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SurfFast allows you to "Surf the Web ... Better and Faster." You can use it to control your browsing experience, by blocking popup windows, eliminating banner ads, disabling flash and shockwave movies, stopping background music, removing page and table background images, ignoring advertising/tracking cookies, preventing JavaScript code from executing when entering and exiting pages and filtering resources based on their properties and content.

Here, then, is a short illustrated journey of its feature set:

Proxy Server
SurfFast achieves its magic by working as a local Web proxy and cache server, listening on port 5678, by default. Once you configure either the operating system, or a specific Web browser, to use SurfFast as the Web proxy, all Web (HTTP) requests and responses will travel through the SurfFast server. SurfFast can then be configured to look for certain types of requests and specific patterns in response content and handle them appropriately.


Filtering Database
SurfFast contains a database of more than 15,000 blacklisted domains, hosts and IP addresses that are well known for hosting advertising banners, popup windows and cookies for the sole purpose of tracking browsing activity. As such, you can use SurfFast straight out of the box, without having to worry about additional configuration.

However, you have the ability to add your own filtering entries -- based on host or domain name, URL, document title, file extension, object dimension and size, MIME type and META tag content -- individually or in bulk by loading the contents of a specially formatted data file. This allows you to block resources, for example, that might be offensive or annoying; see the squidGuard blacklist for an exhaustive collection of entries in a wide variety of categories.

Filtering Objects
You can use the base filtering rules, described above, to filter out nearly any type of resource from ever reaching your browser. However, to make configuration easier, SurfFast allows you to filter out certain objects, such as Java applets and Flash or Shockwave movies, with having to manually enter a series of specific filtering rules.

How many times have you been annoyed to see a large Flash movie take over your entire browser screen? You can eliminate these movies with a simple click of a checkbox; see screenshot at right. Besides Flash and Shockwave movies, you can put an end to images, Java applets, resources that use browser plugins, forms, frames and even hypertext links.

Filter By Content

In the previous section of this illustrated journey, we discussed filtering out objects, such as advertising banners, flash movies and Java applets, so that they never reach our browser; this increases performance. However, in this section, we will look at certain features that require SurfFast to actually examine the content it receives, before deciding how to deal with that content.

Filtering Content: Tracking Mechanisms
Advertisers use a number of tricks to try to track your browsing activity, ranging from cookies and WebBugs (small, invisible images) to special identifiers in hyperlinks. Since SurfFast knows about these tracking objects, it searches through the appropriate content and then compares their properties against its internal database and your personal list to decide whether to eliminate them.

Filtering Content: Annoyances
Take a look at the screenshot on the left. Most of us would consider these annoyances that hinder our Web browsing experience. SurfFast has the ability to identify and remove the necessary code -- within the HTML and JavaScript resources -- that produces these effects. However, if you regularly visit a site that relies on any of these annoyances, such as a popup window that prompts for login and password, you can simply enter its host or domain name into the SurfFast white list.

Filtering Content: By Content
SurfFast provides two mechanisms with which you can filter resources based on their actual content: by PICS and by specific keywords. The PICS specification allows content providers to label their content (i.e. the recommended age range for the site, whether the content contains profanity or adult themes, etc.) using one or more of the self-rating services available. You can configure SurfFast to block content from Web sites that is more explicit than the level or rating that you have enabled. As a fallback in case the site provider has not labeled his content using PICS, you can tell SurfFast to ignore content that contain specific keywords; of course, this is not perfect, since you can potentially filter out legitimate resources that have used certain keywords in an unexpected context.

High Performance Cache

Every time you visit a Web site, your browser will cache (or temporarily store) all of the content that you see, unless specifically directed not to by the site and/or application. That way, if you return to a site at a later time, the browser can quickly check to see if the content within the cache is still valid, and if so, return the content without having to download the content again.

SurfFast has a built in high performance cache manager that is also capable of caching content, as well as DNS lookups; see this document for more information on DNS caching. If you enable both the browser and the SurfFast caches, you will experience a much faster browsing session.

Cache: Viewer and Extractor
How many times have you wanted to extract a file or an image from the browser's cache, only to realize that the task is extremely difficult, if not impossible? If so, this feature is for you! You can search through the SurfFast cache by simply entering the site name or a string that may be referenced in a cached resource. And once SurfFast finds the relevant resources, you can either extract them to a location of your choice, or can delete them from the cache.


Browser Identification
Unfortunately, for us Mac users, more and more content providers are designing their applications for Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer. Have you experienced the "sorry, your browser is not supported" error mesage? We should definitely make our collective voices heard, by asking the developer to support the Mac platform.

In reality, however, a majority (not all!) of these sites will render fine when viewed with Safari, Mozilla or any of the other browsers on a Mac. And so, to stop the remote Web site from denying the request based on the browser name, you can configure SurfFast to identify itself as another browser; here is a list of different browser identifications.

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