We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, December 6. 2012
I admit, even knowing what's coming, I find it a bit unsettling.
The other day I'm re-reading an old article on my site and notice a link to the computer DVD player, PowerDVD. I click on it just out of editorial habit and the site had changed something so the link is broken.
I go to the PowerDVD site, grab the address, update the post, and figured that'd be the last I'd hear of ol' PowerDVD for a while.
I cruise over to Hot Air and click on a link leading to the ABC News site. I glance at the banner after the page loads.
I read the article and go back to Hot Air. I scroll down the page and glance in the sidebar.
This is taking place literally minutes after my visiting the PowerDVD site, so, yeah, it's a bit unsettling.
And consider the irony of a site like Hot Air railing against governmental intrusion into our Internet lives, only to turn around and give everyone a marvelous example of real-time Web tracking. I guess all that 'invasion of privacy' stuff is okay as long as it makes you money with effective sidebar ads.
This is all being done by means of 'cookies', which are small text files that web sites place on your computer which other web sites can then read.
The problem is that cookies can provide a very valuable service when it comes to remembering who you are on certain sites. For example, if you check the 'Remember info' box when leaving a comment here, it places a cookie on your computer so you won't have to enter your personal info next time.
So if you delete them all as part of some regular maintenance regimen, much less outright turn them off, you have to do the name/password routine every single time you go to certain sites, a major pain.
A happy compromise is reached by using CCleaner. It'll clean out your cookies but retain the valuable ones. Details are below the fold.
The download is here. It's a quick install, and I'd recommend you uncheck everything on the options panel except putting an icon in the Start Menu and checking for updates. The last panel pushing Google's Toolbar should also be unchecked unless you want it.
Important: Before we run this thing, make sure you have the name/passwords on hand so you can re-login to the sites after CCleaner wipes out the cookies. Browsers also have a section for 'saved passwords', so in many cases the info will still be in the site's login box; it just won't log you in automatically until we tell CCleaner to save that site's cookie.
If you don't have the name and/or password on hand, go to the site and click on the 'forgot password?' link that almost all name/password sites have.
After CCleaner is fired up, first look over the entries under 'Internet Explorer', assuming you use it. If you use a different browser, click on the 'Applications' tab. In both cases, make sure 'Temp' files and 'Cookies' are checked, and you can check anything else you deem fitting except 'Saved Passwords'. I leave all the rest of the default CCleaner selections as they are.
Next, click on 'Options', 'Settings'. Check 'Run CCleaner when the computer starts' so it'll clean things up at boot-up. Click on 'Advanced', make sure every box on the panel is unchecked.
To run the program, click 'Run Cleaner'. You can get rid of the warning box at some point. It'll take a while to clean everything up, especially the first time through. It'll tell you if there's a program open that needs to be closed, like a browser.
This is actually pretty slick. It keeps a record of which cookie(s) you just received, then you save the relevant one so the cookie doesn't get deleted in the future.
1. Click on 'Options', then 'Cookies'. Assuming you've just run the program, both boxes should be blank. If there are still some cookies listed on the left side, look over both the 'Windows' and 'Applications' lists on the main panel for any other program that has a 'Cookies' entry. In my case, my Thunderbird email program has a 'Cookies' entry which, unchecked, left three cookies in the left-hand box. I checked the 'Cookies' box, ran it again, and the last three cookies disappeared.
2. Go to a site that requires a name and/or password and log in. Now flip back to CCleaner, click on a button other than 'Cookies', then click 'Cookies' again so the panel will be refreshed. You should see the domain of the site listed on the left and, in some cases (like a bank), you might see one or two other cookies associated with the site. Sometimes you'll see both a cookie that starts off with "http" and one that just starts off with the "www". Highlight each relevant cookie, click the little arrow to shuffle it over to the right-hand box.
There might be a few cookies left over in the left-hand box, and in some cases a whole shitload of them, so if/when the left-side box gets a little full and confusing, just run CCleaner again and it'll clean things out.
3. Go to the next name/password site and repeat the procedure, first clicking out of the Cookies panel and then back to refresh it, then moving the good cookie(s) to the right-hand box.
When you're all caught up, right-click in the right-hand box and 'Export' the file to someplace safe, just in case your system suddenly melts down and you have to reinstall everything. You can then 'Import' the list and you're good to go. Keep the list updated when you add a new name/password site in the future.
As you'll notice, most cookies are simply the full address of the Web site. In the future, in most cases you won't have to do the above routine. Just click inside the site's address box, which should highlight everything, hit Ctrl-C to copy the address to memory, then right-click inside the right-hand box in CCleaner, 'Add', then paste in the address with Ctrl-V. Back up to just the domain name and save. If the site still doesn't remember you, try the full routine.
If you've done the above routine and a site still doesn't log you in automatically, there are a few things to try:
— If a cookie is listed in the right-hand box with its full address, right-click on the file, 'Edit', remove the "http://".
— First, remove any cookies referencing the troublesome site from the right-hand box and run CCleaner again, just so we have a blank slate. Go to the site and watch the browser's address box carefully as you log in. Some sites use a completely different domain just for the login. If you're quick, you can click in the address box, which should highlight everything, then quickly hit Ctrl-C to copy the address to memory. Then right-click in the right-hand box, 'Add', paste in the address with Ctrl-V. Back up to just the domain name and save.
— Do the above but just back up to the last folder name in the path, like "http://www.coolsite.com/blog/login/"
Any questions or additions, like usual, give a holler in the comments.
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Great article. I just did it and everything's working el per-fecto. And I'd add that as weird as it is to see a sidebar banner x minutes after you left some site, I find it even weirder to see some ad for something you were shopping for a month ago. Like some "voice from the past" is haunting you. No more, after this post. Much thanks.
Youz is welcome. And I know what you mean. About a month ago, my DVD-ROM started giving up the ghost, making ugly grinding sounds and such, so I hunted around the Web and found an exact replacement for a whopping $16.
A few days ago I was down at the bottom of some Web page and glanced over the items strung across. One of them was a DVD-ROM. My exact model.
So, yeah, it's gettin' kinda eerie out there.
So we can rest assured that CC Cleaner is not depositing spyware on our PC as it clears the other spyware out?
Here is another oddity Doc.
I have a gmail account that I have sent one email from. I haven't used it to sign in to any sites. Nothing.
After one email I am getting messages from facebook saying there is a message for feeblemind.
And here is the rub. The email I use all the time gets no such message.
If CCleaner was up to no good, it never would have withstood the test of time.
With all due respect, I'd rather not. "Maintaining my sanity" is pretty much at the top of my list.
I'll second the "much thanks". Very nify trick, and my boss is going to implement it throughout the office. Someone pointed out there's also a security aspect to it all, like if you do download a bad cookie, it won't be able to contact its buddies the next time the computer is booted up.
cccleaner is fine tool and harmless. Set your browser to delete everything when you log out. Make sure your browser does not allow third party cookies. Use a third party password tool like LastPass so your info is separate from the browser and you can still store logins and passwords. If your truly paranoid (and you should be) find a good anonymous proxy server.
Sorry, I forgot. Add-ins like "Do not Track" also stop this stuff from happening.
Hm, I use Ghostery (very satisfying list of blocked trackers drops down) and Adblock and I don't get anything, ever. No banner ads, no interstitial ads, not even Facebook ads on the side of the page.
Say, does Maggie's Farm run ads? Should I be admitting that I can't see them?
I think I can speak for all of us here that the closest we come to the word "ad" is "adhd".
Quite the interesting post, Doc. Will get to it this weekend. Do you consider it safe to keep names and passwords stored in a regular text file, or should it be encrypted? And, one file or many?
I keep everything in one standard Notepad file except for bank stuff, which I don't have on the computer at all. As for forums and all that, no one's going to bother hacking your computer for incidental stuff.
I carry it a step further. I run cCleaner to remove all cookies- ALL cookies. But I installed KeePass and KeeFox to keep track of all my passwords. Each time I start a browsing session, I have to use one Master password (that is fairly random and complicated). Then, whenever I visit a site where I have a PW stored, I can simply click a button in the Firefox frame to enter USN, PW, Submit. I know it's still hackable, but everything is hackable to one degree or another. But as the guy said to his buddy, "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you"...