The most popular part of the Internet is called the World Wide Web (or just the Web or just WWW).
The World Wide Web sometimes runs slowly. You can spend lots of time waiting for it to respond to your commands. Cynics call it the “World Wide Wait”.
To use the World Wide Web, 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). Versions 1 & 2 of it were invented in 1995, version 3 in 1996, version 4 in 1997, version 5 in 1999, version 6 in 2001, version 7 in 2006, version 8 in 2009, and version 9 in 2011. Its recent versions (5, 6, 7, 8, and 9) are better than Netscape Navigator. They’re free. They’re included as part of Windows. IE version 9 requires Windows Vista or 7; if you’re still using an older Windows (such as Windows XP), stay with an older version of IE (such as IE 8) or use one of IE’s competitors instead.
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, Firefox 2 in 2006, Firefox 3 in 2008, Firefox 3.5 in 2009, Firefox 3.6 in 2010, and Firefox 4 in 2011. For many years, people considered Firefox to be better than IE; but IE 9 is a dramatic improvement over earlier IE versions, so it’s about as good as Firefox.
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 running faster than IE and Firefox and consuming less RAM. The current version is Opera 11. It’s fast and consumes so little RAM that it can fit comfortably even in cell phones and the smallest videogame machines.
Apple’s computers (the Mac and the iPad) come with Apple’s own Web browser, called Safari. Microsoft used to make Mac versions of IE but stopped when Apple invented Safari. The current version is Safari 5.
In 2005, a company called YouTube started putting videos on the Internet. In 2006, Google bought YouTube but was frustrated that IE was handling YouTube’s videos too slowly, so in 2008 Google invented its own Web browser, called Chrome, which handled videos faster. The current version is Chrome 10.
Though Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Chrome were each intended to improve on IE, most people still use IE, because it comes preloaded on most Windows computers. Moreover, IE’s newest version (IE 9) claims to be fast and as good as those other browsers.
Here’s what people actually use:
This chapter explains the 3 most popular Web browsers: IE, Firefox, and Chrome. It explains the newest versions: IE 6&7&8&9, Firefox 3.6&4&5, and Chrome 12. (Later, in the iPad chapter, I’ll explain the iPad’s version of Safari.)
To use IE, Firefox or Chrome, 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, since IE is included in all modern Windows versions (Windows 98, 98 SE, Me, XP, Vista, and 7).
To use IE, you might have to 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 IE 6 that it included, do this:
If you’re using Windows 7 with IE 8, here’s how to upgrade to IE 9:
If you’re using Windows Vista with IE 8, here’s how to upgrade to IE 9:
How to install Firefox
If you’re using Windows 7 and IE 9, here’s how to “upgrade” to Firefox 5:
How to install Chrome
If you’re using Windows 7 and IE 9, here’s how to “upgrade” to Chrome 12:
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 Windows XP says “Password”, do this procedure:
You’ll see the Internet Explorer (or Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome) 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 Chrome says “Google Chrome isn’t your default browser”, click “Don’t ask again”.
Show text labels
Here’s how to make the browser easier to understand.
IE 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.
Firefox 3.6 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.
IE 7&8&9 and Firefox 4&5 and Chrome The browser is already as easy to understand as possible, so skip this step.
Hide useless toolbars
Here’s how to avoid having your screen cluttered with useless toolbars.
IE 9 Right-click the star (which is near the screen’s top-right corner). Make sure you have a check mark in front of just “Lock the Toolbars”, not in front of anything else.
IE 8 Right-click the word “Favorites” (which is near the screen’s top-left corner). Make sure you have check marks in front of just “Compatibility View Button”, “Command Bar”, “Status Bar”, and “Lock the Toolbars”, not in front of “Menu Bar” or “Favorites Bar” or “Microsoft Live Search Toolbar” or anything else. (If the computer asks “Do you want to disable this add-on?” press Enter.)
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.
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”).
Firefox 3.6 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 a check mark in front of just “Menu Bar” and “Navigation Toolbar”, not in front of “Bookmarks Toolbar”. (To add or remove a check mark, click its position.)
Firefox 4&5 and Chrome The toolbars are already as minimal as possible, so skip this step.
Click in the address box, which is the wide box near the screen’s top-left corner. (In IE 6&7&9 and Firefox and Chrome, that box is white; in IE 8, that box is light gray. 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.)
Here’s another shortcut: you can type just —
but afterwards, instead of just pressing the Enter key, do this:
That “Ctrl with Enter” makes the computer automatically type the “www.” and “.com” for you.
Here’s another shortcut: start typing “yahoo” (by typing “y” then “a” then “h”) but look below where you’re typing; if you see what you want (such as www.yahoo.com) because the computer successfully guessed what you wanted, click the computer’s correct guess.
IE9 and Chrome have another shortcut: start typing “yahoo” (by typing “y” then “a”) but notice that if it’s something you typed previously, the computer will complete the typing for you: if you’re satisfied with the computer’s typing, just press Enter afterwards.
Using any of those methods, you’ll eventually see the beginning of Yahoo’s home page.
Seeing the rest of the page To see the rest of the page, 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 page’s beginning again, 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.
The screen’s left edge shows these 18 hot topics:
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.
As soon as you click — 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:
Then click the page you want to go back to.
(useful just in IE & Firefox) Each time you launch IE or
Firefox, 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. In IE 9, it’s near the screen’s top-right corner.)
History Here’s how to see a list of pages you visited in the last few weeks.
For IE 7&8&9, do this:
For IE 6, do this:
For Firefox 4&5, do this:
For Firefox 3.6, do this:
For Chrome, 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 IE 8&9, do this:
For IE 7, do this:
For IE 6, do this:
For Firefox 4&5, do this:
For Firefox 3.6, do this:
For Chrome, 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, plus some ads. (Some of the ads have a pink background. Other ads are at the screen’s right edge.)
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), Lincoln Electric (which makes welding machines), and the town of Lincoln (in Nebraska). To see all 10 of those Web pages, scroll down to the bottom of the page by using your mouse’s wheel or the down-arrow near the screen’s bottom-right corner.
Each Web page’s name is underlined. 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 120 million Web pages mentioning Lincoln. It will begin by listing 10 pages about Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln Memorial, Lincoln cars, Lincoln University, Lincoln Electric, Lincoln Industrial (which makes lubrication equipment), and the city of Lincoln (in Nebraska). 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, the computer squeezes the Web page onto your paper by printing a shrunken image of the page. (Exception: IE 6&7 are too stupid to shrink the page, so they print just the page’s left part and doesn’t bother trying to print the page’s rightmost part.)
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 9, do this:
For IE 7&8, do this:
For Firefox 4&5, do this:
For Firefox 3.6, do this:
For Chrome, 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 7&8&9 and Firefox and Chrome 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:
IE 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:
When you finish using IE or Firefox or Chrome, close its window (by clicking its X button).
If you’ve been communicating with the Internet using old technology (IE 6, with an ordinary phone line instead of DSL or cable), press Enter.
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 or Bing) 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:
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.
A metasearch site called InfoSpace.com runs 3 search engines simultaneously (Google.com, Yahoo.com, and Bing.com) and combines their results into a single list.
Search yippy The most advanced metasearch site was Clusty.com. It was invented by 3 scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In 2010, it was sold to Yippy, which renamed it search.yippy.com. It shows you the combined list of results (based mainly on Bing.com and Yahoo.com) but also a list of clusters (categories that the results fit in).
For example, if you search for “Obama”, the screen’s left edge shows this list of clusters (which are also called “clouds”) to choose from:
Below that list, you see “all clouds”; if you click that, you see an even longer list of clusters (clouds).
If you click the “+” that’s left of a cluster, you see a list of subclusters. When you find a subcluster you like, click it to see a list of Web pages about that subcluster.
Even if you search for a topic that’s not nearly as famous as “Obama”, search.yippy.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 search.yippy.com invents clusters for your results. Amazing!
Go to www.dmoz.org.
At that Website, called the
Open Directory Project, you see this list of broad topics:
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 whichever topic interests you (or click “World”, which lets you read the site in 88 foreign languages instead of English.) 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!
That site was created by 75,000 volunteers. It organizes 4 million of the Web’s best sites.
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, near the bottom, you see this menu bar:
Click “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 the down-arrow under “Local”), “Finance” for articles about the stock market, banks, and economy. You see headlines (after you scroll down); 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” or “10 Yr Bond” or “Oil” or “Gold” to see a chart of how those 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 main categories are:
To find out the weather, go to Weather.com (which is produced by The Weather Channel). Click in the box that says “Enter Zip, City, or Place” (which is at the screen’s left edge).
Which place on earth do you want a weather report for? Type the ZIP code (or city-and-state or city-and-country or airport-and-state or landmark-and-state), then press Enter.
You see the current weather and the forecast for the next 36 hours (after you scroll down).
To customize your forecast, click one of these words on the menu bar:
You see a customized forecast.
To see more details, click whichever choice you see and prefer: “EXPAND WEATHER DETAILS” or “Details” or “Text” or “Video”.
Here’s how to find the exact time.
For time in the U.S., do this:
For time in other countries, do this:
After a brief pause, you’ll see a digital clock. The clock tells you the exact time, to the nearest second, and updates itself every second. When you get tired of looking at the clock, go to a different Website instead.
For info about who has what phone number, go to 411.com. You see these tabs:
Then fill in the blanks and click the “Find” button next to them. You’ll get free info. (If you get a list of too few or too many people, try again but for “first name” type just the first name’s first letter.)
Then for more free info, click the person’s name or the word “PHONE”. (You’ll also be offered the opportunity to buy a more detailed investigation of the person or business you’re trying to research.)
To get you the answers, the computer uses several sources of info. Since the computer gets most of its info from phonebook white pages, it omits some folks whose numbers or addresses are unlisted or who have just cell phones or who moved recently.
To search for a person by typing the name, use these trick:
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, click in the map then 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). When you get tired of looking at the view from the satellite, return to a normal map by clicking the “Map” button (at the screen’s right edge).
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 address where your trip starts (so it appears in the START box at the screen’s left edge), then press the Tab key, then type the address where your trip ends (so it appears in the END box), then press Enter.
At the screen’s left edge, below the words “Suggested Route,” you see how many minutes and miles your trip will take. Below that, you see turn-by-turn directions. (Scroll down to see them all.) Next to each turn, you see how many miles you must drive to get to the next turn.
At the screen’s right edge, you see a map showing your whole trip.
In the list of turns, if you click one of the turns then “Zoom to this Step”, you see a close-up map of that turn.
The computer has found the route that’s fastest, under normal traffic conditions. If you hate driving on one of those roads (because it’s ugly or under construction or having a traffic jam or takes more distance & gas) and want to avoid it, do this:
To print the directions onto paper, do this:
While you’re driving, 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 — or if you prefer, try using the cumulative mileages that your printer adds for you.
Warning: the directions might mislead you (because highway exit numbers have changed, or the directions accidentally say “turn left” when they should say “turn right”, or construction makes you take a detour, or a vandal removed a street sign, or you didn’t notice a turn), so give yourself extra time to backtrack, ask neighbors for directions, and try to bring along a traditional map!
MapQuest started as a division of a printing company (R.R. Donnelley), then became independent, then became part of AOL, so now AOL owns MapQuest.
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”. 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 you see a map and these 9 topics:
For more details, click the map or whichever topic interests you.
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) and Jet Blue (JetBlue.com) tend to have the lowest prices. For other airlines, try going to Orbitz.com (a consortium of 20 major airlines), though Orbitz doesn’t handle Southwest, American Airlines, and Delta.
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 3,562,000 articles written in English, 1,192,000 in German, 1,070,000 in French, 776,000 in Polish, 775,000 in Italian, 735,000 in Japanese, 723,000 in Spanish, 673,000 in Portuguese, 672,000 in Dutch, 664,000 in Russian, 387,000 in Swedish, 345,000 in Chinese, and many in 266 other languages, making a total of over 17 million articles.
To find an article, click in the empty white box, 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 over 70,000 topics.
Click in the white box that says “GO”. Type whatever topic interests you and press Enter.
You’ll see two lists of Web sites. Ignore the first list (titled “Sponsored Links”), which is just ads; use the second list (called “About.com Search Results”), which shows About.com’s tutorials: click whichever tutorial you want.
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).
To use the site, you can use two methods.
Here’s the fun method.…
Here’s the researcher’s method.…
For the rumor’s details, you see a sample of the full rumor (usually from an e-mail) then an analysis of it by Barbara Mikkelson, the world’s best investigative journalist!
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 at the screen’s top right corner, type a company’s name (such as “Microsoft”), and press Enter.
You’ll see a list of companies related to what you typed. For each company, you see its headquarters city and annual revenue (how many dollars worth of goods or services they sold in a year). Click the name of whichever company you wish. Then you see the company’s stock symbol (if any), address, phone number, and fax number.
Near the top, you see 4 topics about the company:
Click whichever topic interests you, then scroll down to read details about that topic. (You’ll be invited to buy a subscription to see more details.)
Home values To find out the worth of your home (the home you’re in now or any home you’re curious about), go to Zillow.com, click in the box under “Find home values and listings”, type the home’s address, and press Enter. You’ll see:
Lawns For advice on caring for 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 very popular. Each month, Craig’s List has:
To begin, look at the screen’s rightmost column, where you see a list of locations: click whatever country, state, or city interests you. (The menus will let you choose from 700 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 the ad’s headline. Click a headline to see its ad. When you finish looking at the ad, click the Back button (the left-arrow at the screen’s top corner), so you return to seeing the list of headlines.
While you’re looking at a list of headlines, 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 therapeutic-services ads, apartment-broker ads in New York City, and job ads in these 17 markets:
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, click in the box under “Find home values and listings”, and type the home’s address.
Books To buy traditional books quickly and cheaply, go to Amazon.com. (But to buy this book quickly and cheaply, phone me at 603-666-6644 for better deals.)
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 Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com. Each of those 3 sites has a million jobs (plus advice), so you see about 3 million jobs altogether.
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 45,000 businesses for sale.
The Internet has lots of info about arts.
YouTube One of the most popular Websites is YouTube.com. It 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).
The site divides movies into these categories:
Two other categories are:
Those are too many categories to fit on the screen, so you see just some of those categories.
Below each category name is a frame from a movie in that category. Either click one of those frames (to see its movie) or click a category name (to see many examples of movies in that category, then click the example you like) or click in the search box (then type a topic or category name and press Enter, to see many examples of movies that match, then click the example you like).
If you start watching a movie and don’t like it, click a different movie instead (or click the Back button).
Most of the movies are tame. Some movies are raunchy but require you to register and confirm 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!
Each movie has an ID, which is 11 characters long. While you watch a movie, its ID appears in the address box after “www.YouTube.com/watch?v=”. If you know a movie’s ID, you can see the movie by doing one of these activities:
For example, try one of these amazing movies:
Movie database To find out details about famous movies, go to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb.com) then 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”.
Free music To hear your favorite music, you can use 3 free methods:
Rap Dictionary When you listen to rap music, do you understand all the slang? If not, go to The Rap Dictionary (RapDict.org), which defines about 5000 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:
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).
To solve a math problem, go to WolframAlpha.com. You see a wide, orange search box. Click in that box, then type a math problem. If you don’t see the answer yet, press Enter.
For example, if you type—
the computer will immediately say:
If you enter instead —
the computer will solve that algebra equation and say:
(To see that solution, scroll down.) Nearby, the computer will also show graphs about that equation.
If you enter a problem involving advanced algebra or advanced calculus, the computer will solve it, show you the exact answer using algebra & calculus symbols, calculate the answer as a decimal also, show you graphs of everything involved, and let you click “Show steps” to see how the computer figured out the answer — and so, by copying those steps onto your homework paper, you can trick your teacher into believing you figured out the whole thing yourself!
Besides knowing standard high-school and college math, the computer also knows the other important numbers in life. For example, if you enter —
the computer will look up the birthdays of those famous people, realize the queen was about 8 years old when Elvis was born, and give the exact answer:
It can also convert units: inches & meters, quarts & liters, Fahrenheit & Celsius, dollars & euros (using today’s exchange rates), and anything else you can dream of. For example, it can solve:
It understands many topics. Way beyond being a calculator, it calls itself a “computational knowledge engine”. If you click “EXAMPLES” (which is at the screen’s top), you see this list of topics:
For each topic, you also see a list of subtopics. If you click a subtopic, you’ll see examples of how to type that subtopic’s problems into the search box.
This Website is starting to change the way math is taught. Instead of getting bogged down in the details of algebra & calculus computations, teachers are telling students to let WolframAlpha do those details; students should concentrate instead on learning what the problems and answers mean and how to interpret them.
The world is funny, and the Internet reflects that.
Trivia For 3,000 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 The best movies making fun of politics are at Jibjab.com. Go there, then click “ORIGINALS” (at the screen’s top). You’ll see a list of some political satires. Click one of them, or click “All JibJab Originals” (at the bottom) to see 3 pages more. These are the most polished:
For other political humor, go to Political Humor (politicalhumor.about.com).
Black pride For a funny list of appliances invented by blacks, without which white folks would be miserable, look 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. The Website says:
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 info about Apple’s computers & products, go to Apple.com.
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 Start button (at the screen’s bottom-left corner), the computer prints messages about the switch.
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 or center, 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 9 If you want the home page to be just a blank page (and it’s not a blank page yet), do this:
If instead you want a particular page to become the home page, do this:
IE 7&8 If you want the home page to be just a blank page (and it’s not a blank page yet), do this:
If instead you want a particular page to become the home page, do this:
IE 6 If you want the home page to be just a blank page, do this:
If instead you want a particular page to become the home page, do this:
Firefox 4&5 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:
Firefox 3.6 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:
Chrome Don’t bother changing the home page; it’s already quite useful.
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.
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. 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.