by Marty Demarest
Advertisements: they're as much a part of life as death and taxes, and almost as much fun. But as one of the ways that media companies stay profitable, they're not likely to disappear. They are the price that one pays for entertainment -- aside from the price of admission, of course.
While advertisements have become commonplace on radio, television and in the theaters, they're still an aggressively intrusive presence online. It's one thing for a Web site to feature an advertisement at the top of a page -- the viewer has to click on it for anything to change. But it's becoming increasingly prevalent for sites to feature "pop-up" ads, or "pop-back" ads: those irritating additional windows that suddenly develop in front of or behind your browser.
The unfortunate news is that these are not likely to disappear any time soon either. What's really bad news, however, are programs called "adware," that install themselves on your computer, monitoring your Web-surfing habits in the background. Some of them are even packaged with other programs, so that they can carry on their work under false pretenses. Local computer guru Frank Delaney from MTA Micro Technology Associates even points out that companies as common as Pkware and Real Networks have been accused of including "adware" in their popular and seemingly safe programs.
Unlike traditional advertisements, "adware" really does invade your techno-privacy. Fortunately, with "adware," there is a solution. A free program, called Ad-aware, developed by Lavasoft, can be downloaded at http://tomcoyote.com/lsindex.html. It scans your computer for most known "adware" and gives you the option to remove the offending applications. A quick session with the program may surprise you with how many potential peepholes it points out. And the best part of Ad-aware: it's free.