Obama Speaks to Congress Tonight on Health Care

Why Crabby Old Lady Spends Less Time Online

The internet has gone all to hell. It is so painful to try to read these days that Crabby Old Lady has cut her online time in half and will undoubtedly withdraw further. Here are some of the reasons:

• In the past two weeks or so, both the Washington Post and The New York Times require Crabby to sign in to read any story after clicking a headline even though she is already logged in to the website.

• In the upper left corner of the Washington Post home page is a photo that changes every four or five seconds. But the designers at WaPo are so incompetent that they don't bother to conform the size of the photos so when Crabby is reading something below, the text jumps up and down as the different sized photos load and Crabby loses her place. Not to mention that that her brain goes all wonky from the jerky movement.

• In the past, the close buttons on interstitial ads between pages of a story actually worked. Nowadays, when you click it, the ad remains for another eight to ten seconds and no amount of clicking “close” changes that. On ads and requests to take a survey that pop up on top of what Crabby is reading (itself one of the major annoyances), the close button is now hidden in varying parts of the design of the ad so it can hardly be found.

• The number of animated ads has increased so there is hardly any site on which Crabby isn't distracted by flickering off at the edge of her vision field as she is trying to read. It makes her brain go all squirrelly.

• Undated news stories are useless. Huffington Post is particularly guilty of this. Crabby never has figured out where to look for the date and some websites post no date at all so there is no way to know if the information is relevant. Many sites date their stories at the end rather than the top which is almost as useless as no date.

• And while Crabby is on the subject of HuffPo, they pump up their page views with fraudulent links. Click a headline and more often than not, Crabby is taken to a section front page with a dozen stories and she can't find the one she meant to read.

• Too many video advertisements start playing when the page opens often blaring loud enough to make Crabby deaf.

• Websites are filled with so much third-party crap that they almost never load. Crabby can see the name of ad servers and other sites at the bottom of her browser that take up to a full minute to load or, when they are down, hang indefinitely without the page loading. Crabby doesn't wait around anymore.

• And, Crabby finds it unnerving to see ads for Maine businesses or Maine politicking on most of the big-name sites she visits. She knows privacy is non-existent, but there has been a large uptick recently in personalized ads and Crabby dislikes being watched so closely – or, at least, knowing about it so blatantly.

• Even though she has a whiz-bang laptop that's only a year old with a couple of gigs of memory and a cable connection, Crabby's browsing has slowed to a relative crawl. She has no way to prove it, but her big-name ISP has been selling “turbo” for the past year and Crabby suspects it is slowing connection speeds to customers who don't spring for the additional $10 a month.

Crabby Old Lady was in on the beginning of commercial internet. She and her colleagues at her website and others who helped pioneer it worked hard to create ways to navigate, ease reading on a screen, incorporate images and video that would enhance, not detract, the user experience, establish default techniques so readers know what to expect and oh, by the way, keep them coming back which is the goal of any commercial site.

Now, website owners and producers appear to have forgotten the basics. They are so sloppy that Crabby runs into half a dozen links a day – on major websites - that don't go to the correct stories, go to a blank page or do nothing at all.

The web these days is like being in a state of constant tension; will it work this time? Will Crabby be able to read this story without interruption? She isn't sticking around to find out anymore.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Relationships


Hey Crabby, morning to you. I am on comcast and I have none of the problems you have. Maybe you should clear the cache of temp files and clear cookies. Gee I actually sound like I know what I am talking about...

Hmm, yeah, sometimes the ISP does make a difference. Sometimes it's the computer (they slow with age, viruses, spyware, etc), and sometimes it really is the internet.

BTW, I "subscribe" (for free) to the NYT: every morning I get an email of headlines, and when I click on them, I don't have to sign in on the site, apparently it does it for me. I have had to sign in like you multiple times if I go directly to the website instead of via the email (I can look at stories not in the email, but I do have to first get to the site via the email links). Don't know about WaPo, haven't tried it.

Another BTW: I have a heck of a time trying to comment on your blog, TypePad puts me through such a runaround I sometimes give up in disgust.

I may be a novice web user, but I encounter relatively few issues. I am as happy as can nearly be. However, I'm this way with almost everything except I get angry about workplace and hiring age discrimination. Address those subjects and I get mad as Hades.

Good morning everyone,
I guess I must be happy with most of the Internet, I sure spend too many hours on it. I personally wish there were not so many ads on the pages, but I think there are too many ads on TV and newspapers too. However, ads are where these companies make their money.

Ronni, Perhaps you just need a break from this. Be extra kind and gentle to yourself and recharge. Explore the possibilities of additional interests and excitement.


"...her big-name ISP has been selling “turbo” for the past year and Crabby suspects it is slowing connection speeds to customers who don't spring for the additional $10 a month."

I bet you're right about that! We have the same problem, although our computers are old and need a lot of work.

I have had no problem with New York Times or Washingto Post, I saved the front pages to my favorites and go from there. I have a list of sites I check every morning, including this one, and my links take me directly to them. The only time I need to sign back onto the NYT or Washington Post is if I delete everything when doing a virus and adware scan. Then I have to start over with all my sites, and that is probably a good thing.

I do dislike the moving ads. One one site, a different newspaper, I had to leave one site because the ad could not be stopped, it was part of the page not a popup. If I were subject to headaches, I'd have had on in the time it took to check to see if I could shut it off.

Back in the day...when I was an IT guy, I found that most IT department heads believed that programmers could design pages and they wouldn't have to pay for a 'gasp!' real designer. I think they still do and it shows.

I am pretty sure you use Firefox; have you looked at some of the add-ons that promise to cut back on ads?

Crabby lady needs to use the Firefox web browser with the AdBlock add-on. Makes browsing a delight - and like another writer said, I don't have the sign-on problems for NY Times either.

Once my passwords all got lost in a Firefox upgrade. Except for that I have no problems with NYTimes logins.
However I do find it annoying when the line I am reading moves up or down as the graphics continue to load. It is more of a problem with a smaller screen.
I am spending less time on the internet deliberately because, well, there are just so many better things to do.

So far, my Firefox doesn't have those problems. I do notice now that some sites have advertisements with sound. I only find that out if I accidentally have my sound turned on. Generally I keep it off and was oblivious how widespread it has become. Those sounds would be my gripe as they are invasive and not possible to push out of sight.

It's too bad that they don't come up with a package deal for people to buy the newspaper sites with the ads off. Obviously the sites need to make money. Some are putting out a lot of cost to do what they do.

Huffington is starting to pay investigative reporters to do some of what newspapers used to do. Subscribers could then by-pass the ads while those who could not afford to pay the price, would just stay with it and grimace but continue to have the privilege of enjoying it without dollar cost anyway.

I use the Opera browser. Have no problems with either the NYT or WP (the photos that load on the left of the WP home page are all the same size). Opera loads pages faster than either Firefox or IE. Yeah, there are things on the net that are annoying, but then there are things in all of life that are annoying, too. Oh, well. :-)

My problem that has been driving me crazy for months is slow loading of a photo or a video. I have contacted my ISP, browser, and DSL provider and none can solve the problem. It takes 4 or 5 times as long to load a video as it does to play it. I spend most of my time waiting for stuff to load. I even bought a program to speed up my PC. Everything else is fairly fast. Grrrrr.

Firefox with the noscript and adblocker plugins.... save your sanity...

I have only experienced one or two of your issues. I let the "advertising" slide as there is still much that is free with the internet.

I have found the survey's coming across while reading, however, I am able to rid them with one, quick click.

My 'puter is not fully up-to-date. I am behind a "something" with my browser which tends to slow up some pages and one page, I was informed would not accept my "older" browser.

I do clear out my cookies and temp.internet pages as well as not storing history (at all). Anything I want to read or continue reading gets bookmarked. I also clear out bookmarks periodically.

It is true that "gunk" in the computer slows them down as well as overloading them with files. You may want to set up a separate disc for files - imagine you have quite a bit of your research.

I close for now - hoping that your internet issues clear up and that you are enjoying your free time with a good book and a cuddle with your kitty.

All valid complaints and your gripes about commercial websites are the same ones I have. You would think that the last thing those sites would want to do is drive away their readers. Anyone designing websites should adopt Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adage that, "Less is more."

For heaven's sake, use Firefox. Then install the AdBlock and Flashblock extensions, and 90% of your problems will go away. As for the tracking, use Private Browsing mode or clear your cookies after each session.

There's absolutely no need to just grumble about these things.

I don't have the NYT or WaPo sign-in problems, either. I have the Times set as my home page, and it always recognizes me when I open my browser (Safari for the Mac). I have to sign in again to both, however, if I want to leave a comment on an OpEd or blog piece.

But I agree with you fully regarding the privacy invasions, and it's not just from ads: annoyingly, of late, when I link from someone's blogroll, the new blog will immediately pop up saying "Minneapolis is here from [referrring blog]", or some such. I will never return to that blog, let alone bookmark it, no matter how good it may be. I know the blogger is proud of having readers all over the world -- we all are -- but there are other ways of determining such things without making some of us feel violated. Harrumph!

Dear Crabby.....I would placate you a bit but that would only stir your ire up even more. Why not stop reading those news pages. I have. It's a small childish action in the face of blatant stupidity, thoughtlessness, children doing the work, and carelessness.

It's time to go to the beach before the beach days are gone.

Crabby Old Lady is chagrined and feeling slightly maligned that so many readers appear to believe that she is ignorant of Firefox (and every other browser) and the many extensions, plugins and addons that are available.

Certainly, she uses those and other tools to help improve the internet experience and is actually quite knowledgeable about computer housekeeping to keep things running smoothly on her end.

Ronni, I sympathize completely. My computer runs and loads slower than it used to, and the computer whizzes who checked it out say there's nothing wrong with it. It's cleaned of cookies and junk, too. It infuriates me to wait and wait while the line at bottom of the screen shows that ads are loading. Worst of all, we can only get dial-up here--but I thought those of you who had a better ISP wouldn't have so many problems. Sorry!

All too true, Crabby. It's getting nightmarish online. And heaven help us all, the young people (by that I mean those under 90) are moving to FACEBOOK and twitter--total insanity in 40 characters or less. TV is a total washout, and my eyesight rebels against reading. I've taken up writing letters and walking them to the post office. At least I get the added exercise. Have a wonderful weekend....

loved your internet comments! and agree with most of them. I was having issues with Comcast, too, and I know how to clear cache and do all kinds of stuff. Called comcast, they came out and they basically rewired everything and gave me this huge box for "dvr". My service got no better andddd they had the nerve to bill me $39 for this! So of course I got on the phone and got that charge taken off. Also got them back out here again because someone smart in the tech group finally answered the phone and had a tool that could see "intermittent" problems in a small part of our neighborhood. They came up with some story, but the end result was.... it's fast again. I think (1) they will go as slow as you'll let them, until you complain, so they can better service the complainers, and (2) it's gotta help high-speed sales to the stupid!

Crabby, by using a multi-pronged defense which includes Firefox add-ons, its internal pop-up blocker, and several other free software programs, I've been able to eliminate most of the problems you've encountered.

You said:
"And, Crabby finds it unnerving to see ads for Maine businesses or Maine politicking on most of the big-name sites she visits. She knows privacy is non-existent, but there has been a large uptick recently in personalized ads and Crabby dislikes being watched so closely – or, at least, knowing about it so blatantly."

First, the localized ads are the result of your IP address being visible to any website that you visit. All Internet Service Providers (ISPs) assign an Internet Protocol (IP) address to each computer for which they provide service. Since they usually assign a specific block of IP addresses to a specific geographical area, a website can determine your general geographical location (which in your case would be Portland Maine and its surrounding towns) but can't determine the specific location of a computer or who is using that computer. The only way to eliminate this is to surf using anonymizer software tied to an anonymous server. I've found that this is expensive and not worth the hassle just to keep websites from determining the general geographical location of my computer. I live in a small town bordering a city, and the closest any website has gotten to determining my location is the city (a different ZIP Code than mine).

As for the recent uptick in personalized ads, the websites you visit are using tracking cookies to follow your movements as you click links on their sites. From this they build a profile of what interests you and tailor their ads to your preferences. They don't know who you are, but the cookies they place on your computer tell them where you've been. The best way to eliminate this is to control your cookies.

Not all cookies are tracking cookies and some are necessary, such as the ones that let your bank know who you are if you bank or pay bills online. So, if you delete all cookies after each browsing session, as some recommend, you may be eliminating these necessary cookies. The next time you try to log on to your bank, your computer may not be recognized and you'll have to go through a security check and have the cookie reset before you can continue. Some people don't mind this. I prefer to selectively delete cookies, when necessary, keeping only those that I know are needed for logging on to particular sites. Usually, though, this is not necessary for me because I use several Firefox add-ons that allow me to control which websites are allowed to set cookies on my browser.

Most people are unaware that there is another type of cookie, one which you can't delete by deleting cookies from your browser. These are known as persistent or LSO cookies. They are actually set in your operating system rather than your browser. So, even if you delete all the cookies from your browser, a website can still know about you. The only way to delete these cookies is to run special software that looks for and deletes them. Fortunately for Firefox users, this capability is available as an add-on. I have it set to inform me of how many LSO cookies it has detected and will delete once I click OK.

By using this multi-pronged defense, I am able to leave very little personal information on the Internet as I move from site to site.

As an added bonus, this process allows web pages I visit to load rapidly without ads and other junk. Occasionally my tactics are thwarted by the crappy design of some web pages, but like you, when I encounter such pages, I just move on. I also surf with my sound off because of web pages that start sound blaring as soon as they load. I turn on the sound only when there's something I want to hear.

I agree with your complaints, but I'm mystified by your problems with the NY Times and Washington Post websites. I'm using plain ol' Internet Explorer and having no problems with either one. Hope you can figure out what's going on.

We're probably out of luck when it comes to ads, videos, third party junk and much having to do with privacy. It does get frustrating at times.

I leave my speakers turned off...that jangling is too hard on the nerves..

I don't understand. If you're familiar with the tools that allow you to take control of the internet, why aren't you using them?

I feel your pain, Crabby. Coming from a background of Business Intelligence / Business Information, the most infuriating thing to me has always been when there's no date on the info. It makes the info useless. Don't people GET THAT?!?

Another irritation for me, an American living in Sweden, is when I click on something and instead of taking me to the regular, American version, it automatically takes me to a Swedish version. That REALLY ticks me off. Just because I live in Sweden does NOT mean I want to look at that in any Swedish light!

And "City Squirrel"... maybe you could check your attitude at the door... ?

I know I'm a rank amateur computer user compared to you, but I have benefited from the setup (Firefox) provided by my guru, so even have lots of popups and other stuff prevented.

I have noticed increasingly congested web pages and difficulty following the twisting trail of some articles. Likewise, just last night I was angered when I went to HuffPo and there was no date as I've noticed elsewhere. When the pages anywhere start looking messy, I just leave, may not go there any more, or only check once in a while to see if they've cleaned up their act.

I've always been a bug about "cookies" which my computer guru and his wife have laughed at me about, but I'm very resentful of this so-called personalization of ads that's started happening. I just ignore them. The marketers and tech guys may have this ad personalization as their idea of an ideal goal but I don't want it.

Thanks to George P., now I'm going after any LSO cookies that might be on my computer.

I also leave off the sound except for when I specifically want it.

I think all users should make known their views on how the Net is evolving as you've done here. Maybe there's a remote hope that with enough voices someone might actually listen.

joared, personally I agree with your concern about cookies and your decision to ignore your "guru" and his wife. Their attitude toward cookies indicates that either they are ignorant of the possible dangers inherent in cookies, especially LSO cookies, or they know about them but choose to engage in a game of Russian Roulette. Granted, browser cookies are generally benign, except for being an invasion of privacy, and the risk of any malicious code being attached to them is relatively slight. But the risk of importing malicious code and spyware increases significantly for LSO cookies since they are placed in your computer's operating system.

Allowing Java and JavaScript data to be loaded onto your computer by just about every web site that contains videos, animation, certain types of ads and some other content, can be much riskier than allowing cookies. For instance, most browsers require the free Adobe Flash software to view videos. This software is written in Java/JavaScript and should be installed so that it automatically checks for the latest version and notifies you when a new version is available to be installed. This is important because recently a major security flaw was discovered and the tech community notified that all older versions of Flash should be updated to a new version which fixed the flaw. This is not to fault Adobe in any way because all software is subject to programming oversights being hacked and Adobe does a good job of keeping on top of these things. But I choose not to take the risk. Therefore, I've installed a Firefox addon that prevents any Java/JavaScript routines from running unless I give them permission.

In addition to tailoring Firefox to my preferences using its built-in options, I've also installed the following addons: NoScript, Adblock Plus, BetterPrivacy, CS Lite, and Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out (TACO). As a result, not only do web sites I visit load rapidly without ads and other junk, but I've increased my computer's security significantly.

Just because someone knows more about computers than you do, they're not necessarily "gurus." I've been involved with computers on a detailed level for more than 30 years, and there's still much to learn. Things change so rapidly that you're always trying to hit a moving target. So, stick to your guns and use more than one source for information.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to throw attitude, but I really don't understand it. Why ISN'T she using the Firefox solutions?

My guru has had me pretty well protected all this time and does not discount cookies -- I just went a little overboard on my concern about them when I first acquired a computer only a few years ago.

I haven't been using the Firefox solutions, citysquirrel, because I pretty much depend on my guru to let me know if there's something special that needs to be added. I'm trying to educate myself to all this as I go along so I can assume more and more independent actions and decision-making responsibility.

I sent the info to my guru (he's not a pro IT guy/geek) and he said he was not familiar with the LSO cookies. We've gotten right on it and I couldn't believe how many LSO cookies were removed from my computer. Tonight when I was out on a variety of different search sites and YouTube, seems each time I received a notice of 4 or 5 or so more LSO cookies I deleted. Now I'm concerned about another family members computing -- she uses IE, but we'll check it out.

Thanks for the add'l info you've added, George P., I'll be sending my guru a link to your latest comment.

It's sometimes been suggested by others I've been overly concerned about privacy and I realize it is diminishing -- if it still exists -- but I keep fighting for it.

Thanks, Ronni, for this post.

I may have been too hard on you, City Squirrel. Things can come out in text so differently than intended sometimes. Sorry if I over-reacted.

I am more concerned about my interactions with real people than the internet. If we would look away from the screen more often we would notice that younger people need more quality time with older people.

We need to mentor younger people and tell them our stories. And we need to listen to younger people and appreciate them for what they bring to our lives.

Instead, we are divided up into retirement residences and care centers while youngers are segregated in large school populations without being able to mingle with all ages.

Let's eliminate "senior" housing and open it up to all ages. Let's open up schools and allow interaction with all ages in the community.

Let's desegregate our cities to make the people who live there the first priority and honor the need for age groups to interact.

I have helped to organize a group of Rosie the Riveters in my community. We give programs and will be appearing at schools this year.
Before the WWII veterans and Rosies all die, and they are dying by the thousands each year, they need to meet younger people face to face and tell their wonderful stories.

I surely do agree with that integration of age groups, Georgie. My almost ninety year old mother expressed that view, too, especially years earlier when she moved into a primarily "senior" living community near me in So. Calif. from the midwest. They did allow a small percentage of people under sixty live there, but those younger and children could only visit.

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