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Early look at PeerGuardian 2


PeerGuardian is an application currently being used by Internet users worldwide to block the IP addresses of undesirables such as Anti-P2P, Ad servers, Spyware servers, Government etc. The PG blocklists are huge now and updated on a regular basis, but that brings us to another problem. Some users may not have the resources capable of handling so much work that needs to be done by PeerGuardian and so MethLabs new upcoming version, PeerGuardian 2.0 aims to tackle some of these problems. PG2 is not yet available to the general public, but some have been lucky enough to get a copy of the latest testing beta's of the software. FuRiOuS1 on the Methlabs IRC channel was kind enough to give me a copy of the latest beta, so here's what the PG2 project looks like so far.


First things First


I am testing PG2 on my machine here, which is running with 2.6Ghz, 1GB RAM and WinXP SP1. The current Beta's don't support Win9x versions. I am currently using the eDonkey2000 network with my eMule client with about 40 files currently downloading and a few hundred shared.


Installation


Installation couldn't have been easier. A nice setup wizard is the first thing I saw after extracting all files into a PG2 folder on my HDD. Sorry for the resizing of the images, it was necessary for the page layout.


Select Lists


The first thing you are asked is what lists you wish to use with PG2. The options available are P2P, Ads, Spyware and Government. You can also tick I have my own lists if you have personally created blocklists. With PeerGuardian, most users would stick only to P2P blocklists with the original PeerGuardian because of CPU and memory usage, especially when you are using a P2P network like eD2K which depends on many connections for best performance. PG2 however, is made to use as little resources as possible so adding all the lists doesn't have a huge effect on system performance.


Automatic Updates


It is very easy to manually update PG2 but the option for Automatic Updates is available. This would be a handy option for me as I often leave my computer switched on but idle for days unend. Your options are to check for updates Every Day, Every other day, Every week or a specified amount of days. Along with updating your blocklists, PG2 also has the option for you to check for updates of the actual program and Plugin's as well automatically. If you untick these three boxes (PeerGuardian, Plugin's and Lists) then Automatic Updates will be disabled.


First Update


After you have finished with the wizard, PG2 automatically begins to download the blocklists that you have chosen and will launch PG2 when it has finished. PG2 beta looks a lot different to the original PeerGuardian.


Main Screen


In my opinion the main interface of PG2 looks a lot better already than the traditional PeerGuardian. No logo is currently available on the latest Beta, but I don't know whether this is because one has not been designed or the logo isn't there to simply show that this is still just a beta version of PG2. As you can see my PG2 is currently blocking 743507887 IP's. PG2 only shows the last 6 blocks by default (can be changed) and doesn't log automatically anymore than that but you will see how it can be set to log to a file on your HDD instead. The Check for Updates button is there if you don't want automatic updates. You also have the option to Manage Lists.


Manage Lists


This is what I see when I click the Manage Lists button. You can add your own blocklists simply and edit currently lists. However, this area of PG2 is not finished on the beta, as I have found the Create List button leads to nothing so far. The Open List option shows you the blocked ranges of IP's in a List Editor, but that's all, it doesn't allow modification of the list. The edit button does not allow you to change ranges that are blocked, but will allow you to change the URL of the blocklist (or file path) and will allow you to change the type, which can either be block or allow as well as changing the name (shown in pic as description).


PG2 settings


Back on the main PG2 screen is a settings tab, so lets take a look at it. The first thing I can do here is change the Auto-Update settings I have entered in the wizard. I have created a .log file in the same folder as PG2 and called it blocklog.log, here I can set PG2 to output all the blocked IP's to the file by clicking the browse button and selecting blocklog.log. I can also change the log size on the program to something other than the default 6. the Allow local IP's should always be checked, especially if your machine is on a network.


Resource Usage


The original PeerGuardian can be very heavy on resources, which was probably it's biggest flaw. I can tell you now that this problem has been defeated in this Beta of PG2. Look at the pic and you can see that it's using 0% CPU and it's memory usage is just 6,236K. This Mem Usage is the highest value I have gotten in the last 5 days or so that I've been using PG2, it is not rare to see it's mem usage under 1MB. I have never seen it's CPU usage raise over 00% in the time that I was monitoring it's resource usage.


Blocking Progress


It's blocking capability is quite excellent. In the last 3 days it has written 2552 blocks to blocklog.log. The program has remained stable through all this blocking and has had no noticeable impact on my Internet connection speeds.


Another Useful Feature


Lets say for a moment that you have to visit a website that is blocked by the blocklists for some reason. Instead of closing down PG2 and risking connection to some undesirables, you can allow a single IP to work for a certain amount of time. After the IP is blocked and logged on the program, simply right click it and you get three options on allowing the IP to connect to you. You can allow it for 15 minutes, for an hour, or permanently allow this IP. This feature is needed as sometimes invalid IP ranges can end up in a PG blocklist, and something legit is blocked.


Systray Icon Options


The PG2 icon in the systray also has a few more handy features. Firstly, if PeerGuardian is ticked then that means that PeerGuardian will also be in your task bar (beside the Start Menu button), if you untick it, it leaves it just in the System Tray. You can enable and disable PeerGuardian 2 as you wish also, and it's worth mentioning that you can stop it from blocking HTTP, so no websites will fail to load due to IP blocking. To close PeerGuardian 2 properly, you are best off using the exit option also that is in the systray icons right-click options.


Last Words


PG2 definitely gets my vote and I will suggest that as soon as a public beta or full version is available, that you download and try it out. Thanks to methlabs for allowing AfterDawn use the beta and write this little review on it. If any major changes are made, this page will be updated.


Version History


v1.0 -- 4th December, 2004, First version online (Dela)
Written by: James Delahunty
Last updated: