How to Dodge Captchas, Cookies, 404 Errors, and Other Computer Nightmares

Who can forget that famous video: an office worker becomes frustrated with his seemingly malfunctioning computer and starts pounding on it… With over 30 million views, it’s clear that managing a computer can sometimes drive anyone up the wall. A pop-up window interrupting a restaurant reservation or a banking transfer can derail the entire process. It’s a conflict that ruins the user experience and can become downright exasperating. Why do I have to validate those dreaded cookies every time I visit a new website? Why do I have to solve complicated captcha puzzles to prove I’m human?

Managing interactions with the world from a computer screen can be incredibly frustrating, especially in moments of haste or urgency. To avoid these interruptions that can throw all plans into disarray, we delve into the most exasperating moments in front of the screen with tips to try to dodge them, although it’s not always possible.

The Harassment of Cookies

It’s a nightmare all too common: accessing a website and a notification fills the screen urging us to accept the dreaded cookies. This interruption, while regulated and necessary by privacy laws like the GDPR, disrupts the flow of our activity and can become maddening. However, we overlook a necessary aspect of them: “They maintain security and privacy for users on the positive side,” defends Fernando Suárez, president of the General Council of Colleges in Computer Engineering.

Suárez refers to the cause that led to the appearance of this annoying interruption. What exactly are they? A tiny data file stored in the browser during a visit to a website. This file facilitates tracking and memorizing information about the user’s activity. Although cookies contribute to optimizing the browsing experience by adapting content and retaining preferences, they raise serious privacy concerns. This is because they collect personal information and behavioral patterns on the web, often without clear and explicit consent from the user.

Accepting Cookies: A Necessary Evil

“Users accept almost indiscriminately all the terms of use imposed on them,” Suárez warns. And really, does anyone read the cookie policy? In the end, they’re managed like fine print that is accepted to avoid the hassle of the message. “I think users seek agility and speed more than security,” Suárez concludes.

There are browser extensions specialized in managing cookie consent automatically, saving the hassle of having to accept (or reject) this annoying message. These tools allow users to enjoy smoother and uninterrupted browsing, although they are not always effective. The most popular ones are: “I don’t care about cookies” and “Consent-O-Matic.”

The Captcha Maze

If cookies are a challenge for internet users’ patience, captchas raise the bar even higher. The very name comes from the acronym in English for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. These verification tests can be cumbersome and confusing. However, their function is necessary: they are the only barrier that keeps bots at bay. What do they consist of? They are tests that supposedly require human intervention to solve. They are the classic puzzles seen on the screen that need to be solved or messages like “mark all boxes that contain traffic lights.” When they are image recognition tests or text distortions, they are not always clear and easy to overcome, leading users to waste time on multiple attempts.

“They are annoying but necessary,” Suárez asserts, “therefore, as a user, I am in favor of these types of tools, but above all, I believe that we should emphasize the collective awareness of their importance, of their necessity.” Can they be avoided? The bad news is that, in the user’s domain, there is no choice but to pass these tests to achieve secure browsing and prevent the internet from being overrun by bots.

Nevertheless, biometrics is gaining ground as an interesting alternative: facial recognition or fingerprint technologies could replace both passwords and captchas, streamlining the verification process.

The Invasion of Pop-Ups

Pop-up windows that request our email address or ask us to enable notifications break our concentration and add additional steps to access desired content. Sometimes, their presence is necessary, but most of the time, they are alerts that, paradoxically, seek to gauge user satisfaction. Can they be reduced? The good news is yes, and in a very simple way: browsers like Chrome and Safari offer pop-up blocking functionalities.

In Chrome, this option is found in Settings > Privacy and Security > Site Settings > Pop-ups and redirects, where you should ensure it is configured to block pop-ups. In Safari, it is achieved in Preferences > Websites > Pop-up Windows and select the Block option.

The Whirlwind of Automatic Updates

Just when we are in the middle of an important task, the system decides to install updates, which can cause the computer to slow down or even restart. How to avoid it? Users can schedule updates to occur at times when the computer is not in use, avoiding inconvenient interruptions. In any case, it can be configured so that the system does not update itself without the user’s permission.

To avoid automatic updates in Windows, the user must go to Settings, then to Update and Security to pause or modify the updates. In macOS, users can disable automatic updates from System Preferences/Software Update and uncheck the Keep your Mac up to date box.

Videos That Never Quite Load

Nothing is more irritating than a YouTube video that constantly pauses when the connection is poor and watching the loading circle spinning. Almost worse, the system proposes lowering the playback quality to an insulting 480p. The system actually offers the user the data flow they have at that moment, but, despite this, one can try to trick the platform into still offering the content in HD (at least, in 720p).

How? The simplest solution is to subscribe to the platform’s premium service, which allows users to download content in the browser and thus avoid connection problems. For those who don’t want to spend, the low-cost solution is to pause the video and wait for the buffering to store the content, then press “play” again. If the problem is temporary and due to a peak in devices connected to the network, it is advisable to disconnect these devices to give priority to the one playing videos.