Here's part of "The Secret Guide to Computers," copyright by Russ Walter, 29th edition. For newer info, read the 32nd edition at www.SecretFun.com.

Web

The most popular part of the Internet is called the World Wide Web (or just the Web or just WWW). To use it, you need a program called a Web browser.

The first good Web browser was Mosaic, invented by a University of Illinois undergrad, Marc Andreessen, in 1994. Later that year, he left the university and formed a company called Netscape Communications Corp., where he invented a better Web browser called Netscape Navigator (or just Navigator). The newest version of it is version 7, which you can get by itself or as part of Netscape Communicator.

In 1995, Microsoft invented a competing Web browser called Internet Explorer (IE). Version 1 of it was invented in 1995, versions 2 and 3 in 1996, version 4 in 1997, version 5 in 1999, version 5.5 in 2000, and version 6 in 2001. Its recent versions (5, 5.5, and 6) are quite good: better than Netscape Navigator! They’re free. They’re included on the CD that Windows comes on (if you have a recent version of Windows). They’re also available for the Mac. Hardly anybody uses Netscape Navigator anymore.

This chapter explains Internet Explorer (versions 5, 5.5, and 6) for Windows. (If you’re stuck using older versions of Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, get an older edition of this book by phoning me at 603-666-6644.).

The World Wide Web runs slowly. You’ll spend lots of time waiting for it to respond to your commands. That’s why cynics call it the “World Wide Wait”. To make the Web reasonably pleasant, you need a modem that’s fast (at least 28.8 kilobaud).

 

Install Internet Explorer

To use Internet Explorer, you (or your dealer) must put it onto your computer’s hard disk.

If you bought your computer in 1996 or afterwards, its hard disk probably contains Internet Explorer already. For example, Windows 98, 98 SE, Me, and XP include Internet Explorer. Microsoft Office 2000 and Microsoft Office XP come on a CD-ROM disk that includes Explorer.

Next, tell Windows about your Internet service provider (ISP) and your ISP’s phone number. To find out how, read the instructions your ISP sent you. If you don’t understand them, phone your ISP’s technical-support number.

For example, if you’re using Windows XP and want to use the Internet Explorer 6 that it includes, do this:

Click “start” then “Control Panel”.

Click “Network and Internet Connections”. (If you don’t see that choice, make it appear by clicking “Switch to Category View”.)

You see the Network and Internet Connections window.

Click “Set up or change your Internet connection”. Press ENTER. Press the TAB key. Type your area code (such as 603). Press ENTER four times. Click “Set up my connection manually”. Press ENTER twice. Type your ISP’s name (such as “Galaxy Internet Services”) and press ENTER. Type the phone number of your ISP’s computer (such as 782-4447) and press ENTER. Type the user name that your ISP agreed to assign to you (such as “poo”), press the TAB key, type the password that your ISP agreed to assign to you (you’ll see black dots while you type it), press TAB, type the password again, remove the check mark from “Turn on Internet Connection Firewall for this connection” (by clicking there), and press ENTER. Press ENTER again.

Click “Internet Options” then “Connections” then “Dial whenever a network connection is not present” then “OK”.


Close the Network and Internet Connections window (by clicking its X button). Close the Dial-up Connection window (by clicking its X button).

If you’re using Windows Me and want to use the Internet Explorer 5.5 that it includes, do this:

Click “Start” then “Settings” then “Dial-Up Networking”. You see the Dial-Up Networking window. Press ENTER.

Type your ISP’s name (such as “Galaxy Internet Services”) and press ENTER. Press the TAB key. Type the phone number of your ISP’s computer (such as 782-4447) and press ENTER. Press ENTER again.

You’ll see an icon for your ISP. Right-click it. Click “Properties”.

Remove the check mark from the box called “Use area code and Dialing Properties” (by clicking that box).

Click “Networking”. Remove the check mark from the box called “Enable software compression” (by clicking that box).

Click “Security”. Type the user name that your ISP agreed to assign to you (such as “poo”).

Click “Dialing”. Click “Dial whenever a network connection is not present.” Press ENTER.

Close the Dial-Up Networking window (by clicking its X button).

If you’re using a recent version of Windows 98 and want to use the Internet Explorer 5 or 5.5 that it includes, do this:

Double-click “My Computer” then “Dial-Up Networking”. Press ENTER.

Type your ISP’s name (such as “Galaxy Internet Services”) and press ENTER.

Type the phone number of your ISP’s computer, by typing the area code (such as 603) then pressing the TAB key, then typing the rest of the number (such as 782-4447), and press ENTER. Press ENTER again.

You’ll see an icon for your ISP. Right-click it. Click “Properties”.

Remove the check mark from the box called “Use area code and Dialing Properties” (by clicking that box).

Click “Server Types”. Remove all check marks (by clicking) except “TCP/IP” (which should stay checked).

Click “TCP/IP Settings” then “Specify name server addresses”. Into the Primary DNS box, type the number your ISP recommends (such as 208.218.130.4). Into the Secondary DNS box, type the number your ISP recommends (such as 108.218.130.5). Press ENTER. Click “OK”.

Close the Dial-Up Networking window (by clicking its X button).

 

Start browsing

Turn on the computer, without any disks in the floppy drives. Then choose one of these methods.…

Method 1: double-click the icon that says “Internet Explorer”.

Method 2: click the tiny Internet Explorer icon that’s next to the Start button and has an “e” on it.

Method 3 (works just in version 6): click “Start” then “Internet Explorer”.

If the computer asks for your user name, type it and press the TAB key.

If the computer says “Password”, do this procedure:

If you’re using Windows XP, put a check mark in the “Connect automatically” box (by clicking it), then click “Connect”.

If you’re not using Windows XP, click in the Password box then type the password you use to connect to your Internet provider (and press ENTER). If the computer asks “Do you want to continue?”, press ENTER.

You’ll see the Internet Explorer window. Make sure it consumes the whole screen. (If it doesn’t consume the whole screen yet, maximize it by clicking its resize button, which is next to the X button.)

If you’re using version 5.5 or 6, make it easier to understand, by doing this procedure:

Click “View” then “Toobars” then “Customize”. Make sure the “Text options” box says “Show text labels”. (If it doesn’t, click the box’s down-arrow, then click “Show text labels”.) Press ENTER.

If you’re using version 5.5 or 6, I’ll assume you’ve done that procedure.

Address box

Near the top of the screen, you see the address box. It’s a wide, white box labeled “Address”. Click in that white box.

Any writing in that box turns blue. Then type the Internet address you wish to visit.

For example, if you wish to visit Yahoo, type Yahoo’s Internet address, which is —

http://www.yahoo.com/

Yes, that’s Yahoo’s Internet address. It’s also called Yahoo’s Uniform Resource Locator (or URL, which is pronounced “Earl”).

When typing an Internet address (such as “http://www.yahoo.com/”), make sure you type periods (not commas); type forward slashes (not backslashes).

The address’s first part (“http://”) tells the computer to use HyperText Transfer Protocol, which is the communication method used by the Web. The “www.” emphasizes that you’re using the World Wide Web. The “.com” means the service (Yahoo) is a commercial company.

Instead of typing “http://www.yahoo.com/”, you can be lazy and type just this:

www.yahoo.com

That’s because the computer automatically puts “/” at the address’s end and puts “http://” before any address that doesn’t contain “://” already.

In an Internet address, each period is called a dot, so “www.yahoo.com” is pronounced “dubbilyoo dubbilyoo dubbilyoo dot yahoo dot com” by literate computerists; grunters say just “wuh wuh wuh dot yahoo dot com”.

Notice that the typical address (such as “www.yahoo.com”) begins with “www.” and ends with “.com”.

At the end of your typing, press ENTER. (If you typed just “yahoo.com” and forgot to type the “www.”, the computer will automatically do the “www.” for you after a slight delay.)

You’ll see the beginning of Yahoo’s home page.

Seeing the rest of the page To see the rest of the page, press the down-arrow key or PAGE DOWN key or click the scroll-down arrow (the 6 or Ú near the screen’s bottom right corner). To see the beginning of the page again, press the up-arrow key or PAGE UP key or click the scroll-up arrow (5 or Ù).

To hop immediately to the page’s bottom, tap the END key.

To hop immediately to the page’s top, tap the HOME key.

Links

On Yahoo’s home page, you see many topics to choose from.

The typical topic is underlined. For example, at the page’s top you see these 36 hot topics:

Shop:    Auctions, Autos, Classifieds, Real Estate, Shopping, Travel

Find:         HotJobs, Maps, People Search, Personals, Yellow Pages

Connect:  Chat, GeoCities, Greetings, Groups, Mail, Messenger, Mobile

Organize: Addresses, Briefcase, Calendar, My Yahoo, PayDirect, Photos

Fun:         Games, Horoscopes, Kids, Movies, Music, Radio, TV

Info:         Finance, Health, News, Sports, Weather

Below them, you see these 14 broad topics:

Business & Economy                  Regional

Computers & Internet               Society & Culture

News & Media                            Education

Entertainment                           Arts & Humanities

Recreation & Sports                  Science

Health                                           Social Science

Government                                  Reference

Scattered around the page, you see many other underlined topics, too!

At the page’s top, you also see 6 topic buttons (labeled “Personalize”, “Finance”, “Shop”, “Email”, “Messenger”, and “Help”).

Each topic button or underlined topic is called a link. Click whichever link interests you. (You can click anyplace where the mouse’s pointer-arrow turns into a pointing finger.)

Then — presto! — the computer shows you a whole new page, devoted entirely to the topic you linked to! Read it and enjoy!

While you’re looking at that new page, you’ll see its address in the address box. On that new page, you’ll see more links (topic buttons and underlined topics); click whichever one interests you, to visit a further page.

Back & forth

After admiring the new page you’re visiting, if you change your mind and want to go back to the previous page you were looking at, click the Back button (which says “Back” on it).

Then you see the previous page, but the underlined topic you clicked might have changed color. For example, on Yahoo’s home page, most underlined topics are blue, but any topic you’ve clicked turns purple — and stays purple for several days.)

After clicking the Back button, if you change your mind again and wish you hadn’t clicked the Back button, click the Forward button.

Back list To hop back several pages, you can click the Back button several times.

To hop back faster, do this trick:

Click the u next to the Back button.

You see a list of pages you visited recently. The list is always short: no more than 9 pages.

Click the page you want to go back to.

History To see a list of pages that you visited recently, click the History button (which is at the screen’s top center). Then at the screen’s left edge, you see the History window, which is a list of pages you visited during the last 20 days.

The computer starts by showing you an alphabetical list of pages you visited today; click other times to see a list of pages you visited then.

You see the list’s beginning. Underneath, you might see the button, which you click to see the rest of the list.

Click the page you want to visit.

The History window will stay on the screen until you close it (by clicking its X button).

Favorites If you’re viewing a wonderful page, here’s how to make the computer remember that the page is one of your favorites:

Click the Favorites button. You’ll see a Favorites window at the screen’s left edge. Click Add, then press ENTER.

In the future, whenever you want to return to your favorite pages, click the Favorites button (to make the Favorites window appear). You’ll see a list of your favorites. Click the page you want.

The Favorites window will stay on the screen until you close that window by clicking its X button.

Home Each time you launch Internet Explorer, the first page you see is called your start page or home page (because that’s where life starts — at home). If you view other pages (by clicking underlined topics) and later change your mind, you can return to viewing the home page by clicking the Back button many times — or click the Home button once.


Search box On Yahoo’s first page, you see a white box next to the word “Search”. That box is called the search box.

Try this experiment: click in the white search box, then type a topic that interests you. At the end of your typing, press ENTER. (If the computer asks “Do you want to continue?” or “Would you like to turn AutoComplete on?”, press ENTER.) Yahoo will list all Yahoo pages about the topic that interests you! Click whichever underlined page you want.

Open something different

To switch to a completely different address, click in the address box again then type the Internet address you wish to visit.

For example, if you wish to visit Google, type this —

http://www.google.com/

or type just this:

www.google.com

At the end of your typing, press ENTER. Then type a topic to search for (and press ENTER) — or look at Google’s list of topics (by clicking “Directory”), which shows you these 15 broad topics:

Arts                              Home                               Regional

Business                       Kids and Teens                    Science

Computers                   News                                   Shopping

Games                          Recreation                          Society

Health                          Reference                           Sports

Yahoo and Google are called search sites, since their purpose is to help you search for other sites on the Internet. They’re also called Web portals, since their purpose is to serve as a grandiose door through which you pass to launch your journey across the World Wide Web.

Print

While you’re examining a page, here’s how to print a copy of it onto paper: click the Print button. That makes your printer print the entire page — even the part of the page that goes below the screen’s bottom edge and doesn’t fit on the screen.

Exit

When you finish using Internet Explorer, close its window (by clicking its X box). Here’s what to do next.…

Versions 5&6: press ENTER.

Version 5.5: If the taskbar (at the screen’s bottom still shows a modem-connection icon, double-click it then click “Disconnect”.

 

3 ways to search

Here are the 3 popular ways to search for a topic on the Web.

Search-box method

In a search box, type the topic you’re interested in, and then press ENTER. That makes Yahoo (or Google) use its search engine, which searches on the Internet for pages about that topic.

Google has the best search engine. Yahoo used to have its own but recently decided to license Google’s; so if you type a topic in Yahoo’s search box, you’ll get about the same results as if you were typing in Google’s box.

Here’s how to use Google’s search box. (Yahoo and competitors are similar.)

When you make Google search for a topic, Google typically finds thousands of pages about that topic. Google tries to guess which of those pages are the most relevant; Google begins by trying to show you a list of the most relevant pages (on a white background). That list is interrupted by some ads, which are marked “sponsored links” and have pastel colored backgrounds. The ads relate vaguely to the topic you requested, but you can ignore them. They’re listed first because the advertisers paid for such listing.

What Google ignores Google ignores capitalization, so don’t bother capitalizing. Typing “george washington” has the same effect as typing “George Washington”.

In the search box, type just words separated by spaces. Google ignores commas, periods, question marks, and exclamation points.

Google usually ignores these common words:

a, the

be, is, are, was, will

I, it

of, for, about, in, on

what, when, where, why, how

and, or

Restricting your search The more words you type in the search box, the more restricted the search will be, since Google will show you a Web page just if the page includes all the words you mentioned.

If you type “bush”, Google will list all Web pages that mention “bush”. Google will guess that you’re mainly interested in President George Bush, so it will begin by listing Web pages about George Bush the father, George Bush the son (even a page comparing his photos to a chimpanzee’s), and their families. Google will also mention Web pages about Kate Bush (the singer), other people whose last name is Bush, a discothèque in Belgium called “La Bush”, and eventually any plant called a “bush” and also pubic hair (for which the slang word is “bush”).

If you’re more specific, Google will mention fewer Web pages.

For example, if you’re interested in just Kate Bush the singer, type “Kate Bush” instead of just “Bush”. Then Google will show you info about just Kate Bush.

If you want info about plants that are bushes, type “bush plant”. That gets you mostly Web pages about plants that are bushes but also includes a few jokes about President Bush being a plant and some comments about President Bush’s opinions of nuclear power plants. You can also try “bush shrub” or “bush garden” (which includes info about gardens but also about a Japanese restaurant called “Bush Garden”) or “bush landscaping”.

If you type “bush pubic”, you get Web pages about shaving & combing pubic hair and a feminist protest against George Bush. Go try other combos that get closer to whatever kind of info you want to know about a “bush”.

The more words you type in the search box, the more specific your request is, and the fewer Web pages will match. If you get too few Web pages, try different words instead.

Try variations. If you’re interested in plants that are bushes, and you don’t like what you get when you search for “bush plant”, try searching for “shrub” instead, which will get you a different list: Web pages that mention the word “shrub”.

Google notices your word order. If you say “bush plant”, Google begins by listing Web pages that mention “bush” before “plant”; if you say “plant bush”, Google begins by listing Web pages that mention “plant” before “bush”.

Google searches for just the words you requested. For example, if you search for “airline”, Google will list Web pages that contain the word “airline” but not Web pages that contain the word “airlines” instead. For complete listings, search for “airline” then search again for “airlines”.

If you type quotation marks around a phrase (such as “to be or not to be”), Google shows just Web pages containing that exact phrase.

Which Web pages are important To determine which Web pages to show you first, Google considers how closely each Web page matches what you requested — but also considers how important each Web page seems to be. Google considers a Web page to be important if many other Web pages contain links to that page, and if the Web pages that link to it are themselves important also (by being linked to from other Web pages).

Feeling lucky? After you’ve typed some words into the search box, the usual procedure is to press the ENTER key. That has the same effect as clicking “Google Search”: it makes Google show you a list of relevant Web pages. Often, the first Web page in that list is the most relevant. If it is, congratulations: you’re lucky! You found what you’re looking for, fast!

If you think you’re going to be that lucky, try this trick to go even faster: after typing words into the search box, click “I’m Feeling Lucky” (instead of pressing ENTER). Google will take you immediately to the first Web page on the list, without having you wait for the whole list to be generated and having it wait for you to choose from the list.

Phone book In the search box, if you type a phone number (such as “603-666-6644”), Google will look through phonebook white pages and tell you who has that phone number (if the number is listed).

If instead you type a name (of a person or business) with a city and state (such as “Russ Walter Manchester NH”), Google will look through the phonebook white pages and tell you the phone number (if the number is listed), street address, and ZIP code. When you type a person’s name, you must type at least the last name; do not type a middle name; type the first name or first initial if you know how it’s listed in the phonebook white pages. Instead of typing a city and state, you can type a ZIP code if you know it.

Maps In the search box, if you type an address (such as “196 Tiffany Lane Manchester NH”), Google will offer to show you two maps of that address: click “Yahoo Maps” or “MapQuest”.

Pictures To search for a picture (instead of words), do this:

Click “Images”. In the search box, type what topic you want the picture to be about. Press ENTER.

You’ll see tiny pictures about your topic. Click whichever picture you like. You’ll see it enlarged.

Click “Back” to return to Google. Google will assume you want all future searches to be about pictures, until you click “Web” instead of “Images” (or until you stop using Google).

Single site If you want Google to search through just one Web site, say so. For example, if you want to search for info about Windows XP just on Microsoft’s Web site (which is www.microsoft.com), say “Windows XP site:www.microsoft.com”.

Who links to you? To find all Web pages that link to your favorite Web page, type “link:” then your Web page’s address, like this: “link:www.secretfun.com”.

Censorship Google can censor the list of Web pages and pictures, so you don’t see pornography.

To change how Google censors what you see, click “Preferences” (which is to the right of the search box) then choose complete censorship or no censorship or partial censorship (which censors pictures but not words), by clicking the appropriate circle under “SafeSearch Filtering”. (If you’ve never expressed a preference, Google assumes you want partial censorship.) To confirm your choice, click the Save Preferences button (which is near the screen’s top right corner), then press ENTER.

Translation Google can translate English to & from 5 European languages (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and German). It can also translate French to & from Spanish & Portuguese.

For example, if you’ve been using English but Google finds a Web page in one of those 5 European languages, Google will translate the Web page to English if you do this: instead of clicking the Web page’s name (in the list of Web pages), click the “Translate this page” nearby. Then Google will show you the Web page rewritten into English by Google’s robots (which are computers). Google’s robots make many translation mistakes but give you at least a rough idea of what the Web page is trying to say.

For further fun, try this:

Click “Language Tools” (which is next to the search box), then click in “Translate text” box. Type some sentences in English or one of those 5 European languages. Click the down-arrow below that box. You see 14 choices of what languages to translate to and from (if you scroll to see the whole list): click the choice you want. Google’s robots will translate what you wrote and put the answer in the top box.

The robots have trouble with slang and gender. For example, suppose you type “Hey, baby, want to go for a spin around town in my rig? It’s cool!” If you tell Google to translate that to Spanish and then back to English, Google will say “Hey, the baby, wishes to go for a return around city in my equipment? He is fresh!”

Cached pages When Google shows you a list of Web pages about your topic, that list is based on info that Google collected several months ago about the Internet. The list might no longer be correct. When you click on one of the Web pages in the list, the Internet might give you an error message saying the page no longer exists, or the Internet might give you a page different from what you were expecting.

Fear not! Though the original Web page might have disappeared from the Internet, Google’s kept a copy of that original Web page in Google’s cache. To see the original, go back to Google’s list of Web pages; but instead of clicking the Web page’s name, click the word “Cached” that’s below the page’s name and description. Then you’ll see the same original page that Google saw.

Experiment The Internet is huge. For a typical topic, Google will find thousands of pages about it. For the most popular topics, Google will find millions of pages.

If you try to fool Google by typing a short fake word (such as a nonsense syllable), you’ll be surprised: Google will typically inform you that the word was already invented by others and will show you several pages about it (because it turns out to be the name of a rock band, or an organization’s initials, or a word in a foreign language, or a word invented by a novelist to describe a splat-like sound). If you try to fool Google by typing several seemingly unrelated words or names (separated by spaces), Google will typically find a Web page containing them all (because the Web page is from a crazy novel or a reading list or an alumni list or a dictionary).


Other search engines Here’s a list of popular search engines:

Search engine   Address

Yahoo                    www.yahoo.com

Google                   www.google.com

Overture                www.overture.com

HotBot                  www.hotbot.com

AltaVista                www.altavista.com

WebCrawler           www.webcrawler.com

Excite                   www.excite.com

About                    www.about.com

Dogpile                 www.dogpile.com

“Overture” was formerly called “Infoseek” and “Go”.

A metasearch site called All4One (www.all4one.com) splits your screen into four frames, where it runs 4 search engines simultaneously (Yahoo, HotBot, AltaVista, and Excite).

The most intelligent metasearch site is Ask Jeeves (www.ask.com). It runs 4 search engines (Excite, AltaVista, WebCrawler, and 4Anything) and, if you type a question instead of just words, it will analyze your question’s grammar, check whether other folks have asked similar questions, offer responses based on those questions (helped by a staff of humans working behind the scenes), and do a good job of honing in on finding the answer. Go wild: ask the most important or craziest questions you can think of, and see how Jeeves responds!

A metasearch site called Dogpile (www.dogpile.com) runs 5 search engines simultaneously (Overture,
Ask Jeeves, and 3 others).
A metasearch site called MetaCrawler (www.metacrawler.com) is sophisticated: it runs 10 search engines simultaneously (Overture, AltaVista, About, Ask Jeeves, and 6 others) in a single frame and combines their results into a single list.

Subject-tree method

You see a list of broad topics (on the main page of Yahoo, Excite, WebCrawler, Magellan, or Galaxy). That list is called the subject tree of knowledge (because it’s as tempting as the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden). Click on whichever broad topic interests you. Then you see a list of that topic’s branches (subtopics). Click whatever subtopic interests you. Then you see a list of subsubtopics (twigs). Click whichever subsubtopic interests you. Keep clicking until you finally zero in on the very specific topic that interests you the most: it’s the fruit of your search!

Yahoo has the best subject tree. But to get different perspectives on the topic that interests you, also try the subject trees provided by Yahoo’s competitors.

Address-box method

Give your friends a sheet of paper and ask them to jot down the addresses of their favorite Web pages. (Or get lists of nifty Web addresses by reading computer books, magazines, newspaper articles, or ads.)

For example, here’s a list of excellent Web sites:

Topic                    Best Web site

News                      www.yahoo.com

Weather                    www.wunderground.com

Phone numbers      www.switchboard.com

Travel                    www.expedia.com

Airplane flights      www.orbitz.com

Greeting cards        www.bluemountain.com

Movies                   www.imdb.com

Music                     www.mp3.com

Books                    www.bartleby.com

Political humor      politicalhumor.about.com

Astrology humor    jackrudy.com/ics

Computer jargon www.webopedia.com

ABS computers      ww.abspc.com

Health                    www.intelihealth.com

Government           www.firstgov.gov

Post office             www.usps.gov

Company info        www.hoovers.com

(A more detailed list of Web sites begins on the next page.)

Type one of those addresses in the address box, then press ENTER.

To understand how addresses work, consider the address for the “Institute of Celestial Sciences”, which is:

http://www.jackrudy.com/ics/

The address’s first part (“http://”) is called the protocol.

The address’s next part (“www.jackrudy.com”) is called the domain name; it tells you which computer on the Internet contains the info. The typical domain name begins with “www.”, then has the name of a company (such as “jackrudy”). The domain name’s ending (called the top-level domain) is typically “.com”, which means “USA commercial company”. Some addresses have different top-level domains:

Top-level

domain   Meaning

.com         USA commercial company

.org          USA organization (typically non-profit)

.gov         USA government (typically federal)

.mil           USA military

.edu         USA educational institution

.net          USA network resource (typically ISP)

.us            USA other (typically local government)

.ar            Argentina

.au           Australia

.br            Brazil

.ca            Canada

.cc            Cocos Islands (near Australia)

.ch            Confoederacio Helvetica (Switzerland)

.cn            China

.es            España (Spain)

.fi             Finland

.fr             France

.de           Deutschland (Germany)


.dk            Denmark

.ie             Ireland

.il              Israel

.in             India

.it             Italy

.jp            Japan

.kr            Korea (South)

.mx           Mexico

.nl             Netherlands (Holland)

.no           Norway

.nz            New Zealand

.ru            Russia

.se            Sweden

.tv            Tuvalu (South Pacific islands)

.tw           Taiwan

.uk            United Kingdom (Britain & N. Ireland)

Recently, these new top-level domains were invented: .info, .name, .biz (for business), and .ws (for website).

The rest of the address (such as “/ics/”) is called the page name; it tells which file on the computer contains the page you requested.

Type each address carefully:

While typing an address, never put a space in the middle.

Watch your punctuation. The typical address will contain a dot (.) and a slash (/). An address can also contain a hyphen (-) or squiggle (~). Addresses never contain commas, backslashes, or apostrophes.

Type small letters (uncapitalized) for the typical address, since capitalized page names are rare. (The computer doesn’t care whether you capitalize the protocol and domain name.)

 

How to use
good sites

Here’s how to use the best sites.

Secret Guide to Computers

To find out about the newest and classic editions of The Secret Guide to Computers, go to The Secret Guide to Computers (www.secretfun.com). That Web site also includes links to the Web sites listed below.

News

The computer can tell you what’s new, instantly! You don’t have to wait for the newspaper to arrive or the TV to broadcast an announcement: just look at the Internet, and you’ll discover the news instantly! And unlike your local newspaper, the news on the Internet is free! You don’t have to scan through the newspaper to find the topic you want; you don’t have to sit through TV commercials to get to the news you want: just click on links you want!


Straight news The fastest way to find today’s headlines and news summary is to go to Yahoo (www.yahoo.com). Then look at the screen’s right-hand edge, where you’ll see a box called “In the News”. In that box, you see today’s most important news headlines (about 5 of them).

If one of those headlines interests you, click it for more details.

To see different headlines instead, click the “more” link at the bottom of the “In the News” box. Then you see today’s news divided into 12 categories: “Top Story”, “World”, “Politics”, “Business”, “Entertainment”, “Sports”, “Technology”. “Science”, “Health”, “Oddly Enough”, “Op/Ed”, and “Local”. Scroll down to see them all. At the bottom, you also see “News in Other Languages”, which gives you a chance to read news in French, German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Click whatever you wish. (For a fun time, try clicking “More Oddly Enough Headlines”, which tells you the craziest stories of the past week.)

To see just today’s news about the stock market and its undercurrents, click “Finance” instead (which is at the top of the Web page).

Weather To find out the weather, go to the Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com).

You see a weather map for the whole USA. Above that map is a “Fast Forecast” button and an empty box. Click in that box, type your ZIP code, then click the “Fast Forecast” button.

Then the screen’s left half shows the current weather, and the screen’s right-hand half shows the forecast for the rest of today and the next few days. (You see the beginning of all that; scroll down to see the rest.)

The weather forecast is just approximate. If you live in a small town, you’ll get the weather report for the nearest city or your general region.

Phone numbers

To find a phone number, try Switchboard (www.switchboard.com). (There are several other similar Web sites, but www.switchboard.com tends to work the fastest.)

To find a person’s phone number and address, do this:

Fill in the “Last Name” box. (For your first experiment, leave the “First Name” box blank.) Fill in next two boxes (City and 2-letter state), then click the nearby “Search” button. The computer will list people having that last name in that city. It will also list people having a longer name. (For example, if you look for the last name “Walter”, it will also find “Walters”.)

If the list is too long to fit on the page, click the “Next Page” button (which is at the page’s bottom) to see the rest of the list.

If the list longer than you wish, make it shorter by going back and filling in the “First Name” field. If you’re not sure which First Name to put, try putting in just the first letter of the first name of the main person in the family. If the list is too short and doesn’t include the person you want, make the list longer by spelling the last name differently or omitting the city or trying a nearby city.

For each person on the list, you see the street address and phone number. Click the person’s name to find the ZIP code. (If the person’s name had an asterisk before it, clicking the person’s name also gets you the person’s e-mail address.)

To find a business’s phone number and address, do this:

Fill in the Business Name box. If you don’t know the business’s name, fill in the Category box (by typing what kind of business it is, using the heading that would appear in the yellow pages). Fill in the city and 2-letter state, then click the nearby “Search” button. (If you typed a Category that was too vague, the computer will show you a list of more specific categories to choose from; click one.)

Then you’ll see the names, addresses, and phone numbers of businesses meeting your description.

If you see a phone number (on your phone bill or a scribbled note) and you want to find out whom the phone number belongs to, request a reverse phone lookup by doing this instead:

Click “Search by Phone #” (at the screen’s left edge), then fill in the phone number (including the area code), then click “Both” then the “Search” button. The computer will tell you the name and address associated with that phone number.

Driving directions

If you’re traveling by car and want driving directions, go to Expedia (www.expedia.com), then click “maps” (at the Web page’s top) then “Get Driving Directions”. Here’s what happens next:

To give you driving directions, the computer needs to know where you want your trip to start (probably your home) and where you want your trip to end.

You see a Web page divided into several parts. Part 1 is called “Where do you want to start?” Part 2 (which is below) is called “Where do you want to end?”

In part 1, say where you want your trip to start, by filling in the boxes. The usual approach is to fill in the starting point’s address. (If you don’t know the ZIP code, omit it. If you don’t know the house number, omit it or give an intersection, such as “Main Street & Nut Road”. If you don’t know even the street, forget all that stuff and fill in the “Place name” box instead by typing the name of a place, such as “Los Angeles airport” or “Supreme Court” or “Chicago City Hall” or “Mel’s Diner”.

In part 2, say where you want your trip to end, using the same techniques.

The computer assumes you want the quickest route, measured in miles. Part 3 lets you switch (from “quickest” to “shortest” or “scenic”, and from “miles” to “kilometers”).

Finally, click “Get driving directions”.

The computer will try to get you the driving directions. (If the computer doesn’t understand an address or place you gave, it will make guesses about what you meant; click whichever guess is correct and then click “Get driving directions” again.)

You see a chart, whose left column tells you each turn (and each street names, ramp, merge, tollbooth, and state-line crossing). The other columns tell you how many miles and minutes you must wait until you get to the next turn; under those columns, you see the total miles and minutes for your trip. (The timing assumes you drive at average speed, you’re not stuck in the middle of rush hour or road construction or an accident, and you don’t interrupt your trip to get gas or food or rest or a bathroom.)

If you’re making a round trip, click “Reverse this route” (which is under the chart). That makes the computer give you directions on how to return.

Go ahead, have fun! See how Expedia advises you to travel to your neighbors, your relatives, your job, and across the country. Expedia’s advice might surprise you: it might find a faster route you hadn’t thought of.

Arts

The computer reflects our culture.

Greeting cards You can send a friend a greeting card by e-mail. That’s called an e-card. You can send one for a birthday or graduation or holiday (such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day) or whenever you want to cheer up your friends. Many Web sites will create e-cards for you, with cute artwork and animation and music, free!

The most famous e-card site is Blue Mountain (www.bluemountain.com). Most of its cards are cheery and show a refreshingly childlike innocence.

The screen’s left column shows 13 categories of free e-cards: just because, friendship, stay in touch, love, astrology, encourage/support, extended family, career, living, music greetings, national&regional, pets&nature, awareness&activism.

The screen’s other columns show 11 categories of e-cards that require membership ($12 per year, with a 30-day free trial): birthday, fun&games, kids, family, religion, seasons, expressions, celebrations&events, arts&letters, teens, holidays.

For your first experiment, click one of the 13 categories in the left column; for example, click “love”. (If an ad then appears in a separate window, close that window.)

The left column then shows subcategories; for example, “love” shows these subcategories: flirting, forever love, I like you, I love you, interactive, kiss & make up, new love, past love, poetry, send a hug, and send a kiss. Click one of those subcategories (and then click an e-card about it), or click one of the “top picks” e-cards that appears in the other columns.

You’ll see a whole-screen version of the card, with animation and music. If you don’t like the card, click your browser’s Back button and choose a different card instead. When you finally find a card you like, look at its full-screen version then click the “personalize and send” button (at Web page’s top center).

The computer will suggest some gifts you can buy, to go with the card. You see three CONTINUE buttons. For your first experience, skip the gifts and click the top CONTINUE button (which says “to personalize your card without a gift”).

You see a blank form. Here’s how to fill it in:

To whom do you want to send the e-card? Type that person’s nickname (such as “Joey” or “Grandma” or “Honey Bun”) into the top left box (by clicking in that box first). That nickname will appear on the card.

Type that person’s e-mail address into the top right box. That address is where the card will be sent.

In the remaining boxes, type your own name (as you want it to appear in the card), your e-mail address (so Blue Mountain can notify you about what was sent), and any personal messages you want to put onto the card.

When you finish, click “continue” (which is at the Web page’s bottom, after you scroll down there).

Then you see a preview of how your card looks, with the names and messages inserted. (If you don’t like the preview, click the “edit” button to go back and make changes.)

When you’re satisfied, click the “continue” button.

If you did everything right, the computer says “Success! Your card has been sent!”

The computer sends your friend an e-mail, which tells your friend to go to the Blue Mountain Website to view the e-card. The computer also sends you an e-mail, confirming that the other e-mail was sent.

To send an e-card that’s more seriously sensual, try A Free Greeting Card (www.afreegreetingcard.com). The e-cards there dip into adult themes (such feminism, sexuality, bisexuality, parenthood, and being black). They’re also more cynical about modern life.

For example, one of the cards shows “the perfect man” with a muscular body wearing just skimpy underpants, sitting on a couch, with a note saying, “Finally, the ‘perfect man’. Push a button to have him whisper sweet nothings in your ear.”

If you click button 1, he says “Let’s cuddle.”

Button 2: he says “I hate watching sports. Let’s go out shopping for you instead!”

Button 3: he says “I’ll have wine over beer, any day!”

Button 4: he says “Are you sure I can’t help you clean the house?”

Button 5: he says “Let’s stay home and talk about our relationship.”

Button 6: he blows you a kiss.

Another card shows “Three things Mom would never say”.

“Good idea, skipping school today. When I was your age, I used to do it all the time.”

“You can pass on your bath tonight. It’s a good idea for saving water.”

“If Tommy’s mommy lets him do it, that’s good enough for me.”

It ends by saying “Thanks, Mom, for always taking care of me. Happy Mother’s Day!”

The cards have beautiful artwork, writing, and music but load slower than Blue Mountain’s since they use Flash technology, which your recipient’s computer might not handle well.

For cards having fancier artwork (ranging from “drop-dead gorgeous” to “gaudy”), look at the AngelEyes Card Shoppe (www.angeleyes2.com). Make sure you type “angeleyes2”, not just “angeleyes”, which is an unrelated site. To get amazed, click “Quick Cards With Poetry by Francine” (which you’ll see at the far left after you scroll down) then “I Only Have Eyes For You Quick Cards #1” (which you’ll see at the far left after you scroll down), then scroll down to see 21 impressive cards; click your favorite.

Movies The best Web site about movies is the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com). Go there!

The screen’s left edge says “Search the database for”. Below that are two boxes. Click in the bottom box and type what you’re searching for. For example, type the name of a movie or an actor or director or another person or a famous movie line. You’ll get lots of details about what you searched for.

Moreover, for each famous movie, you’ll get lots of opinions (from ordinary folks) about whether the movie was any good. Those man-in-the-street opinions are much more emotional and to-the-point than the blather published by most movie “critics”. Different people notice different things about a movie: after you’ve watched a movie, read these reviews to find out what you didn’t notice! You can also add your own comments about the movie (if you register, which is free), and you can get and give a list of similar movies that are recommended.

The Website is extremely well linked. For example, if you look up a movie, you see links to each member of the cast and staff who created the movie; each such link takes you to a biography of that person. For example, if you’re watching a movie and see an actor and wonder “Where have I seen him before?”, just click on his link to find out! And you can link back: each person’s biography contains links to all the movies the person was in.

Because of the good links and content, this Website is on everybody’s list of “the best Web sites ever created”.

Music When you listen to rap music, do you understand all the slang? If not, go to The Rap Dictionary (www.rapdict.org), then click the Dictionary button (at the screen’s left edge).

You’ll see an alphabetical dictionary of the slang used in rap music. (If that dictionary is covered by an MSN Zone window, close that window.)

To begin, the dictionary shows you rap words that begins with “A”, with their definitions. (To see all the A words, scroll down.)

The screen’s top shows the alphabet. If you don’t want the letter A, click a different letter instead.

For info about those fabulous four singing boys from London, the Beatles, go to The Beatles (www.beatlesagain.com), then click on “THE INTERNET BEATLES ALBUM”. You get lots of info about The Beatles. For the most fun, click on “I Should Have Known Better”, which reveals which Beatles rumors are false.

Ridiculous dancing People can look ridiculous when they dance.

The most famous example of ridiculous dancing is The Dancing Baby. It’s available from many sources, but the best is www.angeleyes2.com/platinum/dbaby.shtm. You’ll see a baby in diapers. For about 3 minutes, you’ll see still shots of the baby standing up, in various disco poses, while disco music plays; then, after the program is fully loaded into your computer, the baby will start dancing very energetically, much better than any normal adult. The baby is 3-D computer-generated, a good example of “computer modeling of the human body”. That Web page lets you send the dancing baby as a greeting card to your friends.

If you like that, try the sequel (which has two babies!) at
The Dancing Baby & Tommy (www.angeleyes2.com/platinum/dbaby2.shtm). You see the original baby dancing perfectly, alongside Tommy (a cartoon baby who has the luxury of wearing a shirt and tries jealously to imitate the original baby’s moves but grimaces at the pain).

Many Democrats believe President Bush is just a big awkward baby. (Actually, most politicians are uptight about making mistakes and look like big awkward babies.) To prove the point, watch President Bush try to do disco dancing at Dancing Bush (www.miniclip.com/dancingbush.htm). Here’s what happens:

Close the MiniClip.com e-mail window, so you can see Bush dancing. He dances nervously and awkwardly on the screen, just like in real life.

Left of Bush, you see seven Dance Move buttons. Try clicking them.

Button 1 makes him clap his hands and do a turn.

Button 2 makes him do a split and say “Wow”.

Button 3 makes him stretch out his hands six times and say “Woo-hoo-hoo!”

Button 4 makes him cross his legs three times.

Button 5 makes him walk backwards.

Button 6 makes him hop three times and say “Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!”

Button 7 makes him stick out his rear, six times.

Right of Bush, you see five buttons. Try clicking the first four.

Button 1 turns the disco music on.

Button 2 makes a pulsating disco dance floor appear under his feet.

Button 3 turns on the disco lights, which shine down on the floor.

Button 4 turns on the spotlights, which shine up from the floor’s edge.

Button 5 is just an ad for more fun. To undo it, click “Back”.

If you liked that, try the sequel (which has Bush dancing with Britney Spears!) at United We Dance (www.miniclip.com/unitedwedance.htm). You get six Dance Move buttons:

The top left button makes Bush and Britney do fucking motions.

The middle left button makes Bush say “Yeah!” and shove his ass at Britney.

The bottom left button makes Bush say “Wow!” and jump up, spinning.

The top right button makes Bush say “Woo-hoo-hoo!” and jump up, kicking.

The middle right button makes Bush raise his hands and wiggle his hips.

The bottom right button makes Britney raise her hands and wiggle her hips.

You also get a button to turn on the music, a button to turn on the disco lights, and four Background buttons (so you can see Bush & Britney dance before the Statue of Liberty, on the White House lawn, in the pure blue sky, and before an American flag).

You can see Bush do aerobic exercises at Bush Aerobics (www.miniclip.com/bushaerobics.htm).

If you’re a Republican who doesn’t like making fun of Bush, you can get even by making fun of “Senator” Hillary Clinton at Hillary (www.miniclip.com/hillary.htm).

Click “Play” (which is to the right of the White House). You see Hillary, in a turquoise pants suit and pink pumps, hiding behind other senators, and you hear her laughing. Try to click her before she flits away. If you catch her, she’ll do a dance for you. If you’re impressed, click “Continue” to see her switch to a bathing suit and do a more exotic bump-and-grind dance while bumping the older senators out of her way, as she pats her ass and says “Kiss my cellulite, you old-timers”, accompanied by Elton John and lifted up by Chinese donors.

Alice in Wonderland To read the famous children’s novel, Alice in Wonderland, in an amusing way, go to The Pazooter Works (www.megabrands.com), then click “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. The computer will ask you to make a donation, but for your first experience just click “Let me in for free” (which is near the bottom right corner).

You’ll see the names of the 12 chapters. Wait a few seconds: you’ll hear some great classical music, which will eventually repeat. (Make sure your computer’s speakers are turned on and your volume is turned up!) When you’ve finished admiring the music, start by clicking chapter 1’s title, “Down the Rabbit-Hole”.


Then you see chapter 1. To enjoy it fully, do this:

Maximize the window. You see the original book’s words and drawings, but each drawing has a part that wiggles; and the first drawing is a Web-only extra: a picture of a radio.

Click the radio’s PLAY button. After a few seconds, you’ll hear classical guitar music. While the music plays, you can read the chapter. (Scroll down to see it all.)

If you click one of the book’s original drawings, you’ll hear Alice say the sentence that relates to the drawing.

When you finish reading that Web page (which is chapter 1), click “Next Chapter” (at the page’s bottom right corner). Enjoy all 12 chapters!

Shakespeare Everything you ever wanted to know about Shakespeare, his writing, and his times is at Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet (shakespeare.palomar.edu).

Classic books Did you ever wish you could walk into a library and find the greatest classic books, all in one place? Here they are, at Great Books Online (www.bartleby.com).

You get the complete text of hundreds of famous classics: the Bible, Homer, Shakespeare, many more masterpieces from many countries, plus fairy tales (by Aesop & Andersen & Grimm), science classics (written by Darwin and Einstein), reference works (Bartlett’s Quotations and the American Heritage Dictionary), and beyond. What a feast!

Click one of the four tabs (“Fiction”, “Nonfiction”, “Verse”, or “Reference”) and browse!

Nearly everything your literature teacher said you “ought” to read is here. Indulge! It’s all yours, free. You don’t even need a library card, and you don’t need to “return it by next Tuesday!”

Humor

The world is funny, and the Internet reflects that.

Trivia For strange but true facts about many topics, go to Useless Facts (www.angelfire.com/ca6/uselessfacts).

Close the “Welcome to an Angelfire member page” window. Then you see two blue windows.

The left window shows this list of 20 topics:

animals, bugs, celebrities, crimes, food, geography, history, inventors, medical, musicians, myths, plants, science, sports, strange laws, surveys, TV and movies, words, world records, other

(If you don’t see that whole list, use that left window’s scroll arrow.) Click whichever topic you wish.

Then you’ll see lots of strange trivia about that topic. (Scroll down to see more. At the Web page’s bottom, click “next” to see even more.)

Battle of the sexes To find out why men are better than women, go to Why It’s Great to be a Guy (java.sun.com/people/jag/guy.html). To find out why women are better than men, go to Men Jokes (members.tripod.com/~REIHIME/jokes.htm).

Political quotes Dan Quayle was vice-president of the United States under George Bush Senior. He seemed to be the stupidest vice-president we ever had: when he spoke, he made many bloopers. For a list of Dan Quayle quotes (accompanied by funny music), go to The “Wisdom” of Dan Quayle at www.concentric.net/~salisar/quayle.html.

George Bush Junior makes almost as many bloopers as Dan Quayle did. To read them, go to Bush Quotations (www.bushquotations.com).

For other strange political quotes, go to Political Humor (politicalhumor.about.com), then click “Quips and Quotes” (at the screen’s left edge after scrolling down) then “Political Quote Gallery” (slightly above the screen’s center) then “Classic Political Quotations” (at the screen’s center after scrolling down).


Steven Wright For weird laughs, read Steven Wright’s best jokes at:

Steven Wright Jokes (www.magicnet.net/~hankpet/wrghthom.html)

Quotes From Stephen Wright

(www.tuxedo.org/~esr/fortunes/stephen-wright.html)

If you want a more complete collection, visit Welcome to the Wright House (www.wam.umd.edu/~stwright) then click “The Lite House” (at the Web page’s bottom right corner) then “Steven Wright the comedian”.

Woody Allen For jokes by Woody Allen (who wrote and directed many movies), go to Life Is A Joke (www.lifeisajoke.com) then click on “WOODY ALLEN QUOTES” (at the screen’s left edge).

Change your astrological sign Do you wish you could change your astrological sign, so you could have a different personality? Now you can! Go to the Institute of Celestial Sciences (jackrudy.com/ics). You’ll get an official certificate confirming that your astrological sign has changed.

Godzilla SUV It’s the biggest, baddest SUV that money can’t buy. See the ad at Magnitude Motors Godzilla SUV (slate.msn.com/Features/GodzillaSUV/page2.asp).

Little Red Riding Hood James Finn Garner wrote a book called Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, in which fairy tales were updated to be “politically correct”. The most famous part of the book is “Little Red Riding Hood”. Many people have posted copies of it onto the Internet. These copies are unauthorized and violate the copyright. Most of the copies have been modified, in an attempt to improve further the story’s flow and ending.

An unmodified copy is at Politically Correct Bedtime Stories (www.clarefication.org/poetry14.htm). That copy, too, is unauthorized. Read it, but if you like it buy the whole book (or borrow it from your local library).

Academic humor Some good academic humor has been collected by Jerome Parks at Joke Time (www.polylith.com/~jerparks/jokes). It’s divided into 6 categories:

Tests, Studies, and Occupations

Politically Incorrect

Religious Humor

Sick Computer Humor

Other Junk

Lawyer Jokes

The “Politically Incorrect” category includes a famous classic: “How To Tell Democrats From Republicans”.

Darwin awards Darwin believed in evolution, caused by “survival of the fittest”. The Darwin awards are given each year to fools who proved Darwin’s principle by accidentally killing themselves. To see how the fools killed themselves — and to be relieved that you’re not as stupid as they — go to Darwin Awards (www.darwinawards.com).


Computer life

The Internet can help you understand computer life.

Computer jargon If you encounter a computer term you don’t understand, go to Webopedia (www.webopedia.com), click in the “By keyword” box, type the term, and press ENTER.

If that term is in the computer’s dictionary, the computer gives you the definition. You also get several paragraphs explaining the term further. On the screen’s right side, you see links to related terms. On the Web page’s bottom (which you see when you scroll down), you see links to other Web sites about your topic.

Computer idiocy Computers are hard to understand. At times, we all get confused and make computer blunders, so we look like idiots. Each week, Computerworld collects and publishes true tales of computer idiocy. To read them, go to Computerworld (www.computerworld.com) and click on “Shark Tank” (near the Web page’s top left corner).

You see this week’s main tale. To get other tales from this week and earlier weeks, click the links at the right.

Each tale is edited by “Sharky”, based on reports sent in by readers, who are called Sharky’s “pilot fish”. These tales demonstrate what can go wrong when you try to manage a corporation’s computer department. Read these tales, and you’ll become a better manager!

History of computers For a quick history of the computer industry, with photos, go to The Computer Industry Brief History (gobi.stanford.edu/computer_history). At each Web page’s bottom right corner, click the topic link (which says “On to First Topic” or “On to Next Topic” or something similar).

ABS Of all the big computer companies that have good reputations, ABS has the lowest prices. You can buy directly from the California headquarters, ABS Computer Technologies (www.abspc.com) or from a Pennsylvania sales agent called ABS Computers (www.abscomputers.com). Look at both of those Websites: they offer similar prices but are organized differently, so different things catch your eye.

For an example of how to get a nice computer cheaply, go to www.abscomputers.com, click in the left column at “AMD Duron PC” (or, if you don’t see that, click “ABS Athlon XP PC”). Then you see today’s price and specifications if you scroll down). Click “configure & buy” for whatever you’re interested in buying.

You see the specifications again, but now each specification has a down-arrow next to it. Click each down-arrow, to see how you can modify each specification, and thereby change the price. (To see more details about what the modifications mean, click “More Info”.)

Say which modifications you want, by clicking them. Click any extra software you want. When you’ve finished saying what you want, scroll down to the Web page’s bottom and click “Add to Cart”.

Then finish the ordering process (or cancel it by switching to a different Web page instead). Remember that shipping costs extra.

Even if you plan to buy your computer elsewhere, going to those ABS Websites is instructive, to see how prices change when you modify the specifications.

Reference materials

The Internet contains lots of data for you to refer to.

Health For info about health, start at InteliHealth (www.intelihealth.com). It contains info that’s reliable, easy to understand, and well organized. The Web site is owned by Aetna insurance company, but most of the info comes from (or is approved by) the Harvard Medical School and the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, with additional input from the National Institutes of Health.


Government For info about President Bush and what’s happening in the White House today, try Welcome to the White House (www.whitehouse.gov).

For info about the rest of the US government, go to FirstGov (www.firstgov.gov). That’s the US government’s main Web site. You see many links; click on whichever you wish; or if none of the links interest you, type a topic and press ENTER.

For info about the Queen of England, her dogs, and the relatives her dog her, go to The British Monarchy (www.royal.gov.uk). Click “Your questions answered” (near the Web page’s top) to read funny answers to the most popular questions. For example, it explains how to make the Queen send you a birthday card. (Hint: it helps to be British and at least 100 years old.)

Post office For info about how to mail a letter, go to the Web site of the United States Postal Service (www.usps.gov). It answers several questions.…

What’s the best way to write an address on an envelope? For example, if you live in the USA, what’s the best way to write your address? What’s your 9-digit ZIP code? What’s the best way to write your street name, house number, apartment number, etc.? You might be surprised! To find out all that, do this:

Click “Find ZIP Codes” (which is at the top of the Web page).

You see a blank form. You can typically ignore the first two boxes (Firm and Urbanization), but try to fill in the other boxes (Delivery Address, City, 2-letter state abbreviation, and ZIP code), as best as you can. Then click “Process”.

The computer will analyze what you typed, fix your mistakes, and write the address the way the post office prefers it. For example, the computer will put in the 9-digit ZIP code, abbreviate words such as “Road”, “Lane”, and “Highway”, get rid of all punctuation, and capitalize everything, so your address will be in the form that the post office prefers and junk mailers use.

How much postage should you put on your letter or package? To find out, do this instead:

Click “Calculate Postage”, which is at the top of the Web page. (If the package is going outside the USA, then click “International Calculator”.)

The computer will ask you a series of questions, then tell you the correct postage. (One of the questions is the package’s weight; if you’re not sure, give an approximation, and the computer will give you an approximate answer, which you’ll need to double-check by going to the post office and using the post office’s scale. You’ll be surprised at the range of prices and choices, depending on how fast you need the package to travel and what type of goods are inside the package.)

Company info To find out about any big USA company (such as Microsoft or IBM or General Motors or Exxon/Mobil), go to Hoover’s Online (www.hoovers.com).

Near the Web page’s top, you see a Search box. In that box, you typically see the words “Site Search”. Click that box’s down-arrow, then click “Company”.

To the right of that box, you see a “for” box; in that box, type the name of the company you want to research. Then click the Go button.

You see a list of companies whose names resemble what you typed. Figure out which company you want. To the right of that company’s name, you typically see four links: “Capsule”, “Financials”, “Profile”, and “People”.

Click “Capsule”. That gives you a capsule summary of the company: you get the company’s address, phone, Web site, and an amazing paragraph (which reveals how the company makes its money, the company’s worries, and how the company is changing). You also get a list of subsidiaries and competitors, and you can link to each of them; or else click on the “Financials” button (slightly above the screen’s center), which shows you the company’s financial info for the last 1¼ years; or else click on the “News & Analysis” button, which links you to news articles that mention the company.

Most info on this Web site is free, but if a link is next to a picture of a key, you must unlock the link by registering and paying money.

Countries The US Government has a branch called the “Central Intelligence Agency” (CIA), whose job is to spy on all the other countries. For a summary of what the CIA found out about each country, go to the Central Intelligence Agency (www.cia.gov), then click “The World Factbook” (which is at the screen’s left edge, near the Web page’s bottom).

At the screen’s left edge, you see a list of all the world’s countries and oceans. (Use that list’s scroll arrow to see the whole list.) Click whichever country or ocean interests you. Then the screen’s right-hand part shows a map, a one-paragraph summary of the country’s history & current headaches, then lots of statistics about the country, supplemented by comments about the economy, politics, and crime.

Lawns For advice about how to take care of your lawn, go to a Web site run by the University of Illinois and called Lawn Challenge (www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/lawnchallenge).

It lets you click on 8 lessons:

1. Know Your Lawn Grasses

2. Dealing with Shady Sites

3. Seeding and Sodding Lawns

4. Watering, Mowing & Fertilizing

5. Thatch and Lawn Renovation

6. Weed Problems

7. Grubs & Other Insect Pests

8. Managing Home Lawn Diseases

You’re supposed to do the lessons in that order; so to become a complete lawn expert, start by clicking “Know Your Lawn Grasses”.

Each lesson contains several pages of well-written text. (Click “Next” at the end of each page.) The text is accompanied by photos of good and bad lawns. The lesson ends with a test on how well you understood the lesson.

The details apply to lawns in northern Illinois, but the general principles apply to all lawns. Next time you argue with your neighbors or family about your lawn, here’s how to make them shut up: say “I took a college course on the topic and passed all the tests.”

Black pride A list of appliances invented by blacks, without which white folks would be miserable, is presented humorously at What If There Were No Black People (www.muhammadspeaks.com/Whatif.html).

Bank tellers Inside info about how bank tellers should react to strange-looking checks is at Teller Talk (www.bankinfo.com/teller/talkarc.html).

Shopping

The computer can help you shop.

Airplane flights The computer can help you find airplane flights at discount prices at the times you wish. Moreover, some airlines give you lower prices if you order on the Web (instead of by phone or a travel agent), and the Web tells you about last-minute deals for leftover seats.

For flights on Southwest Airlines (which has low fares), visit Southwest Airlines (www.southwest.com). For flights on most other airlines (which charge more than Southwest but go to more cities), visit Orbitz (www.orbitz.com), which is run by a consortium of 20 airlines.

To explore further choices, visit an online travel agency called Expedia (www.expedia.com), which was started by Microsoft but is now independent.

Banks For deposits and loans, you’ll find great interest rates at NetBank (www.netbank.com), because it’s an online bank that has no tellers and no fancy buildings and passes the savings on to you. Any deposits you make are FDIC insured, but remember that the bank handles just checks: it has no cash and very little “customer support”. It’s been in business for several years and seems reasonably stable.

To compare banks in your city, state, and across the nation and find out which offer the best rates, go to Bankrate (www.bankrate.com). You get each bank’s rates and phone numbers.

Houses If you want to buy a house, start at Realtor.com (www.realtor.com), which is owned by the National Association of Realtors and has the most listings. For advice, go to HomeAdvisor (homeadvisor.msn.com), which is owned by Microsoft.

Cars If you want to buy a car (new or used), visit these car sites to get smarter:

Carpoint (carpoint.msn.com)

Autobytel (www.autobytel.com)

Edmunds (www.edmunds.com)

CarsDirect (www.carsdirect.com)

Jobs To get a job, visit these sites:

Monster.com (www.monster.com) has over a million jobs, plus advice.

America’s Job Bank (www.ajb.dni.us) has over a million jobs.

CareerBuilder (www.careerbuilder.com) has over 300,000 jobs.

HotJobs (www.hotjobs.com) has many jobs also.

Interview Tips (www.usnews/nycu/work/wointer1.htm) helps your interview.

Buy a business Have you ever dreamed of being the boss and running your own business? But are you too chicken to start your own? Would you rather buy a business that’s already successful, and have the pleasure of running it? If so, go to the Web to find out what businesses are available for sale. A good place to start hunting is BizBuySell (www.bizbuysell.com).

At that Web site, say what kind of business you’re interested in. Here’s how:

Click the box that says “Select a Location”. You see a list of locations. Scroll down to see all the choices. Click a specific state (such as “Connecticut”) or a region (such as “NEW ENGLAND”) or “Search the ENTIRE U.S.” or a different country (such as “Canada”).

Click the box that says “Select a Business Category”. You see a list of business categories. Scroll down to see all the choices. Click a specific type (such as “Supermarkets”) or a general category (such as “RETAILING BUSINESSES”) or “Search ALL Business Categories”.

Click the “Go” button that’s next to those boxes.

You’ll see a list of businesses that meet your description. For the typical business, you see the asking price (which usually does not include inventory), the “cash flow” (which is “the profit for a year, if you’re an optimist and completely ignore controversial expenses”), and the city or state.

Click whichever business you’re curious about. You’ll see more details and a way to contact the business or its broker. After examining that business, click the “Back” button several times to explore other businesses.

 

Hassles

While you use the Internet, you’ll experience several hassles.

Delays

The computer might take a long time to switch from one page to another.


Near the screen’s top right corner, you see a logo.

In versions 5&5.5, the logo is a stained-glass window in outer space.

In version 6,              the logo is a flag showing 4 stained-glass windowpanes.

While the computer is switching to a new page, the computer amuses you by animating the logo.

In versions 5&5.5, you see the world’s globe encircle the stained glass window.

In version 6,              you see the flag ripple while the wind blows it.

Near the Start button (at the screen’s bottom left corner), the computer prints messages about the switch. At the screen’s bottom right corner, lights turn bright green while data is being transmitted; they remain otherwise (red or dark green or black) while your computer waits for the other computer to pay attention.

How to stop

If the switch is taking a long time and you don’t want to wait for it to finish, click the Stop button. That makes the computer stop the switching.

“Switching pages” is called loading a new page. When you click the Stop button, here’s what happens:

If the computer has nearly finished loading the new page,

the computer shows you most of the new page.

If the computer has not nearly finished loading the new page,

the computer shows you the previous page.

How to try again

When you try to view a new page, the computer might get stuck because of a transmission error. To try again, stop the current transmission attempt (by clicking the Stop button) and then see what happens.

If you find yourself back at the previous page, try again to switch to the new page.

On the other hand, if you find yourself with most, but not all, of the new page on the screen, and you insist on seeing the entire new page, click the Refresh button, which makes your computer tell your ISP to try again to transmit the current page.

Change the home page

When you first buy Internet Explorer, here’s what happens:

Version 6 assumes you want the home page to be the manufacturer’s website.

Versions 5&5.5 assume you want the home page to be “http://www.msn.com/”.

But you can change the assumption, and make the home page be anything you want! If there’s no particular page you want to always start with, you can even make the home page be blank.

Here’s how to change the home page.…

If you want the home page to be just a blank page, click Tools then Internet Options then Use Blank then OK. If instead you want a particular page to become the home page, get that page onto your screen (so you can admire it) then click Tools then Internet Options then Use Current then OK.

Cache

Whenever you view a page, the computer secretly puts a copy of it onto your hard disk, in a folder called the cache (which is pronounced “cash” and is a French word that means “hiding place”). Later, if you try to view the same page again, the computer checks whether the page’s copy is still in the cache. If the copy is still in the cache, the computer puts that copy up onto your screen, because using that copy is faster than making your ISP retransmit the page.

When the cache gets so full that no more pages fit in it, the computer discards the pages you haven’t viewed recently. Also, the computer tends to clear the cache (erase the entire cache) when you exit from the browser (by clicking the X box).

Whenever you tell the computer that you want to view a page, the page will come onto your screen fast if the computer uses the page’s cached copy. If the computer can’t find the page’s cached copy (because the page was never viewed before or because the cached copy was discarded), the computer tells your ISP to transmit the page and you must wait awhile for the transmission to finish.

Problem: suppose you want to check the latest news (such as the news about a war or an election or stocks). If you view a page that shows you news, you might be reading old news, because the computer might be using an old cached copy of the page. To make sure you’re reading the latest news, click the Refresh button, which forces the computer to get a new version of the page from your ISP.

You can tell the computer how big to make the cache.

If you make the cache too big, it wastes too much of your hard disk, leaving inadequate room for other files. If you make the cache too small, fewer pages fit in it, so the pages you want to view are less likely to be in the cache, and your computer must ask your ISP to retransmit them more often, so you must wait more often for transmissions from your ISP. Microsoft recommends making the cache be about 60 megabytes.

Here’s how to adjust the cache size and make sure the cache is used in a standard way. If you’re sharing your computer with colleagues, get their permission before making these changes.

Click “Tools” then “Internet Options” then “Settings” then “Automatically”. Double-click the number, then type “60”. Click OK twice.

The cache is a folder (which versions 5&5.5 call “Windows\Temporary Internet Files” but version 6 calls “Windows\Temp\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5”.

Disconnect

You might get interrupted by a window that suddenly appears and says “Connection was terminated”. That means a computer accidentally disconnected you from the Internet.

Click the “Reconnect” button. Your computer will say, “Connected”. Then hide the Connected window by clicking its minimize button (which is left of the X and resize buttons).

Eat up your time

The Internet can eat up a lot of your time. You’ll wait a long time for your modem, your ISP, and Web sites to transmit info to you. If you try search the Web for info about a particular topic, you’ll spend lots of time visiting wrong Web sites before you finally find the site containing the gem of info you desire.

Along the way, you'll be distracted by ads and other seductive links to pages that are fun, fascinating, and educational. They don’t directly relate to the question you wanted answered, but they broaden your mind and expand your horizon, o cybercitizen and student of the world! The Internet is the ultimate serendipity: it answers questions you didn’t know you had.

Trust

Don’t trust the info you read on the Internet. Any jerk can create a Web page. The info displayed on a Web page might be misleading, dishonest, or lies.

Unlike the typical book, whose accuracy is checked by the book’s editor and publisher, the typical Web page is unchecked. An individual with unconventional ideas can easily create a Web page expressing those ideas, even if no book-publishing company would publish such a book.

Info on Web pages can be racist, hateful, sexist, libelous, treasonous, and deadly. Even though the Web page appears on your computer’s screen, the info on the Web page might not have the good-natured accuracy that computers are known for.

Freedom of speech The United States Constitution’s first amendment guarantees that Americans have freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The Internet makes that freedom possible, by letting anybody create a Web page that says anything to the whole world. The Internet is freedom unchained, uncensored. That’s what’s wonderful about the Internet, and that’s also what’s frightening.

Dictators in many countries have tried to suppress the Internet, because the Internet lets people say and speak truths from around the world and band together to protest against dictatorship. Nice people in many countries have also tried to suppress the Internet when they see how many lies are printed on the Web.

Fringe groups The Web is an easy way for “fringe groups” to advertise themselves and make their voices heard. In a dictatorship, the “fringe groups” are those who want democracy; in a democracy, the “fringe groups” are often those who want to create their own little dictatorships.

Unreliable advice Use the Web as a way to broaden your mind to different ideas, but don’t believe in them until you’ve thought about them and checked them against other sources. Some of the medical advice on the Web can kill you; some of the financial advice on the Web can bankrupt you; some of the career advice on the Web can land you in jail. About 90% of what’s written on the Web is true, but beware of the other 10%.

Who’s the source? When reading a Web page, consider its source. If the Web page is written by a person or company you trust, the info on that page is probably true. If the Web page is written by a total stranger, be cautious.

Errors If the Web page contains many spelling & grammar errors, its author might be a foreigner, an immigrant, a kid, or an idiot. Perhaps the ideas on the page are as inaccurate as the way they’re expressed. When researching a topic on the Web, don’t be surprised if one of the Web pages turns out to be just a copy of a term paper written by a kid whose teacher gave it an F because its info is all wrong.

Ads Even if a Web page is written by a reputable source, beware: it might include ads from other organizations whose motives are unsavory. When reading a traditional newspaper page printed on paper, you can usually tell which parts of the page are ads and which parts are articles, since the ads use different fonts; but when you’re reading a Web page, it’s not always clear which links are to “articles” and which links are to “ads”, since the entire Web is a vast jumble of fonts.

Parental controls Many parents are afraid to expose their young kids to wild sex, wild violence, and wild hate groups. Many Internet pages contain lots of sex, violence, and hatred, either directly or through the ads they lead you to. Many parents don’t want to expose their young kids to such Web pages. Many conservative religious people are afraid to expose themselves to such Satanic temptations.

You can get programs that censor the Internet.

For example, you can get programs that stop your computer from displaying pages mentioning sexy words; but beware: a program stopping all references to “breast” will also stop you from researching “breast cancer” and “chicken breast recipes”. You can get programs that limit kids to just pages that have been reviewed and approved by wise adults; but then the kids are restricted from reading any newer, better pages that haven’t been reviewed yet.