Monday, June 22, 2009

Opera Mobile 9.7 beta

Just a quick note on the Opera Mobile 9.7 beta I just installed on my phone yesterday:

  • It doesn't auto-zoom when in Mobile view.

  • It doesn't have the Wand to remember login credentials.

  • The progress bar is displayed too late, and only starts animating when the page has completely loaded.

  • It didn't auto-import my bookmarks from the existing Opera 9.5 install.

  • There's no longer a right-click > Open in new tab menu option.

..but it has Opera Turbo, which is really, really, really fast. Very promising. I hope the above list of issues will be fixed once it comes out of beta.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A sensible adblocking policy

Lately, multiple websites have been playing the 'WAAH LOOK AT MY ADS OR I'LL GO BROKE' card again. This surfaces once ever so often, mostly by websites that provide free content and thus feel that you are required to view their advertisements in return. They further imply that if you block their ads, you're making them lose money (or even steal their content) because they get nothing in return.

What do I think of this? Well, I've been blocking ads since Atguard came out and switched between different policies, ranging from 'ads are evil and waste my bandwidth, I block EVERYTHING' to 'meh, as long as it's not SUPER-ANNOYING it can stay'. I know for sure that there are people who follow the first philosophy because things like the IE-SPYADS blocklist and the Winhelp2002 hosts file exist, which blackholes hundreds, if not thousands of webservers that serve advertisements. Apart from it being a bad idea to abuse the hosts file (or IE Restricted Zone) for this and exposing yourself to memory problems, it's a carpetbombing attack and probably overzealous. After all, the hosts file can only block a complete domain, and not just the /annoying_ads/ subfolder of the news website you read.

The other end of the adblocking spectrum seems rare, in my opinion. When I visit friends or family that browse without an adblocker, ads immediately jump out at me because I'm not really used to them anymore, but other people seem to be able to ignore them. And I have to say, you eventually start skipping and ignoring ads in magazines, probably because of some subconscious learning process.

The major browsers have - or are really close - a built-in adblocker that can be used by anyone who knows it's there. Opera has the Content Blocker. Firefox has Adblock Plus (ok, not built-in, but it's the most popular plugin). Internet Explorer 8 has Private Browsing mode which has a domain blacklist. Originally it wasn't even meant as an adblocker. Chrome has a developer version in beta that allows loading of userscripts, with the first plugin being... an ad blocker.

But if everyone used the adblocking functionality of their browser, ad clickthrough rates would plummet and bad stuff would happen. A 'good' clickthrough rate already seems to be 0.50% at this point, meaning that for every 1000 visitors, only 5 click on an ad. It's still higher than spam (0.000008%), but not much.

I propose that everyone follows an adblocking procedure that will not only keep advertisers in business, but also promote them to make more userfriendly ads like Google does (i.e. text-only ads). In essence, if an ad on a website is annoying or distracting, block its origin. So if you see an ad that shakes around and warns you that 'YOU HAVE 2 UNREAD MESSAGES', throw whatever domain it's served from onto your blacklist. This will make sure that whatever marketing company that thought up that horrible ad will notice that their ad is not working, and that whatever other horrible ads that are on that adserver will not reach you either.

Usually, for me this means that whenever I lose my adblocklist for whatever reason, I start over with a blank one. If the ad cannot be blocked because it's served from the same domain as the website I want to visit, I stop visiting it - unless it's important enough, in which case I only block the folder the ads are in. Periodically clearing your adblock list also gives advertisers a chance to clean up their act and serve normal ads (by which I mean static ads).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Welcome to Web 3.0

Inspired by a friend's tour-de-force show of his blog that consolidated Twitter, Google Reader Shared Items, links to social networking websites and more, I've changed the layout of my blog a bit. GReader shared items are now at the top right, followed by a rudimentary Twitter app. If I find out how, I'll add more fun stuff.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 down, relocated at CastleCops

For those who are wondering why my website at is down: the legal owner of the domain (who is also the owner of SpywareInfo) is missing, and the domain expired. I am in the process of procuring the domain from GoDaddy as soon as it becomes available to me.

Meanwhile, a complete mirror is available at A generous thanks to Paul Laudanski for this.

Update April 7th 2009: For those who still don't know it from everywhere else I've put up notices, my website is back online at and will stay there. The hosting and domain name are completely owned by me and I don't expect any problems like with Thanks to cnm once again for all the trouble I've caused him and his grandson.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to fix Windows Update Error 0x8ddd0004

I just spent about half a day fixing up a computer that had been struck with the AVG user32.dll false positive, where most of the time was taken up by figuring out why the hell WindowsUpdate wouldn't run. It kept stopping the scan, with the error message 'Error 0x8ddd0004' and some useless instructions for fixing it.

Here are some possible solutions, if you do all of these it is guaranteed to work. After each step close all browsers and open WindowsUpdate to see if it worked yet.

Make sure you have Administrator rights

Perhaps the simplest step of all. Go to Start > Control Panel > User Accounts and make sure the account you're currently logged in as is classified as 'Administrator'.

Update Flash

Since it's the easiest, try this first. I have no idea why, but this one worked for me. Head over to and click the 'Get Adobe Flash Player' link. If you don't use MSIE for this, make sure you close all browsers and all Flash-enabled programs before you run the manual installer.

While you're there, upgrade to the latest Shockwave Player too by clicking the 'Get Adobe Shockwave Player' link or banner. Again, close all browsers if you use the manual installer.

Re-register all WindowsUpdate DLLs

From Virtual Dr.:
  • Go to Start > Run and type each of the following, hit Enter, Enter again and repeat.
  • regsvr32 JSCRIPT.DLL
  • regsvr32 MSXML3.DLL
  • regsvr32 ATL.DLL
  • regsvr32 WUAPI.DLL
  • regsvr32 WUAUENG.DLL
  • regsvr32 WUAUENG1.DLL
  • regsvr32 WUCLTUI.DLL
  • regsvr32 WUPS.DLL
  • regsvr32 WUWEB.DLL

Manually reinstall the WindowsUpdate agent

To reinstall the WindowsUpdate files, run this installer from Microsoft: (64-bit version here)

Let WindowsUpdate reinstall the ActiveX component

I put this one last, because I have a feeling it resets much more than just the WindowsUpdate ActiveX component. Use with care.
To do this, you first need to disable the two WindowsUpdate services. Go to Start > Run > services.msc. Select Automatic Updates and click the 'Stop' link. Select Background Intelligent Transfer service and click the 'Stop' link.
Now open Explorer and open the Windows directory. Find the folder 'SoftwareDistribution' and rename it to something like 'SoftwareDistribution_old'.
Go back to the Services window and start both services again.