Quick Fixes for Internet Annoyances

For a site that's so incredibly popular, Facebook sure knows how to aggravate its users. The latest inexplicable change: You no longer "Become a Fan" of, say, Flight of the Conchords or Brendan Benson. Now, you "Like" them.

Even worse, some mumbo-jumbo pop-up I clicked past a couple days ago resulted in all my fan pages getting added to my News Feed--in a way they weren't previously. Now it's even more cluttered than before, with weird and unwanted updates from the likes of Seinfeld and The Simpsons.

If you're anything like me, you've probably been searching high and low for a way to remove some of these News Feed offenders. You have two options: Hide and "Unlike." (Oh, Facebook. Really? Unlike?)

The Hide button appears on the right when you mouse over any item in your News Feed. Click it, and then click the Hide [Fan page] confirmation button that appears. Presto: No more updates from that fan page.

Alternately, you may decide you don't want certain fan pages appearing in your profile any longer (which they still will if you merely hide them). But how do you cease and desist your fandom? Where's the aforementioned Unlike option?

It's hiding in plain sight. Click through to any given fan page, then scroll down to the very bottom of the lefthand column. You'll see a tiny, nondescript Unlike link. Click it and you're free.

Sluggish Firefox? This Quick 'Fix' Might Help

For months now, I've been grappling with a weird problem: At seemingly random times, Firefox would turn to molasses. I'd click a link and it would take several seconds to register. Or I'd open a dialog box in, say, a blog tool, and again there'd be an unusual delay. Even the simple act of scrolling proved weirdly "sticky."

I was hoping that the recently released Firefox 3.6 update might shake loose whatever detritus was gumming up the works, but, alas, it didn't.

Finally, I discovered the culprit, and it's a head-scratcher: The slowdowns occur only when I've left open a tab containing an embedded video, like of the YouTube variety. When I close said tab, Firefox quickly returns to its quick-stepping self.

Weird, right? Obviously this isn't a widespread problem, otherwise more people would have reported it. I suspect that one of my Firefox extensions (I run about 15 of them) is causing a conflict with Flash, the software that powers most embedded videos.

But that's just a guess on my part. While I'm working to solve the problem for good, my short-term solution is probably pretty obvious: Close any tabs that have embedded videos.

And my lesson for you is this: When weird problems arise, don't overreact. A lot of users would interpret random browser slowdowns as the work of a virus. Or a serious Windows malfunction requiring no less than a system wipe/restore. But glitches like this are par for the course, and with a little patience and methodical troubleshooting, they're almost always curable.

Stop iTunes Links From Launching iTunes

A couple months ago, Apple started migrating the App Store to the Web, meaning you could read all about an app without having to actually load iTunes.

Why, then, does clicking an app link open the corresponding iTunes Preview Web page--and then load iTunes?! That's what I call a hassle of the highest order.

Fortunately, it's possible to stop this annoying behavior, to read an app's Web page and then run iTunes only if you want to. The follow instructions are for Firefox; Chrome and Safari users should check out the how-to guide on The Apple Blog. (Sorry, Internet Explorer users--haven't found a solution for you yet.)

  1. In Firefox, open a blank tab, type about:config in the address bar, and then hit Enter. Accept the warning that appears.
  2. In the main Preferences area, right-click anywhere and choose New, Boolean. Type the following name into the blank field: network.protocol-handler.warn-external.itms.
  3. Click OK, then choose the true setting in the box that appears.
  4. Restart Firefox and you're good to go.

The next time you click a link that leads to an app's Web page, you should also see a dialog box asking if you want to launch iTunes. Click Cancel and go about your business (i.e., viewing the Web page).

If you do decide you want to see the app in iTunes proper, just click the blue View In iTunes button on the left side of the page.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog . My 411: hasslefree@pcworld.com . You can also s ign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week .

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