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).
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, version 6 in 2001, and version 7 in 2006. Its recent versions (5, 5.5, 6, and 7) are 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).
In 1998, Netscape Communications Corp. gave up trying to compete against Microsoft: the company sold itself to AOL, which wrecked Netscape Navigator by putting lots of AOL ads into it. But a group of volunteers called Mozilla.org (helped by funding from AOL) invented an improved ad-free Netscape Navigator called Mozilla then invented further improvements: Firefox 1 in 2004, Firefox 1.5 in 2005, and Firefox 2 in 2006. Firefox 2 is the best Web browser — even better than IE 7.
Another popular Web browser is Opera. It was invented in 1994 by researchers at Norway’s telephone company (Telenor), then spun off as a separate company (Opera Software) in 1995. It became famous for being the browser that runs the fastest. The current version is Opera 9. It’s fast and nice. It consumes very little RAM, so it can fit comfortably even in cell phones and the smallest videogame machines. But most people prefer Firefox 2 instead, which has more features.
Mac computers (which are made by Apple) come with Apple’s own Web browser, called Safari. Microsoft used to make Mac versions of IE but stopped when Apple invented Safari.
Though Firefox is better than Internet Explorer, most people still use Internet Explorer, because comes preloaded on most Windows computers. Here’s what people actually use:
This chapter explains Firefox 2 and IE 5&5.5&6&7. (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 use Firefox or IE, you (or your dealer) must put it onto your computer’s hard disk.
How to install IE
If you bought your computer in 1996 or afterwards, its hard disk probably contains IE already.
To use IE, you must 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.
Here are the details.…
IE 6 If you’re using Windows XP and want to use the IE 6 that it included, do this:
IE 7 upgrade If you’ve been using Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2) and IE 6 and broadband (DSL or cable), here’s how to upgrade to IE 7:
IE 5&5.5 If you’re using Windows Me and want to use the IE 5.5 that it included, do this:
If you’re using a recent version of Windows 98 and want to use the Internet Explorer 5 or 5.5 that it included, do this:
How to install Firefox
If you’re using Windows XP and IE 7, here’s how to “upgrade” to Firefox 2:
Turn on the computer, so you see the Start button in the screen’s bottom-left corner. Then choose one of these methods.…
If the computer asks for your user name, type it and press the Tab key.
If the computer says “Password”, do this procedure:
You’ll see the Internet Explorer (or Mozilla Firefox) 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.)
Show text labels
Here’s how to make the browser easier to understand.
IE 5 & 5.5 & 6 Click “View” then “Toolbars” 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.
IE 7 The browser is already as easy to understand as possible, so skip this step.
Firefox Click “View” then “Toolbars” then “Customize”. Make sure the Show box says “Icons and text”. (If it doesn’t, click the box’s down-arrow, then click “Icons and text”.) Press Enter.
Hide useless toolbars
Here’s how to avoid having your screen cluttered with useless toolbars.
IE 5&5.5 Click “View”. Make sure you have a check mark in front of “Status Bar”. (To add or remove a check mark, click its position.) Click “Toolbars”. You see the Toolbars menu. On that menu, make sure you have check marks in front of just “Standard Buttons” and “Address Bar” (and “Google” if you see that choice), not in front of “Links” or “Radio” or anything else (such as “McAfee VirusScan”).
IE 6 Click “View”. Make sure you have a check mark in front of “Status Bar”. (To add or remove a check mark, click its position.) Click “Toolbars”. You see the Toolbars menu. On that menu, make sure you have check marks in front of just “Standard Buttons” and “Address Bar” and “Lock the Toolbars” (and “Google” if you see that choice), not in front of “Links” or anything else (such as “McAfee VirusScan” or “Acer eDataSecurity Management”).
IE 7 Right-click the gold star (which is near the screen’s top-left corner) or any gray area across from it. Make sure you have check marks in front of just “Status Bar” and “Lock the Toolbars”, not in front of “Links” or anything else (such as “McAfee VirusScan” or “Show Norton Toolbar” or “Yahoo! Toolbar” or “Google”). To add or remove a check mark, click its position.
Firefox Click “View”. Make sure you have a check mark in front of “Status Bar”. (To add or remove a check mark, click its position.) Click “Toolbars”. You see the Toolbars menu. On that menu, make sure you have a check mark in front of just “Navigation Toolbar”, not in front of “Bookmarks Toolbar”. (To add or remove a check mark, click its position.)
Click in the Address box, which is the wide, white box near the screen’s top-left corner. (That box is also called the Address bar or Location bar.)
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 —
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:
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.google.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) or roll the mouse’s wheel (which is between the mouse’s buttons) toward you. 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) or roll the mouse’s wheel away from you.
On Yahoo’s home page, you see many topics to choose from.
If you’re using IE 5 (which is outdated), the screen’s center shows these 29 hot topics —
and a recommendation that you upgrade to a newer browser.
If you’re using IE 5.5 or 6 or 7 or Firefox, the screen’s left edge shows these 18 hot topics —
and the screen’s center shows today’s news.
The rest of the screen shows extra topics.
Each topic is called a link (or hot spot). 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 topics that are links: places where the mouse’s pointer-arrow turns into a pointing finger. (The links are usually underlined or colored or bolded.) Click whichever link 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 is near the screen’s top-left corner and has a left-arrow on it).
Then you see the previous page. (On that page, any links you clicked might have changed color.)
After clicking the Back button, if you change your mind again and wish you hadn’t clicked the Back button, click the Forward button (which is next to the Back button and has a right-arrow on it).
Back list To hop back several pages, you can click the Back button several times.
To hop back faster, do this trick:
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 links) 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. (The Home button has a picture of a house on it.)
History Here’s how to see a list of pages you visited in the last 20 days.
For Firefox, do this:
For IE 7, do this:
For IE 5&5.5&6, do this:
Favorites If you’re viewing a wonderful page, here’s how to make the computer remember that the page is one of your favorites and bookmark it.
For Firefox, do this:
For IE 7, do this:
For IE 5&5.5&6, do this:
Search box At the top-right corner of Yahoo’s first page, you see a yellow “Web Search” button. To the left of that button is a white box, called the search box.
Try this experiment: click in the search box, then type a topic that interests you. For example, type:
Don’t bother capitalizing: the computer ignores capitalization.
At the end of your typing, press Enter. Yahoo will find about 100 million Web pages mentioning Lincoln. Yahoo will begin by listing the 10 Web pages that Yahoo thinks you’ll find the most useful (along with ads). For example, if you asked for “lincoln”, Yahoo will list 10 Web pages about President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln cars (made by Ford), Lincoln University (in Pennsylvania), and cities named Lincoln (in Nebraska, California, Maine, and England). (To see all 10, scroll down to the bottom of the page by using your mouse’s wheel or your keyboard’s down-arrow or Page Down key or the down-arrow near the screen’s bottom-right corner.) The name of each Web page is underlined and numbered (from 1 to 10). Click whichever Web page you want — or click “Next” (at the bottom of Yahoo’s page) to see a list of 10 more Web pages about Lincoln.
To be more specific, type more words in the search box. For example, if you’re interested just in Abraham Lincoln, type:
If you’re interested in just Lincoln cars, type:
If you’re interested in just Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin, type:
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 —
or type just this:
At the end of your typing, press Enter. Then type a topic to search for (and press Enter). For example, if you type “lincoln”, Google will find about 100 million Web pages mentioning Lincoln. It will begin by listing 10 pages about Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln Memorial (run by the National Park Service in Washington D.C.), Lincoln cars, Lincoln Electric (which manufactures welding machines), the city of Lincoln (in England), universities named Lincoln (in Pennsylvania, England, and New Zealand), and the University of Kansas’s branch in the city of Lincoln. The name of each Web page is underlined. Click whichever Web page you want — or click “Next” (at the bottom of Google’s page) to see a list of 10 more Web pages about Lincoln. To be more specific, type more words in the search box, such as “Abraham Lincoln” or “Lincoln cars” or “Abraham Lincoln log cabin”.
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.
While you’re viewing a page, here’s how to print a copy of it onto paper.
That makes your printer try to print the whole page — even the part of the page that goes below the screen’s bottom edge and doesn’t fit on the screen.
If the Web page is wider than your paper, Firefox squeezes the Web page onto your paper by printing a shrunken image of the page. IE is too stupid to shrink the page, so IE prints just the page’s left part and doesn’t bother trying to print the page’s rightmost part. (That’s one way IE is worse than Firefox.)
If the Web page is very wide, make the printer rotate the page 90 degrees, so it fits on the paper. Here’s how. For IE, do this:
For Firefox, do this:
Here’s how to make your computer’s RAM (memory chips) hold two Web pages simultaneously, so you can switch back and forth between those pages fast.
IE 5&5.5&6 While you’re viewing a Web page, do this:
You’ll see a new window. It looks like the previous window (it shows the same Web page, and it completely covers the first window); but you can tell it’s a new window, because at the screen’s bottom center (to the right of the Start button) you now see two wide buttons about Web-page windows.
Suppose you change what’s on the screen (by clicking a link, or entering a new Web address, or entering something new in a search box). That changes what’s in the visible window; but the other window (which is hidden behind the visible window) remains unchanged. To view the window that’s been hidden, click its wide button at the screen’s bottom.
By clicking those two wide buttons at the screen’s bottom, you can switch back and forth between the two windows.
When you get tired of having two windows, here’s how to have just one window again:
IE 7 While you’re viewing a Web page, try one of these activities:
Near the screen’s top, you see two wide tabs: each tab contains a Web page’s name (title). To switch between the two Web pages, click their tabs.
When you get tired of having two tabs, here’s how to have just one tab again:
Firefox While you’re viewing a Web page, try one of these activities:
Near the screen’s top, you see two wide tabs: each tab contains a Web page’s name (title). To switch between the two Web pages, click their tabs.
When you get tired of having two tabs, here’s how to return to normal:
When you finish using IE (or Firefox), close its window (by clicking its X button).
If you’ve been communicating with the Internet using old technology (IE 5 or 5.5 or 6, with an ordinary phone line instead of DSL or cable), do this:
Here are the 3 popular ways to search for a topic on the Web.
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. 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:
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.
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 show you a map of that address.
Pictures To search for a picture (instead of words), do this:
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 Vista just on Microsoft’s Web site (which is microsoft.com), say “Windows Vista site: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: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:
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 reading list or alumni list or dictionary).
Other search engines Here’s a list of popular search engines:
Try them! Each gives slightly different results.
The funniest search engine is Ms. Dewey (MsDewey.com), which shows 600 video clips of a sexy librarian (played by actress Janina Gavankar) making smarmy remarks to you while you’re searching. If you click the “Best of Dewey” button repeatedly, you might see her best moments — if the site isn’t overloaded. The site was created by Microsoft’s ad agency to show off a Microsoft technology (the ability to scroll infinitely far on a Web page). The site is too slow to be practical, but it’s fun!
A metasearch site called MetaCrawler.com runs many search engines simultaneously (Google.com, Yahoo.com, Ask.com, MSN.com, and others) and combines their results into a single list. MetaCrawler.com is owned by InfoSpace, which also owns 2 other metasearch sites (WebCrawler.com and DogPile.com), giving similar results.
A different metasearch site, Excite.com, gives different results.
Clusty The most advanced metasearch site is Clusty.com, invented by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It shows you the combined list of results (based mainly on Ask.com and MSN.com) but also a list of clusters (categories that the results fit in).
For example, if you search for “Lincoln”, you see this list of clusters to choose from:
Below that list, you see “all clusters”; if you click that, you see an even longer list of clusters.
If you click the “+” that’s left of a cluster, you see a list of subclusters. For example, if you click the “+” that’s left of “Abraham Lincoln”, you see these subclusters of “Abraham Lincoln”:
Below that list of subclusters, you see another “more”, which you can click to see more subclusters of him.
If you click a cluster or subcluster, the screen’s right-hand part shows which Web sites it includes.
Even if you search for a topic that’s not nearly as famous as “Lincoln”, Cluster.com analyzes the results and invents clusters to organize them. For example, try doing a search on your own name (or the name of your organization, street, town, or favorite topic), and see how Cluster.com invents clusters for your results. Amazing!
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.
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:
(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 best driving-directions Web site, whose full address is:
The address’s first part (“http://”) is called the protocol.
The address’s next part (“www.MapQuest.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 “MapQuest”). 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:
Recently, these new top-level domains were invented: .info, .name, .biz (for business), and .ws (for website).
The rest of the address (such as “/directions/”) is called the page name; it tells which file on the computer contains the page you requested.
Type each address carefully:
To enrich your life, go to the best Websites. Here they are.…
SecretFun.com is my own site. It contains info about The Secret Guide to Computers and my other book (Tricky Living). By clicking the links in the first pink box, you and your friends can read parts of The Secret Guide to Computers and Tricky Living, free, and you can also jump to the other sites recommended in this chapter.
Google.com finds the most topics on the Internet. If you type some words, then press Enter, you’ll see a list of the main Web sites containing those words.
For news headlines and the stories behind them, go to Yahoo.com. At the screen’s center, you see this menu bar:
Click “In the News” for today’s top articles, “World” for more articles about other countries, “Local” for articles about your region (after you tell Yahoo your ZIP code or city-and-state, or you click “Change Location”), “Video” to watch cable-TV news broadcasts. You see headlines; click a headline to see its story. Below each list of headlines, click “More” (or the words after it) to see a longer list of headlines. Instead of going to Yahoo.com and then clicking “More”, you can use this shortcut: go to Yahoo News (news.yahoo.com), which divides the news into these categories:
For details about today’s stock market, go to Yahoo.com then click “Finance” (which is at the screen’s left edge) or use this shortcut: go to Yahoo Finance (finance.yahoo.com). Then, at the screen’s left edge, click “Dow” or “Nasdaq” or “S&P 500” to see a chart of how those stock indices changed in the last 24 hours.
For a bigger collection of news stories, try Google News (news.google.com), which uses a computer (rather than humans) to decide which of the moment’s news stories are the hottest. It shows you thousands of news stories, categorized and prioritized. The categories are:
To find out the weather, go to the Weather Underground (WUnderground.com), which was invented in a basement at the University of Michigan.
At the screen’s top-left corner, you see a rainbow; click the white box next to it, then type a ZIP code (or city-and-state or country or airport code), to get that location’s local weather report. (Try the location of your home or your work or where you’re traveling.)
At the screen’s right edge, read the “5-Day Forecast”, which is a summary. Then scroll down to see more details about each day and night for 7 days. Then click “ZIP Code Detail” for one of those days, to get more details about each 3-hour period in that day and night.
For info about who has what phone number, go to Switchboard.com. Here’s how to use that Website.…
To find a person’s phone number, do this:
To find the phone number of a business, click “Find a Business” then fill in the boxes then click “Search”.
To find out who has a particular phone number, click “Search by Phone” then type the phone number (such as 603-666-6644) then click “Search”. The computer will search through white pages and yellow pages to find a match, free. (You’ll also be given the opportunity to buy searches of unlisted numbers, such as cell-phone number and pay-phone numbers.)
To find out who your neighbors are, go to 411.com (which resembles Switchboard.com) then click “Find Neighbors”.
The computer’s source of info is your local phone book’s white pages, so it won’t show people whose numbers or addresses are unlisted or who have just cell phones.
The Internet lets you explore the whole world!
Maps The best way to see maps online is to go to Google Maps (maps.google.com).
You see a map of the United States. (If you want to see a map of a different country, rotate the mouse’s wheel toward you, until you see a map of the whole world.)
To see more details about a spot on the map, do this:
If you click “Satellite” (which is near the screen’s top-left corner), you see an aerial photo of that spot, taken from a satellite. Yes, you can even see a photo of your own house’s roof! To use this feature pleasantly, you need a fast (broadband) Internet connection (cable or DSL). If you click “Hybrid” (which is next to “Satellite”), you see the aerial photo but labeled with the name of each street, city, state, and country.
Driving directions The best way to get driving directions is to go to MapQuest Driving Directions (MapQuest.com/directions).
Go ahead, have fun! See how Mapquest advises you to travel to your neighbors, your relatives, your job, and across the country. Mapquest’s advice might surprise you: it might find a faster route you hadn’t thought of.
Type the street address where your trip starts, press the Tab key, type that address’s city, press Tab, type its 2-letter state abbreviation, press Tab, type its ZIP code (if you know it), press Tab twice, do the same for where your trip ends, then press Enter. You’ll see the total driving time, the total driving distance, each turn you must make, and how far you must drive before making the next turn.
To see a detailed map of any part of the route, click the underlined word “Map” that’s to the right of that part of the route.
To print the directions onto paper, do this:
To find out how to return from your trip, do this —
then print on paper again:
While you drive, reset your car’s mileage counter to 0 each time you make a turn, so you can use the directions about how far to drive before turning.
Different 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 (CIA.gov), then click “World Factbook” (which is at the screen’s right edge). Click “Select a Country or Location”.
Airplane flights If you want a cheap plane ticket and are flexible about what day you’ll travel, try Cheap Airline Tickets (cheapflights.com).
Of the major airlines, Southwest Airlines (southwest.com) tends to have the lowest prices. For other airlines, go to Orbitz.com (a consortium of 20 major airlines).
The Internet contains many reputable references, which you can use, free!
Encyclopedia Wikipedia.org is the world’s biggest encyclopedia — and it’s free! It includes over 1,760,000 articles written in English, 576,000 in German, 482,000 in French, 372,000 in Polish, 361,000 in Japanese, 292,000 in Dutch, 289,000 in Italian, 254,000 in Portuguese, 228,000 in Spanish, 225,000 in Swedish, and many in 100 other languages, making a total of about 6 million articles.
To find an article, type the topic you want to search for, then press Enter (assuming your language is English). While you read the article, you can click any blue word to find a related article about that word.
The articles are written and edited by thousands of volunteers.
Old-fashioned professors required students to write “term papers”, but modern professors require students to write articles for Wikipedia instead.
The encyclopedia is based on the honor system: to keep it worthwhile, please edit responsibly!
Over 99% of Wikipedia’s articles are correct. A few are misleading, so you can’t trust Wikipedia completely and must double-check what you read there, but it’s a good starting point for your research on any topic, especially since most of its articles on controversial topics give a balanced view.
Health For info about health, start at 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 (a government agency).
More details from the National Institutes of Health (and the National Library of Medicine) are at MedlinePlus (nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus).
Bogus health claims, from marketers of supplements and “natural cures,” are called “quackery”. To find out which health claims are bogus (false), go to QuackWatch.com.
Tutorials About.com includes easy-to-read articles that tutor you in hundreds of topics.
At the screen’s left edge, you see these topics:
To get started click one of those topics or do this:
Rumors Often you’ll hear a strange rumor, from a friend or an e-mail. You’ll wonder whether the rumor is true. To find out, go to Snopes.com, which analyzes pernicious rumors (just as William Faulkner’s novels analyze the pernicious Snopes family).
You can click in the Search box and type the rumor’s main words (then press Enter), or just have fun by clicking one of these rumor categories:
You’ll see a list of rumors. Click an underlined word in it, to get more details about the rumor, analyzed by Barbara Mikkelson, the world’s best investigative journalist! The analysis begins with a sample of the rumor (usually from an e-mail) then tells you whether the rumor is true.
Corporations To find out about any big U.S. company (such as Microsoft or IBM or General Motors or Exxon/Mobil), go to Hoovers.com. Click in the blank box below “Search our free content”, type a company’s name, and press Enter.
You’ll see a list of companies whose names resemble what you typed. For each company, you see its headquarters city, annual revenue (how many dollars worth of goods or services they sold in a year), and stock-ticker symbol (if any). Click whichever company you wish.
You’ll find out the company’s address, phone number, fax number, and Web site. You’ll also get a one-paragraph summary of the company’s business and history, details about the company’s total sales and total number of employees, and the names of the company’s chairman and CEO.
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:
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 “>” at a page’s bottom-right corner, to proceed to the next 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.”
You can reach your government through the Internet.
General site To explore the US government, start at USA.gov and follow the links.
Taxes For help with federal taxes, contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS.gov). To get a tax form or instructions, click one of the forms mentioned at the screen’s left edge or do this:
You see the tax form (or instructions) on your screen. To copy onto paper, click the Printer icon that’s near the top of the screen’s left edge then press Enter. When the printing has finished, click the Back button (which is at the screen’s top-left corner and has a left arrow on it) so you can see and print other forms and instructions.
Post office For info about how to mail a letter, go to the Web site of the United States Postal Service (USPS.com). 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:
How much postage should you put on your letter or package? To find out, do this instead:
Craig’s List (CraigsList.org), which was started by Craig Newmark in San Francisco, is a list of classified ads that you can read — and you can create your own ad, free! The ads are highly organized, so you can find what you want fast! Craig’s List is popular. Each month, Craig’s List has:
To begin, look at the screen’s rightmost part, where you see a list of locations: click whatever country, state, or city interests you. (The menus will let you choose from 450 locations.)
Then you see ads from that location, organized into 9 main categories —
and hundreds of subcategories. Click whichever subcategory you want. (Most subcategories are tame, but a few require you to be at least 18.)
For each ad in that subcategory, you see its headline; click the headline to see the ad (or click “full text mode” to see details from all the ads simultaneously).
While you’re looking at the list of ads in a subcategory, you can create your own ad by clicking “post” (which is at the screen’s top-right corner). Posting your ad is free, except for apartment-broker ads in New York City and job ads in these 7 cities: New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Boston, and DC; those few exceptions are how Craig’s List gets funded.
The computer can help you shop.
Banks To compare banks in your city, state, and across the nation and find out which offer the best rates, go to BankRate.com. You get each bank’s official rates and phone numbers. But beware of these limitations:
Cars If you want to buy a car (new or used), visit these car sites to get smarter: MSN Autos (autos.msn.com), AutoByTel.com, Edmunds.com, and CarsDirect.com.
Housing To buy, sell, or rent a home, use the classified ads at Craig’s List (CraigsList.org) but also look at the advice and listings at MSN Real Estate (RealEstate.msn.com).
To estimate what a house is worth, go to Zillow.com and type in the address.
Books To buy books quickly and cheaply, go to Amazon.com.
Eyeglasses To buy eyeglasses cheaply, go to ZenniOptical.com.
Jobs To get a job, look at the ads at Craig’s List (CraigsList.org) but also visit these sites:
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.com, which has over 46,000 businesses for sale.
The Internet has lots of info about arts.
Movies To find out details about famous movies, go to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb.com). At the screen’s left edge, you see lists of hot movies that are current or “coming soon”; click one of them or do this:
You’ll see lots of info about that topic.
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. So if you’re watching a movie and wonder “Where have I seen him before?” just click on his link to find out! 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”.
YouTube.com lets you watch thousands of movies (videos) that are very short (usually between 2 and 8 minutes long), contributed by amateur movie makers (mostly students in their dorm rooms). Many are hilarious. They’re much more interesting, per minute, than the stuff that Hollywood churns out, and they’re free!
To use that site, you need a fast (broadband) Internet connection (cable or DSL).
Click whichever movie interests you. If you start watching a movie and don’t like it, click a different movie instead.
Each time you choose a movie, you see a list of others that are similar. Be sure to try the “Director Videos” (at the screen’s top or left), which are recommended by YouTube’s editors and “Categories” (at the screen’s top), which lets you choose movies from these categories:
Most of the movies are tame: raunchy parts are omitted or blacked out. A few of the movies go further but require you to register and confirm that you’re at least 18 years old. Once you register, you can copy movies that you’ve created to YouTube.com, free, so all your friends and the whole world can admire what you’ve created!
If you run out of ideas about what to watch on YouTube.com, try watching my favorite movie: Free Lunch (YouTube.com/watch?v=v6iE2j-e6m8). It reminds me of my own life. Don’t ask how! It won many awards for being the best quickly made film: it was written, shot, and edited in a total of just 2 days, as part of the Instant Films festival.
Music To watch young girls trying to play Mozart, gawk at The Mozart Files (YouTube.com/watch?v=gXagKiuaL_4).
When you listen to rap music, do you understand all the slang? If not, go to The Rap Dictionary (RapDict.org), which defines about 4000 slang words. If you want the definition of a specific word, click in the search box (at the screen left edge), type the word, and press Enter. If instead you want to browse through the dictionary, click either “Dictionary” (which starts showing you the main dictionary) or one of these dictionary categories —
or “Artists” (which starts showing you the list of who’s who in the rap biz) or one of these artist categories:
For info about the Beatles, go to BeatlesAgain.com. Then 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/anitable.html.
If you like that, try the sequel (which has two babies!) at Rugrats Tommy Out-dances the Baby (FunLaugh.com/tommy.html).
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 DancingBush.com. Here’s what happens:
To make President Bush dance with Britney Spears, go to United We Dance (MiniClip.com/unitedwedance.htm). You get six Dance Move buttons:
You also get a button to turn on the disco lights, a button to turn the music off (or back on again), 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).
To make Bush do aerobic exercises at Bush Aerobics (www.MiniClip.com/bushaerobics.htm). Click one of the 3 music buttons (Workout Music A, Workout Music B, or Music Off) and one of the 7 Exercise Moves buttons (Jog, Hips, Stretch, Jump, Buns, Thighs, or Rotate).
If you’re a Republican who doesn’t like making fun of Bush, you can get even by making fun of Hillary Clinton. To make fun of her being a Senator, go to Hillary Dancing in the Senate (TheNewChristinesCreations.com/hill.html).
To make fun of her running for President, go to DancingHillary.com. Turn everything on by click all 5 of the On/Off buttons (Music, Dance Floor, Disco Ball, Backlight, and Spotlight); then click one of the 7 Funky Moves buttons.
Classic books Did you ever wish you could walk into a library and find the greatest classic books, all in one place? They’re all together at Great Books Online (bartleby.com).
For more details about Shakespeare, his writing, and his times, go to Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet (shakespeare.palomar.edu).
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). The screen’s left edge shows this list of 20 topics:
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.
Political humor Dan Quayle was vice-president of the United States under George Bush Senior. He seemed the stupidest vice-president we ever had: when he spoke, he made many bloopers. For a list of Dan Quayle quotes (and a list of false rumors about what he said), go to Qualye Quotes (snopes.com/quotes/quayle.htm).
President George W. Bush is almost as error-prone as Dan Quayle. For examples of Bush’s mangled English, see Bushisms (politicalhumor.about.com/library/blbushisms.htm).
The best movies making fun of politics are at Jibjab.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).
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).
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”, and “Lawyer jokes”. The “Politically Incorrect” category includes a famous classic: “How To Tell Democrats From Republicans”.
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 (MuhammadSpeaks.com/Whatif.html).
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 glad you’re not as stupid as they — go to DarwinAwards.com.
For questions about the computer industry’s dominant company (Microsoft) and its products, go directly to Microsoft’s own Web site, Microsoft.com. Click a menu item, photo, or ad, or click the white box (at the screen’s top-right corner) then type the specific topic you’re interested in (and press Enter).
For a quick history of the computer industry before the year 2000, with photos, go to Computer Industry Brief History (faculty-gsb.stanford.edu/mendelson/computer_history/intro.htm). 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).
While you use the Internet, you’ll experience several hassles.
The computer might take a long time to switch from one page to another.
Near the screen’s top-right corner, you probably see a logo.
While the computer is switching to a new page, the computer amuses you by animating the logo.
Near the Start button (at the screen’s bottom-left corner), the computer prints messages about the switch. If you’re connected to the Internet by an ordinary phone or wirelessly, lights (at the screen’s bottom-right corner) turn bright green (or bright blue) 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, which is near the screen’s top left — not the top right!
Clicking the Stop button makes the computer stop the switching.
“Switching pages” is called loading a new page. When you click the Stop button, here’s what happens:
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, tell your ISP to try again to transmit the current page, by doing this:
Change the home page
When your computer gets IE or Firefox for the first time, here’s what happens:
But you can change the home page. Make it 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.
IE 5&5.5&6 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.
IE 7 If you want the home page to be just a blank page (and it’s not a blank page yet), click the Home button’s down-arrow then “Remove” then “Remove All” then “Yes”. 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 the Home button’s down-arrow then “Add or Change Home Page” then “Use this webpage as your only home page” then “Yes”.
Firefox Here’s how to make a particular page become the home page:
If you want to avoid having Firefox start at a home page, do this:
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.
You can tell the computer how big to make the cache.
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.
For IE 5&5.5&6, do this:
For IE 7, do this:
For Firefox, do this:
The cache is a folder.
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.
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 wonderful but 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.