with the Chrome browser if you prefer it, but I’m concentrating on Firefox)

Why? Simply put… The way the Internet is going, more and more companies are pushing to monetise their websites and services, and a lot of this is being done with advertising.  The methods of advertising are becoming so much more aggressive with pop-ups, pop-unders, obtrusive banners, and more recently intrusive methods like social networking sites asking you hand over your email address and password under the guise of ‘inviting your friends’ to join them.  (Btw – if you have ever done this, slap yourself on the wrist and promise yourself and everyone on your contact list that you will never… ever ever ever ever ever do it again!  You might also consider changing your password now that you have given it out and probably have breached the t & c’s of your email service by doing it!)

… but I digress.  The point of this is to reduce the amount of advertising and spam you see on the majority of websites, however… you should also consider there are some sites that you should not block the adverts on, because they’re offering a good and free service so the advertising is all they have to rely on as income.

so with no further ado, let’s get on with it..

First things first, if you don’t already have Firefox installed on your system, go here and download/install it.  If you had Firefox before and thought it was slow in comparison to Chrome or IE (unlikely!) then the new version (currently v4) is a lot faster and less buggy thus far.  Follow all the regular install options (if they change the installer to come with any ‘extras’ like toolbars and what-not, do NOT accept/install those bits!), and it is up to you if you want this browser to be your new default browser.

So once you have Firefox installed, the next few steps are simple. Run Firefox, go to the Tools menu and click Add-Ons which opens the Add-ons Manager.  On the left you will see Get Add-ons and at the top of the page you will see Search.  Click in the Search box and type in the following…

Adblock Plus

…and press Enter which will find the relevant plug-in with this icon ABP Icon. Make sure the search option is Available Add-Ons, above the results otherwise it will be looking locally for it!  The current version at the time of writing is v1.3.6.  so click on the [Install] button to the right and a pop-up will appear, warning that plug-ins should only be installed from trusted sources or known authors.  The Install button will be greyed out and counting down for a few seconds before you can click on it, so go ahead and click on that to complete the installation.

Firefox may ask to restart once the plug-in is installed, but don’t click on this yet, we want to install one more called FBPurity, from this link (can’t miss it on that page!).  Follow the same procedure as above with the warning pop-up and Install Now button, but this time you can restart Firefox to complete the installation.

When Firefox restarts, it will bring up a window from AdBlock Plus asking for a subscription to a filter list.  Easylist is usually highlighted; otherwise it can be selected by clicking on it and then click OK to apply the filter. This page can be closed afterwards.  You will also probably notice a new ABP button on Firefox, which allows you to control the site being blocked. As I mentioned before, you should click that button to disable it on good sites e.g. definitely FBPurity’s site (you could also donate like I did to this guy on PayPal for the amazing work he does to keep FB clean) and various other free and open-source sites.

At this point you’re more or less done.  If you don’t believe me, go and browse Facebook or YouTube (noticeably, that HUGE video banner at the top of the page!) to see the difference those 2 simple plug-in installs have made!  FBPurity will hide all the Application stuff in the news feed and it can all be customised by the new FBPurity link at the top of your news feed.

If you want to continue to the slightly more advanced stuff… it’s coming soon and will be linked here.

For the faint of heart when dealing with computers, I can perform this (plus the advanced stuff including a general check-up of your computer) as a service.  Contact me for further information!  😉