I often find a useful tool or two as I travel through cyberspace. And my latest trip was no different.
I came across ZoneAlarm from Zone Labs, a great free firewall for those of us that do our surfing via cable or DSL, and Ad Subtract Pro from InterMute Inc. ($29.95), a great utility that blocks those annoying banner ads that proliferate Web pages.
ZoneAlarm provides all the Net blocking home users need to protect their computers from interlopers. And, for those with more specific needs, there's ZoneAlarm Pro ($39.95 stand alone or $49.95 combined with Ad Subtract Pro).
Actually, according to the company's Web site, "ZoneAlarm is free for individual and not-for-profit charitable entity use (excluding governmental entities and educational institutions). For-profit business entities, governmental entities, or educational institutions, your license will be free for an introductory sixty (60) day period but you must purchase a valid end-user license after 60 days in order to continue using the software." The costs of these licenses depend on how many you want and whether you opt for basic, vanilla ZoneAlarm ($19.95) or the professional version.
The program is easy to use and is more efficient than others I've seen. Basically it prompts you very time a program wants access to the Internet and blocks all intruders trying to get to your PC from cyberspace. Once you give permission for access - in either direction - ZoneAlarm records the procedure and "remembers" what you did. This is the ideal program for anyone needing basic firewall protection.
ZoneAlarm Pro is for the more demanding user. It includes extras such as e-mail attachment protection, automatic network detection and customizable security levels.
Both of these products can be downloaded from the company's Web site at www.zonelabs.com.
Ad Subtract Pro is a fully customizable cookie banner ad blocker that stops those annoying ads from loading whenever you access your favorite web pages. Another advantage is that these pages are loaded much faster.
You can set up your own criteria for specific pages, which came in handy for me when I was testing the program. One of the sites I visit has a login page that Ad Subtract mistakenly saw as an advertisement and blocked the sign-on and password boxes on the page. All I had to do was tell the program to allow ads on that page and the problem was solved. Cookies are treated the same way. Just tell the program what cookies to permit and it will block the rest.
Copies of Ad Subtract Pro can be downloaded from the InterMute Web site at www.adsubtract.com.