Block unwanted advertisements with /etc/hosts file on Linux

Back in the old days, before the browsers even had extensions like Adblock Plus, many of us – tech-savvy web surfers – used to block unwanted advertising, SPAM sites, and other non-sense using the /etc/hosts file.  The technology behind is very simple – you overwrite the IP address to which the unwanted website’s domain name resolves with a loopback IP address (  Whether you do it on your own machine or at a home/office proxy server is irrelevant.  And it worked magic!

Turns out, people still use this technique today.   I came across this article, which shows how to use a rather extensive list of domains for all sorts of online madness, collected and maintained by kind folks at

I tried it out of pure curiosity and sure enough it does what it says.  I’ve reverted back to Adblock Plus a couple of days later though, as random sites were breaking here and there.  I think this might be related to different adblock-detectors that many sites employ these days.  Also, some of the ads use things like embedded scripts or buttons, which might render JavaScript errors, preventing the rest of the page from loading.

But if you’ve never tried it, I strongly recommend giving it a go.

Headless Browsers

Headless Browsers is a list of (almost) all headless web browsers in existence.  These are browsers without graphical user interface, controlled programmatically, and useful for testing, automation, and other similar tasks.

I’ve used one or two.  I’v heard about three of four.  I had no idea there was such a variety though.

Why are browsers so slow?

As a user of Opera browser in the good ol’ days, I share Ilya Birman’s pain

But I am not talking about rendering and scripts. I am talking about everything else. Safari may take a second or two just to open a new blank tab on a 2014 iMac. And with ten or fifteen open tabs it eventually becomes sluggish as hell. Chrome is better, but not much so.

… and this too …

What would you do today if you opened a link and saw a long article which you don’t have time to read right now, but want to read later? You would save a link and close the tab. But when your browser is fast, you just don’t tend to close tabs which you haven’t dealt with. In Opera, I would let tabs stay open for months without having any impact on my machine’s performance.

Wait, but didn’t I restart my computer or the browser sometimes? Of course I did. Unfortunately, modern browsers are so stupid that they reload all the tabs when you restart them. Which takes ages if you have a hundred of tabs. Opera was sane: it did not reload a tab unless you asked for it. It just reopened everything from cache. Which took a couple of seconds.

In fact, maybe it’s a good time to try out Opera browser again.  After all, the two primary reasons I’ve switched from it were:

  • Open Source.  This was back in a day when I was a zealot.  (Yeah, if you think I’m one now, you should have seen me in my 20’s.)  Now  I am much more calm about the licensing.
  • Rendering issues.  That was back when Opera had its own rendering engine and couldn’t quite keep up with all the changes on the Web.  Since then, Opera has dumped its Presto rendering engine in favor of Webkit (the same engine that Google Chrome, Chromium and Safari browsers are using), and then dumped Webkit in favor of Blink, which is like … erm .. new Webkit (?) or something like that.

So maybe it’s good enough in rendering department and I can have my performance and tab management back.  As Ilya mentions, no other browser came close to the tab management of Opera back in a day.  I frequently have a 30+ tabs open, and its only because that’s as much as Chrome can handle on my laptop.

Update: Tried out the latest version of Opera now for about half an hour.  I suddenly remembered another reason for why I’ve switched – fonts.  Default fonts configuration is far from optimal.  For multilingual pages (English and Russian) is more than horrific.  Oh well, I guess, I’ll have to wait some more.

Chrome Extension : var_masterpiece – turn PHP var_dump() into a thing of beauty


Var Masterpiece is a Google Chrome add-on, which formats PHP var_dump() output into something much more beautiful and useful.  You can customize the type colors and a few other things in the extension options, once installed.

Ask Slashdot: Best Browser Extensions — 2016 Edition

Slashdot is running a discussion thread on what are the best browser extensions these days.  The comments cover a variety of browsers and all kinds of extensions.  The most popular are, of course, well know.  But there are a few gems here and there.


For me personally, I’ve picked the Tab Snooze extension.  I’ve tried quite a few tab management solutions, and neither one of them fits my needs even though most tried (I want to run a single browser window, with dozens or hundreds of tabs open, but I want them to be organized into groups and hidden until later, when I need them).   Tab Snooze approaches the problem from a slightly different angle. It sets the reminder for when to reopen the tab, and once that’s done, it closes the tab.  You can find all snoozed tabs and open them before the due date, of course.

This works surprisingly well for me.  If only I could control the opening of the tabs with something like “17 tabs were woken up and are about to be open. Continue?”.  Currently, I get the notification and the tabs are open automatically, which is often not at the best time.  Waking up a lot of tabs can slow the system down a bit and get in the way of things on which I’m working at the time.

Chrome apps … mind blown!

Don’t ask me how, but I’ve ended up in the Google Chrome Web Store, where I spent the last three hours – especially in the Productivity -> Developer Tools category.  I knew, there were plenty of apps to make Chrome OS / Chrome Browser super awesome, but it seems it’s been a while since I looked in there … My mind is officially blown!

I don’t need much from my Fedora laptop – a browser, a terminal, and some instant messaging apps.  But these days apparently that’s too much.  A lot of the things I do through the regular day can be handled right from the browser apps.


Here are some examples.

  1. Text editors.  There is a slew of them!  Simple and complex, specialized and generic, fast and … not so much.  Have a look at Caret for example.  It’s Sublime-like editor, based on the Ace editing component.  It offers a selection of themes, syntax highlighting for all the major languages, multiple tabs, project settings, and more!
  2. SSH client.  Yup, that’s right.  You can connect to your remote servers right out of the browser, using, for example, ServerAuditor.
  3. MySQL clients.  Choose between a simple command-line one, like MySQL Console.  Or a full-featured one, with ERDs and database browser, like Chrome MySQL Admin.
  4. Git, GitHub, and Gist tools.  Which there is a variety of…
  5. Web server (yes, really, a web server running in the web browser!) – Web Server fro Chrome, debugger (Xdebug), and compiler (

Most of these offer session saving, networking synchronization, Google Drive data saving, social network integration, etc.

Wow!  The browser world has come a long way since Netscape 3 …


Good bye Google Chrome, hello Chromium

Google dropped the support of its Google Chrome browser on 32-bit Linux operating systems.  This is very unfortunate, but not deadly.  This change doesn’t affect the Chromium browser – the Open Source project behind Google Chrome.


The two are very compatible.  In fact, if you use the Google Sync in Google Chrome to synchronize your passwords, bookmarks, settings, etc. to Google, then Chromium will just pick them all up from there, once you login.  All your extensions will get installed and will continue working as well.

Here’s a link for those Fedora users who want to perform a manual installation.  Using dnf is probably easier:

dnf copr enable spot/chromium
dnf install chromium

Hopefully, 32-bit Linux Chromium will survive much longer…

Update:  Here is how to bring back Flash plugin, for those who need it:

file-roller --extract-here ./chromium-pepper-flash-
mv usr/lib/chromium/PepperFlash /usr/lib/chromium-browser/

Restart chrome after that and verify that you have the Adobe Flash Plugin on the about:plugins page.

Chrome DevTools : Remote Debugging Devices


Remote debugging on Android with Chrome DevTools sounds like the best thing since sliced bread for anybody involved in web development.  TL;DR version:

  • There’s no substitute for debugging your site on a real device. Debug browser tabs on your device from your development workspace using remote debugging.
  • You don’t have to shift attention between your device and development screens. Use screencasting to display your device’s screen along side your developer tools.

rather – replace anything you want in your social feeds


For all those people who complain about my pictures of food, somebody else’s pictures of babies, Justin Bieber photos, and the like, here’s something to try: get rather.

This sounds like a handy tool for anyone who hasn’t been blessed with patience or can’t figure out the “unsubscribe” button.