Category Archives: Computer Privacy

How to Appear Internet Savvy

Loving and embracing constant change is a requisite of working in the web industry. Technologies change, rules change, guidelines and best practices change, links break, sites age, and relatively little stays the same. And so it was with great curiosity that I recently took a bit of time to sit down and read through some of the earliest timeforcake articles that were printed in the local newspaper back in 2003.

Much to my surprise I came upon an (almost) six year old article in which every single word still rang perfect and true. The advice I gave in this particular article was no different than advice I give today, and the points touched upon then are all issues I’ve continued to cover on a regular basis over the past half-decade.

And so with a smile and without further ado, I present to you the original 2003 How To Appear Internet Savvy article, with only one update (made in Tip #5 regarding browser versions) for your reading pleasure:

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Today (free of charge, zero money down, no shipping and handling) I’m providing you with a list of tips that, when followed, will cause your aura to radiate “INTERNET EXPERT” like a big, bright neon sign.

I suggest at least a modest attempt at making the following practices somewhat automatic for you. At the least, devotion to these practices will keep others’ eye-rolls, snickers, and impatient sighs at bay. At the most, you may find yourself being carried about on your co-workers shoulders all day, caught in an outpouring of endearing stares, listening to shouts and cheers of respect somewhere along the lines of “Hear hear for the Internet Expert!”

TIP #1: Never ever use the terms “AOL” and “Internet” as if they were completely interchangeable. Example no-no: Someone asks if your company has a website. You reply, “Oh yeah! We’re totally on AOL!” Big awful buzzer sound here. AOL is NOT the Internet; AOL is simply one of many browsers that allows you to maneuver about the Internet. It is also a company that likes to put holographic CDs covered with infomercial-like promotions in post offices in attempts of persuading more people into using their services.

TIP #2: Click correctly. When you’re surfing about the Internet, you likely get from place to place using hyperlinks (a.k.a. “links”). You should be aware that links require nothing more than a single click from the left button on your mouse. Double (or triple . . . or quadruple) clicking and right-clicking on links when you simply want to be taken to a different location are a few of the primary causes of those behind-your-back eyerolls you may not know people have been sending your way. Remember this: With links on the Internet, “one-click, that’s it.”

TIP #3: Remember that search engines are for searching, not for typing in complete URLs. (Please refer to my “Computing Terms 101” article if you’re unsure about the definition of a URL.) This means that you do NOT need to head over to Google or Yahoo Search or any other search engine to reach the specific website you already know you want to visit. Instead of typing “www.google.com” into your address bar and then typing in the URL of the site you want to visit in the search box. . . just SKIP going to Google and type the URL of the site you want to visit in the address bar instead!

TIP #4: Understand the term “download” and know how to pull files off the Internet onto your computer when you need/would like them. (For more information, refer to last week’s article on downloading.)

TIP #5: Use an Internet browser that’s not older than your average kindergartner. I’ll tell you right now: if you’re using something along the lines of Netscape 1.0 (born 1994) or Internet Explorer 2.0 (born 1996)—you’re seriously not appearing Internet Savvy. To be completely honest, even the use of AOL or Internet Explorer 5 to navigate the web won’t help your image (or your overall Internet experience) all that much either. To appear savvy, consider downloading and using something a bit more recent, such as Internet Explorer 7, or Firefox 3.

TIP #6: When someone’s surfing the Internet with you and they ask you to “open up a new window,” do NOT furrow your brow and say “huh??”. This will not make you appear Internet savvy. Instead simply reply (in an oh-so-suave tone, of course) “Why, of course!”. Then either hold down the “Ctrl” and then the “N” keys on your keyboard OR click on the “File” menu button at the top of the browser screen, then click on “Open New Window.” Many people find that having more than one browser window open at once is extremely handy for viewing multiple websites simultaneously. Try it out.

TIP #8: Whenever a friend or coworker asks a question that no one in the near vicinity can answer, calmly say “Oh I know that.” Then excuse yourself for just a moment, run to your computer, hop on the Internet, access Google (or your favorite search engine), look up the answer, and return to the questioning party with an eloquent, detailed explanation. Simply being aware that the Internet is home to a mind-boggling amount of information about pretty much everything instantly makes you appear more savvy in general to those around you. It may also encourage you to search the Internet with more regularity, which in turn boosts your true Internet savvy—not simply the appearance of it.

TIP #9: DO NOT click on flashing advertisements that: a) claim you’re the sites 1,000,000th visitor, b) ask you what your favorite color is and show you 4 or 5 circles or hearts or something of the sort, c) state that you were randomly chosen from all site visitors to win $100, etc. etc. etc. Those who are Internet savvy know that those type of advertisements are nothing more than tremendous wastes of time.

TIP #10: For heaven’s sake: the Internet does not bite. So don’t act like it does—especially when you’re in the company of others. Doing so will not make appear Internet savvy.

And that, my friends, is a list of tips that should help you on your way. If you don’t actually become Internet-savvy, I suppose at the very least . . . you can appear it. Let me know how it goes.

Topic of the Week: Breaking the Browser’s Back Button

Have you ever found yourself clicking your browser’s Back button (you know, that left-pointing arrow up in the top left corner of the screen when you’re on the web) . . . but nothing happens? Hmmm. And now that you look at it, the button appears gray—as if it was turned off somehow. Hmmm. And the only way you seem to be able to move away from the webpage you’re looking at is to actually close the page down, right?

When you use the web, you typically bounce from page to page, site to site, by clicking on links. Links are how we jump about and navigate the web. We’ll go to Site X, then Site Y, then Site Z, but then maybe we’ll hit our Back button because we want to go back to site Y.

People find themselves in broken-back-button situations when they click links that, unbeknownst to them, force-open up the next page in a totally new window or tab. This means we’ll click a link on Site Y, but instead of our page quickly changing to Site Z, a totally different window (or tab) opens up with Site Z — with Site Y remaining open in the old window we looking at just a moment before. So we now have two windows (or tabs) open at the same time. Because Site Z is the first site to open up in the fresh new window, the Back button has nowhere to take you, which is why the Back button will look grayed out and won’t respond when clicked. The only way to get back to Site Y now (IF you’ve been able to figure out what happened) is to close down the Site Z window and return to the original site Y window.

Now WHY would a website consciously cause such confusion? Why would a webmaster knowingly “break” his site visitors’ back buttons by having links open up in separate tabs or windows? A variety of reasons exist; many of them are a bit dubious.  After building websites for ten years, though, I can tell you that one of the most frequent client requests I’ve received over and over again is. . . “Can you make it so that when people click links on my website, they open up in new windows? Because if they don’t like that link and they close it, then they’ll be back at my website again. It just keeps people from leaving my website.”

My “actually-if-people-want-to-leave-your-website-they’ll-leave-your-website-and-don’t-forget-that-people-are-accustomed-to-being-able-to-use-their-back-buttons” explanation never meets with much enthusiasm; the request almost always stands: “Make links open in new windows so people stay on my site.”  If this seems a little bit backwards or confusing to you, you’re not alone.

The “people-will-stay-on-my-website-if-I-open-links-in-new-windows” assumption has broken and will continue to “break” the Back button in my browser, your browser, and the browsers of others for a long time to come. And so the next time you arrive on a new page and find you can’t use your Back button, just close the page in order to return to the one you were on previously. And smile because, unlike so many others, you actually know what just happened. . . and possibly even why.  :)

Public Computer Privacy Warning – Learn How To Protect Your Privacy While Using Public Computers

While it’s possible to improve your computer privacy on your home computer, as well as, to a degree, in the office, by deleting cookies, removing temporary internet files, making sure to clear history regularly, and installing software for example privacy software, anti virus and firewall, there are times when you can’t be sure.

Utilizing a public computer, whether it is in an internet café, library, school, or other public place, holds its own set of dangers, and puts your internet privacy, and computer privacy, at risk.

Here are some tips and hints to ensure that your computer privacy remains intact, and also you don’t be a victim of computer crime, or internet fraud:

– Never leave the computer unattended when logged in a sensitive site. It appears obvious, but it does happen. People log into an online shopping or banking site, and then leave, if only for a few minutes. All of the time it requires for somebody with under honest intentions!

– Don’t save passwords or login information. Most sites these days allow the option of saving login and password information, which, if you work with your own computer, may be a wise decision. However, when using a public computer, leading to somebody who has been watching you, logging in to people sites, and taking advantage of your details for his or her own purposes.

– Remove all traces. Clear cookies, remove temporary internet files and delete history. Before you decide to get on sites requiring passwords and login names, disable the auto save function for passwords and login names. Make sure to delete MS Sharepoint documents, if using a corporate site to see and use sensitive documents. Go to My Documents, and clear the Sharepoint folder.

– If there is any doubt whatsoever in your thoughts concerning the safety from the computer you are using, avoid entering any sensitive information. By doing so, you make sure that even when key logging software has been installed on the computer you’re using, it won’t be associated with a use.
– Be watchful for individuals looking over your shoulder! Hi-tech it is not, but it is certainly easy, and effective, of these criminals to merely watch, over your shoulder, as you log in to sites. They then have access to your passwords and usernames, and may use them as they wish.

– Change usernames as well as passwords regularly. In so doing, you make sure that even though you happen to be observed, or your data recorded, through the time the criminals under consideration attempt to use your data, hopefully you’ll have changed it.

Computer privacy, and internet privacy, is a big deal, and while you might already have an evidence eraser program at home or the office, public computers are a whole other ballgame! Take appropriate steps to safeguard yourself – you won’t be sorry!

Remember, even if you have to use a public computer, it is still your responsibility to protect yourself online and off. Attempt to choose reputable internet cafes or other areas to use public computers, and remember these tips, and you should be fine.

Hope that helps.