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My new favorite anti-spam & anti-website ads tool -- HostsMan

By Andrew Pollack on 12/30/2005 at 11:13 PM EST

Ads. I hate them. They've taken over every inch of available screen real estate on websites, roadsides, tv, radio, and even people. I went looking for a tool to help block them at their source. I found exactly what I wanted. There are others out there, but so far "HostsMan" is my favorite.

This tool is really simple. It downloads and updates from four open sourced lists of ad servers. These are the places that put those flash animations, tracking cookies, banner ads, and other such stuff onto the pages. They don't actually come from the site you're viewing. "HostsMan" takes advantage of that by creating "HOSTS" file entries for ALL of them. 68,000 of them at last count. The host file points all of these sites back to your own machine -- thus, they can't load.

A couple of other neat features with "HostsMan"are:

1. It allows you to change where the hosts file redirects the servers.
2. It has an optional mini http server which can listen on that port and respond with an error instead of having the browser time out on the loads. In theory, this is faster. In practice, it seems to be faster.

If you use this option, instead of just a dead space or broken link icon, for ads that are images (not flash) it will optionally replace the image with one indicating that it blocked an ad. That's kind of cool. You can even pick the fore and background color it uses for this.

It doesn't block EVERY banner ad. It does seem to block most of them -- and all the really nasty ones. It speeds up browsing massively because you're not downloading all those ads. I even went to one of the worst sites in my list of bad sites ( and it left 36 blank spots on the page where ad content of one kind or another would have been. True, the page looks less attractive with the "image missing" icons showing up in those places -- but the content is all there and the ads are all gone.

There are  - loading -  comments....

just tried this...By Ben Rose on 01/03/2006 at 11:49 AM EST
Sent my CPU to 100% on my Win2K laptop. Service.exe was at fault.

It advised during setup that I disable the DNS client service on my machine to
avoid a possible conflict, I declined. Maybe I should have done...

Rebooted machine, it's still unhappy, hit CPU 100% usage during boot. Ooops, I
smell safe mode on the way!
My own thoughts on this are...By Ben Rose on 01/03/2006 at 12:26 PM EST
Uninstalled using safe mode and disable DNS client service as advised. All
running OK now, but it's not blocking any all.

Maybe because I use a proxy server? I have bypass proxy for local addresses
checked but no success.
Ben, you have to update your listsBy Andrew Pollack on 01/03/2006 at 02:19 PM EST
you've installed it,but you haven't told it to use which lists, and to write
the data to your hosts file yet.
My own thoughts on this are...By Ben Rose on 01/04/2006 at 04:49 AM EST
Yes, I was aware of that. All the entries were in the host file but still it
had no effect.

I know this isn't an issue with the software, if it's in the host file it
should work, but it's not working this end for whatever reason.

It could be that my machine is registered in our active directory here, uses a
proxy server etc.

Interestingly, I ran windows update last night and it's killed my machine. I'm
guessing it re-enabled the DNS client that conflicts with the Hostman tool.

I like a challenge :O)
If you use a proxy server, it obviously can't work.By Andrew Pollack on 01/04/2006 at 08:47 AM EST
If you use a proxy server, you'd have to install this product at the proxy.
Your workstation passes all web requests to the proxy which does the dns or
host file lookup and retreives the image.
Not THAT obvious...By Ben Rose on 01/09/2006 at 03:36 AM EST
Judging by the product options, it is supposed to support a proxy server though.

Most sites are resolved to and browser is set to bypass proxy for
local addresses, which localhost clearly is.

In theory it should work, the product even has specific proxy settings to
enable it to work, but alas doesn't.

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