Computers today are incredibly noisy! Another way of putting that is to say vendors are incredibly nosy. The noise to which I refer is not of the audible kind emanating from the fan, but the nosy communications that quite literally everything in your computer carries on without you, the user, seeing or hearing anything.
Years ago, in an effort to gain a better understanding of this, I purchased a software program, and since its manufacturer has now decided to give it away for free, I am sharing this information with readers. The program, Windows Firewall Control (WFC), is available from the trusted security company MalwareBytes. I am particularly attracted by the minimalist philosophy of the software’s writers. WFC simply provides an easier way for the user of a Windows PC to configure the firewall already built in by Microsoft to every Windows computer.
One optional feature guaranteed to annoy the blazes out of anyone is that WFC can turn on pop-up notifications whenever any program accesses the internet. This is what I wanted to know, so I activated that feature.
When I printed a document, a popup warned that Microsoft Word was trying to connect with IP address 192.168.230.64. Well, of course, my printer is connected to my network, and that IP address is a private address at my house. Then things got a bit more mysterious. My printer also wanted to connect to 18.104.22.168 Amazon Technologies Inc. Why? I have no idea, so I blocked my printer from reporting its activities to Amazon, and it still prints just fine without Amazon knowing what I print or when.
The first time I used the Chrome web browser, WFC reported that Chrome was trying to connect to 22.214.171.124 Google LLC. No surprise there, so I permitted Chrome to do that. Less clear was why Chrome also said it required permission to communicate with to 126.96.36.199 Twitter Inc. when I had never connected to Twitter.
What turned out to be ubiquitous was that whenever I started any program that has no need to connect to the internet, WFC reported it was trying to do so incessantly. When I blocked that program accessing the web, I often observed I was no longer receiving those notices saying, “There’s a new version available for sale; click here to order.” Most of the mysterious internet activity appeared to be related to marketing or advertising. Much was obscured behind Akamai Technologies, Inc., which is a legitimate internet content delivery provider that helps websites load faster.
So, after several weeks, and many hundreds of pop-up messages from WFC, I felt I had taken back at least some control of my computer’s interaction with the internet. I ended up blocking dozens of programs that simply had no need to connect to the internet or report on my activities. Eliminating the unnecessary internet chatter seemed to have no significant effect, good or bad, on my computer’s performance or my ability to use those programs, but it made me feel good to be more in control.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8@SMAguru.com.