Charles Moore's Mailbag

Faster Internet Tools, Flash and JavaScript Blocking, and Compact Flash for Vintage Macs

Charles Moore - 2010.03.24 -Tip Jar

Tools for a Faster Internet

From Matthew:


We are in the same boat you recently disembarked from, still beingon dial-up Internet after almost fifteen years.

Our area was promised broadband "definitely" in late 2008, thenearly 2009, then "probably" mid-2009, then "maybe" first-quarter 2010.Now the promise seems to be "before the end of 2010" which doesn'texactly inspire much confidence.

Over the years, I have assembled a collection of bandwidth-frugalInternet tools in order to optimize the bandwidth we do have, but Ihave often thought that I would dump most of those tools if we had afaster connection. I am curious: Did you change your Internet tools tomatch your faster connection speed?

With massive JavaScript libraries that inexplicably reload everypage, Flash navigation, JavaScript injection, and web servers thatcancel page transfers after only a few seconds, the World Wide Webreally isn't a pleasant place for dial-up users any more.


Hi Matthew,

As a matter of fact, I didn't change a whole lot interms of tools. The biggest difference is that I now keep the Turbo compressionfunction in Opera turned off, butit was a lifesaver for those last six months or so on dial-up.

I've also shunted a lot of the work I used to do inOpera to Google Chrome,which became available for the Mac about the same time as we finallygot broadband here, but I still use Opera a lot, especially on thePismoPowerBooks, which don't support Chrome. [Chrome requires anIntel-based Mac - ed]

However, aside from the speed that things happen, Ihaven't changed my routines or tools that much. I even keep Gmailswitched to Basic HTML, which adds speed even on broadband.

Hope you get broadband soon. We were fortunate. A lotof our neighbors a mile or two away are still unable to pick up thesignal until the provider gets around to building another tower. Wehave just enough elevation for a line-of-sight shot at the tower withthe antenna at the peak of the roof.


Editor's note: To gauge the impact of Flash, I usedCamino, Firefox, Opera, and Safari to visit Facebook and load Farmvilleon my dual 1.6 GHz G4 Power Mac running OS X 10.5 Leopard. Exceptfor Opera, all of these consistently reported over 100% CPU usage whileFarmville was active (Opera sometimes dipped into the 90% to 100%range). I don't know what that means for a single CPU Mac, but it doesshow what a processor hog Flash is on PowerPC hardware. dk

ClickToFlash Recommended

From John:

Hey guys,

I'm sure you'll be hearing a lot regards your article How AdBlocking Hurts Your Favorite Websites, just like Ars Technica didwhen they addressed the issue. I had a good look at the comment threadthere when they posted it last week, and besides the flames, there werea few interesting technical points.

One in particular: Flash ads and Flash blockers, like ClickToFlash.

I run Safari on my seven-year-old12" PowerBook, and I rely on ClickToFlash to save me from:

  1. Lots and lots of beachball time during which Safari - or anybrowser - would be completely locked up.
  2. A great deal of heat as my G4 struggles with the Flash plugin'snotoriously poor performance on OS X for PowerPC.
  3. Plenty of fan noise once numbers 1 & 2 have been happening fora while.
  4. A massive hit on battery life as the juice really has to flow.

Flash is obviously a hot topic right now, thanks to Apple's choicenot to support it on iPhone or iPad. But it's literally a hot topic forthose of us with just the kind of low-end Macs that Low End Mac is allabout. Yikes.

So I've been running ClickToFlash since I first heard about it ayear or two ago. Before that I actually had plugins turned offentirely, so serious are the problems caused by automatic Flashloads.

According to Ars, Flash blockers are a problem for advertisers,because blockers cause the browser to report it supports Flash, whichit then refuses to play. If a browser reports it doesn't support Flashat all - like iPhone Safari - then an alternate, static advert can beoffered instead. Static ads don't pay as well as animated Flash ads,but since a growing portion of the Web user-base has no Flash - iPhone,iPod, iPad, and most other smartphones right now - it's certainlybetter than nothing.

Anyway, Flash is a whole other layer in the ad issue you guys haverightly chosen to address. No static JPEG is as likely to bring mybrowser to a grinding halt - or to try burning a PowerBook sized holein my desk or legs.

Your site and your income are of course entirely your business, Iunderstand that. I've just good reasons to keep Flash off when it's sofundamentally unsuited to my computer.


Hi John,

As one who absolutely detests fan racket and watchesTemperatureMonitor like a hawk, I would never fault anyone from blocking adcontent that generates substantial heat.

Happily, I don't notice that Flash spikes thetemperature radically on my UnibodyMacBook (although intensive browser activity of any sort tends todrive the heat up), and the fan virtually never cuts in on the Pismosregardless of what you're doing with them, save for perhaps on very hotdays in the summer (scarce here in coastal eastern Nova Scotia).



You have a point indeed. I think the complaints out there about 20%CPU spikes on Intels and such are overblown. Flash almost always means100% CPU on my old G4, and as it's an 867 MHz 12" PowerBook, thatalways spells a lot of heat pretty fast. Even in often just as chillyOld Scotia.

I should note that Flash has always been a burden on my PowerBook.It was just one of those things I'd either turn off or avoid. Therecent craze against Flash has everything to do with the iPhone andiPad. It's turned political since Apple made such a move to oppose it.I quite agree with Apple's choice - John Gruber sums it up in hisongoing series of posts on the subject of platform control at Daring Fireball - and I'm firmly infavour of open standards taking over from closed plugins, no matterwhose they are.

But then again, my PowerBook was manufactured before the standardfor H.264 video was even published. So I doubt every aspect of aneventual Flash-free future would necessarily favour my veteran Mac.

Anyway, I didn't raise these points at Ars Technica as I know thatreaders running seven-year-old hardware - unsupported by Apple, letalone Adobe - are a slender minority over there. But Low End Mac seemsthe right place to discuss it.


Hi John,

Towards the end when I was still on the 1.33 GHzPowerBook, I used the reduced power option in the Energy Saver alot to keep the fan quiet, which I understand was giving me about aneffective 667 MHz clock speed.

According to Temperature Monitor, my MacBook actuallyruns somewhat hotter than the old PowerBook did, but the fan cut-inthreshold is higher and the fan in the Unibody is so quiet that it'snot nearly as much of an annoyance.


How Ad Blocking Hurts Websites

From Andrew:


Well, here're my thoughts on this subject, as posted on the article youmention:


Hi Andrew,

An interesting and thoughtful commentary. I see you'reanother ClickToFlash fan.

It really does behoove the advertisers to be mindfulthat, as I said in the article, less can be more. If your ads arecausing frustration for folks who don't hate advertising due toanti-commercialism ideology, then their effectiveness has to bequestionable.


Blocking Kontera Ads

From James:


The only ad blocking that I would like to use is the ad blockingthat disables the Kontera ads on Low End Mac. Kontera is responsiblefor the booby trap ads that pop up if I accidentally move my cursorover double underlined words. I loathe that company.


Hi James,

As I was saying about gratuitously irritating ads,their effectiveness can be negative - something for advertisers to keepin mind.


Publisher's note: I agree that the Kontera ads can beannoying, but they are also a significant source of income for Low EndMac. If you want to block them, there's a good guide to blocking theKontera ads on Wilders Security Forums. dk

Intrusive, Obnoxious Advertising

From John:

You write:

"I don't dispute that some advertising on websites canbe intrusive and obnoxious. I particularly dislike popup ads thatobscure what you're reading, clog bandwidth, and can be maddeninglypersistent when you try to dismiss them."

And really, that's the crux of it. Perhaps if there were somedefined rules that advertisers and website administrators would followto limit the intrusiveness (e.g., popups - especially multiple popups -and use of Flash movies) of ads, most people wouldn't feel a need toblock them. In the meantime, as long as people use the technologyavailable to them to push ads into our faces, the more people are goingto use technology to block them.

By the way, having said that, I regularly peruse LEM, and yourcolumn prompted me to make a donation to your tip jar. Keep up the goodwork!


Hi John,

Thanks muchly for your readership, the tip jarcontribution, and the constructive comment.

I suppose part of the problem with bandwidth-heavy,overbearing ads is the "because we can" syndrome - sort of analogicalto word processing newbies back in the 1980s and 90s going ape withmultiple fonts in documents.

Clever or elaborate feats of Web authoring expertisedon't necessarily make for better or more effective advertising.


I Don't Run Ad Blocking

From Doug:

Love your stuff and LEM. Keep it up!

I don't run ad blocking, because I like to see the full sitecontent.

But I surely do not spend any more time than absolutely necessary toget my information from sites that are 90% ads. That is far too manysites these days. Spam was the original Web advertising. Big Mediathinks they are tricky and high tech by spamming our informationstreams on the Web. They only hurt themselves.

Netizens seek, and find, shortest paths to the information theywant, presented in meaningful ways. You cannot change people to yourwill by asking or telling them. You must adapt to what they seek, inlight of all the available options. Most newspapers are way too slow toadapt to the Web. It is not a paradigm they understand. They do not"get it" in too many ways to list here. That is why they fail and willcontinue to fail. The very few who do get it, will do great! It is acompetition to provide value and gain mind set.

No reflection on LEM. LEM does it right. I pay no attention to adson your site, even though I spend time there almost daily. Good contentkeeps me coming back. Good content, well presented, is quite a feat onthe Web. You all are to be congratulated.

Then the day comes when my 10-year-old son with $300 to burn needs acomputer to go with his iPod touch. Where do you suppose I went to finda machine within his budget? Bingo! A Google search. No, just kidding.LEM and a couple of clicks, he had a 12" G3 headed this way. I hadconfidence in the supplier, because they advertised on LEM. I hadconfidence in the choice because of LEM content. He could not behappier; I could not be happier. I will be back for more; I will tellmy friends.

Make my life easier, entertain me once in a while, treat me withrespect, win mindset, become a shortest path information intermediarybetween visitors and advertisers, provide value. Simple economics.Anything less leaves the door open for somebody who understands thatall this technology junk does not change the value equation. It is acontinuously iterating ratio balancing what is desired, to what isavailable.

Thank you for your time, and the great content, well presented.

"The more flashy and intrusive, the less likely thecasual viewer will ever return for another dose. Everyday people arethe ultimate economists when it comes to where they spend their timeand money. Bury them in chaff, run them off." - Spam -The Original Web Advertising


Hi Doug,

Thank you for the kind words about LEM, and delightedto hear that you find our efforts worthwhile and helpful.


Blocking Flash and JavaScript

From Larry:

Just read your article and wanted to mention that I also emailed theArs guy as well (and had to email him directly, since I don't likehaving to log in to comment, and of course never got any response).

Here's a few adblocking tools:

  1. Firefox "Block Images from" - This is a menu option available byright clicking over an image on a website.
  2. Flash Block - Firefox plugin that stops Adobe Flash from autoloading.
  3. NoScript - An over-the-top tool that can block almost everythingfrom happening on a website. A pain to configure, but a real time saverwhen setup.

Here's a few reasons that someone like me uses Adblocking tools:

  1. Websites load much faster - When you block ads, Java, Flash,etc., web pages just plain load quicker. I am amazed at how so manywebsites use other sites to host content and how slow those sitesare.
  2. Flash - I agree with Steve Jobs on this - Flash is garbage. 90% ofFlash is for ads. Websites that are Flash-based are basically just anad for a company that sells a product. They are slow, take waytoo long to load, and are almost always annoying. If I click ona link when I'm on a computer without FlashBlock and I hear an ad, Iclose that tab. I don't even bother to check out the page. That is themost disrespectful thing a website can do.
  3. JavaScript - I get really Irked when I'm trying to read somethingand an ad pops up and blocks the content. That's just plain crap. If Iwant to look at the advertising, I'm gonna do it in my time. Notin the middle of reading an article. That's the quickest way to lose meas a customer.
  4. Flash and Java aren't secure - Most infections now come frominsecure websites that use Flash and Java.
  5. Cookies that track my habits - I always delete cookies. Ihate being tracked. I refuse to even read my local paper online becauseI have to login to read it. If I can buy a copy from a machine,why do I need to login and lose my anonymity?
  6. Websites that load annoying toolbars at the bottom of the screen.Useless.

What I fail to understand is why websites use annoying ads whenGoogle is the #1 ad revenue receiver on the Web, and it doesn't useannoying ads.

Companies need to rethink their advertising. Any ad that flashes atyou, like one from thissite, which is on Low End Mac, isn't a good ad. Just myopinion.

Now, years ago in the TV world, people didn't have a choice. You hadto watch ads (or do something during the ad and miss part of theprogram when it came back on). As technology improved, devices likeVCRs and DVRs gave people a choice about watching ads.

I just can't agree with you about watching ads. I prefer to watch amovie straight through with no ads and no content removed. I can dothat with a DVD or a pay movie channel. That's the kind of servicesthat people have paid for. However, being able to select what you wantto watch is better, and I think once a reasonable rate isactually introduced, people will pay for things. Look at the success ofthe iTunes Store.

Companies that have put up paywalls or blocked Google have seentheir site traffic collapse. Newsday is a primeexample of that.

I deal with enough distractions during the day. I don't need anymore.

Just my 2 cents.

Have a good one.

Hi Larry,

You're of course perfectly within your rights to usewhatever content-blocking measures you prefer. I'm not the webmaster,but my hazy understanding of that end of the business is that (some?most?) ads on LEM are streamed from a third-party advertising service,and that is the site's principal source of revenue, since we are freeaccess.

I have no problem with cookies and keep them turned onin all my browsers, but we agree on this point: "What I fail tounderstand is why websites use annoying ads when Google is the #1 adrevenue receiver on the Web, and it doesn't use annoying ads."

As I said in the article, it would be in advertisers'best interest to create non-annoying, hopefully interesting, andinformative ad content. In your face, loud, overbearing, and imbecilicadvertising is counterproductive, IMHO. I think that part of theproblem may be that ad content formatting is created by folks too eagerto show off their web-technology prowess, resulting in "too much". Justa theory. There's plenty of bad advertising on TV too, but you canalways hit the Mute button.

Thanks for commenting.


Compact Flash for Real Low End Macs

From Roland:

Hi Charles,

Sometimes the Web surprises you. I don't even recall how I stumbledupon this, but I wouldn't want to keep it from all Low End Mac'ers inthe world.

A SCSI CompactFlash/PCMCIA adapter. Now that makes your old Mac suddenly a lotmore useful. But I guess it will be pricey if the company is stillalive at all...

And it allegedly supports System 6?! Now that is true Low EndMac-worthy!

Keep up the good work, excellent site, I read it every day.


Hi Roland,

Thanks for reading and for the link.

The Web surprises me frequently. ;-)

Interesting product. The page now says Mac System 7.xor above as the minimum system requirement. I couldn't get the pricebuttons to work (I was using Firefox 3.6), so I'm wondering if it'sstill available.

No worries about your email address and surname. Idon't post either unless explicitly requested to.


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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