1. What IS PeerBlock?
The short version is: PeerBlock blocks "known bad" computers from accessing yours, and vice versa. Depending on the lists you have it set up to use, you can block governments, corporations, machines flagged for anti-p2p activites, even entire countries! Whether you're sharing files with Bittorrent or just surfing the web, PeerBlock can help protect you from the bad guys.
2. How does it do that?
An IP Address is like a telephone number, or a street address, for your computer - any time you connect to the Internet, your IP address is used to make that connection. If you go to "www.google.com", your computer first translates this to an IP address (e.g. 188.8.131.52), then sends a request to that address for a web-page; when the www.google.com computer receives this message, part of it contains your computer's IP address so that it knows how to send the web-page back to you.
PeerBlock is a type of program known as an "IP Filter". It lives way down deep inside the networking code on your computer - the stuff in Windows that actually makes/receives network connections for you - and inspects everything that flows past it. It looks at the IP address this network "packet" is coming from, and compares it against a list of "bad" ip-addresses; if it finds a match, it doesn't let that network packet make it through to the rest of your computer. It also looks at the IP address your network packets are going to, and does the same thing.
3. Where does it get these lists?
PeerBlock has a few default lists included, lists that are updated often so that they always contain the most up-to-date information. You can also specify other lists, for example many people enjoy using the lists provided by iblocklist.com. And you can create your own lists, too: either "known safe" ip addresses like websites you trust, your company's servers, or gaming servers to which you need to connect; or your own "bad" lists of people you want to block.
4. What lists should I use?
That depends on what you want to do with PeerBlock! Do you want to block Ads? Use the built-in "Ads" list. Are you in college and want to protect your doings from the campus Network Police? Use the built-in "Edu" list. Many more blocklists are available, we recommend those available at iblocklist.com.
5. What happened to the "Gov" list?
The old PG2 "Gov" list - which contained governmental IP addresses - was merged into the "P2P" (aka "Bluetack Level1") list a couple years ago and has been empty ever since. If you look at the old Gov list url with your browser, you can see it's contents . . . just one line saying that it's now empty. So by selecting the P2P list you'll still be just as safe as you were before.
Don't like it? Prefer to have the Gov list separate from the P2P list? You'll need to contact the folks who author the list, Bluetack. PeerBlock doesn't create or maintain any of these lists ourselves, we simply point you towards other peoples' creations.
6. Why is "Some Company or Site" Blocked?
The lists PeerBlock uses to determine what to block are not actually created by us . . . we simply block any IP addresses on the lists you tell PeerBlock to use. The most commonly used lists - including the P2P ("Bluetack Level1"), Advertising, Spyware, and Education lists we include as "default lists" - are authored by a group called Bluetack. So if you find that some website or company is being blocked by PeerBlock, we're not the ones to talk to about it.
Is the P2P list blocking Microsoft on you? Or the site you happen to host your personal website on? Well while we hate to pass the buck on things, we really have no control over this - you'll need to talk to whoever wrote that specific list, and ask them.
To figure out who you need to talk to, you should head over to iblocklist.com's Search page and enter the IP address in which you're interested. The search results page will include links to the various lists that contain this IP address, along with the ranges in each list that it's part of. Clicking the list's URL will take you to a description of that list, from where the Author Website link will take you to the website of whatever group maintains that list. They are the people you'll need to contact to ask why a particular IP address is on a list, or who'll you'll need to petition to get your own IP address removed.
7. Does this mean my P2P downloading is completely safe now?
Not necessarily. While many people do use IP Filtering software like PeerBlock to help "protect" themselves from being sued for copyright infringement, it is not 100% protection. In fact some people believe that using blocklists like this are completely useless. Others disagree, and believe that even if it's not 100% safe, it still lets them download files more safely. Sometimes they invoke the "Bear Principle": when running away from an angry bear you don't need to be faster than that bear . . . you only need to be faster than the guy next to you. However, as I seem to remember seeing on the old Peer Guardian site at one point:
The only way to be "safe" with P2P downloading is to not share copyrighted content!
PeerBlock is good at what it does - keeping your computer from "talking" with ip addresses on your configured blocklists. Everything else is up to those blocklists themselves. And heck, even if the blocklists provided 100% coverage of "bad" ip-addresses, and if blocklists were 100% proven to work, there could still be some bugs in the PeerBlock software that may prevent it from working correctly on your machine; we offer no guarantees that it works, and disclaim any and all responsibility for the consequences of your own actions online. If you're sharing copyrighted music/video files and get sued by the relevant organizations, it's not our fault. If you're stuck in a country with an oppressive government and are trying to get out your plans regarding the upcoming revolution, and those in power break down your door and haul you away, it's not our fault. If you're sharing some secret footage of Area 51 and the "Men in Black" come knocking on your door, it's not our fault!
If you choose to download copyrighted material from the Internet, be aware that you may be breaking the law.
8. How do I know PeerBlock is working?
Open up a command prompt (Start -> Run -> "cmd"), and run the command "ping 184.108.40.206". This ip-address (220.127.116.11) is owned by General Electric, and should be blocked by the "p2p" list by default. If PeerBlock is operating correctly, this ping command should return "General failure" (on Windows Vista/7; "Destination host unreachable" on XP) and the PeerBlock UI should show this access as Blocked; if PeerBlock is not working, the ping command should return "Request timed out" and the PeerBlock UI will show this access as Allowed (if the "Show allowed connections" checkbox in the PeerBlock settings panel is checked).
PeerBlock is actually based on the same code used to create PeerGuardian - specifically, the "PG2 RC1 Test3" Vista beta version. That code had a LOT of bugs in it, and hadn't been updated for about two years. So I started up this PeerBlock project to fix all those things that'd been annoying me for so long. A bunch of other people decided to pitch in and help out, some with development, some with testing, and now we're where we are today.
So compared with old PeerGuardian software, PeerBlock is much more stable, doesn't require nearly so many hacks/workarounds to get working on Vista/Win7, and is actually under active development . . . so we can (and will!) actually respond to new bug reports or feature requests.
10. Can I run PG2 and PeerBlock at the same time?
No! As PeerBlock and PG2 both operate the same way, and in fact share a lot of code, they could conflict with one another and cause all sorts of strange behavior (including Windows crashes). In fact the two programs should not allow themselves to run at the same time, to protect you from these sorts of potential problems.
11. Is there any reason to leave PG2 installed on my system?
Only for nostalgia's sake. After you have PeerBlock running well on your system, there really is no point to leaving PG2 installed. Just note that you'll need to close PeerBlock before uninstalling PG2, due to some stuff we had to put in there to prevent PG2 from trying to run at the same time as PeerBlock.
12. Which version should I run?
We make two different types of PeerBlock releases available for you to download. Public Releases are released on our main www.peerblock.com website, and are generally considered to be the most stable; these are generally denoted by a version number like "0.9.2" or "1.0.0". Interim Releases are released on our devblog.peerblock.com "Development Blog", are released more frequently, and contain new bugfixes and/or features that have not yet received enough airtime to be considered stable enough for inclusion in a Public Release; these are generally named something like "PeerBlock Interim Release r131".
Public Releases are recommended for most users. If you want to help test the "bleeding edge" of PeerBlock development, or if you have encountered a bug in the most recent Public Release that may be fixed in the Interim Release train, you should consider running an Interim Release.
The short answer is: Not for awhile.
The problem is, the code PeerBlock is based upon - the PG2 RC1 Test3 version - has a lot of Windows-specific code intermingled throughout the core code. Furthermore, none of our developers currently has a Mac to use for development purposes.
That said, as we move towards a PeerBlock 2.0 release one of the things we'll be doing is redesigning the core code to remove (or at least abstract away) all that Windows-specific stuff. Once that's done, it will at least be possible to port PeerBlock over to Mac / Apple OSX. From there we'll simply need a machine on which we can develop. Once we've received enough donations that PeerBlock is self-sufficient, we'll look into using some of that money to buy a low-end Mac for development / test purposes. If you are a Mac developer and would like to help out with this effort, please get in touch with us - even if you're not interested in spending lots of time on the project, we'd at least appreciate having someone we can bounce ideas off of!
This request is being tracked by Issue #161. If you're interested in a Mac port, you should "Star" that feature request. Not only will it update you once we start to make progress on it, but when we're prioritizing what to work on next we use the number of Stars an issue has as an indication of how interested our user community is in something. So consider it a way for you to "vote" for that feature.
14. Something I need to access is blocked! What can I do?
Sometimes the IP addresses programs need to connect to may end up on one of the blocklists you've configured PeerBlock to use. This can cause software to not download new updates, Windows Update to no longer work, programs to lose connectivity to the internet, etc. Luckily this is easy to fix!
What you'll need to do first is to identify the IP address(es) to which your software needs to connect. For example, let's say you have a program that needs to connect to the Internet when it starts up, but that program is not working. Open the main PeerBlock window, and then start up your problematic program. In the PeerBlock window you should see some blocked IP addresses logged; right-click on these IP-addresses and select "Allow"! You can temporarily allow them for 15 minutes or 1 hour, or you can allow them permanently.
Your "Permanent Allow List" can be edited later by going into the List Manager, selecting the "Permanent Allows" list (lists\permallow.p2b), then clicking the "Open List" button.
15. My icon's gone! How do I get it back?
If you select the "Always hide tray icon" option in the Settings panel, the tray icon for PeerBlock will disappear. If you close the main PeerBlock window after this point, you will no longer see any way to reopen PeerBlock and view your logs, change your settings, or exit the program! To bring back the main window, just run a new instance of PeerBlock - this will bring back the main window, from where you can do whatever you need to do.