This chapter comes from the 32nd edition of the "Secret Guide to Computers & Tricky Living," copyright by Russ Walter. To read the rest of the book, look at


A computer network is a group of computers (or computer terminals) that communicate with each other (by phone or other cables or wireless transmissions).

The most popular computer network is the Internet. It connects computers all over the world, by phone lines and by other communication methods that are faster. You can connect your computer to the Internet, so you can access computers all over the world, peek at their hard disks, and transfer their info to your computer. The Internet transfers games, news, photos, love letters, chitchat, ads, and other info, public & private, to and from Barack Obama, David Letterman, and billions of other workers, jokers, kids, and kooks across the country & around the world.

You can use the Internet to send & receive electronic mail and browse through announcements posted by folks worldwide.

The Internet gives you a huge sea of info. You stand on its shore, watch its waves coming at you, and get high by jumping into them. That’s called surfing the Net, which means “browsing through the amazing info available on the Net”.

You’ll get addicted to surfing the Net and spend many hours each day doing it. As you explore the Net, your electronic requests & their responses travel at electronic speeds around the world, on what Vice President Al Gore dubbed the Information Superhighway (I-way), propelling you through cyberspace (the vast, surreal world where all info and people are represented by bits, bytes, and electronic signals, as opposed to the “real world”, called meatspace, where people are composed of meat).

The Internet lets your mind fly around the world faster than an astronaut’s. Folks will call you an infonaut or Internaut or Internut or Net-head. You’ll have fun, while learning more about the world than any pre-computer human could ever imagine.

The Internet lets you read facts & opinions contributed by many people. If you contribute your thoughts, so they can be read by other people on the Internet and you’ve improved our world, you’re called a “good Internet citizen,” a netizen.

The Internet’s most popular feature is the World Wide Web (WWW).


How the Internet arose

The Internet arose because of the Cold War. Here are the details.

Cold War research

In 1957, while the US fought the Cold War against Russia, the Russians launched the first satellite, Sputnik. That made the US military realize it was dangerously behind Russia in scientific research, so in 1958 the US Department of Defense (DoD) created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa), which paid universities to do scientific research to help win the Cold War against Russia.

Arpanet (1969)

In 1969, Arpa created a computer network called Arpanet, which let university computers send data over phone lines using a sneaky method that would work even if Russians bombed the phone lines. The sneaky method was called packet switching.

It divided each computer message into many little packets. If a packet couldn’t reach its destination directly (because a phone line got bombed), the computer would sneakily switch that packet through different phone lines to different computers that would reroute the packet to its ultimate destination. At the ultimate destination, a computer would automatically make sure all packets arrived, put them in the proper order, and make any lost (or damaged) packets be retransmitted.

At first, the Arpanet included just 4 computers: 1 at the University of Utah and 3 in California (at UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and the Stanford Research Institute). The next year (1970), Arpanet added 3 computers in Massachusetts (at MIT, BBN, and Rand). The next year (1971), Arpanet added more computers (in California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois), to make a total of 15 computers. The next year (1972), Arpanet expanded to more parts of the country, so 2000 people were using Arpanet — and they were starting to have fun, since electronic mail
was added to Arpanet that year. (Before that, Arpanet was just a big boring mass of technical documents & data.) The next year (1973), e-mail became so popular that 75% of all Arpanet transmissions were e-mails; and research institutions in England and Norway joined Arpanet, so Arpanet became international.

On October 27, 1980, the entire Arpanet got shut down by a virus that was spread accidentally. The virus accomplished what bombs could not! Fortunately, the virus got eradicated.

Many universities around the world joined Arpanet because it was nifty, funded, and could be used for non-military purposes also, such as personal e-mail.

Internet (1983)

Arpanet finally became too big to be managed simply, so in 1983 the military divided it into 2 networks:

One network, called Milnet, was strictly for use by military personnel (at military bases).

The other network, called “the new, smaller Arpanet”, was for civilian use (at universities).

To let those 2 networks communicate with each other, an inter-network communication method was invented, called the Internet Protocol (IP). That’s how the Internet began! IP came in several versions, the most popular being the Transmission Control Protocol for IP (TCP/IP).

At the end of 1983, the Internet included about 600 hosts (computers that had permanent Internet addresses and could supply data to other computers). The Internet grew fast:

                 How many Internet hosts

Year        at end of year

1983                       600

1984                    1,000

1985                    2,000

1986                    6,000

1987                  30,000

1988                  80,000

1989                200,000

1990                400,000

1991                700,000

1992             1,300,000

1993             2,200,000

1994             5,800,000

1995           14,000,000

1996           21,000,000

1997           29,000,000

1998           43,000,000

1999           72,000,000

2000         109,000,000

2001         147,000,000

2002         171,000,000

2003         233,000,000

2004         317,000,000

2005         394,000,000

2006         433,000,000

2007         541,000,000

2008         625,000,000

2009         732,000,000

2010         818,000,000

2011         888,000,000

Let’s see why it grew so fast.…

NSF (1986)

In 1986, the National Science Foundation (NSF) thought of letting researchers share 5 supercomputers by using Arpanet, but NSF changed its mind and decided to create its own network, called NSF Net. Like Arpanet, NSF Net used TCP/IP and was Arpanet-compatible, so NSF Net became part of the Internet. NSF Net ran faster than Arpanet (by running more phone lines between big cities, to form a strong Internet backbone), so universities switched to it from Arpanet. In 1990, Arpanet shut down permanently.

Arpa, which had created Arpanet, lived on but under its new name: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).

Packet switching is practical

Though packet switching was invented to avoid bombs, it has another advantage: it prevents any single user from hogging the Internet. If a “bad guy” tries to hog the Internet by sending a long message, the Internet divides his message into many little packets. Other users can squeeze their packets into the system without waiting for all the bad guy’s packets to go through. Any overloaded phone lines are automatically bypassed by routing packets through other phone lines.

Packet switching made the Internet “free for democracy” in 4 senses:

free from destruction by bombs

free from overload by user hogs

free from censorship by governments

free from big start-up costs (because government already paid for the backbone)

You can still wreck a country’s Internet if you’re evil enough to bomb all phone lines or send many long messages or force all Internet computers to censor transmissions. Though misguided folks tried such tactics, the Internet outlasted them.

Web (1990)

The Internet was a boring collection of documents, data, and e-mails until 1990, when Englishman Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (WWW). To be briefer, folks call it just the Web. Here’s how it works:

It lets you view a document on the Internet and, if a word in the document is underlined, you can click that word to get “more info” about that word. The “more info” can be a whole page and reside in a different file on a different hard disk in a different computer in a different country; so by clicking that underlined word, you can access relevant info from a different computer in a different country. The person who invented the original document sets all that up for you, so by just clicking the underlined word you automatically access the info you want without needing to know what computer or country it’s coming from.

The World Wide Web turns a whole world of documents into a unified system.

The underlined words are called links, because they link you to other documents.

To invent the Web, Tim was inspired by Ted Nelson.

Ted Nelson was a US visionary who in 1965 had predicted that text would someday be connected worldwide by underlined links and called hypertext. Ted Nelson’s concept furthered what an earlier visionary, Vannevar Bush, had written in 1945.

Tim was the first person to take the ideas of Ted & Vannevar, apply them to the Internet, and make the whole system practical enough for humans to use.

Tim invented the World Wide Web while he was working in Switzerland at the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN, which was later renamed the European Laboratory for Particle Physics). Afterwards, Tim moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he directs the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which plans the Web’s future.

Wartime use (1991)

The US’s allies copied Internet technology — and so did the US’s enemies:

In January 1991, during the US war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Internet’s ability to defend itself against bombs was proved in a strange way: Iraq’s own Internet helped Iraq’s military command network withstand attack from US bombs!

In August 1991, the Soviet Union was paralyzed by a news blackout during the coup against Gorbachev, but the truth got out to the world by Internet transmissions from Relcom (a small pro-Yeltsin Internet service provider in the Soviet Union).

Mosaic (1994)

To use the World Wide Web, you had to use a program called a browser. When Tim invented the World Wide Web, he invented his own crude browser. The first pleasant browser was Mosaic, invented in 1994 by Marc Andreessen, an undergrad at the University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Since his research was funded by the National Science Foundation, everybody was allowed to copy Mosaic for free. Later that year, he left NCSA and formed a company called Netscape Communications Corp., which invented an improved Web browser (called Netscape Navigator) and sold it cheaply ($50 or less, per copy).

Mosaic and Netscape made the Web become more popular. At the beginning of 1994, there were 600 Web sites (places on the Web that provide Web info); at the end of 1994, the number of Web sites shot up to 10,000; in later years, the number of Web sites continued to climb:

Year     How many Web sites at end of year

1993                   600

1994              10,000

1995            100,000

1996            600,000

1997         1,700,000

1998         3,700,000

1999         9,600,000

2008     182,000,000

Mass market (1995)

In 1995, the Internet suddenly become more popular, for 5 reasons:

Netscape Navigator version 2 came out. It worked better than version 1.

Windows 95 came out. It handled the Internet better than Windows 3.11.

Microsoft invented Internet Explorer. Like Netscape Navigator, it was based on Mosaic and sold for $50 or less. Soon afterwards, Microsoft began giving Internet Explorer away for free.

The World Wide Web reached a critical mass: enough good Web sites were been created to make browsing worthwhile for the average consumer.

Many training schools offered crash courses in how to use the Internet.

That year, the Internet got too big for the NSF to fund. The NSF stopped running NSF Net but gave grants to help universities buy Internet time from commercial networks that sprang up, such as Sprint, Alternet, and Performance Systems International (PSI). Consumers could use the Internet on their home personal computers by making their computer modems phone an Internet service provider (ISP), which was part of the Internet. Many companies sprang up to act as ISPs.

Several old companies invented their own networks for consumers by using a trick: they took non-Internet business networks (which were busy in the day but idle in the evening) and offered them to consumers at low evening rates.

The first two such companies were Compuserve (owned by H&R Block) and The Source (owned by Readers Digest). After The Source went out of business, two other big companies arose: Prodigy (owned by IBM & Sears) and America OnLine (AOL). AOL bought Compuserve (and Netscape and Time Warner, but AOL later split from Time Warner). All those companies thought consumers would enjoy online reference materials (computerized dictionaries, encyclopedias, and databases) but discovered consumers preferred to just send e-mail and chat instead of doing “research”.

When the Internet became popular (because it included so many e-mail addresses and so many Web sites), those old companies modified their networks to include access to the whole Internet.

Unlimited access (1996)

Those old companies and new ISPs weren’t sure how much to charge consumers. At first, they charged $3 per hour. In 1996, most offered a better deal: unlimited access for $20 per month. (A few discount ISPs charged even less. A few business ISPs charged more, for superior service.)

Later came free ISPs, which offered free Internet service in return for forcing consumers to watch ads while using the Internet.

Who pays?

Here’s who invented and paid for the Internet.…

At first, funding came from the Defense Department (ARPA) and the National Science Foundation. To invent the Internet, much research was done by university professors (funded by government grants, student tuition, and alumni donations). Much research was done by student volunteers, who wanted to be famous by being helpful.

When consumer ISPs became popular, many consumers paid $20 per month per household. Many Web sites show ads, paid for by advertisers.

Many businesses pay for their own Web sites, in the hope that those sites will act as ads. The businesses also hope their Web sites will show lots of info online, so the businesses don’t have to mail brochures to customers and don’t have to hire employees to answer customer questions.

Many Web sites are created by startup companies who dream of greatness and convince investors to buy stock in that dream. Some of those dreamy companies succeed, and their stockholders get rich; other dreamy companies fail, and their stockholders lose their shirts. All those stockholders pay for the Internet and hope to reap rewards in return. While the stockholders wait for results, the company’s managers get high salaries (funded by stockholders), even though many of those startup companies haven’t earned any profit yet and never will.

In 1999, many such startup companies began. Investors sunk many millions of dollars into them, hoping the managers wouldn’t waste the money and would eventually turn a profit. Lots of jargon was invented to describe the situation:

A company whose Web site is its main fame is called a dot com (because its Web-site address ends in .com). Its employees are called dot commers.

A Web site letting customers type credit-card numbers to place orders is said to do electronic commerce (e-commerce) and offer an electronic shopping cart.

A company selling mainly to consumers is called a business-to-consumer company (B2C company). A company selling mainly to other businesses instead is called a business-to-business company (B2B company).

A company selling mainly to organizations who run Internet host computers (and helping those organizations improve their Internet computers & connections) is called an Internet infrastructure company.


An old-fashioned company (which ignores the Internet and runs just traditional retail stores in brick buildings) is called a real-world company and a bricks-and-mortar company. An ultra-modern company (which exists just on the Web and doesn’t bother staffing any storefront buildings) is said to exist just in cyberspace and be a pure-play Internet company. A company doing both — having brick-like retail stores (or warehouses) and also selling on the Internet (by letting customers use mice to click on what they want) — is called a bricks-and-clicks company.

If a startup company lures investors by telling an enticing story about how it could become profitable — but has no customers yet — its stock is called just a story stock.

Many Web companies are in San Francisco, where the managers are freaky-looking snotty kids who are young (under 30), wear nose rings, drive fancy cars, and got rich by inventing a story that got investors to give them millions of dollars, even though their companies haven’t made a profit yet and have hardly any customers yet and actually lose lots of money daily. Many Web-company managers bought office space in San Francisco (south of Market Street), encouraging landlords to jack up rents and kick out the poor people and non-profit organizations that had been there. People who resent those managers call them e-holes, dot snots, and dot commies.

Who uses the Internet?

When the Internet began, it was just for university scientific researchers, who were mostly men. But eventually the Internet grew, so people outside universities could get access. In the year 2000, women Internet users finally outnumbered men users, for 3 reasons:

The world contains more women than men.

The World Wide Web grew to become a big worldwide library. “Reading in a library” appeals to women more than men.

E-mail grew to be a powerful force. Sending e-mail is like passing a note. “Writing, reading, and passing notes” are activities that appeal to women more than men.


Modern providers

To access the Internet, you can choose from 5 kinds of service.…

Dial-up service

Some people still use dial-up service. Here’s how it works.…

Make sure your computer contains a modem. (The fastest kind of modem is called a 56K modem.) Unplug your home’s phone cord from your phone, and attach the phone cord to your computer’s modem instead, so your computer can make phone calls. Yes, you’ll be using the plain old telephone system (POTS). Tell your computer to phone a computer belonging to an Internet service provider (ISP), which charges you about $15 per month for the service, billed to your credit card. You might have to also pay a $20 start-up fee.

The phone number that your computer calls is called an Internet dial-up access number or point of presence (POP). Make sure the POP is a local phone number, so you don’t pay any long-distance bills. To make sure it’s local, ask your local phone company whether the POP’s phone number is indeed a free call under your calling plan.

While your computer is using the Internet through this method, your computer is “tying up the phone line”, so if any of your friends try to phone you they’ll get a busy signal. You can solve that problem in 3 ways:

Method 1 Tell the phone company to install a second phone line, which will cost you about $25 per month (including taxes).

Method 2 Use the Internet just late at night (or early in the morning), when your friends don’t try to phone you.

Method 3 Pay the phone company $4 per month for voice messaging, which makes the phone company create a voice-mail system that takes messages when your phone is busy — but then you have to call your friends back at your own expense.

Of all the standard-method Internet service providers, the one with the best reputation is EarthLink, based in Pasadena, California.

It was started in 1994 by a 23-year-old guy named Sky Dalton, who ran a West Los Angeles coffeehouse, worked for ad agencies & computer-graphics companies, and was repeatedly voted one of the most influential technologists in the Los Angeles area. Now EarthLink is national, affiliated with Sprint, and has POPs in Canada and all states except Alaska and Hawaii. Its POPs are in over 1000 cities! EarthLink recently bought excellent competitors (such as MindSpring, JPS Net, and so now EarthLink is even bigger and better. To chat with an EarthLink human who will help you get started, phone EarthLink’s sales department at 888-EarthLink.

Another big ISP is AT&T’s WorldNet, which charges a monthly fee of just $15 but limits you to 150 hours per month (extra hours cost 99¢ each). Unfortunately, WorldNet is often overloaded, especially its technical-support staff. To find out about WorldNet, phone 800-WorldNet.

To save money, try a discount service. It’s the same as the standard method, except you pay just $10 per month (plus a start-up fee) and get worse service: more busy signals, more disconnections, more errors (saying “not found” or “Incorrect password”), and more difficulty reaching the tech-support staff. For example, I use a discount ISP called Galaxy Internet Services (GIS), which has POPs just on the East Coast (in NH, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, MD, DC, VA, and GA). To find out about Galaxy, phone 888-334-2529 or 617-558-0900. Other discount ISPs are NetZero ($10 per month, phone 800-638-9376 for info) and PeoplePC ($90 per year, phone 877-947-3327 for info).

To pay no money at all, you can try an ad-supported service. It’s the same as standard dial-up service, except you pay no monthly fee but must watch ads while you’re using the Internet. The main ad-supported ISP is Juno, which is owned by NetZero and limits you to 10 hours per month; phone 800-879-5866 for info.

Cable-modem service

For faster transmission, try cable-modem service.

It resembles dial-up service, except you use cable-TV wires instead of phone wires, get faster transmission (about 8 times as fast) and pay more (about $45 per month for the service, plus $25 for an Ethernet card (a network card that you put into your computer), plus about $50 for a cable modem (which attaches the Ethernet card to a cable-TV cord).

The cable-modem method has two advantages over the standard method:

It’s faster. The cable wires can theoretically transmit about 12 megabits per second (which is nearly 240 times as fast as a 56K modem), but you’re sharing those wires with many cable-TV-using neighbors, who clog the system (especially in the evening), so on the average the cable modem will download 9 megabits per second from the Internet to your computer and upload 3 ½ megabits per second from your computer to the Internet.

It doesn’t consume a phone line; you do not need to get a 2nd phone line.

Since this method achieves its high speed by using a broad spectrum of frequencies for transmission, it’s an example of broadband transmission.

Cable-modem service is available just if your neighborhood is wired for cable TV and your cable-TV service company is modern. To find out, phone your local cable-TV company or a local computer store (such as your local Best Buy).

DSL service

If your neighborhood lacks cable, try DSL service.

A digital subscriber line (DSL) is a broadband transmission method that resembles the cable method; but instead of using cable-TV wires, it uses ordinary phone wires and makes them handle many frequencies at once.

The most common type of DSL is Asymmetic DSL (ADSL). It costs slightly less than the cable method: it usually costs between $30 per month. Usually, it works slightly slower than the cable method, but it’s popular because it’s more predictable: it’s unaffected by your neighbors’ usage. It’s popular for businesses, who are in business districts that haven’t been wired for cable-TV yet and therefore can’t use the cable method. DSL works fastest if you’re close to a telephone switching station; if you’re more than 2½ miles from a telephone-switching station, DSL works so slowly that the phone company will refuse to install it. The main complaint about DSL is that service technicians delay several weeks before showing up to install it, and you must take a day off from work to wait for them, and often they don’t show up on the scheduled day.

To find out about DSL, start by calling your local phone company. You can also order DSL service from dial-up ISPs, such as EarthLink (at 888-EarthLink) and Galaxy Internet Services (at 888-334-2529).

Satellite service

If you can’t use cable or DSL, try satellite service. It uses a satellite-TV dish to communicate with the Internet. It’s slower than cable or DSL.

How much does it cost? You start by paying about $200 (to buy a satellite dish and install it so it faces a satellite in the sky). Then you pay a monthly fee of $60 for unlimited use. You’ll also want to buy a second phone line to avoid “tying up the phone line”. This service is financially attractive if you already bought a satellite dish to watch TV.

The main source of this service is HughesNet, (800-428-9570), whose service you can also buy from resellers, such as (866-408-8926) and Satellite Star Internet (800-977-0020).

Free-group service

To pay nothing for the Internet, try free-group service. For example, if you visit your local public library, you can use the library’s Internet-connected computers for free (though you might have to wait for other users to finish). While you’re enrolled in a typical college, you can freely use the college’s Internet-connected computers, which are in the college’s computer labs, libraries, and dorms. Many restaurants and cafés include free Wi-Fi hotspots, so you can bring your notebook computer and let it communicate wirelessly with the Internet.


Browser choices

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 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, version 9 in 2011, version 10 in 2012, and version 11 in 2013.

Its recent versions (5 and later) are better than Netscape Navigator. They’re free. They’re included as part 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 (helped by funding from AOL) invented an improved ad-free Netscape Navigator called Mozilla then invented further improvements, called Firefox.

Firefox version 1 was invented in 2004, version 1.5 in 2005, version 2 in 2006, version 3 in 2008, version 3.5 in 2009, version 3.6 in 2010,
versions 4-9 in 2011, versions 10-17 in 2012, versions 18-26 in 2013.

For many years, people considered Firefox to be better than IE; but IE 9&10&11 are dramatic improvement over earlier IE versions, so they’re 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. It consumes so little RAM that it can fit comfortably even in cell phones and the smallest videogame machines.

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.

Version 1 was invented in 2008, versions 2 & 3 in 2009, versions 4-8 in 2010, versions 9-16 in 2011, versions 17-23 in 2012, versions 24-31 in 2013.

Apple’s devices (the Mac, the iPad, and the iPhone) 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, Opera, Chrome, and Safari were each intended to improve on IE, most people still use IE, because it comes preloaded on most Windows computers. IE’s newest version (IE 11) claims to be fast and as good as those other browsers.

Here’s what people actually use on normal computers (not tablet, not phone, not embedded):

58% of Web browsing is done by people using IE, because they’re too lazy to switch.

19% of Web browsing is done by people using Firefox, because they heard it’s the best browser.

15% of Web browsing is done by people using Chrome, because they heard it’s new and exciting.

  6% of Web browsing is done by people using Safari, because they have computers built by Apple.

  1% of Web browsing is done by people using Opera, because they heard it’s fast, compact, European.

  1% of Web browsing is done by people experimenting with other browsers.

This chapter explains the 3 most popular Web browsers: IE, Firefox, and Chrome. It explains these versions: IE 7&8&9&10&11, Firefox 17, and Chrome 23. Other versions are similar. (Later, in the iPad chapter, I’ll explain the iPad’s version of Safari.)


Install your browser

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.

Get help To use IE, you might have to tell Windows about your Internet service provider (ISP). To find out how, read the instructions your ISP sent you. If you don’t understand them, phone your ISP’s technical-support number (or phone me at 603-666-6644).

Versions IE comes in many versions:

IE 6 requires Windows 98, Me, or XP.       It’s included as part of Windows XP.

IE 7 requires Windows XP or Vista.           It’s included as part of Windows Vista.

IE 8 requires Windows XP or Vista or 7.    It’s included as part of Windows 7.

IE 9 requires Windows Vista or 7.              It’s often included as part of Windows 7.

IE 10 requires Windows 7 or 8.                 It’s included as part of Windows 8.

IE 11 requires Windows 7 or 8.1.              It’s included as part of Windows 8.1.

Upgrade This chapter assumes you have at least IE 7. If you’re stuck with an older IE version (before IE 7), use one of these methods:

Method 1 get a newer computer (which includes at least IE 7)

Method 2 if you already know how to go to a Website, get a newer version of IE free by going to

Method 3 get The Secret Guide to Computers 30th edition (which includes IE 5&5.5&6)

You can call my cell phone, 603-666-6644, day or night, for free help accomplishing those methods.

How to install Firefox

If you’re using Windows 7 and IE 9, here’s how to add Firefox 17:

Start using IE 9 (by clicking the “e” that’s next to the Start button). Type “” (so your typing is in the address box) and press Enter. Click “Firefox Free Download”.

If the screen’s bottom says “Do you want to run or save Firefox” click the Run button. If the computer asks “Do you want to allow the following program to make changes to this computer?” click “Yes”.

The computer will say “Welcome to the Mozilla Firefox Setup Wizard”. Press Enter twice. The computer will say “Ready to start installing Firefox”.

Are you bold enough to make Firefox your main browser? If not (because you want IE to remain your main browser and want Firefox to be just your secondary browser), remove the check mark from “Use Firefox as my default web browser” (by clicking the check mark).

Press Enter four times.

If the computer says “Firefox is not currently set as your default browser”, remove the check mark (by clicking it) then click “No”.

You’ll see two windows (one for Firefox, one for IE). Close both windows (by clicking their X buttons) and click any “Close tabs” button, so you can start fresh.

How to install Chrome

If you’re using Windows 7 and IE 9, here’s how to add Chrome 23:

Start using IE 9 (by clicking the “e” that’s next to the Start button). Type “” (so your typing is in the address box) and press Enter. Click “Download Chrome”.

Are you bold enough to make Chrome your main browser? If not (because you want IE to remain your main browser and want Chrome to be just your secondary browser), remove the check mark from “Set Google Chrome as my default browser” (by clicking the check mark).

Click “Accept and Install”.

The window will say “Thank you for installing Chrome”. Close that window (by clicking the X in the screen’s top-right corner). The computer will ask, “Do you want to run this application?” Click “Run” then “Yes”. The computer will copy Chrome from the Internet and install it. Then the computer will say “Welcome to Chrome”. Click “Skip for now”.

Close the window (by clicking the white X), so you can start fresh.


Start browsing

Turn on the computer.

Windows XP & Vista & 7 Make sure you see the Start button in the screen’s bottom-left corner. Then choose one of these methods:

Double-click method Double-click an icon saying “Internet Explorer” or “Mozilla Firefox” or “Google Chrome”.

Start method Click the Start button then either “Internet Explorer” or “Mozilla Firefox” or “Google Chrome”.

Small-e method Click the small Internet Explorer icon that’s next to the Start button and has an “e” on it.

If the computer asks for your user name, type it and press the Tab key. If Windows XP says “Password”, do this procedure:

Put a check mark in the “Connect automatically” box (by clicking it), then click “Connect”.

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”.

Windows 8 Your computer comes with two versions of Internet Explorer 10. Access the powerful version (which understands the most commands) by one of these methods:

Desktop method Go to the Desktop screen (by tapping the Desktop tile). Tap the Internet Explorer icon (the blue “e” at the screen’s bottom-left corner).

Tile method Tap the Internet Explorer tile. You see a weak version of Internet Explorer. Switch to the powerful version by doing this: press the Menu key; tap the Page tools icon (the wrench near the screen’s bottom-right corner) then “View on the desktop”.

Windows 8.1 Your computer comes with two versions of Internet Explorer 11. Access the powerful version (which understands the most commands) by one of these methods:

Desktop method Go to the Desktop screen (by tapping the Desktop tile). Tap the Internet Explorer icon (the blue “e” near the screen’s bottom-left corner).

Tile method Tap the Internet Explorer tile. You see a weak version of Internet Explorer. Switch to the powerful version by doing this: press the Menu key; tap the Page tools icon (the wrench near the screen’s bottom-right corner) then “View in the desktop”.

Hide useless toolbars

Here’s how to avoid having your screen cluttered with useless toolbars.

IE 9&10&11 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. (If the computer asks “Do you want to disable this add-on?” press Enter.)

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.

Firefox Right-click “Bookmarks” (which is at the screen’s right edge). Remove the check mark from “Bookmarks Toolbar” (by clicking it).

Chrome The toolbars are already as minimal as possible, so skip this step.

Address box

Click in the address box, which is the wide box near the screen’s top-left corner. (In IE 7&9 and Firefox and Chrome, that box is white; in IE 8, that box is light gray; in IE 10&11, that box is white or light blue.) 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 “”), 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 “”, 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 “” 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 “”) begins with “www.” and ends with “.com”.

At the end of your typing, press Enter. (If you typed just “” 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:

Hold down the Ctrl key; and while you keep holding down the Ctrl key, tap the Enter key.

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 because the computer successfully guessed what you wanted, click the computer’s correct guess.

IE 9&10&11 and Firefox 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 15 hot topics:

mail, news, sports, finance, weather, games, groups, answers, screen, Flickr, jobs, autos, shopping, travel, dating

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. But for your first experiment, I recommend you click an item from today’s news (in the screen’s center), since the news is simpler to handle than the topics at the screen’s edges.

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:

IE 9&10&11 and Firefox and Chrome Right-click the Back button (or while pointing at the Back button, hold down the mouse’s left button awhile). You see a list of pages you visited recently. The list is short: at most 9 pages in IE9 &10&11, 14 pages in Firefox, 17 pages in Chrome.

IE 7&8 Click the u next to the Back & Forward buttons. You see a list of pages you visited recently. The list is short: at most 9 pages.

Then click the page you want to go back to.

Home (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&10&11 and Firefox, 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, do this:

Click the Favorites button (which is a star) then the word “History”. You see the History window.

Decide which date’s history you want to see: click either “Today” or a recent day or “Last Week” or “2 Weeks Ago” or “3 Weeks Ago”. (Click once or twice, until you see that date’s list of sites; then click a site once or twice, until you see that site’s list of pages.) Click whichever page you want to visit.

For Firefox, do this:

Click the orange “Firefox” button (which at the screen’s top-left corner). Move the mouse pointer to “History” (which is in the second column) but don’t click yet. You see a list of 15 pages you visited often (including the current page). Either click one of those 15 page names (to visit that page) or click “Show All History”, which gets you more choices, as follows.…

You see the Library window. Decide how much history you want to see: double-click “Today” or “Yesterday” or a recent month or “Older than 6 months”. You see a list of 15 pages: scroll down to see the rest of what you asked for. Double-click whichever page you want to visit.

For Chrome, do this:

Click the Menu button (the symbol º, which is near the screen’s top-right corner, just below the X). Then click “History”.

You see a list of all pages you visited in the last few weeks. (To see the whole list, scroll down.)

Click whichever page you want to visit.

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&10&11, do this:

Click the Favorites button (which is a star) then “Add to Favorites”. Press Enter.

In the future, whenever you want to return to your favorite pages, click the Favorites button (which is a star) then the word “Favorites” that’s left of “Feeds”: you’ll see a list of your favorite pages. Click whichever page you want to visit (or delete a page from the list by doing this: right-click the page name you want to delete, then click “Delete”).

For IE 7, do this:

Click the “Add to Favorites” button (which is a green plus sign in front of a gold star). Press Enter twice.

In the future, whenever you want to return to your favorite pages, click the Favorites button (which is a gold star) then the word “Favorites”: you’ll see a list of your favorite pages. Click whichever page you want to visit (or delete a page from the list by doing this: right-click the page name you want to delete, then click “Delete”, then press “Enter”).

For Firefox, do this:

Click the star that’s in the address box (not the star at the screen’s right edge). The star turns gold.

In the future, whenever you want to return to that page, click the star at the screen’s right edge then “Unsorted Bookmarks”. You see a list of pages you created that way. Double-click whichever page you want to visit (or delete a page from the list by doing this: click the page name you want to delete, then click “Delete”).

For Chrome, do this:

Click the star (which is near the screen’s top-right corner). Press Enter.

In the future, whenever you want to return to that page, click the Menu button (the symbol º, which is near the screen’s top-right corner) then “Bookmarks”: you’ll see a list of your favorite pages. Click whichever page you want to visit (or delete a page from the list by doing this: right-click the page name you want to delete, then click “Delete”).

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.

In the screen’s middle, you see 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. Google will find about 124 million Web pages mentioning Lincoln. Google will begin by listing, at the screen’s left edge, 14 Web pages that Google thinks you’ll find the most useful, plus some ads. (Some of the ads have a yellow background. Other ads are at the screen’s right edge.)

For example, if you asked for “lincoln”, Google will list 14 Web pages about President Abraham Lincoln (and his memorial and biopic), Lincoln cars (made by Ford), Lincoln Electric (which makes welding machines), and Lincoln University (in Pennsylvania). To see all 14 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 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. For example, if you’re interested just in Abraham Lincoln, type:

Abraham Lincoln

If you’re interested in just Lincoln cars, type:

Lincoln cars

If you’re interested in just Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin, type:

Abraham Lincoln log cabin

Google is called a search site, since its purpose is to help you search for other sites on the Internet. (Yahoo is also a search site, since it includes a search box, but Yahoo’s search box doesn’t work as well as Google’s.) Google and Yahoo are 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:

IE 9&10&11   While holding down the Ctrl key, tap the P key. Press Enter.

IE 7&8            Click the Print button (showing paper coming from a printer).

Firefox           Click the orange “Firefox” button then “Print”. Press Enter.

Chrome          Click the Menu button (the symbol º) then “Print”. Press Enter.

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 7 is too stupid to shrink the page, so it prints 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&10&11, do this:

Click the Tools button (which is a bumpy-circle gear at the screen’s left edge) then Print then Page Setup then Landscape then OK. Then while holding down the Ctrl key, tap the P key.

For IE 7&8, do this:

Click the Print button’s down-arrow then Page Setup then Landscape then OK then the Print button.

For Firefox, do this:

Click the orange “Firefox” button. Move the mouse pointer to “Print” but don’t click yet. Click Page Setup (which appears in the second column) then Landscape then OK. Click the orange “Firefox” button again then Print then OK.

Later, if you want to return to printing normally (without rotation), click the orange “Firefox” button then Page Setup then Portrait then OK.

For Chrome, do this:

Click the Menu button (the symbol º) then Print then Landscape. Then press Enter.

Later, if you want to return to printing normally (without rotation), click the Menu button then Print then Portrait, then press Enter.

Simultaneous pages

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.

While you’re viewing a Web page, try one of these activities:

Click a link while holding down the Ctrl key.

While the mouse is pointing at a link, click the mouse’s wheel (instead of the mouse’s left button).

In the address box, type an address and then, while holding down the Alt key, press Enter.

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:

Decide which tab you don’t want anymore. For Firefox and Chrome, click the X on that tab; for IE, click that tab then the X on it.

That tab disappears, along with its Web page, so you see just the other tab.


When you finish using IE or Firefox or Chrome, close its window (by clicking its X button).

3 ways to search

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

Search-box method

In a search box, type the topic you’re interested in, and then press Enter. That makes Google (or Yahoo 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 Bing are similar.)

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

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

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

Google usually ignores these common words:

a, the

be, is, are, was, will

I, it

of, for, about, in, on

what, when, where, why, how

and, or

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

If you type “bush”, Google will list all Web pages that mention “bush”. Google will guess that you’re mainly interested in the British rock band called “Bush” or President George W. Bush, so it will begin by listing Web pages about them. Google will also mention Web pages about the Bush School (a prep school in Seattle) and the Bush Foundation (founded by Archibald & Edith Bush), and eventually many other people named Bush, a discothèque in Belgium called “La Bush”, any plant called a “bush”, and pubic hair (for which the slang word is “bush”).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google searches for just the words you requested. For example, if you search for “airline”, Google will list Web pages that contain the word “airline” but not Web pages that contain just 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).

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.

Here’s another way to get a map. Go to:

Type an address. Press Enter.

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

Click “Images” (which is near the top-right corner). In the search box, type what topic you want the picture to be about. Press Enter.

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

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

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

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: “”.

Censor 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 “Settings” (which is at the screen’s bottom-right corner) then “Search settings” then put a check mark in “Filter explicit results” (by clicking there) then the “Save” button (which you’ll see when you scroll down) then press Enter.

Translate Google can translate 80 languages (English, Spanish, French, and many others). Go to:

You see 2 big boxes.

Above the left big box (which is white), you see 3 languages (such as “English” and “Spanish” and “French”); to see other languages, click the “”. Click the language you’re translating from.

Above the right big box (which is yellow), click the language you’re translating to.

What text do you want to translate? Type it in the left big box (or copy it there by using copy-and-paste).

If you type words (or sentences or paragraphs), their translation appears immediately in the right box. To hear the computer’s voice say the translation out loud, tap the right box’s Listen button (which looks like a speaker).

To translate a whole Web page instead, do this:

In the left box, type the Web page’s address (such as, or copy the address there by using copy-and-paste. Then tap the blue “Translate” button. You’ll see the whole page translated.

The translations are done by Google’s robots (which are computers). They make many translation mistakes but give you at least a rough idea of how to translate.

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 “” below it then click “Cached”. 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 runs 3 search engines simultaneously (,, and and combines their results into a single list.

Search yippy The most advanced metasearch site was It was invented by 3 scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In 2010, it was sold to Yippy, which renamed It shows you the combined list of results (based mainly on and 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 these clusters (which are also called “clouds”) to choose from:

photos, health care, Iran, blogs&video&events&groups, Mandela, freedom, conservative, Israel, Michelle Obama, weather, Obama supports, Hillary, uncle, Obama campaign, committee&lawyer-with-little-tax-experience, Obama nominees, Muslim, transcript, Obama urges, politics news summaries, gun, immigration, Obama pays tribute, anti-Obama, approval rating, failure, review, won politics, alliance, mortgage

If you click a “+” 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”, 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 invents clusters for your results. Amazing!

Subject-tree method

Go to That Website was called the Directory of Mozilla but is now called the Open Directory Project (ODP). You see this list of broad topics:

arts, business, computers, games, health, home, kids&teens, news, recreation, reference, regional, science, shopping, society, sports

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 100,000 volunteers. It organizes 5 million of the Web’s best sites. AOL funded that site and owns it.

Address-box method

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

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

Topic                    Best Web site



phone numbers


driving directions



debunk rumors

classified ads

short movies

(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 (“”) 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:


domain   Meaning

.com         USA commercial company

.org          USA organization (typically non-profit)

.gov         USA government (typically federal)

.mil           USA military

.edu         USA educational institution

.net          USA network resource (typically ISP)

.us            USA other (typically local government)

.ar            Argentina

.au            Australia

.br            Brazil

.ca            Canada

.ch            Confoederacio Helvetica (Switzerland)

.cn            China

.es            España (Spain)

.fi             Finland

.fr             France

.de           Deutschland (Germany)

.dk           Denmark

.hk            Hong Kong

.ie             Ireland

.il                 Israel

.in             India

.it             Italy

.jp            Japan

.kr            Korea (South)

.mx           Mexico

.nl             Netherlands (Holland)

.no           Norway

.nz            New Zealand

.ph           Philippines

.ru            Russia

.se            Sweden

.tv            Tuvalu (South Pacific islands)

.tw            Taiwan

.uk            United Kingdom (Britain & N. Ireland)

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

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

Type each address carefully:

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

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

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


Best sites

To enrich your life, go to the best Websites. Here they are.…

Links is my own site. It contains info about the Secret Guide to Computers & Tricky Living. By clicking the links in the first pink box, you and your friends can read parts of the Secret Guide to Computer & Tricky Living free, and you can also jump to the other sites recommended in this chapter.

General searches 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 At the screen’s center, near the bottom, you see this menu bar:

News                               World                       Local                        Finance

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 and then clicking “More”, you can use this shortcut: go to Yahoo News (, which divides the news into these categories:

top stories, most popular, local news, world, U.S. news, politics, business, science, technology, health, entertainment, travel, sports, odd news, opinion

For details about today’s stock market, go to then click “Finance” (which is at the screen’s left edge) or use this shortcut: go to Yahoo Finance ( 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 (, 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:

top stories, world, U.S., business, sci/tech, entertainment, sports, health, spotlight


To find out the weather, go to (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:

Overview  Hourly  Tomorrow  Weekend  5-Day  10-Day  Month  Map

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:

Go to, which is run by the U.S. government. You see a map of the U.S., showing the time zones. On the map, click the place whose time you want.

For time in other countries, do this:

Go to Click in the “Search for city” box (near the screen’s left edge). Start typing the name of the city whose time you want. Below your typing, you see a list of cities that match what you’ve typed so far. (For example, if you type “Mos”, the list will include “Moscow, Russia” and “Moss, Norway” and “Mossoró, Brazil” and “Mosul, Iraq”.) Click the city you want.

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.

Phone numbers

For info about who has what phone number, go to You see these tabs:

Find a business   Find people   Reverse phone   Reverse address  Area & ZIP codes

Do this:

Click “Find a business” if you know the business’s name (and state) and want its phone number & address.

Click “Find people” if you know a person’s last name and want the phone number & address — or you know an address and want names (and addresses and phone numbers) of all neighbors.

Click “Reverse phone” if you know a phone number and want to know what person or business has it.

Click “Reverse address” if you know an address and want to know what person or business lives there and the phone number.

Click “Area & ZIP codes” if you know a city and want to find its area code & ZIP code — or you know the area code or ZIP code and want to find which cities have it.

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:

Since many people decline to list their full names in the phonebook, and since many people aren’t sure whether to list their formal names or their nicknames, try typing the first name’s first letter instead of the full first name — or leave the first name blank. If you think the person might have moved, leave the city blank (and type just the state).


The Internet lets you explore the whole world!

Maps The best way to see maps online is to go to Google Maps (

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:

Move your mouse until its pointer (which looks like a white hand) is at the spot on the map where you want more details; then rotate the mouse’s wheel away from you (or double-click). If the map isn’t centered the way you like, drag the map (by holding down the mouse’s left button while you move the mouse). If you keep repeating that process, you’ll eventually find a map showing the individual streets, unless you pick a rural area or third-world country. Another way to get a map of a location is to click in the white “Search Maps” box then type the location’s address (or as much of it as you know) then press Enter.

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 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:

Click in the list of turns where it says to turn onto that road. Then click “Avoid this Step”. That forces the computer to find an alternative route.

To print the directions onto paper, do this:

Click “Print” (which is near the screen’s top-left corner). If you want to add a close-up map of any of the turns, click that turn’s “Show Map”.

Click “Print Without Advertisement” (which is near the screen’s top-right corner) then “Print Page as Shown” (at the screen’s top-right corner). Turn the printer on. Press Enter. The printer will print the directions. Afterwards, close the window (by clicking its X), so you return to the previous window.

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 (, 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:

introduction, geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, transnational issues

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 (

Of the major airlines, Southwest Airlines ( and Jet Blue ( tend to have the lowest prices. For other airlines, try going to (a consortium of 20 major airlines), though Orbitz doesn’t handle Southwest, American Airlines, and Delta.

Reputable references

The Internet contains many reputable references, which you can use, free!

Encyclopedia is the world’s biggest encyclopedia — and it’s free!

It includes over 4,406,000 articles written in English, 1,712,000 in Dutch, 1,663,000 in German, 1,604,000 in Swedish, 1,450,000 in French, 1,085,000 in Italian, 1,071,000 in Russian, 1,064,000 in Spanish, 1,016,000 in Polish, 959,000 in Waray-Waray (spoken in the Philippines), 892,000 in Cebuano (spoken in the Philippines), 887,000 in Japanese, 884,000 in Vietnamese, 806,000 in Portuguese, 739,000 in Chinese, 476,00 in Ukranian, 417,000 in Catalan (spoken on the Spanish-French border), 402,000 in Norwegian, and many in other languages (287 languages altogether), making a total of over 30 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.

To edit an article yourself, click “Edit” (which is at the screen’s top) while you’re reading the article. (Exception: if the article is on a controversial topic that’s often vandalized, such as “Obama” or “France” or “abortion”, the article is locked so “Edit” is invisible.)

The edits you suggest will be reviewed by other editors, to make sure your suggestions are academically correct, appropriately footnoted, unbiased, and free of any sales pitches — and you’re not a vandal. The computer keeps track of who did which editing.

Some articles begin with a warning that the article needs further editing.

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 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 (

Bogus health claims, from marketers of supplements and “natural cures,” are called “quackery”. To find out which health claims are bogus (false), go to

Tutorials 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 “ Search Results”), which shows’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, 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.…

Click one of these rumor categories:

autos, business, Cokelore, college, computers, crime, critters, Disney, embarrass, fauxtos, food, fraud&scams, glurge, history, holidays, horror, humor, inboxer rebellion, language, legal, lost legends, love, luck, media matters, medical, military, movies, music, old wives’ tales, politics, pregnant, quotes, racial rumors, radio & TV, religion, risqué business, science, sports, toxins, travel, weddings, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina

Then click an underlined subcategory. You’ll see a list of rumors. Each rumor has a ball in front of it: if the ball is green, the rumor is true; if the ball is red, the rumor is false; if the ball has a different color, the rumor isn’t simply “true” or “false”.

If you click the rumor’s underlined word, you’ll see the rumor’s details.

Here’s the researcher’s method.…

Click in the Search box. Type the rumor’s main words (then press Enter). You see a list of rumors containing those words. Click the rumor that interests you. You’ll see the rumor’s details.

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 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:

Overview                  People                   Competition                    Financials

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, click in the box under “Find home values and listings”, type the home’s address, and press Enter. You’ll see:

a map or photo of the neighborhood

Zillow’s estimate (Zestimate) of what the home is worth (based partly on its assessed value and partly on what nearby homes have recently sold for); Zillow’s estimate is close to what your home will sell for if your home is normal (not weird or recently altered) and your town has kept accurate property records

your home’s details (year built and number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square feet); if you click the underlined address above those details, you’ll see more details

Lawns For advice on caring for your lawn, go to a Web site run by the University of Illinois and called Lawn Challenge (

It lets you click on 8 lessons:

1. Know Your Lawn Grasses

2. Dealing with Shady Sites

3. Seeding and Sodding Lawns

4. Watering, Mowing & Fertilizing

5. Thatch and Lawn Renovation

6. Weed Problems

7. Grubs & Other Insect Pests

8. Managing Home Lawn Diseases

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

Each lesson contains several pages of well-written text. (Click “>” 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 and follow the links.

Taxes For help with federal taxes, contact the Internal Revenue Service ( To get a tax form or instructions, click one of the forms mentioned at the screen’s left edge or do this:

Click “Forms and Publications>>”. You see a list of popular forms and publications. If you want one of them, click it; if not, click “Form and Instruction number (PDF)” then click in the Find box then type the number of what you want and press Enter then click the underlined item you want.

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 ( It answers several questions.…

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

Click “FIND A ZIP CODE” (which is at the screen’s top left corner). You see a form that has 5 empty boxes (called “Address 1,” “Address 2,” “City,” “State,” and “ZIP Code”). Fill those boxes as best you can, then click “Submit”.

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

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

Click “CALCULATE POSTAGE” (which is at the screen’s top). If the package is going to the U.S., click the “Go” below “Calculate Domestic Postage”; if the package is going to a different country, click the “Go” below “Calculate International Postage”.

The computer will ask you a series of questions then tell you the correct postage. (One of the questions is the package’s weight; if you’re not sure, give an approximation, and the computer will give you an approximate answer, which you’ll need to double-check by going to the post office and using the post office’s scale.)

You’ll be surprised at the range of prices and choices, depending on how fast you need the package to travel, what type of goods are inside the package, and how thick & long the package is.

Classified ads

Craig’s List (, 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:

50 million new classified ads (of which 1 million are job ads)

over 50 million people reading the ads (making a total of 20 billion clicks)

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 —

community, personals, housing, for sale, services, jobs, gigs, résumés, discussion forums,

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:

Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington 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 You get each bank’s official rates and phone numbers. But beware of these limitations:

When shows you a table comparing bank rates, it doesn’t show you the best rates first. To see the best rates first, click the “APY” button, which makes the table be sorted by APY rate. doesn’t mention promotional rates (great temporary rates advertised to new customers for crazy-length terms, such as “7-month CD”) and negotiated rates (where a bank helps its old customers by matching rates from competitors), so ask your local bank about better deals!

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

Housing To buy, sell, or rent a home, use the classified ads at Craig’s List ( but also look at the advice and listings at MSN Real Estate ( To estimate what a house is worth, go to, 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 (But to buy this book quickly and cheaply, phone me at 603-666-6644 for better deals.)

Eyeglasses To buy eyeglasses cheaply, go to

You pay just $6.95 for a complete set of glasses. That price includes high-index lenses with anti-scratch coating, UV protection, lens-edge polishing & beveling, frame, carrying case, and cleaning cloth. Add a shipping charge of just $4.95 per order (regardless of how many glasses are in the order). If you want special lens treatments or special frames, you pay a surcharge, but it’s small. Before ordering, you must find out what kind of glasses you want (by getting a prescription or making your own crude measurements). The glasses are custom-made for you in China and shipped by air from China to California to you.

Jobs To get a job, look at the ads at Craig’s List ( but also visit and 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, which has 50,000 businesses for sale.


The Internet has lots of info about arts.

YouTube One of the most popular Websites is 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:

entertainment, music, news & politics, film & animation, sports, how-to & style, science & technology, people & blogs, non-profits & activism, comedy, gaming

Two other categories are:

most viewed (the movies watched recently by the most people)

top favorited (the movies voted “favorite” recently by the most people)

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, 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 “”. If you know a movie’s ID, you can see the movie by doing one of these activities:

type its ID after “” and press Enter

type its ID in YouTube’s search box, press Enter, then click the sample frame

type its title in YouTube’s search box, press Enter, click a sample frame, then verify the ID

go to my video site ( and find a link to the movie

For example, try one of these amazing movies:

Warning: “l” is lower-case L, “1” is the digit 1, “I” is capital I, “0” is the digit zero, “O” is capital O

ID                         Title                        Contents

v6iE2j-e6m8        Free Lunch                tale of a man who gets free lunches by dating

tSdELZxEnHY    Strangers Again         alas, a relationship goes through 6 stages then breaks up

sak-EW81qiU     Na Ponta dos Pés      ballet through a Brazilian slum

sA_xQtDC6S0       Hedgehog in the Fog  Russian tale of a hedgehog

nQ798THmR5Y The Devil’s Trill        baroque music played by sexy pop violist Vanessa Mae

gXagKiuaL_4         Mozart Files           young girls trying to play Mozart

rRgXUFnfKIY       Beethoven 5th            Beethoven’s 5th symphony, illustrated with colored blocks

YXjrUGv5b94     The Competition    Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto, abridged to 6 minutes

eG1Olvh7vCU    Chopin Ballade #1     pianist Horowitz plays Chopin ballade, while you see score

XhnRIuGZ_dc    Horowitz Plays          pianist Horowitz plays the same ballade, while you see him

gWrqtJTEmBk      The Minute Waltz      pianists play the both halves of Chopin’s waltz simultaneously

eTYibXUd3P0    The Concert              Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, abridged to 12 minutes

LfSYwJuq3Vg    Dvorak Quintet pt 1  Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plays piano

4Ytj-I28nt8       Dvorak Quintet pt 2  part 2 of Condoleezza Rice’s performance

elQVmzhk2gA      Dvorak Quintet         same piece performed by 5 music teachers from 5 countries

F7CnSPMPt68      Seven Year Itch         Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto seducing Marilyn Monroe

smTbMMn1V0o Second Waltz             André Rieu joyously playing Shostakovich’s second waltz

HP1WFiNCCZU     Piano Quintet            frenzied musicians playing Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet

jZ5EX4VF9EI        Red Violin Concert violin orgasm, from the movie “Red Violin”

fYy2p_0DVMU      Hail Mary                  song that made Pomplamoose a famous 2-person band

OvYZMqQffQE      My Favorite Things   Pomplamoose’s creative version of “Sound of Music” song

vsMIuuV05uc    La Vie en Rose          Pomplamoose’s creative version of Edith Piaf’s French song

qrO4YZeyl0I         Bad Romance            Lady Gaga’s song about destructive love (R rated)

l3WPKznFvfk        Lady Pasta                parody of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”

niqrrmev4mA    Alejandro                  Lady Gaga’s other song about destructive love (R rated)

nroUJEplPnY         Alejandro Translation   critique of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro”

YCVMuevcCvY     Zombie Love Song    song of a zombie who wants to steal your heart — and brains

LbkNxYaULBw     What song is this?     national anthem backwards, so “brave” sounds like “vayrb”

nonVj7odbmU       Homecoming Queen  song from 1984, when “guns in school” were just fun fantasy

zqfFrCUrEbY         My Generation          the elderly reinterpret The Who’s “My Generation”

DMGlQvPBQE0     Ed Roll’D Trololo     on censored Russian TV, singer hides cowboy song’s words

X2BEhk1fqZo     Je Suis Jalouse          French woman jealous when her boyfriend’s ex-lover visits

Mg9APRGaUS0     HappySlip Jingle    “Jingle Bells” sung by a split personality

x-ihI5_Vg6A          Nixon on Jack Paar   Richard Nixon (Vice President then President) plays piano

Ym0hZG-zNOk     Beat It                       Michael Jackson’s video about avoiding fights

ZcJjMnHoIBI        Eat It                         Weird Al Yankovic’s scene-by-scene parody of “Beat It”

osSeY9Xx3Gg    Pancreas                    Weird Al Yankovic’s parody of Beach Boys style

JdxkVQy7QLM      Pachelbel Rant       the only good music video about hating music

1Lj_lUai3ZU          Children’s Song         hey, kids, watch this fun video while mommy slits her throat

Movie database  To find out details about famous movies, go to the Internet Movie Database ( then do this:

Click in the white box that’s next to “go”. Type your favorite topic (for example, type the name of an actor, actress, director, or movie) then press Enter. The computer will show you a list of underlined topics similar to what you typed; click the topic you want.

You’ll see lots of info about that topic.

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

The Website is extremely well linked. For example, if you look up a movie, you see links to each member of the cast and staff who created the movie; each such link takes you to a biography of that person. 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:

Method 1 Go to, which has videos, and see whether anybody made a video about your favorite music.

Method 2 Go to In the “Search for Music” box (which is in the screen’s middle), type the name of your favorite song, composition, performer, composer, or musical style (and press Enter). You see a list of relevant musical tracks; click the track you want then “Play Song”. To switch to different music, click in the search box (which is now near the top-right corner and shows a magnifying glass), then type what you want.

Method 3 Go to Click in the “artist or song” box. Type the name of your favorite song, composition, performer, composer, or musical style (and press Enter). The computer will invent a radio station that plays music similar to what you requested. You’ll hear the station’s first song. If you want to skip to the next song, click „„|. Under each song’s icon, you see a thumbs-down button and a thumbs-up button; click one of those buttons (or click “menu” then “I’m tired of this song”) to tell the computer whether you liked the song, so the computer learns what kind of songs you like most and adjusts the radio station to please you more.

Rap Dictionary When you listen to rap music, do you understand all the slang? If not, go to The Rap Dictionary (, 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 —

nouns, verbs, adjectives, interjections, gangs, geography

or “Artists” (which starts showing you the list of who’s who in the rap biz) or one of these artist categories:

groups, labels, MCs, DJs, producers

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 (

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

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


To solve a math problem, go to 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:


x = 7

(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 —

How old was Queen Elizabeth II when Elvis Presley was born?

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:


8 years 8 months 18 days

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:

convert $5 to euros

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:

mathematics, statistics & data analysis, physics, chemistry, materials, engineering, astronomy, earth sciences, life sciences, computational sciences, units & measures, dates & times, weather, places & geography, people & history, culture & media, music, words & linguistics, sports & games, colors, money & finance, socioeconomic data, health & medicine, food & nutrition, education, organizations, transportation, technological world, Web & computer systems

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 ( The screen’s left edge shows this list of 20 topics:

animals, bugs, celebrities, crimes, food&drink, geography, history, inventors, medical, music, myths, plants, science&technology, sports, strange laws, surveys&statistics, TV& movie words, words, world records, other

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 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:

Title                                      Year Message

This Land                              2004  2004 Presidential campaign was goofy

Big Box Mart                          2005  Walmart is scary

Nuckin’ Futs!                         2006  2006 was scary — fuckin’ nuts!

What We Call the News       2007  TV news is just fluff

Star Spangled Banner              2007  Presidential speeches are goofy

Time for Some Campaignin’   2008  2008 Presidential campaign was goofy

He’s Barack Obama                2009  We want Obama to be Superman

For other political humor, go to Political Humor (

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 The Website says:

The Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it.

Computer industry

For questions about the computer industry’s dominant company (Microsoft) and its products, go directly to Microsoft’s own Web site, 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



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 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!

IE9&10&11 The Stop button is an X at the address box’s end.

IE 8                 The Stop button is a red X on a gray background.

IE 7                The Stop button is a red X on a white background.

Firefox            The Stop button is an X that appears at the address box’s end.

Chrome           The Stop button is an X that appears left of the address box.

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:

If the computer has nearly finished loading the new page,

the computer shows you most of the new page.

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

the computer shows you the previous page.

How to try again

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

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

On the other hand, if you find yourself with most, but not all, of the new page on the screen, and you insist on seeing the entire new page, tell your ISP to try again to transmit the current page, by doing this:

IE 9&10&11             Click the Refresh button (an arrow circling to the right).

IE 7&8                      Click the Refresh button (a pair of curved arrows).

Firefox and Chrome Click the Reload button (an arrow circling to the right).

Change the home page

When your computer gets IE or Firefox for the first time, here’s what happens:

IE 10&11 make the home page be, adjusted to your computer.

IE 7&8&9 make the home page be the computer manufacturer’s website.

Firefox makes the home page be altered for Firefox.

Chrome makes the home page show a list of pages you’d like.

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 10&11 If you want the home page to show a list of pages you’ve visited frequently, do this:

Click the Tools button (the bumpy-circle gear at the screen’s right edge) then “Internet options” then “Use new tab” then “OK”.

If instead you want a particular page to become the home page, do this:

Get that page onto your screen (so you can admire it). Click the Tools button (the bumpy-circle gear at the screen’s right edge) then “Internet options” then “Use current” then “OK”.

IE 9 If you want the home page to be just a blank page (and it’s not a blank page yet), do this:

Click the Tools button (the bumpy-circle gear at the screen’s right edge) then “Internet options” then “Use blank” then “OK”.

If instead you want a particular page to become the home page, do this:

Get that page onto your screen (so you can admire it). Click the Tools button (the bumpy-circle gear at the screen’s right edge) then “Internet options” then “Use current” then “OK”.

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:

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, do this:

Get that page onto your screen (so you can admire it). 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:

Get that page onto your screen (so you can admire it). Click the orange “Firefox” button then “Options” then “General”. Make sure the “When Firefox starts” box says “Show my home page”; if it doesn’t, click the box’s down-arrow then click “Show my home page”. Click “Use Current Page” then OK.

If you want to avoid having Firefox start at a home page, do this:

Click the orange “Firefox” button then “Options” then “General”. Click the “When Firefox starts” box’s down-arrow. In the future, when you restart Firefox (by clicking the Start button then “Mozilla Firefox”), what will you want Firefox to do? If you want Firefox to always begin with a blank page, click “Show a blank page” now; if you want Firefox to always begin by continuing where you left off in your previous session, click “Show my windows and tabs from last time” instead. Click OK.

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”). If you try to view that page again, the computer checks whether the page’s copy is still in the cache. If it is, the computer puts that copy onto your screen, because using that copy is faster than making your ISP retransmit the page.

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

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

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

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.