Max Privacy, Min Tracking, Zero Pain

I absolutely hate online advertising, junk mail, and spam. More and more I rail against the intursion of advertising into every nook and cranny of our virtual and real lives. First it was ads in news print, magazines, radio, TV, billboards, flyers, t-shirts, sky writing, etc. Then the assult on our eye balls via Internet and mobile devices through web sites, news feeds, video clips, text messages, social media feeds, computer applications; its just appauling. Add into the mix the personal information gathered and data mining that make advertisers and governments drool, there has to be a line drawn somewhere and a push back by the public to say enough is enough. Big Brother can go frak himself.

Now I’ve been using the Internet for a long time, since university in the late 1980’s and BBS’ before that. So I have a long and established digital foot print, from free software offerings, newsgroup postings, programming contests, several domain names, a blog, twitter, and who knows what else. So finding out something about me and my past is not that hard if you know how to thread together the diverse information.

Still despite all that, I still endeavour to protect my online privacy with a good measure of success. Here is an outline the steps I’ve taken:

  • Use a browser that has good “cookie” management and a variety of add-ons, like Firefox. Chrome is a fast browser, has good cookie controls, and supports many of the add-ons available for Firefox, I have privacy concerns since it is built by Google and integrates into some of the very services that track you on-line. I’m less familiar with Opera.

  • Disable third-party cookie support. Also consider being prompted about every cookie request, or at the very least auto-delete them all when you close the browser, effectively forcing session only cookies.

    I typically block all cookies by default, making exceptions only when a site a really want to use requires them in order to function, especially all advert and metrics cookies. Sometimes this level of cookie management is only for the power-user, in which case accepting cookies and deleting (or adding exceptions) when the browsers exits is easier.

  • Enable the “Do Not Track” option supported by many browsers.

  • In Firefox visit the about:config, find the option network.http.sendRefererHeader, and set the value to zero (0).

  • Install Adblock Plus available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Android.

  • For Firefox, install Beef Taco for enabling tracking advertising cookie opt-out (TACO).

  • Install the DoNotTrackMe browser add-on. Similar to Beef Taco, but more widely available and covers other tracking methods.

  • Purchase a one-time consumer license and install MalwareBytes Anti-malware Pro with on-access protection enabled. I’ve found this software to be superior, faster, and more accurate than all the anti-virus products I’ve used in the past. It also blocks access to suspicious IP addresses by applications. Firefox and Chrome have a similar built facility, but MailwareBytes does it for all the other network applications.

  • For the power-users, learning how to edit and use /etc/hosts (Unix) or C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts (Windows) to block advertising sites. Similar to what the add-ons do, but applicable to all network applications. I’ve used it to block advertising in AIM, ICQ, and Skype at a minimum. Essentially you find out the hostname of an advert service and add it to the hosts list with an IP address of, which redirects those advert requests to locahost (your computer), which then go unanswered.


  • Firefox now defaults to secure Google searches over SSL using However your search terms can still “bleed through” to web sites you click on from the results. This can be fixed by copying (assuming Windows):

    C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins\google.xml

    to your personal profile:


    Then edit the google_encrypted.xml file and replace every where with Also change:




    Restart Firefox and make GoogleSec your default search engine (click the drop-list beside the search logo and select “Manage Search Engines”.

  • Its unclear why Google Chrome does not use SSL searches by default, but a similar change can be made in Chrome. Simply go to Settings > Manage Search Engines, click on the Google URL template, change to, and click DONE.

You left the sunny French Riviera?!

Since returning to Canada, I’ve been frequently asked why I left the South of France. To answer the question of why I left France, you need to understand partly why I left Canada in the first place. It certainly wasn’t about the weather, the food, the wine, and pretty women.

I left Waterloo, Ontario where I was working following university to Le Cannet (Cannes), France where my parents had a villa. My mother had been suggesting for years that I come work in the south of France at Sophia-Antipolis, a technology park between Nice and Cannes. After five years, I had grown tired of the work I was doing with Mortice Kern Systems and was looking for something different. So finally I caved to my mum’s suggestions and moved in 1996. Living and working in France is certainly different.

In 2001 my parents sold the villa and returned to Canada to live in Toronto, closer to my father’s business and contacts, while I opted to remain in Cannes. During the first nine years or so I worked in three different ISPs as a sys.admin. and wrote my own anti-spam software on the side. In 2005 I left my job to work for mysef selling my, now large collection, of anti-spam software. During the first year solo, I was approached by my future partners to develop a comprehensive anti-spam product that would become the focus of my software development for the coming years.

Working for myself was interesting, I created a great product at the time. Though the money wasn’t great, it would have been sufficient without the constant drain by the France gov. hitting me up for “social charges” (professional taxes, health, pension, and URSSAF (something for family aid (no help to a single guy))).

Also during that latter seven years, I was single, working from home all the time, and not getting out as much as I had when I first arrived in France. I didn’t have the regular social interaction of work, of sport, friends, nor a companion to offset the long periods I spent at a computer. It can get a little depressing being by yourself.

Last year (summer 2011), my partners informed me that they would not renew our agreement; they wanted to take the product in a direction different from my original design for which I had strong opinions (we’re still friends though, regardless of business choices). I found myself in need of stable work again, cause once my major source of income expired, the sales from my other titles was not suffcient to live on. The end of the partnership agreement though in many ways was a necessary change; a needed kick in the pants to re-enage in life. Cue job hunt.

Being single and without any ties in France, I was open to moving countries again like to the Netherlands, England, Ireland, or returning to Canada. I’m actually a cold weather person too and missed the regular change of seasons; 300 days a year of sunny weather, mild winters, and stupidly humid summers didn’t agree with me. I’m odd that way. I’ve written blog articles saying as much: The Lost Tempest, A Cuppa For Thor, Tempus Fugit.

Anyway, in a quirky twist of chance and Fate, I found work in Montreal with a company that had tried to hire me three years prior. They spotted me a moving allowance, offered Baka and I lodging, and poof! I arrived in Montreal last June. I’ve been all smiles ever since, even now with the very cold weather. I home and happy again.