The Everyday Internet All-in-one Desk Reference for Dummies

The Everyday Internet All-in-one Desk Reference for Dummies
The Everyday
Internet
ALL-IN-ONE DESK REFERENCE
FOR
DUMmIES
‰
by Peter Weverka
The Everyday
Internet
ALL-IN-ONE DESK REFERENCE
FOR
DUMmIES
‰
The Everyday
Internet
ALL-IN-ONE DESK REFERENCE
FOR
DUMmIES
‰
by Peter Weverka
The Everyday Internet All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies®
Published by
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
www.wiley.com
Copyright © 2005 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Published by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Published simultaneously in Canada
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2005923066
ISBN-13: 978-0-7645-8875-4
ISBN-10: 0-7645-8875-3
Manufactured in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
10/RY/QU/QV/IN
About the Author
Peter Weverka is the bestselling author of several For Dummies books,
including Microsoft Office 2003 All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies and
Microsoft Money 2005 For Dummies. He has written a grand total of 25 computer books. His humorous articles and stories — none related to computers,
thankfully — have appeared in Harper’s, SPY, and other magazines for
grownups.
Dedication
For Aiko Sofia and Henry Gabriel.
Author’s Acknowledgments
This book owes a lot to many hard-working people at the offices of John
Wiley & Sons in Indiana. I would especially like to thank Steve Hayes for his
good advice and for giving me the opportunity to write this and other books
for Wiley.
The Internet is a big subject. I called on many friends and acquaintances to
help me illuminate the far corners of the Internet. Thank you very much
Jack Arnoux, John Boit, John Calder, Mona Dahl, Phil Gough, Kenneth Howard,
Rob Rummel-Hudson, Michael Taylor, and Valentine Wannop.
Many thanks as well go to Beth Taylor, this book’s project editor, for her
diligence and grace under pressure, and John Edwards for copyediting the
manuscript with so much care and attention. I would also like to thank Lee
Musick, the technical editor, for following in my footsteps and making sure
this book is indeed accurate. The witty cartoons on the pages of this book
were drawn and captioned by Rich Tennant, and I thank him for it. I would
also like to thank Anne Leach for writing the index.
Finally, thanks go to my family — Sofia, Henry, and Addie — for tolerating my
odd working hours and my vampire demeanor at daybreak.
Publisher’s Acknowledgments
We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located
at www.dummies.com/register/.
Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:
Acquisitions, Editorial, and
Media Development
Composition Services
Project Editor: Beth Taylor
Acquisitions Editor: Steven Hayes
Copy Editor: John Edwards
Technical Editor: Lee Musick
Editorial Manager: Leah Cameron
Project Coordinator: Nancee Reeves
Layout and Graphics: Andrea Dahl,
Denny Hager, Stephanie D. Jumper,
Barry Offringa, Melanee Prendergast,
Heather Ryan
Proofreaders: John Greenough, Leeann Harney
Indexer: Anne Leach
Media Development Supervisor:
Richard Graves
Editorial Assistant: Amanda Foxworth
Cartoons: Rich Tennant (www.the5thwave.com)
Publishing and Editorial for Technology Dummies
Richard Swadley, Vice President and Executive Group Publisher
Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher
Mary Bednarek, Executive Acquisitions Director
Mary C. Corder, Editorial Director
Publishing for Consumer Dummies
Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher
Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director
Composition Services
Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services
Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services
Contents at a Glance
Introduction ................................................................1
Book I: Getting Started .................................................9
Chapter 1: Getting Acquainted with the Internet ........................................................11
Chapter 2: Choosing an Internet Service ......................................................................25
Chapter 3: Setting Up Your Internet Connections .......................................................31
Chapter 4: Protecting Your Privacy and Security ........................................................39
Chapter 5: Using America Online ..................................................................................57
Chapter 6: Getting the Plug-Ins You Need ....................................................................67
Chapter 7: The Internet for Children and Parents ......................................................75
Book II: Exploring the Internet.....................................85
Chapter 1: Browsing around the Internet .....................................................................87
Chapter 2: A Look at Different Browsers ....................................................................103
Chapter 3: Strategies for Internet Searching ..............................................................113
Chapter 4: Advanced Tools for Scholars and Researchers ......................................135
Chapter 5: The Internet as a Reference Library ........................................................149
Chapter 6: Read All about It .........................................................................................157
Book III: E-Mailing ...................................................171
Chapter 1: A Quick Introduction to E-Mailing ............................................................173
Chapter 2: E-Mailing with Outlook ..............................................................................181
Chapter 3: E-Mailing with Outlook Express ................................................................209
Chapter 4: Yahoo! and Other Web-Based E-Mail Services ........................................223
Chapter 5: Only You Can Prevent Spam .....................................................................237
Book IV: Quick Communicating..................................249
Chapter 1: Instant Messaging .......................................................................................251
Chapter 2: Blogs and Online Journals .........................................................................261
Chapter 3: Mailing Lists and Message Boards ...........................................................273
Chapter 4: Newsgroups and the Usenet .....................................................................283
Chapter 5: Joining, Starting, and Managing a Yahoo! Group ....................................305
Chapter 6: Chatting Online ...........................................................................................325
Chapter 7: Free Web Sites at Yahoo! GeoCities ..........................................................331
Chapter 8: Making Friends and Connections Online ................................................349
Chapter 9: Using Your PC as a Telephone ..................................................................361
Book V: Your Personal Finances .................................367
Chapter 1: Searching for Financial Information .........................................................369
Chapter 2: Monitoring and Tracking Investments ....................................................383
Chapter 3: Banking and Paying Bills Online ...............................................................393
Book VI: Bargain Shopping........................................401
Chapter 1: Searching for Bargains ...............................................................................403
Chapter 2: Buying at an Online Auction .....................................................................413
Chapter 3: Using PayPal ................................................................................................429
Chapter 4: Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar ................................................435
Book VII: Selling on the Internet................................445
Chapter 1: Selling Items on eBay .................................................................................447
Chapter 2: Selling Items Online ....................................................................................457
Chapter 3: Sending It to the Buyer ..............................................................................463
Book VIII: Hobbies and Pastimes ...............................469
Chapter 1: Playing Games Online ................................................................................471
Chapter 2: Planning Your Next Vacation .....................................................................479
Chapter 3: Let Me Entertain You .................................................................................497
Chapter 4: The Internet for Music Lovers ..................................................................509
Chapter 5: Buying and Playing Music with iTunes ....................................................517
Chapter 6: Genealogy Online .......................................................................................531
Book IX: Appendixes .................................................541
Appendix A: Signing Up for a Yahoo! ID ......................................................................543
Appendix B: Getting a .NET Passport .........................................................................551
Appendix C: Getting a Google Account ......................................................................555
Glossary of Internet Terms ..........................................................................................557
Index .......................................................................571
Table of Contents
Introduction .................................................................1
What’s in This Book, Anyway? .......................................................................1
Book I: Getting Started ..........................................................................1
Book II: Exploring the Internet .............................................................2
Book III: E-Mailing ..................................................................................2
Book IV: Quick Communicating ...........................................................3
Book V: Your Personal Finances ..........................................................3
Book VI: Bargain Shopping ...................................................................4
Book VII: Selling on the Internet ..........................................................4
Book VIII: Hobbies and Pastimes .........................................................4
Book IX: Appendixes .............................................................................5
How I Selected Web Sites for This Book .......................................................5
Foolish Assumptions ......................................................................................6
Conventions Used in This Book ....................................................................6
Icons Used in This Book .................................................................................7
Good Luck, Reader! .........................................................................................7
Book I: Getting Started ..................................................9
Contents at a Glance .....................................................................................10
Chapter 1: Getting Acquainted with the Internet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
What Is the Internet? ....................................................................................11
How the Internet Works ................................................................................14
A mercifully brief history of the Internet .........................................14
The World Wide Web ...........................................................................15
Web addresses .....................................................................................17
IP addresses .........................................................................................18
Finding a Web site’s IP address .........................................................20
How Web Pages Work ...................................................................................21
Chapter 2: Choosing an Internet Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
The Equipment and Software You Need .....................................................25
Broadband versus Dialup Connections ......................................................26
Types of Connections ...................................................................................27
Choosing an Internet Service Provider ......................................................28
Monthly service charge ......................................................................28
The setup fee .......................................................................................28
Long-distance dialup ...........................................................................28
Online time ...........................................................................................28
Server space for your Web pages ......................................................28
Spam blocking and virus protection .................................................29
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The Everyday Internet All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies
Length-of-service contracts ...............................................................29
Technical help ......................................................................................29
Chapter 3: Setting Up Your Internet Connections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31
Connecting with a Dialup Modem ...............................................................31
Before you begin ..................................................................................32
Dialup connections for Windows XP users ......................................33
Dialup connections for Windows 98, 2000, and Me users ..............34
Connecting with a DSL or Cable Modem ....................................................34
Before you begin ..................................................................................35
Making the connection .......................................................................35
Setting Up an E-Mail Account ......................................................................36
Chapter 4: Protecting Your Privacy and Security . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39
Preventing a Virus Attack .............................................................................39
Only you can prevent viruses from spreading ................................40
Differentiating types of viruses ..........................................................42
How virus infections spread ..............................................................42
Looking at antivirus software ............................................................43
Making Sure Your Copy of Windows Is Up to Date ...................................46
Checking whether Windows is up to date — and updating ...........46
Choosing how to update your copy of Windows ............................47
Protecting Your Computer with a Firewall .................................................49
A look at third-party firewalls ............................................................49
Turning the Windows XP firewall on or off ......................................50
What to Do about Spyware and Adware ....................................................51
Preventing Identification Theft ....................................................................53
Chapter 5: Using America Online . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57
Installing AOL ................................................................................................57
Signing on to AOL ..........................................................................................58
A Short Geography Lesson ..........................................................................59
Handling Incoming E-Mail ............................................................................60
Reading incoming mail .......................................................................60
Receiving a file .....................................................................................61
Managing your e-mail ..........................................................................62
Composing and Sending E-Mail ...................................................................63
Writing an e-mail ..................................................................................63
Replying to and forwarding messages ..............................................64
Sending a file ........................................................................................64
Maintaining an Address Book ......................................................................64
Exploring the Internet in AOL ......................................................................66
Chapter 6: Getting the Plug-Ins You Need . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67
Introducing Plug-Ins ......................................................................................67
A Roster of Plug-In Programs .......................................................................68
Acrobat Reader ....................................................................................68
Flash Player ..........................................................................................70
Table of Contents
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Microsoft Office Programs .................................................................71
QuickTime Player ................................................................................71
RealPlayer .............................................................................................72
Windows Media Player .......................................................................74
Chapter 7: The Internet for Children and Parents
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75
Supervising Kids on the Internet ................................................................75
Talking to Children about the Internet .......................................................76
Looking at filtering and monitoring software ..................................77
Discovering search engines designed for children .........................78
Finding Parenting Help on the Internet ......................................................79
Finding a School for Your Child ...................................................................81
Kids’ Health ....................................................................................................81
Getting Help with Your Homework .............................................................82
Finding Colleges and College Scholarships ...............................................83
Book II: Exploring the Internet .....................................85
Contents at a Glance .....................................................................................86
Chapter 1: Browsing around the Internet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .87
Navigation Basics ..........................................................................................87
Visiting a Web site whose address you know ..................................88
Clicking hyperlinks to get from page to page ..................................89
Revisiting Web pages you’ve been to before ...................................90
Choosing Your Home Page ...........................................................................91
Bookmarking Your Favorite Web Pages .....................................................93
Going to a page you bookmarked ......................................................93
Bookmarking a favorite page .............................................................94
Renaming, deleting, and managing bookmarks ...............................95
Backing up your bookmarks ..............................................................97
Social Bookmarking, or Sharing Bookmarks with Others ........................98
Downloading and Copying Files from the Internet .................................100
Chapter 2: A Look at Different Browsers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103
Comparing the Different Browsers ...........................................................103
Customizing Your Browser ........................................................................106
Making the text easier to read .........................................................106
Wrestling with the toolbars and status bar ...................................108
Preventing and controlling pop-ups ................................................109
Choosing a default search engine ...................................................111
Chapter 3: Strategies for Internet Searching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .113
Finding Out about Search Engines ............................................................113
How directories work ........................................................................114
How standard search engines work ................................................117
How meta-search engines work .......................................................120
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The Everyday Internet All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies
Which Search Engine Should I Use? ..........................................................121
Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search ...................................123
Formulating your search ..................................................................123
Avoiding Booleans with advanced search commands .................125
Using Boolean operators for searching ..........................................125
More techniques for narrowing a search .......................................127
Searching the “Invisible Web” ....................................................................132
Evaluating Whether Information at a Web Site Is Valid ..........................132
Chapter 4: Advanced Tools for Scholars and Researchers . . . . . . .135
Discovering Specialty Search Engines ......................................................135
Finding Out about the Google Toolbar .....................................................138
Installing the Google Toolbar ...........................................................138
Using the Google Toolbar .................................................................139
Making Google the Internet Explorer default searcher ................140
Searching for Images, Audio, and Video ...................................................142
Asking a Google Expert ..............................................................................144
Exploring the Google Answers Directory .......................................145
Logging in to your Google Answers account .................................146
Asking a question ..............................................................................146
Online Translation Services .......................................................................146
Chapter 5: The Internet as a Reference Library . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .149
Finding General-Purpose Information ......................................................149
Taking Advantage of Online Reference Books .........................................150
Encyclopedias ....................................................................................150
Dictionaries ........................................................................................152
Thesauruses .......................................................................................152
Looking up quotations ......................................................................153
Finding Lost Friends and Lovers ...............................................................154
Looking Up Phone Numbers and Addresses ...........................................154
Chapter 6: Read All about It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .157
Gathering the News with an Aggregator ..................................................157
How aggregators work ......................................................................158
Subscribing to a Web site .................................................................160
Using the Bloglines aggregator ........................................................161
Using the Yahoo! aggregator ............................................................162
Finding RSS feeds with a search engine ..........................................164
Getting News Alerts from Google by E-Mail .............................................164
News Search Engines ..................................................................................166
Starting from a News Portal .......................................................................167
Reading Online Newspapers ......................................................................168
Getting the News from Abroad ..................................................................169
Table of Contents
xv
Book III: E-Mailing....................................................171
Contents at a Glance ...................................................................................172
Chapter 1: A Quick Introduction to E-Mailing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .173
Web-Based E-Mail and E-Mail Programs ...................................................173
Looking at E-Mail Addresses ......................................................................175
Discovering How E-Mail Is Sent and Delivered ........................................176
Compressing Files to Make Sending Them Easier ..................................177
Compressing files ..............................................................................177
Uncompressing files ..........................................................................179
Chapter 2: E-Mailing with Outlook . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .181
Finding Your Way Around Outlook ...........................................................181
Addressing and Sending E-Mail Messages ...............................................183
The basics: Sending an e-mail message ..........................................183
Addressing an e-mail message .........................................................185
Replying to and forwarding e-mail messages ................................186
Distribution lists for sending messages to groups ........................187
Sending a file along with a message ................................................189
Including a picture in an e-mail message .......................................190
Choosing which account to send messages with ..........................191
Comparing the Message Formats ..............................................................191
Receiving E-Mail Messages ........................................................................193
Getting your e-mail ............................................................................193
Being notified that e-mail has arrived .............................................194
Reading your e-mail in the Inbox window ......................................195
Handling Files That Were Sent to You .......................................................196
Maintaining a Happy and Healthy Contacts Folder ................................197
Entering a new contact in the Contacts folder ..............................197
Importing e-mail and addresses from another program ..............200
Techniques for Organizing E-Mail Messages ...........................................200
Flagging e-mail messages .................................................................201
Being reminded to take care of e-mail messages ..........................202
Earmarking messages as they arrive ..............................................203
Looking into the Different E-Mail Folders ................................................205
Moving e-mail messages to different folders .................................205
Creating a new folder for storing e-mail .........................................206
Deleting E-Mail Messages (and Contacts, Tasks, and Other Items) ......206
Finding and Backing Up Your Outlook File ..............................................207
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The Everyday Internet All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies
Chapter 3: E-Mailing with Outlook Express . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .209
A Short Geography Lesson ........................................................................209
Writing and Sending E-Mail Messages ......................................................211
Writing an e-mail message ................................................................211
Replying to and forwarding e-mail messages ................................213
Sending a file along with a message ................................................213
Sending a picture along with a message .........................................213
A Word about Mail-Sending Formats ........................................................214
Receiving and Reading Your E-Mail ..........................................................215
Reading your e-mail messages .........................................................215
Opening and saving files that were sent to you ............................216
Deleting Messages .......................................................................................216
Organizing Your E-Mail Messages .............................................................217
Creating a new folder ........................................................................218
Moving items into different folders .................................................219
Creating message rules .....................................................................219
Keeping the Addresses of Friends, Family, and Clients ..........................220
Entering names and addresses ........................................................220
Looking up names and addresses ...................................................221
Chapter 4: Yahoo! and Other Web-Based E-Mail Services . . . . . . .223
Why Have a Free Web-Based E-Mail Account? .........................................223
Looking at Some Web-Based E-Mail Services ..........................................224
Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail .....................................................226
Opening your Yahoo! mailbox ..........................................................226
Finding your way around the Yahoo! Mail windows .....................227
Reading your e-mail ..........................................................................228
Composing (and replying to) e-mail messages ..............................229
Sending a file ......................................................................................230
Receiving a file that someone sent to you .....................................231
Organizing your mail in folders .......................................................232
Collecting your mail from a conventional mail service ................234
Keeping an Address Book ................................................................235
Chapter 5: Only You Can Prevent Spam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .237
Looking at It from the Spammer’s Point of View .....................................238
How Spammers Obtain E-Mail Addresses ................................................239
Preventative Medicine for Spam ...............................................................240
Rules for preventing spam from reaching your mailbox ..............241
The secondary e-mail address strategy
for preventing spam ......................................................................244
Looking at Spam-Filtering Software ..........................................................245
Bayesian filtering software ...............................................................247
Challenge-response software ...........................................................247
Table of Contents
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Book IV: Quick Communicating ..................................249
Contents at a Glance ...................................................................................250
Chapter 1: Instant Messaging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .251
Introducing Instant Messaging ..................................................................251
Knowing How to Preserve Your Privacy ..................................................253
Using AOL Instant Messenger ....................................................................253
Using MSN Messenger ................................................................................255
Using Yahoo! Messenger .............................................................................257
Using ICQ ......................................................................................................258
Chapter 2: Blogs and Online Journals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .261
What Are Blogs and Online Journals? ......................................................261
What Makes for a Good Blog or Online Journal? ....................................264
Blog Search Engines and Directories ........................................................265
Free Web Sites for Creating Blogs and Online Journals .........................265
Running a Blog or Online Journal at Mótime ...........................................266
Signing up with Mótime ....................................................................267
Creating a new blog ...........................................................................267
Starting from the Control Center .....................................................268
Writing and editing blog entries ......................................................268
Putting links on your blog page .......................................................271
Chapter 3: Mailing Lists and Message Boards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .273
Trading Ideas on a Mailing List .................................................................273
Categories of mailing lists ................................................................274
Finding a mailing list .........................................................................274
Distinguishing between the list address
and administrative address ..........................................................275
Subscribing to a Mailing List .....................................................................278
Sending messages to a mailing list ..................................................278
Digesting and organizing the mail ...................................................278
Unsubscribing and other tasks ........................................................280
Spouting Your Opinion on a Message Board ...........................................280
Chapter 4: Newsgroups and the Usenet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .283
Introducing Newsgroups ............................................................................284
Figuring Out Newsgroup Names ................................................................285
Google versus the Newsreaders ................................................................286
Exploring Newsgroups with Google ..........................................................287
Searching for newsgroup postings ..................................................287
Subscribing to a newsgroup .............................................................288
Posting messages to a newsgroup ..................................................289
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Exploring Newsgroups with Outlook Express .........................................289
Connecting to a news server ...........................................................290
Downloading newsgroups to Outlook Express ..............................292
Exploring the different newsgroups ................................................293
Subscribing and unsubscribing .......................................................294
Getting the latest messages from a newsgroup .............................294
Reading and posting messages in newsgroups .............................295
Downloading Multimedia Files with a Binary Newsreader ....................296
Downloading binary files with Outlook Express ...........................298
Downloading binary files with Binary Boy .....................................299
Chapter 5: Joining, Starting, and Managing a Yahoo! Group . . . . . .305
Introducing Yahoo! Groups ........................................................................305
Finding and Joining a Yahoo! Group .........................................................307
Finding a group ..................................................................................307
Joining a Yahoo! group ......................................................................308
Visiting a group to which you belong .............................................309
Reading messages and downloading files and photos .................309
Changing how messages from a group are delivered ...................311
Leaving a Yahoo! Group ..............................................................................312
Posting a Message to a Group ...................................................................312
Sending Files and Photos to a Group ........................................................313
Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group ....................................................315
Before you begin . . . ..........................................................................315
Starting a Yahoo! group ....................................................................315
Customizing and managing a group ................................................318
Chapter 6: Chatting Online . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .325
Introducing Online Chats ...........................................................................325
Finding Out the Rules of the Road ............................................................327
Private, Web-Based Chat Services ............................................................327
Chatting on IRC ............................................................................................327
Finding and bookmarking channels ................................................328
Engaging in a chat .............................................................................330
Chapter 7: Free Web Sites at Yahoo! GeoCities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .331
Deciding on a Free Web-Hosting Service ..................................................332
A Few Design Considerations ....................................................................335
Ask yourself, “Who’s my audience?” ...............................................335
Be consistent from page to page ....................................................335
Use the home page as an introductory page to your site ............336
Divide your Web site into distinct topics ......................................336
Hyperlink your site to other sites on the Internet ........................336
Choose page backgrounds carefully ...............................................337
Table of Contents
xix
Write the text and assemble the graphics beforehand ................337
Avoid using too many gizmos ..........................................................337
Creating the Web Site ..................................................................................337
Building Your Site from the Web
Site Accounts Window ............................................................................339
Creating a page with a PageWizard .................................................340
Creating a page with PageBuilder ...................................................341
Constructing a Web Page with PageBuilder .............................................342
Choosing a background color or picture .......................................343
Entering text and headings on a Web page ....................................343
Putting hyperlinks on your Web pages ...........................................344
Putting a picture or photograph on a Web page ...........................345
Managing the Files ......................................................................................346
Submitting Your Web Site to Search Engines ...........................................347
Chapter 8: Making Friends and Connections Online . . . . . . . . . . . . .349
Social Networking .......................................................................................349
Finding New Friends in Your Town or City ..............................................354
Meeting new people at Meetup.com ...............................................354
Planning nighttime adventures at Upcoming.org ..........................356
Looking for Love in the Yahoo! Personals ................................................357
Searching for Mr. or Ms. Right .........................................................357
Submitting a profile to Yahoo! Personals .......................................358
If someone responds to your profile ...............................................359
Reuniting with Old Friends ........................................................................359
Chapter 9: Using Your PC as a Telephone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .361
Calling with a VoIP Service .........................................................................361
Free Telephone Calling with Skype ...........................................................363
Downloading and configuring the software ...................................364
Assembling a Contacts list ...............................................................365
Talking on the Skype phone .............................................................365
Guarding your privacy ......................................................................366
Book V: Your Personal Finances..................................367
Contents at a Glance ...................................................................................368
Chapter 1: Searching for Financial Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .369
Getting Lessons in How to Invest ..............................................................369
Devising an Investment Strategy ...............................................................370
Discovering Basic Researching Techniques ............................................371
The big, gaudy financial portals ......................................................372
Researching a company online ........................................................373
Researching in mailing lists and newsgroups ................................374
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The Everyday Internet All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies
Getting the Latest Financial News .............................................................374
Major news services .........................................................................374
Financial newspapers and magazines .............................................375
Online newsletters ............................................................................376
Researching Mutual Funds, Stocks, and Bonds on the Internet ...........376
Researching a mutual fund on the Internet ...................................377
Researching stocks on the Internet ................................................378
Researching bonds on the Internet .................................................380
Finding a Broker ..........................................................................................381
Chapter 2: Monitoring and Tracking Investments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .383
Introducing Investment Portfolios ............................................................383
Comparing the Online Portfolio Web Sites ..............................................384
Tracking Your Investments in a Yahoo! Portfolio ....................................385
Before you begin . . . ..........................................................................387
Setting up an online portfolio ..........................................................387
Examining and updating your investments ...................................389
Financial Software-Management Programs ..............................................390
Chapter 3: Banking and Paying Bills Online . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .393
Banking Online ............................................................................................393
Paying Your Bills Online .............................................................................397
Online Banking and Bill Paying with Microsoft Money and Quicken .....399
Searching for a Credit Card Online ...........................................................400
Book VI: Bargain Shopping ........................................401
Contents at a Glance ...................................................................................402
Chapter 1: Searching for Bargains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .403
Some Rules for Buying Items Online .........................................................403
Shopping Search Engines ...........................................................................405
Looking at Some Price-Comparison Web Sites ........................................407
Reading Online Catalogs ............................................................................408
Hunting for Bargains at Online Stores ......................................................409
Product Reviews and Consumer Reports ................................................410
Chapter 2: Buying at an Online Auction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .413
Looking at the Online Auction Houses .....................................................414
Using Auction Search Engines ...................................................................415
Registering with eBay .................................................................................415
Signing in to Your My eBay Page ...............................................................416
Table of Contents
xxi
Searching for Items of Interest ..................................................................417
A straight search ...............................................................................418
Browsing eBay categories ................................................................419
Browsing to and searching a single category ................................420
Saving searches, categories, and sellers ........................................420
Managing your All Favorites list ......................................................422
Keeping a Watching List .............................................................................422
Knowing the Rules of the Road .................................................................423
Bidding on Items .........................................................................................424
How bidding works ...........................................................................424
Placing a bid .......................................................................................425
Strategies for successful bidding ....................................................426
Making the Purchase ..................................................................................427
Chapter 3: Using PayPal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .429
Discovering PayPal .....................................................................................429
Types of PayPal accounts .................................................................430
Costs of using PayPal ........................................................................430
Signing Up for a PayPal Account ...............................................................431
Logging in to the PayPal Window ..............................................................431
Sending a Payment through PayPal ..........................................................432
Receiving a Payment ...................................................................................433
Chapter 4: Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar . . . . . . . . . . . . .435
Book VII: Selling on the Internet ................................445
Contents at a Glance ...................................................................................446
Chapter 1: Selling Items on eBay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .447
Figuring the Costs of Selling on eBay .......................................................447
Signing Up to Sell on eBay ..........................................................................448
Doing the Background Work ......................................................................450
Researching the cost of the item .....................................................450
Writing your item description .........................................................451
Taking the photograph .....................................................................451
Putting Up an Item for Bidding ..................................................................451
Choosing a category .........................................................................452
Describing your item ........................................................................452
Providing the pictures and item details .........................................453
Choosing the payment and shipping methods ..............................454
Reviewing and submitting ................................................................454
Monitoring the Auction ..............................................................................455
Closing the Sale ...........................................................................................455
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The Everyday Internet All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies
Chapter 2: Selling Items Online . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .457
Choosing the Right Market ........................................................................457
Setting Up Your Web Site ............................................................................458
E-Commerce Software .................................................................................460
Chapter 3: Sending It to the Buyer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .463
Determining the Shipping Costs ................................................................463
Packing It ......................................................................................................465
Buying Postage Stamps Online ..................................................................466
Tracking It ....................................................................................................467
Book VIII: Hobbies and Pastimes ................................469
Contents at a Glance ...................................................................................470
Chapter 1: Playing Games Online . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .471
All-Purpose Game Sites ..............................................................................471
MSN Zone ...........................................................................................471
Yahoo! Games .....................................................................................473
Pogo ....................................................................................................474
ItsYourTurn ........................................................................................474
Boxerjam ............................................................................................474
Some Slightly Off-the-Wall Games .............................................................474
20 Questions ......................................................................................474
City Creator ........................................................................................475
The ESP Game ....................................................................................475
Geocaching .........................................................................................476
Playing Fantasy Sports Online ...................................................................477
Web Sites for Gamers ..................................................................................478
Chapter 2: Planning Your Next Vacation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .479
Figuring Out Where to Begin .....................................................................479
Finding a Travel Bargain .............................................................................481
Flying There .................................................................................................482
Finding a Hotel or Motel Room ..................................................................483
Exchanging Your Home with Another Family’s .......................................484
Driving There ...............................................................................................485
Advanced Mapping .....................................................................................486
How’s the Weather? ....................................................................................487
Deciding What to Do When You Get There ..............................................488
Armchair Traveling .....................................................................................489
Outdoor Adventuring .................................................................................490
Table of Contents
xxiii
Traveling by Rail .........................................................................................491
Resources for Traveling Abroad ...............................................................491
Eccentric Sites for Eccentric Travelers ....................................................493
Chapter 3: Let Me Entertain You . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .497
Playing Internet Shorts Online ..................................................................497
Going to the Movies ....................................................................................498
Sites for movie fans ...........................................................................498
Choosing a good movie ....................................................................500
Getting your local movie listings .....................................................500
Renting DVDs over the Internet ................................................................501
Getting Your Local TV Listings ..................................................................502
Listening to Internet Radio ........................................................................503
Finding an Internet radio station .....................................................504
Receiving an Internet radio station .................................................505
Finding Books Online ..................................................................................507
Chapter 4: The Internet for Music Lovers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .509
Web Sites for Music Lovers ........................................................................509
Buying Music Online ...................................................................................511
Trading Free Music Files on the Internet .................................................512
Chapter 5: Buying and Playing Music with iTunes . . . . . . . . . . . . . .517
Introducing iTunes ......................................................................................517
Downloading iTunes Software ...................................................................519
Buying Songs from the Apple Music Store ...............................................519
Starting an account with Apple .......................................................520
Searching for a song to buy ..............................................................520
Buying a song .....................................................................................521
Playing Songs ...............................................................................................522
Organizing Your Songs with Playlists and the Library ...........................524
Adding Your Own Songs to Your iTunes Collection ................................525
Copying songs from your CD collection .........................................525
Adding songs you didn’t get from Apple to the Library ...............526
Burning a CD ................................................................................................527
Chapter 6: Genealogy Online . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .531
Doing the Detective Work ..........................................................................532
Organizing Your Genealogical Data ...........................................................533
All-Purpose Searching Sites .......................................................................533
Obtaining Vital Information from the Social Security Death Index .......534
Searching the Census and Other Vital Records ......................................535
Searching for Information about a Surname ............................................536
Searching the Passenger Lists ...................................................................538
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The Everyday Internet All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies
Obtaining Data from Localities ..................................................................538
Writing to Obtain Vital Records ................................................................540
Book IX: Appendixes..................................................541
Contents at a Glance ...................................................................................542
Appendix A: Signing Up for a Yahoo! ID . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .543
What You Get with a Yahoo! Account .......................................................543
Getting a Yahoo! Account ...........................................................................544
Signing In and Signing Out .........................................................................546
All about Yahoo! Profiles ............................................................................547
Describing yourself in a profile ........................................................548
Checking out others’ profiles ...........................................................548
Changing Your Yahoo! ID ............................................................................549
Closing a Yahoo! Account ...........................................................................549
Appendix B: Getting a .NET Passport . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .551
What Is a .NET Passport? ...........................................................................551
Obtaining a .NET Passport .........................................................................552
Signing In and Signing Out .........................................................................553
Managing Your .NET Passport Account ...................................................554
Appendix C: Getting a Google Account . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .555
What You Get with a Google Account .......................................................555
Obtaining a Google Account ......................................................................555
Glossary of Internet Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .557
Index........................................................................571
Introduction
T
hese are exciting times for the Internet. Peer-to-peer file sharing, news
aggregators, and other advances in technology have inspired a new generation of Web sites and services. Never before have this many Web sites
and services been available on the Internet.
The idea behind this book is to present everything on the Internet that’s
worth doing because it’s useful, it’s a lot of fun, or it’s innovative and therefore worth checking out. Close to a thousand different Web sites are
described in this book, but this book isn’t a directory of Web sites on the
Internet. The focus is on doing things — researching, online banking, communicating, making new friends, playing games, talking over the Internet
telephone, online shopping, online selling, and blogging. In the course of
describing these and other activities — everyday activities that can be part
of your Internet repertoire — I introduce you to the Internet’s best Web sites
and services.
What’s in This Book, Anyway?
You are invited to dip into this book wherever you please or consult the
Table of Contents or Index to find a topic that interests you. Either way, you
will discover things about the Internet that you didn’t know. This book was
written in the spirit of the Internet itself. It is meant to be an adventure for
the people who read it. Here is a bare outline of what you’ll find in this book.
Book I: Getting Started
Book I is meant to help you get going on the Internet.
In case you’re curious about the technical aspects of the Internet, Chapter 1
explains in layman’s terms how the Internet works, what an IP address is,
how to read a Web-page address, and what goes on behind the scenes when
you open a Web page. In Chapter 2, you find out how to select an Internet
service provider and what the different modems are, and in Chapter 3, you
get instructions for connecting your computer to the Internet.
Chapter 4 looks at a subject that seems to be on everyone’s mind these
days: how to protect your privacy and security while you’re on the Internet.
It explains how to protect your computer from viruses and spyware, what a
firewall is, how to update Windows XP, and how to keep yourself from being
2
What’s in This Book, Anyway?
a victim of identity theft. Chapter 5 detours into America Online and explains
to AOL subscribers how to use that program on the Internet. Chapter 6
explains how to use plug-ins — companion programs such as Acrobat
Reader, Flash Player, and Windows Media Player — that you need to make
the most out of the Internet experience. In Chapter 7, I tell you how to make
exploring the Internet a safe and rewarding experience for children. This
chapter describes many Web sites for children, as well as Web sites for
moms and dads looking for advice about parenting.
Book II: Exploring the Internet
Book II shows you how to use a Web browser and how to be an Internet
researcher, or better yet, an Internet detective. It explains how you can
reach into all corners of the Internet to find the information you need.
Chapter 1 describes the basics of browsing, how to bookmark Web sites so
that you can revisit them, and how to engage in “social bookmarking” (sharing bookmarks with others). Chapter 2 explains how to customize the
Internet Explorer browser as well as another browser, Mozilla, which I
strongly suggest you check out.
Chapter 3 is the first of three chapters that explain how to conduct research
over the Internet. It explains how search engines work and compares different search engines, their strengths, and their weaknesses. It also advises you
on choosing a search engine and explains how to craft a thorough but penetrating search of the Internet. Chapter 4 looks at some specialty search
engines designed for searching different areas of the Internet. It also explains
how to search for images, audio, and video and tells you how to get help on
the Internet from other researchers — you know, the human kind. In Chapter
5, I point you to online encyclopedias and other references and show you
how to look up people, addresses, and telephone numbers on the Internet.
Chapter 6 examines how to get the latest news, where the online newspapers
are, and how to get the news from abroad. It introduces an exciting new
technology for staying on the top of the news — aggregators, which are software programs that gather news from different sources, including blogs, in
one place so that you have all your favorite news sources at your fingertips.
Book III: E-Mailing
Book III explains more than a mere mortal needs to know about e-mailing, as
well as how to protect yourself against spam, the junk e-mail that infests so
many mailboxes.
Chapter 1 compares the merits of software and Web-based e-mail programs.
It looks behind the scenes at how e-mailing works and tells you how to
What’s in This Book, Anyway?
3
compress files to make sending them easier. Chapters 2, 3, and 4, respectively, describe how to handle e-mail with Outlook 2003, Outlook Express,
and Yahoo! Mail. Not only do you find out how to send and receive e-mail
and files, but you also discover how to organize e-mail so that you can
always find the message you are looking for. To keep your inbox from getting
too crowded, I show you how to send e-mail straight to different folders as
soon as it arrives.
Chapter 5 explains strategies for stopping spam once and for all. It looks at
how spammers get e-mail addresses, the preventative measures you can
take against spam, and antispam software.
Book IV: Quick Communicating
Book IV examines all the different ways that you can communicate quickly
with friends and strangers on the Internet.
Chapter 1 delves into AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!
Messenger, and ICQ. It explains how to use these programs and maintain your
privacy at the same time. Chapter 2 explains what blogs are, what makes for
a good blog, and how to create a blog of your own. In Chapter 3, I look at two
ways to exercise your ideas and obsessions on the Internet — mailing lists
and message boards.
Chapter 4 looks at a much-neglected tool for researchers. It explains how to
conduct research in newsgroups and subscribe to newsgroups with Outlook
Express. Chapter 5 delves into the easiest way to connect and manage a group
of likeminded people on the Internet — create a Yahoo! group. In Chapter 6,
I explain how to chat on the IRC with people all around the world and how to
create your own chat room.
Chapter 7 explains how you, too, can be a Web-site developer, and how you
can do it on the cheap with online Web-site–creation tools. You also find out
how to submit your Web site to search engines and make it more likely to
appear in Internet searches. Chapter 8 explores the new online phenomenon
of social networking. It describes Meetup.com, Upcoming.org, and other Web
sites and services where you can make new friends and reunite with old ones.
Chapter 9 looks at what I think is the best deal on the Internet — free telephone calling anywhere in the world with Skype.
Book V: Your Personal Finances
Book V is all about improving your personal finances and making the banking chores go more smoothly.
4
What’s in This Book, Anyway?
Chapter 1 explains how to research different types of investments, get the
latest financial news, and choose a broker. In Chapter 2, I describe how to
maintain an online investment portfolio and be able to tell minute by minute
how well or poorly your investments are doing. Chapter 3 looks at online
banking — getting checking account balances online, paying bills online, and
shopping for credit cards online.
Book VI: Bargain Shopping
Book VI is devoted to the idea that if you want it, you can find it on the
Internet at a good price. For that matter, if you want it but can’t afford it, you
can at least find it on the Internet and dream about purchasing it one of these
days.
Chapter 1 points you to some shopping search engines and Web sites that
specialize in comparison shopping, as well as online catalogs, stores for bargain hunters, and consumer-report Web sites. In Chapter 2, I briefly take you
to some online auction houses, and then you go to the granddaddy of auction houses, eBay, where you discover how to search for, bid on, and buy
items. Chapter 3 looks into using PayPal, an excellent service for paying for
items you purchased over the Internet. Finally, Chapter 4 presents a huge
shopping bazaar of Web sites that sell items online. The Web sites are categorized so that you can find stores that interest you.
Book VII: Selling on the Internet
Book VII looks at how you can be the first on your block to be an online
seller.
Chapter 1 explains everything you need to know to sell items successfully on
eBay. It shows how to price items, make them attractive to buyers, manage
an online auction, and close out a sale. Chapter 2 offers guidance for people
who are thinking of selling items or services on the Internet. It explores how
to find a market and set up an online store. Chapter 3 is a hands-on chapter
with advice for packing the items you sold and buying postal services over
the Internet.
Book VIII: Hobbies and Pastimes
Book VIII explains how to pursue different hobbies and exercise different
pastimes on the Internet. I’m warning you: Some of the Web sites listed in
Book VIII are addicting.
Chapter 1 is for people who like to play games — online video games, card
games, and arcade-style games. You discover fantasy sports Web sites, as
well as some unusual games begat by the Internet, such as the Geocaching.
Chapter 2 is for travelers, armchair travelers, and adventurers of all stripes
How I Selected Web Sites for This Book
5
and varieties. It looks at how to plan a vacation and book airline tickets,
hotels, and rental cars. You also find out where to go on the Internet to get
travel advice.
Chapter 4 describes how to turn your lowly computer into an entertainment
console. You find out how to view Internet movies, rent a DVD online, get
your local television listings, play Internet radio, and find a book online. In
Chapter 5, the focus is on music. You discover some Web sites for music
lovers, look at online music stores, and survey services for sharing music
files with others over the Internet. Chapter 6 takes you on a tour of iTunes,
as you find out how to buy music from this online store, play and organize
your music with iTunes software, and burn CDs. Chapter 6 shows amateur
genealogists some of the many different Web sites and services they can use
to search for their ancestors online.
Appendixes
Just when you thought you’d had enough torture, I tacked on three appendices and a glossary to the end of this book.
Appendix A explains how to register with and sign in to Yahoo! so that you
can take advantage of Yahoo!’s many online services. Appendix B describes
how to get a .NET passport so that you can play games online at the MSN
Game Zone or open a Hotmail account. Appendix C explains how to sign up
for a Google account.
Turn to the glossary at the end of this book whenever you are stumped by
Internet terminology. I’ve done my best to define every Internet term, no
matter how strange or obscure. Do you know what airsnarf means? How
about Googlewhacking?
How I Selected Web Sites for This Book
You find descriptions and addresses of about a thousand Web sites in this
book. Some people collect stamps. Some people collect butterflies. I collect
Web sites. I am intrigued by the idea that a Web site is a creative endeavor in
and of itself — that a Web site is a clickable piece of artwork. For this book,
I chose not only Web sites that are useful for finding information or buying
things but also Web sites that I consider intriguing, wonderful, astonishing,
bizarre, or entertaining.
I stay away from the big corporate Web sites. Most Internet adventurers can
find them on their own for one thing, and for another, those Web sites are
too easy to get lost in. For shopping on the Internet, I prefer specialty stores
6
Foolish Assumptions
to megastores that offer everything under the sun. It’s easier to find interesting things at the specialty stores, and they’re more fun. For the news, I prefer
Web sites that specialize in one area to Web sites that blanket the earth,
because the earth is too big to blanket. I still believe that the Internet is a
democratic medium where the little guy has as much of a chance as the
deep-pockets crowd to attract visitors to a Web site. I’m inclined to favor
little-guy Web sites for that reason.
I also try to steer clear of Web sites and Web services that you have to pay
for. Some Web sites are worth paying for. Ancestry.com, for example, is a
bargain at $20 per month if you are doing genealogical research. I describe
Ancestry.com and Web sites like it that are a bargain. Otherwise — and you
can call me a cheapskate if you want — if I could find a way to get a service
without paying, I did it. I’m trying to save you and me a buck.
Foolish Assumptions
Please forgive me, but I made one or two foolish assumptions about you, the
reader of this book. I assumed that:
✦ You have a computer and modem.
✦ A Web browser — software for exploring the Internet — is installed on
your computer.
✦ You are kind to small animals.
Most of the computer instructions in this book are aimed at Windows users
running the Windows XP operating system. My apologies to users of the
Macintosh and to people running older versions of Windows. But take consolation: Except for instructions about setting up an Internet connection in
Book II and instructions for using a Web browser in Book III, it doesn’t matter
which operating system or kind of computer you have. This book does you
right anyway.
Conventions Used in This Book
I want you to understand all the instructions in this book, and in that spirit,
I’ve adopted a few conventions.
To show you how to step through command sequences, I use the ➪ symbol.
For example, to create a playlist in iTunes, you choose File➪New Playlist.
This is just a shorthand method of saying “Choose New Playlist on the File
menu.”
Good Luck, Reader!
7
Besides pressing hot keys to give commands, you can press combinations of
keys. For example, pressing Ctrl+N is another way to create a new playlist in
iTunes. In other words, you can hold down the Ctrl key and press the N key.
Where you see Ctrl+, Alt+, or Shift+ and a key name or key names, press the
keys simultaneously.
Where you see boldface letters or numbers in this book, it means that you
should type the letters or numbers. For example, “Enter 125 in the Zoom
box” means to do exactly that: Enter the number 125.
Icons Used in This Book
To help you get the most out of this book, I’ve placed icons here and there.
Here’s what the icons mean:
All things being equal, nearly every Web site listed in this book deserves a
Cool Web site icon. I wouldn’t put a Web site in this book unless there was
something special about it. Still, where you see the Cool Web site icon, I
describe Web sites that are especially good, entertaining, intriguing, or useful.
Next to the Tip icon, you can find shortcuts and tricks of the trade to make
your travels on the Internet more enjoyable.
Where you see the Warning icon, tread softly and carefully. It means that you
are about to do something that you may regret later.
When I explain a juicy little fact that bears remembering, I mark it with a
Remember icon. When you see this icon, prick up your ears. You will discover something that you need to remember throughout your adventures on
the Internet.
When I am forced to describe high-tech stuff, a Technical Stuff icon appears
in the margin. You don’t have to read what’s beside the Technical Stuff icons
if you don’t want to, although these technical descriptions often help you
understand how a software feature works.
Good Luck, Reader!
If you have a comment about this book, a question, or a Web site you
would like to share with me, send an e-mail message to me at this address:
[email protected] Be advised that I usually can’t answer e-mail right
away because I’m too darned busy. I do appreciate comments and questions,
however, because they help me pass my dreary days in captivity.
8
The Everyday Internet All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies
Book I
Getting Started
Contents at a Glance
Chapter 1: Getting Acquainted with the Internet ..............................................................11
Chapter 2: Choosing an Internet Service............................................................................25
Chapter 3: Setting Up Your Internet Connections..............................................................31
Chapter 4: Protecting Your Privacy and Security ..............................................................39
Chapter 5: Using America Online ........................................................................................57
Chapter 6: Getting the Plug-Ins You Need ..........................................................................67
Chapter 7: The Internet for Children and Parents ............................................................75
Chapter 1: Getting Acquainted
with the Internet
In This Chapter
Introducing the Internet
Getting a crash course in how the Internet works
Peeking behind the scenes of a Web page
T
his chapter is devoted to people who aren’t sure what the Internet is
and people who are sure what it is but don’t know how it works. How
does a Web page that was created by someone on the other side of the
planet take only a second or two to arrive on your computer screen? What
is a Web address, anyway? How are Web pages constructed? These and
other inscrutable mysteries are unscrewed in this chapter.
What Is the Internet?
The Internet is many things to many people. Erik-Lars Nelson, a New York
Daily News columnist, famously called it “. . . a vanity press for the demented,
the conspiratorial or the merely self-important.” A newspaperman, Nelson
lamented the fact that information presented on the Internet does not have
to undergo a rigorous examination as to its accuracy. Whereas newspapers
hold themselves to standards of truth and employ editors and fact-checkers
to make sure what they print is accurate, fools can say whatever they want
on the Internet — and they do so with complete confidence that somebody,
somewhere will believe them.
In contrast to Nelson’s dim view of the Internet, others describe the Internet
in utopian terms. To these people, the Internet is a vast town meeting in
which everyone can participate and everyone’s voice is heard. The utopians
see the Internet as a valuable tool for democracy and knowledge, a sort of
international conversation for the greater good.
12
What Is the Internet?
So what is the Internet? By the time you finish reading this book, you will
decide for yourself. Meanwhile, here are some activities you can do on the
Internet:
✦ Research a topic: If you know how to conduct a meaningful search, you
can nearly always find the information you need on the Internet. Book II
explains researching on the Internet. Figure 1-1 shows the home page of
Alta Vista, a search engine.
✦ Get the mail: E-mail, or electronic mail, travels much faster than conventional mail. An e-mail message you send this instant can take as little as
three seconds to reach its recipient, although you can’t enclose a lock
of hair or scent your e-mail message with evocative perfume. Book III
explains e-mailing.
✦ Connect to other researchers: By joining newsgroups, mailing lists, and
Yahoo! groups, you can get information about many different topics from
other Internet researchers. Book IV looks into this subject.
✦ Trade instant messages: If you have teenagers, I bet you already know
about instant messaging. Instant messaging permits a dozen or more
people to gossip with one another while exercising their fingers on the
keyboard. Book IV, Chapter 1 looks into instant messaging.
Figure 1-1:
The home
page of Alta
Vista, a
search
engine.
What Is the Internet?
13
✦ Share your thoughts in a blog or online diary: A blog, or Web log, is a
journal, sometimes written anonymously, that anyone exploring the
Internet can find and read. Book IV, Chapter 2 explains blogs, the latest
Internet fad.
✦ Join a social networking group: You can make friends and connections
online with people who share your passions and interests. Book IV,
Chapter 8 explores this topic.
✦ Improve your financial picture: The Internet offers a thousand different
ways to research financial opportunities, and you can also track your
finances and bank online, as Book V explains.
✦ Go shopping: On the Internet, you can shop till you drop without leaving
your own home. The Internet offers discount houses, auction houses,
and better yet, Web sites where you can compare prices and find out
whether an item is really worth buying. Book VI looks into shopping on
the Internet.
✦ Hold a rummage sale: You can be a seller as well as a buyer. Selling your
treasures and trinkets over the Internet is easier than you think, as you
find out in Book VII.
✦ Play games: You can always find a card game on the Internet, not to
mention a chess game and a poker game. Book VIII, Chapter 1 tells how
to find a game for you.
✦ Plan your next vacation: For the sake of mental health, everyone needs
to look forward to his or her next vacation. Book VIII, Chapter 2 explains
how to plan and book ahead for your next trip to an exotic place.
✦ Watch a movie: Now that computers have more storage capacity and
downloading files over the Internet is faster, you can watch movies on
your computer. Just make sure that the boss doesn’t see you do it.
Book VIII, Chapter 3 shows how to temporarily turn your computer
into a movie theater.
✦ Turn your computer into a jukebox: Downloading songs from the
Internet is easier than ever, as Book VIII, Chapter 5 explains.
✦ Trace your genealogy: You can find many online databases with information about the dead, and many of them are free to explore. See Book
VIII, Chapter 6.
Book I
Chapter 1
Getting Acquainted
with the Internet
✦ Turn your PC into a telephone: Besides trading text messages, you can
trade voice messages, and you can do it in real time such that your computer behaves like a telephone. Book IV, Chapter 9 shows how a PC
can be made to act like a telephone.
14
How the Internet Works
How the Internet Works
In my experience, there are two kinds of people: the curious, who look under
the hood of the car to figure out how the car runs, and the others, whose
blind faith in machinery makes them indifferent. Even if you fall in the second
category, knowing a little about the workings of the Internet is worthwhile.
Someday you may decide to create a Web site. Or, you may wonder why your
Internet connection isn’t working. In times like those, it pays to know something about the Internet.
These pages explain in simple terms how the Internet works. And to help
you understand the workings of the Internet, I start with a history lesson.
A mercifully brief history of the Internet
Most historians trace the beginning of the Internet to Sputnik, the first satellite to successfully orbit the earth. After Russia launched Sputnik in 1957,
the United States embarked on an ambitious national project to bridge what
was called the “technology gap” and catch up to the Russians in science and
technology. As part of that effort, the Department of Defense established the
Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, in 1958. The agency’s job was
to oversee the research and development of new technology for military use.
ARPA employed scientists and engineers in universities and laboratories
throughout the United States. These scientists and engineers needed a way
to exchange information and collaborate with one another. To this end, ARPA
developed the first computer network, called ARPANET, in 1969. The network
permitted researchers throughout the United States to dial in to and access
four host computers — three in California and one in Utah — over the telephone lines.
To speed the transmission of data, ARPANET employed a novel means of
sending information over the telephone lines called packet switching. Instead
of data being sent in a continuous stream, it was divided into smaller units
called packets and sent all at once over available telephone lines. Arriving at
their destination, the packets were recompiled — in other words, the data
were reassembled so that it could be read or interpreted. Like ARPANET, the
Internet is a packet-switching network. Packet switching makes it possible
for data to travel very quickly, because the packets can arrive out of order,
withstand delays in transmission, and travel by many different routes to
their destination. By the strictest definition, the Internet is simply a packetdelivery system. It can deliver information packets anywhere in the world in
less than a second.
How the Internet Works
15
In the beginning, only four host computers — computers that other computers can connect to, similar to what we call Web servers — were available on
ARPANET, but universities and research centers soon understood the value
of being able to collaborate over a network, and more host computers were
added. By 1971, there were 23 host computers on ARPANET. In 1972, e-mail
was invented so that researchers could quickly exchange messages, and network traffic increased dramatically. In 1977, ARPANET featured 111 host computers. By 1989, ARPANET had become a “network of networks,” with some
100,000 host computers.
ARPANET had turned into the Gargantua that we call the Internet. ARPANET’s
designers envisioned an interconnected network with no central authority to
which new networks could be added. ARPANET succeeded beyond its designers’ wildest dreams. Estimates of how many people worldwide use the Internet
range from 600 to 730 million. In 2001, for the first time, the number of hours
that Americans watch television shrank because the Internet had become an
alternative to television watching. Today, no single organization controls the
Internet. Each organization with a host computer is responsible for maintaining its part of the Internet so that data packets can speed merrily along to
their destinations.
The Open Directory Project, a Web directory maintained by volunteers,
offers a Web page with links where you can get statistics about Internet use.
The Web page is located at this address: http://dmoz.org/Computers/
Internet/Statistics_and_Demographics.
The World Wide Web
The early Internet was strictly for academics and researchers. To retrieve
documents, you had to know advanced programming commands. You had to
remember arcane numerical Internet addresses. Each host computer had a
different command set for accessing files.
Book I
Chapter 1
Getting Acquainted
with the Internet
ARPANET was the forerunner of the Internet. In ARPANET, data did not pass
through a central hub; instead, all the host computers were connected to
all the other host computers. This revolutionary decentralized design permitted data to take many different routes from one computer to another
because the computers were interconnected. And if one part of the network
failed, the network’s interconnectedness made it possible for other parts
to pick up the slack and continue transmitting data by a different route.
Moreover, the decentralized structure of ARPANET made it easier to add
computers to the network.
16
How the Internet Works
Starting in the late 1980s, however, innovations in computer science made
the Internet available to everyone. In 1989, a protocol called http, or hypertext
transfer protocol, made it easy to transfer files over the Internet. In computer
terminology, a protocol is set of rules by which computers communicate with
one another. You no longer had to learn a different set of commands to transfer a file from a host computer to your computer because each host computer
stuck to the http standard. The letters http at the start of Web addresses refer
to the hypertext transfer protocol (see Figure 1-2).
The late 1980s also saw the invention of the World Wide Web, also known
simply as “the Web.” The letters www in Web addresses stand for World
Wide Web (refer to Figure 1-2). The man who coined this term, a computer
scientist named Tim Berners-Lee, called the Web “the universe of networkaccessible information, an embodiment of human knowledge.” Berners-Lee
was one of those utopians I mention at the start of this chapter. In prosaic
terms, the World Wide Web is just the sum of all the files — the Web pages,
audio files, movie files, and computer programs — that you can bring into
your computer from the Internet by way of the hypertext transfer protocol.
Figure 1-2:
Ever
wondered
what a Web
address is
all about?
How the Internet Works
17
Web addresses
http://www.ruthasawa.com/Pages/AsawasArt.htm
A computer reads this address like so:
✦ http://: The file at this address can be transferred using the hypertext
transfer protocol.
✦ www: The file is located on the World Wide Web.
✦ ruthasawa.com: The domain name of the Web site to connect to is
ruthasawa.com. The next section in this chapter explains what domain
names are and how computers use them to locate computers on the
Internet. The .com ending on the domain name tells you that the site is
commercial (for-profit) in nature.
✦ /Pages: Within the ruthasawa.com Web site, the file is found in a folder
called Pages. Files on Web sites are stored in folders, just as files are
stored in folders on your computer.
✦ /AsawasArt.htm: The file to be transferred is called AsawasArt.htm.
The .htm file extension means that the file is written in hypertext
markup language.
The addressing convention that Tim Berners-Lee invented made it possible
for computers to quickly locate and download files from the World Wide
Web. His addressing convention also made the Web more weblike. Now that
everyone agreed on how to address Web pages, linking Web pages became
much easier. Hyperlinks began appearing on Web pages. For the first time,
you could point to and click a hyperlink on one Web page and go straight
to another page. (By the way, Berners-Lee called Web addresses uniform
resource locators, or URLs, a term that is thankfully falling out of favor. I only
mention URLs here in case someone mentions them to you and you want to
nod your head wisely because you know what URLs are. In this book, I refer
to URLs as Web addresses.)
Getting Acquainted
with the Internet
Besides inventing the term World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee invented the
addressing system for locating files on the Web. Previous to this system, you
had to enter a hard-to-remember IP address number to visit a Web site, but
the system replaced numbers with descriptive domain names. In the system,
file addresses are designated by a domain name and then by a folder name
within the domain. To see how Web addresses work, consider the address of
the Web page shown in Figure 1-2:
Book I
Chapter 1
18
How the Internet Works
More computer science innovations brought the Internet even closer to
home. Faster modems decreased the amount of time you had to wait for Web
pages to arrive on your computer. In the early 1990s, the first Web browser,
Mosaic, appeared. Now a program made especially for exploring the Internet
was available. Also in the mid-1990s, the Java computer language made it
possible to incorporate video and sound on Web pages. And don’t forget the
mouse! All hail the mouse! Where would we be without it? You can explore
the Internet for hours at a time without touching the keyboard thanks to this
furry little animal. And it’s amazing that the mouse didn’t become a computer apparatus on Macs until 1986 and on PCs until 1987.
IP addresses
Every computer that’s connected to the Internet has an Internet Protocol
address, better known as an IP address. Computers use these addresses to
locate data and to send data over the Internet.
Want to know your computer’s IP address?
Follow these steps to find out your computer’s
IP address:
1. Choose Start➪Programs➪Accessories➪
Command Prompt (choose MS-DOS instead
of Command Prompt if you are running
Windows 98 or Windows Me).
The Command Prompt window opens.
2. Enter ipconfig and press Enter.
The window shows you information about
your computer, including its IP address.
Here’s an even faster way to find out your IP
address. Open your Web browser, enter this
address in the Address bar, and press Enter:
www.whatismyip.com
How the Internet Works
19
An IP address is a 32-bit (4-byte) binary number, which needn’t concern you
very much. The point is that the number identifies a computer on the
Internet. Here is an example of an IP address:
216.239.39.99
Each domain name — google.com, yahoo.com, and microsoft.com, for
example — is assigned an IP address. The IP address just listed, for example,
belongs to the domain name google.com. When you enter a Web address in
your browser to view a Web page, your computer takes note of the domain
name part of the address (google.com, yahoo.com, or microsoft.com,
for example) and sends a query to a domain name server asking for the IP
address that’s assigned to the domain name. The domain name server, in
turn, sends the IP address of the domain name back to your computer. Your
computer then sends a request for Web-page files from the IP address in
question, and in less than a second, if you have a fast Internet connection,
a Web page appears on your computer screen.
Something similar happens when you send an e-mail message. Your computer sends a query asking for the IP address of the domain name, the
part of the e-mail address after the at (@) symbol. When the IP number is
returned, the e-mail message is sent.
To see how IP addresses work, try this simple exercise:
1. Open your Web browser.
2. In the Address bar, type www.google.com and press Enter.
Your browser opens to the Google home page, as shown at the top of
Figure 1-3.
3. Delete the www.google.com in the Address bar and enter the
following:
216.239.39.99
4. Press Enter.
You see the Google home page again, as shown at the bottom of
Figure 1-3, because the number you entered in Step 3 is the IP address
of google.com.
Book I
Chapter 1
Getting Acquainted
with the Internet
If yours is a DSL Internet connection or cable modem connection, your IP
address is permanent and unchanging. If yours is a dialup Internet connection, your Internet provider assigns you a new IP address each time you connect to the Internet.
20
How the Internet Works
Domain name
IP address
Figure 1-3:
Normally,
your
computer
enters the
IP address
for you.
In the old days, before the domain-name addressing system for locating files
on the Web, you had to enter IP addresses. Aren’t you glad you don’t live in
the old days? Entering descriptive Web addresses sure beats entering 32-bit
binary numbers.
Finding a Web site’s IP address
If you are called on to play Internet detective and find the IP address of a
Web site, you can follow these steps to find it:
1. Choose Start➪Programs➪Accessories➪Command Prompt.
If you are running the Windows 98 or Windows Me operating system,
choose MS-DOS instead of Command Prompt. You see the Command
Prompt window.
2. Enter ping and a blank space.
3. Enter the domain name of the Web site whose IP address you need.
How Web Pages Work
21
For example, to find the IP address of google.com, enter google.com, as
shown in Figure 1-4.
The Command Prompt window tells you the Web site’s IP address (refer
to Figure 1-4). Notice the “approximate round trip times in milli-seconds”
in the Command Prompt window. It took my computer only 76 milliseconds to ask for and receive the IP address of google.com. That’s less
than a tenth of a second. Information travels fast on the Internet.
Figure 1-4:
You can
“ping” to
find IP
addresses
on the
Internet.
How Web Pages Work
If a friend tells you to go to the such-and-such Web page because it is entertaining, thought provoking, or funny, and you go there, you aren’t really
going anywhere. Really, the Web page is coming to you. The files with which
the Web page is composed come to your computer so that you can view
them.
All but the simplest Web page consists of many different files — text files,
graphic files, and sometimes animation, video, and sound files. To see what
I mean, take a look at Figure 1-5, a Web page from amazon.com. The top half
of the figure shows the Web page without the graphic images; in the bottom
half of the figure, you can see where the graphic image files have been
plugged into the Web page. This Web page consists of a dozen or more files.
When you bring a Web page like this to your computer, the image files tag
along behind the Web page. Hypertext markup language in the Web page
tells your Web browser where to plug in each tag-along file, and the result is
a full-fledged Web page.
Getting Acquainted
with the Internet
4. Press Enter.
Book I
Chapter 1
22
How Web Pages Work
Missing image files
Figure 1-5:
Most Web
pages
consist of
many
different
files.
How Web Pages Work
23
These codes are scary, but don’t be discouraged if you want to create a Web
site of your own. Thanks to the miracle of modern computer science, you
can create Web pages and Web sites without having to know or write HTML
codes, as Book IV, Chapter 7 explains. Keep your chin up. All is not lost.
Figure 1-6:
HTML
codes for
the Web
page shown
in Figure 1-5.
Book I
Chapter 1
Getting Acquainted
with the Internet
Web pages are written in hypertext markup language, or HTML, the computer
language that tells the Web browser how to lay out and construct Web pages
from the different files with which they are made. Want to see something
scary? In your browser, choose View➪Source (in Internet Explorer) or
View➪Page Source (in Mozilla) to see the HTML codes with which a Web
page is constructed. Figure 1-6 shows some of the HTML code used to construct part of the page shown in Figure 1-5.
24
Book I: Getting Started
Chapter 2: Choosing an Internet
Service
In This Chapter
Looking at the equipment you need
Comparing broadband and dialup connections
Comparing the types of Internet connections
Asking the right questions when you choose an Internet service
provider
T
his short chapter is for people who want to jump aboard the Internet
but haven’t chosen an ISP yet. ISP stands for Internet service provider.
You need to sign up with an ISP to explore the Internet and send and receive
e-mail. This chapter gets you up to speed on speedy broadband connections
and slower dialup connections. It compares the types of Internet connections and explains what to look for as you choose an ISP.
The Equipment and Software You Need
As nice as it is to connect to the Internet and view Web pages by relying on
your psychic powers alone, most people can’t do that. Besides a computer,
most people need a Web browser and a modem.
A Web browser is a software program for exploring the Internet. Popular
browsers include Internet Explorer and Mozilla. If your computer runs
Windows, the Internet Explorer browser is already loaded on your computer. (Book II, Chapter 2 describes and compares the different Web
browsers.)
A modem is a hardware device for linking a computer through the telephone
lines to the Internet. Modems convert digital data (electronic signals representing binary numbers) to analog data (signals that can have many variations) so that the data can travel over the telephone lines. After the analog
signal arrives, the modem on the receiving end converts the analog data
back into digital data that computers can understand. Modem stands for
modulator/demodulator.
26
Broadband versus Dialup Connections
Data transmission rates for Internet dialup modems are measured in kilobits
per second (Kbps). Faster broadband modem rates are given in megabits per
second (Mbps). Table 2-1 describes the different speeds at which modems
operate. The first two entries in the table are dialup connections; the others
are broadband (more about that in a minute).
Table 2-1
Modem
Modem Types
Connection
Speed
Description
Dialup Connections
Internal
56 Kbps
The modem is plugged into the motherboard of the computer — in other words, it’s inside the computer. To
connect to the Internet, you plug the phone line into
a port on the back or side of your computer.
External
56 Kbps
The modem is attached to your computer through a parallel, serial, or USB (Universal Serial Bus) port. An external modem is separate from your computer. You plug the
modem into your computer and the telephone line into
your modem.
Broadband Connections
ISDN
128 Kbps
This requires installing ISDN (Integrated Services Digital
Network) adapters in your computer. The connection is
made through high-speed digital cables installed by the
phone computer or a service provider.
Cable
384 Mbps
This type of modem can be an external or internal type.
Through a cable wall outlet, the computer is connected
to the cable TV line.
DSL
384 Mbps
This type of modem can also be internal or external. It
requires a network adapter.
Want to test the speed of your modem? Go to the Test Your Internet Speed
Web page at this address: http://modem.4mg.com. Click the Test Your
Internet Speed link, and you go to a page with a graph that plainly shows
how fast or slow your Internet connection is.
Broadband versus Dialup Connections
Connections between a computer and the Internet fall in two categories:
broadband and dialup. A broadband connection is an Internet connection
that is always on and is capable of transmitting data very quickly. Broadband
services can be delivered over the telephone lines, by way of a private
Types of Connections
27
A dialup connection is one in which the computer literally dials a telephone
number whenever you connect with the Internet. The only advantage of a
dialup connection over a broadband connection is the cost. At $10–$25 per
month, dialup service costs a third as much as broadband service, which is
$40–$60 per month. If you’ve explored the Internet using a broadband service, it’s hard to go back to the slower dialup method. What’s more, if you
have broadband service, you can simultaneously talk on the telephone while
you explore the Internet. With a dialup connection, the phone line is occupied, so you can’t make a phone call while you’re online — nor can anyone
call you. (The next chapter in this mini-book explains how to connect a computer to the Internet.)
Types of Connections
Table 2-2 compares the types of Internet connections. Apart from dialup connections, not all ISPs offer the connection types listed in the table. Before
you can install a DSL connection, the telephone company must verify that
the lines in your area can support DSL. With a cable connection, data are
delivered over the same line that carries the television signal.
Table 2-2
Types of Internet Connections
Connection
Speed*
Equipment
Cost
Dialup
50 Kbps
Internal or external modem,
telephone line
$10–25
DSL
384 Mbps
Ethernet card, external
cable modem, Cat-5 cable
$40–60
Cable
384 Mbps
Ethernet card, external
cable modem, Cat-5 cable
$40–60
Satellite
400 Mbps
Ethernet card, dialup modem
$50–110
plus installation
*Upload average speed; download speeds are typically five to ten times higher.
Book I
Chapter 2
Choosing an
Internet Service
network, by way of a cable modem, or in a wireless network. A broadband
connection is much faster than a dialup connection. If you plan to spend
more than an hour a day on the Internet and do sophisticated stuff like play
video games online or download music, you owe it to yourself to spend the
extra money for a broadband connection.
28
Choosing an Internet Service Provider
Choosing an Internet Service Provider
If you intend to explore the Internet, send and receive e-mail, or create a Web
site for the Internet, your first task is to choose an ISP. An ISP is a company
that provides customers access to the Internet, e-mail services, and in some
cases, the opportunity to post Web sites. You’ve probably heard of popular
ISPs such as America Online (AOL), MSN, and EarthLink. Some 7,000 ISPs can
be found in the United States. How do you choose which one is right for you?
Following are some considerations to make as you choose an ISP.
Monthly service charge
Monthly service charges range from $10 to $30 (for people who use dialup
modems) to $30 or more per month for a fast digital subscriber line (DSL),
cable modem, or T1 connection.
The setup fee
Most ISPs charge a one-time setup or enrollment fee. Depending on how
many ISPs are located in your area and how stiff the competition among ISPs
is, fees vary from no charge to $40.
Long-distance dialup
If you connect to the Internet by dialup modem, the modem in your computer calls the ISP’s computers. If that telephone call is a long-distance call,
going on the Internet becomes an expensive proposition because you have
to pay long-distance rates for each connection time. National ISPs, such as
those run by the major telephone companies, offer regional phone numbers
that you can call no matter where you travel. If you travel a lot and have to
connect a laptop computer to the Internet from various cities and regions,
consider signing on with an ISP that offers points of presence (or simply
POPs), which are the regional telephone numbers that you can dial to connect to an ISP.
Online time
Nowadays, nearly every ISP charges a flat monthly rate to go online for as
many hours as you want. Still, find out whether the ISP that you’re considering charges a flat rate or a by-the-hour rate. That way, you know what to
expect from your first bill.
Server space for your Web pages
Some ISPs offer their subscribers the opportunity to post Web sites at no
extra charge on their company servers; others charge an additional fee to
Choosing an Internet Service Provider
29
Spam blocking and virus protection
Some ISPs have built-in software that screens out spam, which is the Internet
equivalent of junk mail. Some ISPs screen all files for viruses as well. On the
face of it, virus screening seems like a good deal, but some virus screeners
aren’t sophisticated and merely block certain kinds of files, such as .exe
(executable) files or files that are larger than a certain number of megabytes.
You may legitimately receive these kinds of files from coworkers, in which
case virus screening isn’t for you. Besides, you can rely on your own antivirus
software to block viruses. (Book I, Chapter 4 looks into viruses and other
security considerations; Book III, Chapter 5 explains how to prevent spam.)
Length-of-service contracts
Anybody who has a cell phone knows that length-of-service contracts can
be a real burden. Under these contracts, you have to sign on for a year (and
sometimes longer). If the service doesn’t suit you, you can’t quit the service
during the contract period without paying a fee. If an ISP that you’re considering requires you to sign a length-of-service contract, make sure that you
investigate the ISP — especially its billing policies — before you sign your
name on the dotted line.
Technical help
Typically, the big corporate ISPs such as SBC and Earthlink don’t offer very
good technical assistance to customers. Try to get assistance from them,
and you have to negotiate a phone tree and be very patient. Small, local ISPs
do a much better job of providing assistance. You can get a real, live human
on the phone very quickly. However, local ISPs sometimes charge a higher
monthly rate for service than the corporate behemoths.
Try to get an idea of how long the company takes to reply to e-mail queries
for technical assistance. Find out as well whether the ISP maintains a 24-hour
telephone line that you can call if you need technical assistance. (By the
way, queries as to what to do about smoke coming from a modem should
be directed to the local fire department, which is obliged to respond faster
than an ISP.)
Book I
Chapter 2
Choosing an
Internet Service
subscribers who want to put their Web sites on the Internet. Most ISPs allow
1–2MB to as much as 50MB of server space. If you are new to the Internet, the
prospect of creating Web pages probably seems foreign to you, but believe
me, you may well consider creating a Web site down the road, and you will
need a place to put it on the Internet. If you can get free server space for your
Web pages, more power to you.
30
Book I: Getting Started
Chapter 3: Setting Up Your
Internet Connections
In This Chapter
Connecting to the Internet with a dialup modem
Connecting to the Internet with a DSL or cable modem
Setting up an e-mail account for an e-mail program
B
efore you can climb aboard the Internet, you have to take care of all
the Internet connections. You need to configure your software so that
it knows how to connect to your Internet service provider (ISP). You need to
set up an e-mail account.
Fortunately, the people who sell and set up Internet connections have made
this business considerably easier than it used to be. You were probably sent
a kit with a CD and other material that explains and takes you step by step
through the setup procedures. This chapter explains those procedures and
describes how to set up an e-mail account so that you can send and receive
e-mail. (If you haven’t chosen an ISP yet, refer to the previous chapter.)
Making a successful connection to the Internet for the first time is more your
ISP’s responsibility than yours. Do not hesitate to ask for help from your ISP
to complete this task! This chapter gives general instructions for connecting,
but every ISP is different. If you have any questions, call your ISP.
Connecting with a Dialup Modem
As the previous chapter explains, a dialup connection is one in which the
computer literally dials a telephone number to connect to the Internet. To
connect, you use a dialup modem. These modems can either be located
inside the computer or be a separate device that sits on the desk or floor
(where they collect dust and inevitably get kicked around a little). If you’re
lucky, your ISP has provided you with an automated program on a CD to
help with the setup. But even if you’re not lucky, setting up isn’t that hard,
especially if you’re running Windows XP, which offers the New Connection
Wizard for setup purposes. These pages explain — for Windows users of
either XP or an earlier version — how to connect to the Internet with a
dialup modem.
32
Connecting with a Dialup Modem
Before you begin
Before you tell Windows how to connect your computer to the Internet, you
need this information:
✦ ISP name: Your ISP’s domain name. The domain name is the part of a
Web address after the www. It ends with the letters .com or .net.
Example: sbcglobal.net
✦ Telephone number: The phone number to call your ISP. (See the following Tip for advice about entering the telephone number.) In some areas,
you must dial the area code, even when making a local call. Example:
301-555-9753
✦ Username: The name on your account. If you have an e-mail address,
your username is the part of the address before the at (@) symbol. Your
ISP gives you the opportunity to choose this name. Example: KennyNYC
✦ Password: The combination of letters and numbers that you must enter
when you connect to the Internet. Example: 4kings
How you enter your telephone number depends on whether you are dialing
outside your area code, whether you are dialing from an office or other place
where you have to dial 9 or another number to get an outside line, and
whether call waiting is installed on your telephone:
✦ Area code: If the ISP telephone number that you call is outside your area
code, include 1 and the area code in the telephone number with which
you call your ISP. (I respectfully suggest that you find another way to
reach your ISP or think of changing ISPs if you are dialing a different area
code. Dialing outside your area code can cost you dearly if you spend a
lot of time on the Internet.)
✦ Outside line: Enter the number, probably 9, that you need to get an outside line before entering the telephone number. Enter commas as well
after the 9; each comma tells your computer to pause for three seconds
before continuing to dial the outside line. For example, enter these numbers and commas to dial an outside line, pause six seconds to wait to get
the outside line, and then dial an ISP:
9,,555-9753
✦ Call waiting: If you have call waiting, you have to disable it while you
are exploring the Internet, because if someone calls, your connection to
the Internet will be disrupted. Most setup programs have a Disable Call
Waiting option. If yours doesn’t, you can disable call waiting by entering
*70 or 1170 before the telephone number you dial to connect to your ISP.
For example, these numbers disable call waiting and dial an ISP:
1170 555-9753
Connecting with a Dialup Modem
33
Dialup connections for Windows XP users
Use one of these techniques to set up a dialup connection on a computer
that runs Windows XP:
✦ Choose Start➪All Programs➪Accessories➪Communications➪Internet
Connection Wizard.
You see the Internet Connection Wizard dialog box. Follow these steps to tell
the Wizard what kind of connection you want:
1. Click the Next button to bring up the Network Connection Type dialog
box, shown in Figure 3-1.
Figure 3-1:
The
Network
Connection
Type dialog
box.
2. Select the first option, Connect to the Internet; then click the Next
button.
3. Select the second option, Set Up My Connection Manually; then click
the Next button.
4. Select the first option, Connect Using a Dial-Up Modem.
5. Keep clicking the Next button and answering the Wizard’s questions.
You are asked for your ISP’s name, its phone number, and your username and password (see the previous section in this chapter). You are
also asked whether to “Use the name and password you enter when
anyone connects to the Internet from this computer.” Select this check
box if you don’t mind others who share your computer connecting to
the Internet with your ISP.
Setting Up
Your Internet
Connections
✦ Click the Connect to the Internet Icon on your desktop.
Book I
Chapter 3
34
Connecting with a DSL or Cable Modem
If your connection needs adjusting, go to the Internet Properties dialog box.
To get there, choose Start➪Control Panel. In the Control Panel window,
switch the Control Panel to Category view, if necessary, click the Network
and Internet Connection Settings link, and then click the Set Up or Change
Your Internet Connection link. In the dialog box, select the name of your
dialup connection and then click the Settings button.
Dialup connections for Windows 98,
2000, and Me users
If you don’t have the latest version of Windows — Windows XP — don’t
despair. People with Windows 98, 2000, or Me on their computers can
establish a dialup Internet connection by following these steps:
1. Choose Start➪Programs➪Accessories➪Communications➪Internet
Connection Wizard.
The Internet Connection Wizard appears.
2. Select the third option button, I Want to Set Up My Internet
Connection Manually; then click the Next button.
3. Select the first option button, I Connect through a Phone Line and a
Modem; then click the Next button.
4. In the remaining dialog boxes, enter your phone number, username,
password, and a connection name (so that you can identify the connection if you need to alter it).
Earlier in this chapter, “Before you begin” explains what this stuff is.
5. Select Yes to create the connection.
If your connection needs changing, open the Control Panel and click the
Internet Options link. The Internet Properties dialog box appears. Click the
Connections tab, select a connection, and click the Settings button. Then
change the connection settings in the Settings dialog box.
Connecting with a DSL or Cable Modem
As the previous chapter explains, DSL and cable-modem connections are the
fastest way to travel the Internet. Besides the price, which is two to three
times higher with cable-modem or DSL service, the only drawback to DSL
and cable-modem connections is having to wait for the ISP to come to your
home and install your DSL or cable modem. It can take several weeks,
depending on the ISP.
Connecting with a DSL or Cable Modem
35
Before you begin
Gather this information before you tell Windows how to connect your computer to the Internet:
sbcglobal.net
✦ Username: The name on your account. If you have an e-mail address,
your username is the part of the address before the at (@) symbol. Your
ISP gives you the opportunity to choose this name. Example: BillyNYC
✦ Password: The combination of letters and numbers that you must enter
when you connect to the Internet. Example: king444
Making the connection
With a little luck, the person who installed your DSL or cable modem left
behind a CD that handles connecting the modem for you. Better yet, the kind
installer did the connection setup work for you. If that wasn’t the case, however, making the connection is your job. To set up a DSL or cable-modem
connection, start by doing one of the following:
✦ Click the Connect to the Internet icon on your desktop.
✦ Choose Start➪All Programs➪Accessories➪Communications➪Internet
Connection Wizard.
The Internet Connection Wizard dialog box appears. Follow these steps to
set up your Internet connection with the wizard:
1. Click the Next button to see the Network Connection Type dialog box
(refer to Figure 3-1).
2. Click the first option, Connect to the Internet; then click the Next
button.
3. Select the second option, Set Up My Connection Manually; then click
the Next button.
4. Select the second or the third option.
Which option you choose depends on whether your connection is made
automatically when you start your computer or whether you have to
enter your username and password each time you connect to the
Internet.
Setting Up
Your Internet
Connections
✦ ISP name: Your ISP’s domain name. This is the part of a Web address
after the www. It ends with the letters .com or .net. Example:
Book I
Chapter 3
36
Setting Up an E-Mail Account
5. Keep clicking the Next button and answering the wizard’s questions.
You’re done if your connection is always on. If a username and password
are required, you are asked for your ISP’s name, a username, and a password. You are also asked whether to “Use the name and password you
enter when anyone connects to the Internet from this computer.” Select
this check box if you don’t mind others who share your computer connecting to the Internet with your ISP.
If your connection needs adjusting, choose Start➪Control Panel. Switch
the Control Panel to Category view, if necessary, click the Network and
Internet Connection Settings link, and then click the Set Up or Change
Your Internet Connection link. In the dialog box, select the name of your
connection and then click the Settings button to change your connection
settings.
Setting Up an E-Mail Account
Before you can send and receive e-mail with an e-mail program, you need to
set up an e-mail account. By setting up an account, you identify yourself to
your ISP and make it possible for others to send you e-mail. By the way, Book
III, Chapter 1 explains how e-mail is sent and delivered, in case you’re interested in what goes on backstage.
The particulars of setting up an e-mail account differ from program to program, but no matter which e-mail program you use, you provide this information to set up your account:
✦ Incoming mail server type: Find out whether your ISP operates a POP3
or IMAP incoming mail server. It probably operates a POP3 server.
✦ Incoming mail address (POP3): E-mail addressed to you is kept on your
ISP’s incoming mail server until you go online to collect it, which is why
you need this address. The address begins with the letters pop and
looks something like this:
pop.sbcglobal.net
✦ Outgoing mail address (SMTP): This address begins with the letters
smtp and looks something like this:
smtp.sbglobal.net
✦ Account name: Your account name is the same as your e-mail address.
✦ Password: Enter the password you recorded with your ISP when you set
up your Internet connection.
Setting Up an E-Mail Account
37
Figure 3-2 shows a dialog box for setting up an e-mail account in Outlook
Express. Here is how to create an e-mail account in different software
programs:
✦ Netscape Mail: Choose Edit➪Mail/News Account Settings, click New
Account, and negotiate the New Account Wizard.
✦ Outlook Express: Choose Tools➪Accounts, and in the Internet Accounts
dialog box, select the Mail tab and click the Add button.
✦ Outlook: Choose Tools➪E-mail Accounts, select Add a New E-Mail
Account in the E-Mail Accounts dialog box, and click the Next button.
Then negotiate the wizard dialog boxes.
✦ Pegasus: Choose File➪Network Configuration, and in the Pegasus Mail
Options dialog box, select the Network tab and enter the information.
Figure 3-2:
Setting up
an e-mail
account in
Outlook
Express.
Setting Up
Your Internet
Connections
✦ Eudora: Choose Tools➪Personalities, and right-click and choose
Account Settings. Then click the Next button and provide the account
information.
Book I
Chapter 3
38
Book I: Getting Started
Chapter 4: Protecting Your
Privacy and Security
In This Chapter
Protecting your computer from viruses
Updating your copy of Windows
Using a firewall to protect your computer
Taking on spyware and adware
Preventing identification theft
T
he Internet brings the world to your doorstep, but it also brings hoaxters, scam artists, and phishers (this chapter explains who they are).
Without the right protection, your computer is subject to getting sick from a
virus. Spyware and adware, as this chapter explains, have probably already
made their way into your computer. How’s your firewall doing, anyway?
This chapter looks into how you can enjoy all the benefits of exploring the
Internet without any of the hassles or catastrophes that come from not
being properly protected. You discover how viruses work and how to protect your computer from viruses, how to throw a protective firewall around
your computer, and what to do about spyware and adware. This chapter
details how scam artists are stealing identifications on the Internet and why
keeping your copy of Windows up to date can do a world of good where
Internet security is concerned.
Preventing a Virus Attack
A virus is a software program that hides inside other software without anyone
knowing it. Viruses are created with malicious intent, either to damage computers or to call attention to themselves and their anonymous creators.
About 200 new viruses are introduced to the Internet each month. What
makes some viruses dangerous is the speed with which they spread. In 2004,
a virus called Mydoom infected a quarter-million computers worldwide in a
single day. In 1999, the Melissa virus caused such havoc on the Internet that
many companies, Microsoft included, shut down their e-mail systems.
Viruses range in virulence from the docile Hank virus, which simply wished
a happy birthday to someone named Hank, to the Michelangelo virus, which
attempted to reformat computers’ hard drives.
40
Preventing a Virus Attack
These pages explain how to prevent viruses from spreading, the different
kinds of viruses, and how viruses spread. They also look at how to choose
antivirus software and different antivirus programs.
Virus Bulletin (www.virusbtn.com) reviews and tests antivirus software.
When you want to compare features and shop for antivirus software, it’s the
place to go. Next time somebody sends you a panicky e-mail claiming that
you may have been hit with a virus, look up the virus’s name at Vmyths
(http://vmyths.com). This Web site catalogs virus hoaxes for the benefit
of nervous Nellies.
Only you can prevent viruses from spreading
Ninety percent of viruses are spread in e-mail attachments sent over the
Internet. The only way to prevent viruses from spreading is to use antivirus
software, be careful which files you download from the Internet, only open
files sent to you by e-mail if you know and trust the sender, and apply the
same vigilance to files given to you on floppy disks and CDs as you do to files
sent to you by e-mail.
It’s generally understood that if a stranger sneezes near you in a crowded
bus, you may get the stranger’s germs. Why, then, do some people not think
twice about opening files sent to them by strangers over the Internet? These
files, like the stranger’s germs, could well be infected. If you get an e-mail
attachment from an address and person you don’t recognize, start by assuming the worst. Assume you’ve been sent a file infected with a virus. Then
study the file’s three-letter extension to find out which kind of file was sent
in the attachment. The file types listed in Table 4-1 are capable of carrying
viruses.
Table 4-1
File Types That Can Carry Viruses
Extension
File Type
Notes
.bas
BASIC program file
These are executable files.
.bat
Batch
Batch files are MS-DOS program files.
.class
Java program
As executiable files, these can carry
viruses.
.cmd
Windows Batch
These can include viruses.
.com
Executable
Computers can read and execute commands in these files.
.doc
Word
Word files can contain macros, and
macros can contain viruses.
.dot
Word template
Word templates can also contain
macros.
Preventing a Virus Attack
41
File Type
Notes
.exe
Executable
A very dangerous kind of file. Many
computer programs are executable
files.
.hta
HTML application
A computer program that can contain
viruses.
.jv
Java
Java code can include executable
commands.
.mdb
Access
These files can contain macros, and
macros can contain viruses.
.msi
Windows Installer
These program files tell Windows how
to install other programs.
.ocx
ActiveX module
This is an executable file.
.pif
Program Information
These programs tell Windows how to
run DOS programs.
.ppt
PowerPoint
PowerPoint presentations may contain
viruses if they contain macros.
.scr
Screen saver file
This is an executable file.
vbe, .vbs, .vg
Visual Basic Script
Viruses can be written in Visual Basic,
a computer language.
.vsd
Visio template file
This file type can contain macros.
.ws, .wsc, .wsf
Windows Script Host
These scripts can include executable
commands.
.xls
Excel
Excel spreadsheets can contain
viruses if they also contain macros.
.xlt
Excel template
Excel template files can contain
viruses, too.
If the file sent to you is one listed in Table 4-1, don’t open the file. Either
delete the file immediately or, if you think the file may be legitimate, ask the
person who sent it what is in the file and why it was sent. By the way, don’t
be fooled because the return address looks legitimate. Attaching a convincinglooking return address to an e-mail message is easy. There’s even a word for
it — e-mail spoofing.
Windows hides some kinds of file extensions. To be able to see all file extensions on your computer and adequately judge whether they may be carrying
viruses, follow these steps:
1. Open Windows Explorer or My Computer.
2. Choose Tools➪Folder Options.
The Options dialog box opens.
3. Select the View tab.
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Chapter 4
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Security
Extension
42
Preventing a Virus Attack
4. Deselect the Hide Extensions for Known File Types check box.
5. Click the OK button.
As Book III, Chapter 1 explains, you can roll several files into one file, called a
Zip file, to make sending the files easier. Normally, antivirus software detects
viruses in incoming mail, but that isn’t so of Zip files. Because the files have
been zipped, or compressed, antivirus software can’t read them to tell
whether they contain viruses. The moral of the story is to examine files carefully after you unzip them. Unzipped files can contain viruses.
Differentiating types of viruses
Viruses come in these different shapes and forms:
✦ E-mail virus: This kind of virus reproduces itself by going into the recipient’s Address Book, taking down names, and e-mailing itself to tens or
hundreds of people at once. It’s important to remember that no virus
can spread inside an e-mail message. Viruses travel by e-mail, but not
inside messages — they travel in files attached to e-mail messages.
✦ Time bomb: This is a virus that is programmed to lie quietly in wait on a
computer until the appointed hour, when it “explodes” and causes
damage.
✦ Trojan horse: This virus masquerades as one kind of program but is
really another. The game you thought you downloaded turns out not to
be a game at all, but a virus. Trojan horses travel on the Internet by
stealth, not by reproducing themselves quickly like other viruses.
✦ Worm: This is a virus that quickly makes copies of itself on many computers. Worms infect a security hole in a network, and when they are
inside the network, quickly copy themselves from computer to computer. Code Red, the most notorious worm, copied itself to a quartermillion computers during one day in July 2001.
Viruses slow Internet traffic. They clog computer networks. They make computers run more slowly by tying up a computer’s processor. They destroy
important files. Always be on the alert for viruses, and make sure that
antivirus software is installed on your computer.
How virus infections spread
When you open a program or file that contains a virus, the virus scans your
computer for programs or files that it can attach to, and before it opens, it
infects those programs or files. Now several programs or files on your computer are infected with the virus. In this way, the virus reproduces itself.
Eventually, some activity — the arrival of a certain date, for example —
triggers the virus to go into action.
Preventing a Virus Attack
43
Protecting your computer from viruses in macros
To protect your computer from macro viruses in
Access, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word files, you
can tell your computer to run macros only if the
file to which they belong originated with a
trusted source. If you try to run a macro from an
untrusted source, either the macro doesn’t run
or you are warned beforehand that the macro
may contain a virus.
With the Very High and High settings, only
macros from files containing a digital signature can be run. Choose the Medium setting to display a warning whenever you run
a macro. Choose the Low setting if you trust
your antivirus software to detect viruses in
all macros. With the Low rating, all macros
are run without a warning.
To disable all macros, select the Trusted
Publishers tab and deselect the Trust All
Installed Add-Ins and Templates check box.
5. Click the OK button in the Security dialog
box.
6. Click the OK button in the Options dialog
box.
Follow these steps in Access, Excel, PowerPoint,
or Word to tell the program how to handle the
virus-macro problem:
1. Choose Tools➪Options.
The Options dialog box opens.
2. Select the Security tab.
3. Click the Macro Security button.
You see the Security dialog box.
4. Choose a security setting — Very High,
High, Medium, or Low.
Other viruses appropriate e-mail addresses from the receiver’s address book
and send e-mail with infected files to those addresses. Still others take
advantage of the intimate relationships between computers on the same network to spread from computer to computer.
Looking at antivirus software
I know what you’re thinking: “I’m already shelling out $10 to $40 a month for
an Internet connection with an ISP. Do I have to shell out another $40 to $80
Protecting Your
Privacy and
Security
Files made with these Microsoft Office programs can contain viruses: Access, Excel,
PowerPoint, and Word. They can contain
viruses because they are capable of running
macros. A macro is a set of command instructions recorded under one name. When you execute a macro, the program carries out the
instructions. Macros are written in Visual
Basic, a computer language. As such, they can
contain viruses.
Book I
Chapter 4
44
Preventing a Virus Attack
a year for antivirus software?” The answer is “Yes.” Antivirus software is a
bit like car insurance. You may not need it, but if you get in an accident,
you’re very glad you have it. Figure 4-1 shows an antivirus program called
Norton AntiVirus at work.
Every antivirus software program keeps up-to-date virus definitions. To see
whether files are infected on a computer, these programs scan the computer,
comparing their virus definitions against each file. If a match is found, it
means that the file is infected, and the file is cleaned of the virus. An
antivirus software worthy of the name should have these features:
✦ Disk scanning and cleaning: You can choose a disk drive on your computer to be scanned for and cleaned of viruses. The software should tell
you whether any viruses were found and whether they were successfully
eradicated.
✦ Automatic updates: You can go on the Internet and download virus definitions into the software. This way, the software is always cognizant of
the latest viruses and can delete them from your computer. The software
should tell you when your virus definitions are out of date and need
updating.
Figure 4-1:
Scanning
for viruses
with Norton
AntiVirus.
Preventing a Virus Attack
45
All the antivirus software listed in Table 4-2 meets these requirements. These
are the most popular and best-known antivirus software programs, and for
good reason. They are all reliable, easy to install, and easy to use. Table 4-3
lists free antivirus software programs. These programs can scan your hard
disk for viruses, but they don’t offer all the services you get when you pay
for antivirus software.
Table 4-2
Antivirus Software
Software
Web Address
Price
Notes
F-Secure Internet
Security
www.f-secure.com
$80
Includes anti-spam and
spyware features. For
parents, comes with
Web-site–blocking tools.
No phone support.
McAfee Virus
Scan Home
http://us.mcafee.com
$40
Includes anti-spyware
features. Phone support
costs extra.
Norton AntiVirus
www.symantec.com
$50
No anti-spyware features. No phone support.
Easy-to-use program.
Trend Micro PC-cillin
Internet Security
www.trendmicro.com
$45
Includes a firewall and
anti-spam and -spyware
features. Tech support
by phone is free.
Table 4-3
Free Antivirus Software
Software
Web Address
Notes
AntiVir Personal Edition
www.free-av.com
Does not scan incoming e-mail
Avast 4 Home Edition
www.avast.com/eng/
avast_4_home.html
Scans all e-mail services
BitDefender Free Edition
www.bitdefender.com
Does not scan e-mail
Another way to scan your hard drive for viruses without paying is to go to
Panda ActiveScan (www.pandasoftware.com/activescan). Access this
antivirus utility by way of your Web browser without downloading any software. It works using ActiveX technology. McAfee, the antivirus software
maker, also offers free antivirus scanning from a Web site at this address:
http://us.mcafee.com/root/mfs. Because three’s the charm, Trend Micro
Housecall (http://housecall.trendmicro.com) also offers the service.
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Security
✦ Scanning of incoming e-mail: Incoming e-mail messages with attached
files are scanned automatically for viruses. If a virus is found, it is
removed from the e-mail attachment. Some antivirus software also scans
outgoing e-mail to prevent viruses from spreading.
46
Making Sure Your Copy of Windows Is Up to Date
Making Sure Your Copy of Windows Is Up to Date
One way to thwart hackers and viruses is to make sure that your copy of
Windows is up to date. As security holes are discovered in the Windows software, Microsoft issues updates to Windows. These updates patch the security holes. My copy of Windows has been patched so many times it’s starting
to resemble a ragamuffin, but that’s another story.
If you want, Microsoft can update your copy of Windows automatically. It
can also alert you when updates to its Windows software are available for
downloading from the Internet so that you can download them yourself.
You’ll know when an update is available because a balloon caption with
these words will appear in the notification area by the clock on your desktop: “Stay current with automatic updates/Click here to keep your computer
up-to-date automatically with downloads from Windows Update.” Clicking
the balloon takes you to a Web page where you can download a Windows
update patch.
Checking whether Windows is
up to date — and updating
To find out whether your copy of Windows is up to date and, if it’s not up to
date, how to update it, choose Start➪All Programs➪Windows Update (you
can find this command near the top of the All Programs menu).
Windows Service Pack 2
In October 2004, Microsoft issued an upgrade
to its Windows XP software called Service
Pack 2. The upgrade is designed to make
Windows XP computers less susceptible to
attacks from viruses and hackers. If you bought
your computer in or after October 2004, you
probably don’t need to concern yourself with
Service Pack 2, because your Windows XP
software is up to date. But if your computer is
older than October 2004 and it runs Windows
XP, you owe it to yourself to load the Service
Pack 2 software on your computer.
Downloading and installing it on my computer
took two hours, and I have a fast Internet connection. You can follow the instructions
“Checking whether Windows is up to date —
and updating,” earlier in this chapter, to find out
whether Service Pack 2 is installed on your
computer, and download the software if need
be. If yours is a slow Internet connection and
you don’t have the patience to wait all day
while Service Pack 2 downloads, you can ask
Microsoft to send the software to you on a CD
by going to this Web address:
Unfortunately, at 50–250MB, depending on how
much updating your software needs, Service
Pack 2 is a big chunk of software code.
www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/
downloads/updates/sp2/cd
order/en_us/default.mspx
Making Sure Your Copy of Windows Is Up to Date
47
Your Web browser opens a page at microsoft.com. The page tells you
whether your copy of windows needs updating and instructs you how to
download the latest updates, as shown in Figure 4-2.
When it comes to updating your copy of Windows, you have the choice of
updating automatically, updating when you give the order, or not updating
automatically. If you opt for automatic updates, your computer queries
Microsoft when you are online to find out whether any Windows updates are
available. To tell your computer when and how to update your copy of
Windows, follow these steps:
1. Choose Start➪Control Panel.
The Control Panel window opens.
2. Click the Security Center link.
The Windows Security Center window appears (as long as Service Pack
2 is installed). This window tells you whether a firewall is installed and
working on your computer, whether you are updating your copy of
Windows automatically, and whether your computer is protected from
viruses.
Figure 4-2:
Is your copy
of Windows
up to date?
Protecting Your
Privacy and
Security
Choosing how to update your copy of Windows
Book I
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48
Making Sure Your Copy of Windows Is Up to Date
3. Click the Automatic Updates link.
You can find this link at the bottom of the window. You see the
Automatic Updates tab of the Automatic Updates dialog box, as shown
in Figure 4-3.
4. Choose an Update option:
• Automatic: Update files are sent to your computer and installed
automatically. You can schedule updates in the drop-down menus. If
your computer is turned off at the scheduled time, the update files
are downloaded at the next opportunity when you connect to the
Internet.
• Download Updates for Me: Updates are downloaded in the background without your noticing. To inform you that update files have
arrived, the balloon caption and the Windows Update icon appear in
the notification area. Click the icon or the caption to install the
updates.
• Notify Me but Don’t Automatically Download: If updates are available, the balloon caption and the Windows Update icon appear in the
notification area. Click either one to go on the Internet and download
the updates and install them on your computer.
Figure 4-3:
Choosing
how to
update
Windows.
Protecting Your Computer with a Firewall
49
5. Click the OK button.
Protecting Your Computer with a Firewall
In the real world, a firewall is a wall between buildings that is designed to
prevent a fire from spreading from one building to the next. A computer firewall does much the same thing — only digitally. A firewall is a software program or hardware device that serves as a gateway between a computer and
the Internet. The firewall scans data as it arrives from the Internet and slams
the door on unwanted intruders. To be specific, a firewall blocks ports on
your computer to certain kinds of data. For example, data from certain
domains and IP addresses may be blocked. A firewall may block data
requests made using the Telnet or ftp protocol because those protocols can
be used to commandeer others’ computers. In short, a firewall protects a
computer from unauthorized access and virus threats. It also hides a computer’s IP address so that hackers can’t target a computer.
Not so long ago, firewalls were deemed necessary only for computers connected to a company network, but because security threats from the Internet
are on the rise and because people with DSL and cable-modem connections
stay online for hours at a time, the current thinking is that all computers
should be protected by a firewall. Microsoft as much as acknowledged how
necessary firewalls have become when it began including a firewall with its
Windows XP operating system software. If you have a copy of Windows XP
issued after October 2004 or if you installed Service Pack 2, a firewall is
already installed on your computer (see the sidebar “Windows Service
Pack 2”).
Want to test how strong your firewall is and whether your computer is susceptible to threats from the Internet? Take the Shields UP! test at the following address. The test looks at your computer’s service ports and file-sharing
vulnerabilities, among other things. (Notice in this Web address the letters
https, not http. The s indicates that you are on a secure Web site.)
https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2
A look at third-party firewalls
The firewall that comes with Windows XP is not the best, but it is more than
adequate if you use it along with antivirus software. The Windows XP firewall
doesn’t scan outgoing files sent over the Internet for viruses. Some firewalls
Book I
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Protecting Your
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Security
• Turn Off Automatic Updates: You are not notified or given the
opportunity to download update files. Choose this option if you want
to update your copy of Windows on your own (see the previous section in this chapter).
50
Protecting Your Computer with a Firewall
do that to keep viruses from spreading. It also doesn’t offer spoofing protection to keep hackers from commandeering your computer. Table 4-4 describes
some firewalls that are worth looking into if your computer doesn’t already
have a firewall.
Table 4-4
Firewalls
Firewall Software
Web Address
Notes
Price
Kerio Personal
Firewall
www.kerio.com/us/
kpf_home.html
Very configurable software; not for novices.
$45
Outpost Firewall
www.agnitum.com
Blocks cookies and
conceals your surfing
history, among other
features.
$30
Sygate Personal
Firewall
http://smb.sygate.
com/products/spf_
standard.htm
Very customizable
with a friendly
interface.
$48
ZoneAlarm
www.zonelabs.com
Can quarantine e-mail.
$70
Turning the Windows XP firewall on or off
Sometimes it’s necessary to turn the Windows XP firewall off for a minute or
turn it off altogether. Sometimes you have to turn the firewall off temporarily
to upload Web-site pages to a Web server. Sometimes you have to turn it off
permanently in favor of using a different firewall. Follow these steps to turn
the Windows XP firewall on or off:
1. Choose Start➪Control Panel to open the Control Panel window.
2. Click the Network and Internet Connections link.
If you don’t see this link, switch to Category View in the Control Panel.
3. Click the Windows Firewall link.
The Windows Firewall dialog box appears.
4. On the General tab, select the On or Off option button to turn the firewall on or off.
5. Click the OK button to close the dialog box.
Some software programs have to breach the firewall to go on the Internet
and do what they’re supposed to do. When that is the case, you see a
Windows Security Alert dialog box like the one shown on the right side of
Figure 4-4. Click the Unblock button to open a port on your computer so that
What to Do about Spyware and Adware
51
Figure 4-4:
Clicking the
Unblock
button
exempts a
program so
that it can
bypass the
firewall.
What to Do about Spyware and Adware
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, eight of ten computers
are infected with spyware and adware. Spyware is a kind of software that is
installed surreptitiously on a computer. It gathers information about the
computer’s owner without his or her knowledge. Some spyware programs
can obtain personal information and send it to marketers or, worse, identity
thieves. Adware is a variety of spyware. It, too, is installed without anyone
knowing. Adware programs gather information about a user’s browsing
habits and send it to marketers. Adware programs display pop-up advertisements in the browser window tailored to the user’s tastes and browsing
patterns.
These programs are a nuisance at best and a menace at worst. Spyware programs called keyloggers can record keystrokes, including 16-digit credit card
Book I
Chapter 4
Protecting Your
Privacy and
Security
the program can go on the Internet. Programs that you unblock this way are
added to an Exceptions list, a list of programs that can disregard the firewall,
as shown on the left side of Figure 4-4. To remove a program from the
Exceptions list, go to the Exceptions tab of the Windows Firewall dialog box,
select the program, and click the Delete button. The step-by-step instructions previous to this paragraph explain how to open the Windows Firewall
dialog box.
52
What to Do about Spyware and Adware
numbers and eight-digit Social Security numbers, and send them to a remote
computer. Spyware slows computers. To use the terminology of the people
who monitor spyware, spyware has a large “clot factor” — it loads down the
computer with unnecessary folders and registry entries. Spyware can turn
an adventure on the Internet into a frustrating misadventure of pop-up
windows and screaming advertisements. Does this sound familiar? If your
computer is anything close to typical, it is already infected with spyware.
The first time I ran Webroot Spy Sweeper, my anti-spyware program of
choice, I discovered 17 spyware programs on my computer.
Spyware finds its way onto computers on the back of shareware programs
and file-sharing programs. The most notorious example of spyware piggybacking on another program was Kazaa, a program for sharing MP3 files on
the Internet. Kazaa was a sort of Typhoid Mary of the World Wide Web.
According to its manufacturer, 214 million computers downloaded Kazaa.
And every single one of them ran a bit slower because of it.
The only way to remove spyware is to employ the services of an antispyware program. Experts recommend using at least two anti-spyware programs because no single program can find and eradicate all varieties of
spyware. Table 4-5 describes the leading anti-spyware programs. These programs scan computer files, comparing the programs’ spyware definitions
against the files. When a match is found, the spyware is quarantined. Antispyware programs give you the chance to examine the spyware before you
delete it. You can download the anti-spyware programs listed in Table 4-5 at
Cnet.com (www.cnet.com) and TUCOWS (www.tucows.com). Figure 4-5
shows the Webroot Spy Sweeper anti-spyware program at work.
Table 4-5
Anti-Spyware Programs
Program
Web Address
Notes
Price
Ad-Aware
SE Personal
Edition
http://www.lava
soft.de
One of the first anti-spyware
programs.
Free
Spybot
Search
& Destroy
www.safer-net
working.org
Removes cookies as well as spyware. Don’t be put off by the unprofessional-looking interface — it
works well.
Free
SpySubtract
www.intermute.
Tells you when spyware was
com/products/
installed and rates virulence of
spysubtract.html found spyware programs.
Webroot
Spy
Sweeper
www.webroot.com
$30
Besides removing spyware, prevents $30
bookmarks from being added and
the home page from being changed
without permission.
53
Preventing Identification Theft
Web Address
Notes
Price
Windows
AntiSpyware
www.microsoft.
com/athome/
security/
spyware/software
Formerly Giant AntiSpyware, an
award-winning program; it was
purchased by Microsoft in
January 2005.
Free
to
Windows
users
Figure 4-5:
Webroot
Spy
Sweeper,
an antispyware
program.
Do not, I repeat, do not buy anti-spyware programs on the recommendation
of pop-up advertisements in your Web browser. Ironically, some programs
that profess to be anti-spyware are themselves spyware!
Preventing Identification Theft
Identification theft occurs when someone steals your credit card number,
PayPal account number, Social Security number, checking account number,
password to a Web site, or other valuable piece of information and pretends
to be you. The thief makes purchases in your name — purchases that show
up a month later on your credit card statement. Worse yet, the thief buys a
Book I
Chapter 4
Protecting Your
Privacy and
Security
Program
54
Preventing Identification Theft
cell phone or takes out a credit card or loan in your name. You can find yourself in the difficult and slightly schizophrenic position of having to convince
creditors and the telephone company that you are you and not the person
who has been spending so lavishly in your name.
According to a Federal Trade Commission report, nearly 10 million
Americans were probably victims of some form of identification theft in
2003. Is the Internet making it easier for identification thieves to operate? No
question about it. The anonymity of the Internet makes it that much easier
for the thieves to pose as people and institutions they aren’t. A term has
even been coined for masquerading as someone else with fraudulent intent
on the Internet: phishing. Phishing means to fraudulently solicit credit card
information, identifications, usernames, and passwords by means of realistic-looking Web pages or e-mail messages that appear to come from genuine
institutions. The word comes from the expression “going on a fishing expedition,” which means to vaguely and unhurriedly look into others’ affairs with
the hope of finding something damaging.
Figure 4-6 shows an example of phishing. This e-mail message appears to
have come from a real bank, but it’s a sham. If you click the link in the message, you go to a Web page with all the official trappings of the bank, where
you are asked to enter your bank account numbers and other personal information. The Address bar on the Web page even appears to show the bank’s
Web address, but the real Address bar is hidden, something that can be done
with the Java computer language.
Figure 4-6:
Phishing for
suckers on
the Internet.
Preventing Identification Theft
55
No legitimate institution will ever solicit personal information or ask you to
update your account by e-mail. Nor will they ask you to enter personal information online, except for the first time you provide the information. Except
for the first time, any attempt to get personal information from you is fraudulent. You can do everyone a favor by reporting these solicitations to the
institution that the phishers are pretending to represent.
The Anti-Phishing Working Group maintains an archive of phishing examples
at this Web address: www.antiphishing.org/phishing_archive.htm.
Take a look at some of these examples to see just how sophisticated phishers can be.
Book I
Chapter 4
Protecting Your
Privacy and
Security
Phishers are good at creating the illusion that they are real. They dress up
Web pages with all the tell-tale signs — the logos and graphics — of the institution that they are pretending to represent. A false request for usernames
and passwords appears to have really come from eBay, for example, because
it is dressed in the eBay colors. A request for Social Security numbers is
accompanied by the American flag and appears to have really come from the
United States government. Even the return address looks real. But faking an
e-mail address, or e-mail spoofing, is just part of the illusion.
56
Book I: Getting Started
Chapter 5: Using America Online
In This Chapter
Installing and signing on to AOL
Reading e-mail and receiving files
Organizing and storing e-mail messages
Sending e-mail and files
Tracking addresses in the Address Book
Surfing the Internet with AOL
A
merica Online (AOL) is an online service for surfing the Internet, sending and receiving e-mail, storing addresses, and doing a few other
things besides. As of this writing, the cost of the service is $24 per month
(AOL usually offers free service for the first month or two). If you bought
your computer at a big-time electronics store, it probably comes with the
AOL icon on the desktop. Having that icon doesn’t mean that you have to
subscribe to AOL, but lots of people do. AOL has many fans and many
detractors. In general, people who fall on the novice side of computing
favor AOL over the hardier, more sophisticated programs for handling the
Internet because AOL is easy to use. Starting from one place, you can surf
the Internet and trade e-mail messages. AOL’s keywords (you find out more
about them shortly) make it possible to visit Web sites without having to
enter cumbersome Web-site addresses. This chapter explains how to handle
e-mail and surf the Internet with America Online.
Installing AOL
If AOL isn’t installed on your computer, you can either install it from a CD
or download the program from this address on the Internet: www.aol.com.
As part of the installation, you are asked for a screen name and a password.
You need this name and password each time you log on to AOL.
If you have trouble with the installation or trouble connecting to the Internet
with AOL, call 800-827-6364. If you get frustrated and want to cancel the service, call 888-265-8008. You can find out more about AOL’s cancellation policy
by entering Cancel in the Keyword dialog box.
58
Signing on to AOL
Signing on to AOL
You must sign on to AOL each time you run the program. To sign on, either
double-click the America Online icon on your desktop or choose Start➪
Programs➪America Online➪America Online. You see the Sign On window
shown in Figure 5-1. Choose your screen name if you have more than one,
enter your password, and click the Sign On button.
Figure 5-1:
Signing on
to AOL.
Changing and deleting passwords
and screen names
AOL makes it easy to change and delete screen
names and passwords. (Who doesn’t need
another Internet personality now and then?)
AOL permits you to have as many as seven different screen names. Follow these steps to
manage passwords and screen names:
1. Press Ctrl+K or click the Keyword button
on the Quick Start toolbar.
The Keyword dialog box appears.
2. Enter this keyword: screen names.
3. Click the Go button.
A dialog box for changing and deleting
passwords and screen names appears.
4. Click the appropriate link, and answer the
questions in the dialog boxes as they
appear.
Don’t worry — this is real simple stuff.
A Short Geography Lesson
59
A Short Geography Lesson
Quick Start window
Next and Previous
Figure 5-2:
The AOL
screen.
✦ Quick Start window: This window is designed to help you do things
quickly. It includes buttons that are found elsewhere in the AOL window.
Click its Close button if you don’t care to see it. To display the window
after you have closed it, click the Quick Start button.
✦ Next and Previous buttons: Click these buttons to retreat to or go forward to windows either in AOL or on the Internet that you have visited
recently.
✦ Web Address box: Enter a Web address here and click the Go button to
visit a Web site. You can click the down arrow and select a site from the
drop-down list to revisit a site you visited recently.
Using America
Online
When you start AOL, you see a window screen like the one in Figure 5-2. I
wager that the menu bar and row of buttons along the top of the screen are
not foreign to you — they are found in lots of computer programs. From left
to right, here are the things that may make the AOL screen seem unusual:
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Chapter 5
60
Handling Incoming E-Mail
✦ Search button: Click the Search button to open a new window and
search the Internet.
✦ Favorites: Click the Favorites button (or its drop-down arrow) to visit a
site you bookmarked because you wanted to visit it again.
When you signed up with AOL, you chose a Toolset and Line Up for the
Welcome screen that appears when you start AOL. If you would like to
rethink those choices, click the Change This Screen link in the lower-left
corner of the Welcome screen. You are presented with a series of dialog
boxes for constructing a Welcome screen.
Handling Incoming E-Mail
Benjamin Franklin was wrong. He said that nothing is certain except death
and taxes. What is just as certain as those inevitabilities is this: Anyone who
has an e-mail account will receive ever-increasing amounts of e-mail. Besides
reading this mail, the person must devise strategies for sorting and organizing it. These topics are covered in the pages that follow.
Reading incoming mail
When someone sends you e-mail, you hear the words “You’ve got mail” and
a flag rises on the Read button in the upper-left corner of the screen. The
number beside this button tells you how many messages are waiting to be
read. By moving the pointer over the Read button, you can see a drop-down
list with senders’ names and message topics. To open your Mailbox and read
the mail, click the Read button. You see a Mailbox window similar to the one
in Figure 5-3.
Figure 5-3:
Collecting
the mail.
Handling Incoming E-Mail
61
Here are instructions for reading your mail:
Figure 5-4:
Reading
the mail.
✦ Deleting a message: Click the Delete button to remove a message.
Messages you delete are sent to the Recently Deleted folder. To recover
a message, open the Recently Deleted folder, select the message, and
click the Restore button. To open the Recently Deleted folder, open the
Manage Mail tab and select the folder in the My Mail Folder list.
To find a stray message in the Mailbox window, enter a word you remember
from the message’s title or text in the Quick Find box (refer to Figure 5-3) and
press Enter.
Receiving a file
You can tell when someone has sent you a file because a little page appears
behind the standard message icon on the left side of the Mailbox window.
The name of the file appears at the bottom of the message window (refer to
Figure 5-4).
Using America
Online
✦ Reading a message: Double-click a message or select it and click the
Read button to open it. The message appears in the Message window,
as shown in Figure 5-4. After you open a message, it is moved to the Old
tab. You can read it by opening the Old tab and double-clicking it there.
(Click the Keep As New button to move a message from the Old tab back
to the New tab.)
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62
Handling Incoming E-Mail
✦ To download the file now, double-click its name, click Yes when AOL
asks whether you really want to download it, and select a folder for storing the file in the Download Manager dialog box.
✦ To retrieve the file later, click the Download button and choose Download
Later. When you want to see the file, choose File➪Download Manager.
You see the Download Manager window. Select the file you want to open
and click the Finish Download button. You can find the file in your
C:\My Documents folder.
Managing your e-mail
If you receive e-mail from many different parties, I strongly suggest creating
e-mail folders for storing your mail. That way, when you want to find a message from someone, you will know where to find it. Herewith are instructions
for creating folders for e-mail and moving e-mail to different folders.
Creating a folder for storing e-mail
To create new folders for e-mail, start by selecting the Manage Mail tab in the
Mailbox window. On the left side of this tab is the My Mail Folders list, which
lists the folders where your e-mail is stored. Follow these steps to create a
new folder:
1. Click the Saved on My PC folder.
All new folders become subfolders of this folder.
2. Click the Setup Folders button and choose Create Folder.
You see the Create New Folder dialog box.
3. Enter a folder name and click the Save button.
Be sure to choose a descriptive name. The name of your new folder
appears under the Saved on My PC folder in the folders list.
Moving e-mail messages to different folders
Follow these steps to move an e-mail message to a different folder:
1. Select the e-mail message.
2. Click the Save button and move the pointer over On My PC on the
drop-down list.
You see a list of folders.
3. Select the folder you want to move the e-mail to.
Composing and Sending E-Mail
63
Composing and Sending E-Mail
Writing an e-mail
Follow these steps to compose and send an e-mail message:
1. Click the Write button or press Ctrl+M.
You see the Write Mail window shown in Figure 5-5.
Figure 5-5:
Composing
an e-mail
message.
2. In the Send To box, enter the address of the person who is to receive
the message.
If the address is on file in your Address Book, just type the first two or
three letters to see a list of e-mail addresses that begin with those two
or three letters. Choose a name from the list to enter the whole address.
To send the same e-mail to more than one person, press Enter to go to
the next line of the Send To box and enter another address there.
Enter an address in the Copy To box to send a copy of the message to
someone.
3. In the Subject line, enter a descriptive subject for the message.
4. Enter the body of the message in the text box.
You can format the message by clicking the Bold or Underline button, for
example. However, only people with e-mail software capable of reading
HTML formats can see the formatting in your e-mail message.
Using America
Online
In order to get invited to parties, you have to issue a few invitations. And in
order to get e-mail, you have to send out e-mail. In this section, you find
instructions for composing e-mail messages, replying to or forwarding messages, and sending files.
Book I
Chapter 5
64
Maintaining an Address Book
5. Click the Send Now button to send the message.
Or, to postpone sending it, click the Send Later button. You see the Send
Later dialog box. Click the Auto AOL button to schedule a time to send the
message. To send the message later on your own, click the Read button to
open the Mailbox window. Then click the Manage Mail tab and select the
Mail Waiting to Be Sent folder in the My Mail Folders list. Finally, select the
message and click the Send button.
Replying to and forwarding messages
Replying to and forwarding messages is a cinch. All you have to do is click
the Reply, Forward, or Reply All button in the Message window (refer to
Figure 5-4). Immediately, a Write Mail window opens with the sender’s e-mail
address and subject line already entered. Write a reply or scribble a few
words at the top of the forwarded message and click the Send Now or Send
Later button.
Sending a file
Follow these steps to send a file to someone:
1. Address and compose the message as you normally would.
2. Click the Attach File button in the Write Mail window.
You can find this button in the lower-left corner of the window. You see
the Attached File(s) dialog box.
3. Select the file or files you want to send and click the Open button.
To select more than one file, Ctrl+click the files.
The name of the file or files you want to send appears at the bottom of
the Write Mail window. If you change your mind about sending a file,
select the file and click the Detach File button.
4. Click the Send Now or Send Later button.
Maintaining an Address Book
You can keep street addresses and phone numbers as well as e-mail
addresses in the AOL Address Book. Keeping e-mail addresses is worthwhile
because you don’t have to type an e-mail address to address an e-mail message if the address is listed in the Address Book. AOL fills in addresses from
the book automatically.
Maintaining an Address Book
65
Sending e-mails to groups
Changing around the group members: In
the Address Book, group names are shown
in boldface text. To change around a group,
select its name and click the Edit button.
You see the Manage Group dialog box.
Select names and click the Add or Remove
button to change around the group.
Here are instructions for handling group
addresses:
Sending an e-mail to the group’s members:
Select the group in the Address Book, click
the Send To button, and choose a sending
option on the drop-down list. The Write
Mail window appears with the addresses
of the group members already entered.
Starting a group: Click the Add Group
button in the Address Book window. You
see the Manage Group dialog box. Enter a
name for your group. In the Contacts List,
Ctrl+click to select the names of people you
need for the group. Then click the Add
button and click the Save button.
Deleting a group: Select the group’s name
and click the Delete button.
Choose Mail➪Address Book to open the Address Book. Here are instructions
for doing this, that, and the other thing with addresses:
✦ Entering a new address: Click the Add button. You see the Address Card
for New Contact dialog box shown in Figure 5-6. Fill in the pertinent
information on the different tabs and click the Save button.
Figure 5-6:
Entering an
address in
the Address
Book.
Using America
Online
Create a group in the Address Book if you need
to send the same e-mail to several different
people at once. For example, if you’re the captain of a softball team, you can compose and
address a message about upcoming games to
all team members. This spares you the trouble of
composing a dozen or more e-mail messages.
Book I
Chapter 5
66
Exploring the Internet in AOL
✦ Changing address information: Select a name and click the Edit button.
You see the Address Card for New Contact dialog box. Change the information there and click the Save button.
✦ Deleting an entry: Select a name and click the Delete button.
Exploring the Internet in AOL
As well as conventional ways to search the Internet, AOL offers keywords.
Instead of typing an unwieldy Web-site address, you can enter a keyword.
As long as that keyword corresponds to one of AOL’s channels, you go to
an AOL channel, a Web site with many links to the subject in question. For
example, entering the keyword autos takes you to an AOL-maintained Web
site with links to many sites that concern cars.
Exploring the Internet by keyword isn’t the big deal it used to be. The Internet
is much easier to search and navigate than it was when AOL invented its keyword scheme. AOL subscribers can use Internet Explorer or Mozilla to search
the Internet. I recommend doing just that. Those browsers are much easier to
use than AOL’s, in my opinion.
You, of course, are entitled to your opinion, and to that end, here are instructions for exploring the Internet with AOL:
✦ Entering a keyword: On the Quick Start toolbar, enter the keyword in
the Keyword dialog box or type the keyword directly into the Web-site
address box. If the keyword is associated with an AOL channel, you go
to the AOL Web site. Choose Keyword➪Explore Keywords to see all the
AOL keywords.
✦ Surfing the Internet: Enter an address in the Web-site address box and
click the Go button.
✦ Searching: Click the Search button to go to an AOL-maintained site for
searching the Internet. (This site is by no means the best place to start
an Internet search. Conducting a search of the Internet is the subject of
Book II, Chapter 3.)
✦ Bookmarking your favorite Web sites: When you come across a Web
site you want to revisit, bookmark it. Click the Favorites button and, in
the Favorite Places dialog box, choose Add to Favorites➪Favorite
Places. Next time you want to visit the Web site, click the Favorites
button and choose the Web site’s name in the Favorites window.
Don’t forget to click the Previous or Next button to go backward or forward
through Web sites you have visited.
Chapter 6: Getting the Plug-Ins
You Need
In This Chapter
Finding out what plug-ins are
Choosing which plug-in plays by default
Examining the different plug-ins
T
his brief chapter describes companion programs called plug-ins that
you need to watch videos, hear audio, and read PDF files on the
Internet. First you find out precisely what a plug-in is. Then you discover
how to decide which plug-in is launched by default, and you take a close
look at all the plug-ins.
Introducing Plug-Ins
A plug-in is a companion program to a Web browser that handles files that
a Web browser can’t handle. To make the most of the Internet — to play
videos or listen to Internet radio — you need the right plug-ins. For example, the Internet Explorer Web browser can’t play videos on its own. When
you see a video on a Web page and you click to play it, it doesn’t play unless
Windows Media Player, QuickTime Player, or another plug-in capable of
playing video is installed on your computer.
Table 6-1 lists plug-ins and tells you where to go on the Internet to get information about each one. I describe these plug-ins throughout this chapter. With
the exception of the Office programs, you can download the plug-ins in Table
6-1 by going to the Web sites listed in the table or by going to these Web sites:
Cnet (www.cnet.com) or TUCOWS (www.tucows.com). All programs in the
table except the Office programs are free, although many offer upgraded versions with more features that you can purchase for real green cash.
68
A Roster of Plug-In Programs
Table 6-1
Plug-In
Plug-Ins
Opens/Plays These Files
Web Address
.ra, .ram, .rm
www.real.com
.swf
www.macromedia.com/
software/flash
Audio
RealPlayer
Flash Animations
Flash Player
Microsoft Office Programs
.doc (Word), .ppt
(PowerPoint), .rtf (Rich
Text Format),.xls (Excel)
http://office.
microsoft.com
.pdf
www.adobe.com/
products/acrobat/
readermain.html
QuickTime Player
.mov, .mp4
www.apple.com/quicktime
Windows Media
Player
.avi, .MP3,
.mpeg, .wmv
www.microsoft.com/
windows/windowsmedia
Excel, PowerPoint, Word
Portable Document Files
Acrobat Reader
Video and Audio
A Roster of Plug-In Programs
You can’t tell who the players are without reading the roster. These pages
describe a roster of plug-in programs — Acrobat Reader, Flash Player,
Microsoft Office programs, QuickTime Player, RealPlayer, and Windows
Media Player. You also find out how to decide which plug-in gets launched
automatically when you encounter a certain kind of file on the Internet.
Acrobat Reader
Acrobat Reader is a program for displaying portable document files, better
known as PDF files. As shown in Figure 6-1, Acrobat Reader opens inside
your Web-browser window when you open a PDF file on the Internet. PDF
files are often meant to be printed. Many are Internet versions of brochures
and other publications. Search engines read, index, and catalog PDF files as
they do Web pages. Google even has a command for searching for PDF files.
On the Google Advanced Search page (www.google.com/advanced_
search), choose Adobe Acrobat PDF (.pdf) on the File Format drop-down
menu. Go to this Web address to read about Acrobat Reader and download
the program: www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readermain.html.
A Roster of Plug-In Programs
Find
Zoom text box
Previous page
Find again
69
Hand tool
Next page
Zoom In/Out
Book I
Chapter 6
Getting the Plug-Ins
You Need
Figure 6-1:
A PDF file
in Acrobat
Reader.
PDF files can be unwieldy and hard to read, but you can take advantage of
these Acrobat Reader tools to making reading the files a little easier:
✦ Going from page to page: Click the Next Page or Previous Page button,
use the scroll bar, or click the Hand Tool button and drag on-screen.
✦ Zooming in and out: Click the Zoom Out button, use the Zoom In or
Zoom Out tool, or enter a percentage in the Zoom text box to shrink or
enlarge the text.
✦ Finding text: Click the Find button, enter a word or words in the Acrobat
Find dialog box, and click the Find button. Click the Find Again button to
search for the next instance of the thing you’re looking for.
Copying text from a PDF file can be frustrating. You can click the Text Select
tool and drag over the document, but you can only select blocks of text this
way. It isn’t possible to select one sentence, for example, or a paragraph.
Selecting text in a single column is very frustrating because you have to
select adjoining text in the other columns as well. If you are in the unenviable position of often having to copy text from PDF files to Word files, check
70
A Roster of Plug-In Programs
out these programs, which make doing that considerably easier: Solid
Converter PDF to Word (www.solidpdf.com) and PDF Converter (www.scan
soft.com/pdfconverter).
To convert a Word file to PDF file, try pdf995. You can learn about and download the program at this Web address: http://pdf995.com. OpenOffice, a
free alternative to the Microsoft Office programs, can also convert a Word
file to a PDF file. Go to this Web address to look into OpenOffice: www.open
office.org.
Flash Player
You need Flash Player to play .swf (pronounced “swiff”) Flash animations.
These animations are lot of fun to watch, which makes Flash Player worth
having. You can read about Flash Player and download the program at this
Web address: www.macromedia.com/software/flash.
I keep seeing more and more Flash animations on the Internet, although,
unfortunately, some of them are advertisements. Check out this Web site for
some creative examples of Flash animations: www.albinoblacksheep.com/
flash. This Japanese Flash animation shows how extraordinary Flash animations can be: http://yoga.at.infoseek.co.jp/flash/kikkomaso.
swf. You can also find some neat Flash animations at Angry Alien Productions at this Web address: www.angryalien.com. Be sure to check out
the 30-second reenactments of popular movies acted out by bunnies.
Some people believe that Flash animations are a security risk to computers
because Flash animations are displayed in Internet Explorer using ActiveX
controls. ActiveX controls allow programs to interact with the Windows
operating system, exposing Windows to security threats. You can disable the
Flash Player in Internet Explorer by following these steps:
1. Choose Tools➪Manage Add-Ons.
The Manage Add-Ons dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 6-2. It lists
add-on programs installed on your computer.
2. Find Shockwave Flash Object on the list and select it.
3. Under Settings, select the Disable option button.
A message box tells you to exit and restart Internet Explorer.
4. Click the OK button in the message box and close Internet Explorer.
You can tell when you need an add-on or plug-in to view a Web page in
Internet Explorer because the Manage Add-Ons icon appears on the status
bar. You can double-click this icon to open the Manage Add-Ons dialog box.
A Roster of Plug-In Programs
71
Book I
Chapter 6
Getting the Plug-Ins
You Need
Figure 6-2:
View the
add-on
programs in
Add-Ons
dialog box.
Microsoft Office Programs
Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word files can be loaded on a Web site
along with standard HTML files. Occasionally you run into one of these files,
and to open it, you need Excel, PowerPoint, or Word. These programs are
part of the Microsoft Office Suite.
By running an advanced search at Google (www.google.com/advanced_
search), you can search for Excel, PowerPoint, and Word files. Open the
File Format drop-down menu and choose Microsoft Excel (.xls), Microsoft
PowerPoint (.ppt), or Microsoft Word (.doc).
QuickTime Player
QuickTime Player was originally invented for Macintosh computers. Apple
came out with a version of QuickTime Player for Windows PCs in 1998.
Nevertheless, QuickTime Player retains its association with Macintoshes. It
is the only media player that can play .mov (movie) files, the video file standard created by Macintosh for its computers. QuickTime Player software has
been folded into iTunes, the program for playing music files (see Book VIII,
Chapter 4). QuickTime Player can play MP4 audio files. You can read about it
as this address: www.apple.com/quicktime. It is shown in Figure 6-3.
72
A Roster of Plug-In Programs
Figure 6-3:
QuickTime
Player.
RealPlayer
RealPlayer, shown in Figure 6-4, has reinvented itself in recent years as multipurpose media player. You can play MP3 and .wav audio files, as well as
.mpeg and .avi video files, with RealPlayer, but I wouldn’t bother. The only
reason to use this clunky piece of software is to download streaming audio
from the Internet. Occasionally you run across a RealAudio (.ra, .ram, or
.rm) streaming audio file that can only be played with RealPlayer — and
then you have to use the darn thing. You can visit the RealPlayer Web site at
this address: www.real.com.
Figure 6-4:
RealPlayer.
A Roster of Plug-In Programs
73
Suppose you click a video or audio file on a
Web page but the wrong plug-in plays or opens
the file. Perhaps you want video to play by
default in Windows Media Player rather than
QuickTime Player or iTunes. You can be the
master of your fate. You can decide which plugin (or program) plays or opens which kind of file
by default. You can do that by following these
steps:
1. Choose Start➪Settings➪Control Panel.
2. If necessary, click the Switch to Classic
View link and then double-click the Folder
Options icon.
You see the Folder Options dialog box.
3. Click the File Types tab.
You see a list of registered file types.
Windows recognizes all the files on the list.
Windows has preconceived ideas about
which plug-in or program to automatically
open these files in.
4. Scroll down the list and select the type of
file you want to reassign.
In the bottom half of the dialog box, next to
the words “Opens With,” you can see
which plug-in or program automatically
opens the file you chose. When you have
finished reassigning the file, a new plug-in
or program name will appear beside the
words “Opens With.”
5. Click the Change button.
You see the Open With dialog box. It lists
the names of all plug-ins and programs
installed on your computer.
6. Select the name of the plug-in or program
with which you want to open files of the
type in question.
7. Click the OK button in the Open With
dialog box.
8. Click the OK button in the Folder Options
dialog box.
Getting the Plug-Ins
You Need
Selecting the default plug-in
Book I
Chapter 6
74
A Roster of Plug-In Programs
Windows Media Player
Windows Media Player comes with the Windows operating system. If your
computer is running Windows, I’ll bet that Windows Media Player is on your
computer. The program can play movies and audio files as well as tune you
into online radio stations and burn CDs (see Book VIII, Chapter 3). To find
out more about Windows Media Player, go to this Web address: www.
microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia.
Chapter 7: The Internet for Children
and Parents
In This Chapter
Supervising children’s Internet use
Comparing the filtering software programs
Trying out search engines designed for children
Assessing schools on the Internet
Answering kids’ health questions
Looking for colleges and college scholarships
T
his chapter explains how children and parents can get the most out of
the Internet and, in the case of children, do it safely. It looks at supervising children’s online time and describes how to safeguard children as they
explore the Internet. You look at filtering software programs that weed out
objectionable material and some search engines designed especially for children. You find many helpful Web sites in this chapter — for parenting, choosing kids’ schools, getting answers to health questions, doing your homework
online, and looking at colleges and obtaining college scholarships.
When you find Web sites that you believe are worthwhile for your children,
bookmark them. This way, you can return to the Web sites quickly and
easily. Book II, Chapter 1 explains bookmarking.
Supervising Kids on the Internet
As you know if you’ve spent any time on the Internet, it isn’t hard to run into
objectionable material. Gruesome pictures and Web sites that espouse violence are not hard to come by. You can trip over a pornographic Web site in
the course of an innocent Internet search. As a parent, how do you keep
your children from finding objectionable material on the Internet?
The only practical way to discourage them from finding this material is to go
online with them or, barring that, put your computer in a common room in
the house — the living room or family room — where you can keep an eye
on who is using your computer. This chapter explains a dozen different
76
Talking to Children about the Internet
ways to steer children away from objectionable material on the Internet. You
can enlist software to screen out objectionable material. You can point your
children toward Web sites that are kid-friendly. You can employ computer
programs that monitor children’s online activity. But you must face the fact
that most children are more computer-savvy than their parents, and they
discover ways to get around your restrictions. This is why I believe in keeping the computer in a common room and why I strongly recommend against
letting children have computers in their bedrooms. Besides, letting children
have computers in their bedrooms discourages them from playing with their
friends and developing the social skills they need for a rewarding life.
Talking to Children about the Internet
Talk to your children about the Internet. Tell them that it was invented for
adults but there are many fine things for kids on the Internet, too. Children
more than others object to following rules, so I leave it to your creativity to
find ways to establish these rules for your children’s Internet use without
making them sound like rules. You could call them suggestions. You could
call them good ideas. Here are some of these ideas:
✦ Don’t give others your name, age, phone number, or other personal
information on the Internet. If a questionnaire on the Internet asks for it,
don’t fill out the questionnaire.
✦ Understand that people who chat with you on the Internet may not be
who they say they are. Sometimes adults pose as kids and kids pose as
adults.
✦ Never meet someone in person whom you met online unless you are
with an adult.
✦ Don’t send your picture to anyone over the Internet unless the person is
a family friend or family member.
✦ If anyone you don’t know asks where you will be or what time you will
do something, don’t answer, and tell your parents about it.
✦ Don’t try to buy anything online unless your parents are sitting
beside you.
✦ If anything upsetting happens on the Internet, tell your parents about it.
After hearing you talk about these rules, if your child asks why adults are so
strange and why it’s necessary to exercise so much caution when dealing
with them over the Internet, just answer, “Someday you’ll grow up and you’ll
understand.”
Talking to Children about the Internet
77
Looking at filtering and monitoring software
Table 7-1
Filtering Software Programs
Program
Web Address
Notes
Price
Content Protect
www.contentwatch.com/ Offers a variety of different
products/content
features and controls.
protect.php
Cyber Patrol
www.cyberpatrol.com
Filters content but does not $40
have monitoring capabilities.
Cybersitter
www.cybersitter.com
Has the most thorough
filtering capabilities; you
can block content in 32
categories.
iProtectYou
www.softforyou.com
Family members can be
$35
assigned “intensity levels”
for filtering, with the highest
intensity blocking the most
Web sites.
Net Nanny
www.netnanny.com
Customizing the list of
$40
blocked Web sites for different family members is
difficult.
NetFilter Home
www.enologic.com
Rather than lists, uses
image and text analysis to
determine whether content
is objectionable.
$30
$40
$48
Filtering software programs keep lists of Web sites with objectionable
material — you can update these lists over the Internet — and they bar children from visiting Web sites on the list. You can configure these programs
for different family members so that older siblings have access to more
Web sites than younger ones. The programs let you choose whether to block
Web sites in different categories — sex, drugs, weapons, violence, extremism, and so on. Some programs can prevent children from visiting newsgroups and chat rooms. You can download trial versions of the programs
listed in Table 7-1 by going to Cnet.com (www.cnet.com).
The Internet for
Children and
Parents
Filtering software, also known as blocking software, is software that keeps
inappropriate material from appearing in a Web-browser window. Monitoring
software tracks the Web sites that someone has visited on the Internet. Table
7-1 describes well-regarded filtering software. Some of the programs listed in
the table are monitors as well. As you use these programs or consider using
them, remember that no filtering software can block all objectionable content all the time. The best these programs can do is block most of it.
Book I
Chapter 7
78
Talking to Children about the Internet
The Internet Filter Review (www.internetfilterreview.com) rates filtering software programs. Go to the Web site to see a detailed chart that shows
what each program does and how it compares to the other programs.
By the way, on the subject of monitoring where users of a computer have
been on the Internet, you can monitor on your own without the use of monitoring software:
✦ The cookie trail: A cookie is a text file that Web sites deposit on your
computer when you visit them. By studying cookies, you can tell which
Web sites someone has been to. In Windows XP, cookies are located in
this folder: C:\Documents and Settings\Your Name\Cookies. In
versions of Windows prior to XP, they are found in this folder:
C:\Windows\Cookies.
✦ Temporary Internet files: When you visit a Web page, you download
its component parts — the HTML files, graphic files, and whatnot — to
your computer. In Windows XP, these files are kept in the C:\Documents
and Settings\Your Name\Local Settings\Temporary Internet
Files folder. In versions of Windows prior to XP, they are kept in the
C:\Windows\Temporary Internet Files folder.
Open these folders in Windows Explorer or My Computer to see where you
or someone else has been on the Internet.
Discovering search engines designed for children
A search engine is a tool for finding information on the Internet (Book II,
Chapter 3 explains how search engines work). Search engines designed for
children find Web sites that are suitable for children and useful to children.
They do that by searching only in prescribed lists of Web sites that have
been deemed kid-friendly. Table 7-2 lists search engines for children. Figure 7-1
shows the Yahooligans! Web site, a search engine for children.
Table 7-2
Search Engines for Children
Search Engine
Web Address
Description
Ask Jeeves For Kids
www.ajkids.com
Instead of keywords, start your
search by putting it in the form of a
question.
Cool4Kids
www.cool4kids.com
Search the directory with 18,000
links in 14 categories.
CyberSleuth Kids
http://cybersleuthkids.com
Search a directory of Web sites
suggested by teachers.
Fact Monster
www.factmonster.com
Search the directory or enter
keywords to conduct an Internet
search.
Finding Parenting Help on the Internet
79
Web Address
Description
Kids Net
www.kids.net.au
Search the children’s portion of the
Open Directory Project, the world’s
leading directory of Web sites, with
this search engine.
KidsClick!
www.kidsclick.org
Search a directory of 5,000 Web
sites hand-picked by librarians.
Yahooligans!
www.yahooligans.com
Yahoo!’s search engine is meant for
children age 7 to 12.
Figure 7-1:
Yahooligans!
is the
Yahoo! Web
site for
children.
With a little tinkering, you can turn a standard search engine into a search
engine that is suitable (maybe) for children. To do so, click the Advanced
Search link and, on the Advanced Search page, look for a filtering option.
For example, Google offers an option called Filter Using SafeSearch
(www.google.com/advanced_search). Yahoo! has one called Filter Out
Adult Web Search Results (http://search.yahoo.com/search/options).
Searching this way, however, is no guarantee that objectionable material
won’t come up in a search.
Finding Parenting Help on the Internet
Parenting, the cliché goes, is the hardest job in the world. Actually, the hardest job in the world is parenting a teenager. (I’m only kidding. My teenage
children have been treating me very kindly except for Friday and Saturday
Book I
Chapter 7
The Internet for
Children and
Parents
Search Engine
80
Finding Parenting Help on the Internet
nights, when they insist on staying awake long past my bedtime.) Here are
some Web sites for parents:
✦ Dr. Spock: For better or for worse, Dr. Benjamin Spock had more influence on raising the Baby Boom generation than anybody else. His
Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care was the bible of childrearing
in the 1950s and 1960s. This Web site carries forward Dr. Spock’s legacy
with advice for all stages of childhood: newborns, infants, toddlers,
preschoolers, and school-agers. Address: www.drspock.com
✦ Parent Soup: As shown in Figure 7-2, this Web site offers a little something for every parent, no matter how old his or her child is. You can get
advice about everything from planning a birthday celebration to anger
management and nutrition. Address: www.parentsoup.com
Figure 7-2:
Look for
parenting
advice at
Parent
Soup.
I need to fit Behind the Name (www.behindthename.com) somewhere in this
book, and it may as well be here, as a parent-to-be may come to this part of
the book. Behind the Name is like one of those “what to name the baby”
books in that it gives the history and etymology of first names. But what
makes this Web site special is the Popularity link. Click this link next to any
name and you get a graph generated from census data showing how the
name has risen or fallen in popularity over the years. For example, clicking
the Popularity link next to my name, Peter, shows that my name was in the
top 50 names until 1969, but it has since fallen to ranking 148. Ashley, meanwhile, has risen from ranking 662 in 1969 to become number 8 in 2003. What
the hey?
Kids’ Health
81
Finding a School for Your Child
✦ Great Schools: Find profiles and performance ratings for public, private,
and charter schools in 50 states. The Web site offers detailed reports
about all schools in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Colorado, New
York, and Washington. Address: www.greatschools.net
✦ Parents for Public Schools: PPS is a national organization devoted to
improving public schools with the help of public-spirited volunteers.
From the point of view of a parent looking for a school, the organization
can be very helpful in directing you to the right school and advising you
in how to get your child admitted. Go to this Web site and see whether
your community has a PPS chapter. Address: www.parents4public
schools.com
By the way, on my authority as the spouse of an elementary school teacher,
I know that the best way to judge a school is not by its test scores, but by
speaking to the parents of students who attend the school. Every school is
a community, and you can find out how vibrant it is from parents, not from
statistics.
The motto of Donors Choose (www.donorschoose.org) is “Every Teacher a
Grant Writer; Every Citizen a Philanthropist.” This Web site gives you the
opportunity to fund a classroom project large or small somewhere in the
United States. Teachers are invited to come to this Web site and describe
projects for which they need a donor. Look through the hundreds of projects. If you decide to open your purse or wallet and be a benefactor, you are
guaranteed to receive a follow-up report explaining precisely how your
money was spent and a raft of thank you notes from students. Here’s your
chance to really make a difference.
Kids’ Health
Besides the numerous Web sites devoted to health in general (WedMD, CBS
News HealthWatch, and others), you can also find Web sites devoted to children’s health on the Internet. Here are the best ones:
The Internet for
Children and
Parents
Apart from birth, probably no passage in a child’s life brings more anxiety
for parents than entering elementary school. Finding the right elementary
school for a child isn’t easy. You can start by searching the Web site of the
school district where you reside. The school district is supposed to maintain
an accountability report card for each of its schools. These report cards
describe the school, list the number of students, and report standardized
test results, among other things. Check out these Web sites as well for help
with choosing schools:
Book I
Chapter 7
82
Getting Help with Your Homework
✦ Healthy Kids: This Web site is brought to you by the editors of American
Baby magazine. You can find many long, magazine-style articles. Get
advice on basic health, development issues, and nutrition. Use the
Search text box to search for information and articles. Address:
www.healthykids.com
✦ Kids Health: This Web site is actually three in one. It offers health advice
for parents, children, and teenagers. Click the Parents, Kids, or Teens
link to read health advice tailored to parents, children, or teenage children. Address: www.kidshealth.org
✦ Teen Advice: Teenagers can come to this Web site and ask questions
about gender issues, family, relationships, and sex, among other topics,
and have their questions answered by volunteer advice counselors.
Search the Question Archive to see whether your question has already
been answered. Address: http://teenadviceonline.org
✦ Teenwire: Planned Parenthood’s award-winning online magazine,
Teenwire gives frank and thorough advice to teenagers about contraception and sexual health. Address: www.teenwire.com
Getting Help with Your Homework
Someday computer homework robots will be able to do your homework for
you. Until that blesséd day arrives, however, you’re stuck with doing it on
your own, although you can seek help from these Web sites:
✦ Brain Pop: If you’re the kind of person who learns better from short
films than books, check out this Web site. You can see simple cartoons
that elucidate topics in science, math, English, social studies, and technology. Address: www.brainpop.com
✦ Hotmath: Is this too good to be true, or what? Says this Web site, “We
show step-by-step explanations for the actual math homework problems
in math textbooks (odd-numbered problems only).” If your math textbook is covered at this Web site, you can find out how to solve the oddnumbered problems in today’s homework assignment. You’ll have to
instant-message your friends to find answers to the even-numbered
problems. Address: www.hotmath.com
✦ Math.com: Need a refresher course in classifying angles? How about
derivative identities? You can get easy-to-understand math lessons at
this Web site. Address: www.math.com
✦ Pink Monkey: Go to this Web site when you need help writing an essay
for an English class. According to its makers, Pink Monkey is “the
world’s largest library of literature summaries, with 389 booknotes,
chapter summaries, and study notes online currently.” Address:
www.pinkmonkey.com
Finding Colleges and College Scholarships
83
www.sparknotes.com
Fun Brain, the award-winning Web site shown in Figure 7-3, offers learning
games for children. You can find games suitable for kids of different ages in
eight different subject areas. Some of these games, by the way, are suitable
for adults, too. Fun Brain is located at this Web address: www.funbrain.com.
Figure 7-3:
Fun Brain
has a big
collection of
learning
games.
Finding Colleges and College Scholarships
Every college has a Web site. Start your search for the college of your
dreams by visiting college Web sites and requesting brochures. While you’re
at it, check out these Web sites:
✦ College Board: This is the all-purpose Web site for high school seniors
looking to go to college. Starting here, you can investigate different colleges, sign up to take entrance exams, and take practice SAT tests.
Address: www.collegeboard.com
✦ College Confidential: Start at this Web site if you are a novice and the
whole college admission thing just mystifies you. If what you need to
know can’t be found on this Web site, post your question on one of the
forums and wait for an answer. You won’t have to wait long, as this is a
crowded Web site. Address: www.collegeconfidential.com
Book I
Chapter 7
The Internet for
Children and
Parents
✦ Sparknotes: This Web site offers free online study guides in a number
of different academic areas. Click the Math link, for example, to get
help with different topics in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and precalculus. Click the Literature link to get plot summaries, character
lists, and descriptions of hundreds of different novels. Address:
84
Finding Colleges and College Scholarships
✦ FastWeb: After you enter your name and e-mail address, you can
describe yourself and enlist the help of FastWeb in finding scholarships
for which you are eligible. Be sure to submit a secondary e-mail address.
The e-mail address you enter will be barraged by junk mail. Address:
http://fastweb.monster.com
✦ FinAid: This is an all-purpose Web site for people trying to figure out
how to pay for their college education. Use the calculators to find out
how much money you need. Study your opportunities for loans and
scholarships. You can even submit a question to this Web site. Address:
www.finaid.org
✦ Thick Envelope: For a rather hefty fee of $40, this Web site claims to
give you a realistic assessment of your chances of being admitted to 80
different colleges. The idea is for you to save money by only applying to
colleges that you are qualified for. Address: www.thickenvelope.com
✦ Yahoo! College Search: To get the bare essentials about a college’s
tuition costs and enrollment, start at this Web site. Address:
http://education.yahoo.com/college/essentials
Book II
Exploring the Internet
Contents at a Glance
Chapter 1: Browsing around the Internet ..........................................................................87
Chapter 2: A Look at Different Browsers..........................................................................103
Chapter 3: Strategies for Internet Searching ....................................................................113
Chapter 4: Advanced Tools for Scholars and Researchers ............................................135
Chapter 5: The Internet as a Reference Library ..............................................................149
Chapter 6: Read All about It ..............................................................................................157
Chapter 1: Browsing
around the Internet
In This Chapter
Finding your way around the Internet
Choosing a home page
Bookmarking Web pages you intend to visit again
Sharing your bookmarks with others
Downloading a file over the Internet
I
n Internet-speak, browsing means to skip merrily along from Web page to
Web page. I’m curious why browsing was chosen to describe this activity.
Before the Internet became available, to browse meant to feed on or nibble.
Sheep browse on hillsides. Did the makers of Web-browsing software think
we’re a bunch of sheep?
This chapter describes the basics of getting from place to place on the
Internet. It also shows how to bookmark your favorite Web pages, return to
the pages you’ve bookmarked, and manage bookmarks. You also discover
social bookmarking, a way to share bookmarked Web pages with other
people. Last but not least, you find out how to download and copy files from
the Internet.
In case you didn’t know, a Web browser is the software you use to view Web
pages, bookmark Web pages, and get from Web page to Web page. This
chapter mentions two browsers — Internet Explorer and Mozilla. Chapter 2
of this minibook describes these and other Web browsers in detail.
Navigation Basics
If you know the least bit about the Internet, you have my permission to skip
over this section. It describes the basics of getting around, what hyperlinks
are, and how to enter Web addresses in a browser. This information is old
hat to most people, but speaking as one who wears old hats from time to
time, I understand that not everyone knows the basics, so I describe them
here.
88
Navigation Basics
Visiting a Web site whose address you know
Every Web page has a Web address, also known as a URL, or uniform
resource locator. While you’re online, you can read the addresses of the Web
pages you’re visiting by glancing at the Address bar in your browser. (If you
don’t see the Address bar, choose View➪Toolbars➪Address bar in Internet
Explorer, or choose View➪Show/Hide➪Navigation toolbar in Mozilla.) To go
to a Web site whose address you know, carefully type the address in the
Address bar and press Enter, as shown in Figure 1-1.
Figure 1-1:
Every Web
page has an
address.
If you’ve entered the address before, you’re in luck. Your browser may recognize the address, in which case the address appears on the drop-down menu
and you can select it. If you entered the address recently, you can click the
down arrow on the Address bar and, on the drop-down menu, click the
address of the Web page you want to visit.
When you enter a Web address, it isn’t necessary to enter the http:// at the
beginning of the address. In many instances, you don’t have to enter the
www. either, because your browser assumes that you want to enter those letters and it enters them for you. For example, if you enter ebay.com, your
browser fills in the rest: http://www.ebay.com. Here’s another trick you
can use in some versions of Internet Explorer: If you click in the Address bar
and press Ctrl+Enter, your browser immediately enters http://www..com/.
All you have to do is fill in the missing parts of the Web address.
Navigation Basics
89
Clicking hyperlinks to get from page to page
After you arrive at a Web site, you’re sure to find many hyperlinks.
Hyperlinks come in the form of text and images. Clicking a hyperlink takes
you to a different Web page or a different place on the same Web page. You
can tell when your pointer is over a hyperlink because the pointer turns into
to a hand with the index finger up, and a brief description of where the link
will take you appears on-screen as well, as shown in Figure 1-2. By convention, text hyperlinks are shown in blue text and are underlined, although
some Web sites break the convention. Image hyperlinks are harder to spot.
You can’t tell where they are until you move the pointer over them and see
your pointer change to a pointing hand.
Book II
Chapter 1
Browsing around
the Internet
Figure 1-2:
A hyperlink.
Probably the most adventurous way to explore the Internet is to click hyperlinks and see where your journey takes you. You can always backtrack by
clicking the Back button, as the next section in this chapter explains.
In the Mozilla browser, you can see a list of all hyperlinks on a Web page by
choosing View➪Page Info (or pressing Ctrl+I) and clicking the Links tab in
the Page Info dialog box.
90
Navigation Basics
Revisiting Web pages you’ve been to before
Exploring the Internet is an adventure, but more than a few adventurers
travel too far and wish to return to a page that they visited before.
Fortunately, backtracking is pretty easy. By clicking the Back button or its
drop-down menu, you can revisit the pages you viewed since you opened
your Web browser. You can even view a Web page you visited in the past several days.
Clicking the Back and Forward buttons
Following are the different ways to revisit sites:
✦ Back button: Click the Back button to see the page you last saw.
✦ Forward button: Click the Forward button to move ahead to the page
from which you retreated.
✦ Back and Forward button menus: Next to the Back and Forward buttons are drop-down menus that you can click to leap backward or forward by several Web pages, as shown in Figure 1-3. Don’t be shy about
using these drop-down menus. All you have to do to leap forward or
backward is to click the down-arrow and click a Web-page name.
Figure 1-3:
Ways to
revisit Web
pages you
visited
before.
Choosing Your Home Page
91
Covering your tracks
Your Web browser is watching you! Browsers
keep track of the Web sites you’ve visited, as
“Delving into your browsing history” explains
later in this chapter. Don’t want your boss to
know which Web sites you’ve been visiting?
Here are instructions for removing Web
addresses from the Address bar drop-down
menu and from the History bar or History dialog box:
Mozilla: Choose Edit➪Preferences and, in
the Preferences dialog box, select the
Navigator category and the History subcategory. Then click the Clear History
button to remove all Web addresses from
the History dialog box, and click the Clear
Location Bar button to remove addresses
from the Address bar. You can tell Mozilla
how many days’ worth of addresses to
keep on hand by entering a number in the
Days text box.
Delving into your browsing history
Your browser is watching you! The program keeps a record of the Web sites
and Web pages you visited in the past several days. Follow these instructions to return to one of those Web pages:
✦ Internet Explorer: Click the History button and then click a Web
address in the History bar. After you click a day of the week button
or the Week Of button, you see an alphabetical list of Web addresses
(refer to Figure 1-3).
✦ Mozilla: Press Ctrl+H or choose Go➪History. You see the History dialog
box. Select a day and double-click a Web address.
Choosing Your Home Page
When you start your Web browser and connect to the Internet, the first
place you go is your home page. You also go there when you click the
Home button in your browser. Unfortunately, software manufacturers and
unscrupulous Web sites sometimes commandeer the home page. When you
install new software, you sometimes discover that your home page has mysteriously become that of a software manufacturer. And unscrupulous Web
sites have been known to load spyware on your computer that changes your
home page. Don’t let yourself be pushed around this way!
Book II
Chapter 1
Browsing around
the Internet
Internet Explorer: Click the History button
to see the History bar (refer to Figure 1-3),
right-click the address you want to delete,
and choose Delete. To remove all the Web
addresses on the list, choose Tools➪
Internet Options and click the Clear History
button on the General tab of the Internet
Options dialog box. You can also tell
Internet Explorer how many days’ worth of
Web sites to stockpile by entering a
number in the Days to Keep Pages in
History text box.
92
Choosing Your Home Page
Browsing more than one Web page
You can be in two (or three or four) places at
once, at least where browsing Web pages is
concerned. While you wait for one Web page
to load on your computer, you can examine
another one.
To open more than one Web page in Internet
Explorer, press Ctrl+N or choose File➪New➪
Window. Doing so opens a second Internet
Explorer window, where you can go to another
Web page. You can also open a second window
by Shift+clicking a hyperlink. To go back and
forth between Web pages that are open, click
buttons on the taskbar.
Mozilla is more sophisticated than Internet
Explorer when it comes to browsing more than
one Web page. In Mozilla, you can open the
second (or third or fourth) page in a tab. Use
one of these techniques to open the first tab or
another tab:
Press Ctrl+T or choose File➪New➪
Navigator Tab.
Click the Open a New Tab button.
Right-click a tab and choose New Tab.
Click tabs to go from Web page to Web page.
Use these techniques to close tabs:
Click the Close button on the right side of
the tab bar to close all tabs.
Right-click and choose Close Tab to close
a tab (or press Ctrl+W).
Right-click and choose Close Other Tabs to
close all tabs but the one you’re viewing.
Choose a home page that you are genuinely interested in, one that loads
quickly, and one that you visit often. Go to the page you want to make your
home and follow these instructions to make it your home page:
✦ Internet Explorer: Choose Tools➪Internet Options. You see the General
tab of the Internet Options dialog box. Click the Use Current button.
✦ Mozilla: Choose Edit➪Preferences. In the Preferences dialog box, select
the Navigator category and then click the Use Current button.
Bookmarking Your Favorite Web Pages
93
Bookmarking Your Favorite Web Pages
In Internet terminology, to bookmark means to save a Web address so that
you can return to it later. Browsers offer special commands for saving Web
addresses. After you have bookmarked a Web page, you need only click its
address to visit it. Don’t be shy about bookmarking a page — you can always
delete the bookmark later. Read on to find out how to go to bookmarked
pages, how to bookmark pages, and how to manage your bookmarks.
Going to a page you bookmarked
After you bookmark a Web page, visiting it is simply a matter of clicking once
or twice. Everything should be this easy. Following are instructions for going
to a bookmarked page in Internet Explorer and Mozilla.
Internet Explorer offers two ways to visit a favorite Web page that you
bookmarked:
✦ Click the Favorites button and select the Web page in the Favorites bar,
as shown in Figure 1-4. If you put the page in a folder, select the folder’s
name and then select the bookmark.
✦ Open the Favorites menu and choose the bookmark there, as shown in
Figure 1-4. If the bookmark is kept in a folder, click a submenu name and
then click the bookmark.
Mozilla
To go to a bookmarked page in Mozilla, click the Bookmarks button on the
Personal toolbar or open the Bookmarks menu and then choose the bookmark. If the bookmark is in a folder, click the folder name on the submenu
and then click the bookmark.
If you are having trouble finding a bookmark, choose Bookmarks➪Manage
Bookmarks (or press Ctrl+B) to open the Bookmark Manager dialog box.
Then enter a part of the bookmark name or a keyword you assigned to the
bookmark in the Search text box, and press Enter. With luck, your bookmark
appears in the dialog box, and you can double-click it there.
People who use Internet Explorer and Mozilla to browse the Web can have
their cake and eat it too. Mozilla gives you the chance to visit Web pages you
bookmarked with Internet Explorer. To visit one of these pages, choose
Bookmarks➪Imported IE Favorites. The names of pages you bookmarked in
Internet Explorer appear on a submenu. Click a bookmark there.
Browsing around
the Internet
Internet Explorer
Book II
Chapter 1
94
Bookmarking Your Favorite Web Pages
Figure 1-4:
Going to a
bookmarked
page in
Internet
Explorer.
Bookmarking a favorite page
You are hereby encouraged to bookmark a Web page if you feel the least
desire to return to it later. Unless you bookmark a page, finding it again can
be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. As you bookmark pages,
give a moment’s thought to how you want to organize your bookmarks. If
you bookmark more than a handful of pages, finding bookmarks can be difficult, unless you organize your bookmarks into folders. Your Web browser
gives you an opportunity to do that, as I explain very shortly.
Internet Explorer
Follow these instruction to bookmark a Web page in Internet Explorer:
1. Choose Favorites➪Add to Favorites.
You see the Add Favorite dialog box, shown on the left side of Figure 1-5.
2. Select a folder for the Web page (click the New Folder button, if necessary, to create a new folder), and click the OK button.
Bookmarked Web pages appear on the Favorites menu, as the previous
section in this chapter explains. Unless you choose a folder for storing
favorite Web pages, the Favorites menu soon fills with Web pages, and
you have trouble finding the one you want.
Bookmarking Your Favorite Web Pages
95
You can quickly bookmark a Web page by pressing Ctrl+D. However,
doing so places the Web page on the Favorites menu, and you don’t get a
chance to put the Web page in a folder for organizational purposes.
Book II
Chapter 1
Browsing around
the Internet
Figure 1-5:
Bookmarking a Web
page in
Internet
Explorer
(left) and
Mozilla
(right).
Mozilla
Do one of the following to bookmark a Web page in Mozilla:
✦ Press Ctrl+D (or choose Bookmarks➪Bookmark This Page) to place the
Web page on the Bookmarks menu.
✦ Press Ctrl+Shift+D (or choose Bookmarks➪File Bookmark) to organize
the Web page into a folder in the File Bookmark dialog box, as shown on
the right side of Figure 1-5.
Select the folder, enter a name for the bookmark, and enter a keyword as
well if you want this page to come up in keyword searches for bookmarks. You can click the New Folder button to create a new folder.
Renaming, deleting, and managing bookmarks
A bookmark collection can be like a crowded garage — it can be a resting
place for a lot of old junk as well as useful items. If you collect bookmarks,
the time will surely come when you need to rename, delete, or move bookmarks in your collection. These pages explain how to do all that.
96
Bookmarking Your Favorite Web Pages
Internet Explorer
The easiest way to handle bookmarks in Internet Explorer is to do it by way
of the Favorites menu. With this menu open, you can delete a bookmark by
right-clicking its name and choosing Delete on the shortcut menu. You can
move a bookmark by dragging its name up or down on the menu. You can
rename a bookmark by right-clicking its name, choosing Rename, and entering a new name in the Rename dialog box.
Another way to handle bookmarks is to choose Favorites➪Organize Favorites
and get to work in the Organize Favorites dialog box, shown on the right side
of Figure 1-6. The Create Folder, Rename, and Delete buttons are self-explanatory. What is useful in this dialog box is the Move to Folder button. To move
a bookmark into a different folder, select the bookmark’s name, click the
Move to Folder button, and select a folder in the Browse for Folder dialog
box, as shown on the left side of Figure 1-6.
Figure 1-6:
Moving a
bookmark to
a new folder
in Internet
Explorer.
Yet another way to handle bookmarks is to open My Computer or Windows
Explorer and do your moving, renaming, and deleting there. Internet
Explorer bookmarks are kept in one of these folders, depending on how
your system is set up:
C:\Documents and Settings\Your Name\Favorites
C:\Windows\Favorites\Links
Open the folder where your bookmarks are located and use standard My
Computer or Windows Explorer commands to move, rename, and delete
bookmarks. For example, to move a bookmark to a different folder, drag it
there.
Bookmarking Your Favorite Web Pages
97
Mozilla
To manage bookmarks in Mozilla, start by pressing Ctrl+B or choosing
Bookmarks➪Manage Bookmarks. You see the Bookmark Manager dialog box
shown in Figure 1-7. Select the bookmark that needs disciplining and follow
these instructions to discipline it:
✦ Moving: Click the Move button. You see the Choose Folder dialog box
shown in Figure 1-7. Select a folder and click the OK button.
Book II
Chapter 1
Browsing around
the Internet
Figure 1-7:
Moving a
bookmark to
a new folder
in Mozilla.
✦ Renaming: Click the Rename button and enter a new name in the
Properties For dialog box.
✦ Deleting: Click the Delete button, but be careful, because the bookmark
is deleted right away. Mozilla isn’t a Microsoft-made program. You don’t
see the Are You Sure You Want to Delete? warning that Microsoft spits
out in its programs.
Backing up your bookmarks
Backing up means to make a second copy of computer data and store it on a
floppy disk or other medium away from your computer. It would be a sad
day if your computer crashed and you lost all your bookmarks. To back up
your bookmark collection, open My Computer or Windows Explorer, go to
one of these folders, and back up your bookmarks to a floppy disk or other
storage medium:
98
Social Bookmarking, or Sharing Bookmarks with Others
✦ Internet Explorer: Bookmarks are located at C:\Documents and
Settings\Your Name\Favorites or C:\Windows\Favorites\Links,
depending on your system setup.
✦ Mozilla: Bookmarks can be found in a file called bookmarks.html.
Unfortunately, finding this file can be a chore, as it is buried in a socalled salted (.slt) subfolder at C:\Documents and Settings\
Your Name\Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles\Your Profile
Name\[random string].slt. Salted folder, indeed! Sometimes the
best way to find this subfolder is to look for it with the Windows Search
command.
Social Bookmarking, or Sharing
Bookmarks with Others
When you bookmark a Web page, it means you like it well enough to want to
return to it someday. Only the best Web pages get bookmarked. If you knew
which pages others have bookmarked, you could get a head start in finding
useful Web pages. And if you could narrow a search of the Web to bookmarked Web pages, your search would be more rewarding.
On the idea that the only good Web page is a bookmarked Web page, the
past couple of years have seen an innovation called social bookmarking.
Social bookmarking means to share bookmarks with others. Web pages that
you bookmark are entered on a master list of bookmarks. Others enter their
bookmarked pages on the list as well. The result is a database of bookmarked Web pages that you can search. Most social-bookmarking services
also give you the opportunity to store your bookmarks online and organize
them in different ways.
Here are the most highly regarded social-bookmarking Web sites:
✦ Backflip (www.backflip.com)
✦ del.icio.us (http://del.icio.us)
✦ furl (www.furl.net)
✦ Spurl.net (www.spurl.net)
My favorite is Spurl.net, shown in Figure 1-8. This one is easiest to use and
install (although it only works with Internet Explorer). After you register
with Spurl.net and load its program on your computer, two buttons — Spurl!
and Spurl Bar — appear in your browser window:
Social Bookmarking, or Sharing Bookmarks with Others
99
✦ Click the Spurl! button (or choose Tools➪Bookmark the Current Page to
Spurl.net) to bookmark a Web page and share it with others. A form
appears so that you can describe the Web page. The information you
enter goes into a database that other Spurl members can search.
Book II
Chapter 1
Browsing around
the Internet
Figure 1-8:
Social
bookmarking with
Spurl.
Click the Main Search link at Spurl.net to search among Web pages that
others have bookmarked (refer to Figure 1-8). Enter a keyword for the
search and click the Search button.
✦ Click the Spurl Bar button to display the Spurl bar on the left side of the
browser window (refer to Figure 1-8). In the Spurl bar, you can view a list
of pages you bookmarked (click My Spurls), view a list of pages that
Spurl recommends for you, given the kind of pages you bookmarked
(click Recom), or view a list of pages recently bookmarked by Spurl
members (click Hot New). To search pages you bookmarked, enter a
keyword in the text box and click the Click to Search button.
100
Downloading and Copying Files from the Internet
Downloading and Copying Files from the Internet
Downloading means to transfer a copy of a file or program from a site on the
Internet to your computer. From time to time in your exploration of the
Internet, you are given the opportunity to download a file. Book I, Chapter 4
looks into the security implications of downloading files. If you have
antivirus software (and you should have it), the software will examine the
file after it arrives to make sure that it doesn’t carry a virus.
When you click the button to download a file, you see the File Download –
Security Warning dialog box shown in Figure 1-9. Click the Save button,
choose a folder for the downloaded file in the Save As dialog box, and twiddle your thumbs while the file downloads. To activate the file, go to folder
where you stored it, select the file, and double-click it.
Figure 1-9:
Downloading
a file from
the Internet.
Before you run a file you downloaded, right-click it in Windows Explorer or
My Computer and choose Run with AntiVirus to see whether the file contains a virus.
On the subject of grabbing files from the Internet, you can also copy text,
pictures, and video files by following these instructions:
Downloading and Copying Files from the Internet
101
✦ Copying text: Drag your cursor over the text and press Ctrl+C or choose
Edit➪Copy to copy the text to the Clipboard.
✦ Copying a picture: Right-click the picture and choose Save Picture As on
the shortcut menu. In the Save As dialog box, select a folder and click
the Save button.
✦ Downloading a video: Right-click the video image and choose Save
Target As on the shortcut menu. In the Save As dialog box, select a
folder for storing the video file and click the Save button. You can
change the file’s name by entering a new name in the File Name text box.
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Chapter 1
Browsing around
the Internet
102
Book II: Exploring the Internet
Chapter 2: A Look at Different
Browsers
In This Chapter
Looking at the different browsers
Customizing Internet Explorer and Mozilla
T
his chapter takes a look at different Web browsers, the computer programs you use to explore the Internet. I explain how you can tweak
browsers and how to make them work for you. You need a Web browser to
cruise the Internet, so you may as well pick the one that works best for you,
and after you’ve picked it, you can then make it run the very best it can.
Comparing the Different Browsers
Table 2-1 offers a thumbnail comparison of the five most commonly used
Web browsers. All these browsers are free. The most popular by far is
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, shown in Figure 2-1. According to
WebSideStory, a company that collects information about how people use
the Internet, 94 percent of people who browsed the Internet in July 2004
used Internet Explorer.
Table 2-1
Different Web Browsers
Browser
Notes
Address
Internet Explorer
Comes with the Windows operating
system. Is compatible with more Web
sites than other browsers. Version 6.0
includes pop-up blocking and new
security features.
www.microsoft.com/
windows/ie
Mozilla
Offers better control of pop-up windows www.mozilla.org/
and cookies. Lets you browse more than releases
one Web page with window tabs.
(continued)
104
Comparing the Different Browsers
Table 2-1 (continued)
Browser
Notes
Address
Netscape
Navigator
Formerly the most popular browser.
http://channels.
netscape.com/ns/
browsers/download.
jsp
Opera
Doesn’t offer as many features, but
claims to be faster and more secure
than other browsers.
www.opera.com
Safari
Comes with the Mac operating
system (OS).
www.apple.com/
safari
Figure 2-1:
Internet
Explorer is
by far the
most
popular
Web
browser.
Internet Explorer is so popular in part because it comes with Windows. If
your computer runs the Windows operating system — and nine of ten computers run Windows — Internet Explorer is installed on your computer automatically. Many Windows users make Internet Explorer their Web browser
without giving it any thought. They don’t realize that they have a choice of
browser software.
Another reason for the popularity of Internet Explorer has to do with Website design. Designers know that the vast majority of people who come to
their Web sites will use Internet Explorer. Accordingly, they engineer their
Comparing the Different Browsers
105
Web sites to work best with that browser. The success of Microsoft’s
browser is self-fulfilling. As more Web sites are designed for Internet
Explorer, fewer display properly in other browsers, which causes more
people to abandon the browsers they are using in favor of Internet Explorer.
Internet Explorer has been the subject of controversy because of security
flaws. In June 2004, the United States government’s Computer Emergency
Readiness Team (CERT) suggested dropping Internet Explorer. Warned CERT,
“There are a number of significant vulnerabilities in technologies relating to
the IE domain/zone security model, the DHTML object model, MIME type
determination, the graphical user interface (GUI), and ActiveX. It is possible
to reduce exposure to these vulnerabilities by using a different Web browser,
especially when browsing untrusted sites.”
Is Internet Explorer unsafe? It is no more unsafe than other browsers. In fairness to Microsoft, its browser is more subject to attacks not necessarily
because it has more security flaws, but because it presents a bigger and
juicier target. Hackers, worm writers, Trojan horsemen, and the other motley
malcontents who make attacking browser software their pastime target
Internet Explorer because it is found on the majority of computers. If Mozilla
or Safari were as ubiquitous as Internet Explorer, they would be attacked just
as often.
Throughout this book, I give instructions for using Mozilla because I am very
fond of that browser. I think Mozilla is worth checking out. It is easier to customize than Internet Explorer and easier to learn. It handles pop-up windows
better. Bookmarks are easier to manage. You can visit more than one Web
site at the same time, thanks to Mozilla’s window tabs (see the section on
browsing multiple Web pages in Chapter 1 of this minibook). And, I must say,
it’s refreshing to use software that’s not manufactured by the Microsoft
Corporation. Figure 2-2 shows the Mozilla browser.
Besides the Web sites listed in Table 2-1, you can download popular Web
browsers at TUCOWS (www.tucos.com) and Cnet (www.cnet.com). All the
browsers are free.
A Look at Different
Browsers
Microsoft responded by introducing Internet Explorer 6.0, an upgrade to
its browser, in September 2004. The company also issued a patch for
Windows XP called Service Pack 2. Between Service Pack 2 and the upgrade,
Internet Explorer was supposed to be safe from attacks.
Book II
Chapter 2
106
Customizing Your Browser
Figure 2-2:
The Mozilla
Web
browser.
Customizing Your Browser
Most people don’t realize that they can do a lot inside their browser to make
exploring the Internet a more comfortable experience. They don’t understand that they can trade their coach seat for first class. Or that they can sit
by the window rather than the aisle if they want to. Or that they can forsake
the chili mac for the filet mignon.
These pages explain the different ways to customize Internet Explorer and
Mozilla. Read on to discover how to make text easier to read, handle toolbars, control pop-up windows, and choose a default search engine for your
browser.
As well as this chapter, which discusses customizing your browser, be sure
to see Book I, Chapter 4, which explains how to protect your privacy and
security as you browse the Internet, and Book I, Chapter 6, which explains
plug-in programs such as QuickTime and Acrobat Reader that come into play
when you visit certain types of Web pages.
Making the text easier to read
Depending on your computer setup and the Web sites you visit, you may be
able to alter the text and background of Web pages by taking advantage of
commands in your browser. These commands don’t always work, but they
are worth a try.
Customizing Your Browser
107
The commands described in this section affect all Web pages you visit, not
just the Web page you are looking at when you give the command. If you
change the look of text, remember how you changed it in case you change
your mind and want to change it back.
Changing text size
Try these commands on your browser’s View menu to shrink or enlarge the
text on Web pages:
✦ Internet Explorer: Choose View➪Text Size, and select a size option on
the Text Size menu.
Changing fonts
Check out these commands if you find it necessary to change fonts on a Web
page. A font is a type style, the complete collection of letters, numbers, and
symbols available in a particular typeface. Some fonts are easier to read than
others.
✦ Internet Explorer: Choose Tools➪Internet Options, and on the General
tab of the Internet Options dialog box, click the Fonts button. You see
the Fonts dialog box, shown in Figure 2-3. Choose a font in the Web Page
Font list for letters shown in proportional text; choose a font in the Plain
Text Font list for letters shown in fixed-width text.
✦ Mozilla: Choose Edit➪Preferences, and then go to the Fonts subcategory under Appearance in the Preferences dialog box, as shown in
Figure 2-3. In this category are options for changing proportional fonts,
serif fonts, sans-serif fonts, and cursive fonts on Web pages.
Changing text color
Finally, you can change the color of text and the page background color.
Resort to these commands, for example, when you come to a Web page that
is indecipherable, one of those unreadable pages with a dark background
and dark text:
✦ Internet Explorer: Choose Tools➪Internet Options, and on the General
tab of the Internet Options dialog box, click the Colors button. You land
in the Colors dialog box. Deselect the Use Windows Colors check box.
Click the Text button to choose a color for text from the pop-up Color
dialog box, and click the Background button to choose a page background from the pop-up Color dialog box.
Book II
Chapter 2
A Look at Different
Browsers
✦ Mozilla: Choose View➪Text Zoom, and then choose a setting on the Text
Zoom submenu. You can also press Ctrl+– (Ctrl and the minus sign) or
Ctrl++ (Ctrl and the plus sign) to shrink or enlarge the type. Each time
you press these key combinations, the text gets smaller or larger.
108
Customizing Your Browser
Figure 2-3:
Changing
the look of
text in
Mozilla (left)
and Internet
Explorer
(right).
✦ Mozilla: Choose Edit➪Preferences, and then go to the Colors subcategory under Appearance in the Preferences dialog box. Click the Text
button and choose a color from the pop-up menu for text; click the
Background button and choose a color from the pop-up menu for the
page background.
Wrestling with the toolbars and status bar
Sometimes toolbars and other bric-a-brac along the sides of the browser
window come between you and the joy of exploring the Internet. To remove
all toolbars as well as the status bar along the bottom of the browser
window, press F11 (or choose View➪Full Screen). Press F11 again to resuscitate the toolbars.
In all Microsoft programs, Internet Explorer included, you can right-click a
toolbar or the menu bar and select the name of a toolbar from the shortcut
menu to display or hide a toolbar. Internet Explorer also offers commands on
the View➪Toolbars menu for hiding and displaying toolbars.
In Mozilla, you hide or display toolbars by choosing View➪Show/Hide and
then selecting or deselecting a toolbar name on the submenu.
The status bar along the bottom of the window tells you when a page has finished downloading (you see the word Done). When you move the pointer
over a hyperlink or button, the status bar lists the address of the Web page
that will open if you click the hyperlink or button. All of that is well and
good, but if you don’t care to see the status bar, choose View➪Status bar in
Internet Explorer, or choose View➪Hide/Display➪Status bar in Mozilla.
Customizing Your Browser
109
Ways to prevent eyestrain
click OK. Try this setting on for size. If you
don’t like it, return to the Settings tab and
drag the screen slider to the right. If you
can’t see the OK button because the
screen is too small, just press Enter instead
of clicking OK.
Keep your monitor in the proper light. Glare
on a monitor screen causes eyestrain.
Keep the monitor out of direct light to
reduce glare and use an adjustable light to
illuminate whatever it is you are working
with besides your computer and monitor. If
you are using a laptop or flat-screen monitor, you can put the monitor in more direct
light because laptops and flat-screens are
meant to be sidelit or backlit.
Put large icons on the desktop and in folders. To make the icons on the Windows
desktop and in folders larger, right-click on
the desktop and choose Properties. In the
Display Properties dialog box, select the
Effects tab, select the Use Large Icons
check box, and click OK.
Play with the knobs on your monitor. Those
goofy knobs on the monitor can be useful
indeed. Twist them, turn them, and experiment until you find a look that is comfortable for your eyes.
Opt for smaller screen resolution. With a
smaller screen resolution, or area, everything looks bigger, although things can get
cramped, too. To get a smaller resolution,
right-click on the Windows desktop and
choose Properties. In the Display Properties
dialog box, select the Settings tab. Then
drag the Screen Area slider to the left so
that the setting reads 640 × 480 pixels, and
Make the mouse pointer larger. Another
way to make your eyes last longer is
to make the mouse pointer larger. Choose
Start➪Settings➪Control Panel. Then
double-click the Mouse icon (switch to
Classic View if necessary), select the
Pointers tab in the Mouse Properties dialog
box, and choose Windows Standard (extra
large) or Windows Standard (large) from
the Scheme drop-down menu.
Gaze at the horizon. Every so often, leave
your desk, step to the window, part the curtains, and stare. Stare at the most faraway
point you can see. Stare and dream. Then
blink a few times and marvel at how good
the world looks when you’re not staring at
a computer screen.
Preventing and controlling pop-ups
If you have spent any time on the Internet, you know what a pop-up is. Popups are new, unwelcome browser windows that leap onto the computer
screen when you least expect them. Most pop-ups are advertisements. At
best, they are annoying. At worst, several pop-ups appear in succession, and
you have to kill them one at a time by closing the browser windows in which
they appear. How do you prevent pop-ups? Keep reading.
Book II
Chapter 2
A Look at Different
Browsers
People who spend many hours working in front
of a computer screen owe it to themselves
to look after their health. Computers are dangerous to the lower back, the wrists, and the
eyes — especially the eyes. Here are some
techniques to help prevent eyestrain:
110
Customizing Your Browser
You can always right-click a link and choose Open in New Window if you
want a second window — in other words, if you want a pop-up window — to
appear. In Internet Explorer, you can Shift+click a link to open it in a new
window.
After you have told your browser how to handle pop-ups, go to
Popuptest.com at this address: www.popuptest.com. This Web site gives
you opportunities to test your pop-up settings.
Handling pop-ups in Internet Explorer
People who are running Version 6 or higher of Internet Explorer can prevent
pop-ups from appearing. The pop-up blocking mechanism is turned on automatically. When a pop-up attempts to invade your computer screen, you
hear a “blip,” and the Information bar appears along the top of the window,
as shown in Figure 2-4. Pop-up blocked, it tells you. To see this pop-up
or additional options click here. If you are curious and want to see
the pop-up, click the Information bar and choose Temporarily Allow Pop-Ups
on the shortcut menu.
Figure 2-4:
In Internet
Explorer, the
Information
bar appears
when a popup has been
blocked.
Internet Explorer also offers these options for controlling pop-ups:
✦ Allow pop-ups to appear: If pop-ups are your thing and you want to see
them, choose Tools➪Pop-Up Blocker and select Turn Off Pop-Up Blocker
on the submenu. You can also reach this command by choosing Settings
on the shortcut menu that appears when you click the Information bar
(refer to Figure 2-4).
✦ Allow pop-ups launched from the site you are visiting: Click the
Information bar and choose Always Allow Pop-Ups from This Site on the
shortcut menu (refer to Figure 2-4).
Customizing Your Browser
111
To decide for yourself how Internet Explorer handles pop-ups, choose
Tools➪Pop-Up Blocker➪Pop-Up Blocker Settings. You see the Pop-Up
Blocker Settings dialog box. From here, you can keep the Information bar
from appearing, decide whether a sound is heard when a pop-up is blocked,
and disallow pop-ups in allowed sites by removing the names of allowed
sites from the Allowed Sites list.
Handling pop-ups in Mozilla
Follow these steps to stop pop-up windows from appearing in the Mozilla
browser:
1. Choose Edit➪Preferences.
Book II
Chapter 2
The Preferences dialog box opens.
subcategory.
3. Select the Block Unrequested Popup Windows check box.
4. Select the Display an Icon in the Navigator Status Bar check box if you
want to be informed when a pop-up has been blocked.
If you select this option, the pop-up icon appears on the status bar
whenever Mozilla blocks a pop-up (you must close and restart Mozilla
for the pop-up icon setting to take effect). You can click this icon to
permit pop-ups to appear on a Web site.
5. Click the OK button.
When Mozilla blocks a pop-up, the pop-up icon appears on the right side of
the status bar. Suppose you want to permit pop-ups to appear on the Web
site you are visiting? Either click the pop-up icon or choose Tools➪Popup
Manager➪Allow Popups From This Site. The Allowed Web Sites dialog box
appears. Click the Add button.
If you change your mind about permitting pop-ups at a Web site, choose
Tools➪Popup Manager➪Manage Popups. In the Allowed Web Site dialog box,
select the address of the Web site in question and click the Remove button.
Choosing a default search engine
A search engine is a Web site that is devoted to helping you search the
Internet. (Chapter 3 of this minibook explains search engines in detail.)
When you click the Search button on the Standard toolbar in Internet
Explorer, the Search bar opens and you are presented with a mini-search
engine, as shown in Figure 2-5. When you click the Search button in Mozilla,
you go straight to the home page of the search engine of your choice.
A Look at Different
Browsers
2. Open the Privacy & Security category, and click the Popup Windows
112
Customizing Your Browser
Figure 2-5:
In Internet
Explorer,
the Search
bar offers a
mini-search
engine
for your
convenience.
In both browsers, you get to choose which search engine is the default, the
one you use when you click the Search button:
✦ Internet Explorer: Click the Search button to open the Search bar, and
then click the Customize button (refer to Figure 2-5). You see the
Customize Search Settings dialog box. Select the Use Search Service
option button, and choose a search engine in the Choose the Search
Service list.
✦ Mozilla: Choose Edit➪Preferences to open the Preferences dialog box. In
the Navigator category, select the Internet Search subcategory. From the
Search Using drop-down menu, choose a search engine.
You can make Google the default search engine in Internet Explorer, but to
do so, you have to install the Google Toolbar first. Chapter 4 of this minibook shows how to make the Google the Internet Explorer default searcher.
Chapter 3: Strategies for
Internet Searching
In This Chapter
Understanding how search engines operate
Deciding which search engine to use
Crafting a good search of the Internet
Searching the so-called invisible Web
Determining whether information is valid at a Web site
T
he Indianapolis 500, the world’s most grueling auto race, always begins
with this announcement: “Gentlemen, start your engines.” In this chapter, I invite you to start your search engine and use it to dig deep into the
Internet and find the information you need. This chapter explains how directories, search engines, and meta-search engines work. It describes how to
craft a search that brings up the information you need in the search results.
You discover how to search the “invisible Web,” the part of the Internet that
is out of the reach of search engines, and how to tell whether information at
a Web site is valuable or just a bunch of hooey.
By the way, Internet researchers often neglect two important ways to get
information apart from running a search engine: mailing lists and newsgroups.
Mailing lists are discussions conducted by e-mail among people with the
same interests and obsessions (Book IV, Chapter 3 explains mailing lists).
Newsgroups are online bulletin boards where people debate one another
and trade information (Book IV, Chapter 4 looks into newsgroups).
Finding Out about Search Engines
A search engine is a tool for finding information on the Internet. To use a search
engine, you go to the search engine’s Web site and search by category, or
you enter keywords to describe what you’re searching for. The results of
your search appear on a results page like the one in Figure 3-1. For each Web
page found, you can read a snippet of text with a keyword you used in your
search. You can also see the domain names of the Web pages. By studying
the text and domain names, you can usually tell whether a Web site is worth
visiting. Click a hyperlink on the search results page to visit a Web page.
114
Finding Out about Search Engines
Figure 3-1:
A search
results page
at Google.
Search engines fall in three categories: directories, standard search engines,
and meta-search engines. A directory is like a card catalog in a library. You
identify a category that describes the information you need and then you get
a list of Web sites in the category. With a standard search engine, you enter
keywords that describe the information you need, and the search engine
provides a list of Web sites with words that match the keywords you entered
(refer to Figure 3-1). A meta-search engine employs other search engines to
gather information.
How directories work
Directories, you could say, have the human touch. They are operated and maintained by people trained in information science or library science. People, not
computers, decide which categories to organize Web sites into and where to
place each Web site in the category scheme. Table 3-1 describes directories.
Two of them, LookSmart and Yahoo!, are also standard search engines.
Table 3-1
Directories for Searching the Internet
Directory
Name
Web Address
Search
Engine
Also?
Notes
About
www.about.com
No
Not truly a directory, but a network of Web sites maintained by
volunteer experts, called guides.
You can search the About network starting at this Web site:
http://search.about.
com/fullsearch.htm.
Finding Out about Search Engines
115
Web Address
Search
Engine
Also?
Notes
Librarians to
the Internet
Index
http://lii.org
No
Not truly a directory, but the
categories are easy to search
in and the Web-site descriptions
are excellent.
LookSmart
www.looksmart.com
Yes
Presents information in 12 categories (click the Directory tab).
Open
Directory
Project
www.dmoz.org
No
Largest, most comprehensive
directory on the Internet. Sends
search results to AltaVista, AOL
Search, Google, Lycos, and
Teoma. (You can also search the
Open Directory Project starting
at this Google Web page:
http://directory.
google.com).
Yahoo!
Search
Directory
http://dir.yahoo.com
Yes
One of the most comprehensive
directories on the Internet.
Figure 3-2 shows the Yahoo! Search Directory. Searching in a directory like
Yahoo!’s is a matter of “drilling down” from broad topics to narrower topics. To
get to a list of oceanography Web sites starting at the Yahoo! Search Directory,
for example, you click the Science category, the Earth Sciences subcategory,
and the Oceanography subcategory. You can also enter keywords in the Search
text box to search for Web sites that have been cataloged in the directory.
Figure 3-2:
Home page
of the
Yahoo!
Search
Directory.
Book II
Chapter 3
Strategies for
Internet Searching
Directory
Name
116
Finding Out about Search Engines
Volunteering for the Open Directory Project
The Open Directory Project aims to be the definitive catalog of the Internet, reaching into and
mapping every corner of cyberspace. In the
democratic spirit of the Internet, the Directory
also aims to remain free of advertisements and
other sources of revenue. Rather than pay librarians to catalog Web sites, it relies on volunteers.
If volunteering to catalog the Web strikes you as
a good deed, visit this address: http://dmoz.
org/about.html. It explains what volunteering for the Open Directory Project entails
and how to sign up. Each volunteer is assigned
a category. Says the Project, “For just a few
minutes of your time you can help make the
Web a better place, and be recognized as an
expert on your chosen topic.”
The Open Directory Project isn’t the only directory maintained by volunteers. Check out these
directories as well when the volunteer spirit
moves you:
Illumirate: This directory works in association with the HotBot search engine. Address:
www.illumirate.com
Zeal: Zeal is the directory behind the
LookSmart search engine. Address: www.
zeal.com
Use a directory to search the Internet when you’re researching a broad topic
and you know with a fair amount of certainty which category the topic will
be in. In other words, use a directory when you have a general question, not
a specific one. Web sites that you find in a directory are more likely to be
useful than Web sites you find with a standard search engine. After all, someone, somewhere, cataloged the Web site in the directory, which means it
has some merit. By contrast, Web sites you find with a search engine may
have no merit except for the fact that they include a keyword or two that
you used in your search. Search engines have it over directories when it
comes to volume. Many more Web sites can be found with a standard
search engine than a directory. Search engines illuminate all corners of
the Internet, but directories only shine a light on Web sites that catalogers
thought worthwhile.
In September 2001, About.com removed a third of the topics from its directory. That left several dozen topic guides — the self-appointed experts who
write about topics — stranded. Starting at this Web site, you can investigate
topics that were trimmed from the About directory in 2001: www.former
aboutguides.com.
Finding Out about Search Engines
117
How standard search engines work
Standard search engines are sometimes called spiders or crawlers because
they crawl along the Internet, going from link to link, recording what they
find and filing it away in a database. When you search the Internet with a
standard search engine, you are really rummaging around in the search
engine’s database. You are finding information brought home to the database
by a spider, an automated program for indexing and describing what is on
Web pages. Table 3-2 describes the major search engines. (Later in this chapter, “More techniques for narrowing a search” compares the search engines’
different features.)
Table 3-2
Book II
Chapter 3
Major Search Engines
Web Address
Notes
All the Web
www.alltheweb.com
Gets search results mostly from Yahoo!.
Can search for pictures and video as well
as text, as well as search within domains
and search by file type.
AltaVista
www.altavista.com
Gets search results from Yahoo!. Can
search within domains and by file type.
Is the only search engine that permits
proximity searches.
AOL Search
http://search.aol.com
Gathers search results from Google. Can
search for pictures and video, as well as
by file type.
Ask Jeeves
www.ask.com
Groups Web sites in search results by subject. Can search for pictures as well as
within domains.
Clusty
http://clusty.com
Arranges search results in “clusters” —
subtopics to help you find what you are
looking for.
Gigablast
http://gigablast.com
Searches a smaller index of Web sites, but
is a good, clean search engine. Can search
within domains.
Google
www.google.com
Ranks Web sites in search results largely
on the number of times they are linked to
other sites. The Cadillac of search engines,
it offers just about everything that the
others offer, except proximity searching.
(continued)
Strategies for
Internet Searching
Name
118
Finding Out about Search Engines
Table 3-2 (continued)
Name
Web Address
Notes
HotBot
www.hotbot.com
Gathers search results from Google, Teoma,
and Yahoo!. Can search for images and
pictures, within domains, and by region.
LookSmart
www.looksmart.com
Excellent starting point for finding articles
by subject or author name (click the Articles
tab), but the search engine doesn’t offer
many features apart from that.
Lycos
www.lycos.com
Gets search results from Yahoo!. Can
search within domains.
MSN Search
www.msn.com
Gets search results from Yahoo!. Can
search for images and pictures, within
domains, and by region.
Teoma
www.teoma.com
Offers a “refine” feature for turning a
Web search in a different direction. Ranks
Web sites in search results by relevancy
based on the context of the Web pages.
Can search for images and pictures, and
within domains.
WiseNut
http://wisenut.com
Does not offer advanced searching.
Yahoo!
www.yahoo.com
Although Yahoo! is the oldest directory, its
search engine was launched in 2004 when
it purchased the Overture search engine.
Unlike directories, standard search engines don’t employ human beings to
decide whether a Web page is relevant to a certain topic. They rely on algorithms to do that. In Internet searching, an algorithm is a mathematical formula for scoring a Web page’s relevance compared to other Web pages. The
Web page that scores highest goes to the top of the list of search results; the
Web page that scores lowest goes to the bottom.
Algorithms take into account a Web page’s title, headings, meta description
tag, and boldface text, among many other things. The success of the Google
search engine is usually attributed to Google’s ability to accurately rank pages
by relevancy in search results. In Google’s PageRank algorithm, pages are
ranked according to how many times other pages link to them, the idea being
that a page to which other pages link is probably more valuable, or relevant,
than a page to which no one has bothered to link.
“PageRank,” Google explains, “performs an objective measurement of the
importance of Web pages by solving an equation of more than 500 million
Finding Out about Search Engines
119
variables and 2 billion terms. Instead of counting direct links, PageRank interprets a link from Page A to Page B as a vote for Page B by Page A. PageRank
then assesses a page’s importance by the number of votes it receives.”
(Go to this Web site for a thorough description of how Google ranks Web
pages in search results: www.google.com/corporate/tech.html.)
Use a standard search engine to search the Internet for obscure topics or
topics that aren’t subject to being categorized. Standard search engines
reach deeper into the Internet than directories. You can find many more
Web sites with a standard search engine than a directory.
Google-bombing
Google’s PageRank algorithm for judging the
relevancy of Web pages has made it susceptible to an armchair sport called Google-bombing.
Google-bombing means to take advantage of a
search engine’s method of obtaining search
results to artificially raise a Web page’s ranking in the search results list. Google judges a
Web page’s relevancy by how many Web pages
are linked to it. By purposefully linking many
Web pages to a single page, pranksters can
manipulate the Google search results to move
a Web page higher in the search results list.
The first Google-bomb was dropped in 1999,
when pranksters engineered search results at
Google so that a search for “more evil than Satan
himself” returned a results list with Microsoft’s
home page in the first position. Google-bombs
have also been launched to link searches for
“miserable failure” to online biographies of
Michael Moore and President George Bush.
The success of Google-bombers underscores
the reason why smart researchers rely on directories as well as search engines. Google is
essentially running a popularity contest with its
search results. The most popular Web site —
the one to which the most other Web pages are
linked — wins and takes the top spot on the
results list, but as everyone who has attended
junior high school knows, the most popular isn’t
necessarily the best or the smartest. Searching
in a directory, you can be sure that the Web
sites you turn up are relevant to the topic you
are researching.
Book II
Chapter 3
Strategies for
Internet Searching
Writer and editor Danny Sullivan oversees an excellent online magazine,
Search Engine Watch, at this address: http://searchenginewatch.com.
The magazine rates search engines, describes how they work, offers tips
for using them, and even provides an online forum where lovers of search
engines trade tips and tricks. You can also get search-engine news and
notes at Search Engine Showdown at this address: http://searchengine
showdown.com.
120
Finding Out about Search Engines
How meta-search engines work
A meta-search engine works much like other search engines, except it doesn’t
send its own automated spiders onto the Internet to index and describe Web
pages. Instead, it rides piggyback on other search engines. A meta-search
engine searches using other search engines and gathers the results in one
place. The Dogpile meta-search engine, for example, gathers search results
from Google, Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, About, Overture, and FindWhat. Table 3-3
lists meta-search engines.
Table 3-3
Meta-Search Engines
Search Engine
Web Address
37.com
www.37.com
800go
http://800go.com/800go.html
Dogpile
www.dogpile.com
Highway61
www.highway61.com
Ixquick
www.ixquick.com
Kanoodle
www.kanoodle.com
Mamma
www.mamma.com
MegaGo
www.megago.com
MetaCrawler
www.metacrawler.com
MetaSpider
www.metaspider.com
Pandia
www.pandia.com/metasearch/index.html
PlanetSearch
www.planetsearch.com
ProFusion
www.profusion.com
Query Server
www.queryserver.com/web.htm
Search.com
www.search.com
Vivisimo
http://vivisimo.com
In theory, a meta-search engine is a useful way to search the Internet because
you get the benefit of using more than one search engine. In practice, metasearch engines are a case of “too much all at once.” Searches take too long.
The search results are too numerous to be useful. Most meta-search engines
can’t weed out the duplicate Web sites that appear in search results. Duplicates
appear because the search engines on which the meta-engine relies often
find the same Web site.
Meta-search engines aren’t worth a lot unless you know precisely what you
are looking for — a digital camera with a product number you can use as a
keyword or an out-of-the-way hamlet in Central America whose name is
known to very few people. Use a meta-search engine when the topic you are
researching is narrow or obscure. This way, you don’t have as many search
results to look over.
Which Search Engine Should I Use?
121
How search engines earn their keep
You may well ask how search engines such as
Google and Yahoo! make any income. All search
engines do is point you to other Web sites. They
don’t sell anything. They don’t carry advertisements. Right?
Some search engines place the sponsored Web
sites at the top of the list of Web sites on the
search results page. When you review search
results, make sure that you understand which
Web sites are sponsored and which are not.
Which Search Engine Should I Use?
Which search engine to use is mostly a question of which one you are comfortable with and which one gives you the best results (the next section in
this chapter compares and contrasts search commands in the different
search engines). Test-drive a few search engines and directories to find the
one that gets you to your destination fastest. Meanwhile, here are some
basic guidelines for choosing a search technique:
✦ Specific subject: If the subject you are researching is specific, well
defined, and probably of interest to many people, use a directory such
as Yahoo! or the Open Directory Project. Chances are, you can find Web
sites cataloged under the subject you are interested in. For example,
Web sites devoted to mysticism, ear conditions, and the Holy Roman
Empire can likely be found in a directory.
Book II
Chapter 3
Strategies for
Internet Searching
Actually, search engines do carry
advertisements — subtle ones that point you to
different Web sites. On the right side of the
Yahoo! Directory, for example, you can find
“sponsor results” Web sites. Web sites pay
search engines to make their names appear in
“sponsor results.” When you search for a topic,
sponsor-result Web sites related to the topic
you are searching appear under the Sponsor
Results heading. A search with the keyword
kimono, for example, yields Web sites about
kimonos, some sponsored and some not. The
thinking is that anyone who is searching for
information about kimonos will necessarily be
interested in Web sites that sell kimonos.
122
Which Search Engine Should I Use?
✦ General subject: If the subject is likely to have been treated already by
others because it is a general subject, see whether you can find it in an
online reference. For example, information about California, Aristotle,
tsunamis, and supernovae is found in online encyclopedias. (The next
chapter in this minibook describes online references.)
✦ Narrow or unusual subject: If the subject is quite specific or unusual
and is not well known or of interest to many people, use a standard
search engine such as Google, Alta Vista, Teoma, or Gigablast. For example, using a search engine is the best way to investigate the pirates of
Nosy Boraha, Ravensara aromatica, Von Dutch, mustache cups, and the
Pentax Optio 750Z.
One thing to consider when choosing a search engine is the incestuous relationships between the search engines. In the previous section of this chapter,
I explain that a meta-search engine is a search engine that rides piggyback
on other search engines. It searches using other search engines and gathers
the results in one place. To some degree, most search engines are meta-search
engines in that their search results come in part from other search engines.
Google, for example, feeds search results to Ask Jeeves and AOL Search.
Teoma also feeds search results to Ask Jeeves. MSN Search and All the Web
get some of their search results from Yahoo!. The mother of all search engines,
the Open Directory Project, feeds search results to AOL Search, HotBot, and
AltaVista, as well as Google itself. (For a graphic representation of how incestuous the search engines really are, take a look at the chart at this address:
www.bruceclay.com/searchenginerelationshipchart.htm.)
Because some search engines get their search results secondhand, you may
consider using the search engines that feed the others. This way, you get
search results straight from the source. These stars light the center of the
search engine cosmos, and I suggest getting acquainted with them first if
you are new to Internet searching:
✦ Google: The Google database of mapped and indexed Web pages is said
to be the largest. Address: www.google.com
✦ Open Directory Project: This volunteer-staffed directory is highly
respected. Address: www.dmoz.org (You can also search the Open
Directory Project starting at this Google Web page: http://directory.
google.com.)
✦ Yahoo!: Yahoo! is the oldest Internet directory. Address: http://dir.
yahoo.com
Book II, Chapter 2 explains how to choose the default Internet search engine
that gets used when you click the Search button in your Web browser.
Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search
123
Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search
Unless you craft a good Internet search, your search will retrieve far too
many Web pages. You’ll have to look through many pages to find one that
is useful. You’ll develop a case of Internet search syndrome, a condition in
which the eyes get blurry from staring at too many Web pages for too long.
No one wants that.
In the interest of making sure that your Internet searches are short, sweet, and
meaningful, these pages explain how to craft a good Internet search. They
describe how to conduct a search, use Boolean operators to find useful pages,
and narrow your search with advanced search commands and techniques.
Not that anyone has counted how many Web pages there are, but Google
alone has cataloged over 8 billion. Because there are so many Web pages and
search engines are so good at cataloging and indexing them, even a search
for an obscure topic can capture hundreds if not thousands of Web pages in
the search results. This makes searching the Internet that much harder.
The trick to Internet searching is to decide exactly what you’re looking for
and then craft a search that pinpoints Web pages that are useful to you. You
need to exclude the pages you don’t need but, at the same time, reach deep
into the Internet for pages that are relevant to the topic you are researching.
With respect to the topic you are researching, take these steps to embark on
a search of the Internet:
1. Imagine the ideal Web page, the one with every scrap of information
you need.
2. Think of the words that are sure to be on your ideal Web page.
For example, if you are looking for information about John Hicks, the
19th-century chief of the Seminoles, the ideal Web page would contain
the word Hicks and the word Seminoles. To find pages with both words,
you use the AND Boolean operator and these keywords (I explain Boolean
operators shortly):
hicks AND seminoles
3. Think of an exact phrase that is likely to be on your ideal Web page.
As I explain later, you can search for exact phrases — two or more
words that occur one after the other. Rather than search for hicks by
itself, you could search using this exact phrase (I’ve put it in quotation
marks, the convention for using exact phrases in Internet searches):
“john hicks”
Strategies for
Internet Searching
Formulating your search
Book II
Chapter 3
124
Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search
4. Think of words to exclude from the search because they may bring up
Web pages that aren’t useful.
For example, the Seminole is the mascot of Florida State University. A
search for Seminoles may bring up Web pages with that school’s name,
which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because a Florida State University
professor may have written a paper about John Hicks. But because Florida
State University is football-crazy, a search for Seminoles is likely to bring
up Web sites about football (there are a ton of those on the Internet!).
You could exclude football Web sites from the search by using the NOT
Boolean operator, a minus sign (–) placed in front of the word or phrase
you want to exclude:
-football
5. Run your search.
As shown in Figure 3-3, the Internet search for information about John
Hicks, chief of the Seminoles, looks for Web pages that contain the
word seminoles and the phrase john hicks but don’t contain the word
football (entering uppercase letters in keywords isn’t necessary in
Internet searches):
seminoles AND “john hicks” -football
Figure 3-3:
A search
using
Boolean
operators.
6. Refine your search.
In a typical Internet search, you have to try, try, try again, and you craft
your search as you learn more about the topic you are investigating. You
find out which words to exclude. You discover more words to use as keywords in the search. For example, my search for information about John
Hicks led me to his Seminole name: Tuko-see-mathla. By searching with
that name — with that exact phrase — I was able to narrow the number
of Web sites in my search results considerably. Later in this chapter,
“Using Boolean operators for searching” describes Boolean operators
in detail and explains all the different ways of narrowing a search.
Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search
125
In a long Web page, finding the keyword — the word you are searching for —
can be a problem. Press Ctrl+F in your browser to search for a keyword in
the Find dialog box. In Google search results, you can click the Cached link
to see a copy of the Web page with all keywords highlighted.
Avoiding Booleans with advanced search commands
If you read the last couple of pages and you despaired at the idea of using
Boolean search operators, you will be glad to find out that you don’t necessarily need to know or use Boolean operators to conduct a search. Everything
you can do with Boolean operators you can also do by clicking the Advanced
Search link at a search engine. Every search engine offers advanced search
commands. I suggest always using them. You can run a simple search or a
very intricate one from an Advanced Search page.
Figure 3-4:
The same
search as
Figure 3-3
using
advanced
commands.
Using Boolean operators for searching
Boolean operators are named for their inventor, George Boole, a 19th-century
English logician. Use the operators — AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR — in Internet
searches to tell search engines how to use keywords in a search. You can
enter the operators directly in a search engine’s text box or, by going the to
Advanced Search page, choose commands and let the search engine enter
the Boolean operators for you (see the previous section in this chapter).
Enter Boolean operators in all capital letters. Figure 3-5 shows how three
Boolean operators work. The following pages explain Boolean operators
(sometimes called search operators) in detail.
Strategies for
Internet Searching
Figure 3-4 shows the Advanced Search page at Google. In the figure, I am
running the same search I ran in Figure 3-3, but without entering Boolean
operators (Google enters the operators for me after I tell it how to search).
This page offers many ways to narrow a search. I explain all the different
ways to narrow a search later in this chapter.
Book II
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126
Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search
Figure 3-5:
The Boolean
operators
AND, OR,
and NOT
at work.
Boolean operators are entered in different ways in the different search
engines. In Google, for example, you can enter the AND operator with a plus
sign (+) instead of the word AND. Check the instructions at a search engine’s
Web site to find out how to enter Boolean operators. In every search engine,
enter the operators in all capital letters.
AND operator
The AND operator tells the search engine to return only Web pages with all
the keywords you enter. This operator narrows the search and returns fewer
search results. Use it to make your search more specific. At some search
engines, the operator is entered with a plus sign (+). Some search engines
assume when you enter more than one keyword that you want an AND
search. Here are examples of the AND operator at work:
melungeon AND “charles gibson”
ginkgo +glycosides +flavonoids
OR operator
The OR operator tells the search engine to return Web pages if they contain
one or more keywords. This operator broadens your search. Use it in searches
for esoteric or obscure subjects that are unlikely to turn up many Web pages.
Some search engines assume when you enter more than one keyword that
you want an OR search. Here are examples of the OR operator at work:
ravensara OR “camphor laurel” OR “ravintsara oil”
“monkey’s mushroom” OR “hericium erinaceus”
Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search
127
NOT operator
The NOT operator tells the search engine to exclude Web pages from a
search if they contain the keywords. This operator narrows your search.
Use it to disqualify Web pages that would otherwise inflate the search
results. In some search engines, this is called the AND NOT operator. In
some search engines, you enter the NOT operator with a minus sign (–).
Here are examples of the NOT operator at work:
portland NOT maine
weverka -robert -karen
NEAR operator
“david bossie” NEAR whitewater
mexico NEAR immigration
Quotation marks
Quotation marks tell the search engine to look for an exact phrase or a string
of words. (This one isn’t really a Boolean operator, but I’m including it in this
list so that you are sure to discover it.) Enclose words in quotation marks to
find a name, address, or phrase on a Web page. Here are examples of using
quotation marks to find word strings on Web pages:
“10086 sunset blvd”
“new york” AND omfug
More techniques for narrowing a search
Crafting a good search means cutting to the chase and getting only pages
that are useful to you in the search results. By using advanced search commands, you can tailor a search so that it produces a good yield. Table 3-4
lists commands for narrowing a search. It tells you which search engines
offer which commands (see Table 3-2, earlier in this chapter, for the Web
addresses of these search engines). I describe commands and techniques
for narrowing a search in the pages that follow. Combine these techniques,
and you will be able to zoom like a laser beam precisely to the Web page
you need.
Strategies for
Internet Searching
The NEAR operator tells the search engine to return Web pages in which
the keywords appear within a certain number of words of each other. This
operator is like the AND operator, only more so. Use it to find Web pages
with keywords not just on the same page, but within a certain distance of
one another. As of this writing, only one search engine, Alta Vista, provides
proximity searches with the NEAR operator (see “Proximity searching,” later
in this chapter). Here are examples of the NEAR operator at work:
Book II
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Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search
Table 3-4
Search Engines’ Advanced Commands for Narrowing a Search
Name
Domain Date Language Page Web
File Region Links Similar Proximity
Title Address Type
Pages
All the
Web
✓
✓
AltaVista ✓
✓
AOL
Search
✓
✓
Ask
Jeeves
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
Gigablast ✓
✓
Google
✓
✓
✓
HotBot
✓
✓
✓
Lycos
✓
✓
✓
✓
MSN
Search
✓
✓
✓
Teoma
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
Yahoo!
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
Here’s a handy technique for narrowing the search results when you are running the Google search engine: Click the Search Within Results link at the
bottom of the search results page. You go to a Web page for searching only
the Web pages that your previous search captured.
Searching inside a domain
Search inside a domain when you want to narrow your search only to Web
pages at one Web site. Searching inside a domain is a great way to get information if the Web site you are searching offers information of a specific kind.
For example, to get information about computers and computer programs,
you can do no better than to search pcworld.com, the domain owned and
operated by PC World magazine. To get information about traveling to
Madagascar, you could search the lonelyplanet.com domain and use
Madagascar as the keyword for your search.
Don’t confuse domain searching with URL searching. Searching a URL means
to search the text in Web addresses; searching a domain means to search all
the Web pages in one Web site.
Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search
129
Searching by date
Unfortunately, search engines can’t accurately tell how up to date Web
pages are. Some search engines can tell when a Web page was last modified, or edited. Others record date information merely by noting when they
catalog each Web page in their database. By-date searches are not reliable.
Still, you can try searching by date when you want recent news about a
topic.
Searching by language
Searching in Web page titles
The most descriptive part of a Web page is its title. Making Web page titles
part of a search is a good way to narrow a search to Web pages of interest.
Google offers two ways to search by title, with the intitle (in title) operator and the allintitle (all in title) operator. Enter these operators in all
lowercase letters:
✦ intitle operator: Only the first keyword (or exact phrase in quotation
marks) entered in the search box must appear in the page title; the other
keywords must or can be on the Web page itself. For example, this search
finds Web pages with Barry Bonds in the title and the word Balco or the
word steroid on the Web page (the intitle operator is followed by a
colon and no space):
intitle:”barry bonds” balco OR steroid
✦ allintitle operator: All keywords entered in the search text box must
appear in the Web page title. For example, this search finds Web pages
with the words manga and American in the title (the allintitle operator is followed by a colon and no space):
allintitle:manga american
Book II
Chapter 3
Strategies for
Internet Searching
Obviously, you are more likely to get information about a French-speaking
country by looking on the Internet for Web pages written in French. Language
searches turn up Web pages written in a single language to the exclusion of
other languages. Search by language if doing so can help you find information
and if you either speak the language you are searching for or you can tolerate computerized translations. The next chapter in this minibook describes
computerized translation services.
130
Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search
Searching in Web addresses (URLs)
Searching in Web addresses, also called URLs, is similar to searching in
Web-page titles, except you search for text in the Web address of Web pages
instead of in Web-page titles. Because people choose Web addresses and
folder names that help describe where their Web pages are located, searching by Web address can be a useful way to find information. Google offers
two operators, inurl (in URL) and allinurl (all in URL), for searching the
text in Web addresses. Enter these operators in lowercase letters and follow
them with a colon and no space.
✦ inurl operator: Only the first keyword (or exact phrase in quotation
marks) entered in the search box must appear in the Web address; the
other keywords must or can be on the Web page itself. For example, this
search finds Web pages in which the name Asawa is in the Web address
and the name Ruth and the word Nihonmachi are on the Web page:
inurl:asawa ruth nihonmachi
✦ allinurl operator: All keywords entered in the search text box must
appear in the Web address. For example, this search finds Web pages
with the words lions, tigers, and bears in the Web address:
allinurl:lions tigers bears
Searching by file type
As Book I, Chapter 6 explains, file types apart from HTML files can be published on the Internet. At some search engines, you can search for these file
types: Adobe Acrobat (.pdf), Adobe Postscript (.ps), Microsoft Word
(.doc), Microsoft Excel (.xls), Microsoft PowerPoint (.pps), rich-text files
(.rtf), and others. For example, search by file type when you know that the
information you need is posted on the Internet in an Adobe Acrobat file.
Searching by region
At some search engines, you can search by region, usually from a drop-down
menu with the names of the different continents. If the information you want
is specific to a region or continent, you may as well search by region. Go
ahead. Give it a shot.
Searching for links
Searching for links means to find Web pages with hyperlinks that, when you
click them, take you to a certain Web page. Searching for links is a great way
to find out who or whether anyone has linked his or her Web page to one of
yours. Figure 3-6 shows a link search on the Google Advanced search page.
This search finds Web pages that have hyperlinks leading to pages at the
Crafting a Thorough but Precise Internet Search
131
address shown. You can also conduct a link search at Google with the link
operator, like so:
link:http://phatmike.motime.com
Figure 3-6:
A link search
at Google.
Proximity searching
“peter weverka” NEAR “office 2003”
Figure 3-7 shows a proximity search at Alta Vista. The search engine finds
Web pages in which the keywords are within ten words of one another. Use
proximity searches to research related ideas or to make your AND operator
searches more concentrative.
Figure 3-7:
A proximity
search at
Alta Vista.
Getting “similar pages”
Google offers a special command for finding Web pages that are similar to
a page whose address you enter. If you are fond of a particular Web page,
Google may be able to find its cousins, uncles, and aunts, which you may
find just as useful or enjoy just as much. Look for the Similar text box on the
Google Advanced Search page (refer to Figure 3-6).
Strategies for
Internet Searching
Proximity searching means to search for keywords that are near to one another.
Only one search engine, Alta Vista, offers proximity searches. To construct a
proximity search, enter the NEAR operator between the keywords or exact
phrases, like so:
Book II
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132
Searching the “Invisible Web”
Searching the “Invisible Web”
The so-called invisible Web is the part of the Internet that search engines
can’t penetrate. This part of the Internet is private, either because entering
requires permission or entering requires a subscription. As I explain earlier
in this chapter in “How standard search engines work,” search engines troll
the Internet, gathering information about Web sites by going from link to
link. But in the case of the invisible Web, there are no links to follow. This
part of the Internet has been walled off. It consists of private resources —
mostly databases such as Lexis-Nexis, UMI Proquest, Infotrac, and JSTOR —
that are privately held. The good news about these databases is that, after
you’ve found them, most have excellent searching tools.
Here are some Web sites for searching the invisible Web:
✦ Complete Planet: “Discover over 70,000+ searchable databases and specialty search engines,” this Web site claims. A search starting here brings
up a lot of dreck as well as useful stuff — you’ve been warned. Address:
http://aip.completeplanet.com
✦ GPO (Government Printing Office) Access: Search databases maintained by the United States government, including annual budgets, bills,
and government manuals. (Also try searching Google Uncle Sam at this
address: www.google.com/unclesam.) Address: www.gpoaccess.gov/
multidb.html
✦ InfoMine: Search databases of use to scholars and academic researchers.
Address: http://infomine.ucr.edu
✦ The Invisible Web Directory: This directory divides the invisible Web into
several broad categories for searching — Library Catalogues, Health and
Medicine, Public Records, and others. Address: www.invisible-web.net
To search the invisible Web, search by category and subcategory. A keyword
search for a specific topic is likely to swamp you with far too many search
results. See “Discovering Specialty Search Engines,” in the next chapter of
this minibook, for a list of more search engines that can help you penetrate
the invisible Web.
Evaluating Whether Information at a Web Site Is Valid
If “don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper” is true, and civilized
people think it is, then “don’t believe everything you read on the Internet” is
the undisputed truth. Most newspaper articles, at least, are fact-checked by
editors, but any fool can post anything on the Internet and be certain that
somewhere another fool will read and believe it. You owe it to the people
who will make use of research you do on the Internet to make certain you
get the facts straight. And that begs the question: How do you know whether
it’s genuine? How do you know whether what you read at Web site is valid?
Evaluating Whether Information at a Web Site Is Valid
133
You can start by examining the Web site itself. I don’t mean to be a snob,
but a sloppy Web site with grammatical errors and many misspellings is
automatically suspect. Next, consider the motive of the people who constructed the Web site. Many sites have a commercial motive. Others are
pushing a political agenda. These Web sites have ulterior motives and
should be regarded skeptically.
Is the information on the Web site up to date? News about technology and
political news, for example, gets stale quickly. Online articles should be
marked with the date of publication in plain display. Without the date, it’s
hard to tell how relevant an online article is. A Web page with a number of
dead links — hyperlinks that lead nowhere — is most assuredly out of date
and doesn’t deserve your attention.
Maybe the best way to judge whether information at a Web site is valid is to
use your intuition. What does your gut tell you? When someone stops you on
the sidewalk with a long tale about needing a quarter to make a phone call
because the car has broken down on account of the rain, et cetera, et cetera,
you can usually tell right away whether you’re being conned. You just know.
The same is true when judging the validity of a Web site.
Strategies for
Internet Searching
Another thing to consider is how close the information is to the original
source and whether sources are cited. The Internet can be like Telephone,
the children’s game in which one person whispers a word or two into the
next person’s ear, the next person whispers into the next person’s ear, and
so on, until the original message turns into something completely different.
Unless the author or publisher of a Web page can cite a source or preferably
give a hyperlink to the source, how do you know what you’re getting isn’t
innuendo or hearsay?
Book II
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134
Book II: Exploring the Internet
Chapter 4: Advanced Tools for
Scholars and Researchers
In This Chapter
Using a specialty search engine
Taking advantage of the Google Toolbar
Searching the Internet for images, audio, and video files
Getting answers from a Google researcher
Translating text from one language to another
T
his chapter picks up where the previous one left off and explains commands and techniques for the advanced searcher. In this chapter, you
discover a handful of specialty search engines designed for looking into
particular parts of the Internet — the sciences, technology, the law, and
others. You also find out how convenient the Google Toolbar really is and
how to search for images, video files, and audio files on the Internet. Finally,
this chapter looks at online translation services and explains how you can
search your computer with Google as well as search the Internet.
Discovering Specialty Search Engines
Specialty search engines, sometimes called vertical search engines, look into
one aspect of the Internet — for example, science, the law, engineering, or
the humanities. Most specialty search engines offer advanced commands to
make searches more accurate. Table 4-1 describes specialty search engines.
If the subject you’re interested in happens to be, well, special, you’re in luck.
Chances are, a specialty search engine can take you precisely where you
want to go.
136
Discovering Specialty Search Engines
Table 4-1
Name
Specialty Search Engines
Address
Description
DOAJ
http://www.doaj.org
Search the Directory of Open
Access Journals for scholarly and
scientific articles.
Google Scholar
http://scholar.google.com
Search for scholarly literature —
theses, abstracts, peer-reviewed
papers, and technical reports.
INFOMINE
http://infomine.ucr.edu
Search “124,710 academically
valuable resources” in nine
categories.
LookSmart Find
Articles
www.findarticles.com
Search for articles by topic, by
author name, or in selected
publications.
SMEALSearch
http://smealsearch2.
psu.edu
Search the Academic Business
Literature Library for business
documents about a subject or by
a specific author.
All-Purpose
Computers and Technology
Google Apple/
Macintosh
Search
www.google.com/mac
Search the Internet for information
about Macintosh computers.
Google BSD
Search
www.google.com/bsd
Search the Internet for information
about BSD (Berkeley Software
Distribution) open-source operating systems, including Unix.
Google Linux
Search
www.google.com/linux
Search the Internet for information
about the Linux operating system.
Google
Microsoft
Search
www.google.com/microsoft
Search the Internet for information
about Microsoft software.
Tech Search
www.techweb.com/search/
advancedSearch.jhtml
Search six computer publications.
www.helsinki.fi/WebEc
Search the Internet for information
about economics with the search
engine or by browsing in the
directory.
Economics
WebEc
Discovering Specialty Search Engines
Name
Address
137
Description
Health and Medicine
http://chid.nih.gov/
simple/simple.html
Search a bibliographic database
from health-related agencies of
the federal government.
Merck Manual
www.merck.com/mrkshared/
mmanual/home.jsp
Search by disease name or symptom name in the Merck Manual, a
physician’s desk reference.
MedHunt
www.hon.ch/MedHunt
Search for health care information
on the Internet.
PubMed
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
entrez/query.fcgi
Search the National Library of
Science’s 15 million citations for
biomedical articles dating to the
1950s.
RxList
www.rxlist.com
Search by name or imprint code
for information about drugs.
Artcyclopedia
www.artcyclopedia.com
Search museum Web sites by
artists’ names, artwork names,
and museum names.
Art Bridge
www.art-bridge.com
Search a directory with categories ranging from Art History
to Tribal Art.
Project
Gutenberg
www.gutenberg.org/catalog
Search the online library for
7,000 different books, most of
them classics published prior
to 1950.
Social Science
Information
Gateway
http://sosig.esrc.bris.
ac.uk
Search for information related to
the social sciences, business,
and law.
Voice of the
Shuttle
http://vos.ucsb.edu
Research online Web sites
pertaining to the humanities —
art, literature, philosophy, and
more. Offers a directory and a
search engine.
http://lawcrawler.find
law.com
Search for information about
laws, cases, and codes.
The Humanities
Law
FindLaw
(continued)
Book II
Chapter 4
Advanced Tools for
Scholars and
Researchers
Combined
Health
138
Finding Out about the Google Toolbar
Table 4-1 (continued)
Name
Address
Description
Science, Math, and Engineering
Cite Seer
http://citeseer.ist.
psu.edu
Search for literature about computer and information science.
Internet Guide
to Engineering,
Mathematics,
and Computing
www.eevl.ac.uk/index.htm
Search full-text online scientific
journals selected by the editors
for relevance and quality.
NASA Image
Exchange
http://nix.nasa.gov
Search among the 300,000
images in the NASA databases.
NatureServe
Explorer
www.natureserve.org/
explorer
Search a database with information about more than 60,000 plants,
animals, and ecosystems of the
United States and Canada.
Online Journal
Search Engine
www.ojose.com
Search scientific publications in
in 60 databases.
SciCentral
www.scicentral.com
Search for recent news in several
scientific disciplines.
Scirus
www.scirus.com/srsapp
Search over 167 million
science-related Web pages.
By the way, the specialty search engines listed in Table 4-1 are by no means
the only ones on the Internet. Book VIII, Chapter 2, for example, describes
specialty search engines for finding airline tickets and hotel rooms. Some
people believe that Internet searching technology is in its infancy, and as
search technology is refined in the coming years, we are soon going to see
many more specialized search engines.
Finding Out about the Google Toolbar
If you are a fan of Google, consider using the Google Toolbar, as shown in
Figure 4-1. This toolbar makes it possible to do just about anything you can
do with the Google search engine without visiting the Google Web site. The
toolbar is there at the top of your browser, ready and willing to provide you
with a Google service at a moment’s notice.
Installing the Google Toolbar
To install the toolbar, go to this Web-site address: http://toolbar.google.
com. Then click the Download Google Toolbar button. You will be asked
Finding Out about the Google Toolbar
139
whether you want to disable or enable advanced features. If you enable the
advanced features, you can see a page’s rank on the Google Toolbar when
you surf to the page. However, to gather this ranking information, Google
tracks users’ surfing habits. What the advanced features question really asks
is whether you consent to sending information about your surfing behavior
to the Google database. Google uses the information to compile data about
people’s surfing habits.
Book II
Chapter 4
Advanced Tools for
Scholars and
Researchers
Figure 4-1:
The Google
Toolbar.
To turn off the Google Toolbar, right-click any empty place on any toolbar in
your Web browser and deselect the Google option. To remove the Google
Toolbar, do it as though you were removing a computer program. Choose
Start➪Control Panel➪Add or Remove Programs. Select Google Toolbar in the
Add or Remove Programs dialog box, and click the Change/Remove button.
If you’ve installed the Google Toolbar, you can conduct a search without
manually entering keywords. Either double-click a word on a Web page or
drag across words to highlight them, and then right-click and choose Google
search to run a search.
Using the Google Toolbar
The Google Toolbar is essentially a way to search with Google without visiting the Google Web site. You can find these amenities on the Google Toolbar
(refer to Figure 4-1):
✦ Google menu: A drop-down list for going directly to Google.com and its
various pages.
✦ Search Terms text box: A text box for entering search terms and
embarking on a new search. Press Enter after you enter a keyword.
✦ Search Web: A drop-down list for conducting a specialty search with
Google. Choose Google Images, for example, to search for images.
140
Finding Out about the Google Toolbar
✦ News: Click this button, which is to the right of the Search Web dropdown list, to go to the Google News Web site and see what’s happening
in the world.
✦ PageRank: Displays the page ranking (if you enable the advanced features of the toolbar).
✦ Blocked: Click this button to allow or disallow pop-up ads from appearing when you visit this Web site. Allowing pop-ups with this button does
not override your browser settings.
✦ AutoFill: Click this button to enter your address, name, and credit card
information automatically on Web forms. Click the Options button and
fill in the AutoFill tab of the Toolbar Options dialog box to provide the
Google Toolbar with your name, address, and credit card information.
✦ Options: Click this button to open the Toolbar Options dialog box and
choose which buttons appear on the Google Toolbar (the Options tab),
to describe your search preferences or add more buttons (the More tab),
or to enter AutoFill information (the AutoFill tab).
✦ Highlight: Click this button to highlight keywords from your search on
the Web page you are viewing. This is an excellent way to locate the
information you need on a Web page.
✦ Find Next Occurrence: Click this button to jump from search term to
search term on a Web page. The button is named after a keyword you
entered.
By the way, Google isn’t the only search engine to offer a toolbar. You can
also find the Yahoo! Toolbar (http://toolbar.yahoo.com), the Dogpile
Search Toolbar (www.dogpile.com/info.dogpl/tbar), and the AltaVista
Toolbar (www.altavista.com/toolbar).
Making Google the Internet Explorer
default searcher
When you click the Search button in Internet Explorer, which search engine
appears by default in the Search pane, the panel on the left side of the window?
You can click the Customize button in the Search pane and choose a search
service, but Google is conspicuously absent from the list of services you can
choose from. If Google is your favorite search service and you want Google
search options to appear when you click the Search button in Internet Explorer,
follow these steps:
Finding Out about the Google Toolbar
141
1. Click the Options button on the Google Toolbar.
2. Select the More tab in the Toolbar Options dialog box.
3. Select the Use Google as My Default Search Engine in Internet
Explorer check box.
4. Click the OK button.
Googlewhacking
A Googlewhack occurs when a search with the
Google search engine turns up only one Web
page. In Googlewhacking, players enter keywords in Google with the aim of producing a
single, solitary Web page in the Google search
results. At Googlewhack (www.googlewhack.
com), Googlewhacking’s official Web site, you
can read a list of keyword combinations — for
example, shantytown diddler, serpentine dickybird, and panda nosebags — that have produced
Googlewhacks.
Ironically, a Googlewhack ceases being a
Googlewhack after it is recorded at the Googlewhack Web site because from that point
forward, the keyword combination that produced the Googlewhack appears on more than
one Web page. Here are the official rules
of Googlewhacking according to the game’s
Web site:
All keywords you enter must be legitimate
words found in the online dictionary at
http://dictionary.reference.com.
You may not enter exact phrases in quotation marks.
If the keywords appear in a list — an
encyclopedia, glossary, or thesaurus, for
example — the search doesn’t count as a
Googlewhack.
Google has inspired a number of oddball games
besides Googlewhacking. You can also find
Google-bombing (described in the previous
chapter of this minibook), Googlelaar
(www.northernlake.com/googlelaar),
GoogleFight (www.googlefight.com), and
The Random Google Page (www.bleb.org/
random), but none is as odd as elgooG
(www.alltooflat.com/geeky/elgoog/m/
index.cgi), a backward Google Web page.
Book II
Chapter 4
Advanced Tools for
Scholars and
Researchers
On the subject of Internet Explorer, you can attach special Google buttons to
the Standard Buttons toolbar in Internet Explorer: The Google.com button
takes you to the Google home page, and the Google Search button runs a
search on a word or group of words you highlighted. To add these buttons
to Internet Explorer’s Standard Buttons toolbar, go to this Web address:
www. google.com/options/buttons.html. It explains how to attach the
buttons to Internet Explorer.
142
Searching for Images, Audio, and Video
Searching for Images, Audio, and Video
As you know if you’ve spent any time exploring the Internet, Web pages are
apt to include images as well as text. And some Web pages offer video and
audio as well. Suppose you want to purloin one of these multimedia files for
your personal use. You need a photograph of a shiitake mushroom for a
PowerPoint presentation. You need a video of a wave crashing to illustrate
your ideas about next year’s stock market behavior. Maybe you just want to
see a video of a late-breaking news event.
Unfortunately, searching the Internet for multimedia files can be a hit-or-miss
affair. Be prepared to spend time browsing through Web pages until you find
a suitable image or file. Search engines index media files according to their
filenames and proximity to words on a Web page. You can’t really search by
keyword for multimedia files except when the keyword name happens to
have the same name as a file. As shown in Figure 4-2, for example, a search
for butterfly images with the keyword butterfly finds image files with butterfly
in their names as well as assorted other images, depending on the search
engine’s criteria for indexing image files.
Figure 4-2:
Searching
for images
at Google.
Searching for Images, Audio, and Video
143
Table 4-2 lists search engines that are capable of searching for multimedia
files. In my experience, Google Images is the best choice for searching for
images; AltaVista and Singingfish are the best for searching for video. At
AltaVista and Singingfish, you can search by file type for .avi, .mpeg, .mov,
QuickTime, or .wma videos. When searching for audio, best of luck to you. I
know of no search engine that does an adequate job of searching for audio
files. Find Sounds is fine for what it is, but it only finds short .wav files.
Table 4-2
Search
Engine
Search Engines Capable of Searching for Multimedia Files
Web Address
Images Video Audio Notes
✓
✓
✓
Click the Pictures, Video,
or Audio link on the All
the Web home page.
www.altavista.com
✓
✓
✓
Click the Images, MP3/
Audio, or Video link on
the Alta Vista home page.
AltaVista
AOL Search http://search.aol.
com/aolcom/image_
home.jsp
✓
Click the Images link
on the AOL Search
home page (http://
search.aol.com).
Ask Jeeves http://pictures.ask. ✓
com/pictures
Click the Pictures link
on the Ask Jeeves home
page (www.ask.com).
✓
FindSounds www.findsounds.com
Google
www.google.com/imghp ✓
Ljudo
www.ljudo.com
Lycos
www.lycos.com
✓
Singingfish http://search.
singingfish.com
Yahoo!
Picture
Gallery
http://gallery.
yahoo.com
✓
Search the Internet for
.wav sound effects.
Click the Images link on
the Google home page
(www.google.com).
✓
Get sound effects from
this Web site.
✓
✓
Click the Advanced
Search link on the Lycos
home page and then
click the Multimedia tab.
✓
✓
On the left side of the
window, choose which
kind of files to search for.
Search by keyword or
by category for pictures
and photographs.
Book II
Chapter 4
Advanced Tools for
Scholars and
Researchers
All the Web www.alltheweb.com
144
Asking a Google Expert
By the way, if you come across a multimedia file during your adventures
on the Internet and you want to copy it to your computer, follow these
instructions:
✦ Image: Right-click the image and choose Save Picture As. In the Save
Picture dialog box, choose a folder for storing the image and then click
the Save button.
✦ Video: Right-click the video image — not the image as it plays, but the
still image of the video on the Web page — and choose Save Target As.
The Save As dialog box appears. Choose a folder in which to store the
video file and click the Save button.
✦ Audio: Right-click the button or link that starts playing the audio file and
choose Save Target As. Then save the file in the Save As dialog box.
This talk of grabbing images, video, and audio from Web sites brings up an
important topic: copyrights. Files you take from the Internet were lovingly
created by someone, and they belong to their creator. You can use them only
under the “fair use” provisions of the copyright laws. These provisions don’t
allow you to use an image, video, or audio file on a Web site without the creator’s permission. One way to find out who owns material is to go to WhoIs.net
(www.whois.net) and enter the name of the Web address with the copyright
material you need. You may be able to find the owner’s name that way.
Asking a Google Expert
As fine as the Internet is, sometimes you can’t get an answer by searching
the Internet, and you have to seek the help of a live, human expert. You can
do that by enlisting the services of Google Answers. Google Answers maintains a staff of researchers who are paid to answer questions from registered
Google members. It costs 50 cents to post a question. Obtaining an answer
costs between $2 and $200, depending on how much you are willing to shell
out. Three-quarters of this fee goes to the researcher and one-quarter goes
to Google.
To explore the Google Answers Directory, a directory of already-asked
questions and already-given answers, you must have a Google account
(see Appendix C). To post a question, you must provide Google with your
credit card name and number as well.
Asking a Google Expert
145
Either of the following methods takes you to the Google Answers home page:
✦ Go to the Google home page (www.google.com), click the More link and,
in the Google Services window, click the Answers link.
✦ Open your Web browser to this address: http://answers.google.
com/answers.
Google Answers isn’t the only Web site where you can get advice from a
living, breathing expert. You can also try out AllExperts at this Web address:
www.allexperts.com.
Exploring the Google Answers Directory
Figure 4-3:
Questions
posted to
the Google
Answers
Directory.
Advanced Tools for
Scholars and
Researchers
At the bottom of the Google Answers home page is a directory with ten categories called the Google Answers Directory. Explore one of the categories or
conduct a search to get a sense of the questions being asked and answered.
As shown in Figure 4-3, some answers are rated. A five-star answer is considered very satisfactory. Notice the prices and the number of days remaining
for questions to be answered. Anyone with a Google Answers account can
comment on a question.
Book II
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146
Online Translation Services
Logging in to your Google Answers account
To log in to Google Answers, click the Log In link on the Google Answers home
page. The first time you log in, you are asked to create a Google Answers
account. Choose a nickname, choose an e-mail notification option, accept
the terms of service after you read them, and click the Create My Google
Answers Account button.
You go to your Account page. No matter where you travel in Google Answers,
you can get to this page by clicking the My Account link. Your Account page
offers three tabs for managing your account:
✦ My Questions: See a list of questions you asked, questions that are
awaiting an answer, or questions that were answered.
✦ My Profile: Change your personal and credit-card information, as well as
choose how to be notified by e-mail when a question is answered.
✦ My Invoices: See what you were charged for submitting questions and
getting your questions answered.
Asking a question
To ask a question, enter it in the Google Answers home page and click the
Ask Question button. On the following page, enter the subject of your question, choose a category, and name your price. The higher the price, the more
likely your question will be answered. The first time you ask a question,
Google requests that you provide credit-card information. Your question is
posted immediately.
The answer will arrive by e-mail if you opted to be notified by e-mail when a
question is answered. Whether you want the answer delivered by e-mail, be
sure to revisit your question in the Google Answers Directory to see if it has
received any comments.
Online Translation Services
No, translation services on the Internet are not up to the task of doing your
French or your Spanish homework for you. Computers are only machines.
They have no native concept of language, as Figure 4-4 shows (this translation of Shakespeare’s “All’s well that ends well” is rendered in Spanish into
something like “All’s flow that flow to the extremities”). You can, however,
cut or copy text from a document or Web site and get an approximate translation of the text at one of these Web sites:
✦ Babel Fish Translation: Type or paste the words in the Translate a
Block of Text box, choose a From and To language combination from
Online Translation Services
147
the drop-down menu, and click the Translate button. Address: http://
world.altavista.com
✦ Google Language Tools: Type or paste the words in the Translate Text
box, choose a From and To language combination, and click the Translate
button. (You can also get to this Web page by going to the Google home
page at www.google.com and clicking the Language Tools link.) Address:
www.google.com/language_tools
Book II
Chapter 4
Advanced Tools for
Scholars and
Researchers
Figure 4-4:
Translating
from English
to Spanish at
Babel Fish.
Babel Fish Translation and Google Language Tools both have commands for
translating an entire Web page from one language to another. Enter the Web
address of the page you want to translate, choose a language combination,
and click the Translate button. The Web page appears, but it’s rendered in
the language you chose, not its original language. In my experiments with
Babel Fish Translation and Google Language Tools, Web-page translations
were identical, which leads me to think both services run the same translation software.
Google Language Tools does something that Babel Fish can’t do: translate
Web pages into English as they are found in search results. On the Google
Language Tools page, choose a language on the Search Pages Written In
drop-down menu, enter keywords for a search, and click the Google Search
button. In the search results, click the Translate This Page link to read the
Web page in English.
148
Online Translation Services
Desktop Search: Searching your
computer with Google
The Windows Search command isn’t the best.
The command is supposed to search your computer for files or text within files, but it doesn’t
do a very good job. In my experience, at least,
it often overlooks files, even when the files are
right under its nose.
Searching button so that Google can start
indexing the files on your computer —
making a map of what is inside it. Indexing
may take several hours, but you can work
on your computer while Google indexes its
contents in the background.
As of this writing, Google is developing a software program for searching a computer’s hard
drive using Google search techniques. The program is called Desktop Search and, I’m happy
to report, it works great. The program is a big
improvement over the Windows Search command. (Microsoft is playing catch-up and is
developing a desktop search program of its own
called the MSN Toolbar Suite. You can read
about it at this address: http://beta.
toolbar.msn.com.)
Starting Desktop Search: Click the Google
Desktop Search shortcut icon on your
Windows desktop or choose Start➪All
Programs➪Google Desktop Search. Your
browser opens to the Google Desktop
Search page. It looks and works just like
the Google home page.
Here are instructions for downloading and
using Google’s Desktop Search:
Downloading the software: Go to the Web
site at this address and click the Agree and
Download button: http://desktop.
google.com. As soon as the installation
is complete, you see a Set Preferences
Web page. Choose how you want Google
Desktop to work (you can change your
mind later), and click the Set Preferences
and Continue button. Then click the Start
Running a search: Enter a keyword or keyword combination, and click the Search
Desktop button. You can use search operators and conduct an exact search. If files
are found, they appear in a search results
page. The page tells you where on your
computer the files are located. Files are
listed by date, with the most recently opened
at the top of the list. You can click a filename
to open a file.
Declaring your search preferences: Click
the Desktop Preferences link on the Google
Desktop Search page and choose how you
want to search in the Preferences window.
Chapter 5: The Internet as a
Reference Library
In This Chapter
Finding general-purpose resources
Finding online encyclopedias, dictionaries, and thesauruses
Searching for people on the Internet
Looking up phone numbers and addresses on the Internet
M
any of the cumbersome reference books found on the shelves of the
library can be found on the Internet. I’m not suggesting that you
forgo a trip to the library the next time you need to consult a reference
book, because the walk may do you good and I’m of the opinion that people
already spend too much time in front of electronic devices like computers
and televisions. Still, if you’re in a hurry, you may as well consult one of the
online references described in this chapter.
In this chapter, you discover where to find online encyclopedias, dictionaries,
and thesauruses, as well as how to find lost friends and look up telephone
numbers and addresses anywhere in the world.
Finding General-Purpose Information
First, here are a few general-purpose Web sites where you can get statistics
and information about a range of topics:
✦ FedStats: Starting at this Web site, you can search United States government databases for statistics about different states or from different
federal agencies. Address: www.fedstats.gov
✦ How Stuff Works: How Web servers, time, and the Bugatti Veyron’s
16-cylinder engine work are among the many subjects you can find at
this remarkable Web site, which offers easy-to-understand explanations
of many different topics. You can search by topic in the search text box
or search by browsing, as shown in Figure 5-1. Address: www.howstuff
works.com
150
Taking Advantage of Online Reference Books
✦ InfoPlease: This Web site is a sort of old-time country store for
information — it offers a little bit of everything, including an almanac,
encyclopedia, atlas, and thesaurus. Address: www.infoplease.com
✦ Nation Master: “Where facts come alive!” this Web site boasts. What
makes this place special are the comparison graphs and charts. Compare
nations by longevity rates, productivity, and other criteria, and see the
results in the form of a chart, not a boring statistical table. Address:
www.nationmaster.com
✦ Statistical Abstract of the United States: This is the U.S. Census Bureau’s
statistical abstract of the United States divided into 32 categories, from
population to industrial outlook. Address: www.census.gov/prod/www/
statistical-abstract-us.html
Figure 5-1:
How Stuff
Works,
one of my
favorite
Web sites.
Taking Advantage of Online Reference Books
The Internet has relieved the strain of many bookshelves across our land.
No longer do as many bookshelves creak and groan from having to support
many-volume sets of encyclopedias, hefty dictionaries, and thesauruses. The
pages that follow explain how to find the online editions of reference books.
Encyclopedias
You are hereby invited to dip into one of these online encyclopedias when
you have a question that’s begging to be answered:
Taking Advantage of Online Reference Books
151
✦ Britannica Online: Encyclopædia Britannica is the old warhorse of
encyclopedias; this is the online edition. For $70 per year or $12 per
month, you can read full articles in all 32 online volumes. Address:
www.britannica.com
✦ Encyclopedia.com: At last, a free online encyclopedia! Many of this Web
site’s 57,000 articles come from the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.
Address: www.encyclopedia.com
✦ MSN Encarta: With all its resources and wealth, Microsoft ought to be
able to offer a better encyclopedia than this one. Besides text articles,
Encarta offers pictures and short videos, but you have to be a subscriber
to get the good stuff. Subscribing costs $5 per month or $30 per year.
Address: http://encarta.msn.com
Figure 5-2:
Wikipedia,
the encyclopedia
and ongoing
collaborative
experiment.
The Internet as a
Reference Library
✦ Wikipedia: In computer jargon, wiki is the term for software that allows
collaborative writing at a Web site or blog (the word comes from the
Hawaiian for “quickly”). Wikipedia, shown in Figure 5-2, is an online
encyclopedia that anyone can read, edit, and help write. It is also a quite
interesting ongoing experiment in collaborative writing. Definitions of
anything having to do with computers or technology are excellent; avoid
the political. (For those who are interested, Wikipedia also offers a thing
called a wiktionary, a collaboratively written dictionary. You can find it
at http://en.wiktionary.org). Address: http://en.wikipedia.org
Book II
Chapter 5
152
Taking Advantage of Online Reference Books
Dictionaries
Next time someone tells you, “I don’t know, why don’t you look it up?” look it
up in one of these online resources:
✦ Acronym Finder: Acronyms, like moss and certain kinds of fungi, keep
spreading and taking over more of the earth. Go to this Web site when
you are stumped for the meaning of an acronym, a word formed from the
successive first letters of other words. Address: www.acronymfinder.com
✦ Merriam-Webster Online: This is the online edition of the old standby
dictionary. You can also use the thesaurus starting at this Web site.
Address: www.m-w.com/dictionary.htm
✦ OneLook Dictionary Search: This Web site is a meta-search engine of
dictionaries. Enter a word and click the Search button. You get a list
of dictionaries on the Internet that offer definitions of your word. Click
a dictionary name to go to the online dictionary and read the definition.
Address: www.onelook.com
✦ Online Slang Dictionary: Go to this Web site to decode the speech
of your children, nephews, and nieces. You can find a dictionary of
American slang. (For English slang, check out A Dictionary of Slang at
www.peevish.co.uk/slang). Address: www.ocf.berkeley.edu/
~wrader/slang
✦ Your Dictionary: This online dictionary doesn’t have anything over the
other dictionaries listed here. I include it in the list because it can send
you a word and its definition each day if you register and are good enough
to give it your e-mail address. I’m fond of getting my word of the day in
the mail. My vocabulary is increasing. Address: www.yourdictionary.com
Here’s a quick way to get a word definition: Use the define operator in Google
(www.google.com). Enter define, a colon (:), and then, without entering a
blank space, the word that needs defining. After you click the Search button,
Google gives you a list of Web sites with definitions of the word you entered.
For example, enter the following in the Google search text box to find definitions of the word spyware:
define:spyware
Thesauruses
Rooting around in a thesaurus for a good synonym isn’t what it used to be
now that word-processing programs have built-in thesauruses. In Microsoft
Word, for example, you just have to click a word for which you need a synonym and press Shift+F7 to get a list of synonyms for the word. Still, the
paltry list of synonyms you get from a word processor can’t compare to the
synonym lists you can get at these online thesauruses:
Taking Advantage of Online Reference Books
153
✦ Thesaurus.com: This is the online edition of Roget’s Thesaurus, everybody’s favorite thesaurus. Address: http://thesaurus.reference.com
✦ The Visual Thesaurus: This thesaurus could use some improvements.
The application that runs it works too slowly for my taste. I include it in
this book because it is such an interesting idea. Instead of synonyms
appearing in a list, they appear in constellation, with lines showing the
words’ relationships with one another, as shown in Figure 5-3. You can
look up five words in the Visual Thesaurus before you have to pay to
download the software. Address: www.visualthesaurus.com
Book II
Chapter 5
The Internet as a
Reference Library
Figure 5-3:
The Visual
Thesaurus.
Looking up quotations
A good quote is a great way to enliven a speech. When you’re hunting for a
good quote, go to these hunting grounds:
✦ Bartleby Quotations: You can look up quotations with keywords at this
Web site. Address: www.bartleby.com/quotations
✦ The Quotations Page: Starting here, you can search by keyword or by
author name. Address: http://quotationspage.com
I’m not sure where to put the next highly unusual Web site in this book, so I
may as well put it here. At the Speech Accent Archive (http://classweb.
gmu.edu/accent), you can hear some 400 examples of different accents,
from Afrikaans to Zulu. Says the Web site, “This site examines the accented
speech of speakers from many different language backgrounds reading the
same sample paragraph. Currently, we have obtained 399 speech samples.”
154
Finding Lost Friends and Lovers
Finding Lost Friends and Lovers
You’re supposed to be able to find everything on the Internet. Does that
include long-lost friends and lovers? Maybe. You can try your luck with these
lookup services. At some of these Web sites, you can pay a fee to run a background check or criminal-history check on someone. You can also trace old
telephone numbers and addresses at these sites:
✦ Docusearch: This is an online detective agency. Says the Web site,
“Docusearch is as intrusive as you need us to be. We investigate the
identity, reputation, conduct, affiliations, associations, movements, and
whereabouts of just about anyone.” Address: www.docusearch.com
✦ Intelius: The motto at this Web site is “We know.” For some lookups, you
can get ages and birthdays. Address: http://find.intelius.com
✦ Yahoo! People Search: Search by first and last name. Address:
http://people.yahoo.com
Looking Up Phone Numbers and Addresses
The days of the bulky telephone book are coming to an end, thanks to the
Internet. Next time you want to look up a telephone number or address, look
it up online at one of these Web sites:
✦ Anywho: This online directory is owned and operated by AT&T. Address:
www.anywho.com
✦ International White and Yellow Pages: A directory for looking up
addresses and telephone numbers in all continents except Antarctica.
Address: www.wayp.com
✦ Phonenumber: Offers a reverse telephone and reverse address directory. Enter a phone number or address, and you get a person’s name,
if it’s available. Address: http://www.phonenumber.com
✦ Reverse Phone Directory: This one specializes in reverse telephone
number and address lookups. Address: www.reversephone
directory.com
✦ Smartpages: This is SBC’s online directory. You can also get maps, driving directions, and city guides. For a fee, you can look up someone’s
criminal history or run a background search on someone. Address:
http://smartpages.com
✦ White Pages: Offers people searching, as well as reverse address and
telephone number lookups. Address: www.whitepages.com
Looking Up Phone Numbers and Addresses
155
You can look up phone numbers and addresses in Google by using the
phonebook operator (for looking up residences and businesses), the
rphonebook operator (for looking up residences), or the bphonebook
operator (for looking up businesses). At Google (www.google.com), enter
the operator name, a colon (:), and without entering a blank space, a name
followed by the two-letter abbreviation of a state. For example, this search
finds people named Dexter Donovan in California:
phonebook:dexter donovan ca
If you want to opt out of the Google Address book so that your name doesn’t
come up in searches, go to this Web address: www.google.com/help/pb
removal.html.
Book II
Chapter 5
The Internet as a
Reference Library
156
Book II: Exploring the Internet
Chapter 6: Read All about It
In This Chapter
Using aggregators to gather the news
Getting the latest news in a Google alert
Searching for news in a search engine
Visiting a news portal
Reading newspapers online
Getting the news from abroad
L
ong before the Internet, radio, and television, late-breaking news was
delivered by newsboys on the street. They shouted, “Extra! Extra! Read
all about it!” to peddle the extra editions of their newspapers. An extra edition was a special edition of the newspaper published in the late afternoon,
especially to cover a late-breaking news story of importance.
The Internet offers many different ways to “read all about it.” This chapter
starts by looking at an exciting innovation in Internet news called an aggregator. Aggregators are special programs that collect headlines and story
summaries from many news sources so that you can get the latest news
without having to travel here, there, and everywhere on the Internet. This
chapter also shows how to enlist the help of Google to get the latest news in
the form of alerts — e-mail messages sent to you. You also discover search
engines designed especially for finding news, news portals, and good
sources of foreign news.
Gathering the News with an Aggregator
News fiends who make it their goal to keep up with the latest news get their
news from many different Web sites. They get late-breaking news from one
place and sports news from another. They get local news from the local
daily and financial news from an online financial newspaper. They read their
favorite columnists on different Web sites. Some of them even get news from
blogs. To catch up on the news, they have to visit many different Web sites.
But instead of going to different Web sites to get the news, what if you could
get the news to come to you? Computer programs called aggregators and a
new Web standard called RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, are making this
158
Gathering the News with an Aggregator
possible. Using an aggregator, you can capture dozens of headlines and story
summaries, as shown in Figure 6-1. When you see a headline that interests
you, you click it in your aggregator and open a Web page to read the story.
Aggregators are convenient. They save time. And they save you the trouble of
searching different Web sites for news that matters to you, because you can
view part of what is on a Web site — the headlines and story summaries —
without actually having to visit the site.
These pages explain how aggregators work, how to subscribe to a Web site
with an aggregator, and how to use the Bloglines and Yahoo! aggregators.
How aggregators work
Aggregators are a good thing from the point of view of Web-site developers.
The headlines whet readers’ appetites and increase the number of Web-site
visitors. To make their Web sites available to aggregators, Web-site developers encode headlines and story summaries using the RSS standard. These
encoded headlines and story summaries are called RSS feeds. To show that
their Web sites have been encoded for RSS — that is, to show that their Web
sites are capable of feeding headlines and story summaries to aggregators —
Web-site developers mark their Web sites with RSS feed icons like the ones
shown in Figure 6-2.
Figure 6-1:
Bloglines, a
Web-based
aggregator.
Gathering the News with an Aggregator
159
Figure 6-2:
RSS feed
icons.
When you see one of these RSS feed icons on a Web site, it means that the
Web site can feed headlines and story summaries to an aggregator. Making
the connection between your aggregator and a Web site that interests you is
called subscribing. To subscribe to a Web site so that it can feed your aggregator, you click the RSS feed icon and copy a Web address to your aggregator
(I show you how to subscribe in a minute).
Aggregators fall in two categories. Some are software programs that you
download and install on your computer. Others are Web based; you open
them in your Web browser and run them by way of the Internet. Table 6-1
describes the different aggregators, whether they are Web based or are run
from a computer, and how much they cost.
Table 6-1
Aggregators
Aggregator
Web Site
Software
Cost
Aggie
http://bitworking.
org/Aggie.html
Web Based
Y
Free
Activerefresh
www.activerefresh.com
Y
$30
Awasu
www.awasu.com
Y
Free
Bloglines
www.bloglines.com
BottomFeeder
www.cincomsmalltalk.
com/BottomFeeder
Y
Free
FeedReader
www.feedreader.com
Y
Free
InfoSnorkel
www.blueelephant
software.com
Y
$40
NewsApp
http://server.com/
WebApps/NewsApp
Y
Y
Free
Free
(continued)
Read All about It
The aggregator keeps a list of Web sites to which it subscribes (refer to
Figure 6-1). Periodically, or when you ask it to, the aggregator polls each Web
site on the list to see whether anything is new, and if something is new, the
aggregator downloads the RSS feed from the Web site and displays a new set
of headlines and story summaries. In this way, aggregators always present
an up-to-date record of what is on each Web site to which they subscribe. In
this way, you can keep track of the news at your favorite Web sites.
Book II
Chapter 6
160
Gathering the News with an Aggregator
Table 6-1 (continued)
Aggregator
Web Site
Web Based
Software
NewsGator
www.newsgator.com
Newz Crawler
www.newzcrawler.com
Rocketinfo
http://reader.
rocketinfo.com/
desktop
RssReader
www.rssreader.com
SharpReader
www.sharpreader.com
Shortwire
www.shortwire.com
Wildgrape
Newsdesk
www.wildgrape.net
Y
Free
WinRSS
www.brindys.com/
winrss/iukmenu.html
Y
Free
Yahoo!
http://my.yahoo.com
Y
Free
Y
Y
$25
Free
Y
Y
Y
Y
Cost
Free
Free
Free
Free
I prefer Web-based aggregators. The problem with software aggregators is
knowing which stories you have read. Aggregators keep track of this for you,
but if you have one aggregator on the computer at home and one on your
computer at work, the two programs soon get out of sync, and you can’t tell
which stories you’ve read. I also like Web-based aggregators because they
are more convenient than their software counterparts.
Subscribing to a Web site
In a moment, I describe the particulars of subscribing to a Web site with
Bloglines and Yahoo!, but no matter which aggregator you use, the procedure for subscribing is the same:
1. At a Web site that offers RSS feeds, click an RSS feed icon, as shown in
Figure 6-3.
Later in this chapter, “Finding RSS feeds with a search engine” explains
how to find Web sites with RSS feeds. You can expect to see more RSS feed
icons on Web sites in the years to come. Earlier in this chapter, Figure 6-2
shows examples of RSS feed icons. As of this writing, the majority of the
icons are marked XML (because RSS feeds are encoded using XML, or
eXtensible Markup Language). Some RSS feed icons — Yahoo!, Bloglines,
and Newsgator — are named after aggregator programs. Some show the
word Subscribe; others are labeled Atom, which is the name of an RSS
encoding format; and others show the letters RSS.
As soon as you click an RSS feed icon, your browser opens a window
with RSS XML feed codes, as shown on the right side of Figure 6-3. Yikes!
These codes are scary! But don’t worry about it. All they do is tell aggregator programs how to fetch RSS feeds.
Gathering the News with an Aggregator
161
Figure 6-3:
Copy the
Web
address to
subscribe to
a Web page.
Book II
Chapter 6
shortcut menu to copy the address to the Windows Clipboard, as
shown in Figure 6-3.
Make sure that the Web address in the address bar is highlighted when
you choose Copy. The address should be highlighted automatically
when you right-click, but if it isn’t, drag over the address before rightclicking. If the address bar isn’t displayed in your browser, right-click the
main menu and choose Address Bar on the shortcut menu.
3. Go to your aggregator and follow the procedure for subscribing.
You are asked to paste the Web address you copied in Step 2 into a text
box. The Web address tells your aggregator where to go on the Internet
to fetch an RSS feed.
Using the Bloglines aggregator
Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) is my favorite aggregator. I like its clean
interface (refer to Figure 6-1). Changing around the headline and story summary displays is easy. Canceling a Web-site subscription is easy as well. You
can also use Bloglines to create a blog and search for Web sites that offer
RSS feeds.
To use Bloglines, click the Register link to register and create an account.
You are interrogated in the usual fashion as you create your account. You are
asked for your e-mail address and a password. To activate the account,
respond to the validation e-mail message.
Read All about It
2. Right-click in your browser’s address bar and choose Copy on the
162
Gathering the News with an Aggregator
Subscribing with Bloglines
To subscribe to a Web site, start by signing in and clicking the My Feeds tab.
Then open a second browser window and follow the directions in “Subscribing
to a Web site,” earlier in this chapter, to obtain the Web address of the RSS
codes you need to subscribe. Follow these steps to subscribe after you have
copied the RSS codes:
1. Click the Add link.
A new panel opens on the right side of the window.
2. Right-click in the Blog or Feed URL text box in the right side of the
window and choose Paste on the shortcut menu.
The Web address of the RSS codes appears in the text box.
3. Click the Subscribe button.
The Options window appears so that you can tell Bloglines how to
deliver headlines and story summaries to your Bloglines account. You
can change these settings at any time by selecting a feed on the My
Feeds tab and clicking the Options link.
4. Click the Subscribe button in the Options window.
The name of the Web site you subscribe to appears on the My Feeds tab.
To unsubscribe to a feed, select its name on the My Feeds tab and then click
the Unsubscribe link. You can find this link on the right side of the window,
above the feed name.
Viewing headlines and story summaries
Feed names on the Feeds tab appear in boldface text if you have not selected
them yet. To view headlines and story summaries from a feed, click its name
on the Feeds tab. The right side of the window displays headlines and story
summaries (refer to Figure 6-1). If a story intrigues you, click its headline to
open the story in a Web-browser window.
To see stories from the past that you have already reviewed, click a feed
name. On the right side of the window, open the drop-down menu and
choose a time period, as shown in Figure 6-4. Then click the Display button.
Using the Yahoo! aggregator
As shown in Figure 6-5, Yahoo! offers an aggregator on the My Yahoo! page.
You must be registered and signed in to Yahoo! to take advantage of the
Yahoo! aggregator. (Appendix A explains how to register with Yahoo!.) To get
to your My Yahoo! page, click the My Yahoo! icon or point your browser to
this address: http://my.yahoo.com.
Gathering the News with an Aggregator
163
Book II
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Read All about It
Figure 6-4:
Reviewing
stories from
the past.
Figure 6-5:
The Yahoo!
aggregator
on the My
Yahoo!
page.
Follow these steps to make RSS feeds appear in the My Yahoo! aggregator:
1. Follow the instructions in “Subscribing to a Web site,” earlier in this
chapter, to obtain the Web address of the RSS feed codes you need to
subscribe.
2. On your My Yahoo! page, click the Add Content button.
You land in the Add Content window.
164
Getting News Alerts from Google by E-Mail
3. Click the Add RSS by URL link.
You can find this link to the right of the Find button. You go to the Add
RSS by URL window.
4. In the URL text box, right-click and choose Paste to enter the Web
address of the RSS feed codes.
5. Click the Add button.
The Add window appears.
6. Click the Add button in the Add window.
To remove RSS feeds from your My Yahoo! page, click the Remove button
(the X) next to the headlines. Click the Edit button and choose Edit
Content on the shortcut menu to change how headlines are delivered.
Where you see the My Yahoo! RSS feed icon at a Web site, you can click the
icon and instantly subscribe to a Web page (as long as you’re signed in to
Yahoo!, of course).
Finding RSS feeds with a search engine
You can expect to see more RSS feed icons on Web sites in the years ahead.
Meanwhile, finding Web sites that offer RSS feeds can be a chore. One way to
find them is to enter the name of your favorite news source in Google along
with the phrase “RSS feed” (include the quotation marks). I’ve found many
RSS feeds that way. You can also search for RSS feeds with a search engine
especially designed for that purpose. Table 6-2 lists RSS-feed search engines.
Table 6-2
RSS-Feed Search Engines
Search Engine
Address
BloogZ
www.bloogz.com/rssfinder
Daypop
www.daypop.com
Feedster
www.feedster.com
NewsIsFree
www.newsisfree.com
Syndic8
www.syndic8.com
Getting News Alerts from Google by E-Mail
To help you stay on top of your favorite subject, academic endeavor, or pastime, Google can alert you by e-mail when it discovers something new on the
Internet that may be of interest to you. As you know if you read Chapter 3 of
this minibook, Google’s spiders crawl the Internet looking for updated Web
pages and new information, and this information is entered in the Google
Getting News Alerts from Google by E-Mail
165
database. With Google alerts, you can be informed when new information in
a particular area has been cataloged by Google. For example, if your area of
interest is the hissing cockroach of Madagascar, you can arrange for Google
to alert you by e-mail when a Malagasy cockroach hisses anew on the
Internet. The e-mail tells you the name of the Web site where the new information is found and invites you to click a link to go straight to the Web site
and examine the new information yourself.
Do one of the following to go to the Google Alerts page and tell Google how
to alert you:
✦ Go to the Google home page (www.google.com), click the More link, and
on the Google Services page, click the Alerts link.
Book II
Chapter 6
✦ Open your Web browser to this address: www.google.com/alerts.
✦ Search Terms: Enter keywords to describe the news or information you
seek. Be very specific, or else you will be inundated with e-mail alerts.
✦ Type: Declare whether you want Web pages from news Web sites, from
the Internet, or from both places.
✦ How Often: Choose from the drop-down menu how often you want
Google to send the e-mail alerts.
✦ Your Email: Enter your e-mail address.
Figure 6-6:
Creating a
“Google
alert.”
Click the Create Alert button. Google sends you a verification e-mail. Click
the link in the e-mail message to start receiving alerts.
Read All about It
As shown in Figure 6-6, describe what you want to be alerted about and how
you want to be alerted:
166
News Search Engines
News Search Engines
When you want to get the latest news about a topic, search for it with a news
search engine. These search engines work just like other search engines. Enter
a keyword or a keyword combination in the Search text box to describe the
information you are looking for. Table 6-3 describes news search engines (later
in this chapter, Table 6-4 describes search engines that focus on international
news).
Table 6-3
News Search Engines
Search Engine
Web Address
Notes
All the Web News
www.alltheweb.
com/?cat=news
Search for news by keyword on
the Internet. Click the Advanced
Search link to search for news by
category. On the All the Web
home page (www.alltheweb.
com), click the News tab.
AltaVista News
http://news.
altavista.com
Search for news by keyword. You
can make choices on the Topic,
Region, and Time Period dropdown menus to direct your
search. At the AltaVista home
page (www.altavista.com),
click the News tab.
Ananova
www.ananova.com
Browse late-breaking news stories in different categories. Also
offers oddball news stories it calls
“quirkies.”
Columbia
Newsblaster
www1.cs.columbia.
edu/nlp/newsblaster
This is an experiment of the
Columbia Natural Language
Processing Group that draws
material from 17 Internet news
services and “rewrites” the stories onto one page using artificial
intelligence techniques.
Daypop
www.daypop.com
Search for news by keyword in
traditional news sources as well
as blogs, RSS news headlines,
and RSS blog posts.
Google News
http://news.
google.com
Search for news by keyword in
4,500 news sources or by browsing in different categories. On
the Google home page (www.
google.com), click the
News link.
Starting from a News Portal
167
Search Engine
Web Address
Notes
NewsTrove.com
www.newstrove.com
Search for news by keyword or by
browsing. Includes many links to
online newspapers and newspaper columnists.
Yahoo! News
http://news.
yahoo.com
Search for news by keyword or by
browsing in different categories
for stories collected by Yahoo!
editors. On the Yahoo! home page
(www.yahoo.com), click the
News link.
Figure 6-7:
Newspaper
front pages,
unfolded
and ready to
read.
Starting from a News Portal
In Internet talk, a portal, also called a Web portal, is a Web site that delivers
many different things — Internet searching, e-mail, shopping, and more. A
news portal does the same, only for news. It gives you the news in many different categories. The Web sites listed here represent news organizations.
They gather the news on their own without relying on Web sites:
Read All about It
At Today’s Front Pages, you can see what the front page of several dozen
daily newspapers look like as of today. Move the pointer over a thumbnail
image of a front page to see it on the right side of the screen, as shown in
Figure 6-7. Click a thumbnail to see a front page at high resolution in a popup window. Today’s Front Pages is located at this address:
www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages.
Book II
Chapter 6
168
Reading Online Newspapers
✦ BBC: You can search for world news very easily at this refreshing news
portal. Click the name of a continent on the left side of the screen to search
for news in one part of the world. Address: http://news.bbc.co.uk
✦ CNN: Get news in different categories by clicking links on the left side of
the window. Address: www.cnn.com
✦ MSNBC News: What do you get when you cross a software monolith
with a news behemoth? You get MSNBC News. With so many news categories, finding anything at this Web site is like searching a labyrinth.
Address: www.msnbc.msn.com
✦ Reuters: Open the drop-down menu and choose an edition — one tailormade for your part of the world. This Web site gathers news from its
2,000 reporters in the field. Address: www.reuters.com
Memigo is a novel Web site that only presents news stories that are of interest to its registered members. Members submit stories and rate stories as
they read them. Stories with the highest rating are moved to the top of the
Memingo home page. What’s more, Memingo keeps track of stories you have
rated highly and suggests stories based on your ratings. To check out
Memingo or become a registered member of the Web site, go to this address:
www.memigo.com.
To search for online video news reports, start at Blinkx TV Video Search
(http://blinkx.tv) and enter a keyword. This search engine looks for
video reports in 20 different news sources, including the BBC, CNN, ESPN,
and British Television.
Reading Online Newspapers
Chances are, your local newspaper publishes an online edition. Try searching for its name to find out. The following newspapers are on my all-star list
because they offer high-quality writing and reporting, and because you can
search their archives and use them for historical research:
✦ Christian Science Monitor: This newspaper is known for its even-tempered
reporting and the breadth of its coverage of world news. Read articles
since 1999 for free; to read articles published before that date, you must
pay a fee. Address: www.csmonitor.com
✦ The New York Times: That the Gray Lady (as the Times is known
because the Times building is a shade of gray) is online is almost too
good to be true, but you can also search back issues of the Times to 1996
for free; you pay a fee to read articles published between 1851 and 1996.
You must register to read articles. Address: www.nytimes.com
✦ Washington Post: By registering, you can read the Washington Post
online. For a fee, you can search the newspaper’s archives dating to
1877. Address: www.washingtonpost.com
Getting the News from Abroad
169
Newslink (http://newslink.org) offers links to hundreds of small-town
newspapers in the United States. You can also find alternative newspapers,
online radio stations, and newspapers from other continents. Metagrid
(www.metagrid.com) is a search engine for locating newspapers’ home
pages. Enter the name of the town that the newspaper serves and click the
Search button. At Crayon.net (www.crayon.net), you can create your own
newspaper — well, sort of. After registering, you pick a name for your newspaper and tell the Web site from which sources to get the news. Then
Crayon.net creates a Web page with links to all your favorite news sources.
Over morning coffee, you can go to your “newspaper” at Crayon.net and
click a link on the list to quickly check the news.
Book II
Chapter 6
Getting the News from Abroad
✦ All Africa: This Web site focuses on news from Africa. Search by country
from the drop-down menu or investigate a topic by clicking its name on
the left side of the window. Address: http://allafrica.com
✦ Kidon Media Link: Search by country, not just for newspapers but also
for magazines, news agencies, and online radio stations. Address:
www.kidon.com/media-link/index.shtml
✦ Kiosken: Find and read online newspapers starting at this Web site by
selecting a continent and then a country name. This Web site is brought
to you by the Esperanto Federation, an organization bent on teaching
the world how to speak Esperanto. Address: www.esperanto.se/
kiosk/engindex.html
✦ World Press Review: This excellent Web site covers compelling world
news that doesn’t reach our part of the world. Click a region name to
read news from one part of the world, or enter a keyword to search the
site for news. Address: www.worldpress.org
Table 6-4
International News Search Engines
Search Engine
Web Address
Notes
NewsTrawler
www.newstrawler.com
Search for news by country or by
category.
World News Network
www.wn.com
Click the Advanced Search link to
search with Boolean operators in
different languages, or select a
region to browse the headlines in
different parts of the world.
Read All about It
What’s going on in the outside world? Table 6-4 shows how you can find out
by searching for international news with a search engine. If you aren’t using a
search engine to get the news of the world, test-drive one of these Web sites:
170
Book II: Exploring the Internet
Book III
E-Mailing
Contents at a Glance
Chapter 1: A Quick Introduction to E-Mailing..................................................................173
Chapter 2: E-mailing with Outlook ....................................................................................181
Chapter 3: E-mailing with Outlook Express ......................................................................209
Chapter 4: Yahoo! and Other Web-Based E-Mail Services ..............................................223
Chapter 5: Only You Can Prevent Spam ..........................................................................237
Chapter 1: A Quick Introduction
to E-Mailing
In This Chapter
Looking at the difference between Web-based e-mail and e-mail
programs
Reading e-mail addresses
Understanding how e-mail is sent and delivered
Compressing files to make them easier to send via e-mail
I
f you have a modem and an Internet connection, you can send and
receive e-mail messages. E-mail, or electronic mail, is the computer equivalent of letters sent through the post. It goes without saying, but e-mail messages reach their recipients faster than letters and postcards (people who
prefer e-mail to conventional mail sometimes call conventional mail services
snail mail). You can even attach files to e-mail messages, although you can’t
send e-mail chocolate. Sorry. You can’t put a drop of perfume in an e-mail
message or enclose a lock of hair either. E-mail may be faster than conventional mail, but it’s not nearly as romantic.
This short chapter introduces e-mail basics. It explains the different Webbased e-mail services and e-mail programs. You also find out how to read
e-mail addresses and see how e-mail is sent and delivered. Finally, this chapter takes up the practical topic of how to compress files so that you can
send them quickly over the Internet.
Web-Based E-Mail and E-Mail Programs
E-mail services come in two distinct varieties — Web-based e-mail and e-mail
programs. The two differ with respect to how e-mail is handled and stored.
With an e-mail program, all messages are kept on your computer. To compose, send, and receive messages, you give commands in an e-mail program.
With a Web-based service, messages are kept on a computer on the Internet,
and all e-mailing activity — composing, sending, and receiving messages — is
accomplished on the service’s computer through a Web browser. Figure 1-1
shows a Web-based e-mail service called ICQmail. In the figure, incoming
e-mail messages can be seen in the window of the Mozilla Web browser. It
174
Web-Based E-Mail and E-Mail Programs
appears that the messages are on a home computer, but they are actually
stored on an Internet computer hosted by ICQmail. To read a message, you
open it in a browser.
Figure 1-1:
Running
ICQmail, a
Web-based
e-mail
service,
through the
Mozilla Web
browser.
Vagabonds and pilgrims like Web-based e-mail services because they can collect their e-mail wherever they go — well, they can collect it wherever they
can find an Internet connection. Collecting Web-based e-mail at an Internet
café in Timbuktu or a public library in Cape Town is as easy as collecting it
from home or from an office computer. Web-based e-mail services are free,
which, of course, is wonderful. And it is easier to set up a Web-based e-mail
connection than a conventional connection.
The problem with the services is what happens when you run out of storage
space. Web-based e-mail services give you a certain amount of disk space on
their computers for storing messages. If someone sends you a large file and you
run out of space, so much the worse for you. The Web-based service deletes
old messages to make room for new ones when you exceed your storage space.
Table 1-1 lists the most popular e-mail programs. (Chapter 4 of this minibook
looks into Web-based e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail.) I
believe that everyone should have at least one Web-based e-mail account as
a defensive measure against unsolicited e-mail, also known as spam. As I
explain in Chapter 4 of this minibook, you run the risk of being spammed
every time you give out your e-mail address. By giving a Web-based account
address to people who appear to be suspect, you steer spam and other junk
mail to that account instead of the account you use for daily e-mailing — the
account that really matters to you.
Looking at E-Mail Addresses
Table 1-1
175
Popular E-Mail Programs
Program
Notes
Eudora
A user-friendly e-mail program. Named for author Eudora Welty,
the muse of Mississippi. Address: www.eudora.com
Netscape Mail
Comes with the Netscape Navigator Web browser. Address:
http://netscape.com
Outlook
Part of the Microsoft Office Suite, this program includes a calendar and task manager. The next chapter of this minibook is
devoted to Outlook. Address: www.microsoft.com/
outlook
Outlook Express
Comes with Windows and Internet Explorer. This program is
probably on your computer. Chapter 3 of this minibook explains
Outlook Express. Address: www.microsoft.com/
windows/oe
Pegasus
An easy-to-use e-mailer that is popular outside the United
States. Address: www.pmail.com
Looking at E-Mail Addresses
An e-mail address comprises a username, a domain name, and a top-level
domain. If you were to give the following e-mail address over the telephone,
you would say, “Jane at fastmail dot net”:
The username is the part of the address to the left of the at (@) symbol. It
identifies the sender or recipient of the message. When you set up an e-mail
account, you are given the opportunity to choose a username for yourself.
Sometimes the username includes a first and last name, with the first and
last name separated by a period: [email protected]
The domain name identifies the computer where the e-mail messages are
sent and stored. When someone sends a message to [email protected],
the message goes to the computer on the Internet — the Web server — that
has been assigned the name “fastmail.” The message stays there until Jane,
collecting her e-mail, gives the command to download the message to her
computer so that she can read it. When Jane sends a message, it also goes
through the fastmail Web server, to the computer it is addressed to. As I
explain in Book I, Chapter 1, each domain name is associated with an
Internet protocol (IP) address. When you send e-mail, your computer automatically routes the message to the IP address associated with the domain
name in the message address.
A Quick
Introduction to
E-Mailing
[email protected]
Book III
Chapter 1
176
Discovering How E-Mail Is Sent and Delivered
The last part of an e-mail address, the two- or three-letter top-level domain,
identifies a country or address type. You can tell a little something about a
person by studying the top-level domain in his or her e-mail address. For
example, an address that ends in the letters edu probably belongs to someone who works for an educational institution. An address that ends in au
likely belongs to someone who lives in Australia. Table 1-2 explains what the
different three-letter top-level domains mean. The two-letter variety indicates a country. For example, uk is the United Kingdom and jp is Japan.
Table 1-2
Top-Level Domains
Domain
Description
com
A commercial entity
edu
An educational institution
gov
A governmental organization
mil
The United States military
net
A networking organization
org
A nonprofit organization
Discovering How E-Mail Is Sent and Delivered
An e-mail account is similar to a post office box. Mail is delivered to a post
office box throughout the day. To collect it, you visit the post office, unlock
your box, and grab your mail. Similarly, e-mail messages are delivered to your
e-mail address all day long. Until you collect your messages, they reside on an
incoming mail server, a computer that your Internet service provider (ISP)
maintains. This computer receives e-mail that is sent to you. Your ISP also
maintains an outgoing mail server, a computer responsible for sending your
outgoing mail to addresses across the Internet.
For Web-based e-mail services, you don’t have to know anything about
incoming or outgoing mail servers, but when you set up a conventional
e-mail account, you are asked for the names of these servers:
✦ Incoming mail server: There are two types of incoming mail servers,
POP3 (post office protocol 3) and IMAP (Internet mail access protocol).
Before you set up an e-mail account, find out which type of server your
ISP uses to receive e-mail, and then get the name of the POP3 or IMAP
server.
✦ Outgoing mail server: This server is called the SMTP, or simple mail
transfer protocol, server. Before you set up an e-mail account, get the
name of the SMTP server that your Internet service provider uses to distribute e-mail. Often, the SMTP server’s name is the same as that of the
POP3 or IMAP server.
Compressing Files to Make Sending Them Easier
177
Book I, Chapter 3 explains how to connect your computer to your ISP so you
can collect and send e-mail.
Compressing Files to Make Sending Them Easier
You can compress files to make them smaller or to roll several files into a
single file that’s easier to manage and send in an e-mail message. These days,
hard drive space isn’t difficult to come by, and most people don’t compress
files to save disk space. However, many people compress files so that they
can send files more quickly over the Internet. Depending on what type of file
you’re dealing with, compressing files can shrink them by 50 to 90 percent.
Sending several compressed digital photographs over the Internet takes half
to one-tenth the time that it takes to send digital photographs that haven’t
been compressed. The person to whom you send a compressed file doesn’t
have to wait as long to get it, nor do you have to wait as long to receive a
compressed file. That’s the good news. The bad news is that people to whom
you send compressed files must have the software and the wherewithal to
uncompress them. Without the software, they can’t open your compressed
file. They can’t extract it, to use file-compression terminology.
After you compress files into a Zip file, Windows XP attaches a folder icon
with a little zipper on it to the file. Zip files in Windows XP take some getting
used to. A Zip file is a folder in the sense that the folder holds files, and
Windows XP treats it like a folder, but a Zip file is really only a file. Because a
Zip file is a hybrid between a folder and a file, I call it a folder-file. At any
rate, look for folders with zippers on them when you try to locate Zip files.
Compressing files
Besides shrinking them, compressing files gives you the opportunity to roll a
bunch of files into one easy-to-manage file. The 12 digital photographs you
want to send to Aunt Enid can be sent in one file attachment rather than 12.
The 50 files you want to copy to a CD-R can be stored on the CD as one file
rather than 50.
Book III
Chapter 1
A Quick
Introduction to
E-Mailing
Compressed files are often called Zip files because they’re usually compressed
with WinZip, the most popular utility for compressing and uncompressing
files. Everyone with a computer that runs Windows XP can compress and
uncompress files because Windows XP offers the Compression utility for doing
just that. What’s more, the Compression utility can uncompress — or unzip —
files that were compressed with WinZip. However, if WinZip or another thirdparty compression utility is installed on your computer, you can’t use the
Compression utility to compress files. You have to compress them using the
third-party utility. If you try to use the Compression utility, Windows XP runs
the third-party utility anyway.
178
Compressing Files to Make Sending Them Easier
Follow these steps to compress a file or files:
1. In Windows Explorer or My Computer, select the file or files you want
to compress, as shown in Figure 1-2.
Files of different types can be compressed into the same Zip file.
Figure 1-2:
Compressing, or
zipping,
files.
2. Right-click one of the files and choose Send To➪Compressed (Zipped)
Folder.
What happens next depends on whether a third-party compression utility is installed on your computer:
• No third-party utility is installed: You’re done.
• Third-party utility is installed: Click the Yes or No button — it doesn’t
matter which one — when the dialog box asks whether you want to
associate compressed files with the Windows XP Compression utility,
not the third-party utility.
Windows XP wants to associate each file type with one kind of program. Here, Windows XP is asking you to make its Compression utility the official compression program on your computer, but it doesn’t
matter what you decide, because you can’t compress files with the
Compression utility if a third-party compression utility is on your
computer.
The third-party utility compresses the files, names the compressed
file after the last file you selected, and places the compressed file in
the same folder as the files you compressed. In other words, if the
last file you selected is called Learning3, the folder-file is called
Learning3 as well. To rename a compressed folder-file, right-click it
and choose Rename.
Compressing Files to Make Sending Them Easier
179
Knowing that people like to send compressed files over the Internet,
Windows XP offers a convenient command for sending compressed files
right after you create them. Right-click the Zip folder-file and choose Send
To➪Mail Recipient. Whichever e-mail program you use opens so that you
can compose an e-mail message to go along with your compressed file.
Uncompressing files
If someone sends you a Zip, or compressed, file, follow these steps to extract
the files from the Zip file:
1. Right-click the folder-file.
Which command you choose on the shortcut menu depends on whether
a third-party compression utility is installed on your computer:
• No third-party utility is installed: Choose Extract All on the shortcut
menu.
• Third-party utility is installed: Choose Open With➪Compressed
(Zipped) Folders. Windows Explorer opens the Zip folder-file in a
new window. Now you can see the names of the files that you’re
about to extract. Click Extract All Files in the Explorer bar.
The Extraction Wizard dialog box appears.
2. Click the Next button.
3. Click the Next button.
The Extraction Complete dialog box appears.
4. Click the Finish button.
You see the extracted files in a new Windows Explorer window. From
here, you can open a file or move files elsewhere. Click the Folders
button to see where the folder with the extracted files is located on your
computer.
The fastest way to uncompress files is to double-click the name of the Zip
file. Doing so extracts all the files at once.
A Quick
Introduction to
E-Mailing
If you want, click the Browse button and choose a folder for the files
you’re about to extract in the Select a Destination dialog box. If you
simply click the Next button, the extracted files land in the folder-file
where the Zip file is currently located.
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Book III: E-Mailing
Chapter 2: E-Mailing with Outlook
In This Chapter
Getting acquainted with Outlook
Sending e-mail messages
Understanding message formats
Receiving e-mail messages and files sent to you
Maintaining a Contacts list with important addresses
Organizing your e-mail
Handling folders
Backing up your Outlook data
O
f all the e-mailing software, none is as powerful and all-encompassing
as Outlook 2003. The Outlook commands for sending and receiving
e-mails and files are easy to pick up. Best of all, the program offers all kinds
of ways to handle large loads of e-mail. You can flag it, shunt it automatically
into a folder, and even delete it automatically. This long chapter looks into
Outlook 2003.
Finding Your Way around Outlook
Outlook is more than an e-mail program, although this chapter focuses on
the e-mail side of Outlook. Outlook is also an appointment scheduler,
address book, task reminder, and notes receptacle. Outlook is a lot of different things all rolled into one.
Figure 2-1 shows the Outlook Today window with the Folder List on display.
The Outlook Today window lists the number of messages in three folders
that pertain to e-mail (Inbox, Drafts, and Outbox), calendar appointments,
and tasks that need doing. Not that it matters especially, but all Outlook
jobs are divided among folders, and these folders are all kept in a master
folder called Personal Folders.
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Finding Your Way around Outlook
Folder list
Figure 2-1:
The Outlook
Today
window.
Here are the ways to get from window to window in Outlook and undertake a
new task:
✦ Navigation pane: Click a button — Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, or
Notes — on the Navigation pane (refer to Figure 2-1) to change windows
and use Outlook a different way.
✦ Go menu: Choose an option on the Go menu — Mail, Calendar, Contacts,
Tasks, Notes — to go from window to window. You can also change windows by pressing Ctrl and a number (1 through 5).
✦ Folder List: Click the Folder List button (it’s below the Navigation pane)
to see all the folders in the Personal Folder, and then select a folder
(refer to Figure 2-1). For example, to read incoming e-mail messages,
select the Inbox folder. You can also see the Folder List by pressing
Ctrl+6 or choosing Go➪Folder List.
✦ Outlook Today button: No matter where you go in Outlook, you can
always click the Outlook Today button to return to the Outlook Today
window. You can find this button on the Advanced toolbar.
✦ Back, Forward, and Up One Level buttons: Click these buttons to
return to a window, revisit a window you retreated from, or climb the
hierarchy of personal folders. The three buttons are found on the
Advanced toolbar.
Addressing and Sending E-Mail Messages
183
When you start Outlook, the program opens to the window you were looking
at when you last exited the program. If you were staring at the Inbox when
you closed Outlook, for example, you see the Inbox next time you open the
program. However, if you prefer to see the Outlook Today window each time
you start Outlook, click the Customize Outlook Today button (it’s on the
right side of the Outlook Today window). Then, in the Outlook Today
Options window, select the When Starting, Go Directly to Outlook Today
check box and click the Save Changes button.
Addressing and Sending E-Mail Messages
Sorry, you can’t send chocolates or locks of hair by e-mail, but you can send
pictures and computer files. These pages explain how to do it. You also discover how to send copies and blind copies of e-mail messages, reply to forwarded e-mail, create a distribution list, send e-mail from different accounts,
and postpone sending a message. Better keep reading.
The basics: Sending an e-mail message
After you get the hang of it, sending an e-mail message is as easy as falling off
a turnip truck. The first half of this chapter addresses everything you need
to know about sending e-mail messages. Here are the basics:
1. In the Mail folder (click the Mail button in the Navigation pane to get
Book III
Chapter 2
there), click the New button or press Ctrl+N.
Figure 2-2:
Addressing
and
composing
an e-mail
message.
E-Mailing with
Outlook
A Message window like the one in Figure 2-2 appears.
184
Addressing and Sending E-Mail Messages
2. Enter the recipient’s e-mail address in the To text box.
The next section in this chapter, “Addressing an e-mail message,”
explains the numerous ways to address an e-mail message. You can
address the same message to more than one person by entering more
than one address in the To text box. For that matter, you can send copies
of the message to others by entering addresses in the Cc text box.
3. In the Subject text box, enter a descriptive title for the message.
When your message arrives on the other end, the recipient sees the subject first. Enter a descriptive subject that helps the recipient decide
whether to read the message right away. After you enter the subject, it
appears in the title bar of the Message window.
4. Type the message.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to enter the message itself! You can spellcheck your message by pressing F7 or choosing Tools➪Spelling.
As long as you compose messages in HTML format and the person receiving your e-mail messages has software capable of reading HTML, you
can decorate messages to your heart’s content (later in this chapter,
“Comparing the Message Formats” explains the HTML issue). Experiment
with fonts and font sizes. Boldface and underline text. Throw in a bulleted
or numbered list. You can find many formatting commands on the Format
menu and Formatting toolbar.
To choose the default font and font size with which messages are written, choose Tools➪Options, select the Mail Format tab in the Options
dialog box, and click the Fonts button. You see the Fonts dialog box.
Click a Choose Font button and, in the dialog box that appears, select a
font, font style, and font size.
5. Click the Send button.
If you decide in the middle of writing a message to write the rest of it later,
choose File➪Save or press Ctrl+S; then close the Message window. The message will land in the Drafts folder. When you’re ready to finish writing the
message, open the Drafts folder and double-click your unfinished message to
resume writing it.
Copies of e-mail messages you have sent are kept in the Sent Items folder. If
you prefer not to keep copies of sent e-mail messages on hand, choose
Tools➪Options and, on the Preferences tab of the Options dialog box, click
the E-Mail Options button. You see the E-Mail Options dialog box. Deselect
the Save Copies of Messages in Sent Items Folder check box.
Addressing and Sending E-Mail Messages
185
Making Outlook your default e-mail program
If you switched to Outlook from Outlook
Express or another e-mail program and you like
Outlook, you need to tell your computer that
Outlook is henceforward the e-mail program
you want to use by default. The default e-mail
program is the one that opens when you click
an e-mail link on a Web page or give the order
to send an Office file from inside an Office program. Follow these steps to make Outlook the
default e-mail program on your computer:
1. Click the Start button and choose Control
Panel.
2. Double-click Internet Options. You see the
Internet Properties dialog box.
3. On the Programs tab, choose Microsoft
Outlook on the E-Mail drop-down menu
and click the OK button.
Addressing an e-mail message
How do you address an e-mail message in the To text box of the Message
window (refer to Figure 2-2)? Let me count the ways:
✦ Type a person’s name from the Contacts folder: Simply type a person’s
name if the name is on file in the Contacts folder. (See the Tip at the end
of this list to find out what to do if you aren’t sure whether the name is
really on file or you aren’t sure whether you entered the name correctly.)
To send the message to more than one person, enter a comma (,) or
semicolon (;) between each name.
✦ Type the address in the To text box: If you have entered the address
recently or the address is on file in your Contacts folder or Address
Book, a pop-up message with the complete address appears. Press Enter
to enter the address without your having to type all the letters. To send
the message to more than one person, enter a comma (,) or semicolon
(;) between each address.
Book III
Chapter 2
E-Mailing with
Outlook
✦ Get the address (or addresses) from the Contacts folder: Click the To
(or Cc) button to send a message to someone whose name is on file in
your Contacts folder (later in this chapter, “Maintaining a Happy and
Healthy Contacts Folder” explains this folder). You see the Select Names
dialog box, shown in Figure 2-3. Click or Ctrl+click to select the names of
people to whom you want to send the message. Then click the To (or
Cc) button to enter addresses in the To text box (or Cc text box) of the
Message window. Click the OK button to return to the Message window.
This is best way to address an e-mail message to several different
people.
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Addressing and Sending E-Mail Messages
Figure 2-3:
Getting
addresses
from the
Contacts
folder.
✦ Reply to a message sent to you: Select the message in the Inbox folder
and click the Reply button. The Message window opens with the address
of the person to whom you’re replying already entered in the To text
box. This is the most reliable way (no typos on your part) to enter
an e-mail address. You can also click the Reply to All button to reply to
the e-mail addresses of all the people to whom the original message was
sent.
These days, many people have more than one e-mail address, and when you
enter an e-mail address in the To text box of the Message window, it’s hard to
be sure whether the address you entered is the right one. To make sure that
you send an e-mail address to the right person, click the Check Names
button or choose Tools➪Check Names. You see the Check Names dialog box.
Select the correct name and address in the dialog box, and click the OK
button.
Replying to and forwarding e-mail messages
Replying to and forwarding messages is as easy as pie. For one thing, you
don’t need to know the recipient’s e-mail address to reply to a message. In
the Inbox, select the message you want to reply to or forward and do the
following:
✦ Reply to author: Click the Reply button. The Message window opens
with the sender’s name already entered in the To box and the original
message in the text box below. Write a reply and click the Send button.
Addressing and Sending E-Mail Messages
187
✦ Reply to all parties who received the message: Click the Reply to All
button. The Message window opens with the names of all parties who
received the message in the To and Cc boxes and the original message in
the text box. Type your reply and click the Send button.
✦ Forward a message: Click the Forward button. The Message window
opens with the text of the original message. Either enter an e-mail
address in the To text box or click the To button to open the Select
Names dialog box and select the names of the parties to whom the message is to be forwarded. Add a word or two to the original message if
you like; then click the Send button.
Be careful when forwarding a message to a third party without the permission of the original author. How would you like your opinions or
ideas scattered hither and yon to strangers you don’t know? I could tell
you a story about an e-mail message of mine that an unwitting editor forwarded to a cantankerous publisher, but I’m saving that story for the
soap opera edition of this book.
To find the e-mail address of someone who sent you an e-mail message,
double-click the message to display it in the Message window; then rightclick the sender’s name in the To box and choose Outlook Properties. The
e-mail address appears in the E-Mail Properties dialog box. To add a sender’s
name to the Contacts folder, right-click the name and choose Add to Outlook
Contacts.
Suppose you’re the secretary of the PTA at a school and you regularly send
the same e-mail messages to 10 or 12 other board members. Entering e-mail
addresses for the 10 or 12 people each time you want to send an e-mail message is a drag. Some would also consider it a violation of privacy to list each
person by name in a message. To see why, consider Figure 2-4. Anyone who
receives the message shown at the top of the figure can learn the e-mail
address of anyone on the To list by right-clicking a name and choosing
Outlook Properties. Some people don’t want their e-mail addresses spread
around this way.
To keep from having to enter so many e-mail addresses, and to keep e-mail
addresses private as well, you can create a distribution list, a list with different e-mail addresses. To address your e-mail message, you simply enter the
name of the distribution list. You don’t have to enter 10 or 12 different e-mail
addresses. People who receive the message see the name of the distribution
list on the To line, not the names of 10 or 12 people, as shown in Figure 2-4.
E-Mailing with
Outlook
Distribution lists for sending messages to groups
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Addressing and Sending E-Mail Messages
Figure 2-4:
Instead of
entering
many
addresses
(top), enter a
distribution
list name
(bottom).
Creating a distribution list
Follow these steps to bundle e-mail addresses into a distribution list:
1. Choose File➪New➪Distribution List or press Ctrl+Shift+L.
You see the Distribution List window, as shown in Figure 2-5.
Figure 2-5:
Entering
addresses
for a
distribution
list.
2. Enter a descriptive name in the Name text box.
3. Click the Select Members button to get names and addresses from the
Contacts folder.
You see the Select Members dialog box.
Addressing and Sending E-Mail Messages
189
4. Hold down Ctrl and select the name of each person you want to be on
the list, click the Members button, and click the OK button.
The names you chose appear in the Distribution List window.
5. To add the names of people who aren’t in your Contacts folder, click
the Add New button and, in the Add New Member dialog box, enter a
name and e-mail address; then click the OK button.
6. Click the Save and Close button in the Distribution List dialog box.
You did it — you created a distribution list.
Addressing e-mail to a distribution list
To address an e-mail message to a distribution list, click the New button to
open the Message window, click the To button to open the Select Names
dialog box, and select the distribution list name. Distribution list names
appear in boldface and are marked with a Distribution List icon.
Editing a distribution list
The names of distribution lists appear in the Contacts folder, where they are
marked with an icon showing two heads in profile. You can treat the lists like
regular contacts. In the Contacts folder, double-click a distribution list name
to open the Distribution List window (refer to Figure 2-5). From there, you
can add names to the list, remove names from the list, or select new members for the list.
Sending a file along with an e-mail message is called attaching a file in
Outlook lingo. Yes, it can be done. You can send a file or several files along
with an e-mail message by following these steps:
1. With the Message window open, click the Insert File button or choose
Insert➪File.
You see the Insert File dialog box.
2. Locate and select the file that you want to send along with your e-mail
message.
Ctrl+click filenames to select more than one file.
3. Click the Insert button.
The name of the file (or files) appears in the Attach text box in the
Message window. Address the message and type a note to send along
with the file. You can right-click a filename in the Attach text box and
choose Open on the shortcut menu to open a file you’re about to send.
E-Mailing with
Outlook
Sending a file along with a message
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Addressing and Sending E-Mail Messages
Here’s a fast way to attach a file to a message: Find the file in Windows
Explorer or My Computer and drag it into the Message window. The file’s
name appears in the Attach box as though you placed it there with the
Insert➪File command.
Including a picture in an e-mail message
As shown in Figure 2-6, you can include a picture in the body of an e-mail
message, but in order to see the picture, the recipient’s e-mail software must
display messages using HTML (hypertext markup language). As the section
“Comparing the Message Formats” explains later in this chapter, not everyone has software that displays e-mail by using HTML. People who don’t have
HTML e-mail software will get the picture anyhow, but it won’t appear in the
body of the e-mail message; it will arrive as an attached file (see “Handling
Files That Were Sent to You,” later in this chapter, to find out about receiving
files by e-mail). To view the attached file, the recipient has to open it with a
graphics software program such as Paint or Windows Picture and Fax
Viewer.
Figure 2-6:
Inserting a
picture in an
e-mail
message.
Follow these steps to adorn an e-mail message with a picture:
1. In the Message window, click in the body of the e-mail message where
you want the picture to go and choose Insert➪Picture.
You see the Picture dialog box, shown in Figure 2-6.
2. Click the Browse button and, in the Picture dialog box, find and select
the digital picture you want to send; then click the Open button.
3. In the Picture dialog box, click the OK button.
The picture lands in the Message window. Don’t worry about the other
settings in the Picture dialog box for now. You can fool with them later.
Comparing the Message Formats
191
To change the size of a picture, click to select it and then drag a corner handle.
Otherwise, right-click the picture and choose Properties to reopen the Picture
dialog box (refer to Figure 2-6) and experiment with these settings:
✦ Alternate Text: The description you enter here appears while the picture is loading or, if the recipient has turned off images, appears in place
of the image.
✦ Alignment: Experiment with these settings to determine where the picture is in relation to the text of the e-mail message.
✦ Border Thickness: Determines, in pixels, how thick the border around
the picture is. One pixel equals 1⁄72 of an inch.
✦ Horizontal and Vertical: Determines, in pixels, how much empty space
appears between the text and the side, top, or bottom of the picture.
Want to remove a picture from an e-mail message? Select the picture and
press Delete.
Choosing which account to send messages with
If you have set up more than one e-mail account, you can choose which one
to send an e-mail message with. Follow these instructions to choose an
account for sending e-mail messages:
✦ Sending an individual message: To bypass the default e-mail account
and send a message with a different account, click the Accounts button
in the Message window and choose an account name on the drop-down
menu. Then click the Send button.
Comparing the Message Formats
Outlook offers three formats for sending e-mail messages: HTML (hypertext
markup language), plain text, and rich text. What are the pros and cons of
the different formats? Read on to find out.
These days, almost all e-mail is transmitted in HTML format, the same
format with which Web pages are made. If HTML is the default format you
use for creating messages in Outlook — and it is unless you tinkered with
E-Mailing with
Outlook
✦ Choosing the default account for sending messages: When you click
the Send button in the Message window, the e-mail message is sent by
way of the default e-mail account. To tell Outlook which account that is,
choose Tools➪E-Mail Accounts. You see the E-Mail Accounts dialog box.
Select the View or Change Existing E-Mail Accounts option button and
click the Next button. The next dialog box lists e-mail accounts that have
been set up for your computer. Select an account and click the Set As
Default button.
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Comparing the Message Formats
the default settings — the e-mail messages you send are, in effect, little Web
pages. HTML gives you the most opportunities for formatting text and graphics. In HTML format, you can place pictures in the body of an e-mail message,
use a background theme, and do any number of sophisticated formatting
tricks.
However, the HTML format has it share of detractors. First, the messages
are larger because they include sophisticated formatting instructions, and
being larger, the messages take longer to transmit over the Internet. Some
e-mail accounts allocate a fixed amount of disk space for incoming e-mail
messages and reject messages when the disk-space allocation is filled.
Because they are larger than other e-mail messages, HTML messages fill the
disk space quicker. Finally, some e-mail software can’t handle HTML messages. In this software, the messages are converted to plain-text format.
In plain-text format, only letters and numbers are transmitted. The format
does not permit you to format text or align paragraphs, but you can rest
assured that the person who receives the message will be able to read it
exactly as you wrote it.
The third e-mail message format, rich text, is proprietary to Microsoft
e-mailing software. Only people who use Outlook and Outlook Express can
see rich-text formats. I don’t recommend choosing the rich-text format. If
formatting text in e-mail messages is important to you, choose the HTML
format because more people will be able to read your messages.
When someone sends you an e-mail message, you can tell which format it
was transmitted in by looking at the title bar, where the terms HTML, Plain
Text, or Rich Text appear in parentheses after the subject of the message.
Outlook is smart enough to transmit messages in HTML, plain-text, or richtext format when you reply to a message that was sent to you in that format.
Follow these instructions if you need to change the format in which e-mail
messages are transmitted:
✦ Changing the default format: Choose Tools➪Options and, in the
Options dialog box, select the Mail Format tab. From the Compose in
This Message Format drop-down list, choose an option.
✦ Changing the format for a single e-mail message: In the Message window,
open the Format menu and choose HTML, Plain Text, or Rich Text.
✦ Always using the plain-text or rich-text format with a contact: To avoid
transmitting in HTML with a contact, start in the Contacts folder, doubleclick the contact’s name, and in the Contact form, double-click the contact’s e-mail address. You see the E-Mail Properties dialog box. On the
Internet Format drop-down menu, choose Send Plain Text Only or Send
Using Outlook Rich Text Format.
Receiving E-Mail Messages
193
Receiving E-Mail Messages
Let’s hope that all the e-mail messages you receive carry good news. These
pages explain how to collect your e-mail and discuss all the different ways that
Outlook notifies you when e-mail has arrived. You can find several tried-andtrue techniques for reading e-mail messages in the Inbox window. Outlook
offers a bunch of different ways to rearrange the window as well as the messages inside it.
Getting your e-mail
Here are all the different ways to collect e-mail messages that were sent
to you:
✦ Collecting the e-mail: Click the Send/Receive button, press F9, or
choose Tools➪Send/Receive➪Send/Receive All.
✦ Collecting e-mail from a single account (if you have more than one):
Choose Tools➪Send/Receive and, on the submenu, choose the name of an
e-mail account or group (see the sidebar “Groups for handling e-mail from
different accounts,” later in this chapter, to find out what groups are).
Figure 2-7:
Entering
Group
settings.
If you’re not on a network or don’t have a DSL or cable connection, you
shortly see a Connection dialog box. Enter your password, if necessary, and
click the Connect button. The Outlook Send/Receive dialog box appears to
show you the progress of messages being sent and received.
Book III
Chapter 2
E-Mailing with
Outlook
✦ Collect e-mail automatically every few minutes: Press Ctrl+Alt+S or
choose Tools➪Send/Receive➪Send/Receive Settings➪Define Send/
Receive Groups. You see the Send/Receive Groups dialog box, the
bottom of which is shown in Figure 2-7. Select a group (groups are
explained in the sidebar “Groups for handling e-mail from different
accounts”), select a Schedule an Automatic Send/Receive Every check
box, and enter a minute setting. To temporarily suspend automatic
e-mail collections, choose Tools➪Send/Receive➪Send/Receive
Settings➪Disable Scheduled Send/Receive.
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Receiving E-Mail Messages
Being notified that e-mail has arrived
Take the e-mail arrival quiz. Winners get the displeasure of knowing that
they understand far more than is healthy about Outlook. You can tell when
e-mail has arrived in the Inbox folder because:
A) You hear this sound: ding.
B) The mouse cursor briefly changes to a little envelope.
C) A little envelope appears in the system tray to the left of the Windows
clock (and you can double-click the envelope to open the Inbox folder).
D) A pop-up “desktop alert,” with the sender’s name, the message’s subject, and the text of the message, appears briefly on your desktop.
E) All of the above.
Groups for handling e-mail from different accounts
Groups are meant to help people who have more
than one e-mail account handle their e-mail. To
begin with, all e-mail accounts belong to a group
called All Accounts. Unless you change the
default settings, all accounts belong to the All
Accounts group, and e-mail is sent by and
received from all your e-mail accounts when you
click the Send/Receive button. If you want to
change these default settings, press Ctrl+Alt+S
or choose Tools➪Send/Receive➪Send/Receive
Settings➪Define Send/Receive Groups. You see
the Send/Receive Groups dialog box. Follow
these instructions in the dialog box to change
how you handle e-mail from different accounts:
Excluding an account from the All Accounts
group: Exclude an account if you don’t want
to collect its e-mail when you click the
Send/Receive button. Maybe you want to
collect mail from this account sporadically.
To exclude an account, select the All
Accounts group in the Send/Receive Groups
dialog box and click the Edit button. You
land in the Send/Receive Settings – All
Accounts dialog box. In the Accounts list,
select the account you want to exclude and
deselect the Include the Selected Account
in This Group check box.
Creating a new group: Create a new group if
you want to establish settings for a single
e-mail account or group of accounts. Click
the New button in the Send/Receive Groups
dialog box, enter a name in the Send/Receive
Group Name dialog box, and click the OK
button. You see the Send/Receive Settings
dialog box. For each account you want to
include in your new group, select an account
name and then select the Include the Select
Account in This Group check box.
Choosing settings for a group: In the
Send/Receive Groups dialog box, select the
group whose settings you want to establish.
At the bottom of the dialog box (refer to
Figure 2-7), select whether to send and
receive e-mail when you click the Send/
Receive button or press F9, whether to send
and receive automatically every few minutes, and whether to send and receive
when you exit Outlook.
Receiving E-Mail Messages
195
The answer is E, “All of the above,” but if four arrival notices strikes you as
excessive, you can eliminate one or two. Choose Tools➪Options and, on the
Preferences tab of the Options dialog box, click the E-Mail Options button.
Then, in the E-Mail Options dialog box, click the Advanced E-Mail Options
button. At long last, in the Advanced E-Mail Options dialog box, select or
deselect any of the four When New Items Arrive in My Inbox options. To
make desktop alerts stay longer on-screen, click the Desktop Alert Settings
button and drag the Duration slider in the Desktop Alert Settings dialog box.
While you’re at it, click the Preview button to see what the alerts look like.
Reading your e-mail in the Inbox window
Messages arrive in the Inbox window, as shown in Figure 2-8. Unread messages
are shown in boldface type and have envelope icons next to their names;
messages that you’ve read (or at least opened to view) are shown in Roman
type and appear beside open envelope icons. To read a message, select it
and look in the Reading pane or, to focus more closely on a message, doubleclick it to open it in a Message window, as shown in Figure 2-8. In the Folder
List, a number beside the Inbox tells you how many unread messages are in
the Inbox folder.
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E-Mailing with
Outlook
Figure 2-8:
Reading
messages in
the Inbox
window.
Later in this chapter, “Techniques for Organizing E-Mail Messages” explains
how to organize messages in the Inbox folder. Meanwhile, here are some
simple techniques you can use to unclutter the Inbox folder and make it
easier to manage:
✦ Hiding and displaying the Reading pane: Click the Reading Pane button
to make the Reading pane appear or disappear. With the Reading pane
gone, column headings — From, Subject, Received, Size, and Flagged —
appear in the Inbox window. You can click a column heading name to
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Handling Files That Were Sent to You
sort messages in different ways. For example, click the From column
name to arrange messages by sender name.
✦ Hiding and displaying the Navigation pane: Choose View➪Navigation
Pane or press Alt+F1. By hiding the Navigation pane, you get even more
room to display messages.
✦ “Autopreviewing” messages: Click the AutoPreview button or choose
View➪AutoPreview to read the text of all on-screen messages in small type.
The message text appears below the subject heading of each message.
✦ Changing views: Choose an option on the Current View drop-down menu
to reduce the number of messages in the window. For example, you can
see only unread messages, or messages that arrived in the past week.
The Current View drop-down menu is located on the Advanced toolbar.
Suppose you open an e-mail message but you regret doing so because you want
it to look closed. You want the unopened envelope icon to appear beside the
message’s name so that you know to handle it later on. To make a message
in the Inbox window appear as if it has never been opened, right-click the
message and choose Mark As Unread.
Handling Files That Were Sent to You
You can tell when someone has sent you files along with an e-mail message
because the word Attachments appears in the Reading pane along with the
filenames, as shown in Figure 2-9. The word Attachments and a filename
appear as well in the Message window. And if columns are on display in the
Inbox window (see the previous section of this chapter), a paper-clip icon
appears in the Sort By Attachment column to let you know that the e-mail
message includes a file or files, as Figure 2-9 also shows.
Files that are sent to you over the Internet land deep inside your computer in
a subfolder of the Temporary Internet Files folder. This is the same obscure
folder where Web pages you encounter when surfing the Internet are kept.
The best way to handle an incoming file is to open it or save it right away to
a folder where you are likely to find it when you need it.
Figure 2-9:
Receiving
a file.
Maintaining a Happy and Healthy Contacts Folder
197
To save a file that was sent to you in a new folder, do one of the following:
✦ Right-click the filename and choose Save As, as shown in Figure 2-9.
✦ Choose File➪Save Attachments➪Filename.
To open a file that was sent to you, do one of the following:
✦ Double-click the filename in the Reading pane or Message window.
✦ Right-click the filename and choose Open, as shown in Figure 2-9.
✦ Right-click the paper-clip icon in the Inbox window and choose View
Attachments➪Filename.
Maintaining a Happy and Healthy Contacts Folder
In pathology, which is the study of diseases and how they are transmitted, a
contact is a person who passes on a communicable disease, but in Outlook,
a contact is someone about whom you keep information. Information about
contacts is kept in the Contacts folder. This folder is a super-powered address
book. It has places for storing people’s names, addresses, phone numbers,
e-mail addresses, Web pages, pager numbers, birthdays, anniversaries, nicknames, and other stuff. When you address an e-mail message, you can get
the address straight from the Contacts folder to be sure that the address is
entered correctly.
Entering a new contact in the Contacts folder
To place someone on the Contacts list, open the Contacts folder and start by
doing one of the following:
✦ Click the New Contact button.
✦ Press Ctrl+N (in the Contacts Folder window) or Ctrl+Shift+C.
✦ Choose File➪New➪Contact.
You see the Contact form, shown in Figure 2-10. On this form are places for
entering just about everything there is to know about a person, except his or
her love life and secret vices. Enter all the information you care to record,
keeping in mind these rules of the road as you go along:
E-Mailing with
Outlook
A Contacts folder is only as good and as thorough as the information about
contacts that you put into it. These pages explain how to enter information
about a contact and update the information if it happens to change.
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Maintaining a Happy and Healthy Contacts Folder
Figure 2-10:
A Contact
form.
✦ Full names, addresses, and so on: Although you may be tempted to simply
enter addresses, phone numbers, names, and so on in the text boxes,
don’t do it! Click the Full Name button on the General tab, for example,
to enter a name (refer to Figure 2-10). Click the Business or Home button
to enter an address in the Check Address dialog box (refer to Figure 2-10).
By clicking the buttons and entering data in dialog boxes, you permit
Outlook to separate the component parts of names, addresses, and phone
numbers. As such, Outlook can sort names and addresses more easily,
and it can use names and addresses as a source for mass mailings and
mass e-mailings with Microsoft Word.
When entering information about a company, not a person, leave the Full
Name field blank and enter the company’s name in the Company field.
✦ Information that matters to you: If the form doesn’t appear to have a
place for entering a certain kind of information, try clicking a triangle
button and choosing a new information category from the pop-up menu.
Click the triangle button next to the Business button and choose Home,
for example, if you want to enter a home address rather than a business
address.
✦ File As: Open the File As drop-down menu and choose an option for
filing the contact in the Contacts folder. Contacts are filed alphabetically
by last name, first name, company name, or combinations of the three.
Choose the option that best describes how you expect to find the contact in the Contacts folder.
✦ Mailing addresses: If you keep more than one address for a contact,
display the address to which you want to send mail and select the
This Is the Mailing Address check box.
Maintaining a Happy and Healthy Contacts Folder
199
✦ E-mail addresses: You can enter up to three e-mail addresses for each
contact (click the triangle button and choose E-mail 2 or E-mail 3 to enter
a second or third address). In the Display As text box, Outlook shows you
what the To line of e-mail messages will look like when you send e-mail
to a contact. By default, the To line shows the contact’s name followed
by his or her e-mail address in parentheses. However, you can enter
whatever you wish in the Display As text box, and if entering something
different helps you distinguish between e-mail addresses, enter something different. For example, enter Lydia – Personal so that you can tell
when you send e-mail to Lydia’s personal address as opposed to her
business address.
✦ Photos: To put a digital photo on a Contact form, click the Add Contact
Photo button and, in the Add Contact Picture dialog box, select a picture
and click the OK button.
Be sure to write a few words on the General tab to describe how and where
you met the contact. When the time comes to weed out contacts in the
Contacts folder list, reading the descriptions can help you decide who gets
weeded and who doesn’t.
When you’re done entering information, click the Save and Close button. If
you’re in a hurry to enter contact information, click the Save and New button.
Doing so opens an empty form so that you can record information about
another contact.
Mapping out an address
On the Contact form is an obscure but very useful
little button that can be a great help when you
need to go somewhere but aren’t sure how to
get there. This button is called Display Map of
Address. As long as your computer is connected to the Internet and an address is on file
for a contact, you can click the Display Map of
Address button (or choose Actions➪Display Map
of Address) to go online to the Microsoft Expedia
Web site and see a map with the address at its
center. Double-click a contact name to open
the contact in a form. Good luck getting there!
E-Mailing with
Outlook
Here’s a fast way to enter contact information for someone who has sent you
an e-mail message: Open the message, right-click the sender’s name on the
To line, and choose Add to Outlook Contacts on the shortcut menu. You see
the Contact form. Enter more information about the sender if you can and
click the Save and Close button.
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Techniques for Organizing E-Mail Messages
Importing e-mail and addresses
from another program
Suppose that you’ve been using Outlook Express, Eudora, or Lotus Organizer
to handle your e-mail and contact addresses, but now you’ve become a convert to Outlook. What do you do with the e-mail messages and names and
addresses in the other program? You can’t let them just sit there. You can
import them into Outlook and pick up where you left off.
To import e-mail and contact addresses from another program, start by
choosing File➪Import and Export. You see the Import and Export Wizard.
What you do next depends on where you now do your e-mailing and address
tracking:
✦ Outlook Express: Select Import Internet Mail and Addresses, and click
the Next button. In the Outlook Import Tool dialog box, select Outlook
Express, select check boxes to decide what to export (Mail, Addresses,
and/or Rules), and click the Next button again. In the next dialog box,
choose options to decide what to do about duplicate entries; then click
the Finish button.
✦ Eudora: Select Import Internet Mail and Addresses, and click the Next
button. In the Outlook Import Tool dialog box, select Eudora, choose
options to decide what to do about duplicate entries, and click the Next
button again. In the Browser for Folder dialog box, select the file where
the Eudora data is kept and click the OK button.
✦ Lotus Organizer: Select Import from Another Program or File, click the
Next button, select a Lotus Organizer version (4.x or 5.x), and click the
Next button again. Clicking the Next button as you go along, you’re asked
how to handle duplicate items, to locate the Lotus Organizer data file,
and to select an Outlook folder to put the data in.
Some Import and Export filters are not installed automatically by Outlook.
Outlook may ask you to insert the Office CD so it can install a filter.
Techniques for Organizing E-Mail Messages
If you are one of those unfortunate souls who receives 20, 30, 40, or more
e-mail messages daily, you owe it to yourself and your sanity to figure out a
way to organize e-mail messages such that you keep the ones you want, you
can find e-mail messages easily, and you can quickly eradicate the e-mail
messages that don’t matter to you. These pages explain the numerous ways
to manage and organize e-mail messages. Pick and choose the techniques that
Techniques for Organizing E-Mail Messages
201
work for you, or else try to convince the Postal Service that you are entitled
to your own zip code and that you should be paid to handle all the e-mail
you receive.
In a nutshell, here are all the techniques for organizing e-mail messages:
✦ Change views in the Inbox window: Open the Current View drop-down
menu on the Advanced toolbar and choose Last Seven Days, Unread
Messages in This Folder, or another view to shrink the number of e-mail
messages in the Inbox window.
✦ Rearrange, or sort, messages in the Inbox window: If necessary, click
the Reading Pane button to remove the Reading pane and see column
heading names in the Inbox window. Then click a column heading name
to rearrange, or sort, messages by sender name, subject, receipt date,
size, or flagged status. See “Reading your e-mail in the Inbox window,”
earlier in this chapter, for details.
✦ Delete the messages that you don’t need: Before they clutter the
Inbox, delete messages you’re sure you don’t need as soon as you
get them. To delete a message, select it and click the Delete button,
press the Delete key, or choose Edit➪Delete.
✦ Move messages to different folders: Create a folder for each project
you’re involved with and, when an e-mail message about a project arrives,
move it to a folder. See “Looking into the Different E-Mail Folders,” later
in this chapter.
✦ Flag messages: Mark a message with a color-coded flag to let you know to
follow up on it. See the next section in this chapter for more information.
✦ Have Outlook remind you to reply to a message: Instruct Outlook to
make the Reminder message box appear at a date and time in the future
so that you know to reply to a message. See “Being reminded to take care
of e-mail messages,” later in this chapter.
Flagging e-mail messages
One way to call attention to e-mail messages is to flag them. As shown in
Figure 2-11, you can make color-coded flags appear in the Inbox window. You
can use red flags, for example, to mark urgent messages and green flags to
mark the not-so-important ones. Which color you flag a message with is up
to you. Outlook offers six colors. As Figure 2-11 shows, you can click the Sort
by Flag Status button in the Inbox window to arrange messages in color-coded
flag order.
E-Mailing with
Outlook
✦ Move messages automatically to different folders as they arrive: See
“Earmarking messages as they arrive,” later in this chapter.
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Techniques for Organizing E-Mail Messages
Follow these instructions to flag an e-mail message:
✦ Starting in the Message window: Click the Follow Up button. You see
the Flag for Follow Up dialog box, as shown in Figure 2-11. If the color
you prefer isn’t showing, choose a color from the Flag Color drop-down
menu. From the Flag To drop-down menu, choose a follow-up notice or
type one of your own in the text box. The notice appears across the top
of the e-mail message in the Message window.
✦ Starting in the Inbox folder: Select the message and choose Actions➪
Follow Up and a flag color, or right-click and choose Follow Up and a flag
color.
Figure 2-11:
Flagging
messages
so that
you can
remember
to follow up
on them.
To “unflag” a message, right-click it and choose Follow Up➪Clear Flag. You
can also right-click and choose Follow Up➪Flag Complete to put a check
mark where the flag used to be and remind yourself that you’re done with
the message. Later in this chapter, “Earmarking messages as they arrive”
explains how you can flag messages automatically as messages arrive.
Being reminded to take care of e-mail messages
If you know your way around the Calendar and Tasks windows, you know
that the Reminders message box appears when an appointment or meeting
is about to take place or a task deadline is about to fall. What you probably
don’t know, however, is that you can put the Reminders dialog box to work
in regard to e-mail messages.
Techniques for Organizing E-Mail Messages
203
Follow these steps to remind yourself to reply to an e-mail message or
simply to prod yourself into considering an e-mail message in the future:
1. Select the message and choose Actions➪Follow Up➪Add Reminder.
You see the Flag for Follow Up dialog box (refer to Figure 2-11). You can
also right-click a message and choose Follow Up➪Add Reminder to see
the dialog box.
2. On the Flag To drop-down menu, choose an option that describes why
the e-mail message needs your attention later on, or if none of the
options suits you, enter a description in the Flag To text box.
The description you choose or enter appears above the message in the
Reading pane and appears as well in the Reminders message box.
3. Choose the date and time that you want the Reminders message box
to appear.
The Reminders message box will appear 15 minutes before the date and
time you enter. If you enter a date but not a time, Outlook assigns the
default time, 12:00 a.m.
4. Click the OK button.
Items flagged this way appear in red text with a red flag. When the
reminder falls due, you see the Reminders message box, where you
can click the Open Item button to open the e-mail message.
To help you organize messages better, Outlook gives you the opportunity to
mark messages in various ways and even move messages as they arrive automatically to folders apart from the Inbox folder. Being able to move messages
immediately to a folder is a great way to keep e-mail concerning different projects separate. If you belong to a newsgroup that sends many messages a day,
being able to move those messages instantly into their own folder is a real
blessing, because newsgroup messages have a habit of cluttering the Inbox
folder.
To earmark messages for special treatment, Outlook has you create so-called
rules. To create a rule, start by trying out the Create Rule command, and if
that doesn’t work, test-drive the more powerful Rules Wizard.
Simple rules with the Create Rule command
Use the Create Rule command to be alerted when e-mail arrives from a certain person or when the Subject line of a message includes a certain word.
You can make the incoming message appear in the New Item Alerts window
(as shown at the top of Figure 2-12), play a sound when the message arrives,
or move the message automatically to a certain folder.
E-Mailing with
Outlook
Earmarking messages as they arrive
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Techniques for Organizing E-Mail Messages
Figure 2-12:
The New
Item Alerts
window
(top) and
Create Rule
dialog box
(bottom).
Follow these steps to create a simple rule:
1. If you want to be alerted when e-mail arrives from a certain person,
find an e-mail message from the person, right-click it, and choose Create
Rule; otherwise, right-click any message and choose Create Rule.
You see the Create Rule dialog box, shown at the bottom of Figure 2-12.
2. Fill in the dialog box and click the OK button.
These commands are self-explanatory.
Another way to create a simple rule is to choose Tools➪Organize. The Ways
to Organize Inbox panel appears. Starting here, you can move messages from
a certain person to a folder or color-code messages as they arrive from a certain person.
Creating complex rules with the Rules Wizard
Use the Rules Wizard to create complex rules that earmark messages with
words in the message body or earmark messages sent to distribution lists.
You can also create a rule to flag messages automatically or delete a conversation (the original message and all replies).
To run the Rules Wizard, click the Rules and Alerts button or choose Tools➪
Rules and Alerts. You see the Rules and Alerts dialog box. Click the New Rule
button and keep clicking the Next button in the Rules Wizard dialog boxes as
you complete the two steps to create a rule:
Looking into the Different E-Mail Folders
205
✦ Step 1: Choose the rule you want to create or how you want to be
alerted in the New Item Alerts message box (refer to Figure 2-12).
✦ Step 2: Click a hyperlink to open a dialog box and describe the rule. For
example, click the Specific Words link to open the Search Text dialog box
and enter the words that earmark a message. Click the Specified link to
open the Rules and Alerts dialog box and choose a folder to move the messages to. You must click each link in the Step 2 box to describe the rule.
To edit a rule, double-click it in the Rules and Alerts dialog box and complete
Steps 1 and 2 all over again.
Looking into the Different E-Mail Folders
Where Outlook e-mail is concerned, everything has its place and everything
has its folder. E-mail messages land in the Inbox folder when they arrive.
Messages you write go to the Outbox folder until you send them. Copies of
e-mail messages you send are kept in the Sent folder. And you can create
folders of your own for storing e-mail.
Moving e-mail messages to different folders
Click to select the message you want to move and use one of these techniques to move an e-mail message to a different folder:
✦ With the Move to Folder button: Click the Move to Folder button in the
message window and, on the drop-down menu that appears, select a
folder. The Move to Folder button is located on the Standard toolbar to
the right of the Print button.
✦ With the Move to Folder command: Choose Edit➪Move to Folder, press
Ctrl+Shift+V, or right-click and choose Move to Folder. You see the Move
Items dialog box. Select a folder a click the OK button.
✦ By dragging: Click the Folder List button, if necessary, to see all the folders; then drag the e-mail message into a different folder.
Earlier in this chapter, “Earmarking messages as they arrive” explains how to
move e-mail messages automatically to folders as they are sent to you.
Book III
Chapter 2
E-Mailing with
Outlook
If you’re one of those unlucky people who receive numerous e-mail messages
each day, you owe it to yourself to create folders in which to organize e-mail
messages. Create one folder for each project you’re working on. That way,
you know where to find e-mail messages when you want to reply to or delete
them. These pages explain how to move e-mail messages between folders
and create folders of your own for storing e-mail.
206
Deleting E-Mail Messages (and Contacts, Tasks, and Other Items)
Creating a new folder for storing e-mail
Follow these steps to create a new folder:
1. Choose File➪New➪Folder.
You see the Create New Folder dialog box, shown in Figure 2-13. You can
also open this dialog box by pressing Ctrl+Shift+E or by right-clicking a
folder in the Folder List and choosing New Folder.
Figure 2-13:
Creating a
new folder.
2. Select the folder that the new folder is to go inside.
For example, to create a first-level folder, select Personal Folders.
3. Enter a name for the folder.
4. Click the OK button.
To delete a folder you created, select it and click the Delete button. To
rename a folder, right-click it, choose Rename, and enter a new name.
Deleting E-Mail Messages (and Contacts,
Tasks, and Other Items)
Outlook folders are notorious for filling very quickly. E-mail messages (as well
as contacts and tasks) soon clog the folders if you spend any time in Outlook.
From time to time, go through the e-mail folders and Contacts window to
delete items you no longer need. To delete items, select them and do one of
the following:
Finding and Backing Up Your Outlook File
207
✦ Click the Delete button (or press the Delete key).
✦ Choose Edit➪Delete (or press Ctrl+D).
✦ Right-click and choose Delete.
Deleted items — e-mail messages, calendar appointments, contacts, or tasks —
land in the Deleted Items folder in case you want to recover them. To delete
items once and for all, open the Deleted Items folder and start deleting like a
madman.
To spare you the trouble of deleting items twice, once in the original folder
and again in the Deleted Items folder, Outlook offers these amenities:
✦ Empty the Deleted Items folder when you close Outlook: If you’re no
fan of the Deleted Items folder and you want to remove deleted items
without reviewing them, choose Tools➪Options, select the Other tab in
the Options dialog box, and select Empty the Deleted Items Folder Upon
Exiting.
✦ Empty the Deleted Items folder yourself: Choose Tools➪Empty
“Deleted Items” Folder to remove all the messages in the Deleted Items
folder. You can also right-click the Deleted Items folder in the Folder List
and choose Empty “Deleted Items” Folder.
Finding and Backing Up Your Outlook File
The all-important Outlook.pst file is hiding deep in your computer, but you
need to find it. You need to know where this file is located so that you can back
it up to a floppy disk, Zip drive, or other location where you keep backup
material. The Outlook Contacts List holds clients’ names and the names of
relatives and loved ones. It holds the e-mail messages you think are worth
keeping. It would be a shame to lose this stuff if your computer failed.
Here’s a quick way to find the Outlook.pst file on your computer and back
it up:
1. Choose File➪Data File Management.
You see the Outlook Data Files dialog box, shown in Figure 2-14.
E-Mailing with
Outlook
All the data you keep in Outlook — e-mail messages, names and addresses,
as well as calendar appointments and meetings — is kept in a file called
Outlook.pst. Locating this file on your computer sometimes requires the
services of Sherlock Holmes. The file isn’t kept in a standard location. It can
be any number of places, depending on the operating system on your computer and whether you upgraded from an earlier version of Office.
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Finding and Backing Up Your Outlook File
Figure 2-14 :
The Outlook
Data Files
dialog box.
2. Select Personal Folders and click the Open Folder button.
Windows Explorer opens and you see the folder where the Outlook.pst
file is kept.
3. Click the Folders button in Windows Explorer to see the folder hierarchy on your computer.
By scrolling in the Folders pane on the left side of the window, you can
determine where on your computer the elusive Outlook.pst file really is.
4. Close Outlook.
Sorry, but you can’t back up an Outlook.pst file if Outlook is running.
5. To back up the file, right-click it in Windows Explorer, choose Send To
on the shortcut menu, and choose the option on the submenu that represents where you back up files.
You can also copy the Outlook.pst file to a Zip drive or CD in Windows
Explorer by Ctrl+dragging or copying and pasting.
Chapter 3: E-Mailing with
Outlook Express
In This Chapter
Finding your way around Outlook Express
Writing and addressing e-mail messages
Choosing the right format for messages
Getting your e-mail
Organizing your e-mail messages
Keeping an Address Book
I
ncluded in the Windows operating system is an e-mailing program called
Outlook Express. I am a big fan of this program. It has all the virtues of
its cousin Outlook without all of Outlook’s clumsiness. It is easy to learn.
The Address Book that comes with Outlook Express is a great place to keep
friends’ and coworkers’ addresses and phone numbers. As Book IV, Chapter 4
explains, you can even use Outlook Express to subscribe to user groups.
Best of all, Outlook Express is free as long as your computer runs Windows.
It’s there for the taking.
This chapter explains how to handle your e-mail and keep track of addresses
with Outlook Express. Along the way, you discover how to send and receive
files, organize your e-mail in different folders, and choose message formats.
A Short Geography Lesson
As Figure 3-1 shows, Outlook Express items are kept in folders. Newly
arrived messages, for example, land in the Inbox folder. Copies of e-mail
messages you send are kept in the Sent Items folder. As I explain “Organizing
Your E-Mail Messages,” later in this chapter, you can create folders of your
own for storing and tracking e-mail messages.
210
A Short Geography Lesson
Figure 3-1:
The Outlook
Express
window.
Here are instructions for handling folders:
✦ Opening a folder: Choose View➪Go to Folder (or press Ctrl+Y) and
select a folder’s name in the Go to Folder dialog box. You may have to
click the plus sign (+) next to a folder to see its subfolders. If the Folder
pane is displayed, click the folder’s name in the Folder pane.
✦ Hiding the Folder pane: Click the Close button (the X) in the upper-right
corner of the Folder pane.
✦ Displaying the Folder pane: Click the button named for the folder you
are visiting to briefly display the Folder pane. For example, if you are
in the Inbox folder, click the Inbox button, as shown in Figure 3-2. To
permanently display the Folder pane, click the push-pin button. (If you
don’t see a folder button, choose View➪Layout and select the Folder
List check box in the Window Layout Properties dialog box.)
Some people prefer to get right to business and see the Inbox folder as soon
as they start Outlook Express. If you are one of those people, choose Tools➪
Options, select the General tab in the Options dialog box, and select the
When Starting, Go Directly to My ‘Inbox’ Folder check box.
Writing and Sending E-Mail Messages
211
Figure 3-2:
Displaying
the Folder
pane.
Writing and Sending E-Mail Messages
Not so long ago, e-mail messages consisted entirely of text, but now you can
include a picture in an e-mail message and send files along with messages.
These pages explain how to send the whole deal — how to send plain messages, messages with pictures, and messages with files.
Writing and sending e-mail is quite simple, especially if the address of the
person who is to receive the message is on file in the Address Book (later in
this chapter, “Keeping the Addresses of Friends, Family, and Clients” explains
the Address Book). Follow these steps to write and send an e-mail message:
1. Click the Create Mail button.
The New Message window appears, as shown in Figure 3-3.
Figure 3-3:
Composing
an e-mail
message.
E-Mailing with
Outlook Express
Writing an e-mail message
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Writing and Sending E-Mail Messages
2. Address the message.
How you address the message depends on whether the recipients’
names are on file in your Address Book:
• Recipients’ names are on file: Click the To button. You see the Select
Recipients dialog box with the names of people in the Address Book
who have e-mail addresses. Click a name on the list and then click
the To button. The name you chose appears in the Message recipients box. You can Ctrl+click to select several names at once. Select
names and click the Cc button to send copies of the message. Click
the OK button to return to the New Message window.
With a little luck, you don’t have to open the Select Recipients dialog
box to enter an address. Instead, In the New Message window, type the
first few letters of the recipient’s name in the To box. If Outlook Express
recognizes the name from the Address Book, the name appears.
• Recipient’s names aren’t on file: Type the recipients’ e-mail addresses
in the To (or Cc) text box. Enter a comma or semicolon between
addresses.
3. On the Subject line, briefly describe your message.
When others receive the message, they see what you type on the Subject
line first. Notice how the New Message window changes names after you
enter a subject.
4. Type your message in the bottom half of the New Message window.
You can use the buttons in the New Message window to format the message in various ways. For example, you can boldface or italicize parts of
the message. And don’t forget to press F7 or choose Tools➪Spelling to
spell-check your message.
If you get interrupted and want to resume writing the message later,
choose File➪Save (or press Ctrl+S) to place the message in the Drafts
folder. You can return to it later by clicking the Drafts folder in the
Folders pane and then double-clicking your message to open it.
5. Click the Send button (or choose File➪Send Later to postpone sending
the message).
Messages you postpone sending are kept in the Outbox folder. To edit or
perhaps delete a message that you haven’t sent yet, click the Outbox
folder in the Folders pane on the left side of the screen, select the message, and click the Delete button to delete it or double-click to read and
change it.
A copy of every message you send is kept in the Sent Items folder. However,
if you prefer not to keep copies of sent messages on hand, choose Tools➪
Options, select the Send tab in the Options dialog box, and deselect the Save
Copy of Sent Messages in ‘Sent Items’ Folder check box.
Writing and Sending E-Mail Messages
213
Replying to and forwarding e-mail messages
Suppose you receive a message that deserves a reply. Rather than go to the
trouble of addressing a reply, you can click the Reply button and simply
enter your message. Outlook Express also offers a Reply All button for
addressing messages to all parties who received copies of the original message, and a Forward button for forwarding a message to a third party.
After you click one of these buttons, the New Message window appears. Now
you can enter your reply or, if you are dealing with a forwarded message,
enter a few explanatory words. Address the message as you normally would
with the To and Cc buttons, and click the Send button to reply, reply to all,
or forward the message.
Sending a file along with a message
Yes, it can be done. You can send files along with e-mail messages by following these steps:
1. Compose and address the message in the New Message window (refer
to Figure 3-3).
2. Click the Attach button or choose Insert➪File Attachment.
You see the Insert Attachment dialog box.
3. Locate and select the file or files you want to send.
4. Click the Attach button.
A new text box called Attach appears in the New Message window, and
you see the names of the file or files you want to send.
5. Click the Send button to send the e-mail message and its text
attachments.
Later in this chapter, “Opening and saving files that were sent to you”
explains what to do if a friend or enemy sends you a file.
Sending a picture along with a message
In order to view a picture inside an e-mail message, the recipient’s e-mail
software must be capable of displaying messages in HTML format (see “A
Word about Mail-Sending Formats,” later in this chapter). Take note of where
on your computer the graphic file you want to send is located, and follow
these steps to send your graphic inside of a message.
E-Mailing with
Outlook Express
To select more than one file, hold down Ctrl and click each file that you
want to select.
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A Word about Mail-Sending Formats
1. Place the cursor in the New Message window where you want the
graphic to go.
2. Choose Insert➪Picture to open the Picture dialog box.
If the Insert Picture command is grayed out, it isn’t available because
plain text is your default mail-sending format, and plain text doesn’t
permit pictures. You can fix this problem by choosing Format➪Rich Text
(HTML) before choosing Insert➪Picture.
3. Click the Browse button and, in the Picture dialog box, select the
picture you want and click the Open button.
4. Choose an Alignment option in the Picture dialog box.
5. Click the OK button.
If you change your mind about how to align a picture or you want to
replace the picture with a different one, right-click the picture and
choose Properties. You see the Picture dialog box, where you can
choose a new picture or change alignments.
A Word about Mail-Sending Formats
Outlook Express offers two formats for sending e-mail messages: HTML and
plain text. HTML is the same format that is used to display Web pages. If you
intend to include pictures inside your e-mail messages or view pictures that
others send you, you must opt for HTML format. HTML-formatted messages
take longer to transmit, and some e-mail software doesn’t accept them. In
plain-text format, only numbers and letters are transmitted.
Follow these steps to choose a default mail-sending format:
1. Choose Tools➪Options.
You see the Options dialog box.
2. Select the Send tab.
3. Under Mail Sending Format, select the HTML or Plain Text option
button.
4. Click the OK button.
No matter which format you choose, you can send a particular e-mail message in the HTML or plain-text format. In the New Message window, choose
Format➪Rich Text (HTML) or Format➪Plain Text.
Receiving and Reading Your E-Mail
215
Receiving and Reading Your E-Mail
As soon as you start Outlook Express, the program, like a loyal dog, fetches
your e-mail. And the program fetches your e-mail every 15 minutes, although
you can change that, as I explain shortly. No matter how much time has
elapsed since you last got your e-mail, you can get it right away by clicking
the Send/Recv button (or pressing Ctrl+M).
To merely send or receive your mail, click the down arrow beside the
Send/Recv button and choose Receive All or Send All. To receive e-mail from
one account if you have more than one, click the down arrow beside the
Send/Recv button and choose the name of the account.
To tell Outlook Express how often to fetch your e-mail, choose Tools➪
Options and, on the General tab of the Options dialog box, enter a number in
the Minute(s) text box.
Reading your e-mail messages
If you’ve received mail, the Inbox folder name appears in boldface, the
number of messages you’ve received appears in parentheses beside the
Inbox folder name, and a tiny image of an envelope appears on the right
side of the status bar.
Figure 3-4:
E-mail
messages in
the Inbox
folder. The
selected
message
includes
a file.
E-Mailing with
Outlook Express
Messages arrive in the Inbox folder, where you can read senders’ names and
the subject of each message, as shown in Figure 3-4. The bottom half of the
window shows message text. Click a message to read it. By double-clicking,
you can open a message in its own window and read it more easily.
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Deleting Messages
Observe these conventions of the Inbox folder window:
✦ An open envelope next to a message means that the message hasn’t
been read. Unread messages also appear in boldface text in the top half
of the window. Next to unread messages is a closed envelope.
✦ A paper clip appears next to a message if a file was sent along with the
message.
✦ You can click the From button or the Received button (located at the top
of the From and Received columns) to arrange messages by name or by
date.
To make text easier to read in the Outlook Express window, try this technique: Choose Tools➪Options and click the Read tab in the Options dialog
box. Then click the Fonts button, and in the Fonts dialog box, choose a font
you find easy to read. You can also choose a Font Size option to make text
larger or smaller.
Opening and saving files that were sent to you
When a file has been sent along with an e-mail message, a paper clip appears
next to the message in the Inbox window. If you select the message, a somewhat larger paper clip appears on the stripe between the top and bottom
half of the Inbox window. Click the large paper clip, and you can read the
names of the files that were sent to you.
Follow these instructions to open or save files that were sent to you:
✦ Opening a file: Click the paper clip and then click the name of the file.
The file opens on-screen. Choose File➪Save As to save the file in a folder
of your choice (refer to Figure 3-4).
✦ Saving a file: Click the paper clip and then select the Save Attachments
command (refer to Figure 3-4). You see the Save Attachments dialog box.
Click the Browse button, find and select the folder where you want to
save the file, and click the OK button. Then click the Save button in the
Save Attachments dialog box.
Be careful about opening files from people you don’t know because the files
may contain viruses. Book I, Chapter 4 explains how to prevent viruses from
reaching your computer in e-mail attachments.
Deleting Messages
Unless the Smithsonian Institution wants you to storehouse your e-mail messages for posterity, you may as well delete them. Deleting a message is simply
a matter of selecting the message and clicking the Delete button (or pressing
Organizing Your E-Mail Messages
217
Ctrl+D). You can delete several message at once by Ctrl+clicking them before
clicking the Delete button.
Messages you delete don’t disappear forever. They land in the Deleted Items
folder. Being able to reread a message you deleted is nice, of course, but the
Deleted Items folder quickly gets crowded with old messages. To erase all
the messages in the Deleted Items folder, right-click the folder and choose
Empty ‘Deleted Items’ Folder on the shortcut menu.
Organizing Your E-Mail Messages
How do you keep track of all the e-mail you get? How do you make sure that
every message that deserves a reply gets a reply? To help you stay on top of
your e-mailing, Outlook Express offers a bunch of amenities:
✦ Create a new folder and move messages into it. Create a folder for storing e-mail that pertains to an important project you are working on and
shunt messages into that folder. Or, create a folder for messages that need
your urgent attention. The next two sections in this chapter explain how
to create a new folder and how to move messages from folder to folder.
✦ Sort the messages. By clicking the column heads in a folder window —
From, Subject, Received, and so on — you can arrange the messages in
different ways and find the one you are looking for.
✦ Flag messages. Flagged messages show a flag icon in the Flag column.
Choose Message➪Flag Message to flag a message and be reminded that
it needs your attention.
✦ Watch messages. A “watched” message is shown in red text. The first
time you watch a message, Outlook places the Watch/Ignore column in
the folder window, and a pair of spectacles appears in that column next
to watched messages. To watch a message, choose Message➪Watch
Conversation. Choose the command a second time to “unwatch” a message. If you decide that you don’t want to see the Watch/Ignore column
anymore, choose View➪Columns and deselect the Watch/Ignore check
box in the Columns dialog box.
✦ Ignore messages from someone. You don’t have to bother with messages if they don’t arrive, do you? To ignore all incoming messages from
a particular address, select a message from the address in question and
choose Message➪Block Sender. To see a list of addresses you have
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E-Mailing with
Outlook Express
✦ Create message rules so that messages are automatically put in a folder
as they arrive. Message rules save you the trouble of filing messages in
the right folder. Messages from The Boss, for example, can all go automatically to the Boss folder. You can even delete messages as they arrive with
a message rule. See “Creating message rules,” later in this chapter.
218
Organizing Your E-Mail Messages
blocked, choose Tools➪Message Rules➪Blocked Senders List. You see
the Blocked Senders tab of the Message Rules dialog box. To remove an
address from the list, select it and click the Remove button.
Chapter 5 of this minibook explains how to prevent spam junk mail from
arriving in your Inbox.
Creating a new folder
For all I know, the handful of folders that Outlook Express gives you are more
than adequate. But you may need a couple of extra folders. You may need
one called “Urgent” for messages about a project you are working on. You
may need another called “Procrastination” for messages that can be put off
to another day. Follow these steps to create a new folder:
1. Choose File➪New➪Folder (or press Ctrl+Shift+E).
You see the Create Folder dialog box shown in Figure 3-5.
Figure 3-5:
Creating
and naming
a new
folder.
2. Enter a name for the folder in the Folder Name text box.
3. In the Select the Folder box, select the folder that your new folder is
to go inside of.
For example, to create a folder on equal footing with Inbox, Outbox, and
the other generic folders, choose Local Folders.
4. Click the OK button.
To delete a folder you created, select it in the Folders pane (refer to Figure 3-1)
and click the Delete button.
Organizing Your E-Mail Messages
219
Moving items into different folders
Outlook Express offers two ways to move items into different folders. Select
the items you want to move to a different folder and either drag them or
move them elsewhere:
✦ Dragging to a different folder: Drag the items into the Folder pane and
drop them into the other folder.
✦ Moving to a different folder: Choose Edit➪Move to Folder (or press
Ctrl+Shift+V). You see the Move dialog box. Select a folder name and
click the OK button.
Creating message rules
A message rule tells Outlook Express how to handle a message when it
arrives. Message rules can save you a lot of time. For example, the rule being
created in Figure 3-6 tells Outlook Express to move incoming messages from
a certain person to the Follow Up folder and then forward those messages to
two different people. The rule accomplishes in a second what it would take
about a minute to do.
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E-Mailing with
Outlook Express
Figure 3-6:
With a
message
rule, you
can handle
incoming
e-mail automatically.
To create a message rule, start by choosing Tools➪Message Rules➪Mail. If
this is the first time you have attempted to create a rule, you see the New
Mail Rule dialog box (refer to Figure 3-6). If you have already created a rule,
you see the Message Rules dialog box (refer to Figure 3-6). Click the New
button to go to the New Mail Rule dialog box and create a rule.
220
Keeping the Addresses of Friends, Family, and Clients
In the Name of the Rule text box, enter a descriptive name for the rule, and
then describe what you want Outlook Express to do to incoming e-mail
messages:
✦ Select the Conditions: Choose the option or options that help Outlook
Express identify incoming e-mail.
✦ Select the Actions: Choose options that describe what you want Outlook
Express to do with the e-mail.
✦ Rule Description: Click the links to open dialog boxes. For example,
clicking the Contains People link opens the Select People dialog box so
that you can enter an e-mail address. Clicking the Specified link opens
the Move dialog box so that you can tell Outlook Express to which folder
to move messages.
To refine a rule you already created or to delete a rule, choose Tools➪Message
Rules➪Mail. In the Message Rules dialog box (refer to Figure 3-6), select a rule
and click the Modify button to alter it, or click the Remove button to delete it.
Keeping the Addresses of Friends, Family, and Clients
Rather than enter the e-mail addresses of clients and friends over and over
again when you send them e-mail, you can keep addresses in the Address
Book. After an address is in the book, all you have to do to address an e-mail
message is select a name from a list. Besides e-mail addresses, you can keep
street addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, and other stuff in the
Address Book. The Address Book is a good place to store information about
clients, coworkers, and friends. Following are instructions for entering a
name in the Address Book, looking up a name, and changing the particulars
about a person whose name you entered.
To very quickly enter in the Address Book the e-mail address of someone
who has sent you e-mail, right-click the sender’s message in the Inbox and
choose Add Sender to Address Book on the shortcut menu.
Entering names and addresses
To enter a person’s name, e-mail address, and other pertinent information
in the Address Book, start by clicking the Addresses button or choosing
Tools➪Address Book. You see the Address Book window, as shown on the left
side of Figure 3-7. Follow these steps to enter information about someone:
1. Click the New button and then choose New Contact on the drop-down
menu.
You see the Properties dialog box shown in Figure 3-7.
Keeping the Addresses of Friends, Family, and Clients
221
Figure 3-7:
Entering a
person in
the Address
Book.
2. Fill out the different tabs in the Properties dialog box.
On the Name tab, open the Display drop-down menu and choose how
you want the name or business to appear in the Address Book. Names
appear last name first, unless you choose a different option from the
Display drop-down menu.
Also on the Name tab, enter the e-mail address in the E-Mail Addresses
text box and click the Add button.
3. Click the OK button.
Looking up names and addresses
To look up a name and address, start by clicking the Addresses button to
open the Address Book. In an Address Book with many names, try these
techniques for finding a name if scrolling doesn’t do the job:
✦ Enter the first couple of letters in the Type Name or Select from List text
box. The list scrolls to the name you entered.
✦ Click the Name button (it’s located at the top of the Name column —
choose View➪Details if you don’t see it). Click once to arrange last
names in alphabetical order from Z to A, click again to arrange names
by first name, and click again to arrange names by first name from
Z to A.
E-Mailing with
Outlook Express
On the Other tab, describe the person and say why you entered him or
her in the Address Book. Later, when you remove names from the book,
you can go to the Other tab, find out who the person is, and determine
whether he or she needs removing.
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Keeping the Addresses of Friends, Family, and Clients
✦ If worst comes to worst, click the Find People button, enter a name,
choose Address Book from the Look In drop-down menu, and click the
Find Now button in the Find People dialog box.
Losing an Address Book with many important names and addresses would be
tragic. To back up the Address Book, go to the C:\Documents and Settings\
Your Name\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book folder and copy
the Address Book file to a floppy disk. Outlook Express Address Books have the
.wab extension. You can choose Help➪About Address Book to open a dialog
box that lists the folder where your Address Book is kept.
Chapter 4: Yahoo! and Other
Web-Based E-Mail Services
In This Chapter
Looking at the advantages of Web-based e-mail services
Comparing the Web-based e-mail services
Managing your e-mail with Yahoo! Mail
Y
ou could do worse than having an e-mail account with Yahoo! Mail. For
one thing, the account is free. It doesn’t cost you a red cent. And
Yahoo! Mail is superior to many conventional e-mail programs when it
comes to sending, receiving, and managing e-mail messages.
This chapter looks at the virtues of having a Web-based e-mail account. It
compares different accounts, concludes that Yahoo! Mail is the best, and
plunges into an exhaustive — and I do mean exhaustive — explanation of all
the features of Yahoo! Mail.
Why Have a Free Web-Based E-Mail Account?
As I explain in Chapter 1 of this mini-book, a Web-based e-mail service is one
in which e-mail is stored on an Internet computer, not someone’s home or
office computer. To compose, send, receive, and store e-mail, you use a Web
browser, not an e-mail software program. Most Web-based e-mail service
accounts are free.
I think everyone should have at least one account with a Web-based e-mail
service. Here are the advantages of having one:
✦ Convenience: You can retrieve your mail when you are on vacation or a
business trip. As long as you can connect to the Internet from your
hotel, the local Internet café, or a public library, you can also get your
e-mail. You don’t need e-mailing software to do it. All you need is a Web
browser.
✦ Permanence: No matter how many times you change jobs, locales,
schools, or Internet service providers, your Web-based e-mail service
remains available to you.
224
Looking at Some Web-Based E-Mail Services
✦ Anonymity: Corresponding with others under the guise of your superhero
or alter-ego persona is easier from a Web-based e-mail account than from
a conventional account. After all, bills are sent to your name for having a
conventional account. No such bills arrive for Web-based e-mail accounts.
Nobody knows who you really are.
✦ Spam defense: Whenever you give your e-mail address to a business or
merchant on the Internet, you run the risk of getting spam, the unsolicited
e-mail advertisements that clog so many mailboxes. Rather than give out
the primary e-mail address you use for daily correspondence, give out a
secondary address you keep with a Web-based e-mail service. That way,
all spam will be directed to an address you don’t use often. You can abandon the Web-based e-mail address when it is overwhelmed by spam.
Looking at Some Web-Based E-Mail Services
Table 4-1 briefly describes some Web-based e-mail services. All the services in
the table are free (although for a monthly fee, most of them offer extended
services, such as more mailbox storage space). In the table, “Mailbox Storage
Capacity” refers to how many megabytes’ worth of e-mail and files can be kept
in an account before the account overflows and the service starts deleting
messages and files. “Free POP/IMAP Access” refers to whether the service permits you to download the e-mail you store on a conventional e-mail account
into the account you keep with the service.
Table 4-1
Free Web-Based E-Mail Services
Name
Address
Mailbox Storage Free POP/IMAP
(MB) Capacity
Access
Care2 E-mail
www.care2.com
Fastmail
www.fastmail.com
GMail
http://gmail.google.com
Hotmail
www.hotmail.com
2
Lycos Mail
http://mail.lycos.com
5
Mail.com
www.mail.com
10
My Real Box
www.myrealbox.com
10
My Way Mail
www.myway.com
6
Yahoo! Mail
http://mail.yahoo.com
100
100
10
1,000
Here are some questions to ponder in your quest for the perfect Web-based
e-mail service:
✦ Mailbox storage capacity: How many megabytes’ worth of files and
e-mail messages can pile up in my e-mail account before the service
Looking at Some Web-Based E-Mail Services
225
starts deleting them automatically? Mailbox storage capacity is an issue
if others frequently send you video files, sound files, and other large
files. Table 4-1 lists the mailbox storage capacity of various Web-based
e-mail services.
✦ Attachment capacity: How large can the files I send or receive be? Most
services don’t permit you to receive or send files larger than a certain
amount of megabytes.
✦ Unused account policy: Under what conditions are accounts deactivated automatically? One reason I prefer Yahoo! Mail to Hotmail is that
Hotmail deactivates an account if it goes unused for more than a month.
Yahoo! Mail deactivates unused accounts after four months. Web-based
e-mail services have to be mindful of unused accounts because they
occupy valuable disk space on the computers where the services store
e-mail and files. Find out how aggressive a service is about kicking out
dabblers and dilettantes.
✦ POP/IMAP access: Does the Web-based service permit you to collect
e-mail from a standard e-mail account? To put it another way, starting
from your Web-based account, can you check for mail in your conventional account and bring that mail into your Web-based account? To perform this trick, the Web-based e-mail service must be able to get into the
conventional account’s POP3 or IMAP incoming mail server. In my experience, many services that claim they have POP/IMAP access don’t really
have it. Collecting mail from another e-mail account is easier said than
done.
✦ Spam filters: Does the service hunt for, detect, and quarantine junk mail
automatically?
✦ Advertisements: How thick are the advertisements in the e-mail messages? You may well ask yourself, “These services are free, so how do
they pay for themselves?” The answer is with advertisements. Some
Web-based e-mail services are notorious for their advertising banners
and graphics. Sometimes advertisements are attached to the bottom of
e-mail messages. The heartfelt e-mail message to the one you love may
well conclude with a plea to buy more disk space, and that’s not very
romantic, is it?
✦ HTML format: Does the service allow messages to be composed and
received in HTML format? This format is slowly becoming the standard
for e-mailing, but some services don’t permit HTML messages. The
HTML format makes it possible to format text and include pictures in the
body of e-mail messages.
Visit the Web pages listed in Table 4-1 to find out the answers to these
questions.
Yahoo! and Other
Web-Based E-Mail
Services
✦ Virus-scanning of e-mail attachments: Are the files that are sent along
with e-mail messages scanned automatically for viruses?
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Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail
Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail
Yahoo! Mail is my favorite Web-based e-mail service. The Yahoo! Mail
window could stand fewer distracting advertisements, but the drop-down
menus make it easy to find and give commands. I like the storage gauge,
which shows how much disk space is left in my mailbox. You can send 10MB
of file attachments with an e-mail message, which beats most of the other
services. And, courtesy of Norton Antivirus, a program I use and respect
very much, Yahoo! Mail runs antivirus software over incoming files to make
sure they don’t contain any viruses.
The remainder of this chapter explains how to handle e-mail at Yahoo! Mail.
You discover (take a deep breath) how to check your mail, address and send
an e-mail message, read your mail, send and receive files, organize messages
into folders, collect mail sent to your conventional account through Yahoo!
Mail, and keep an Address Book.
Sorry, but you need a Yahoo! membership before you can set up a Yahoo!
Mail account. If you don’t have a Yahoo! membership, go to Appendix A and
follow the instructions to get one. If you already joined Yahoo! but didn’t ask
for an e-mail account, don’t worry about it. Yahoo! sets up a mail account for
you the first time you try to visit your Yahoo! mailbox.
Opening your Yahoo! mailbox
Your Yahoo! e-mail address consists of your Yahoo! ID, the at sign (@), and
the domain name (yahoo.com):
[email protected]
For example, if your Yahoo! ID is Dave123, your Yahoo! Mail address is
[email protected]
Follow these steps to visit your Yahoo! mailbox and see if anyone sent you
an e-mail message:
1. In your browser, go to www.yahoo.com.
You land at the Yahoo! home page.
2. Click the Mail button or the Mail link.
Both are located in the upper-right corner of the Yahoo! home page.
What happens next depends on whether you have signed into Yahoo!:
✦ Signed into Yahoo!: You land in the Yahoo! Mail window shown in
Figure 4-1.
✦ Not signed into Yahoo!: You are asked to enter your Yahoo! ID and password, after which you see the Yahoo! Mail window shown in Figure 4-1.
Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail
227
Figure 4-1:
The Yahoo!
Mail
window
(pardon
the advertisements).
Book III
Chapter 4
You can bypass the Yahoo! home page and go straight to the Yahoo! Mail
window by going to this address: http://mail.yahoo.com. If ever an
address was a candidate for a bookmark, this is the one.
Finding your way around the Yahoo! Mail windows
The menus, buttons, and folder names in the Yahoo! windows are meant to
help you get from place to place in a hurry:
✦ Menus: Click the down arrow beside a menu name — Mail, Addresses,
Calendar, or Notepad — to quickly undertake a task or go to a new
window. You can also click a menu name to go directly to a new window.
✦ Buttons: The three buttons — Check Mail, Compose, and Search Mail —
get you there in a hurry. Click the Check Mail button to go to your mailbox and read mail, the Compose button to write an e-mail message, or
the Search Mail button to find a message.
Yahoo! and Other
Web-Based E-Mail
Services
The Yahoo! Mail window tells you how many unread messages await you.
More importantly, you can click folder names, click buttons, or open the Mail,
Addresses, Calendar, or Notepad menu to give a command. Click the Mail
menu name when you want to return to the Yahoo! Mail window.
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Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail
✦ Folder names: Click a folder name to visit one of the folders where
e-mail messages are stored — Inbox, Draft, Sent, and Trash. The Trash
folder is where messages you have deleted go to die. Later in this chapter, “Organizing your mail in folders” explains how to create your own
folders for storing e-mail.
You can also click the Back and Forward buttons in your browser to revisit
various Yahoo! Mail windows.
Reading your e-mail
The Yahoo! Mail window (refer to Figure 4-1) tells you how many unread
messages are in your Inbox. Try one of these techniques to go to your Inbox
and read messages:
✦ Click the Check Mail button.
✦ Click the Inbox folder name.
✦ Open the Mail menu and choose Check Mail.
Figure 4-2 shows the Inbox window, where you can see who has sent you
messages and the subject of the messages. To read a message, click its subject to open a message window like the one in Figure 4-3. In the message
window, you can click the Previous or Next link to read the previous or next
message you received without having to return to the Inbox window.
To make sure that you follow up messages, you can flag them. A small flag
icon appears in the Inbox window on messages that need your attention. To
flag a message, select it, click the Mark button, and choose Flag for Follow
Up on the drop-down menu.
Figure 4-2:
The Inbox
window
with
incoming
messages.
Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail
229
Figure 4-3:
A message
in the
message
window.
Composing (and replying to) e-mail messages
If you want to reply to an e-mail message, you’ve got it made. All you have to
do is click the Reply button in the e-mail message that was sent to you, and
Yahoo! addresses the e-mail message for you. Composing an original e-mail
message is somewhat different because you have to provide the address.
Follow these steps to compose a new message or to compose a reply to an
e-mail message:
can also get to this window by choosing Mail➪Compose.
Figure 4-4:
Composing
and
addressing
an e-mail
message.
Yahoo! and Other
Web-Based E-Mail
Services
1. The Compose (or Reply) window appears, as shown in Figure 4-4. You
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2. To enter an address (if one isn’t entered already), either type the
address in the To text box or click the To link and select an address
from your Address Book.
Later in this chapter, “Keeping an Address Book” explains the Address
Book.
To send copies of your message, click the Add CC link, which places a
new text box in the message window called CC for entering the
addresses of people who are to receive message copies.
3. Enter the message in the text box.
You can take advantage of the Bold, Align Text, and other buttons to
format the text. Be sure to click the Spell Check button to check for misspellings in your message.
4. Click the Send button to send your message.
The only way to postpone sending a message is to click the Save as a
Draft button. Doing so places the message in the Drafts folder. When you
want to send your message, open the Drafts folder, open your message,
finish writing it, and click the Send button.
A copy of every message you send is kept in the Sent Items folder. If you
prefer not to keep copies of messages, open the Sent Items folder and click
the Turn Save Sent Items Off link.
Sending a file
In e-mail jargon, sending a file to someone is called attaching it. Yahoo! Mail
permits you to send 10MB worth of file attachments. To attach a file to an
e-mail message and send the file along with the message, follow these steps:
1. Click the Compose button (or the Reply button), and in the Compose (or
Reply) window, address and write your message as you normally do.
Earlier in this chapter, “Composing (and replying to) e-mail messages”
explains the Compose (and Reply) window.
2. Click the Attach Files button.
You see the Attach Files window.
3. For each file that you want to send, click the Browse button, locate the
file in the Choose File dialog box, and click the Open button.
4. Click the Attach Files button.
You see the Attachments window, which lists each file that you want to
send with your e-mail message. If you change your mind about sending a
file, click the Remove link beside its name.
Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail
231
Sending a “Sorry, I’m away” response
Suppose you go away on a business trip or
vacation and Quentin Tarantino sends you an
e-mail message. The world-famous director
wants you to be in his next movie. Snubbing the
director and missing your big chance at movie
fame is, of course, unthinkable. To keep that
from happening, you can tell Yahoo! Mail to
automatically reply to all who send you e-mail
while you’re away. Yahoo! calls this kind of
response a vacation response.
Follow these steps to compose a vacation
response and tell Yahoo! Mail how long to keep
sending it:
1. Choose Mail➪Options or click the Mail
Options link to go to the Mail Options
window.
2. Click the Vacation Response link (you may
have to scroll down the window to find it).
3. In the Vacation Response window, write the
response and declare how long to send it.
4. Click the Turn Auto-Response On button.
If you change your mind about responding,
return to the Vacation Response window and
click the Turn Auto-Response Off button.
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Web-Based E-Mail
Services
5. Click the Done button.
You return to the Compose page. It lists the files that you want to send. If
you change your mind about sending a file at this point, click the
Remove link beside the filename.
Receiving a file that someone sent to you
You can tell when someone sent you a file because the file icon (a paper clip)
appears beside the subject of the message in the Inbox. To handle the file,
click the file icon or click the subject of the message and scroll to the bottom
232
Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail
of the message window. Either way, you see the Attachment options shown
in Figure 4-5. Your choices are three:
✦ Scan and Download Attachment: Scans the file with Norton AntiVirus
software and presents the file in the Scan Results dialog box. Click the
Download Attachment link. The File Download dialog box appears. Click
the Open button to open the file; click the Save button to save it on your
computer.
✦ Scan and Save to My Yahoo! Briefcase: Scans the file for viruses and
saves it to your Yahoo! Briefcase, an online storage area that Yahoo!
maintains. (The Briefcase isn’t covered in this book, but you can explore
it at http://briefcase.yahoo.com.)
✦ View Attachment: Opens the file so that you can view it right away.
(This option works only with HTML files.)
Figure 4-5:
Handling a
file that was
sent to you.
Notice the storage gauge in the upper-right corner of the Inbox. It tells you
what percentage of the 10MB you are allotted for files has been used up.
Keep an eye on the gauge, and if it climbs above 75 percent, start deleting
e-mail messages with file attachments.
Organizing your mail in folders
If you’re a poor soul who gets lots of e-mail, you owe it to yourself to create
different folders for the e-mail you receive. Create a folder for each project,
person, or pest you deal with. This way, you always know where to find
e-mail messages. Here are instructions for creating folders and moving messages to other folders:
✦ Creating a folder: Choose Mail➪Folders to go to the Folders window.
Then enter a name in the Name text box and click the Add Folder
button. The Folders window is also the place to go to delete and rename
folders.
✦ Moving messages to a different folder: Select check boxes to select the
messages, and then click the Move button and choose a folder name
from the drop-down menu, as shown in Figure 4-6.
Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail
233
Figure 4-6:
Moving a
message.
You can get Yahoo! Mail’s help in moving messages to folders. By filtering, you
can tell Yahoo! Mail to move messages as they arrive into a certain folder. For
example, you can move messages from a certain person or messages with
certain words into a folder. This spares you the trouble of moving the messages yourself. Follow these steps to filter this way:
1. Choose Mail➪Options or click the Mail Options link.
You land in the Mail Options window.
2. Click the Filters link.
You may have to scroll down the window to find this link. You go to the
Filters window.
3. Click the Add button.
You see the Add Message Filter window, shown in Figure 4-7.
4. In the Filter Name text box, enter a descriptive name for the action of
You may decide later on to click the Edit button in the Filters window to
change the way this filter works. By writing a descriptive name, you
know which filter you are dealing with.
Figure 4-7:
Telling
Yahoo! Mail
to move a
message
automatically into
a folder.
Yahoo! and Other
Web-Based E-Mail
Services
moving messages to a folder.
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Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail
Bulking and blocking
Yahoo! Mail offers two ways to prevent unwanted
e-mail from infesting your Inbox folder —
blocking and bulking. Blocking means to delete
messages from certain addresses automatically as they arrive. Bulking is when Yahoo!
routes what it thinks is spam to a special folder
called the Bulk folder. For the most part, Yahoo!
is good about impounding the right messages
in the Bulk folder, but Yahoo! is only human, and
sometimes it makes mistakes. Messages remain
in the Bulk folder for one month in case you want
to examine them, and then they are deleted
automatically. Follow these tips to get the most
from bulking and blocking:
Bulking: Periodically open the Bulk folder to
see whether the messages stored there
really qualify as spam. A real message may
have slipped in unawares. To decide how
long messages remain in the Bulk folder
before they are deleted, click the Mail
Options link and then the Spam Protection
link in the Mail Options window. In the Spam
Protection windows (you’ll find three),
tell Yahoo! Mail how long to impound spam
and whether to block all messages from
addresses that have sent you spam.
Blocking: To block all mail from a certain
Web address, click the Mail Options link and
then the Block Addresses link in the Mail
Options window. In the Block Addresses
window, enter the address to block and click
the Add Block button.
5. Use the Rule drop-down menus and text boxes to describe the messages you want to move.
6. Choose a folder from the Move the Message To drop-down menu.
7. Click the Add Filter button.
You return to the Filters window. If a rule isn’t doing its job right, revisit
this window, select the rule, click the Edit button, and change the rule
till it works right.
Collecting your mail from a conventional mail service
Yahoo! Mail is one of a handful of Web-based e-mail services that permit you
to collect mail from a conventional e-mail account. Yahoo! Mail goes into
your conventional service’s POP incoming mail server, scoops up the mail,
and brings it to your Yahoo! Mail Inbox. To perform this bit of wizardry, however, you must know the name of your conventional service’s incoming mail
server (you can’t collect your e-mail if your service runs an IMAP or POP3,
not a POP, server). You must also know the password for getting into your
conventional e-mail account.
To find out the name of your conventional e-mail service’s POP incoming
mail server, open your standard e-mail program and get it there:
Handling Your E-Mail with Yahoo! Mail
235
✦ Outlook Express: Choose Tools➪Accounts, select the account name on
the Mail tab of the Internet Accounts dialog box, click the Properties
button, and read the server name on the Servers tab of the Properties
dialog box.
✦ Outlook 2003: Choose Tools➪E-Mail Accounts, select the View or Change
Existing E-Mail Accounts option button in the dialog box that appears,
and click the Next button. Then select the name of your account and
click the Change button. The next dialog box lists service information,
including the name of your incoming POP mail server. Be sure to click the
Cancel button to get out of this dialog box.
Follow these steps to set up Yahoo! Mail to collect mail from your conventional e-mail account:
1. Choose Mail➪Options or click the Mail Options link.
You go to the Mail Options window.
2. Click the Mail Accounts link.
You land in the Mail Accounts window. This window lists each account
that is connected to your Yahoo! Mail account.
3. Click the Add button.
The first of several Add Account windows appears.
4. Enter an account name and click the Continue button.
5. Enter your POP mail server name, your username, and your password.
The username is the part of your e-mail address that appears to the left
of the at sign (@). Notice the Indicator options buttons. If you so choose,
you can color-code incoming mail sent to you through this account by
selecting a color.
6. Click the Setup Mail Server button.
If all goes well, the account is added to the list of accounts you can
manage in Yahoo! Mail.
To see whether mail has arrived at your conventional account, click the
Check Other Mail link in the Inbox window.
Keeping an Address Book
The Yahoo! Mail Address Book is a pretty good place to keep the addresses of
friends, family members, and coworkers. And keeping addresses on hand in
Yahoo! Mail makes it easier to address e-mail messages. Instead of entering an
Yahoo! and Other
Web-Based E-Mail
Services
The name you enter will appear in the Mail Accounts window when you
are finished adding this account.
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address by hand, you can click the To link in the Compose window, select a
name in the Address Book, and click the Insert Checked Contacts button.
To open the Address Book:
1. Click the Addresses menu name.
2. Choose Addresses➪View Contacts.
As shown in Figure 4-8, you can enter an addressee’s name and other information either by filling out the Quick Add Contact form at the bottom of the
window or by clicking the Add Contact button at the top of the window and
entering detailed information in the Add Contact window.
To quickly enter the address of someone who sent you an e-mail message
in the Address Book, click the Add to Address Book link in the message
window. The Add to Address Book window opens so you can describe the
sender in detail.
Figure 4-8:
The Yahoo!
Mail
Address
Book.
Chapter 5: Only You Can
Prevent Spam
In This Chapter
Seeing the spammers’ side
Understanding how spammers get your e-mail address
Taking preventative measures against spam
Using spam-filtering software
S
mokey the Bear’s “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” campaign was a
great success. In fact, it succeeded too well, and the Forest Service had to
retire the bear. It turns out a wildfire now and then is actually good for the
ecology. I would like to propose a campaign against spam modeled after
Smokey the Bear’s campaign: Only you can prevent spam. Spam is unsolicited
advertising junk e-mail. If you’ve been on the Internet for any length of time
trading e-mail messages, you have very likely received unwanted spam in
your mail box. By some estimates, 80 percent of e-mail sent on the Internet is
spam. Software manufacturers have come to the rescue of people whose mailboxes are clogged with spam, and some of their programs work some of the
time, but realistically, the only way to prevent spam from landing in your mailbox is to observe some simple preventative rules and remain vigilant. You
have to rely on yourself to prevent spam. Only you can prevent it.
This chapter explains who the spammers are and how they obtain e-mail
addresses. It lays out strategies for preventing spam. And it describes some
software programs for dealing with e-mail accounts that are clotted with
spam.
SPAM (“spicy ham”), of course, is a luncheon meat. Supposedly, junk e-mail
was given the name “spam” (in lowercase letters) thanks to Monty Python’s
Flying Circus, the English comedy troupe, which used to perform a sketch
with men dressed as Vikings singing a song called The Spam Song in a
crowed café. The song’s lyrics consist of only three words: spam, lovely,
and wonderful, with spam being repeated many times over during the song.
Spam is e-mail that gets delivered many times over to great annoyance —
much like the word spam in the song. To hear The Spam Song, go to this Web
page and click the Spam Song link at the bottom of the page:
www.mailmsg.com/SPAM_python.htm
238
Looking at It from the Spammer’s Point of View
Looking at It from the Spammer’s Point of View
Look at it from the spammer’s point of view: Spamming is good for business.
For the cost of a computer, an Internet connection, an address list, and some
software, you can send 100,000 e-mail advertisements like the ones shown
in Figure 5-1. Sending the e-mail doesn’t cost anything. Even if your modem is
slow, it takes only an hour or two to send the messages. And if only 10 people
(0.01 percent) reply and purchase whatever it is you’re selling, you have
recouped your costs, because the cost of sending the 100,000 messages is
so low.
Figure 5-1:
Spam
messages,
every last
one of them!
On January 1, 2004, the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited
Pornography and Marketing Act) act went into effect in the United States.
This act requires unsolicited e-mail messages to be labeled, include the
sender’s physical (not e-mail) address, and include opt-out instructions so
the person who received the e-mail can request not to be sent any more
e-mail. The act also prohibits anyone from misleading others by putting a
false return address on an e-mail message. However, the CAN-SPAM act
hasn’t decreased the amount of spam. Spammers have simply picked up
shop and moved outside the United States or routed their messages so they
can’t be traced. The majority of spam is now sent from China. The messages
are routed through several computers before they reach the United States.
As long as people reply to spam messages and purchase items they learned
about from spam messages, spam will remain with us. Spam is too easy to
send and too easy to profit from.
How Spammers Obtain E-Mail Addresses
239
Spamware
You’ve heard of software, of course. If you read
Book I, Chapter 4, you know about spyware (software designed to track your doings on the
Internet) and adware (software designed to make
advertisements appear in your Web browser).
Here’s another “-ware” for you: spamware.
Spammers use spamware programs to send
spam e-mail messages. Spamware services
and programs can do these tasks:
Send e-mail messages in bulk, and send
them in such a way that spam-filtering programs don’t recognize them as spam.
Locate and collect e-mail addresses from
Web sites, message boards, and newsgroups. There is even a name for this variety
of spamware — harvestware.
Provide a false sender name and address in
e-mail messages to make the messages look
legitimate. This is called e-mail spoofing.
Disguise the sender’s Internet service
that forward spam messages through many
different computers before they are delivered. These zombie PCs make it harder to
trace where spam messages originate.
Sending e-mail messages in bulk isn’t necessarily spamming. A company that sends the
same e-mail message to its customers, clients,
or subscribers is not spamming, but bulk e-mailing. In a bulk e-mailing, the senders make no
attempt to hide their names or addresses, and
all the recipients voluntarily submitted their
addresses to the sender. In a spam mailing,
senders usually hide their identities, and the
addresses were obtained secondhand either by
purchasing them or by collecting them on the
Internet from the unwitting.
You can find companies that sell spamware and
spamware services on the Internet. But don’t
look with the keyword “spamware.” Search for
“bulk e-mail service resources” or “bulk e-mail
marketing.” Bulk e-mailing companies all claim
that they send only non-spam. Some of these
companies are telling the truth; some are not.
How Spammers Obtain E-Mail Addresses
Spammers can’t send spam unless they have e-mail addresses and lots of
them. They obtain addresses in different ways. Knowing how spammers get
e-mail addresses can help you keep your address from falling into their
clutches. Here are the ways that spammers acquire addresses:
✦ Purchasing e-mail address lists: These lists are for sale on the Internet.
Try searching for “bulk e-mail list” to see what I mean. The people who
sell the lists claim that the addresses are “opt-in,” meaning that
addressees opted, or chose, to make their e-mail addresses available to
others. If you ever signed up for something on the Internet and checked
the box that said, “I agree to receive offers and opportunities via e-mail
from our advertisers,” your address is on at least one spam address list.
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Only You Can
Prevent Spam
provider in spam messages so that the
sender doesn’t get in trouble for sending
spam.
Provide relay stations called zombie PCs
240
Preventative Medicine for Spam
✦ Running spamware: Spamware is software designed to assist spammers.
Some kinds of spamware can gather addresses from Web sites, newsgroups, and message boards. This software looks for the at symbol (@)
on Web pages, copies the words on either side of the at symbol, and in
so doing collects e-mail addresses.
✦ Collecting addresses on the Internet: Some Web sites are actually traps
meant to collect e-mail addresses. If you voted for something online,
entered a contest or sweepstakes, or took a quiz that required entering
your e-mail address, you made your address available to spammers.
Some spammers get addresses by using a dictionary attack rather than an
e-mail address list. A dictionary attack is a technique for detecting “live”
e-mail addresses. In a dictionary attack, names and randomly generated
numbers are combined with msn.com, compuserve.com, or another e-mail
domain name to form e-mail addresses, and the addresses are sent a test
message. For example, suppose the e-mail domain target of the attack is
named funnyfreemail.com. Using names and random numbers, a test message is sent to these and hundreds of thousands of other addresses:
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
If the test message is returned as undeliverable — if it bounces, to use e-mail
terminology — the address is discarded. But if the test message is delivered,
the address is known to be “live.” Spam messages are then sent to all live
addresses at the e-mail domain.
Preventative Medicine for Spam
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I’m
sorry to say it, but the only way to realistically prevent spam from coming to
your mailbox is to take preventative measures. Later in this chapter, “Looking
at Spam-Filtering Software” describes software programs for blocking and
filtering spam, but you don’t need those programs if you take preventative
measures in the first place to keep the spammers from finding you. These
pages explain rules you can follow to keep spammers at bay. You also find
out an e-mail strategy for making sure the e-mail address you care about is
clean of spam.
Preventative Medicine for Spam
241
Rules for preventing spam from reaching your mailbox
By following the simple rules I describe here, you can keep spammers from
discovering your e-mail address and prevent spam from arriving in your
mailbox. These rules are easy to follow. All you have to do is remember them
and stick to them.
Don’t reply to spam
Don’t reply to spam messages under any circumstances. By replying, all you
do is alert the spammer to the fact that your e-mail address is legitimate, and
that makes you a target of even more spam. And don’t write a reply complaining about being sent spam. Spam messages are sent by computers.
Nobody will read your complaint.
Don’t “unsubscribe” to spam messages
Some spam messages contain an Unsubscribe link that you can click to prevent more messages from coming. In a survey conducted in 2003 by Yahoo!,
48 percent of e-mail users believed you can stop spam by clicking Unsubscribe
links. But the links are a rouse. All you do by clicking them is make spammers
aware that your e-mail address is live and therefore worth targeting with more
spam.
Don’t buy anything advertised by spam
Don’t be fooled by sneaky spam
Spammers are very good about disguising spam. They have to be because
spam-filtering software is good at recognizing it. When certain words — sale,
free, bargain, and others — appear in the subject line of messages or in the
messages themselves, the messages are flagged automatically as spam. To
get around this obstacle, spammers sometimes write business-like message
headings to trick you into opening messages: “This Needs Your Attention,”
“Urgent and Confidential,” “Meeting Agenda.” Some message headings play
on the fact that many people order items online: “Your Order #31334,”
“Confirmation of Purchase.”
Only You Can
Prevent Spam
Even if the spam message is selling what looks to be a terrific bargain, resist
the temptation. By buying, you expose yourself to all the risks of replying to
spam. Your address is known to be live. As such, it becomes a target for
spammers. What’s more, most of the items offered by spammers are illegal
or fraudulent. And if the products don’t work or aren’t what they say they
are, what recourse do you have? You can’t complain or call the police. And
here’s another thing: If you pay for the item with a credit card, how good do
you feel about giving your credit card number to a Web site associated with
spammers? Me, I’d feel kind of queasy. Some spam operations are run by
organized crime cartels.
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Preventative Medicine for Spam
To get around the problem of words marking an e-mail message as spam,
spammers put spaces or underscores between the letters in suspect words.
For example, Viagra is spelled V_I_A_G_R_A in spam messages. Sometimes
the spammer inserts a punctuation symbol in the middle of a word to beat the
spam-filtering software: V*IAGRA. Underscores, blank spaces, and misplaced
punctuation marks are a sure sign of spam.
Spoofing a return address isn’t hard to do. Just because the return address
lists the name of a well-known institution, don’t assume the e-mail was sent
from there.
Be careful where (and how) you post your e-mail address
Spammers gather e-mail addresses from the Internet. They get the addresses
from Web pages, newsgroups, chat rooms, and message boards. Harvestware,
a variety of spamware, can scour the Internet for the tell-tale at symbol (@)
found in e-mail addresses and copy those addresses back to a spammer’s
computer.
Sometimes you have to post your e-mail address on the Internet. To get
around the problem of posting your address without it being discovered by
spammers, try one of these techniques:
✦ Create a graphic with your address and post the graphic. Spamware
can’t read letters and numbers in a graphic, but people can.
✦ Put blank spaces between the letters. Others will be able to read and
understand your e-mail address, but spamware won’t be able to make
heads or tails of it. For example, the e-mail address [email protected]
net would look like this (some might even find the address easier to read
this way):
j o h n d o e @ e a r t h l i n k . n e t
✦ Spell out your address. Again, others will be able to read it, but computers won’t understand it.
johndoe at earthlink dot net
✦ Include the words “no spam” in your address. Others will know to
remove these words when they enter your e-mail address, but computers won’t have a clue what’s going on.
[email protected]
Don’t choose an address that’s subject to dictionary attacks
A dictionary attack is a technique spammers use to generate e-mail addresses.
To generate them, common names are randomly assigned number combinations and then joined to a domain name. To keep your e-mail address from
Preventative Medicine for Spam
243
being subjected to dictionary attacks, choose an uncommon name for your
address. Use your last name, for example, if it isn’t common. If your is a
common last name, consider using a different name in your e-mail address.
Don’t display images in e-mail messages
HTML-formatted e-mail messages can contain images. Sometimes, to keep a
message from being too large, images are not sent inside an e-mail message.
Instead, the e-mail message includes instructions to get the images from a
Web server on the Internet. This is precisely what happens when you view
a Web page in a Web browser. Instructions on the Web page tell your Web
browser to get image files from a Web server and display the images. In an
e-mail message, likewise, instructions inside the message get the images
from a Web server and display the images in the message window.
The problem with retrieving images this way, however, is that the retrieval
notice signals the Web server that you have opened the message. Spammers
can use this signal — it’s called a Web beacon — to detect a live e-mail
address. By including Web-beacon images in e-mail messages, spammers
receive signals indicating that e-mail addresses are legitimate and good targets for spam.
Outlook:
1. Choose Tools➪Options.
2. On the Security tab of the Options dialog box, click the Change
Automatic Download Settings button.
You see the Automatic Pictures Download Settings dialog box.
3. Deselect the Don’t Download Pictures or Other Content Automatically
in HTML E-Mail check box.
To view images in a message whose sender you trust, open the message and
choose Format➪Send Pictures from the Internet.
Outlook Express:
1. Choose Tools➪Options.
2. On the Security tab of the Options dialog box, select the Block Images
and Other External Content in HTML E-Mail check box.
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Only You Can
Prevent Spam
To prevent your e-mail address from being discovered this way, turn off
images in your e-mail program, as shown on the left side of Figure 5-2. When
someone you trust sends a message with an image, you can temporarily
enable images again, as shown on the right side of Figure 5-2. Follow these
instructions in Outlook and Outlook Express to turn off images in e-mail
messages:
244
Preventative Medicine for Spam
To view images in a message whose sender you trust, open the message and
choose View➪Blocked Images (see Figure 5-2).
Figure 5-2:
Turning off
images in
e-mail
messages
protects you
from spam.
The secondary e-mail address strategy
for preventing spam
The surest way to prevent spam is to reconsider how you use e-mail. Most
people keep one e-mail account. Or at best they keep two, one at home and
one at work. To prevent spam, your first and foremost task is to create a secondary e-mail account with an e-mail address that you can give to people
and companies who are suspect.
When you subscribe to some Web sites and services on the Internet, you are
asked to provide an e-mail address. Online stores ask you for an e-mail
address when shop with them. Message boards and newsgroups require an
e-mail address when you sign up with them. The more often you give out
an e-mail address, the more likely the address is to receive spam. But if you
give the address of a secondary e-mail account you don’t care very much
about, it doesn’t matter whether the account is flooded with spam, because
the account doesn’t matter much to you anyway.
Create a secondary e-mail account and give its e-mail address to businesses
and merchants on the Internet who might sell your address to spammers or
might themselves be spammers. The Internet offers many places to create
free Web-based e-mail accounts. (See Chapter 4 of this mini-book for a list of
such places.) Create one, two, or three extra e-mail accounts. When a Web
site asks you to register with your e-mail address, give the address of a secondary account. Eventually, your secondary account will become the target
of many dozen spammers. It will fill with spam, like the e-mail account
Looking at Spam-Filtering Software
245
shown in Figure 5-3. When that happens, abandon your account and don’t
look back. Eventually, the Web-based e-mail service where you keep the
account will cancel the account after you cease using it.
Figure 5-3:
A spamchoked
e-mail
account.
This one is
almost
due to be
abandoned.
Book III
Chapter 5
The Cheat Sheet on the inside front cover of this book has places for entering e-mail addresses and passwords. If writing down the addresses and passwords of secondary e-mail accounts will help you remember their addresses
and passwords, write them on the Cheat Sheet. It really doesn’t matter if
anyone besides you accesses these accounts. They are there only as repositories for spam.
Looking at Spam-Filtering Software
Most e-mailing programs have commands for filtering (or blocking) spam as
it arrives. You can block all e-mail messages from particular addresses. You
can filter out all e-mail messages with certain words. The problem with these
commands is that spammers have figured out how to thwart them. No selfrespecting spammer sends e-mail messages twice from the same e-mail
address. The commands in your e-mail program for blocking spam from a
Only You Can
Prevent Spam
Use your primary e-mail accounts for correspondence from friends, family,
and business associates. Give these accounts’ e-mail addresses only to
people you know and want to hear from. As part of your strategy for preventing spam, primary e-mail account addresses are sacrosanct! Do not give them
to any business or merchant because they, in turn, might give them to a
spammer.
246
Looking at Spam-Filtering Software
particular address are meaningless. No self-respecting spammer includes
words in his or her e-mail messages that are likely to be flagged and filtered
out. Spammers simply put blank spaces or punctuation marks in the middle
of words to keep their spam messages from being flagged. Consider the
spam message shown in Figure 5-4. I can read what it says, but the spamblocking mechanism in my e-mail program can’t read it the same way that I
can, so the spam blocker let the message through.
Figure 5-4:
Spammers
sprinkle
blank
spaces and
punctuation
marks in
messages
to evade
filtering
software.
Content-filtering spam software has become obsolete. Merely recognizing
and blocking e-mail messages from different addresses isn’t enough. Filtering
out messages that contain certain words doesn’t do the job either. In light of
these failures, two kinds of spam-filtering software have emerged to battle
spam: Bayesian filtering software and challenge-response software. Table 5-1
describes leading Bayesian and challenge-response spam-filtering programs.
You can download these programs at Cnet (www.cnet.com). The pages that
follow explain how this software works.
Table 5-1
Spam-Filtering Software
Program
Notes
Cost
Also an antivirus program and
firewall.
Free
An Outlook plug-in that makes POPFile
available to Outlook users.
Free
Bayesian Filtering Software
602LAN Suite
www.software602.com
Outclass
www.vargonsoft.com
Looking at Spam-Filtering Software
Program
247
Notes
Cost
An e-mail program as well as a
filtering software.
$40
Very configurable program.
Free
From the makers of POPFile;
designed for Outlook.
Free
PocoMail
www.pocosystems.com
POPFile
http://popfile.
sourceforge.net
SpamBayes
http://spambayes.
sourceforge.net
Challenge-Response Filtering Software
ChoiceMail Free
www.digiportal.com
Includes content-filtering.
Free
Works with Eudora, Netscape, Outlook,
Outlook Express, and Pegasus.
$30
UseBestMail
www.usebestmail.com
Bayesian filtering software
The problem with Bayesian filtering software is that you have to continuously
tinker with the statistical model to keep it up to date. And Bayesian software
shares a problem with content-filtering software: A legitimate message could
be mistaken for spam and be sent to the Spam folder. Bayesian and contentfiltering spam software programs give you the opportunity to examine the
Spam folder to make sure a real e-mail message didn’t get put there by accident. But the purpose of spam-filtering software is to save yourself the trouble
of examining e-mail for spam. In my judgment, Bayesian filtering software isn’t
worth the trouble. Tinkering with the statistical model and examining spam
messages takes too much time and effort. After all, how long does it take to
just delete spam messages when you see them in your mailbox? If it takes less
time to do that than fiddle with Bayesian software, what’s the point of running
Bayesian software?
Challenge-response software
Challenge-response spam-filtering software is the way to go if you receive
hundreds or thousands of spam messages daily and you can’t abandon your
e-mail address. This software blocks all spam. The software works like this:
Book III
Chapter 5
Only You Can
Prevent Spam
Bayesian filtering software uses statistical analysis methods to identify spam
messages. The software is supposed to customize itself for each person who
uses it. After you install the software, you subject it to a hundred or more
e-mail messages and tell it which messages are spam. On the basis of these
test messages, the software builds a statistical model for what spam arriving
in your mailbox is. Then it filters out spam using this model as a guide.
248
Looking at Spam-Filtering Software
Have you considered ditching
your e-mail address?
Rather than use spam-filtering software, why
not abandon your e-mail address, get a new
one, and start all over? Any Internet service
provider worthy of the name will give you a new
address. If your current e-mail address is the
lifeblood of your business, abandoning it might
be out of the question, but if you can get by with
a new address, I suggest abandoning the current one.
I’ve abandoned a couple primary e-mail addresses in my day, and I discovered an unsuspecting benefit of abandoning e-mail addresses:
It’s a good opportunity to reconnect with people.
Before you abandon your address, you send a
message to everyone in your Address Book
explaining that you have a new e-mail address.
Some of these messages go out to people who
haven’t heard from you in years. Think of it as a
chance to revive old friendships and renew business contacts.
E-mail programs make it easy to send the same
message to everyone in your Address Book,
Contact List, or whatever your e-mail program
calls its list of addresses. And that brings up an
ethical question: If you send the same message
to all your contacts to inform them of your new
e-mail address, are you, in effect, spamming
them? Are you sending spam to stay a step
ahead of the spammers? I leave these ethical
questions to people more erudite than I.
When someone sends you an e-mail message, the software immediately
sends a reply message (the challenge) asking the sender to please send the
message again but with a code word this time. If the message along with the
code word is sent a second time (the response), the software accepts the
e-mail message and places the sender’s name on a list of addresses from
which e-mail is accepted. The sender can now send messages without receiving a challenge. The premise of challenge-response spam-filtering is that
spammers never meet the challenge. They never respond to challenge messages, much less include the right code word in their responses.
Ironically, challenge messages sent by challenge-response spam-filtering software have been confused for spam. In November 2004, spam filters at AOL and
Earthlink blocked challenge messages sent by Mailblocks, a Web-based e-mail
service. The messages were mistakenly quarantined in Spam folders. I doubt
that this kind of thing happens very often, but it’s something to think about.
If you use challenge-response filtering, make sure that the challenge e-mail
message you send explains why you use the software. Be sure to tell your
friends and co-workers that they have to reply to the challenge message only
once. No doubt they receive spam, too. They will probably be delighted to
help you in the heroic twilight struggle against spam.
Book IV
Quick
Communicating
Contents at a Glance
Chapter 1: Instant Messaging ............................................................................................251
Chapter 2: Blogs and Online Journals ..............................................................................261
Chapter 3: Mailing Lists and Message Boards ..................................................................273
Chapter 4: Newsgroups and the Usenet ............................................................................283
Chapter 5: Joining, Starting, and Managing a Yahoo! Group ........................................305
Chapter 6: Online Chatting ................................................................................................325
Chapter 7: Free Web Sites at Yahoo! GeoCities................................................................331
Chapter 8: Making Friends and Connections Online ......................................................349
Chapter 9: Using Your PC as a Telephone ........................................................................361
Chapter 1: Instant Messaging
In This Chapter
Getting acquainted with instant messaging
Maintaining your privacy
Messaging with AOL Instant Messenger
Exchanging messages with MSN Messenger
Trading messages with Yahoo! Messenger
Seeking others with ICQ
I
f you have teenage children, you probably already know what instant
messaging is. Instant messaging (IM) is something between chatting
online and exchanging e-mail messages. What makes instant messaging so
popular with teenagers and others is being able to know which of your
friends are online at the same time as you and being able to communicate
with all of them at once. Instant messaging gives you the opportunity to
have an instant online party — or in a business setting, an instant online
meeting.
Instant-messaging programs all have a version of the contact list, which is a
list that shows the names of your friends who are online. As soon as the
name of someone with whom you want to gossip appears on the list, well,
the dirt gets dished and the party starts flowing. This chapter looks at the
four most popular instant-messaging programs: AOL Instant Messenger,
MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and ICQ.
Introducing Instant Messaging
Besides an Internet connection, you need an account with an instantmessaging service to trade instant messages. To help you choose an instantmessaging service, Table 1-1 compares them, although there isn’t very much
to compare. The instant messengers are quite similar. If anyone ever needed
proof that the Internet is crowded with copycats, instant messaging is it. All
the services are free. Each has a variation of the contact list, a list of people
with whom you care to stay in touch. When a friend from your list comes
online, the instant-messaging service alerts you, and you can start trading
instant messages with your friend. All the messengers give you the opportunity to engage in multiparty messaging, that is, communicating with more
than one person at a time. All messengers want you to submit a personal
252
Introducing Instant Messaging
profile in which you describe your interests and give your address, phone
number, gender, and other private information (I don’t recommend doing it).
For the sake of privacy, you can ignore people of your choice or fly under the
radar so that your friends don’t know you’re online.
Table 1-1
Instant Messengers
Messenger
Description
Web Address
AOL Instant
Messenger
The most popular messenger,
with several million members,
most in English-speaking
countries.
www.aim.com
ICQ
The original instant messenger
that’s still very popular outside
the United States. ICQ is loaded
down with all kinds of features
that make it unwieldy and hard
to use.
www.icq.com
MSN Messenger
Microsoft’s offering, not to be
confused with Windows
Messenger, the Windows XP
component.
http://messenger.
msn.com
Trillian
An all-in-one service for people
www.cerulean
who use more than one instant
studios.com
messenger. With this software,
you can trade messages
simultaneously with people who
run AOL Instant Messenger, MSN
Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger.
Yahoo! Messenger
Well integrated with Yahoo!’s
other services. You can use your
Yahoo! Mail ID and password to
log on to this instant messenger.
http://messenger.
yahoo.com
You’ll be glad to know that instant messengers are so popular in part because
they are very easy to learn and use. They differ only insofar as the number of
extras they offer. For example, devotees of ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo!
Messenger can exchange SMS (short messaging services) messages on their
cell phones. Some of the services offer audio and video chatting. Some permit
you to trade files as well as instant messages.
The BigBlueBall (so named because that’s what the earth looks like from
afar) offers tips, forums, and old-fashioned advice for using the different
instant-messaging services. You can also download the software for running
the services at this Web site. Its address is www.bigblueball.com.
Using AOL Instant Messenger
253
Knowing How to Preserve Your Privacy
No matter which instant messenger you choose, you need to know how to
preserve your privacy while you instant-message. Instant messengers pose
something of a problem because they alert others when you are online and
they invite all kinds of people into your computer. But sometimes, like the
film star Greta Garbo, you vant to be alone. You want to get the benefits of
instant messaging without every Tom, Dick, and Harry knowing that you are
online and sitting at your computer. Here are some tasks worth knowing if
you are to preserve your privacy as you instant-message (I explain shortly
how to complete these tasks in the different messengers):
✦ Make yourself invisible: When you run an instant-messaging program,
all who have your name on their contact list know that you are at your
computer. They know that unless you make yourself invisible. All the
messengers have commands for being invisible so that others don’t
know you’re online.
✦ Ignore somebody: Is somebody pestering you? All the messengers have
commands for ignoring pests so that their attempts to bother you come
to nothing.
✦ Control whether the program starts when you start your computer:
Most messengers want to run every moment that your computer is running. When you start your computer, they start running, too. But starting
a program automatically this way puts a burden on your computer and
makes it slower to start. Be sure to take the bull by the horns and decide
when the instant messenger starts and stops.
✦ Change your profile: Your profile is the personal information that you
make available to others who use the instant messenger. All the messengers would like you to submit your name, address, gender, and phone
number, but submitting that information is unwise. Your privacy is at
stake. Identity thieves, stalkers, and spammers scour instant-messenger
profiles for unwitting victims. Make sure that your profile reveals only
what you want it to reveal.
Using AOL Instant Messenger
You don’t have to be a member of America Online to use the AOL Instant
Messenger, sometimes called AIM by its loyal users. The program is free and
anyone can download it. AOL pioneered instant messaging in the United
States. For that reason, its instant messenger is by far the most popular in
North America. Figure 1-1 shows the Buddy List window and a Chat Room
window in the AOL Instant Messenger.
Instant Messaging
By the way, Greta Garbo claims not to have said, “I want to be alone.” She
explained, “I only said, ‘I want to be left alone.’ There is a whole world of
difference.”
Book IV
Chapter 1
254
Using AOL Instant Messenger
Figure 1-1:
The AOL
Instant
Messenger
Buddy List
window
(left) and
Chat Room
window
(right).
Go to this Web address to download the AOL Instant Messenger software:
www.aim.com. You are asked to submit a screen name, password, and e-mail
address where AOL Instant Messenger can send a membership verification.
Here are the basics of using AOL Instant Messenger:
✦ Adding friends to your Buddy List: Click the Setup button and choose
Buddy List on the pop-up menu. Then click the Add a Buddy button and
enter your buddy’s screen name. To add the name of someone you meet
in a chat window, right-click the name and choose Add to Buddy List.
✦ Engaging someone in a chat or message exchange: Right-click a name
on your Buddy List and choose Send Chat Invitation or Send Instant
Message. If someone invites you to chat or instant-message, you see the
Invitation From window or Instant Message window. Take it from there.
Here are some useful techniques for protecting your privacy:
✦ Make yourself invisible: Choose My AIM➪Manage Linked Screen Names
to open the Manage Linked Screen Names window. Select the Invisible At
Sign On check box next to each screen name under which you want to
be invisible.
✦ Ignore somebody: Right-click the name of a buddy and choose Block
Buddy on the shortcut menu. You can also click the Block button when
someone sends you an invitation to chat or exchange instant messages.
And you can click the Setup button, choose Preferences on the pop-up
menu, and enter the names of people to be blocked in the Privacy category of the Preferences dialog box.
Using MSN Messenger
255
✦ Control whether the program starts when you start your computer:
Click the Setup button and choose Preferences on the pop-up menu. In
the Sign On/Off category of the Preferences dialog box, deselect the
Start AIM When Windows Starts check box.
✦ Change your profile: Choose My AIM➪Edit Profile and describe yourself
anew in the Create a Profile dialog box.
Using MSN Messenger
You have to love the mighty Microsoft Corporation. The company does what
the Japanese are always being accused of doing — it doesn’t invent anything, but it comes in after the fact to refine and perfect others’ inventions.
MSN Messenger is a case in point. It isn’t the first instant messenger, but it
may be the best. It has less clutter than the others and is very easy to use.
Figure 1-2 shows the MSN Messenger window and a conversation window.
Cleaning up the notification area
Instant messengers have a bad habit of dropping icons in the notification area. This area is
located in the lower-right corner of the desktop
next to the clock. The idea is for the icons to be
there at the ready in case you want to start an
instant-messaging program, but all those icons
can make the notification area awfully crowded.
and choose Always Hide, Always Show, or
Hide When Inactive.
4. Click the OK button.
Follow these steps to clean up the notification
area:
1. Right-click a blank space in the notification
area, being careful not to click the clock or
an icon.
3. In the Customize Notifications dialog box,
open the drop-down menu for each icon
Instant Messaging
2. Choose Customize Notifications on the popup menu. If you don’t see this menu, you’re
not right-clicking in the correct place.
Book IV
Chapter 1
256
Using MSN Messenger
Figure 1-2:
The MSN
Messenger
window
(left) and
conversation window
(right).
To trade instant messages with MSN Messenger, you need a .NET passport.
Appendix B of this book explains what .NET passports are and how to get
one. To download the MSN Messenger software, go to this address:
http://messenger.msn.com/download. Then click the Go button under
Registered MSN User (click this Go button regardless of whether you are
registered with the Microsoft Network). To sign on to MSN Messenger, use
your .NET passport ID and password.
The basics of using MSN Messenger are as follows:
✦ Adding friends to your Contact list: Click the Add a Contact link (in the
I Want To section at the bottom of the window). In the wizard dialog
boxes that appear, either select a name from your MSN Messenger dialog
box or enter an e-mail address.
✦ Engaging someone in a message exchange: Double-click a name on
your Contact list. The Conversation window shown on the right side of
Figure 1-2 opens. Enter a message and click the Send button.
Do the following to maintain your privacy while you are traveling aboard the
flagship MSN Messenger:
✦ Make yourself invisible: Choose File➪My Status➪Appear Offline.
✦ Ignore somebody: Right-click a name on your Contact list and choose
Block. To see a list of the people you have blocked, choose Tools➪
Options and select the Privacy tab in the Options dialog box.
✦ Control whether the program starts when you start your computer:
Choose Tools➪Options and select the General tab in the Options dialog
box. Then deselect the Automatically Run Messenger When I Log on to
Windows check box if you do not want Messenger to start when you
boot your computer.
✦ Change your profile: Choose Tools➪Options and select the Personal
tab in the Options dialog box. Then click the Edit Profile button.
Using Yahoo! Messenger
257
Using Yahoo! Messenger
Yahoo! Messenger is the Yahoo! entry in the instant-messenger sweepstakes.
To use Yahoo! Messenger, you must have a Yahoo! account. Appendix A of
this book explains how to get one of those. If you have a Yahoo! Mail account,
you have it made, because your Yahoo! ID and password get you straight into
Yahoo! Messenger without having to argue with the doorman. Figure 1-3
shows the Yahoo! Messenger window and the conversation window.
Figure 1-3:
The Yahoo!
Messenger
window
(left) and
conversation window
(right).
The basics of using Yahoo! Messenger are as follows:
✦ Adding friends to your Contact list: Choose Contacts➪Add a Contact and
then enter your friend’s Yahoo! ID or e-mail address in the dialog box.
✦ Engaging someone in a message exchange: Double-click a name on
your Friends list to open the conversation window (refer to Figure 1-3).
Then enter a greeting and click the Send button.
✦ Make yourself invisible: Choose Messenger➪Change My Status➪Invisible
to Everyone.
✦ Ignore somebody: Choose Messenger➪Preferences to open the Yahoo!
Messenger Preferences dialog box. In the Ignore List category, click the
Add button and enter the name of the contact you want to ignore.
Instant Messaging
Here is the straight dope on how to maintain your privacy while you are
trading messages with Yahoo! Messenger:
Book IV
Chapter 1
258
Using ICQ
✦ Control whether the program starts when you start your computer:
Choose Messenger➪Preferences and, in the Yahoo! Messenger
Preferences dialog box, select the General category. Deselect the
Automatically Start Yahoo! Messenger check box.
✦ Change your profile: Choose Contacts➪Profile and describe yourself
anew.
Using ICQ
ICQ (“I Seek You”), an Israeli invention and the oldest instant messenger, was
purchased by America Online in 2000. Over 100 million people have registered with ICQ, according to the service, and that may well be true, but most
of them tried ICQ on a lark and then abandoned it. Compared to the other
instant messengers, ICQ is difficult to use. It tries to be too many things at
once — an Internet portal, an e-mail service, a search engine, and a lonely
hearts club, among other things. Doing something that should be as simple
as making yourself invisible to other ICQers requires leaping through hoops
and balancing flaming torches. Figure 1-4 shows the ICQ window.
Figure 1-4:
The ICQ
window.
To test-drive ICQ, go to this Web site and download the software:
www.icq.com. Here are the basics of using ICQ:
✦ Adding friends to your Contact list: Click the Add/Invite Users button.
In the Find/Add Users to Your List dialog box, enter the e-mail address,
nickname, or ICQ number of the person you want to add to your list.
✦ Engaging someone in a message exchange: Double-click a name on
your Contact list, enter a greeting in the Message Session dialog box,
and click the Send button.
Using ICQ
259
To run ICQ and maintain a modicum of privacy, follow these instructions:
✦ Make yourself invisible: Click the ICQ button and choose Security &
Privacy on the pop-up menu. On the General tab of the Security For
dialog box, deselect the Allow Others to View My Online/Offline Status
on the Web check box.
✦ Ignore somebody: Click the name of the person on your Contact list that
you want to ignore and then select Alert/Accept Modes. In the User
Preferences For dialog box, select the General category and then the
Status tab. Select the Invisible to User check box.
✦ Control whether the program starts when you start your computer:
Click the ICQ button and choose Preferences. In the Owner Preferences
For dialog box, select the Connections category, and then select the
General tab. Deselect the Start ICQ on Startup check box.
✦ Change your profile: Click the My ICQ button and choose View/Change
My Details on the pop-up menu. Then fill in the View/Change My Details
dialog boxes.
Book IV
Chapter 1
Instant Messaging
260
Book IV: Quick Communicating
Chapter 2: Blogs and Online
Journals
In This Chapter
Looking at the differences between blogs and online journals
Understanding what makes a good blog or online journal
Using search engines for searching in blogs and online journals
Finding places on the Internet to create blogs and online journals
for free
Creating a blog at Mótime
A
ccording to Technorati, an Internet market research company, 12,000
new blogs are created every day. What’s all the fuss about? And what is
a blog, anyway? This chapter explains what blogs and online journals are and
how to create one of your own for free. You also find out what constitutes a
good blog or online journal and how you can search the Internet for blogs and
online journals. The second half of this chapter gives hands-on instructions
for creating a free blog at Mótime, a free Web service for creating and managing blogs.
What Are Blogs and Online Journals?
The word blog is shorthand for Web log. A typical blog is a hodgepodge of
commentary and links — to online news sources and often to other blogs —
where topics of concern to the blogger are discussed. A good blog gathers
news stories and commentary from sources that you would not find on your
own. Like journals, blogs are updated frequently. They mean to keep you
abreast of the latest news. You get a picture of whatever the blogger is interested in — the day’s politics, advances in technology, or the state of the
Internet, for example. One person runs the show, but the links and the quotes
from other writers make each blog a collaborative effort. Even visitors to a
blog can get into the act by writing comments for all to read.
Figure 2-1 shows Radio Free Blogistan (http://radiofreeblogistan.
com), a blog devoted to blogging and online community building written by
Internet philosopher Christian Crumlish and others. This is a classic example
of a blog. On the left side of the page is commentary written by Crumlish, but
even there, he quotes liberally from other authors and includes links in his
262
What Are Blogs and Online Journals?
commentary so that you can click a link and read source material. On the
right side of the page is an archive of past entries and links to other blogs. By
clicking a Commentary link, you can enter a comment, and your comment is
recorded on the blog for others to read.
A handful of blogs have become famous — or notorious, as the case may be.
The Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com), Calico Cat (www.calicocat.com), and
Wonkette (www.wonkette.com) cover politics. Gizmodo (www.gizmodo.
com) stays on top of the latest electronic gadgets. Slashdot (http://
slashdot.org) and Techdirt (http://techdirt.com) look into the newest
technologies. BoingBoing (www.boingboing.net) covers the strange and
unusual. These blogs attract many readers. A handful of blog authors have
been able to quit their day jobs and make a living from advertisements on
their blogs.
Sometimes what passes for a blog is really an online journal. Online journals
precede blogs on the Internet by a half-dozen years (blogs began appearing
in 2000 but online journals go back to 1994). An online journal is a diary, usually written anonymously, that records someone’s daily life and thoughts.
Sometimes online journalers (as the people who write the journals call themselves) link their journals to other online journals, but for the most part,
each online journal is personal and distinctive. It’s not a collaboration, but
the private record of someone’s life.
Figure 2-1:
Radio Free
Blogistan is
a classic
blog.
What Are Blogs and Online Journals?
263
Speaking for myself (and why not speak for myself; it’s my book isn’t it?),
I find online journals much more interesting than blogs. You can get a
voyeuristic kick, of course, from reading an online journal, but more than
that, if it’s well written, an online journal can be fascinating. Reading a good
one can be like reading a good novel in that you peer very deeply into someone else’s life and view the world through different eyes.
Rob Rummel-Hudson, for example, the author of an online journal he calls
Darn-Tootin (www.darn-tootin.com), writes movingly and sometimes
humorously about his family, the ups and downs of his career, Texas, and a
host of other topics, including dwarf hamsters, of all things. I realized a few
years ago how addicted I was to his online journal when I found myself worrying about Rob being out of work, and this in spite of the fact that I had never
met Rob, and he knew absolutely nothing about me (I have since interviewed
him for this book and, in case you’re curious, he has a job now). Figure 2-2
shows Rob’s Darn-Tootin online journal. His journal is more sophisticated
than most because it offers photographs and short videos as well as journal
entries. And Rob’s journal dates to January 1996, a long run by the standards
of most bloggers and online journalists.
Book IV
Chapter 2
Blogs and Online
Journals
Figure 2-2:
Darn-Tootin,
an online
journal.
264
What Makes for a Good Blog or Online Journal?
Another favorite journal of mine is More Laowai Chronicles (www.20six.co.
uk/laowaimono), which is written by a self-styled “redneck in China,” an
American expatriate from Georgia living deep in the Chinese hinterland. The
author has no shortage of exotic material to write about, and he writes about
it with gusto and humor. I’m also a fan of Eat a Peach for Love (http://
phatmike.motime.com) because the author is a friend, the writing style is
unique, and I sometimes make an appearance in this online journal. I enjoy
seeing myself, too. I’m always surprised by what a heroic, dashing figure I cut.
By the way, one of the most famous diaries in English letters is now online
and being presented like a blog. You can read day-to-day entries in the diary
of Samuel Pepys (1633–1703) at this Web address: www.pepysdiary.com.
What Makes for a Good Blog or Online Journal?
What makes a good blog or online journal is first of all the writing. Not everyone can be a good writer, but even middling writers can write better if they
write about a subject that they love or are passionate about. That subject
may be yourself, and that’s quite all right, because an online journal is by
definition about its author. Try to write in your own voice; it makes keeping
your blog or journal up to date easier and makes your writing more credible.
Nearly 95 percent of all blogs are abandoned. Writing in your own voice
about something you love can encourage you to keep going.
Unless you update your blog or online journal frequently, it won’t attract a
readership. Make it a point to update frequently. Here are other practical
suggestions for making your blog or online journal a success:
✦ Link to other blogs and online journals. By doing so, you join the network
of blogs and journals and encourage more people to visit your blog.
✦ Give readers a chance to comment on your entries. You benefit from the
praise and criticism, and readers feel like they’re a part of your blog or
journal.
✦ Include some kind of calendar mechanism so that readers can get to
past entries. This way, readers can look into your past and learn more
about you. Include a short biography as well.
You’ll be glad to know that the blogging services I describe later in this chapter make it easy to link to other blogs or journals and include a calendar
mechanism and biography (see “Free Web Sites for Creating Blogs and
Online Journals,” later in this chapter). What’s more, all the services permit
visitors to comment on the blogs and journals they visit.
Free Web Sites for Creating Blogs and Online Journals
265
Blog Search Engines and Directories
The best way to find out whether you’re interested in blogs and online journals is to read a few and see what all the fuss is about. Starting from the Web
sites that follow, you can search by keyword in blogs and online journals to
find out what bloggers are saying about a topic of interest to you. Try entering the name of your hometown. Or, enter the name of your school or a
school you used to attend. You can also rummage through blog directories
at some of these Web sites:
✦ Bloogz World Wide Blog: Search blogs the world over from this Web
site. You can choose a language from the drop-down menu to search for
blogs written in French, Spanish, German, or English. Address:
www.bloogz.com
✦ Globe of Blogs: This is a directory. Search for blogs by category and
subcategory. Address: www.globeofblogs.com
✦ Technorati: You can use Boolean operators in searches at this search
engine. Address: www.technorati.com
At Threeway Action (www.threewayaction.com), people who write online
journals trade ideas about writing online as well as a number of other topics.
You can find many links to online journals at Threeway Action. Online
journalers also congregate at The Usual Suspects (http://theusuals.
net), which offers message boards and links to online journals and blogs.
Would you like to meet online journalers in the flesh? You can do that at
Journalcon, their annual conference. Go to this Web address for information:
www.journalcon.com.
Free Web Sites for Creating Blogs and Online Journals
Table 2-1 lists Web services with which you can create a blog or online journal. I chose these services because they are free and easy to operate. They
all work the same way. You register, choose a name for your blog, select a
template design, and start writing. The blogs all have a place where others
can comment on your writing, a place for links to other blogs or Web sites,
and a way to store past entries so that others can find and read them. People
with similar ideas and obsessions tend to assemble at the same blogging
Book IV
Chapter 2
Blogs and Online
Journals
By the strictest definition, blogs and online journals are just Web sites where
people describe what they are up to and give their opinions on this, that,
and the other thing. You don’t need special software to create an online blog
or journal. Technically savvy people write the HTML codes and lay out their
blogs and online journals on their own. Still, because blogging is such a popular activity, all kinds of Web sites and Web services have sprung up to
assist bloggers.
266
Running a Blog or Online Journal at Mótime
services. Live Journal and Diaryland, for example, are popular with teenagers.
Before you choose a blogging service, read a few of its blogs to find out
whether the service is the right one for you. I like Mótime, partly because
(how do I put this diplomatically?) most of the Mótime bloggers are grownups.
The rest of this chapter explains how to operate a blog at Mótime.
Table 2-1
Free Blog- and Online Journal–Creation Services
Service
Web Address
Notes
Example Blog
Blogger
www.blogger.
com
Google owns
Blogger (before
the Internet, this
sentence would
make no sense
whatsoever!).
http://riverbend
blog.blogspot.com
Diaryland
www.diary
land.com
Create a blog from
simple templates.
http://kelsncarrie.
diaryland.com
Live Journal
www.live
journal.com
Known for its tightknit community;
popular with
teenagers.
www.livejournal.
com/users/jenny
Mótime
www.motime.
com
More adults than
teenage bloggers
here.
http://phatmike.
motime.com
Running a Blog or Online Journal at Mótime
In my humble opinion, Mótime is the best place on the Internet to create a
blog or online journal for free. The commands for creating, formatting, and
editing entries are easy to use. Mótime blogs don’t carry garish advertisements. Mótime even archives past entries for you. Past entries are archived
under month names. Anyone who wants to read an entry you wrote in the
past can click the name of a month and year to open a Web page with entries
from that month and year.
The sections that follow explain how to sign up for a Mótime blog, create the
blog, and write and edit entries. You also find out how to put links and photographs on your blog page, update your profile, and send e-mail messages to
people who contact you through Mótime. (I’m going to refer to them as blogs
for the rest of this chapter to keep readers from getting tongue-tied.) However,
you can create a blog or online journal at Mótime. Earlier in this chapter,
“What Are Blogs and Online Journals?” distinguishes between these two
kinds of online writing.)
Running a Blog or Online Journal at Mótime
267
Signing up with Mótime
Before you can create a blog with Mótime, you need to sign up. Go to the
Mótime home page (www.motime.com) and click the Create Your Blog
button. You land in the Create a New Account page. You know the drill, I’m
sure — enter all the information you are asked for on this page and click the
Create New Account button. Be sure to choose a User Name carefully. The
name sticks with you throughout your adventures with Mótime.
As you are instructed to do, go to the e-mail account whose address you
gave to Mótime and open the validation e-mail message. It’s called “Welcome
to Mótime.” Click the confirmation link in the message to go to the User
Registration page at Mótime.
Now you’re getting somewhere. Enter your username, enter your password,
and click the Log-In button.
You land in the Control Center (what is this, a science fiction movie?). The
Control Center is the starting point for doing everything you want to do in
Mótime — write a blog entry and edit past entries, for example. Click the
Add New Blog button to go to the Create a New Blog page.
Creating a new blog
On the Create a New Blog page, enter this information and click the Create
button:
✦ Title: The title tells readers right away what your blog is all about, so
choose a descriptive, clever (but not too clever) name. The title appears
across the top of your blog for all to see.
✦ URL: Enter a word to form the Web address of your blog. Most people
enter their username or the name of their blog. For example, if you enter
Johnny, the Web address of your blog is:
http://johnny.motime.com
✦ Show Blog on Newly Update Menu: Mótime keeps a page called Read
Latest Posts, where you can go to read recently updated blogs. Select
the Yes, Show the Blog option button if you want your blog to appear on
the list after you update it.
After you click the Create button, you come to the Template page, where you
choose a layout and design for your blog. You can click an Enlarge link to get
a good look at a template. Unfortunately, you can’t edit these layouts unless
you know something about HTML encoding, although you can choose a different template later.
Blogs and Online
Journals
✦ Description: Write what amounts to a subtitle for your blog. The words
appear along the top of your blog.
Book IV
Chapter 2
268
Running a Blog or Online Journal at Mótime
You see the Edit Blog tab of the Blogs user window, as shown in Figure 2-3.
This is where you write blog entries. Go to the section “Writing and editing
blog entries,” later in this chapter, if you want to write your first entry now.
To change the title and subtitle of your blog, go to the Edit Blog tab of the
Blogs user window (see Figure 2-3) and click the Basic link. Then enter a new
title and subtitle. To choose a different template for your blog, go to the Edit
Blog tab of the Blogs user window and select the Template tab. Then click
the New link and choose a different template.
Starting from the Control Center
When your blog needs care and attention, go to Mótime (www.motime.com)
and sign in with your username and password. You come to the Control
Center window shown in Figure 2-4. From here, you choose what you want to
do next:
✦ Blogs: Click the name of your blog to open the Edit Blog tab of the Blogs
user window (see Figure 2-3) and write or edit a blog entry.
✦ Messages: People who visit your blog can click the Contact Me link to
send you an e-mail message at Mótime. Click the Messages link to read
these e-mails. You can reply to messages as well as read them.
✦ Community: Subscribe to blogs and chat with other Mótime subscribers.
After you subscribe to a blog, you can click its name to open it in your
Web browser.
✦ Account: You can change your username or password, as well as
describe yourself in a profile. People who click the My Profile link on
your blog can read your profile.
✦ Mótime News: Read the latest news from Mótime.
Writing and editing blog entries
To write a blog entry, start from the Edit Blog tab of the Blogs user window
(see Figure 2-3). Type your entry in the text box. I trust you recognize most
of the buttons and commands for formatting text. These are the same buttons and commands found in word processors. For example, choose a font
and font size from the Font and Size drop-down menus to change the look of
text. Indent text with the Increase Indent and Decrease Indent buttons. Click
the Post and Publish button when you are finished writing.
Running a Blog or Online Journal at Mótime
269
Figure 2-3:
The Edit
Blog tab of
the Blogs
user
window.
Book IV
Chapter 2
Blogs and Online
Journals
Figure 2-4:
The Control
Center.
270
Running a Blog or Online Journal at Mótime
Here are a handful of tasks worth knowing about:
✦ Making a hyperlink: To link to another Web site or blog in an entry, drag
to select the text that is to form the link. Then click the Insert/Edit Link
button. The Link – Web Page Dialog box appears. Enter the Web address
of the page to which you want to link. By copying the address from your
Web browser’s Address text box, you can paste it into the Link – Web
Page Dialog box by right-clicking and choosing Paste.
✦ Removing a hyperlink: Click the link and then click the Remove link
button.
✦ Inserting a photograph: To insert a photograph, it must be located on
the Internet. You can’t upload a photo from your computer to Mótime
because Mótime doesn’t offer server space to its subscribers (if it did, the
service would not be free anymore). Take note of the Web address of
the photo and click the Insert/Edit Image button. In the Image Properties –
Web Page Dialog box, as shown in Figure 2-5, enter the Web address of
the photograph, as well as the dimensions you want for it (in pixels), and
indicate whether you want a border and how you want it aligned. (The
easiest way to get the Web address of a photo is to right-click it, choose
Properties, and copy the address from the Properties dialog box.)
✦ Editing or removing a photograph: Click to select the photograph and
then press Delete to delete it, or click the Insert/Edit Image button to edit
it in the Image Properties – Web Page Dialog box (refer to Figure 2-5).
To edit an entry you wrote before, display your blog page on the Edit Blog
tab of the Blogs user window (refer to Figure 2-3), click the Update button,
and edit your entry in the text box. You can delete an entry by clicking the
Delete button. If you can’t see your blog page in the bottom half of the
window, click the Resize Editor link and drag the window divider upward.
Figure 2-5:
Inserting a
photograph
in a blog
entry.
Running a Blog or Online Journal at Mótime
271
Rather than write an entry on the Edit Blog tab, you can write it in Microsoft
Word or another word processor and paste it into the text box. This way,
you can spell-check your writing. Click the Paste button to paste text into
the Edit Blog tab. You can also create hyperlinks in a word processor and
paste them into the Edit Blog tab.
As you write your blog, you can see what it will look like to people who visit
it by clicking the Preview button. You can find this button in the upper-right
corner of the window (refer to Figure 2-3). Clicking it opens your blog in a
second Web-browser window.
Putting links on your blog page
Under the heading “Link,” your blog page has a place for listing links to other
blogs and Web sites. To enter a link, start from the Blogs user window (refer
to Figure 2-3), select the Blog Tools tab, and then click the Links tab. You see
a form for naming the link and entering its address. Fill out the form and
click the Add button.
Be sure to periodically click these links to make sure that they are still active
and go to the right Web site or blog.
Book IV
Chapter 2
Blogs and Online
Journals
272
Book IV: Quick Communicating
Chapter 3: Mailing Lists and
Message Boards
In This Chapter
Discussing ideas on a mailing list
Subscribing to a mailing list
Giving your opinion on a message board
T
his chapter looks at two ways to exercise your ideas and obsessions on
the Internet — mailing lists and message boards. A mailing list is a sort of
continuous discussion conducted by e-mail among likeminded people. A
message board is a place where you can deposit your opinion on the Internet
and, with a little luck, find someone to engage you in a thought-provoking
debate or discussion.
Most of this chapter is devoted to mailing lists. Mailing lists are one of the
most underused resources for Internet researchers. A good mailing list —
one where the members are helpful and erudite — is like having a team of
researchers working alongside you.
Trading Ideas on a Mailing List
A mailing list, also known as an e-mail discussion list or e-mail newsletter, is
an online club in which members who share the same interests, problems,
or passions exchange ideas by e-mail. A mailing list works like this: Any message sent to the list is immediately forwarded to all the subscribers. When
you have a question that you think another subscriber can answer, you send
it to the list and hope for a reply. When you receive a question from the list
and you have the answer, you send it to the list for the benefit of the subscriber who asked the question and all others who care to read or comment
on your answer.
Subscribing to a mailing list is like subscribing to a special-interest newsletter, with the advantage that you can comment on the newsletter and pose
questions to its editors and readers. For a researcher, mailing lists can be
invaluable if the topic under investigation is well defined — the Dead Sea
Scrolls, Joaquin Murieta, or the Welsh language, for example. Civic organizations, scholars, and clubs can use mailing lists to trade information and
ideas. Some years ago, I coauthored a book about botanicals from
Madagascar. By luck and careful searching, I found a mailing list in England
274
Trading Ideas on a Mailing List
where botanists and chemists discussed the properties of different plants,
some of them grown in Madagascar. The subscribers to the list were very
helpful to me. They answered my questions, pointed me to useful reference
books, and steered me to useful Web sites.
No one knows how many mailing lists are out there. People who try to count
them quickly run out of fingers and toes. Suffice it to say, there are as many
mailing lists as there are pigeons in Paris. Later in this chapter, “Finding a mailing list” explains how to search for mailing lists.
The difference between a mailing list and a newsgroup is that information
posted to a newsgroup is open to everyone with a Web browser, whereas
mailing-list information is delivered by e-mail and is shared only by the
people on the mailing list (Book IV, Chapter 4 explains newsgroups). A
Yahoo! group is a hybrid between a mailing list and a newsgroup. In a Yahoo!
group, subscribers can view submissions to the group on the Internet as well
as have submissions forwarded to them by e-mail (Book IV, Chapter 5 looks
into Yahoo! groups).
Categories of mailing lists
Mailing lists fall in three categories. Which category a mailing list falls in
matters when it is time to subscribe to a list or send it an e-mail message.
The following list describes the types of mailing lists:
✦ Manually administered: In this kind of list, a moderator reads each message as it is submitted and either passes it along to subscribers or
deems it unworthy of being passed along. You don’t need special software to administer a manual list. All you need is an e-mail program like
Outlook or Outlook Express to receive and send e-mail messages.
✦ Computer-administered: As e-mail arrives, a list server program passes it
along immediately to subscribers. Most mailing lists fall in the computeradministered category. With this kind of mailing list, you need to know
special commands for subscribing and unsubscribing to the list, and you
need to know which list server program you are dealing with. Later in
this chapter, Table 3-1 describes list-server commands.
✦ Web-based, computer-administered: As e-mail arrives, a Web-based
mailing list service distributes it to subscribers. Topica and Coollist
are examples of Web-based mailing list services. These services are ad
supported, meaning that all e-mail messages are accompanied by
advertisements.
Finding a mailing list
Most people join mailing lists by invitation. They hear about them from
friends or coworkers. Researchers wandering lonely in the darkness of the
Internet can find mailing lists by starting at one of these Web sites:
Trading Ideas on a Mailing List
275
✦ Catalist: Search in the L-Soft Catalog, a catalog of mailing lists maintained
by the makers of LISTSERV, the most popular list server program. Some
60,000 mailing lists are in the catalog. Address: www.lsoft.com/lists/
listref.html
✦ Coollist: Search for mailing lists hosted by Coollist, a Web-based mailing
list service. Address: www.coollist.com
✦ JISCMail: Search this database of mailing lists run by scholars in
England. You can find some very interesting lists here. Address:
www.jiscmail.ac.uk
✦ Tile.net: Search for mailing lists by name, description, or domain name.
Address: www.tile.net/lists
✦ Topica: Search for mailing lists hosted by Topica, a Web-based mailinglist service. Address: http://lists.topica.com
Another way to find mailing lists is to query Catalist by e-mail. Address an
e-mail message to this address: [email protected] In the text of the
message (not the subject line), type list global keyword, where keyword
describes the mailing list you are searching for. For example, a query for
mailing lists with warts as the subject would read list global warts. Catalist
then sends you an e-mail with mailing lists that fit your description, or if no
lists can be found, it sends you an e-mail telling you as much.
Distinguishing between the list address
and administrative address
Every mailing list has two addresses, the administrative address for messages that have to do with housekeeping matters, and the list address for
messages that are to be forwarded to subscribers:
[email protected]
✦ List address: After you subscribe to a mailing list, you are sent its list
address, and you can contribute to the list by sending comments and
queries to the list address. The messages you send are read by all list
subscribers.
Book IV
Chapter 3
Mailing Lists and
Message Boards
✦ Administrative address: Send subscription requests and requests pertaining to how and when you want messages delivered to the administrative
address. Table 3-1 describes commands you can send to the administrative address of a computer-administered mailing list. These commands go
in the body of the e-mail message, not the subject line. A typical administrative address consists of the name of the list server program with which
the list is administered (LISTSERV, ListProc, Mailbase, Mailserv, or
Majordomo), followed by the at sign (@), and a domain name:
276
Trading Ideas on a Mailing List
Table 3-1
List Server
Program
Sending Messages to Computer-Administered Mailing Lists
Enter This in the E-Mail Message
Body
Example
Subscribing to a Mailing List
Listproc
SUBSCRIBE listname Firstname Lastname
SUBSCRIBE warts Bob Smith
LISTSERV
SUBSCRIBE listname Firstname Lastname
SUBSCRIBE warts Bob Smith
Mailbase
JOIN listname Firstname Lastname
JOIN warts Bob Smith
Mailserv
SUBSCRIBE listname Firstname Lastname
SUBSCRIBE warts Bob Smith
Majordomo
SUBSCRIBE listname
SUBSCRIBE warts
Unsubscribing from a Mailing List
Listproc
UNSUBSCRIBE listname
UNSUBSCRIBE warts
LISTSERV
UNSUBSCRIBE listname
UNSUBSCRIBE warts
Mailbase
LEAVE listname
LEAVE warts
Mailserv
UNSUBSCRIBE listname
UNSUBSCRIBE warts
Majordomo
UNSUBSCRIBE listname
UNSUBSCRIBE warts
Getting a Mailing List in Digest Form
Listproc
SET listname MAIL DIGEST
SET warts MAIL DIGEST
LISTSERV
SET listname DIGEST
SET warts DIGEST
Mailbase
Not available
Mailserv
Not available
Majordomo
SUBSCRIBE listname-DIGEST
SUBSCRIBE warts-DIGEST
Ceasing to Get a Mailing List in Digest Form
Listproc
SET listname MAIL ACK
SET warts MAIL ACK
LISTSERV
SET listname MAIL
SET warts MAIL
Mailbase
Not available
Mailserv
Not available
Majordomo
UNSUBSCRIBE listname-DIGEST
UNSUBSCRIBE warts-DIGEST
Ceasing to Receive Copies of Messages You Send to a Mailing List
Listproc
SET listname MAIL NOACK
SET warts MAIL NOACK
LISTSERV
SET listname NOREPRO
SET warts NOREPRO
Mailbase
Not available
Mailserv
Not available
Majordomo
Not available
Trading Ideas on a Mailing List
List Server
Program
Enter This in the E-Mail Message
Body
277
Example
Suspending Mail Delivery without Unsubscribing from a Mailing List
Listproc
SET listname MAIL POSTPONE
SET warts MAIL POSTPONE
LISTSERV
SET listname NOMAIL
SET warts NOMAIL
Mailbase
SUSPEND MAIL listname
SUSPEND MAIL warts
Mailserv
Not available
Majordomo
Not available
Receiving Mail Again after You Have Suspended Mail Delivery
Listproc
SET listname MAIL ACK
SET warts MAIL ACK
LISTSERV
SET listname MAIL
SET warts MAIL
Mailbase
RESUME MAIL listname
RESUME MAIL warts
Mailserv
Not available
Majordomo
Not available
Getting a List of People Who Subscribe to a Mailing List
Listproc
RECIPIENTS listname
RECIPIENTS warts
LISTSERV
REVIEW listname F=MAIL
REVIEW warts F=MAIL
Mailbase
REVIEW listname
REVIEW warts
Mailserv
SEND/LIST listname
SEND/LIST warts
Majordomo
WHO listname
WHO warts
Concealing Your Name from Other List Subscribers
Listproc
SET listname CONCEAL YES
SET warts CONCEAL YES
LISTSERV
SET listname CONCEAL
SET warts CONCEAL
Mailbase
Not available
Mailserv
Not available
Majordomo
Not available
Book IV
Chapter 3
Mailing Lists and
Message Boards
The difference between the administrative and list address is like the difference between a newspaper’s business offices and its editorial offices. You
wouldn’t subscribe to a newspaper or complain about late deliveries by
sending a letter to the editorial offices, nor would you send a letter to the
editor to the person in charge of delivering newspapers. When you send a
message to a mailing list, make sure that you send it to the right address.
278
Subscribing to a Mailing List
Subscribing to a Mailing List
To receive e-mail from a mailing list, you have to subscribe to it. Usually you
get instructions for subscribing when you find a mailing list in an Internet
search. The instructions tell you the administrative address where you can
send your subscription request and what to enter in the body of the e-mail
message. If your list is manually administered, you just send the list manager
an e-mail explaining why you want to join. Be sure to include your name and
address in the e-mail.
Subscribing to a computer-administered list is more problematic because how
you subscribe depends on which list-server program is used to administer the
list. The five list-server programs are LISTSERV, ListProc, Mailbase, Mailserv,
and Majordomo. Earlier in this chapter, Table 3-1 explains how to submit a
subscription request. Subscribing is easier than it looks. Just be sure to carefully follow the instructions for subscribing, and put the SUBSCRIBE command
in the body of the e-mail message, not the subject line. Also, be sure to send
the request from the e-mail address to which you want messages mailed.
After you subscribe, you get a welcome message announcing what a lucky
person you are to have found such a wonderful mailing list. Save the message. It has directions for sending e-mail to the list. It also has instructions
for unsubscribing. You may need those directions if you decide that the mailing list isn’t for you. With luck, the welcome message tells you which listserver program — LISTSERV, ListProc, Mailbase, Mailserv, or Majordomo —
administers the list. You will be asked to reply to the welcome message to
confirm that you really want to subscribe. We can’t have some prankster
submitting your e-mail address to a kooky mailing list, can we?
Sending messages to a mailing list
To send a message to a mailing list and all its subscribers, send it to the list
address. Make sure that the subject line thoroughly describes what your
message is all about. Remember: Subscribers have to sort through messages
from the list. A descriptive subject line helps them quickly decide whether
your message is worth reading.
By the way, you are wise to read e-mail messages from the mailing list for a
week or more before you start contributing. Find out what the mailing list is
all about. Take its temperature. See who the personalities are, how you can
fit in, and how you can make a genuine contribution to the list before you
start showering it with e-mail messages.
Digesting and organizing the mail
You’re in for a flood of e-mail if the mailing list to which you subscribe is a
busy one. How do you keep the deluge of e-mail messages from overwhelming the other messages that need your attention? You have a choice. You can
Subscribing to a Mailing List
279
Signatures and HTML formatting
E-mail that you send to a mailing list’s administrative address goes nowhere if it contains a
signature or is formatted for HTML or rich text.
A signature is a saying, slogan, or advertisement found at the bottom of e-mail messages.
Many free, Web-based e-mail services attach
signatures to messages automatically, but
computer-administered lists are programmed
to read terse commands (refer to Table 3-1),
and they don’t know what to do with the extra
words in a signature, so they reject the message. Likewise, computer-administered lists
can’t handle HTML-formatted messages or
rich-text messages. They don’t know what to do
with the all those formatting commands, and
they reject messages with HTML or rich-text
formatting. They prefer plain-text messages.
Before you send an e-mail message to an administrative address, make sure that the e-mail
doesn’t contain a signature or fancy formats.
Follow these instructions to keep signatures from
appearing in an e-mail message you send with
Outlook, Outlook Express, and Yahoo! Mail:
Outlook and Outlook Express: In the mes-
sage window, select the signature and
press Delete.
Yahoo! Mail: In the Compose window, des-
elect the Use My Signature check box.
Follow these instructions to send your messages in plain text, not HTML or rich text:
Outlook and Outlook Express: In the mes-
sage window, choose Format➪Plain Text.
Yahoo! Mail: In the Compose window, click
the Plain link (you can find it at the top of
the message window next to the word
Compose).
Book IV
Chapter 3
In digest form, messages from a single day or two are bundled into one message with a table of contents. Rather than negotiate dozens of messages, you
look through a single message, albeit a long one. Earlier in this chapter, Table
3-1 describes commands for receiving messages in digest form (the table also
describes how to cease getting messages that way).
Mailing Lists and
Message Boards
receive the messages in digest form or create rules in your e-mail program
that move incoming messages into special folders.
280
Spouting Your Opinion on a Message Board
Shunting e-mail into different folders as it arrives is a great way to organize
mail so that you can find it when you need it. Messages from a mailing list all
come from the same address. On the basis of the address from which the
messages come, you can create rules that put mailing-list messages into a
specific folder. You can find instructions in this book for creating rules in
Outlook, Outlook Express, and Yahoo! Mail:
✦ Outlook: See Book III, Chapter 2.
✦ Outlook Express: See Book III, Chapter 3.
✦ Yahoo! Mail: See Book III, Chapter 4.
Unsubscribing and other tasks
Earlier in this chapter, Table 3-1 describes a handful of other tasks that are
worth knowing as you wrestle with your mailing list of choice. Refer to
Table 3-1 for the commands you need to complete these tasks:
✦ Unsubscribing from a mailing list: By all means, unsubscribe if the list
isn’t working for you. Who needs all those e-mail messages? And you can
resubscribe if you want to.
✦ Ceasing to receive copies of messages you send to a mailing list: Some
mailing lists send copies of messages to senders on the idea that senders
want to be sure that their e-mail arrived on the list. But all those copies
can fill a mailbox quickly.
✦ Suspending mail delivery without unsubscribing: While you’re on
vacation in glorious Acapulco, you can tell the mailing list to stop sending messages. That way, you have fewer messages to read when you
return with your suntan and your newfound sunny disposition.
✦ Getting a list of people who subscribe to the mailing list: If you want a
comprehensive list with names and e-mail addresses of people who subscribe to the list, you can get it.
✦ Concealing your name from other list subscribers: For privacy’s sake,
you can prevent your name and e-mail address from appearing on subscriber lists.
Spouting Your Opinion on a Message Board
A message board is a place on the Internet where you can vent, philosophize,
or opine alongside others. Figure 3-1 shows the Current Events message
board at Arianna Online (www.ariannaonline.com), a Web site run by the
newspaper columnist Arianna Huffington. Message boards are sometimes
called discussion boards, online forums, and Web forums.
Spouting Your Opinion on a Message Board
281
It used to be that running a message board on a Web site was a major undertaking, but advances in software have made it much easier to run a message
board, and the number of message boards has risen accordingly. Some message boards are open to everyone; most require you to register by giving a
name and e-mail address. Because people operate under pseudonyms when
they post their opinions on message boards, opinions tend toward the outlandish and the extreme. If you stick around a message board long enough,
you are sure to make new friends and enemies.
Figure 3-1:
A typical
message
board.
To see what message boards are all about and to find one that suits your
tastes, start at one of these Web sites:
✦ Delphi Forums: Search message boards hosted by Delphi forums.
Address: www.delphiforums.com
✦ EZBoard: Search by keyword at the self-proclaimed “world’s largest
message board network.” Address: www.ezboard.com
Book IV
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Message Boards
282
Book IV: Quick Communicating
Chapter 4: Newsgroups and
the Usenet
In This Chapter
Understanding newsgroups
Reading newsgroup names
Comparing Google Groups to newsreaders
Searching the Usenet with Google
Subscribing to newsgroups with Outlook Express
Downloading music and video files from newsgroups
W
elcome to the Usenet, the shadowy, untamed corner of the Internet
where people post messages and files in newsgroups. There are
some 35,000 to 40,000 newsgroups altogether. A newsgroup is an online bulletin board where people debate, rant, philosophize, deliberate, and argue.
About 800 million messages dating to 1981 can be found on the Usenet.
People also post image files, music files, and videos on the Usenet for others
to download. If you look carefully, you can find a newsgroup devoted to
almost any topic, but I can’t promise you that the people who post to a
newsgroup stick to its topic. Newsgroups are not moderated. No one oversees a newsgroup to make sure that people stay on topic. No one removes
objectionable material such as advertisements or pornography.
This chapter looks at how newsgroups work and describes the cryptic
manner in which they are named. It explains how to search for newsgroup
postings, subscribe to newsgroups, and post messages in newsgroups on
the Web in Google Groups or from your computer with Outlook Express. The
end of this chapter describes how to download pictures, music files, and
video files from newsgroups with Outlook Express and a quirky little computer program called Binary Boy.
A lot of objectionable material is found in newsgroups. Cranks and crackpots like nothing better than exercising their obsessions in newsgroups. If
you are easily offended or have a low opinion of others’ ability to argue
intelligently, be careful which newsgroups you visit.
284
Introducing Newsgroups
Introducing Newsgroups
The term newsgroup is something of a misnomer. Visitors to newsgroups don’t
usually discuss the latest news. The “news” portion of the name is a throwback to the early days of the Usenet, when scholars and researchers used it to
discuss the latest technology. The Usenet, a decentralized network of computers that holds the newsgroup postings, actually predates the Internet. You can
find newsgroup postings on the Usenet from as early as 1981. Figure 4-1 shows
a posting to the net.bugs newsgroup from January 18, 1985. In this post, the
author introduces the idea that computers will fail in 2000 because they will
mistakenly think the year is 1900, not 2000. It was 15 years before the famous
Y2K bug, and computer hobbyists were already discussing it on the Usenet!
Newsgroups are sometimes called user groups and discussion groups, two
terms that more accurately describe what newsgroups really are.
Newsgroup name
Thread
Article
Poster's e-mail address
Screen name
Figure 4-1:
An article
on a
newsgroup.
For many years, you needed a newsreader to explore the Usenet, subscribe to
newsgroups, read messages, and post messages. A newsreader is a software
program for negotiating the Usenet. Outlook Express is a newsreader as well
as a program for handling e-mail. Starting in 1995, an outfit called DejaNews
started archiving messages posted to newsgroups. You could open DejaNews
in your Web browser and explore the Usenet without needing a newsreader.
In 2001, Google purchased DejaNews. Now you can explore the Usenet in a
Web browser starting from Google.com as well as explore it with a newsreader. Both ways are covered in this chapter.
285
Figuring Out Newsgroup Names
Newsgroups have their own terminology. As shown in Figure 4-1, a contribution to a newsgroup is called an article. The initial article and its follow-up
posts are collectively called a thread. The person who writes an article does
so under his or her screen name. Bookmarking a newsgroup so that you can
visit again it is called subscribing.
In theory, each newsgroup concerns one topic, but newsgroups are not
regulated. No rules pertain. Any fool can drop a message about any topic
in a newsgroup, and nobody can stop him or her. To enjoy or make use
of newsgroups, you have to be able to tolerate a fair amount of junk —
advertisements, loony opinions, weird obsessions, and pornography.
So what are newsgroups good for? In my experience, they are good for looking into very narrow, well-defined topics. For example, if you have a question
about a software program, look up its name on the Usenet. You can likely find
a newsgroup that’s devoted to the software program where friendly people
can answer your question and advise you. The Usenet is also a wonderful
place for getting others’ opinions about consumer products, especially electronics. Finally — and I’m surprised so few people know about this — the
Usenet is an excellent source of music files and other digital files such as
movies and pictures. You can download files from a newsgroup. I think being
able to download music and video files is the best thing going in newsgroups.
Figuring Out Newsgroup Names
A newsgroup name comprises a hierarchy, followed by a period (.), followed
by at least one descriptive word. A hierarchy is a newsgroup classification.
Table 4-1 describes common newsgroup hierarchies. By glancing at the hierarchy and the descriptive word or words after the period, you can tell what a
newsgroup is all about. Here are some examples of newsgroup names:
alt.horror.video.collectable
comp.hackers
rec.outdoors.fishing
talk.philosophy.humanism
Common Newsgroup Hierarchies
Hierarchy
Description
alt
Alternative — for the weird and strange and unconventional.
biz
Business — for business topics.
comp
Computers — for hardware and software issues and high-tech stuff.
humanities
Humanities — for history, philosophy, and the arts.
misc
Miscellaneous — for newsgroups that don’t fit elsewhere.
(continued)
Newsgroups and
the Usenet
Table 4-1
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Google versus the Newsreaders
Table 4-1 (continued)
Hierarchy
Description
news
News — for discussions about the Usenet (not the daily news).
rec
Recreation — for hobbies, sports, and leisure activities.
sci
Science — for science topics.
soc
Social groups — for socializing.
talk
Talk — for politics and general-purpose yakking.
Another word to look for in newsgroup names is binaries. When you see this
word in a name, it means that you can download files from and post files to
the newsgroup. Binaries is the newsgroup term for binary files. A binary file
is a nontext file whose contents must be interpreted by a program, in this
case a program that displays pictures or plays sounds or video. Look in the
alt hierarchy for newsgroups that offer binary files. Here are some examples of newsgroups that offer binaries:
alt.binaries.multimedia.3-stooges
alt.binaries.pictures.motorcycles
alt.binaries.sounds.1970s.mp3
alt.binaries.sounds.radio.oldtime
Tile.net keeps an index of newsgroups. You can search the index by name,
subject, or newsgroup hierarchy. To search the index, go to this address:
http://tile.net/news. For a quick tutorial in newsgroups, you could do
no worse than visiting Slyck’s Guide at this address: www.slyck.com/ng.
php. Want to search for binary files available in newsgroups? Try this site:
http://alt.binaries.nl.
Google versus the Newsreaders
As I mention earlier in this chapter in “Introducing Newsgroups,” you can
explore the Usenet inside your Web browser starting at Google.com, or you
can use a newsreader, a software program designed for handling newsgroups.
Using Google gives you the advantage of being able to search for specific
topics — for example, muscle cars, Madagascar, or manatees. You can also
search by screen name to see who posted what or search by date to see what
the newsgroup chatter was 10 or 20 years ago. Searching the Usenet with a
Web browser is easier than searching it with a newsreader. You don’t have to
go to the technical trouble of hooking up your computer to a news server
(more about that later) or understand all the commands for downloading
messages and subscribing.
Using a newsreader is the way to go if you find a newsgroup you like and
want to visit regularly. You can download messages to the newsgroup right
Exploring Newsgroups with Google
287
into your computer and read them at your leisure. The biggest advantage of
newsreaders over a Web browser is being able to download music files and
videos from newsgroups. You can’t do that by starting at Google.com and
wandering the Internet in your Web browser.
Exploring Newsgroups with Google
For the sake of convenience, it’s hard to beat Google for exploring the Usenet
and reading messages posted in newsgroups. To post a message, you have to
acquire a Google account. Other than that, searching for newsgroups, searching for messages in newsgroups, and subscribing to newsgroups couldn’t be
easier. If only Google would come up with a way to download multimedia files
from newsgroups. You can’t do that in Google — yet.
Searching for newsgroup postings
As you probably already know, Google is a very powerful tool for searching the
Internet. Google can also reach deep into the Usenet to find messages posted in
newsgroups. In fact, Google can reach all the way back to messages posted
in 1981. Here’s some good news if you are a past master at searching with
Google: You can use the same techniques to search the Usenet with Google as
you can to search the Internet (Book II, Chapter 3 explains searching the
Internet with Google).
To search the Usenet with Google, open your browser to http://groups.
google.com or go to the Google home page and click the Groups link. You
land in the Google Groups page, the starting point for searching the Usenet.
These tips can help you search the Usenet with Google:
✦ Browsing the newsgroup directory: Chose a category name and, on the
Web page that appears, either open a newsgroup or continue searching
deeper into the categories and subcategories. Figure 4-2 shows the page
for searching Science and Technology groups.
✦ Conducting an advanced search: Click the Advanced Groups Search
link on the Google Groups page to conduct a thorough search. You go to
the Advanced Groups Search page, where you get the opportunity to
search by exact phrase, date, and other nifty criteria.
Book IV
Chapter 4
Newsgroups and
the Usenet
✦ Searching by keyword: Enter search terms in the text box and click the
Search Groups button. In the search results page, click a post that
piques your interest. As shown in Figure 4-3, the post appears in its own
window along with the thread to which it belongs. The search terms you
entered are highlighted. You can scroll down the window to read the
entire thread. Click the newsgroup name to make the newsgroup appear
in your browser.
288
Exploring Newsgroups with Google
Figure 4-2:
Searching
inside the
Science and
Technology
hierarchy.
Figure 4-3:
Reading a
message
found in a
keyword
search.
Notice the
highlighted
search
terms.
Subscribing to a newsgroup
To subscribe to a newsgroup and be able to visit it regularly, bookmark it:
✦ Internet Explorer: Choose Favorites➪Add to Favorites and, in the Add
Favorite dialog box, select a folder, enter a bookmark name, and click
the OK button.
Exploring Newsgroups with Outlook Express
289
✦ Mozilla: Choose Bookmarks➪File Bookmark and, in the File Bookmark
dialog box, select a folder, enter a name for the bookmark, and click the
OK button.
Book II, Chapter 1 explains everything a mortal needs to know about
bookmarking.
Posting messages to a newsgroup
To post a message to a newsgroup or reply to a message someone else
posted, you need a Google account. Appendix C explains how to get one of
those. After you have your account and post for the first time, Google asks
you to choose a screen name, the name that identifies you as the author of
the messages you deposit in newsgroups. Choose a name carefully. You can’t
change it. If you want to change names, your only resort is to create a new
Google account.
Follow these instructions to post a message, reply to a message, or reply
directly to the author of a message in a newsgroup:
✦ Posting a new message for the whole newsgroup: Click the Start a New
Topic link. In the form that appears, enter the subject of your message and
the message itself in the Message window. Then click the Post Message
button (or click the Preview Message button to proofread your message
before you post it).
✦ Posting a reply to a message someone else wrote: Click the Reply link.
You can find this link at the bottom of messages. Enter your reply and
click the Post button (or the Preview button if you want to proofread
your reply first).
✦ Replying personally to the author of a message: Click the Reply to
author link (you may have to click the Show Options link first to see the
author’s e-mail address). Then enter your reply and click the Send
Message button. Be aware that most people don’t leave their correct
e-mail address in newsgroup messages to prevent their mailboxes from
being flooded with spam. Chances are, your e-mail message won’t reach
its destination.
Exploring Newsgroups with Outlook Express
Every computer that runs the Windows operating system has Outlook
Express. Most people know this program as an e-mailer, but Outlook Express
has a dark little secret — the program doubles as a newsreader. To visit a
Newsgroups and
the Usenet
To keep messages you write on the Usenet from being put in the Google
archive of newsgroup messages, type X-No-Archive: yes (with a single space
between the colon and yes) in the first line of the message.
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Exploring Newsgroups with Outlook Express
newsgroup with Outlook Express, you connect to a news server that tracks
the names of newsgroups. Then you visit a newsgroup that interests you and
read a few messages. If the newsgroup is one that piques your interest, you
can subscribe to it. Subscribing makes it easy to revisit a newsgroup later. Of
course, you can also add your two cents’ worth and post a message of your
own in a newsgroup. Better read on.
Book III, Chapter 3 explains the e-mailing side of Outlook Express and how to
handle the Folder pane.
Connecting to a news server
A news server is a networked computer that stores messages in its own newsgroups. The server also communicates with other news servers to retrieve
the messages that other news servers store. News servers have large storage
capacities — really big storage capacities. They hold text messages as well as
files that have been encoded into text. As you explore the Usenet, you download messages from news servers.
Before you can explore the Usenet with Outlook Express, you need to tell
Outlook Express which news server to connect to. To be specific, you need
to tell Outlook Express the name of the Internet News (NNTP) server that
your ISP uses. To get this name, call your Internet service provider. Sorry —
you can’t get around it. You have to make the phone call even if it means
climbing tree-sloth-like up a phone tree for many minutes. Ask your ISP,
“What is the name of the Internet News (NNTP) server — the news server —
that I need to look at newsgroups on the Usenet?” Besides the news server
name, ask your ISP whether you need to provide an account name and password to access the news server. Usually, your e-mail address and password
for e-mail get you into the news server, but if this isn’t the case, get an
account name and a password.
You’ve finished doing that? Congratulations. Follow these steps to tell
Outlook Express how to connect to the news server:
1. In Outlook Express, choose Tools➪Accounts.
You see the Internet Accounts dialog box.
2. Select the News tab.
3. Click the Add button and choose News on the pop-up menu.
You see the first of four Internet Connection dialog boxes.
4. Enter your name; then click the Next button.
The name you enter is your screen name, the name that appears next to
your e-mail address at the top of articles you post.
Exploring Newsgroups with Outlook Express
291
5. Enter an e-mail address so that people can reply directly to you; then
click the Next button.
Entering an e-mail address is mandatory. The address appears with your
posts. Anyone can click the address and send you an e-mail straightaway. However, to keep spammers from getting your e-mail address,
include the words NOSPAM in the address. This way, anyone who wants
to e-mail you can remove those letters, but the computers that crawl the
Internet for e-mail addresses on behalf of spammers will not be able to
collect your correct address. (Book III, Chapter 5 explains how to prevent spam from flooding your mailbox.)
6. Enter the name of the Internet News (NNTP) server that your ISP provided you; then click the Next button.
As shown in Figure 4-4, the news server name you enter appears in the
Folder pane of Outlook Express. To explore the Usenet, you click the
news server’s name in the Folder pane.
Figure 4-4:
The news
server name
appears in
the Folder
pane.
News server name
select the My News Server Requires Me to Log On check box and, in
the following dialog box, enter your account name and password.
You probably enter your e-mail address and the password you use to
collect your e-mail.
8. Click the Finish button.
You return to the Internet Accounts dialog box.
Newsgroups and
the Usenet
7. If your ISP requires you to provide a password to read newsgroups,
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Exploring Newsgroups with Outlook Express
9. Click the Close button.
10. Click the Yes button in the dialog box that asks “Would you like to
download newsgroups from the news account you just added?”
The next section in this chapter explains what downloading newsgroups
is all about. Notice the new folder in the Outlook Express Folder pane.
Just like I said, it is named after the Internet News (NNTP) server
address you entered.
If you have a problem connecting to the Usenet, return to the Internet
Accounts dialog box, select the name of the account you just created, and
click the Properties button. You get the chance to change connection settings
in the Properties dialog box.
Downloading newsgroups to Outlook Express
The first time you connect to a news server or click the server’s name in the
Outlook Express Folder pane, a dialog box asks whether you would like to
view a list of available newsgroups. Click the Yes button. Downloading the
names takes a while if you have a slow connection to the Internet, but when
the names have downloaded, you see the Newsgroup Subscriptions dialog
box shown in Figure 4-5.
Periodically right-click the news server’s name in the Folder pane and
choose Reset List on the shortcut menu. Doing so updates the list of newsgroups on the Usenet.
How’s your news server?
Some ISPs don’t offer their customers a news
server for connecting to the Usenet. MSN (the
Microsoft Network) is one such ISP. And the
news servers that some ISPs offer are too slow,
don’t give you access to binary newsgroups, or
don’t offer binary files in their entirety. If you are
hankering to explore the Usenet but your news
server isn’t working for you, you can resort to a
private company. Here are some private companies that offer subscription news servers. Prices
for subscribing vary from $10 to $50 per month,
depending on how many files you download.
Astraweb: http://news.astraweb.
com
EasyNews: www.easynews.com
Giganews: www.giganews.com
NewsHosting: www.newshosting.com
Usenet Monster: www.usenetmonster.
com
UseNetServer: www.usenetserver.com
Exploring Newsgroups with Outlook Express
293
Figure 4-5:
Finding a
newsgroup
to subscribe
to.
Exploring the different newsgroups
Starting in the Newsgroup window (click the news server name in the
Outlook Express Folder pane to get there), follow these steps to explore different newsgroups:
1. Click the Newsgroups button.
You see the Newsgroup Subscriptions dialog box (refer to Figure 4-5).
2. In the Display Newsgroups Which Contain text box, enter keywords
that describe the newsgroup you are looking for.
To enter more than one keyword, separate the words with commas. The
dialog box shows the names of newsgroups with the keywords you
entered.
3. Select a newsgroup that looks interesting and click the Go To button
to visit it.
You see a message window similar to the one in Figure 4-6. Read a few
messages and see what you think of this newsgroup. (Later in this chapter, “Reading and posting messages in newsgroups” explains in more
detail how to read messages.) The next section in this chapter explains
how to subscribe if you decide to do that.
Book IV
Chapter 4
4. Click the name of your news server to return to the Newsgroup
The news server name and its icon work just like the other icons in the
Outlook Express Folder pane. No matter how far you travel, you can
click the news server icon to return to the Newsgroup window.
Whether or not you subscribe to a newsgroup you’ve visited, Outlook
Express keeps its name in the Folder pane. To remove a newsgroup name
from the Folder pane, click the name to select it and press Delete.
Newsgroups and
the Usenet
window.
294
Exploring Newsgroups with Outlook Express
Figure 4-6:
Reading
messages
in the
message
window.
Subscribing and unsubscribing
Subscribe to a newsgroup if there is even the slightest chance that you want
to visit it again. Newsgroups are so numerous, and their names are so cryptic, that finding one you’ve been to before is nearly impossible unless you
subscribe. Besides, unsubscribing is easy. Follow these instructions to subscribe to a newsgroup after you have found it:
✦ In the Newsgroup Subscriptions dialog box: Select a newsgroup name
and then click the Subscribe button (refer to Figure 4-5).
✦ In the Newsgroup window: Right-click the newsgroup’s name in the
Folder pane and choose Subscribe on the shortcut menu.
To unsubscribe, right-click the newsgroup’s name in the Folder pane and
choose Unsubscribe from the shortcut menu. You can also select a name on
the Subscribed tab of the Newsgroup Subscriptions dialog box and click the
Unsubscribe button.
Getting the latest messages from a newsgroup
A busy newsgroup receives hundreds or thousands of postings a day. After
you subscribe to a newsgroup, you can download these new messages to
your computer. Then you can read the messages at your leisure in Outlook
Express. Downloading the latest messages this way is called synchronizing.
To start synchronizing, select the news server icon in the Folder pane to
open the Synchronization window shown in Figure 4-7. This window lists the
name of each newsgroup to which you subscribe. Click the Synchronize
Account button to download messages.
Exploring Newsgroups with Outlook Express
295
Figure 4-7:
Click the
Synchronize
Account
button to
download
messages.
By selecting Synchronization Settings check boxes and choosing options
from the Settings button, you can decide how many messages to download.
Deselect a check box if you prefer not to download messages from a newsgroup. Select a newsgroup and click the Settings button to open a menu with
these downloading options:
✦ All Messages: Downloads all messages posted to the newsgroup.
✦ New Messages Only: Downloads only messages that have been downloaded since the last time you synchronized.
✦ Headers Only: Downloads only the headers — the subject of messages —
not the message text. You can click a header to download the message.
To read messages posted to a newsgroup, double-click the newsgroup’s name
in the Folder pane or the Synchronization window. Soon, messages appear in
the top of the message window (refer to Figure 4-6). To read a message, click it
and read the text at the bottom of the window, or, to open the message in its
own window and read it more comfortably, double-click the message. A plus
sign (+) appears beside messages to which others have responded. To read
the responses, click the plus sign next to a message and view the responses.
Newsgroups and
the Usenet
Reading and posting messages in newsgroups
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Downloading Multimedia Files with a Binary Newsreader
Outlook Express offers three ways to register your opinion in a newsgroup
and either post a message or send a message directly to another author.
Click the message that deserves a reply and follow these instructions:
✦ Posting a new message for the whole newsgroup: Click the New Post
button. You see the New Message window with the newsgroup’s address
where the To box usually is. Enter a subject for your post, type the message, and click the Send button.
✦ Posting a reply to a message someone else wrote: Click the message
you want to reply to and then click the Reply Group button. The New
Message window opens with the text of the message to which you are
replying. A subject is already entered in the Subject box. Type your reply
and click the Send button. Be sure to erase the text in the message to
which you are replying before you write your reply.
✦ Replying personally to the author of a message: Click the Reply button.
The New Message window opens with the author’s e-mail address, usually disguised, in the To box and the text of the original message. Correct
the e-mail address, enter your reply, and click the Send button. Your
message goes straight to the person named in the To box — it is not
posted on the newsgroup.
Choose Tools➪Get Next 300 Headers to view more message headers in the
message window and get the chance to read more messages.
Downloading Multimedia Files
with a Binary Newsreader
A binary newsreader is one that specializes in getting binary files — multimedia
files such as music files and video files — from newsgroups. Binary files are
difficult to manage for two reasons. First, news servers, the computers that
handle messages on the Usenet, are only capable of handling text messages.
When an MP3 music file, for example, is deposited on a news server, it is
encoded into text, as shown in Figure 4-8. When the music file is retrieved,
the encoded text has to be decoded into a binary file. Second, news servers
can’t handle messages longer than 10,000 lines of text. An MP3 music file that is
3MB in size would require about 65,000 lines of text — many more lines than
can fit in a single text message. Therefore, the music file has to be divided into
several text messages when it is deposited in a newsgroup. A binary newsreader has to be capable of, first, assembling a file from several different text
messages, and second, decoding the message text into a binary music or
video file.
Another issue with downloading binary files is that many news servers don’t
make the files available in their entirety. To piece together a binary file, you
download text message 1 of 20, 2 of 20, 3 of 20, and so on, and then you
decode the messages and run the files together to create a multimedia file. But
Downloading Multimedia Files with a Binary Newsreader
297
if one text message is missing — say, message 9 of 20 — you end up with a gap
in the file. Part of the song or part of the movie is missing and the file can’t be
played. News servers that are run by the major ISPs purposefully leave at least
one text message out of the sequence to protect themselves against copyright
violations. This is their way of defending themselves against music publishers
and movie companies. Most subscription news servers, however, don’t
deliberately leave out text messages in the file sequence. Earlier in this chapter, the sidebar “How’s your news server?” lists some of these subscription
news servers. A good binary newsreader can detect when part of a binary file
is missing and tell you as much in case you prefer not to download an incomplete file.
Figure 4-8:
An MP3 file
encoded
into
numbers
and letters.
Table 4-2 describes several binary newsreaders. I prefer the Binary Boy newsreader. Because this book isn’t as much a book as it is a long game of follow
the leader, I discuss Binary Boy in this chapter. I also explain how to download binary files with Outlook Express in case you’re a fan of that program.
Outlook Express is nowhere near the best program for downloading binary
files from a newsgroup, but if you are dealing with images or with a few text
messages and all are clearly labeled in a newsgroup, Outlook Express is just
fine for downloading the messages and assembling them into a file.
Binary Newsreaders
Name
Web Address
Cost
Binary Boy
www.binaryboy.com
BNR (Binary
News Reaper)
GrabIt
www.bnr2.org
www.shemes.com
Free
NewsBin Pro
www.newsbin.com
$35 with time trial
NewsShark
www.wmhsoft.com/NewsShark
Power-Grab
www.cosmicwolf.com
$24.95/30-day trial
Free
$49.95
Free
Newsgroups and
the Usenet
Table 4-2
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Downloading Multimedia Files with a Binary Newsreader
In many binary file newsgroups, you can request a song or movie. The convention is to put the letters REQ, a colon, and the name of the thing you are
requesting in the message header of your request. With a little luck, you can
come back to the newsgroup a day or two later and find the song or movie
you requested.
Downloading binary files with Outlook Express
The biggest obstacle to downloading binary files with Outlook Express is
telling which text messages in a newsgroup are parts of binary files and
which are plain-old text messages. In most newsgroups, the message header
reveals whether the text message is part of a binary file. Scroll to the right to
see whether the message reads 1 of 2, 2 of 2, and so on. You can also glance
in the lower half of the message window after you select a message. If you
see a bunch of gibberish (refer to Figure 4-8), you’ve selected part of a
binary file.
Follow these steps to download a binary file from a newsgroup using
Outlook Express:
1. Select all the text messages that, taken together, form the binary file.
The fastest way to do that is to select the first message and Shift+click
the last. You can also hold down Ctrl and click each message. The
selected messages are highlighted, as shown in Figure 4-9.
Figure 4-9:
You can
download
files in
Outlook
Express.
Downloading Multimedia Files with a Binary Newsreader
299
2. Choose Message➪Combine and Decode.
You see the Order for Decoding dialog box (refer to Figure 4-9).
3. Make sure that the messages are in the correct order.
Select messages and click the Move Up or Move Down button, as
necessary.
4. Click the OK button in the Order for Decoding dialog box.
The Combine and Decode message box appears as the messages are
decoded and joined into a file. As shown in Figure 4-9, a message
window appears, with the binary file in the Attach line.
5. Right-click the binary file and choose Open to play the file, or choose
Save As to save it in a folder.
I hope the song you downloaded is sweet, and if you downloaded a
movie, I hope it has a happy ending.
Downloading binary files with Binary Boy
The biggest advantage of Binary Boy (www.binaryboy.com) over Outlook
Express is that Binary Boy can separate text messages from binary file messages right away. And Binary Boy makes downloading the binary file messages
easier too, because you just click a button to download several files at once.
The program costs $30, but you can use the trial version for free for 30 days.
Following is a quick tutorial in the Binary Boy newsreader.
Doing the setup work
Download Binary Boy by going to this address: www.binaryboy.com. As
part of installing the program, you are asked where you want to store it in
your menu structure. Choose carefully. The first time I downloaded Binary
Boy, I forgot where I put the program on my menus. I had to dig into the
C:\Program Files\Binary Boy folder and double-click the Binboy.exe
file to start Binary Boy.
✦ Internet connection: On the Dialer tab, choose I’m Using a Permanent
Internet Connection if you connect through a DSL service or network. If
yours is a dialup connection, choose Dial Using a Phone Book Entry,
choose your ISP, and enter your username and password.
Newsgroups and
the Usenet
The installation procedure asks about your newsreader and what kind of connection your computer has to the Internet. Don’t worry about answering
those questions right away. Just click the Cancel button to go to the next
dialog box. When the program is finished downloading, choose Edit➪Settings
(or press Alt+T) to open the Binary Boy Settings dialog box and tell Binary
Boy about your Internet connection and newsreader:
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Downloading Multimedia Files with a Binary Newsreader
✦ Newsreader: On the Server tab, enter the address (the name) of the
news server your ISP provides. See “Connecting to a news server,” earlier in this chapter, for an explanation of news servers. Also enter your
e-mail address and password.
Next, click the Newsgroups button or choose Connection➪Refresh Newsgroup
List to download the list of newsgroups into Binary Boy.
Creating group lists
In Binary Boy parlance, a group list is a collection of newsgroups from which
you want to download binary files. When the time comes to see what is on
different newsgroups, you open a group list and look in the newsgroups one at
a time, downloading binary files as you go along. In Figure 4-10, for example,
.jpg files are being downloaded from the alt.binaries.pictures.
tall-ships newsgroup. This newsgroup is part of a group list called Historic
Pictures.
Figure 4-10:
Downloading files
with Binary
Boy.
Group lists make it possible to search many newsgroups very quickly for
multimedia files. Follow these steps to create a group list of newsgroups you
are interested in:
1. Click the Group Lists button or choose Edit➪Edit Group List.
2. Click the Yes button in the dialog box that asks “Would you like to
create a new group list?”
Downloading Multimedia Files with a Binary Newsreader
301
You see the Newsgroups dialog box. The Master Newsgroup List in the
bottom half of the dialog box shows newsgroup names.
3. Enter a search term in the Search text box to describe the kind of
newsgroup you are searching for.
For example, enter binaries to see the names of groups with the word
binaries in their name.
4. Select each newsgroup you want to add to your list and click the Add
button.
After you click the Add button, the name of the newsgroup you selected
appears in the Subscribed Groups list at top of the dialog box.
5. Click the OK button when you have finished adding newsgroups to
your groups list.
The Save As dialog box appears. Notice that Binary Boy has created
some lists already — audiobooks, e-books, jobs, and others. Their
names appear in the dialog box.
6. Enter a name for your list in the File Name text box.
7. Click the Save button.
You did it — you created a group list.
To change a group list around or delete a group list, click the Search button
or choose Collection➪Search for Attachments. You see the Search dialog
box. Choose the name of a list on the Group List to Search drop-down menu.
To delete the list, click the Delete List button. To change a list, click the Edit
List button. You see the Newsgroups dialog box, the same dialog box you
used to created the group list. Add more newsgroups or delete newsgroups
as you please.
Downloading multimedia files
After you create a group list, you can get down to the business of downloading binary files from newsgroups. Follow these steps to download binary
files from newsgroups whose names you put in a group list:
The Search dialog box appears.
2. On the Group List to Search drop-down menu, choose the name of the
group list whose newsgroups you want to search, and click the OK
button.
You see the Search window (refer to Figure 4-10).
3. Select the name of a newsgroup from the drop-down menu.
Newsgroups and
the Usenet
1. Click the Search button or choose Collection➪Search for Attachments.
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Downloading Multimedia Files with a Binary Newsreader
4. In the Search text box, enter a wildcard to describe the kind of binary
files you want to download.
For example, to download jpeg image files, enter *.jpeg or *.jpg. To find
music files, enter *.mp3. To find movie files, enter *.wmv. If you’ve
entered these wildcards before, you can choose them from the dropdown menu instead of entering them. And if you want to see all messages on the newsgroup, enter *.*.
Notice the disk icons next to messages. When you see a green half-disk
icon, the text message in question is part of a larger binary file with at
least one part missing. A red half-disk icon means that the file is missing
part 1 and can’t be decoded. A whole green disk icon (which you can see
in Figure 4-10) means that the entire file is available to your newsreader.
5. Select the file or files you want to download.
To do so, click filenames. You can select several files at once by
Ctrl+clicking or Shift+clicking them. To download an entire binary file,
you need only select one part (a message with a green half-disk icon by
its name).
6. Click the Download button to download files you selected, or click the
Download All button to download all files that are part of a large
binary file, one part of which you selected in the previous step.
If you don’t see the Download buttons, choose View➪Resize Subject List
(or press Alt+R) as many times as necessary to make the buttons appear.
After the files download, you can choose another newsgroup name from
the drop-down list and download files from another newsgroup.
Files downloaded to your computer land in the C:\Documents and
Settings\Your Name\My Documents\My Attachments folder. You can
quickly open this folder by pressing Alt+A or by choosing File➪Open
Attachments Folder. The folder opens in Windows Explorer.
What to do about incomplete files
If you download a music or video file, it may be incomplete. Parts are missing. What can you do about that? One thing you can do is try to stitch the
file together with the help of Dr. Binary. This strangely named utility fills in
gaps in files and tries its best to assemble them. Follow these steps to try to
make an incomplete file whole again:
1. Choose File➪Send All Parts to Dr. Binary.
2. Click the Yes button in the dialog box that asks whether you want to
send the Parts folder to Dr. Binary.
The Parts folder is located at C:\Documents and Settings\Your
Name\My Documents\Parts. (To open this folder from Binary Boy,
Downloading Multimedia Files with a Binary Newsreader
303
choose File➪Open Parts Folder.) Text files that have yet to be decoded
because they are incomplete are kept in the Parts folder.
3. Choose File➪Dr. Binary or press Alt+D.
You see the Select One Part from Set dialog box. A set is the text messages that make up a binary file.
4. Select the first file and click the Open button.
You see the Dr. Binary dialog box shown in Figure 4-11.
Figure 4-11:
Decoding an
incomplete
file.
5. Click the Decode button.
With any luck, the good doctor is able to decode the files and create
the semblance of a music file or video. You can find the file in the
C:\Documents and Settings\Your Name\My Documents\My
Attachments folder (press Alt+A to get there).
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304
Book IV: Quick Communicating
Chapter 5: Joining, Starting, and
Managing a Yahoo! Group
In This Chapter
Discovering Yahoo! groups
Searching for and joining a group
Canceling your membership
Posting messages, files, and photos to groups
Starting your own Yahoo! group
T
his chapter takes on the subject of Yahoo! groups, how to join them, and
how to create them. You are hereby invited to join a Yahoo! group to find
and commune with kindred spirits, and if no such group exists, you can start
one of your own.
When you think about it, a Yahoo! group is really a canned, preformatted
Web site where people can post messages, download files, and view photographs. The groups are like conventional mailing lists, only they’re much
easier to manage (mailing lists are the subject of Book IV, Chapter 3). The
only disadvantage of Yahoo! groups is having to create an account with
Yahoo! and sign in to Yahoo! to make use of them. Some people find that
inconvenient.
To join or create a Yahoo! group, you need a Yahoo! account. Appendix A
explains how to get one of those. You also need to sign in to Yahoo! before
you can join or create a group.
Introducing Yahoo! Groups
A Yahoo! group is more of a club than a group. In fact, Yahoo! groups used to
be called clubs. Join a group to discuss your favorite topic with people who
share your interest in bowling, Madagascar, UFOs, or whatever your favorite
topic is. Some groups are not as much for discussing as they are for making
announcements. A civic club or softball team, for example, can post meeting
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Introducing Yahoo! Groups
days or game schedules in its Yahoo! group. My son’s Spanish teacher keeps
a Yahoo! group for his students. He invited parents to join, too. I can find out
when my son’s homework assignments are due and when tests are forthcoming. Now when I ask the boy, “Shouldn’t you be studying for a Spanish test?” I
know the answer beforehand.
Each Yahoo! group gets a page like the one shown in Figure 5-1. You can read
messages posted to the group starting from this page. You can also search
for messages posted in months or years past. This page is also the place to
download files or look at photographs, if the group offers files and photographs to its members. It’s possible to join a group and never visit its Yahoo!
page. You can have messages to the group delivered to your Yahoo! e-mail
account without ever going to the Yahoo! page that the group calls home.
Figure 5-1:
The Yahoo!
group page
belonging
to the
platedlizards
group.
To find a group worth joining or visit a group you’ve already joined, start by
going to the Yahoo! Groups page (after you’ve signed in to Yahoo!, of course).
Figure 5-2 shows this page. One of these methods can get you there:
✦ Go to the Yahoo! home page (www.yahoo.com) and click the Groups link.
✦ Go straight to the Yahoo! Groups page at this address: http://groups.
yahoo.com.
Finding and Joining a Yahoo! Group
307
Figure 5-2:
The Yahoo!
Groups
page.
Finding and Joining a Yahoo! Group
Yahoo! groups come and go, so getting an accurate count of how many
groups are out there is difficult. But there must be at least 10,000 Yahoo!
groups. Usually, you can find one devoted to a topic you’re interested in.
These pages explain how to find a Yahoo! group that suits your taste and
temperament, and how to join a group. You also discover how to visit a
group you’ve joined, read its messages, download its files, and view its
photographs.
Finding a group
Starting from the Yahoo! Groups page at http://groups.yahoo.com (refer
to Figure 5-2), you can look for groups worth joining with one of these
methods:
✦ By search terms: Enter search terms in the Join a Group text box and
click the Search button. For example, to search for groups devoted to
the actor Marlon Brando, enter “marlon brando” (include the quotation
marks) and click the Search button.
Joining, Starting,
and Managing a
Yahoo! Group
✦ By category: Click categories and subcategories until you come to a
group that tickles your fancy. To find groups devoted to Marlon Brando,
for example, click the Entertainment & Arts category; the Actors and
Actresses subcategory; the letter B subcategory; the Brando, Marlon
subcategory; and finally, the Brando, Marlon Groups subcategory. Notice
as you search that a number in parentheses next to subcategory names
tells you how many groups are in each subcategory.
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Finding and Joining a Yahoo! Group
No matter where a search takes you or how far you stray in the Yahoo! groups
pages, you can always return to the Yahoo! Groups page (refer to Figure 5-2)
by clicking the Groups or the Groups Home link. You can find this link in the
upper-right corner of pages.
Joining a Yahoo! group
Before you join a group, look around and see whether it’s worth joining. The
calendar on the group page tells you how many new messages have been
posted to the group this month. Take note of how many members are in
the group. Is this a lively party or a dud with everyone standing around the
potato chips hardly saying anything? If the group is public (more about that
in a minute), you can read messages posted to the group. Read a few and see
whether the discussion is interesting. Unfortunately, public groups are susceptible to junk mail. Have many spam messages been posted to the group?
If so, the group may not be worth joining.
Look under Group Info on the right side of the page to see which kind of
group you are dealing with. Yahoo! groups fall in two categories:
✦ Public group: Anyone can join this group without getting the permission
of the owner. Look for the words Open membership under Group Info.
✦ Private group: You must get the owner’s permission to join this group.
Look for Membership requires approval under Group Info.
If you decide to join a group, click the Join This Group button. You come to
the Join This Group page, where you negotiate these all-important questions:
✦ Yahoo! Profile: If you have more than one Yahoo! profile and you want
to join under a profile different from the one you are currently operating
under, choose a profile from the drop-down menu.
✦ E-Mail Address: If you have more than one Yahoo! e-mail address, choose
the one you want to use to post messages to this group.
✦ E-Mail Display: If the group permits you to hide your e-mail address
from the moderators, you see this check box. To hide your address,
select the check box.
✦ Comment to Owner: In the case of a private group, write a note to the
owner explaining why you want to join.
✦ Message Delivery: Choose how you want to read messages posted to
the group:
• Individual Emails: Messages posted to the group (and approved by
the owner in the case of private groups) are sent to your e-mail
address right away.
Finding and Joining a Yahoo! Group
309
• Daily Digest: Instead of getting individual messages, you receive one
message each day with a day’s worth of e-mail. This option keeps
you from being flooded with e-mail from the group.
• Special Notices: Only notices from the owner or a group moderator
are sent to you, and they are sent by e-mail.
• No Email: No messages posted to the group are sent to you by e-mail.
You want to go to the group page to read and post messages.
✦ Message Format: Choose HTML or plain text. HTML-formatted e-mail
messages can include color, boldface text, pictures, and other froufrou
stuff. Some e-mail programs can’t handle HTML-formatted messages.
✦ Word Verification: Enter the combination of letters and numbers in the
text box. The word-verification mechanism is meant to keep evil robots
from joining groups and hosing them down with junk mail.
Don’t fret or ponder very long over these questions. You can always change
your mind about how your e-mail address is displayed and how messages
from the group are delivered by e-mail, as the next section in this chapter
explains.
After you click the Join button, you are admitted to the group, or, in the case
of private groups, a Membership Pending page tells you that you will receive
confirmation by e-mail if the group’s owner decides to let you in.
Visiting a group to which you belong
A list of the groups you joined can be found on these pages. Click the name
of a group to open its page and visit it.
✦ Yahoo! Groups page: To get to this page, go to the Yahoo! home page
and click the Groups link or go straight to the page by steering your
browser to this address: http://groups.yahoo.com. You can find the
list of groups to which you belong on the left side of the page in the My
Groups section (refer to Figure 5-2).
Reading messages and downloading files and photos
A Yahoo! group page is really a mini-Web site in that you can view photos
and download files as well as post messages. As shown in Figure 5-3, the left
side of the group window offers links you can click to open the Messages
window, download files, or view photos.
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Joining, Starting,
and Managing a
Yahoo! Group
✦ My Groups page: Click the My Groups link on any Yahoo! page having to
do with groups. The My Groups page lists each group you belong to, as
well as the profile, e-mail address, and message-delivery mode you
chose for each group.
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Finding and Joining a Yahoo! Group
To read a message, click the Messages link and then click a message’s subject in the Messages window. Doing so opens a message window, where you
can read the message comfortably. Here are some tips for preventing claustrophobia as you read messages:
✦ Click the Previous or Next link in a message window to read the previous
or following message posted to the group.
✦ Click the Up Thread link to read the original message if you are reading a
reply (a message with the term Re: in its subject line).
✦ Click the Expand Messages link to be able to scroll down the screen and
read messages, as shown in Figure 5-3. In an expanded window, subject
lines as well as messages appear. Click the Collapse Messages link to go
back to seeing a list of message subjects.
Figure 5-3:
Click the
Expand
Messages
link to be
able to
scroll
through
messages.
Not every group offers photos or files for downloading, but if a group to
which you belong does, follow these instructions to view photos and download files:
✦ Viewing photos: Click the Photos link on the group page. You come to
the Photos page, where you see either photo thumbnails or folders
where photos are stored. To open a folder, click it. Click a thumbnail to
view the larger version of a photo. You can click the Slideshow link to
make the photos appear one at a time.
Finding and Joining a Yahoo! Group
311
✦ Downloading a file: Click the Files link on the group page. You land in
the Files page, where you see either a list of files or folders where files
are kept. Click a folder to open it. To open a file, click it. If the file is one
that can carry a virus, the File Download dialog box appears. Book II,
Chapter 1 explains all the vagaries of downloading and copying files
from the Internet.
To save a photo to your computer, right-click it, choose Save Picture As,
choose a folder in the Save Picture dialog box, and click the Save button. You
can enter a name of your own for the photograph in the File Name text box
before clicking the Save button.
Changing how messages from a group are delivered
Sometimes you join a group and get flooded with e-mail messages. Or, you
register the wrong e-mail address in a group. Or, you wish you had joined a
group under a different profile. In times like those, you can visit the Edit My
Groups window, shown in Figure 5-4, and change how messages are delivered, your e-mail address, or your profile.
Figure 5-4:
The Edit My
Groups
window, for
changing
your mind.
Follow these dance steps to get to the Edit My Groups window:
You can find this link in the upper-right corner of the page. You land in
the My Groups window. It lists each group to which you belong.
3. Click the Edit My Groups link.
Not a moment too soon, you come to the Edit My Groups window (refer
to Figure 5-4).
Joining, Starting,
and Managing a
Yahoo! Group
1. Go to the Yahoo! Groups page (http://groups.yahoo.com).
2. Click the My Groups link.
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Leaving a Yahoo! Group
4. Using the drop-down menus, choose a new profile, e-mail address, and
message-delivery mode for each group to which you belong.
5. Click the Save Changes button.
You return to the My Groups window. It correctly lists each setting you
chose in the Edit My Groups window.
Leaving a Yahoo! Group
Groucho Marx said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me
as a member.” If you were accepted as a member of a Yahoo! group and, like
Groucho Marx, you think it reflects badly on your character, you can resign
from the group two different ways:
✦ Go to the group’s page and click the Leave Group link. You can find this
link in the upper-right corner of the page.
✦ Go to the Edit My Groups window (refer to Figure 5-4), select the Leave
Group check box for the group you want to leave, and click the Save
Changes button. The previous section in this chapter explains how to
get to the Edit My Groups window.
Posting a Message to a Group
So you want to drop your two cents’ worth in a group you’ve joined? You can
do that in three ways:
✦ Posting on the group’s page: Click the Post link. You can find this link
on the left side of the page, as shown in Figure 5-5. Then fill out the Post
Message form and click the Send button.
✦ Replying to a post: Click the Reply link in the Messages window. The
Post Message form displays the message you are replying to. Notice the
letters Re: in the subject line. These letters indicate that you are posting
a reply. Enter your reply and click the Send button.
✦ Posting by e-mail program: Address your message to the group’s postmessage address: [email protected] You can find this
address at the bottom of the group’s page. Then write the message and
send it. And be sure to send it from the address you listed when you
joined the group. If you send it from a different address, your post will
be rejected.
Sending Files and Photos to a Group
313
Figure 5-5:
Posting a
message to
a group.
To send a message to someone who posted a message in a group, not to the
group itself, click the person’s e-mail address. You can find this address at
the top of the message window near the person’s name. After you click it, a
form page opens so that you can write an e-mail message.
Sending Files and Photos to a Group
Not every group allows its members to post files and photos. If you try to
post a file or photo but can’t do it, don’t take it personally. It could be that
the group moderator doesn’t allow files or photos to be posted. It could be
that only certain members can post. Yahoo! only allots 20MB of file space for
each group to post files and photos. Twenty megabytes isn’t very much file
space, so moderators have to be careful how they use it.
Follow these steps to post a file or photo to a group:
1. Click the Files link or the Photos link in the group page.
2. Click the Add File link or the Add Photo link.
As shown in Figure 5-6, you see the Add File window if you are posting a
file. The Add Photos window looks and works much like this window.
Book IV
Chapter 5
Joining, Starting,
and Managing a
Yahoo! Group
You land in the Files window or the Photos window. If files or photos are
stored in folders, the window displays several folder names. Click the
folder where you want to post the file or photo.
314
Sending Files and Photos to a Group
Figure 5-6:
Posting a
file to a
group.
3. Click the Browse button, and in the Choose File dialog box, locate
your file or photo, select it, and click the Open button.
4. Enter a few descriptive words in the Description text box.
The words you enter appear under the file’s name in the Files window, or
under the photo’s filename in the Photos window.
If you are in the Photos window, you can upload more than one photo at
a time by entering more filenames.
5. Click the Upload File button or the Upload button.
Your file or photos aren’t posted right away. It takes a moment for the
Yahoo! computers to swallow and digest them.
Conducting a poll
Polls can be a lot of fun. Poll a group for practical reasons — to find out the best day to hold a
meeting or the best place to eat lunch. Or poll a
group to find out which song it likes best or
what its favorite movie is. To conduct a poll,
click the Polls link on the group page. Then, in
the Polls window, click the Create a Poll link. In
the Create Poll window, enter the question,
enter the answer choices, and choose when
the poll concludes.
To see the results of your poll, click the Polls
link and, in the Polls window, click the name of
your poll.
Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group
315
If you posted a file or photo to the wrong folder, don’t despair. Click the Cut
link next to the file or photo to move it to the Clipboard. Then open the
folder where you want the file or photo to be and click the Paste link.
Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group
So you scoured the Yahoo! groups but couldn’t find one devoted to the topic
that warms your heart or excites your intellect. You have but one recourse —
create a group of your own. The rest of this chapter explains how to do that.
You discover how to create a group, control who can join, and review or delete
messages as they are posted. You also find out how to remove members and
confer moderator status on a member. I hope your Yahoo! group attracts
many, many groupies.
Before you begin . . .
Before you create a Yahoo! group, find a good hammock to lie in and ponder
these matters:
✦ Is there already a Yahoo! group for the topic you want to cover? As I
write this, 70 Yahoo! groups are devoted to the actor Tom Cruise. Do we
need another group for the diminutive superstar? Search the groups
thoroughly to find out whether someone beat you to it (see “Finding a
group,” earlier in this chapter).
✦ Which category does the group belong in? When you create your group,
you are asked to select a category to place it in. Rummage around the
Yahoo! categories until you find the ideal category for your group. Find
the category that people who are searching for a group like yours will
look in first.
✦ What is the name of your group? Choose a descriptive name. You want
people to know what your group is about as soon as they read its name.
After you create your group, you get the opportunity to decide whether it is
public or private, whether posts made to the group need your approval, and
other such-like stuff. I explain it all later in this chapter.
Yahoo! seems to want everyone to start a group. Right there at the top of the
Yahoo! Groups page (refer to Figure 5-2) is the Start a New Group link. Click
that link to get going.
Starting a group is a three-step process. Sign in to Yahoo! under the profile
and e-mail address that you want to use to manage your Yahoo! group after
you create it. Then click the Start a New Group link and take Step 1, Step 2,
and Step 3.
Joining, Starting,
and Managing a
Yahoo! Group
Starting a Yahoo! group
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Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group
Step 1 of 3: Select a Yahoo! Groups category
Select the category that you want your group to be in. To select the category, use the same techniques for searching that you use to look for a
group starting from the Yahoo! Groups page (see “Finding a group” and
Figure 5-2, earlier in this chapter). Either enter search terms in the text box
or search by selecting categories and subcategories.
When you arrive at the category you want from your group, click the Place
My Group in Category Name link. You can find this link to the right of the
category name.
Step 2 of 3: Describe your group
On the next page, describe your group:
✦ Group Name: Enter a name for your group. As shown in Figure 5-7, the
name you choose appears at the top of the group page.
✦ Enter Your Group Email Address: Choose an e-mail address for your
group. Members can send e-mail to all members of your group by sending
a message to the address you enter. The address appears at the bottom
of your group page.
✦ Describe Your Group: Enter a concise description of your group. The
words you enter appear on your group page, as shown in Figure 5-7. Tell
what your group is about and why it is worth joining. Remember: This is
your best chance to attract the kind of members who will contribute to
the group and make it a lively community.
✦ Write and spell-check the description in a word-processing program.
Then copy and paste your description into the Describe Your Group text
box (on the Yahoo! page, right-click and choose Paste). This way, you
can comfortably write and proofread your description.
Click the Continue button to move on to Step 3.
Figure 5-7:
The group
page for the
Rosenda
Monteros
group.
Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group
317
The owner of the group
The person who creates and manages a
Yahoo! group is called the owner. Only the
owner can customize the group, decide who
can join, delete e-mail messages, and designate someone else to be a moderator, a person
who can take over some of the owner’s
responsibilities.
If you are the owner of a group, a blue star
appears beside the group’s name in the My
Groups section on the Yahoo! Groups page. On
the group page itself, meanwhile, the owner
sees three extra links on the left side that members don’t see:
Management: Click this link to customize
and manage your group. See “Customizing
and managing a group.”
On the group page, the Messages, Files, Photos,
and Members links along the left side work a bit
differently if you are the owner. When you click
one of these links, you see messages, files,
photos, or a membership list, but you also see
tools for removing messages, files, photos, and
members. You’re the owner! You’re the boss!
Promote: Click this link to get and copy
HTML code that you can use to place invitations to join the group on a Web page.
Invite: Click this link to send e-mail invitations to friends, family, and coworkers,
inviting them to join the group.
Step 3 of 3: Select your Yahoo! profile and e-mail address
Finally, a wee bit of housekeeping:
✦ Email Address: Choose the e-mail address where you want to receive
messages that are sent to you from members of the group. For example,
requests to join your group are sent to this address.
✦ Yahoo! Profile: If you have more than one Yahoo! profile, choose the one
for which you want to be known to members of the group.
Click the Continue button to go to the Congratulations window, where you
see your group’s name, the address of its home page, and its e-mail address.
Yahoo! removes spaces from names, so if your group’s name comprises two
or more words, the words are run together (refer to Figure 5-7). Don’t worry
about it. On your group page, the name isn’t run together. The run-together
name is just the official name.
Joining, Starting,
and Managing a
Yahoo! Group
✦ Word Verification: You know the drill. Enter the combination of letters
and numbers in the text box.
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Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group
Try right-clicking the Group Home Page address and choosing Open in New
Window on the pop-up menu. Doing so opens your Yahoo! group page in
your Web browser. How do you like your group page? If you want to customize it, read on.
Customizing and managing a group
To start with, each group is a public group that’s open to anybody. Replies to
messages are posted to the group without being reviewed first. But you can
change these and other settings by customizing the group.
Yahoo! gives you the chance to customize a group right after you create it.
By clicking the Customize Group button in the Congratulations window, you
can open a so-called Customize Wizard and answer a bunch of survey questions about your group. Go ahead and take the wizard survey if you want.
Whatever you do with the wizard, however, you can always customize and
refine your group by going to the Management window shown in Figure 5-8.
Figure 5-8:
Start at the
Management
window to
customize
and manage
a group.
The Management window is your starting point for customizing and managing a group. Click a link in this window to handle members, messages, and
the appearance of the group page. Follow these initial steps to customize or
manage your group:
1. Sign in to Yahoo! under the name and profile you use to manage your
Yahoo! group.
2. Go to the Yahoo! Groups page at http://groups.yahoo.com.
3. In the My Groups section, click the name of the group you own.
A blue star appears beside its name. After you click the name, you go to
the group page.
Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group
319
4. Click the Management link on the left side of the page (refer to Figure 5-8).
You’re there! You’ve arrived at the Management window and you’re
ready to go.
Deciding how members may join the group
In the Management window, click the Membership link (the link in the Group
Settings section, not the Memberships link in the Group Activity section) to
decide how people can join your group. You see the Group Settings window.
Click Edit link in this window to change the membership rules and the e-mail
message that is sent to members when they join.
Be careful, because the Membership Type and Email Display settings cannot
be changed after you make the initial selection:
✦ Membership Type: Choose Open to permit anyone to join or Restricted
to require members to get your approval. Choose the Closed option if
you want only people you invite to be able to join the group.
✦ Email Address Display: With this option, you permit members to hide
their e-mail addresses from other group members. Members can’t bypass
the group and send e-mail to one another.
Changing the group settings and page appearance
Click the Description and Appearance link in the Management window (refer
to Figure 5-8) to change the group settings and appearance of your page. You
land in the Group Settings window. By clicking an Edit link in this window,
you can change the group’s Web address, its description, its category, and
the description that you wrote when you created the Yahoo! group.
You can also change the colors of the page and place a photograph on the
page. To decorate your page with a photo, click the Edit link next to the
word Photo in the lower-right corner of the window and, in the Change
Picture For window, either click the Browse button and choose a photo file
or enter a link to a photo on the Internet.
“Web tools” refers to the ability to post photos and files to your group, as
well as view profiles and chat. Click the Web Tools link in the Management
window (refer to Figure 5-8) to decide which tools members get.
Joining, Starting,
and Managing a
Yahoo! Group
Giving members access to Web tools
Book IV
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320
Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group
Admitting new members
If you opted to make prospective members get your approval before they
can join your group, you are alerted when someone wants to join in three
different ways:
✦ On your group page: The top of your group page reads “Pending members require your attention. Activity pending for 14 days will be automatically rejected.” Click the Members link in this notice to go to the Pending
tab of the Pending Members page. You can also click the Members link in
the Pending Activity section on the right side of the page, or the Pending
link in the Members section on the left side.
✦ In the Management window: In the Pending Tasks section (refer to
Figure 5-8), click the Pending link next to the word Members to go to the
Pending tab of the Pending Members page.
✦ In your Yahoo! mail account: An APPROVE message appears in the
Inbox. To allow the person to join, simply reply to the message. To
decline, forward the message as you are instructed to do in the body
of the e-mail.
Figure 5-9 shows part of the Pending tab of the Pending Members page. To
admit a new member or reject someone’s application for membership, open
the Action drop-down menu, choose Approve or Deny, and click the Save
Changes button.
Figure 5-9:
Approving
or denying
a membership.
Accepting and rejecting messages
If your group is moderated, you must approve each message before it gets
posted. Yahoo! lets you know when messages need your review in three
ways:
Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group
321
✦ On your group page: The top of your group page reads “Pending messages require your attention.” Click the Messages link to go to the
Pending page. You can also click the Pending link in the Messages section on the left side of the page or the Messages link in the Pending
Activity section on the right side to go to the Pending page.
✦ In the Management window: In the Pending Tasks section (refer to
Figure 5-8), click the Pending link next to the word Messages to go to
Pending window.
✦ In your Yahoo! mail account: A MODERATE message appears in your
Inbox. To allow the person to join, simply reply to the message. To
decline, forward the message as you are so instructed in the e-mail.
To accept or reject a message in the Pending window, open the drop-down
menu next to the message and choose Approve or Delete. Then click the
Save Changes button. You can also click the Edit button to edit the message
before you approve it. You might — ahem! — use this opportunity to repair
the poster’s grammatical or spelling errors.
Dealing with trusted or troublesome
group members
1. Click the Members link on the group page.
You see the Members window. It lists each
member of your group.
2. Click the Edit button beside the member’s
name.
The Edit Member window appears.
3. Scroll to Posting Messages and click the
Edit link.
You come to the Edit Message Posting
Privileges window.
4. In the Override Your Group Posting Setting
section, select the option that describes
how you want messages from this poster
to be treated automatically.
Select the Messages Posted by This
Member Are Not Moderated option button
to accept messages automatically or select
the Messages Posted by This Member Are
Moderated option button to review messages before they are posted.
5. Click the Save Changes button.
Book IV
Chapter 5
Joining, Starting,
and Managing a
Yahoo! Group
To save yourself the trouble of accepting or
rejecting messages from a trusted or troublesome member of your group, you can accept or
reject the poster’s messages automatically
regardless of whether your group is moderated
or unmoderated. In a moderated group, you can
accept the poster’s messages without having
to review them. In an unmoderated group, you
can review messages from a troublesome
poster so that they aren’t posted without your
approval. Follow these steps to override the
message-moderation settings for a member of
your group:
322
Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group
To switch from having a moderated group to having an unmoderated group or
vice versa, go to the Management window (refer to Figure 5-8) and click the
Messages link in the Group Settings section. In the Group Settings window,
scroll to Posting and Archives, and click the Edit link. In the Moderation section in the following window, select the Unmoderated or Moderated option
button. Then click the Save Changes button.
Removing messages, files, and photos
Suppose someone posts an unpleasant or off-topic message, a file that has
no business being offered by your group, or an offensive photo? Here’s what
you can do about it:
✦ Removing a message: On the group page (not in the Management
window), click the Messages link (you can find it on the left side of the
page right below the Home link). You see a list of messages posted to
your group. Find the message that needs deleting, select its check box,
and click the Delete button.
✦ Removing a file: On the group page (not in the Management window),
click the Files link to go to the Files window. Click the Delete link next to
the name of the file you want to delete.
✦ Removing a photo: Click the Photos link on the group page. You land in
the Photos window. Select the photo that you want to remove and click
the Delete button.
Each Yahoo! group is allotted about 20MB for files and photos. The upperright corner of the Files window tells you how much space remains in your
allotment: “250 Kb used of 20480 Kb total.” As you approach the 20480KB
allotment, you may have to delete some files and photos.
To prevent a member from uploading files, click the Members link on the
group page and, in the Members window, click the Edit button beside the
member’s name. You go to the Edit Member window. Select the Disallow This
Member from Uploading Files check box and then click the Save Changes
button.
Handling the membership
Occasionally it is necessary to make a member stand in the corner, or, quite
the opposite, award a member with moderator status. Moderators have
almost all the rights and responsibilities of owners. Make a trusted member
of your group a moderator, and the work of managing your group gets a little
easier.
Starting and Managing a Yahoo! Group
323
To remove a member, ban someone from your group, or make a member into
a moderator, start in the group page and click the Members link. You can
find this link on the left side of the page. You come to the Members window
shown in Figure 5-10. Get to work:
✦ Removing a member: Find the member, select his or her Remove check
box, and click the Save Changes button.
✦ Banning a member: Get the e-mail address of the person you want to
ban. Then click the Ban Members link and, in the Ban Members window,
enter the e-mail address and click the Ban Members button.
✦ Making a member into a moderator: Click the Edit button to go the Edit
Member window. Then click the Change to Moderator link. In the Make
Moderator window, select Moderator Privileges check boxes to confer
rights and responsibilities on the moderator, and click the Make a
Moderator button.
Figure 5-10:
The
Members
window
lists each
member of
the group.
A yellow star appears beside the names of moderators in the Members
window. To turn a moderator back into a mere member, go to the Members
window (refer to Figure 5-10), click the Edit button next to the moderator’s
name, and in the Edit Moderator window, click the Change to Member link.
Book IV
Chapter 5
Joining, Starting,
and Managing a
Yahoo! Group
324
Book IV: Quick Communicating
Chapter 6: Chatting Online
In This Chapter
Finding out what online chats are
Safeguarding your privacy
Looking at private, Web-based chat services
Chatting on the IRC with mIRC
C
hatting is to the Internet what Elvis is to rock-and-roll. Before Web sites,
online auctions, MP3 files, instant messaging, blogs, and social networking, there was online chatting. Chatting made the Internet famous.
Along about 1995, it was the thing to do. You could converse with people on
the other side of the world, make exotic new friends, confess your darkest
sins to sympathetic strangers, or pretend to be something you weren’t with
people who didn’t mind at all because they, too, were pretending. In the
1990s, America Online became the biggest Internet service provider because
its “anything goes” chat-room policy attracted millions of customers.
Chatting is not the popular activity it used to be, but thousands of people
still engage in chats. Interestingly, chat rooms have become a preferred
hangout for people who live in countries where free speech is banned or
suppressed. Because you can be anonymous in a chat room (indeed, you
should be anonymous for privacy’s sake), people can discuss politics without fear of reprisal.
This short chapter looks at everything you need to know to chat on the
Internet. It describes online chats, takes you into a chat room, and explains
how to safeguard your privacy as you chat. It also shows how to use mIRC,
which is special software for chatting.
Introducing Online Chats
Chatting takes place in a chat room, a locale in cyberspace where people
meet and greet each other anonymously in real time. Each chat room is supposed to be devoted to one topic. Figure 6-1 shows a typical chat room, this
one devoted to Cultures and Community at Yahoo! Chat (http://chat.
yahoo.com). Chatters’ nicknames — the pseudonyms under which they talk
326
Introducing Online Chats
to one another — are listed on the right side of the chat window. By doubleclicking a nickname on the list, you can open a smaller chat window and
engage in a private chat, a conversation of two, as shown at the bottom of
Figure 6-1.
Most chat services and programs allow private chatting. Unfortunately, they
also permit chatters to use different fonts and emoticons — smiley faces and
so on — not to mention foul language. The result isn’t as much a conversation as a chaotic mish-mash of words. In my experience, meaningful chats
take place privately between people who have met each other in the main
chat window.
Chat services fall in two categories — IRC and private, Web-based chat services. IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat. IRC is an Internet chat network by
which people who have joined different channels — the IRC word for “chat
rooms” — can type messages to one another. Think of IRC as an Internet for
chatters. Some Web-based chat services, namely MSN and America Online,
allow their members to chat on IRC channels.
Advances in software have made it much easier to maintain a chat room.
Consequently, every Tom, Dick, and Harry can put one on a Web site. Even a
modest Web site without many amenities may have a chat room these days.
Figure 6-1:
A typical
chat
window.
Chatting on IRC
327
Finding Out the Rules of the Road
To protect your privacy and safeguard your identity as you chat, here are
the rules of the road where chatting is concerned:
✦ Don’t give out personal information in a chat room. Your name, phone
number, the school you attend, your place of work — guard them carefully. I don’t mean to be a paranoid, but stalkers have tracked people
down with information they got in chat rooms.
✦ Be civil. This rule is abused quite often in chat rooms, but try your best.
✦ Warn your children if they visit chat rooms that many chatters are not
who they claim to be. Somebody who they think is a kid like they are
could well be an adult.
Private, Web-Based Chat Services
As I explained earlier, private Web-based chat rooms are so numerous it
would be impossible to catalog them. Table 6-1 lists the addresses of major
online services that offer chatting. To use these services, you have to have
an account. To chat on MSN, you can use your .NET passport (Appendix B
explains what that is).
Table 6-1
Chatting at the Major Online Services
Service
Address
America Online
(Click the People link on AOL home page.)
MSN Chat
http://groups.msn.com/people
Yahoo! Chat
http://chat.yahoo.com
Chatting on IRC
Figure 6-2 shows a rather odd-looking program called mIRC for engaging in
IRC chats. You can download this program for free from Cnet (www.cnet.
com), TUCOWS (www.tucows.com), or the office home page of mIRC
Book IV
Chapter 6
Chatting Online
Raidersoft offers a special search engine for searching for chat rooms. Run
the search engine starting at this address: http://chat.raidersoft.com/
index.pl. While you’re there, check out the top-25 list of the most popular
Web sites with chat rooms. Raidersoft ranks these Web sites each week
according to how many hits they’ve received.
328
Chatting on IRC
(www.mirc.com). Mac users can use Ircle, the Mac equivalent of mIRC. mIRC?
Ircle? Why the strange names? Did these programs originate on Mars?
Server name
Open channels
Private chat
Figure 6-2:
Chatting in
mIRC, the
IRC chat
program.
When you start mIRC, you see the mIRC Options dialog box. Click the
Connect to Server button to find a server that can connect you to IRC. You
see the mIRC Favorites dialog box with a list of channels you can go to. If you
know the name of a channel you want to visit, enter its name and click the
Join button. Just close the dialog box if you don’t have a channel to visit. I
show you how to visit a channel shortly.
Finding and bookmarking channels
You can open as many chat windows as your sanity allows. Here are instructions for finding, opening, and bookmarking channels with mIRC:
✦ Connecting to a server: If your server connection fails or your initial
attempt to connect to a server doesn’t work out, choose File➪Select
Server (or press Alt+E) to open the Servers category of the mIRC Options
dialog box. Then select a server from the IRC Server drop-down menu
and click the Connect to Server button.
Chatting on IRC
329
✦ Finding and entering a new channel (a chat room): Choose
Tools➪Channels List and click the Get List button in the mIRC Channels
List dialog box. You see the Channels dialog box. Scroll through the
very long list of channels until you find one that interests you. Then
right-click the name and choose Join Channel on the shortcut menu.
✦ Going from channel to channel: An icon along the top of the window
appears for each channel that is open (refer to Figure 6-2). To go from
open channel to open channel, click these icons.
✦ Bookmarking a channel: To bookmark a channel so that you can visit it
again, choose Favorites➪Add to Favorites and click the OK button in the
Add Channel dialog box. Bookmark a channel if there is even a remote
possibility you will visit it again.
✦ Visiting a channel you bookmarked: Open the Favorites menu and click
the name of a channel you bookmarked. (Click the More option at the
bottom of the menu and double-click the channel in the mIRC Favorites
dialog box if the channel isn’t on the list.)
✦ Revisiting a channel: Choose Favorites➪Recent Channels and select a
channel name on the submenu to revisit a channel you recently visited.
✦ Leaving a channel: Click the channel’s Close button.
Starting your own channel
Believe it or not, you can start your own channel. The channel will last until the moment you
shut it down. After you start your channel, you
can invite others to come and join you there.
To start a channel, type the following in the text
box of a channel you are currently visiting and
press Enter:
/JOIN #yourchannelname
Make sure yourchannelname is an original
name that no one else is using for his or her
channel. Be sure to begin your name with a
number sign (#) and put a space between the
word JOIN and the name. The name cannot
include blank spaces.
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Chatting Online
330
Chatting on IRC
Engaging in a chat
Here are the rules of engagement for chatting:
✦ Chatting: Enter your words in the text box and press Enter (refer to
Figure 6-2).
✦ Starting a private chat: On the right side of the window, double-click
the name of the person you want to chat with privately. A new window
opens so that you can start chatting. Meanwhile, a private window icon
appears to let you know that a private chat window is open (refer to
Figure 6-2).
✦ Being invited to a private chat: Along the top of the window, you see the
private chat icon blinking on and off, as well as the name of the person
who wants to chat with you. Click the icon to open a private chat window.
✦ Changing your nickname: Choose Commands➪Change Nick and enter a
name in the Input Request dialog box.
✦ Ignoring a chatter: Choose Commands➪Ignore User and enter the chatter’s nickname in the Input Request dialog box.
For a complete list of IRC commands, go to this address: www.mirc.com/
cmds.html. You can get help with IRC at the IRChelp.org Internet Relay Chat
(IRC) Help Archive at this address: www.irchelp.org.
Chapter 7: Free Web Sites
at Yahoo! GeoCities
In This Chapter
Comparing free Web-hosting services
Tips for designing Web pages and Web sites
Creating a Web site
Building your site in the Web Site Accounts window
Using PageBuilder to construct a Web site
Managing the files on your Web site
Submitting a Web site to search engines
T
his chapter is devoted to the idea that everyone should have a Web site
and that you can put a Web site on the Internet without paying a nickel.
Why does everyone need a Web site? For the sake of convenience, if nothing
else. Posting notices and announcements on a Web page and directing
people to the Web page is easier than sending notices by e-mail and definitely easier than sending them by snail mail. I keep my résumé on a Web
page at Yahoo! GeoCities, a free Web-hosting service. When someone asks to
see my résumé, I direct them to my Yahoo! GeoCities Web page. All I have to
do is put the address of the Web page in an e-mail message. All the recipient
of the e-mail has to do is click the address, a hyperlink, to go straight to my
Web page and read my résumé. I don’t have to squeeze my résumé into the
body of an e-mail message or, if I send it as a file attachment, hope that the
recipient can open it and read it. Having my résumé on a Web page is convenient for everybody.
This chapter compares the different free Web-hosting services. It gives you
guidelines for designing a Web site and tells you how to build a Web site at
Yahoo! GeoCities with PageWizards, the PageBuilder, and other Web-site–
building tools. Finally, you get advice for submitting your Web site to search
engines to increase its chances of being found on Internet searches.
332
Deciding on a Free Web-Hosting Service
To create a Web site at Yahoo! GeoCities and host it for free, you need a
Yahoo! account. Appendix A explains how to get one and how to sign in to
Yahoo!
Deciding on a Free Web-Hosting Service
Web hosting is not what a spider does to a fly. Web hosting means to make
disk space for a Web site available on a Web server, a computer connected
to the Internet where Web pages are stored. To view a Web page in your
browser, you download it from a Web server to your computer. A Web-hosting service is a company that rents disk space on its Web servers to people
so that they can present their Web pages on the Internet.
It used to be that you always had to pay for Web-hosting services. Most
people still pay. The cost of renting space on a Web server runs from $12 to
many hundreds of dollars per month, depending on how big your Web site
is and how much server space it requires. You can, however, get free Webhosting services if you are willing to put up with advertisements on your
Web site.
Figure 7-1 shows a Web page hosted by Yahoo! GeoCities, a free Web-hosting
service. Notice the advertisement. Free Web-hosting services earn their keep
with ads like this, pop-up ads, and pop-up windows. By the way, if you look
closely, you can see that the ad is for Abebooks.com. The ad software
detected the word Abe on the Web page and immediately inserted an ad for
Abebooks.com, thinking that Abe is a bookseller and not an American president. Don’t let anyone tell you computers are smart.
Figure 7-1:
Nothing is
free or
adless —
an
advertisement on a
GeoCities
Web page.
Deciding on a Free Web-Hosting Service
333
In Yahoo! GeoCities, advertisements like the one in Figure 7-1 appear on every
Web page, and they can be very annoying. Some people shy away from Web
pages hosted by the free services because they can’t bear the advertisements.
Before you can read the Web page shown in Figure 7-1, you have to click the
Close button on the advertisement to make it go away. Having to close advertisements like this is tiresome. If the purpose of your Web site is to report on
matters of consequence, promote a business, or engage in a serious scholarly
endeavor, or if you want splashy stuff like animations that the free services
can’t accommodate, you are better off paying a Web-hosting service to handle
your Web site. But if all you want to do is post an announcement or simply tell
the world about yourself in a fun kind of way, you may as well do it for free.
Table 7-1 describes the most popular free Web-hosting services. I chose these
services from among the 300 that offer free Web hosting because they are
known to be reliable and they provide tools for building Web sites. As you
choose a free Web-hosting service, take these matters into consideration:
✦ Reliability: Because they rely on income from advertisers, free Webhosting services come and go. Make sure that the service you choose
has been in business for a few years and is reliable.
✦ Web-site-building tools: If you are not adept with FrontPage,
Dreamweaver, or another software program for constructing Web pages
and Web sites, choose a service that offers Web-site-building tools. Some
services offer special tools for constructing blogs, online forums, and
other fancy stuff. These tools are usually designed for novices and are
easy to use.
✦ Disk space: How much space on the Web server are you allotted? If you
plan to create many Web pages or offer files for downloading, you need
more space than you need if you just want to post a Web page or two.
✦ Bandwidth: This term refers to how fast data is transmitted on a given
path or medium, in this case, how fast data is sent from the Web server.
Bandwidth is expressed in bits per second (bps). No one likes a slow
server. If you can, find out what a service’s bandwidth is. A fast rate is
75 Mbps (megabits per second) or higher.
✦ File size limit: Some services place a limit on the size of files you can
place on their server. File size is an issue if you plan to offer music files
or video files for downloading on your Web site.
Free Web Sites at
Yahoo! GeoCities
✦ Data transfer rate: For measuring Web-server use, the data transfer rate
describes how much data, in gigabytes, a Web server transfers in a
month. Some Web-hosting services place a limit on how much data can
be transferred monthly; others charge fees or charge more if the rate
climbs above a certain amount. The data transfer rate is a function of
the bandwidth, because a narrow, or slow, bandwidth can’t transfer data
as quickly. A good data transfer rate is 3GB or higher per month.
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Deciding on a Free Web-Hosting Service
Table 7-1
Popular Free Web-Hosting Services
Service
Description
Web Address
Angelfire
Free server space as well as
tools for building Web sites. Offers
a “blog builder” especially for
creating blogs.
http://angelfire.
lycos.com
AOL
For America Online subscribers,
free home pages and online
journals. Offers many templates
as well as tools for creating blogs.
http://hometown.aol.com
Bravenet
Free service space and many
Web-site-building tools. Offers
tools for building chat rooms and
hit counters.
www.bravenet.com
FortuneCity
Free server space, domain names,
and e-mail services.
www.fortunecity.com
Freeservers
Free server space, e-mail services,
Web-site-building tools, and FTP
access.
www.freeservers.com
FreeWebs
Free server space and tools for
building Web sites.
http://members.
freewebs.com
Netfirms
Free server space and Web-site
templates.
http://www.netfirms.com
Tripod
Free server space and Web-sitebuilding tools, including one for
making blogs.
www.tripod.lycos.com
Yahoo!
GeoCities
Free server space and tools for
building Web sites.
http://geocities.
yahoo.com
Free Web Hosting, a Web site, keeps an index of 800 or more free Web-hosting
services. You can search for services based on how much free space they
offer, whether they offer site-building tools, and other criteria. Free Web
Hosting is located at this address: www.free-webhosts.com.
I prefer Yahoo! GeoCities for free Web hosting. As the oldest free service, it is
certainly reliable. The service is ten years old (ancient by Internet standards).
It has been owned and operated — not to mention refined — by Yahoo! since
1999, when Yahoo! bought it for a mere $4.7 billion. What especially appeals
to me about Yahoo! GeoCities is the Web-site-building tools that the service
offers. These impressive tools are the subject of most of this chapter.
A Few Design Considerations
335
Yahoo! GeoCities and other free Web-hosting services present a serious
drawback in regard to spider-style search engines such as Google. These
search engines continuously troll the Internet, mapping and indexing Web
sites (Book II, Chapter 3 describes what spider-style search engines are).
The information that these search engines collect is put in a database.
When you search the Internet starting at Google, for example, you are really
searching a database with detailed information about many different Web
pages. However, Google and other spider-style search engines don’t troll
Web sites that are hosted at GeoCities and other free hosting sites. Your
GeoCities Web site won’t turn up in Google searches unless you submit your
Web site to Google and other spider-style search engines on your own. Later
in this chapter, “Submitting Your Web Site to Search Engines” explains how
to do that.
A Few Design Considerations
The following pages are devoted to what Web pages should look like. It
explains how to make Web pages that others will admire. By heeding this
advice, you can create Web pages that are useful, pleasant to look at, and
easy to read.
Ask yourself, “Who’s my audience?”
The cardinal rule for developing Web sites is to always remember who your
audience is. Obviously, a Web site whose purpose is to publicize an amusement park needs to be livelier than a Web site whose purpose is more solemn,
say, to post students’ final examination scores. Likewise, a Web site that posts
pictures of a newborn baby should be brighter and more colorful than one
that promotes a funeral parlor.
More so than “Who’s my audience?” a better question to ask may be, “Why
exactly am I developing this Web site?” You are doing the hard work of creating a Web site for a good reason. Ask yourself what that reason is and then
think of compelling ways to present the topic so that others become as passionate about it as you are.
If you opened a magazine at a newsstand and discovered that the text on
each page had a different font, each page was laid out differently, and each
page was a different size, you wouldn’t buy the magazine. The same goes for
Web sites. A Web site that isn’t consistent from page to page gives a bad
impression. Visitors will conclude that little thought was put into the site,
and they won’t stick around.
Free Web Sites at
Yahoo! GeoCities
Be consistent from page to page
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A Few Design Considerations
To be consistent, lay out your Web pages in a similar manner. Make sure that
headings are the same size. Pages don’t have to have the same background,
but backgrounds should be similar. For example, you can use the same pattern but a different hue. Or, you can use different shades of the same color.
The point is to give visitors the impression that a lot of thought was put into
your Web site and that you care very much about its presentation.
Use the home page as an introductory
page to your site
The home page is the first page, or introductory page, of a Web site. Usually the
home page offers hyperlinks that you can click to go to other pages on the Web
site. Because visitors go to the home page first, be sure that the home page
makes a fine introduction to your Web site. The home page should include lots
of hyperlinks to the other pages on the site. It should be enticing. It should
be alluring. It should make people want to stay and explore your Web site in
its entirety. However, to make the home page serve as an introduction, you
have to do a little planning. You can sketch a diagram showing how the introductory stuff that you write on the home page is linked to the other pages on
the Web site.
Divide your Web site into distinct topics
An unwritten rule of Web-site developers is to never create a Web page that
is so long that you have to scroll far to reach the bottom. Topics on Web
pages should be presented in small, bite-sized chunks. Rather than dwell
on a topic at length, divide the topic across several pages.
What’s more, a Web site isn’t like a book or article. No one reads Web sites
from start to finish. A Web site is like a garden of forking paths in that visitors
can click hyperlinks and take different routes through a Web site. (Visitors
don’t hesitate to try different routes because they know they can always click
the Back button to return to where they came from.)
When you build your Web pages, consider using hyperlinks to take visitors
to other pages on the site, to other places on the same Web page, and to
other sites on the Internet. Use hyperlinks to give your visitors the option of
going many different places. Instead of presenting long pages that visitors
have to scroll to read, let visitors choose what to read next.
Hyperlink your site to other sites on the Internet
Most Web sites include a page called “My Favorite Links” or “Other Sites of
Interest” or just “Links.” Go to that page, and you find hyperlinks that you can
click to go other places on the Internet. Everybody knows how hard finding
Creating the Web Site
337
interesting sites is. A “My Favorite Links” page is always appreciated because
visitors can be sure that the sites on the page are worth visiting.
Including hyperlinks on your site gives you another advantage: It helps make
your site part of the Internet community. Link your site to someone else’s
and often the other person reciprocates. Pretty soon your site starts popping up on “My Favorite Links” lists. The traffic on your site increases. You
site becomes a known quantity on the Internet.
Choose page backgrounds carefully
One of the hardest design decisions you have to make concerns page backgrounds. Choose a dark background and visitors to your site have trouble
reading the text. A busy background also distracts visitors. You can, of
course, opt for white text and a dark background, but too much white text
has been known to strain the eyes. Choose the background before you make
any other design decision. That way, as you construct your Web pages, you
will be sure to decorate them with items that work well on the background.
Write the text and assemble the graphics beforehand
Before you start constructing your Web site, write the text. Rewriting and
editing text after it has been placed on a Web page isn’t easy. Open your
word processor, start typing, say exactly what you want to say on your Web
pages, correct all misspellings and grammatical errors, and save the file.
Later, you can import the text from the word-processed file to the Web page.
If you intend to use graphics or pictures, set them apart in a folder where
you can find them easily. While you’re at it, take a good look at them. Which
graphics you use can influence the design decisions you make as you construct your Web page. Make sure that you know the graphics you intend to
use intimately so that you can use them wisely and well.
Avoid using too many gizmos
Creating the Web Site
When you are done creating your Web site, Yahoo! assigns a Web address
to the home page of the site; the address consists of the domain name
Book IV
Chapter 7
Free Web Sites at
Yahoo! GeoCities
More than a few Web-site developers have ruined their efforts by loading
their sites with too many exotic gizmos. Yes, those toys are fun to play with,
and yes, they make for a nice Web site. Problem is, visitors to a site have to
wait for all those gizmos to load before they can appreciate them. Not only
that, all those gizmos can be very distracting.
338
Creating the Web Site
geocities.com followed by a forward slash (/) and your Yahoo! account ID.
For example, if your Yahoo! ID is Barney123, the address of your Web site is
http://www.geocities.com/Barney123
To create a Web site at Yahoo! GeoCities, you must have a Yahoo! account
(see Appendix A). Sign in to Yahoo! and follow these baby steps to begin creating a Yahoo! GeoCities Web site:
1. Go to the Yahoo! home page at www.yahoo.com and click the Groups
link.
You land in the Yahoo! GeoCities page. You can also get there by going
straight to this address: http://geocities.yahoo.com/home.
2. In the GeoCities Free Web Hosting section, click the Sign Up button.
3. Choose an option to describe what kind of ads should appear beside
your Web site; then click the Continue button.
Strange to say it, but choose carefully because the advertisement category you select tells visitors to your Web site a lot about who you are.
You come to the Welcome to Yahoo! GeoCities window. It lists your ID,
your Yahoo! e-mail address, and the Web address of your Yahoo!
GeoCities Web site.
4. Click the Build Your Web Site Now! link.
In case you didn’t notice, the people at Yahoo! are very fond of exclamation points. Now you’re getting somewhere. You come to the Web Site
Accounts window shown in Figure 7-2, where you can start constructing
your Web site.
Figure 7-2:
The Web
Site
accounts
window, the
starting
point for
creating and
managing a
Web site.
Building Your Site from the Web Site Accounts Window
339
Google AdSense
How would you like — well, maybe — to make
some pocket change by putting Google ads on
your Web site? You can do that by hosting
advertisements by way of Google. The program
is called Google AdSense. According to
Google, the ads that appear on your Web site
are related to what your users are looking for
on your site. Says Google, “You’ll finally have a
way to both monetize and enhance your content pages.” Monetize? Does that mean to turn
lead into gold? For information about Google
AdSense, go to this Web address: www.
google.com/adsense.
Building Your Site from the Web
Site Accounts Window
The Web Site Accounts window (refer to Figure 7-2) is the starting point for
building and managing your Web site. Go here to create new Web pages or to
work on pages you’ve already created. The window offers these amenities
for constructing a Web site:
✦ Yahoo! PageWizards: Templates you can use to create new Web pages.
See “Creating a page with a PageWizard,” later in this chapter.
✦ Yahoo! PageBuilder: A computer program for creating and refining Web
sites. The first time you attempt to use this program, it is installed on
your computer. See “Creating a page with PageBuilder,” later in this
chapter.
✦ File Manager: A utility for copying, renaming, and deleting the files
from which your Web site is made. See “Managing the Files,” later in this
chapter.
No matter where you are in Yahoo!, you can get to the Web Site Accounts
window with either of these techniques:
✦ Go to this address: http://geocities.yahoo.com/home.
As part of creating a page, Yahoo! GeoCities asks you to name it. Names are
given to Web addresses like so:
http://www.geocities.com/Your_Web_Site_Name/Page_Name.html
Free Web Sites at
Yahoo! GeoCities
✦ Click the GeoCities link on the Yahoo! home page (www.yahoo.com).
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Building Your Site from the Web Site Accounts Window
For example, a page named About_Me made for a Web site at http://www.
geocities.com/Barney123 gets this name:
http://www.geocities.com/Barney123/About_Me.html
Creating a page with a PageWizard
Creating a page with a PageWizard involves choosing a basic design and
then completing three to five steps, depending on which design you choose.
In my experience, pages created with the PageWizard are a mixed blessing.
You are spared the trouble of doing most of the layout work, but you still
have to tweak the page to make it your own. You have to move graphics, text
boxes, and other page elements around. And you have to do that without
upsetting the page design. Sometimes using a PageWizard proves more trouble than it’s worth.
Designating your home page
The home page is the first page you come to in
a Web site. By default, a GeoCities home page
is called index.html. Web browsers look for
the index.html file when they arrive at a
Web site so that they can open the home page
first. When you create a Web site, Yahoo!
GeoCities creates a placeholder home page for
you called index.html. Until you create an
index.html file of your own, you see the ugly
placeholder home page whenever you go to
your Web site from the Web Site Accounts
window or view it in a browser.
it index.html, follow these steps to give a
page you created the name index.html:
Creating a home page is one of the first tasks to
complete as you create a Web site. If you
already created a home page but forgot to name
5. Enter Index.html in the New Name text box
and click the Rename Files button.
1. Open the File Manager. To do so, click the
File Manager link in the Advanced Toolbox
section of the Web Site Accounts window.
2. In the File Manager window, click the Open
File Manager link.
3. Select the check box beside the name of
the page you want to be your home page.
4. Click the Rename button.
Building Your Site from the Web Site Accounts Window
341
To get going, click the Yahoo! PageWizards link in the Web Site Accounts
window (refer to Figure 7-2). Then choose a basic design and click the Begin
button.
As you construct your page, keep your eyes on the sample page in the Build
Your Quick Start Page dialog box, shown in Figure 7-3. The sample page plainly
shows what the choices you make mean in real terms. The numbers on the
page show which part of the page you are altering as you complete each numbered step. You can always click the Preview button to open the page in a
browser window and get a good look at it. If you don’t like what you see, click
the Back button and start all over. You are asked to do these things:
✦ Enter a page title and a description of the page.
✦ Choose a picture or photograph for the page.
✦ Enter some hyperlinks.
✦ Provide your name and e-mail address.
✦ Name your page. Don’t enter the .html file extension — the PageWizard
does it for you.
Figure 7-3:
Fashioning a
page with a
PageWizard.
Book IV
Chapter 7
PageBuilder is a computer program in its own right. To get technical about
it, PageBuilder is a Java applet, a small software program written in the Java
language that is designed to run on a Web browser. Each time you start
PageBuilder, it installs itself on your computer. Figure 7-4 shows PageBuilder
in action. To start this program, click the Yahoo! PageBuilder link in the Web
Site Accounts window (refer to Figure 7-2). Then, on the Yahoo! PageBuilder
page, click the Launch PageBuilder link.
Free Web Sites at
Yahoo! GeoCities
Creating a page with PageBuilder
342
Constructing a Web Page with PageBuilder
Figure 7-4:
PageBuilder
is a Java
applet for
constructing
Web pages.
PageBuilder offers two different ways to create a new Web page:
✦ Blank page: Click the New button or choose File➪New.
✦ Page from a template: Choose File➪New Page from Template. You see
the Open Page dialog box. Select the name of a template and click the
Open button.
Don’t forget to save and name your page. Click the Save button, enter a name
in the Save Page dialog box, and click the Save button.
Constructing a Web Page with PageBuilder
You can’t rely on Yahoo! PageWizards to do all the layout work. At some
point, you have to open PageBuilder, get your hands dirty, and do the layout
work yourself. The remainder of this chapter explains how to do that. You
find out how to choose a background color for pages, enter and format the
text, handle hyperlinks, and include pictures on Web pages.
As the previous section in this chapter explains, you start PageBuilder in
the Web Site Accounts window (refer to Figure 7-2) by clicking the Yahoo!
PageBuilder link.
As you lay out Web pages, occasionally click the Preview button or choose
File➪Page Preview to open your Web page in a browser window and see how
it will look to people who stumble upon it on the Internet.
Constructing a Web Page with PageBuilder
343
Choosing a background color or picture
Web pages should be pleasing to the eye and easy to read. To that end, your
first task in dealing with a Web page is to choose the background. Choosing
the right background for a Web page is like choosing the right clothes for a
job interview. The background sets the tone. Viewers see the background
first. It tells them what kind of Web page they are viewing — a sober Web
page with a white background, for example, or a playful Web page with a colorful background.
To choose a background color or picture for a Web page, start by choosing
Format➪Background. You see the Background Properties dialog box. Take it
from there:
✦ Choosing a color: Click the Set Background Color button, and in the
Choose Background Color dialog box, select a color.
✦ Using a picture for a background: Click the Upload button to open the
Upload Files window. Then click the Browse button and choose a picture
file from your computer in the Choose File dialog box.
Be careful about choosing blue and violet backgrounds because text hyperlinks on the page are blue and text hyperlinks that have been clicked are
violet. If you are fond of blue and violet backgrounds, you can still use them
without obscuring hyperlinks. To do so, choose new colors for hyperlinks
(see “Putting hyperlinks on your Web pages,” later in this chapter).
Entering text and headings on a Web page
To enter text on a Web page, start by entering a text boxes like the ones
shown in Figure 7-5. A text box is a holding tank for text. You can move text
boxes around the page and change their size as necessary. Providing you
followed my advice, you can paste text that you wrote earlier with a word
processor into a text box. Here are the basics of entering and laying out text
on a Web page:
✦ Entering a text box: Click the Text button or choose Insert➪Basic➪Text.
A text box appears on the Web page.
✦ Copying text from a word processor: You can’t simply copy the text in
a word processor and choose Edit➪Paste to put it in a text box, but you
can paste text by taking an extra step or two. Copy the text in your word
processor and, in PageBuilder, click the Clipboard button. This button
is the rightmost on the Formatting toolbar. You see the Text Clipboard
Free Web Sites at
Yahoo! GeoCities
✦ Typing the text: Start typing. The text box changes size to accommodate
text as you enter it.
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Constructing a Web Page with PageBuilder
dialog box. Right-click in this dialog box and choose Paste to paste the
text into the dialog box. Then click the Paste button to enter the text in
the text box.
✦ Using text effects: Select the text and click the Boldface, Italic, or
Underline button to boldface, italicize, or underline the words.
✦ Choosing a font for text: Select the text and choose a font on the Font
drop-down menu.
✦ Changing the size of text: Select the text and choose a measurement on
the Font Size drop-down menu.
✦ Choosing a color for text: Select the text, click the Text Color button,
and select a color in the Choose Text Color dialog box.
✦ Filling in a text box with color: Click the text box to select it, and then
click the Fill button. In the Choose Background Color dialog box, select a
color.
✦ Aligning the text: Click the Left Align, Center, or Right Align button to
align the text horizontally in the text box; click the Top, Middle, or
Bottom button to align text vertically. These buttons are found on the
Formatting toolbar.
✦ Changing the shape of a text box: Move the pointer over a corner or a
side of the text box, and when you see the double-arrow, start dragging.
✦ Moving a text box: Move the pointer over the text box, and when you
see the four-headed arrow, start dragging.
Figure 7-5:
Four text
boxes and a
graphic,
with the last
text box
selected.
Putting hyperlinks on your Web pages
A hyperlink is a secret passage from one place on the Internet to another.
Click a hyperlink and something new appears on-screen — a different Web
Constructing a Web Page with PageBuilder
345
page or different Web site. You can also click a hyperlink to activate an
e-mail program or start downloading a file. Hyperlinks give Web-site visitors
the opportunity to choose what they read or view next. Hyperlinks connect a
Web site to other sites and to the Internet community. They make a Web site
livelier and more inviting.
To create a hyperlink, start by selecting the thing — a word, phrase, or
picture — that will form the hyperlink. Then either click the Link button
or choose Format➪Create Link. You see the Hot Link dialog box shown in
Figure 7-6. On the Link to a Location drop-down menu, choose the target for
your link, the thing that will appear or happen when the link is clicked:
✦ Another Web site: Choose Web URL and enter the Web address of the
page you want to link to. The easiest way to do this is to copy the
address from the Address bar of your browser, right-click in the dialog
box, and choose Paste.
✦ A different page on your Web site: Choose My Page and click the Choose
button. In the Pick File dialog box, select the name of a Web page on your
site.
✦ An e-mail message window: Choose E-Mail and enter an e-mail address.
When someone clicks the link, his or her default e-mail program opens.
The message is already addressed to the e-mail address you entered.
✦ A file to download: Choose My File and click the Choose button. In the
Choose File dialog box, select the name of a file you uploaded to your
Web site. To upload a file, choose File➪Upload Files and Images. Then
choose a file on your computer in the Upload Files dialog box.
Figure 7-6:
Creating a
hyperlink.
Book IV
Chapter 7
Putting a picture or photograph on a Web page
Pictures stored on your computer, pictures on Web pages on the Internet, and
PageBuilder’s library of clip art files can all be put to use on your Web site.
What’s a Web page without a picture or two? It’s like an emperor without any
Free Web Sites at
Yahoo! GeoCities
By default, text hyperlinks are blue and links that have been clicked are
violet. To change these default colors, choose Format➪Page Properties. In
the Page Properties dialog box, click the Links or Visited Links button and
select a color in the Choose Default Hot Link Color dialog box.
346
Managing the Files
clothes. To insert a picture on a Web page, either click the Pictures button or
choose Insert➪Basics➪Pictures. You see the Select Picture dialog box. Insert
your picture:
✦ Clip art: In the Picture List box, double-click [Clip Art]. A list of categories appears in the box. Double-click a category name that intrigues
you. You see a list of pictures. Select a picture to see it in the Picture
Preview box.
✦ A picture file from your computer: Click the Upload button. You go to
the Upload Files window. Click the Browse button, select the picture file,
and click the Upload button.
✦ A picture on another Web site: Make sure that Web URL is chosen on
the Link to a Location drop-down menu. Then enter the Web address of
the picture on another Web site that you want to appear on your Web
site. To get this address, right-click the picture and choose Properties.
Then, in the Properties dialog box, look for the address. To select the
address, drag over the address in the Properties dialog box, right-click,
and choose Copy. Next, right-click and choose Paste in the Select Picture
dialog box to enter the address.
In the Screen Tip text box, enter a word or two to describe the picture. When
a visitor to your Web site moves the mouse over the picture, a pop-up box
with the words you entered will appear. Finally, click the OK button to enter
the picture.
To move a picture on a Web page, move the pointer over the picture’s perimeter, and when you see the four-headed arrow, click and start dragging. To
change a picture’s size, move the pointer over a corner or side, and when you
see the double-headed arrow, start dragging. Drag a corner to maintain the
picture’s proportions; drag a side to stretch or squeeze the picture.
Managing the Files
Use the File Manager to handle the files from which your Web site is made.
Starting from the File Manager, you can view, rename, delete, and copy Web
pages on your site, as well as edit HTML codes. To start the File Manager,
click the File Manager link in the Advanced Toolbox section of the Web Site
Accounts window and then click the Open File Manager link. Figure 7-7
shows the File Manager window.
The File Manager window lists every file on your Web site and all files that
you uploaded. To work with a file, select its check box. Then click the Copy,
Rename, or Delete button. Click the Edit button to edit the HTML codes from
which a page is constructed, if you feel competent enough to do that.
347
Submitting Your Web Site to Search Engines
Figure 7-7:
The File
Manager
window.
The bottom of the File Manager tells you how much of the 15MB of disk
space you were allotted has been used and how much remains. Keep an eye
on these numbers. If your are close to the 15MB allotment, you’d better start
deleting files from your Web site.
Submitting Your Web Site to Search Engines
Earlier in this chapter, in “Deciding on a Free Web-Hosting Service,” I
explained that spider search engines don’t search GeoCities Web sites. If
yours is a GeoCities Web site, the only way for you to get your site listed at
different search engines is to submit it yourself. Table 7-2 provides Web
addresses and e-mail addresses where you can submit your Web site to a
search engine and in so doing increase the chances of your Web site being
found in Internet searches.
Table 7-2
Submitting a Web Site to Search Engines
Book IV
Chapter 7
Web or E-Mail Address for Submission
All the Web
www.alltheweb.com/help/webmaster/
submit_site
Alta Vista
www.altavista.com/addurl/default
AOL Search
http://search.aol.com/aolcom/add.jsp
Ask Jeeves
http://ask.ineedhits.com; [email protected]
askjeeves.com
Ask Jeeves for Kids
http://web.ask.com/ContactUsKids
Education World
www.education-world.com/navigation/add_
url_form.shtml
(continued)
Free Web Sites at
Yahoo! GeoCities
Search Engine
348
Submitting Your Web Site to Search Engines
Table 7-2 (continued)
Search Engine
Web or E-Mail Address for Submission
Excite
https://secure.ah-ha.com/guaranteed_
inclusion/step1a.aspx
Google
www.google.com/addurl.html
Librarians’ Index
to the Internet
[email protected]
Open Directory Project
www.dmoz.org/add.html
Snap
www.snap.com/about/site.php
Teoma
www.seoposition.com/teoma-searchengine.html
Wisenut
http://wisenut.com/submit.html
Yahoo!
http://search.yahoo.com/info/submit.
html
Yahooligans!
http://add.yahoo.com/fast/add?+Kids
Each search engine has different rules and procedures for submitting a Web
site. Sometimes you have to register. Sometimes you have to write a descriptive paragraph about your Web site. Follow the submission rules carefully. In
your description, be sure to explain why your Web site is useful, entertaining, meaningful, or whatever our Web site happens to be. When you submit
your Web site to a directory-style search engine, the people who review your
submission will be interested in knowing how to catalog your Web site, so be
sure to suggest a category and subcategory where your Web site should be
placed (Book II, Chapter 3 explains what directory-style search engines are).
As I explain in Book II, Chapter 3, most search engines rely on other search
engines to do some of their searching. Because the majority of search
engines rely on these three to obtain their search results, you are wise to
submit your Web site to these three search engines first:
✦ Google (www.google.com): Submit your Web site to this address:
www.google.com/addurl.html
✦ Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org): Submit your Web site to this
address: www.dmoz.org/add.html
✦ Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com): Submit your Web site to this address:
http://search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html
Chapter 8: Making Friends
and Connections Online
In This Chapter
Looking at the online social-networking services
Finding new friends on the Internet
Dating online in the Yahoo! Personals
Finding long-lost friends on the Internet
T
he pioneers of the Internet thought that the Internet would bring people
closer together. They thought it would connect people in the far-flung
corners of the earth. They saw cyberspace as a meeting ground in which
people could join forces to work for the common good or, on a more prosaic
note, join forces to converge on the same Chinese restaurant.
The last couple of years have seen a resurgence of Internet activity in the
area of connecting people. Social-networking services such as Friendster have
transformed online dating and friend making. Web sites such as Meetup.com
have helped hundreds of thousands of people find others who have common
bonds and interests. This chapter looks at a handful of Web sites and services
with which you can connect with others and make new friends.
Social Networking
In case you didn’t know it yet, social networking is The Next Big Thing where
the Internet is concerned. A better name for social networking would be
“cyber-schmoozing.” Social networking means to make new friends or meet
new business associates at an online social-networking service. It doesn’t
cost anything join these services, although some charge for extras such as
e-mailing and instant messaging with other members.
Friendster (www.friendster.com), shown in Figure 8-1, was the original and
is still the most popular service. When membership in Friendster surpassed
2 million in 2003, copycats from across the software industry started salivating, meowing, and sharpening their claws. Now there are at least a dozen
social-networking services. Table 8-1 describes the most prominent ones.
350
Social Networking
Figure 8-1:
Friendster,
the original
socialnetworking
service.
Table 8-1
Social-Networking Services
Service
Description
Web Address
Everyone’s
Connected
Members keep Web logs and
www.everyonesconnected.
contribute to online newspapers
com
that friends and potential friends
can read. “You can matchmake
your friends,” the site says, “or
use Secret Match to anonymously
express an interest in someone.”
For the younger crowd. Membership is free.
Friendster
Members keep detailed profile
www.friendster.com
pages and can write testimonials
about their friends for others to
read. Friendster is the original
social-networking Web site, with
3.9 million members. “The fun and
safe way to organize your social
life,” the site says. Most members
are in their 20s and 30s.
hi5
For young people to make new
www.sona.com
friends. Members keep journals
and testimonials that others may
read. “Let your friends share their
experiences and tell everyone
what they think of you. It’s a great
way to learn about new people from
people you trust.” This is a matchmaking site for people in their 20s.
Social Networking
351
Service
Description
Knowmentum
Members make connections with www.itsnotwhatyouknow.com
other business professionals.
“Knowing these connections can
help you obtain your next job, find
that key client, start a business
relationship, and more,” the site
says. Membership is free, although
$3 to $4 per month gets you extra
services, such as finding out who
has been viewing your profile.
LinkedIn
Business professionals connect
www.linkedin.com
with one another. “LinkedIn helps
you discover inside connections
to recommended job candidates,”
the site claims. As of October 2004,
it had 1 million members. Memberships are free, although you are
charged if you receive more than a
thousand referrals each day.
Myspace
Young people make friends and
declare their interests at this site.
Profiles often include sexually
explicit information. You can
browse profiles without being
a member.
www.myspace.com
Orkut
Members create profiles and
join communities of like-minded
people. Orkut is owned and
operated by Google.
www.orkut.com
Ryze
For businesspeople, the networks
are organized around different
industries and geographical
locations. It’s called Ryze, the site
says, because “it’s about people
helping each other ‘rise up’
through quality networking.”
Includes classified ads.
www.ryze.com
Book IV
Chapter 8
Making Friends and
Connections Online
Tickle
Web Address
At this unusual matchmaking and www.emode.com
networking site, members connect
with others on the basis of their
score on various quizzes. For
example, you can take the “Who’s
your hip-hop heartthrob” quiz and
the “What kind of kisser are you?”
quiz. The site connects you to
members who score similarly to you.
(continued)
352
Social Networking
Table 8-1 (continued)
Service
Description
Web Address
Tribe.net
Members join tribes to find
www.tribe.net
like-minded people — and the
typical member, it appears,
joins many dozen tribes. The site
includes discussion boards,
job listings, and personal ads.
Membership is free, and you can
browse profiles and the entire site
without being a member. For the
alternative set.
Yafro
Members post photos of
themselves about which other
members are free to comment.
Members earn points according
to how well their photographs
are regarded. Includes sexually
explicit descriptions.
www.yafro.com
All the services are modeled after Friendster. Whichever service you join, you
can expect the same. First, you create a profile, a Web page that describes
your interests, wants, desires, obsessions, hobbies, and line of work. Then you
post photographs of yourself on your profile page. (Credit the digital camera
with the popularity of social-networking services as much as anything else.
Digital photos make it possible to see as well as read about potential friends
and business associates.)
So far, it sounds like an online dating service, but what makes Friendster and
the other social-networking services different is the way that connections
are made. Each member’s profile page lists his or her circle of friends, called
a network, as shown in Figure 8-2. Before you can talk to another member,
you have to get an introduction from somebody who is in the same network
as the person you want to talk to. For example, before Dick can talk to Jane,
he has to get an introduction from someone in his network who is also in
Jane’s network. Perhaps that person is Nan. On Nan’s profile page, Dick sees
that Jane is in Nan’s network, he studies Jane’s profile, and he wants to meet
Jane. He asks Nan for an introduction. If she agrees to vouch for Dick and
introduce him to Jane, the connection is made, and if Dick and Jane become
friends, she may join his network and he hers. In this way, each member’s
network of friends is always expanding — well, it expands if a member is
someone worth knowing.
Social Networking
353
Craigslist
A chapter about finding friends and making
connections online would be incomplete without a mention of Craigslist. Craigslist was
invented in San Francisco in 1995 by a computer programmer named Craig Newmark.
Originally, the list’s only purpose was to
announce upcoming events in the Bay Area,
but because the software that Newmark developed for posting items to his list was so easy to
use, his site soon became a place for listing
jobs, selling items, and listing apartment
rentals. Eventually, Craigslist turned into an allpurpose Web page for bartering, selling, debating, sharing rides, swapping houses, and doing
any number of things. Today, Craigslists are
found in 57 cities in the United States and 14
cities abroad. To see whether your city has a
Craigslist, go to this Web address: www.
craigslist.org/about/cities.html.
Amazingly, Craigslist to this day does not
accept advertisements. The list has maintained
its down-to-earth idealism and commitment to
helping people help themselves. Craigslist only
charges for job listings. If you want to buy tickets to sporting events at the last minute, help
your local school (click the Teacher’s Wishlists
link), hold an online garage sale, seek donations for a worthy cause, buy cheap secondhand electronics, post a personal ad, or find a
job, stop by Craigslist.
Book IV
Chapter 8
Making Friends and
Connections Online
This built-in screening mechanism in which members introduce one another
makes online connections safer and more rewarding. It’s based on an age-old
idea — that your friend’s friend is a candidate to become your friend, too,
because the two of you probably have interests in common. Friendster was
designed to be an online dating service, but its success inspired software
developers to carry the social-networking idea into the business realm.
Services such as Knowmentum and Ryze link people with common business
interests. Other services are designed to help you find new friends, not necessarily romance.
354
Finding New Friends in Your Town or City
Figure 8-2:
A network
of friends at
Friendster.
com.
If the social-networking adventure appeals to you, check out the services
listed in Table 8-1. Take a tour of the services and see what’s what. Each
service caters to a different crowd. The same precautions about safeguarding your privacy that apply to all online activity apply to social-networking
as well. Never give out personal information such as phone numbers and
addresses. Never take it for granted that the people you encounter online
are who they say they are, or are even real people. Recently, Webmasters at
Friendster removed 8,000 “Pretendsters” — people pretending to be someone else — from their service.
Finding New Friends in Your Town or City
Somewhere in the town or city in which you live are people who would like
to know you and share the same interests as you. How can you find them?
You can paint a sign listing your interests and walk the streets until someone
sees the sign and shouts, “Eureka!” Or, you can go online and take advantage
of Meetup.com or Upcoming.org to find kindred souls. Read on.
Meeting new people at Meetup.com
Meetup.com gained national attention during the 2004 presidential election
when the Howard Dean campaign made use of the service to organize neighborhood meetings on behalf of its candidate. Meetup.com has a million and a
half members. They gather at monthly “meetups” to discuss . . . you name it.
Chihuahuas. Belly dancing. Literary theory. Meetup.com is a great way to
meet people whose interests are the same as yours. Visit the Meetup.com
Web site at this address: www.meetup.com.
Finding New Friends in Your Town or City
355
After you join and log in, you see the home page shown in Figure 8-3. Starting
here, you can look for meetup groups to join or start your own meetup group:
✦ Searching for a meetup group: On the home page, click the Find a
Meetup Group button. Then search using the Topic text box or click
Topic links until you come to a Meetup Group page. Read messages on
its message board and get a sense of what the group is all about. Do you
want to join?
✦ Joining a meetup group: To join a meetup group and attend its meetings, click the Sign In Now button on the Meetup Group page. On the
Your Profile page, write a note to the group and click the Submit button.
The meetup’s organizer will send you an e-mail explaining when and
where meetups occur. Don’t be shy about replying to the organizer to
ask a question about the group.
✦ Changing your profile or memberships: To update your member profile
or leave a group you joined, click the Your Account link and get to work
on the Your Account page.
✦ Starting a group: Click the Start a Meetup Group button on the home
page. You are asked to pick a topic, name your group, and describe your
group. As the group organizer, you are responsible for scheduling the
meeting, choosing its location, welcoming members, and communicating
with members by e-mail.
Book IV
Chapter 8
Making Friends and
Connections Online
Figure 8-3:
The home
page at
Meetup.org.
356
Finding New Friends in Your Town or City
Planning nighttime adventures at Upcoming.org
Upcoming.org is for city folk who enjoy the nightlife and want to find companions who enjoy the nightlife as much as they do. Using the service, you
can find out what’s going on in the way of nightlife in the metropolitan area
in which you live, see which events other members are attending, and call
members’ attention to events you want to attend in case anyone wants to go
with you. To visit Upcoming.org and perhaps join, go to this Web address:
www.upcoming.org.
Figure 8-4 shows the home page at Upcoming.org. This is the page you see
after you log in. It lists the events you plan to attend and events your friends
plan to attend. Starting on this page, you can do all things necessary to make
your nightlife more adventurous:
✦ Choosing metro areas: Declare the metro area in which you live so that
you can find out what’s going on there and discover who from Upcoming.
org is attending. You can choose more than one metro area. To choose a
metro area, click the Metros link on the home page and select a country,
state, and finally, a city or area. Then click the Join Metro button. The
names of the metro areas you chose appear on the home page (refer to
Figure 8-4).
✦ Checking out events in your area: Click the name of a metro area on the
home page to see a list of events that other members in the metro area
added to the site. You come to the All Events page, which lists each event,
its venue, and how many Upcoming.org members are attending. Click an
event to find out when and where it occurs, and who is attending. You can
click a member name to see a member’s profile.
Figure 8-4:
The home
page at
Upcoming.
org.
Looking for Love in the Yahoo! Personals
357
✦ Adding an event to the list: To add an event to the list of events in your
metro area so that other members are alerted to its occurrence, click the
Add Event link on the home page. Then, on the Add Event page, categorize the even, tell when it will occur, give it a name, and enter its venue.
✦ Seeing what your friends are doing: Wherever you see a member name
in Upcoming.org, you can click the name to see the member’s profile.
And if you click the Add to My Friends link on the Profile page, the
person is added to your Friends list. To see which events a friend is
attending, click the Friends link and then click your friend’s name on
the My Friends page.
Looking for Love in the Yahoo! Personals
“I feel pretty strange about using the personals, because I’ve never done it
before, but here goes . . .” Many Yahoo! profiles begin this way, but why feel
strange about it? You’re not the only one looking for love on the Internet.
Anybody can browse the profiles at Yahoo! Personals, but if you want to get
in touch with someone or make yourself available, you have to submit a profile of your own. The following pages explain how to do all that.
To search for love in the Yahoo! Personals, you must have a Yahoo! account
and you must sign in to Yahoo!. Appendix A explains how to do both.
Searching for Mr. or Ms. Right
To search for Mr. or Ms. Right in the Yahoo! Personals, sign in to Yahoo! and
go to the Personals home page. To get there, either go to Yahoo! (www.yahoo.
com) and click the Personals link or go straight to the Personals home page
at this address: http://personals.yahoo.com.
On the Personals home page, conduct your search using one of these
methods:
✦ Quick search: Fill in the fields and click the Find My Match button.
✦ Keyword search: Click the Keyword Search link on the Personals home
page, and in the form that appears, enter a search term and click the
Find My Match button.
Making Friends and
Connections Online
✦ Refined search: On the Search Results page, click a link on the left side
of the page to enter more search criteria and refine your search. For
example, click the Love Style link and select a Love Style from the popup menu, as shown in Figure 8-5. Click the Update Results button to run
the search again.
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358
Looking for Love in the Yahoo! Personals
Figure 8-5:
Refining the
search.
If a search yields any results, you see a list of profiles — descriptions and, in
some cases, photos that you can read or view and ponder. Click an ad headline or the More link, and you come to the Profile Details page with detailed
information about the person. From here, you can:
✦ Save a profile: Click the Save Profile link to save a profile and be able to
view it later. To see profiles you’ve saved, click the My Saved Profiles
link on the Personals home page.
✦ Get in touch with the person: Click the Break the Ice link and send the
person a brief message. You must have created a profile of yourself to
“break the ice” (see the next section in this chapter). Unless you are a
paying subscriber to Yahoo! Personals, you can only send one icebreaker message to a person (and receive one reply). You can, however,
include your e-mail address in the icebreaker message in order to communicate, but by doing that, you leave the confines of Yahoo! Personals.
All communications after that are done by conventional e-mail outside of
Yahoo!.
Submitting a profile to Yahoo! Personals
Rather than search for love, you can try to get love to come knocking at your
door by submitting your profile to Yahoo! Personals. A profile is a self-portrait
by which others can find and learn something about you.
Starting on the Personals home page, click the Create a Free Profile link. You
come to the Create a Profile questionnaire. Fill in the required fields plus whatever personal information you want to share. You are asked to describe yourself, describe your perfect love match, write a headline and a self-description
for your ad, enter a personals name, and state whether you want people
Reuniting with Old Friends
359
rummaging through the personal ads to be able to find you. Be sure to submit
flattering photos to increase the chances of someone responding to your ad.
If someone responds to your profile
You can tell whether someone has sent to an icebreaker message because
the My Personals module on the Personals home page tells you how many
messages have been sent. Click the Mailbox link to go to the Mailbox page
and read the message.
As I mentioned earlier, you can only reply once unless you are a paid subscriber, in which case you can communicate by e-mail and instant message.
You can, however, include an e-mail address in your reply and communicate
outside the confines of Yahoo! Personals.
To be notified by e-mail when someone has responded to your profile, click
the Set Up Matches by E-mail link on the Personals home page. On the
Matches by Mail page, choose your e-mail address (if you have more than
one). From the drop-down menu, choose how often you want the messages
sent to you.
Reuniting with Old Friends
Who hasn’t searched the Internet late at night for lost loves, friends from
days gone by, and boon travel companions from long ago? The Internet is
supposed to reach into every corner of the earth to drudge up information,
so shouldn’t it be able to find long-lost friends, too?
Frank Zappa said, “High school isn’t a time or place — it’s a state of mind.” If
you care to revisit that particular state of mind, you can do it at Classmates.
com (www.classmates.com). Registering is free, and after you register, you
can look up classmates by year at the high school you attended, as shown in
Figure 8-6. You can also search the message boards, but to post messages,
send classmates e-mail, post photographs, or put up a profile, you need a Gold
account, which costs $35 per year — kind of steep in my opinion.
Making Friends and
Connections Online
I hope that somebody starts a Friends Reunited Web site for the United
States. The one in England (www.friendsreunited.com) has been a phenomenal success, with 11 million members. Old school chums, army pals,
and even ex-convicts have used the site to find one another. According to
the Web site, half the adult school population of Britain has visited Friends
Reunited, and graduates from every school in the nation use the service.
Why has it been so successful? For one thing, it’s free. And even members
who don’t opt for full membership can receive e-mails at the site. That
makes it very easy for old friends to get back in touch.
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360
Reuniting with Old Friends
Figure 8-6:
Rummaging
through
the past
darkly at
Classmates.
com.
Book II, Chapter 5 explains how to search for people by name on the
Internet. You can always search for long-lost friends that way.
Chapter 9: Using Your PC
as a Telephone
In This Chapter
Using VoIP services for telephone calling
Talking to others on your computer with Skype
A
s fast as e-mail and instant messaging are, the fastest way to communicate with someone who is not in the same room as you is by telephone.
The computer has yet to catch up with the instrument invented by Antonio
Meucci in 1889. Or has it?
This chapter looks at how to make telephone calls with the assistance of
your computer and the Internet. You can save money calling with your computer, especially if you often make long-distance calls. The Internet offers
two ways to make these calls. You can use a VoIP service or Skype, a peerto-peer data-transmission software. Both techniques are covered in this
chapter.
Unless you have a fast broadband connection, don’t even consider talking
on the telephone by computer. People with DSL service and cable modems
can talk on the telephone by computer, but if you have a dialup connection,
you’re out of luck. Book I, Chapter 2 explains the difference between broadband and dialup connections.
Calling with a VoIP Service
Some years ago, telephone companies developed the VoIP (voice over
Internet protocol) to transmit telephone calls faster over the telephone lines.
The protocol converts analog sounds to digital data. It uses the Internet’s
packet-switching capabilities to squeeze more data into the telephone lines
(Book I, Chapter 1 explains packet switching). Now a half-dozen telephone
companies offer VoIP service plans directly to homes and offices. Under
these plans, you can call anywhere in the United States and Canada for a flat
rate of $30 to $40 per month (the Lingo plan offers a flat rate as well for landline calls to Western Europe). Check out VoIP telephone services if you spend
more than $30 to $40 per month calling long-distance to the United States
and Canada. You could save money by switching to a VoIP service.
362
Calling with a VoIP Service
Table 9-1 describes the VoIP telephone service plans. Comparing the plans
can be difficult because they offer different options and vary in price.
Fortunately, all offer a trial period, so if you don’t like a plan, you can cancel
it after two weeks or a month.
Table 9-1
VoIP Telephone Service Plans*
Plan Name/
Company
Web Site
Cost per
Month
Activation/
Termination Fee
CallVantage/AT&T
www.att.com/
callvantage
$30
$30/None
Freedom Unlimited/
Packet8
www.packet8.net
$20
$30/$60
Lingo/Primus
Telecommunications
www.lingo.com
$20
$30/$40
Optimum Voice/
Cablevision
www.optimumvoice.
com
$35
None/None
Premium Unlimited/
Vonage
www.vonage.com
$25
$29/$39
VoiceWing/Verizon
www.verizon.com/
voicewing
$35
$40/$20
*Prices current as of February 2004
When you sign up to use a VoIP telephone service plan, you are given a telephone adaptor. This hardware device — it’s about the size of a wallet and is
more accurately called an analog telephone adaptor — is the intermediary
between the telephone and the computer. It turns the analog signal from the
telephone into digital data that can be sent over the Internet. As shown in
Figure 9-1, the telephone adaptor is plugged into the modem. The wire that
normally goes from the computer to the modem is instead plugged into the
telephone adaptor, and the telephone is plugged into the telephone adaptor
as well. As you speak on the telephone, the telephone adaptor renders your
voice into digital data that can be sent over the Internet.
As a marriage between the Internet and the telephone, VoIP services have
the benefits and the drawbacks of both parents. Telephone calls can be
treated like e-mail messages. You can save them, copy them, and forward
them. You can listen to your voice mail in a Web browser and open your
browser to an online list of the calls you’ve made showing how much each
call cost. You can be alerted by e-mail when someone has called you on the
telephone.
Unfortunately, most services charge for calling 411 (directory assistance).
And you never really know what will turn up on your bill when you call overseas. Charges vary greatly depending on the country you call. VoIP service
Free Telephone Calling with Skype
363
plans charge higher for calling cell phones than landline phones. Sometimes
voices lag in the telephone conversation. Don’t give up your conventional
phone service just yet if you opt for VoIP calling. See whether you like it
before you abandon the telephone as we know it today.
Phone jack
Figure 9-1:
The setup
for using
VoIP to
make
telephone
calls.
Company B
Telephone
Telephone
adaptor
DSL or
cable modem
Computer
Free Telephone Calling with Skype
Skype, a computer program for talking over the Internet, isn’t as much an
online telephone as it is an instant-messaging program that transmits sound
instead of text. To talk with Skype, both parties must be logged on to the
Skype network, just as both parties must be logged on to AOL to trade
instant messages with AOL Instant Messenger. Rather than talk on the telephone, parties speak into microphones on their computers. They hear the
other party through their computer speakers. Transmitting sound this way
over the Internet is nothing new. What makes Skype extraordinary is its
peer-to-peer technology, which makes digitized sound travel quickly over
the Internet. You can talk to someone on Skype without echoes or lag time.
Well, you can usually do that. Talking with Skype is not very different from
talking on the telephone. And talking on Skype is free, whether you’re talking
to someone next door or someone in Timbuktu. Skype is a wonderful program for talking to friends and relatives in distant places.
Using Your PC as
a Telephone
With peer-to-peer (or P2P) technology, data isn’t routed through a central
management point. Instead, every computer connected to the network transmits as well as receives data. Data traveling from computer A to computer B
can take many different routes through the network and reach its destination
that much faster. Kazaa, the notorious file-sharing program, uses peer-to-peer
technology. The technology makes it possible to transmit and download music
files quickly. The same principle applies to Skype, except you’re transmitting
voices, not music files.
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Free Telephone Calling with Skype
Downloading and configuring the software
As I mention in the previous section, both parties have to download the Skype
software and register with Skype before they can start talking. Both parties
also need a working microphone, speakers, and a sound card on their computers. Here’s how to get Skype software, register with Skype, and sign in:
✦ Downloading Skype: Go to this Web address and click the Download
Now link: www.skype.com.
✦ Registering with Skype: The first time you run Skype, you are asked for
a username and password. Remember your name well. Others will know
you and call you by the name you enter. The program also asks you to
describe yourself in a profile. Other people can find you on the network
using the information you enter. Your name is what matters most. To
change the information in your profile later, choose File➪Your Personal
Profile.
✦ Logging in to Skype: After you start Skype, click the Click Here to Log In
link on the Start tab and then enter your username and password.
Figure 9-2 shows two of the five tabs in the Skype window. Does the Skype
window look familiar? If you read Chapter 1 of this minibook about instant
messaging, you probably have a case of déjà vu right now. Skype is an
instant-messaging program. It has a Contacts list, commands for safeguarding your privacy online, and even commands for sending instant messages.
Figure 9-2:
The Skype
Start tab
(left) and
the tab for
making a
phone call
(right).
Free Telephone Calling with Skype
365
Choose File➪Log Off to close Skype. If you simply close the Skype window,
the program runs in the background and continues to receive incoming
phone calls.
Assembling a Contacts list
You can only call people whose names appear on your Contacts list. Your
first task, before you call anybody, is to enter the names of friends and family
on the Contacts list. You can do that in two ways:
✦ If you know the person’s name: Choose Tools➪Add a Contact or click
the Add a Contact button. In the Add a Contact dialog box, enter the
name under which your friend or coworker is registered in Skype, and
click the Next button. If the name is found, it is entered automatically on
your Contacts list.
✦ If you aren’t sure of the person’s name: Choose Tools➪Search for
Skype Users and click the Advanced button in the Search for Skype
Users dialog box. Enter what you know about the person and click the
Search button. If you succeed in locating the person, right-click his or
her name and choose Add to Contacts.
To remove a name from your Contacts list, click the Contacts tab, right-click
the name, and choose Remove from Contacts.
If someone wants to put your on his Contacts list, you see the Authorize This
User message box. Choose an option that describes how and whether you
want the other person to see you when you’re online, and click the OK button.
Talking on the Skype phone
How you handle the Skype phone depends on whether the call originates
with you or the other party:
✦ Calling: To make a phone call, select the Contacts tab. Then either
double-click the person’s name or select it and click the Call button.
During a call, the Skype icon blinks on and off in the Notification area by the
clock on your computer screen. To end a phone call, click the End Call button
or choose Call➪Hangup➪Caller’s Name.
Using Your PC as
a Telephone
✦ Receiving: To receive a phone call, select the tab with the name of the
person who is calling you. Then click the Call button. You’ll know when
you’re getting a call because you’ll hear a ringing noise. (If you don’t
hear the ring and you want to or if you don’t care to hear it, choose
File➪Options and, on the Call Alerts tab of the Options dialog box, select
or deselect the Play Ringtone check box.)
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Free Telephone Calling with Skype
Guarding your privacy
Here are instructions for guarding your privacy while you are running Skype:
✦ Make yourself invisible: Choose File➪Change Status➪Invisible. You can
tell which status you are operating under by glancing at the icon in the
Notification area.
✦ Control whether the program starts when you start your computer:
Choose File➪Options and, on the General tab of the Options dialog box,
select or deselect the Start Skype when I Start Windows check box.
✦ Change your profile: Choose File➪Your Personal Profile and fill in the
User Profile dialog box.
Book V
Your Personal
Finances
Contents at a Glance
Chapter 1: Searching for Financial Information ..............................................................369
Chapter 2: Monitoring and Tracking Investments ..........................................................383
Chapter 3: Banking and Paying Bills Online....................................................................393
Chapter 1: Searching for
Financial Information
In This Chapter
Discovering the basics of how to invest
Developing your investment strategy
Investigating a company you want to invest in
Getting the latest financial news
Investigating a mutual fund, stock, or bond
Choosing a broker
P
revious to the Internet, only the wizards of Wall Street had enough information at their fingertips to evaluate stocks, mutual funds, and other
investments. A tickertape told them the value of each stock. Expensive newspapers, magazines, and newsletters told them about trends, investments
worth buying, and investments worth shunning.
Nowadays, anyone with a PC can plug into the Internet and find all kinds of
information about investing. All across the Internet are Web sites that offer
investment advice and information. If you are careful and know where to
look, you can get your hands on the same information that experts use to
play the markets. You can read company prospectuses, financial newsletters, and magazines. You can visit a Web site tailor-made to provide a certain kind of information to investors. The only trouble is wading through all
the Web sites until you find the one that works well for you.
This chapter looks into how the Internet can help you start investing and
become a better investor. It demonstrates how to research a company, points
the way to financial news services on the Internet, and spells out how to
research stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.
Getting Lessons in How to Invest
Looking before you leap is always the best policy, so before you take the
leap and start investing, go on the Internet and discover what investing is all
about. Many brokers and banks are eager for you to start investing. For that
370
Devising an Investment Strategy
reason, the Internet is filled with tutorials, online classes, and courses that
you can take to learn the ropes.
Can’t decide how much of your savings to devote to investments? Don’t
know what a market index is? Check out these Web sites, which offer online
tutorials in investing:
✦ American Association of Individual Investors: Read articles about
choosing and evaluating investments. Most of the articles are free.
Address: www.aaii.com/invbas/index.shtml
✦ The Investment FAQ: Search for investor information by category,
or conduct a keyword search. This site also offers tours for beginning
investors (click the For Beginners link). Address:
http://invest-faq.com
✦ Money 101: Starting here, you can get 21 lessons in investing, with
advice about everything from investing in stocks to planning for your
retirement. Address: http://money.cnn.com/pf/101
✦ Vanguard Group: Click the Personal Investors link to attend classes at
“Vanguard University” and discover the basics of investing and retirement planning. Address: www.vanguard.com
No terminology is harder to understand than investment terminology. Do
you know what a price/earnings (P/E) ratio is? A short sell? A put? A shotput? When you get stumped by an investment term, go to the Yahoo! Finance
Glossary at http://biz.yahoo.com/f/g.
Devising an Investment Strategy
To make your money work for you, you need an investment strategy. Experts
differ about the fine points of investment strategies, but they agree on these
basic principles:
✦ Determine how much income you can devote to investing: How much
you can devote is a matter of how much you can save. Before you make
investments, you need to understand your spending habits and how
much is left after you pay for groceries, rent, and other necessities.
✦ Decide on your financial goals: Do you want to retire early? Do you
want to live luxuriously or modestly when you retire? How much income
from your investments will you need when you stop working? Your financial goals determine how much you invest and how risky your investments are.
Discovering Basic Researching Techniques
371
✦ Set aside rainy-day money: Put away as much money as you need to
live on for four months in a savings account. This way, if you lose your
job, have a medical emergency, or face another setback, you have
enough to live on without tapping into your investments.
✦ Find the right broker: Some brokers charge a commission and some an
annual fee. Some badger you with investment opportunities every week,
and others are as silent as the lambs. Later in this chapter, “Finding a
Broker” explains how to choose a broker.
✦ Decide how to monitor your investments: You can’t tell how well or
poorly your investments are doing unless you monitor them. The next
chapter looks into monitoring investments. You can track your investments online or use a software program such as Money or Quicken.
Here are some Web sites that can help you devise a financial plan:
✦ Fidelity Investments: Click the Retirement Planning link at this Web site
to go to the Retirement Resource Center, where you can find advice and
worksheets for planning your retirement. Address: www.fidelity.com
✦ Money 101: You can’t find a better simple investment tutorial than this
one offered by Money 101. Address: http://money.cnn.com/pf/101/
lessons/4
✦ Yahoo! Financial: The Planning Basics page at the Finances portion of
Yahoo! offers excellent tutorials for planning your retirement and devising an investment strategy. Address: http://planning.yahoo.com/
pb.html
You are not ready to become an investor if you are not paying your credit
card bills in full every month. Carrying a credit card balance from month to
month is the surest sign that you are not saving correctly to be an investor.
Look at it this way: Even if your investments earn 10 percent a year, the
10-percent profit is more than offset by the 16 to 21 percent in interest you
pay annually to service your credit card debt.
Discovering Basic Researching Techniques
Later in this chapter, “Researching Mutual Funds, Stocks, and Bonds on the
Internet” explains how to do specific research online. These pages explain
Book V
Chapter 1
Searching for
Financial
Information
✦ Allocate your investments wisely: On the theory that you shouldn’t put
all your eggs in one basket, many investment counselors advocate diversifying investments across many different investment types — blue-chip
stocks, high-risk stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, for example. You minimize your risks this way, because if one class of investments falters, the
others theoretically pick up the slack.
372
Discovering Basic Researching Techniques
general-purpose researching. Follow me to find out where the big, gaudy
financial portals are, how to research a company online, and why mailing
lists and newsgroups can be valuable for getting investment advice.
The big, gaudy financial portals
The Web sites described here provide information about stocks, mutual
funds, companies, markets, and nearly everything under the sun. They are
usually called portals because they offer so much information, but I call
these Web sites “big” and “gaudy” because you can get lost in them so easily.
They are useful to investors, but it takes time to know your way around
these Web sites:
✦ CBS MarketWatch: This site offer reports from global markets, investor
tools, articles, and mutual fund advice — it has everything but the
proverbial kitchen sink. Address: http://cbs.marketwatch.com
✦ Motley Fool: “The Fool,” as it is known to its admirers, offers stock
screeners, advice for buying stocks and mutual funds, articles, and a
host of other stuff, as shown in Figure 1-1. “The Motley Fool exists to
educate, amuse, and enrich the individual investor” is the Fool’s motto.
Address. www.fool.com
✦ Money Central: This is another mazelike financial portal for the
investor to get lost and occasionally find useful stuff in. Address:
http://moneycentral.msn.com
Figure 1-1:
Motley Fool,
a financial
portal.
Discovering Basic Researching Techniques
373
Researching a company online
To research a company, start by finding the company’s Web site on the
Internet. You can often make an educated guess as to the company’s Website address by typing www.companyname.com (where companyname is
the name of the company) in the Address text box of your browser, pressing
Enter, and hoping for the best. If that strategy doesn’t work, try searching for
the company’s Web site by using a search engine such as Google (see Book
II, Chapter 3 for more about searching the Web).
Next, visit one of these Web sites to track down a company’s profile:
✦ Company News On-Call: Search by company name in the PR Newswire
database for articles published in the past year. Beware, however,
because only news about large companies is available here. Address:
www.prnewswire.com/cnoc.html
✦ Hoover’s Online: This site provides profiles, revenue reports,
balance sheets, and charts on some 8,500 companies. Address:
www.hoovers.com
✦ OneSource CorpTech: The focus here is high-tech companies. The
site offers company profiles, links to news articles about companies,
and stock charts. CorpTech is very good at listing the names of
company executives. Give one a call and see what happens. Address:
www.corptech.com
✦ Public Register’s Annual Report Service: This site presents free annual
reports from over 3,600 companies. Mind you, the companies themselves provide these reports, so give them a shrewd reading. Address:
www.prars.com
✦ Silicon Valley.com: This is the place to research high-tech companies
operating out of the Silicon Valley. Address: www.sv.com
✦ U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: Publicly traded companies
are required to file financial data with the Securities and Exchange
Commission (SEC). From the SEC Web site, shown in Figure 1-2, you can
download details about a company’s operations, including financial
statements, executive pay, and other information. (Click the EDGAR
Filers link.) Address: www.sec.gov
Besides visiting the Web sites listed here, try running a conventional Internet
search for information about a company (see Book II, Chapter 3). You might
find news articles and opinions about the company that way.
Searching for
Financial
Information
Before you invest in a company, you owe it to yourself to research it. Has the
company undergone a financial setback? Has management experienced a
shakeup? What were the company’s profits or losses in the last quarter?
Book V
Chapter 1
374
Getting the Latest Financial News
Figure 1-2:
Go to the
Securities
and
Exchange
Commission
to research
companies.
Researching in mailing lists and newsgroups
Don’t underestimate mailing lists and newsgroups when it comes to researching investments, companies, and markets. A mailing list is an ongoing discussion conducted by e-mail among people in the know (Book IV, Chapter 3
explains mailing lists and how to find them on the Internet). A newsgroup is
an online bulletin board where people discuss different topics. (Book IV,
Chapter 4 explains newsgroups and how to find one on the Usenet.) When
heavily guarded financial information escapes from a company, more often
than not its point of exit is a newsgroup or mailing list.
Getting the Latest Financial News
Savvy investors stay on top of late-breaking financial news. And keeping
abreast of changes in the economy and the political climate isn’t a bad idea
either. A smart investor gets there first, before the fools rush in.
The Internet offers a daunting number of newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and news organizations that are devoted to financial news and opinions. Visit a few Web sites. Soon you will find a favorite site that focuses on
news that matters to the kind of investing you want to do.
Major news services
First, here are a few mammoth corporate Web sites. Most of these sites —
such as CNN and MSNBC — are sponsored by news services that predate
Getting the Latest Financial News
375
the Internet. You don’t find eccentric opinions here, but the news stories
are trustworthy and the financial advice is as solid (if as plain) as granite:
www.bloomberg.com
✦ CBS MarketWatch: This all-purpose site does more than offer financial
news. You can get market data, stock quotes, company portfolios, advice
for managing your personal finances, and performance charts. Address:
http://cbs.marketwatch.com
✦ CNN Money: This is the financial section of CNN’s news Web site.
You can find up-to-the-minute financial news here, as well as commentary and tools for investigating stocks and mutual funds. Address:
http://money.cnn.com
✦ MSNBC: Click the Business link to go to a Web page with business
news, stock market news, and news about e-commerce. Address:
www.msnbc.com
✦ TheStreet.com: This site offers financial news but, better yet, it includes
a nice selection of columnists. This is the place to go when you want to
sample others’ financial opinions. Address: www.thestreet.com
Financial newspapers and magazines
Perhaps financial newspapers and magazines are more to your taste. The
online editions of these popular newspapers and magazines are not as comprehensive as the ones you can buy at the newsstand. However, they can
still be very valuable:
✦ Business Week Online: This site offers news from the financial
world, as well as technology and small-business news. Address:
www.businessweek.com
✦ The Economist: The Economist, an English financial magazine, is simply
the best magazine of its kind in the world. Its cosmopolitan outlook puts
to shame some of the narrow-minded, homegrown magazines on the
news rack. Read the current issue of this magazine for its world view of
economics and business. Figure 1-3 shows the online Economist.
Address: www.economist.com
✦ FT.com: The online version of the Financial Times offers market data,
news, and analysis. Address: www.ft.com
✦ Kiplinger Online: More than a magazine, the online edition of Kiplinger’s
Personal Finance Magazine offers shopping services, advice for buying
insurance, and other valuable stuff. Of course, you also get business and
market news. Address: www.kiplinger.com
Searching for
Financial
Information
✦ Bloomberg Personal Finance: Advice for money management, news
about financial markets, and columnists can be found here. Address:
Book V
Chapter 1
376
Researching Mutual Funds, Stocks, and Bonds on the Internet
✦ Money: The online edition of Money magazine provides many news articles and expert opinions. You can also get stock quotes and company
profiles here. Address: www.money.cnn.com
✦ Wall Street Journal: The online edition of this well-regarded newspaper
also presents news summaries and insider information about American
businesses. You can also get company reports and stock quotes. You must
register to read the articles. Address: www.wallstreetjournal.com
Figure 1-3:
Reading
The
Economist
online.
Online newsletters
The Internet has made it possible for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to post a
Web page and call it an investor newsletter. Far be it from me to decide which
newsletters are worthy. Instead, you be the judge. Go to the Newsletter Access
Web site (www.newsletteraccess.com) and search for a newsletter that
whets your appetite. To conduct the search, enter a keyword or browse the
different categories.
Researching Mutual Funds, Stocks,
and Bonds on the Internet
Mutual funds and stocks are the two most popular kinds of investments. Not
coincidentally, numerous Web sites devoted to stocks and mutual funds can
be found on the Internet. From these sites, you can check the latest price of
a stock or mutual fund. You can also dig deeper to investigate or screen
Researching Mutual Funds, Stocks, and Bonds on the Internet
377
funds and stocks. In the following pages, I unscrew the inscrutable and show
you where to go on the Internet to research mutual funds, stocks, and bonds.
Book V
Chapter 1
To find out anything about a security on the Internet, you usually have to
know its ticker symbol. A ticker symbol is a one- to five-letter abbreviation
that is used for tracking the performance of stocks, mutual funds, and
bonds. You can usually find these symbols on the statements that you
receive from brokers. If you don’t know a security’s ticker symbol, go to
Yahoo Finance! (http://finance.yahoo.com) and use the search engine
there to find it (click the Symbol Lookup link).
Searching for
Financial
Information
Researching a mutual fund on the Internet
Mutual funds are the favorite of investors who want to reap the benefits of
investing without doing the legwork. A mutual fund is a company that buys
stocks, bonds, precious metals, and other securities. Investors buy shares in
the fund. If the fund managers know their stuff, the securities that the mutual
fund owns increase in value — and shares in the fund increase in value as
well. Owning shares in a mutual fund is like owning shares of stock in a company. The difference is that a share of a mutual fund represents ownership in
many different companies, as well as bonds and other securities.
Many people don’t have the time, the expertise, or the inclination to research
investment opportunities. For those people, mutual funds are ideal. You can
rely on the fund managers’ investing know-how. You can buy shares in a
mutual fund without speaking to a broker. By definition, a mutual fund is diversified because it owns shares of many different securities, so you don’t have
to worry as much about diversification when you invest in a mutual fund.
Before you start dabbling in mutual funds, you need to know how fees are
levied, about the different kinds of funds, and about the risks. After you
know that, you can start looking for a fund that meets your needs. Here are
some Web sites where you can acquire the basics of mutual-fund investing:
✦ Brill’s Mutual Funds Interactive: This is the all-purpose Web site
for mutual fund investing. Here, you can read about mutual fund
investing or search for funds by name and read about them. Address:
www.fundsinteractive.com
✦ Mutual Fund Investor’s Center: This excellent Web site, shown in Figure 1-4, offers articles about mutual-fund investing and ranks mutual
funds in various ways. You can also search for mutual funds using different criteria. Address: www.mfea.com
378
Researching Mutual Funds, Stocks, and Bonds on the Internet
Figure 1-4:
Checking
out mutual
funds at the
Mutual Fund
Investor’s
Center.
At last count, investors could choose from among 10,000 mutual funds. After
you know what you want in a mutual fund, check out these Web sites, where
you can search for a mutual fund that fits your investment strategy:
✦ Fund Alarm: “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,” advises
this unusual Web site. Instead of advising you what to buy, it tells you
when to sell your mutual funds. Address: www.fundalarm.com
✦ Morningstar.com: The granddaddy of mutual fund analysis, this site
offers reports on 7,000 mutual funds. You can get fund profiles, performance reports, financial statements, and news articles. (Click the Funds
link.) Address: www.morningstar.com
✦ SmartMoney.com: This site offers a sophisticated search engine for pinpointing mutual funds. (Click the Funds link and then click the Fund
Finder link.) Address: www.smartmoney.com
Researching stocks on the Internet
The stock market, it has been said, is 85 percent psychology and 15 percent
economics. And that’s only half the problem. The other half has to do with
its hard-to-understand terminology and the numerous confusing ways to buy
and sell stock.
If you decide to jump into the stock market on your own, more power to you.
This book cannot possibly delve into everything you need to know to invest
in the stock market, but I can point the way to a few Web sites that can help
you on the road to riches.
Researching Mutual Funds, Stocks, and Bonds on the Internet
379
Socially conscious investing
On the idea that most people object to child
labor, unsafe working conditions, pollution, and
unhealthy products, a number of mutual fund
managers have taken the lead and established
socially conscious mutual funds. These funds
do not buy into companies that practice what
the managers think is bad business or social
behavior.
To find out more about socially conscious
investing and perhaps buy shares of a socially
conscious mutual fund, check out the Co-op
America Web site (www.coopamerica.org)
and the Social Investment Forum (www.
socialinvest.org). By the way, studies
show that socially conscious mutual funds perform on average as well as other mutual funds.
To get general-purpose information about stocks and stock markets, read
stock tips, and discover stock-picking strategies, try these sites, which are
good starting places:
✦ DailyStocks: This site provides links to market indexes, news sources,
earnings figures, and newsletters. Address: www.dailystocks.com
✦ InternetNews: This site offers links to many financial resources, including brokers’ sites and government data. Address:
http://stocks.internetnews.com
When you want to hunker down and examine specific stocks, go to one of
these sites (and be sure to read “Researching a company online,” earlier in
this chapter, as well):
✦ Free Realtime: Get financial news, the latest stock quotes, and company
profiles at this Web site. Address: http://quotes.freerealtime.com
✦ MoneyCentral Investor: Look in the Stocks section and click a link to
find a stock quote, a chart, and analyst ratings. You can also screen
stocks from this Web site. Address: http://investor.msn.com
✦ PCQuote: You can enter a ticker symbol and get stock quotes and
charts. This site also presents market news, a “stock pick of the week,”
and news articles about the markets. Address: www.pcquote.com
✦ Yahoo! Finance: Enter a ticker symbol and you can get a price chart,
news articles about a stock, charts that track its performance, and links
to the company’s SEC filings. As Figure 1-5 shows, you can also compare
the performance of two different stocks. Address:
http://finance.yahoo.com
Searching for
Financial
Information
Investing is a bit like casting a vote. When you
invest in a company, you endorse its products,
its business practices, and its labor practices.
For better or worse, your investment helps
shape the world in which we live.
Book V
Chapter 1
380
Researching Mutual Funds, Stocks, and Bonds on the Internet
Figure 1-5:
Comparing
one stock
against
another at
Yahoo!
Finance.
Suppose that you want to target a stock but you don’t know what it is yet. In
other words, you believe that the future is bright for a certain industry and
you want to buy shares in companies in that industry. Or, you want to buy
a certain kind of stock — stock in a foreign corporation, a small-cap stock,
or a blue-chip stock. Searching for stocks this way is called screening. The
Reuters’ Investor Web site offers stock-screening databases that you can
search using different variables. (Look for the Reuters PowerScreener.) Its
address is www.investor.reuters.com.
Researching bonds on the Internet
A bond is really a loan that you make to a government agency or private corporation. During the life of the loan, the government agency or corporation
pays you interest, known as the coupon rate. Interest payments are usually
made twice yearly. Bonds are considered safer, less-volatile investments
than stocks and mutual funds because the amount of the bond is paid back
at the end of the loan term, known as the maturity date. Instead of owning
part of the company, which is the case with stocks, bond holders own a debt
that the company or government agency that issued the bond is obliged to
pay back.
Here are a handful of Web sites for investors who favor bonds:
✦ Bond Buyer: Go to this site to investigate municipal bonds. Address:
www.bondbuyer.com
Finding a Broker
381
✦ Bond Market Association: This Web site tells you everything you need
to know about bonds. It explains the different kinds of bonds, bond dealers, and bond indexes. Address: www.investinginbonds.com
Finding a Broker
A broker is a person or company that purchases and sells securities on your
behalf. As you choose a broker, the first question to ask is what your broker
charges in commissions and fees. Most charge a commission or flat fee for
each trade they make on your behalf. Many also charge yearly maintenance
fees. Some also charge transfer fees to move money from your investment
account to another account, such as a checking or savings account. Others
charge inactivity fees, which you incur if you don’t trade securities on a
regular basis.
Here are two Web sites that can help you select the broker who is right for
you:
✦ National Association of Securities Dealers: Click the Investor Information
link to investigate a broker. From there, you can check the background of
any licensed broker in the United States. Address: www.nasdr.com
✦ Yahoo! Finance: Get tips and articles about choosing a broker from
Yahoo!. Address: http://biz.yahoo.com/edu/ed_broker.html
Searching for
Financial
Information
✦ Bonds Online: Go to the BondSearch/Quote Center to get historical data
about different bond investment yields. Address: www.bondsonline.com
Book V
Chapter 1
382
Book V: Your Personal Finances
Chapter 2: Monitoring and
Tracking Investments
In This Chapter
Introducing online portfolios
Surveying online-portfolio Web sites
Managing an online portfolio at Yahoo! Financial
Looking at financial software management programs
A
ll investment managers agree that keeping good, accurate records of
your investments is the only way to know for certain how well or
poorly the investments are performing. To tell how your investments are
doing, you have to track them carefully. You need to know by what percentage your investments are growing or shrinking. You need to track your brokerage fees, your account-maintenance fees, and the other secondary costs
of investing.
This chapter explains how you can monitor and track your investments by
setting up an online portfolio or by using software such as Money or Quicken.
Introducing Investment Portfolios
An investment portfolio is a collection of investments held by an individual
or institution. A portfolio tells which stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and other
securities you own, and how much each security is currently worth. As well,
most investment portfolios include cash from the sale of investments or
cash that has yet to be invested.
To update a portfolio in the old days, you needed an account ledger and a
magnifying glass or, at best, a good pair of spectacles. You had to peer into
the Wall Street Journal or another newspaper that reports on securities, note
the value of the securities you owned, and enter the values carefully into the
account register. Updating a portfolio was a dreary, Dickensian activity.
384
Comparing the Online Portfolio Web Sites
Computers have made keeping an investment portfolio up to date much
easier. You no longer have to update the value of the securities you own by
hand because the computer does it for you. In the case of online portfolios
(more on them in a minute), security prices are entered right into the portfolio
almost as soon as they change. In the case of financial software-management
programs (more on them in a minute, too), you can download up-to-date security prices from the Internet in a matter of seconds.
Tracking a portfolio by computer has another advantage — you can analyze
the investments you own. You can generate charts that show how your securities are performing. You can compare your securities’ performance to that
of securities you don’t own. You can see how your securities compare to
indices such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the S&P 500.
You have three ways to enlist your computer’s help in managing an investment portfolio:
✦ Online portfolio management: At Web sites such as Yahoo! Finance and
Money Central, you can create an online portfolio, a page on the Internet
that lists your securities and their current value. The value of the securities is updated automatically. You can also compare and analyze investments at Yahoo! Finance, Money Central, and the other online-portfolio
Web sites.
✦ Financial software management programs: Users of Money and Quicken
can track their investment portfolios in those programs. To update security prices, you just connect to the Internet and give a simple command.
The programs also offer commands for analyzing and comparing investments. Money and Quicken are comprehensive financial management
programs. Besides tracking investments, you can track your spending,
formulate a budget, bank online, balance your checkbook, and do any
number of things to make yourself healthier financially.
✦ Online portfolio management with a broker: Some brokerage houses
offer Web sites where you can track your investments and see how they
are performing. Call your broker and ask whether you are eligible for this
service. And whatever you do, don’t pay extra for it. If your broker wants
you to pay to track your securities online, tell that so-and-so that you can
track your portfolio for free on the Internet, thank you very much!
Comparing the Online Portfolio Web Sites
Table 2-1 compares the different Web sites where you can track your investments in an online portfolio. To track your portfolio at any of these sites, you
must register. Most of the Web sites offer enhanced portfolio-tracking services for a fee.
Tracking Your Investments in a Yahoo! Portfolio
Table 2-1
385
Free Online Portfolio-Management Web Sites
Description
Address
ClearStation
Generate performance charts
as well as Schedule D tax forms
for reporting capital gains and
losses in your investments.
Click the Portfolio link.
http://clearstation.
etrade.com
Money Central
Track your stocks and mutual
funds. The site also provides
news articles that mention the
securities you own. In the
Investing section on the left
side of the window, click the
Portfolio link. You must have a
.NET Passport to use this service
(see Appendix B).
http://moneycentral.
msn.com
Morningstar
Track stocks as well as mutual
funds. At this Web site, you can
also track brokerage fees and
expenses. Click the Portfolio link.
www.morningstar.com
Wall Street Journal
Follow market indices and track
up to five portfolios at this Web
site. After you register, go to the
Setup Center and click the
Portfolio link.
http://online.wsj.com
Yahoo! Financial
Track stocks and mutual funds,
as well as indices. You can
generate reports and view
company profiles for the
securities you own (see the
next section in this chapter).
http://finance.
yahoo.com
Tracking Your Investments in a Yahoo! Portfolio
In my opinion, Yahoo! Finance is the easiest place to keep an online portfolio.
Entering security names and security prices is easy. You can view your
investments in different ways. And the Portfolio window offers all kinds of
amenities. For example, you can read news articles about securities you are
tracking, generate charts, and get company profiles. Figure 2-1 shows an
online profile at Yahoo! Finance.
Monitoring and
Tracking
Investments
Web Site
Book V
Chapter 2
386
Tracking Your Investments in a Yahoo! Portfolio
Figure 2-1:
The
Portfolio
window,
where
online
portfolios
appear.
To get to the Yahoo! Finance page and begin creating our online portfolio, do
one of these things:
✦ Go to Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) and click the Finance link.
✦ Go straight to the Yahoo! Finance page at this address: http://
finance.yahoo.com.
Yahoo! offers four kinds of online portfolios:
✦ Watch List: For tracking stocks and mutual funds that you don’t own but
are considering purchasing. After you enter the securities on the watch
list, you can research them easily.
✦ Current Holdings: For tracking stocks and mutual funds you have purchased and already own. Figure 2-1 shows a Current Holdings portfolio.
It clearly shows how much your investments have gained or lost.
✦ Transaction History: For tracking each transaction in an investment
account — all purchases, sales, disbursements, short sells, stock splits,
and so on. I don’t cover transaction portfolios in this book. If you want
to track your investments that closely, you are better off with a program
such as Money or Quicken (see “Financial Software-Management
Programs,” later in this chapter).
✦ Online Brokerage Account: For viewing account information from a brokerage account in Yahoo! Finance. This is for people who have accounts
with many brokerage houses and want to view them all at once. Only a
handful of brokerages allow you to view your accounts in Yahoo!.
Tracking Your Investments in a Yahoo! Portfolio
387
To set up an investment portfolio at Yahoo! Finance, you must have a Yahoo!
account and be signed in to your account. Appendix A explains how to do all
that.
Before you put together an online portfolio at Yahoo! Financial, get the
paperwork in order:
✦ Make a list of the ticker symbols for all the stocks and mutual funds you
own. A ticker symbol is a one- to five-letter abbreviation that is used for
tracking the performance of stocks and mutual funds. As you create
your portfolio, you can look up these symbols, but doing it beforehand
is easier and saves you time. You can look up ticker symbols at the
Yahoo! Finance page.
✦ Get the latest statement from your broker and lay it flat on your desk.
Very shortly, you will plug the share-price information from the statement into your online portfolio.
Setting up an online portfolio
You can create more than one portfolio. Portfolio names appear in the upperright corner of the Portfolio window (refer to Figure 2-1). Follow these steps
to create an online portfolio at Yahoo! Finance:
1. On the Yahoo! Finance page, click the Create link (refer to Figure 2-1).
If you don’t see this link, click the Show Portfolios link in the upper-right
corner of the window. After you click it, you see the word Portfolios and
links for managing and creating portfolios (refer to Figure 2-1). You come
to the Create New Portfolio window after you click the Create link.
2. Click the Track a Symbol Watch List link or the Track Your Current
Holdings link.
As I explain in “Tracking Your Investments in a Yahoo! Portfolio,” earlier
in this chapter, a watch list is a “pretend portfolio” for monitoring stock
and mutual funds you have your eye on. Click the Track Your Current
Holdings link if you have a real-life portfolio and you want to track it at
Yahoo! Finance.
You come to the Create Your Portfolio window, where you describe what
is in your portfolio.
3. Enter a name for your portfolio in the Portfolio Name text box.
You can create as many online portfolios as you need. Choose a descriptive name that says right away what you are tracking in this portfolio.
Monitoring and
Tracking
Investments
Before you begin . . .
Book V
Chapter 2
388
Tracking Your Investments in a Yahoo! Portfolio
4. In the Ticker Symbols text box, enter the ticker symbol of each security you want to track, separated by a blank space.
You can click the Look Up Symbol link to look up a security’s ticker
symbol. Select a check box in the Example Market Indices section to
track an index as well as securities.
5. In the Basic Features section, select the Sort Symbols check box if you
want to arrange security names alphabetically by symbol instead of
by name in your portfolio.
6. Select the Don’t Show Portfolio Total Value check box if, for some
reason, you prefer not to see the total value of the securities you are
tracking in this portfolio.
You may be checking your portfolio while you’re at work, and you don’t
want your coworkers to know how wealthy you really are.
7. In the Advanced Features section, select check boxes to determine
how thoroughly you want to track your securities in the portfolio.
If you are creating a watch list, you needn’t choose any check boxes. But
if you want to track the changing value of securities that you already
purchased, start checking away. Figure 2-1 shows what a portfolio looks
like when all check boxes are selected. You can track these attributes:
• Shares Owned: Tracks the number of shares you purchased.
• Purchase Price/Share: Tracks the price per share so that you can
calculate gains and losses.
• Trade Date: Tracks the value of your securities over time for analysis
and tax purposes.
• Commissions: Tracks commissions paid to brokers so that you can
figure these fees into profit and tax calculations.
• Upper Limit/Lower Limit: Permits you to be reminded by e-mail
when a security reaches a certain low or high. The e-mail alert is sent
to your Yahoo! e-mail address.
• Notes: Permits you to keep notes about your securities.
8. Click the Continue button to go to the next window.
You see the Portfolio Details window shown in Figure 2-2.
9. For each security you are tracking, enter as much detail as you are
asked for in Step 7.
10. Click the Finished button.
Tracking Your Investments in a Yahoo! Portfolio
389
The first time you create a portfolio, you are asked to okay the Yahoo!
privacy policy for keeping portfolios at Yahoo! Finance.
Book V
Chapter 2
Monitoring and
Tracking
Investments
Figure 2-2:
The
Portfolio
Details
window.
To delete a portfolio you created, click the Edit link beside its name. Then, in
the Edit Your Portfolio window, click the Delete This Portfolio link.
Examining and updating your investments
Security prices in your online portfolio are updated automatically. You don’t
have to be concerned about keeping prices up to date. You may, however,
tinker with your portfolio in these ways:
✦ Updating your holdings: When you buy or sell a security, update your
portfolio to make it show exactly what you own. Display the portfolio in
the Portfolio window and then click the Edit link beside the portfolio’s
name (its name is in the upper-right corner of the window). You go to
the Edit Your Portfolio window, which looks and behaves exactly like the
window you used to create the portfolio. Update your holdings and click
the Finished button.
✦ Investigating a security: Click a security’s Chart link to see a performance chart, its Profile link to read about it, its Messages link to read what
others have said about it on a message board, or its More link to read
news articles about it.
✦ Changing your view of the Portfolio window: Experiment with views —
Basic, Daywatch, Performance, and others — to get a different take on
your investments’ performance. You can click the Create New View link
to create a customized view of your own.
✦ Comparing a security to a potential investment: Click the Chart link
and, in the Basic Chart window, enter a ticker symbol to make the comparison. Figure 2-3 compares Coke to Pepsi over a one-year period.
390
Financial Software Management Programs
Playing the investment game
Investing isn’t a game, of course, but you can
make a game of it. These Web sites offer
investment games to sharpen your strategies
and skills. Here, you can play the game for a
few months before graduating to the real thing:
best the other players in building a healthy
portfolio. Players are ranked, and a new
game starts each month. You can also
research stocks from this Web site.
Address: www.fantasystockmarket.
EduStock: Read the tutorial and then test
your skill by buying and selling stocks at upto-date prices. Players start with 100,000
fantasy dollars with which to build a portfolio. You can practice researching stocks
and securities from the Web site. Address:
com
http://library.thinkquest.org/
3088
Fantasy Stock Market: Start with the requisite $100,000 in play money, and try to
Investment Challenge: “The most realistic
stock market simulation for students,”
boast the makers of this site. Here, you
start not with $100,000, but with 500,000 fantasy dollars (students always need extra
money, don’t they?). Different games are
designed for middle school, high school,
and college students. Address: www.
ichallenge.net
Figure 2-3:
Comparing
securities in
a chart.
Financial Software Management Programs
Another way to track your investments is to use a financial software management program. The two most popular programs are Microsoft Money and
Quicken. These programs have tools for recording and analyzing investments
Financial Software Management Programs
391
Figure 2-4:
Comparing
investments
in Microsoft
Money.
To investigate Money, may I recommend Microsoft Money 2005 For Dummies
(Wiley Publishing), written by yours truly? The For Dummies book about
Quicken, Quicken 2005 For Dummies, by Stephen Nelson, isn’t bad either.
At the risk of sounding immodest, because I’m the author of the Money book,
I think Money is superior to Quicken. I’ve used both programs. They’re similar, but Money is better integrated with the Internet, which makes tracking
investments online and banking online easier.
By the way, did you buy a lottery ticket this week? You can find out if your
ticket is a winner by going to this Web site: http://lottery.yahoo.com. I
hope you won the lottery. You won’t have to work anymore, although, come
to think of it, you’ll have to invest your winnings, and tracking all that money
could turn out to be a lot of work.
Book V
Chapter 2
Monitoring and
Tracking
Investments
that are superior and easier to use than the tools found in online portfoliomanagement Web sites. What’s more, Money and Quicken are the whole
package. You can analyze your spending very closely in Money and Quicken.
You can formulate budgets, print checks, bank online, and plan ahead for your
retirement. Figure 2-4 shows a window in Money for comparing investments.
392
Book V: Your Personal Finances
Chapter 3: Banking and
Paying Bills Online
In This Chapter
Doing your banking chores online
Paying bills online
Banking and paying bills online with Microsoft Money or Quicken
Finding a credit card that is right for you
T
his chapter is dedicated to Buck Rogers, that citizen of the future who
banks online and pays all his bills in digital cash. You won’t catch Buck
Rogers standing in line at a bank or ATM. You won’t see him waiting for the
bank statement to arrive in the mail to find out what his balance is or which
checks have cleared his bank.
Buck Rogers does his banking and bill paying online. This chapter explains
how you can join Buck Rogers. It demonstrates how to bank online and pay
your bills online without writing checks, licking stamps, or putting envelopes
in the mail. It looks into banking online with two software programs, Money
and Quicken, and shows you how to search for the ideal credit card on the
Internet.
Banking Online
Online banking means to do the chores associated with banking at your
computer instead of inside the hallowed halls of a bank. Banking online
saves you the trouble of visiting the brick-and-mortar bank. It also spares
you from having to fill in paper forms and shuffle papers. You will be glad to
know that banking online keeps getting easier because banks prefer their
customers to bank online. It spares banks the expense of paying tellers and
the trouble of managing paper records. Banking online is free at most major
banks. I venture to say it is one of those things that people will do and take
for granted in the future, much as we now take the ATM for granted.
394
Banking Online
At a bare minimum, most banks offer these online services:
✦ Find out your account balances. As shown in Figure 3-1, you can see an
account overview page that lists how much money is in your accounts.
Figure 3-1:
Getting
account
balances
online.
✦ Examine recent deposits and payments. This includes whether checks
you wrote have cleared the bank, as shown in Figure 3-2. In effect, you
can view your bank statement online, but you don’t have to wait till the
end of the month to see it. You can view recent transactions whenever
you find it necessary to do so.
Figure 3-2:
Examining
bank
transactions.
Banking Online
395
✦ Take care of routine banking chores. You would normally have to call
your bank to get these chores done. For example, you can order more
checks, stop a check payment, or update your address and phone
number.
Some banks go the extra mile and offer these online services as well:
✦ Pay bills online. Later in this chapter, “Paying Your Bills Online” looks
into this topic. The amount of each bill is deducted from your savings or
checking account as you pay it.
✦ Schedule future money transfers between accounts. Rather than give
the order to transfer money each month, you can schedule transactions
so that the transfers occur automatically. For example, to put a portion
of your monthly paycheck into a savings account each month, you can
schedule this money transfer to occur automatically.
✦ View scanned images of checks you’ve written, deposit slips, and bill
statements. Online bank statements don’t list the names of people to
whom you wrote checks, but by clicking a View Check link, you can see
a scanned image of your check, as shown in Figure 3-3. You can see to
whom you wrote the check and compare your records to the bank’s to
make sure that your records are accurate.
Figure 3-3:
A scanned
image of a
check.
✦ Download transaction information into Microsoft Money or Quicken.
As “Online Banking and Bill Paying with Money and Quicken” explains
later in this chapter, you can download transactions into your Microsoft
Money or Quicken software as well as pay bills with these programs.
Book V
Chapter 3
Banking and Paying
Bills Online
✦ Transfer money between accounts. For example, you can transfer money
from your savings to your checking account to make sure that checks
don’t bounce. If you have a mortgage or loan from the same bank where
you keep your checking account, you can transfer money from your
checking account to your mortgage or loan account and, in so doing,
make your monthly mortgage or loan payment.
396
Banking Online
✦ Be alerted by e-mail when something untoward occurs. For example,
you can be alerted when your account balance rises above or drops
below a certain level, when a check clears, or when a check bounces.
When you sign up for online banking, your bank will ask which accounts you
want to make online accounts. You are asked to select a user ID. And you are
given a temporary password that you change to a password of your own the
first time you bank online.
Is online banking safe?
Occasionally you read in the newspaper about
an evil, twisted computer genius who crashes
into others’ computers and steals bank account
numbers and so on. And stories like that make
you wonder whether banking online is safe.
Online banking is safe from the bank’s side. The
chances of anyone breaking into a bank’s computers and stealing from bank accounts is nil
because of encryption technology. This technology encodes — maybe the better word is
scrambles — data so that only computers with
the encryption key can decode it. No hacker,
however bold or intelligent he or she is, can get
an encryption key.
All the danger of an online bank account being
robbed lies on the customer’s side. Conceivably, a spyware program could (so to speak)
look over a customer’s shoulder, note which
keys are being pressed on the keyboard, and in
so doing, acquire the user ID and password to
an online bank account. Book I, Chapter 4 looks
at spyware.
A more likely way for a criminal to obtain a user
ID and password, however, is by means of a
fraudulent e-mail solicitation like the one shown
here. This e-mail message looks like it comes
from a bank. It looks authentic. Clicking the
link in the message takes you to an authenticlooking Web site that asks for your user ID, password, and Social Security number.
Never reply to e-mail messages like this. Banks
do not solicit personal information this way.
Fraudulently obtaining personal information by
e-mail or at a phony Web site is called phishing.
Phishing, like spyware, is explained in Book I,
Chapter 4.
Paying Your Bills Online
397
Paying Your Bills Online
Book V
Chapter 3
Check with your bank to see whether it offers online bill paying for free.
Some banks offer it for free as part of their online banking services. If your
bank doesn’t offer online bill paying, check out Table 3-1, which lists online
bill-payment services and indicates how much they charge. The majority of
services charge a flat monthly rate for paying a certain number of bills. If
you exceed that number, you are charged for each additional bill you pay
during the month. Usually the charge is 50 cents for each additional bill. If
you do the math, you can see that paying bills online, even if you have to pay
a fee, costs about the same as mailing checks, when you take into account
postage costs.
Table 3-1
Online Bill-Payment Services
Service
Monthly Cost/
No. Payments
Web Address
AOL Bill Pay
Free*
www.aol.com/product/
billpay.adp
Bills
$6.95 for 20
www.bills.com
CheckFree
Free**
www.checkfree.com
MSN Bill Pay
$5.95 for 15
https://billpay.msn.com
Paytrust
$4.95 + $0.50 per payment
www.paytrust.com
Quicken Bill Pay
$9.95 unlimited
www.quicken.com
Status Factory
$11.30 for 15
www.statusfactory.com
Yahoo! Bill Pay
$4.95 for 12
http://finance.yahoo.
com/bp
*AOL Bill Pay is free to America Online subscribers.
** Individual banks offer CheckFree for free or for a small monthly fee.
You are asked for the following information when you sign up with an online
bill-payment service. The service needs this information to identify you and
to successfully withdraw money from your bank account to pay your bills.
Banking and Paying
Bills Online
It’s hard to go back to fumbling with paper checks, not to mention sealing
envelopes and licking stamps, after you’ve paid bills online. Paying bills
online is mighty convenient. Bills get paid faster when they are paid over the
Internet. In most cases, the bill-payment service pays your bill right away by
deducting the amount of the bill from your bank account and transferring
the money over the Internet to the biller. If the service can’t pay the biller
directly, a computer-generated paper check is sent through the mail on your
behalf.
398
Paying Your Bills Online
✦ Social Security number: You know what that is, I hope.
✦ PIN: The personal identification number with which you sign in to your
bank.
✦ Account name: The name of the account from which payments are to be
made.
✦ Routing number: The routing number is comprised of the first nine numbers in the lower-left corner of checks. On either side of the routing
number is a colon (:).
As part of paying a bill through a service, you provide your account number
or other identifying number. To pay a utility bill, for example, you provide
your account number with the utility company. You can find these account
numbers on your bills. If the biller hasn’t assigned you an account number,
you may have to provide a telephone number or other identifying number
that is yours and yours alone when you pay the bill.
Online bill-payment services that are worth anything offer these amenities:
✦ Confirmation when bills have been paid: You are notified online by the
biller when a payment has been received.
✦ Records of past payments: You can dig into your past history with a
biller to see how much you’ve paid over the past months or years and
when payments were made. Being able to review past payments is a
great way to examine your spending habits.
Some services offer the opportunity to schedule bill payments and be billed
by e-mail. Schedule a bill payment if the payment is one you make every
month for a fixed amount. A rent payment, for example, is a good candidate
for scheduling. Electronic bills can be sent to your bill-payment service
instead of your home. Paying these “e-bills” is especially easy, because you
don’t even have to open an envelope, much less write or mail a check. The
problem with e-bills, however, is that most don’t contain details about what
you are being charged for. A typical phone bill, for example, includes charges
for long-distance calling, local calling, and various taxes. Sometimes it pays
to look over the details in a bill to find out how you are being charged, but
you can’t do that very well in an e-bill. Figure 3-4 shows some e-bills.
Occasionally billers change their customers’ account numbers or the biller’s
payment address without informing their customers. Online bill payments
can’t be completed if this information is submitted incorrectly. If you pay
bills online, be alert to changes in your account numbers and payment
addresses.
Online Banking and Bill Paying with Microsoft Money and Quicken
399
Book V
Chapter 3
Banking and Paying
Bills Online
Figure 3-4:
Paying
some e-bills.
Online Banking and Bill Paying with
Microsoft Money and Quicken
The other way to bank and pay bills online is to enlist the help of Microsoft
Money or Quicken. These programs include commands for banking online and
paying bills online. Money and Quicken are equipped to connect to 800 different banks so that you can download transactions right into your account
registers, the ledgers where you track your income and expenses. You can
compare your online bank statement with the transactions you entered in
Money or Quicken to make sure that your records are in sync with the bank’s.
Users of Money can pay bills online through MSN Bill Pay, Microsoft’s online
bill-payment service. Users of Quicken can pay bills with Quicken Bill Pay.
Figure 3-5 shows a Money account register with transactions downloaded
from a bank. In the figure, downloaded transactions are being compared to
previously entered transactions to find discrepancies. Balancing a bank
account this way in Money or Quicken is considerably easier than balancing
a bank account by hand. To learn more about Money or Quicken, check
out Microsoft Money 2005 For Dummies, by Peter Weverka (that’s me!), or
Quicken 2005 For Dummies, by Stephen Nelson (both published by Wiley).
Figure 3-5:
Reconciling
a bank
account
online in
Money.
400
Searching for a Credit Card Online
Searching for a Credit Card Online
If you are like me, you get six or seven offers every week from credit card
companies asking you to please, please use their credit card. Sometimes
telemarketers call asking me to use their credit card, not the other guy’s.
Sometimes they call me during dinner. Why not turn the tables on the credit
card companies? Instead of them asking you to use a credit card, why not
ask them? Go online, find a credit card that suits you — a card that offers
frequent-flier miles or gifts or a low interest rate — and start using it.
Here are some Web sites where you can compare different credit cards and
find the one that meets your needs:
✦ 123Debt: A Web site devoted to helping you lower or consolidate your
credit card debt. Address: www.123debt.com
✦ Card Ratings: Rates the different credit cards and credit card reward
plans. Address: www.cardratings.com
✦ Credit Card Goodies: Looks into rebate cards, airline miles cards, and
gas cards. Says the Webmaster, “Too few reports address the segment
that I belong to — people who pay off their balances every month.
Hence, I threw together this page dedicated to finding the best possible
deals for people like me.” Address: www.creditcardgoodies.com
✦ Choosing a Credit Card: Advice for shopping for credit cards from the
Federal Reserve Board, the organization that oversees credit card companies. Address: www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/shop/default.htm
Book VI
Bargain Shopping
Contents at a Glance
Chapter 1: Searching for Bargains ....................................................................................403
Chapter 2: Buying at an Online Auction ..........................................................................413
Chapter 3: Using PayPal ....................................................................................................429
Chapter 4: Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar ......................................................435
Chapter 1: Searching for Bargains
In This Chapter
Buying by the rules
Searching with shopping search engines
Doing product comparisons on the Internet
Finding and reading online catalogs
Visiting stores for bargain hunters
Finding product reviews and consumer reports
T
he Internet, among other things, has become a giant shopping mall. Not
that shopping malls will go the way of the dinosaur, but many people
prefer shopping online to shopping at the mall. Who wants to deal with
crowded parking lots and long lines? Some predict that basic goods such as
groceries and drugstore items will be purchased online and that streets and
highways everywhere will soon be filled with trucks delivering these online
bargains.
This chapter is dedicated to the idea that, if you want it, you can buy it
online. It explains the pitfalls of buying online and describes how to search
the Internet for items you want. You discover shopping search engines —
special search engines designed for finding things to buy. You also look at
tools for comparison shopping. With these tools, you can compare prices
for the same items being sold on different Web sites and buy items at the
lowest price. This chapter looks at reading catalogs online, shows you the
way to some online stores for bargain hunters, and steers you to Web sites
where you can read product reviews and consumer reports.
Some Rules for Buying Items Online
Somewhere, somebody is trying to figure out a way to make odors travel
over the Internet. Somebody else is working on technology that permits you
to reach into your computer monitor and touch an item that you want to buy.
Until these mad scientists complete their work — and they aren’t likely to
complete it soon — buying items online holds the same risks as buying items
from a catalog. You can’t smell, taste, or touch the item. Practically speaking,
you can’t tell what you’ve purchased until it arrives on your doorstep.
404
Some Rules for Buying Items Online
Items such as perfume, clothing, and jewelry are hard to judge online. Maybe
the most important rule for shopping online also happens to be the most
important rule for shopping: Let the buyer beware. Other than that, here are
some rules for buying items online. Disregard these rules, and you do so at
your peril:
✦ Know what the shipping and handling charges are. Some companies
that sell items at a discount make up the lost revenue by charging exorbitant fees for shipping and handling.
✦ Don’t do business with a company that doesn’t have a refund and
return policy. The terms of the policy should be stated somewhere on
the Web site. What happens if you are unhappy with an item you purchased? Can you return it? How soon must you return it? Who pays for
returning the item if returning it is an expensive proposition?
✦ Take note of what the seller offers in the way of customer service. Will
the seller pay for repairs if any are needed? For high-tech products, does
the seller offer technical and setup assistance?
✦ Ask yourself how difficult the item is to assemble, if it needs assembling. Not everyone can interpret the complicated directions that come
with items you have to put together yourself. Not everyone can wield a
screwdriver. Because online purchases are delivered by mail, they need
assembling more often than other purchases. If you’re not good at assembling things, make sure that the items you buy are already assembled.
✦ Keep a well-documented paper trail of your dealings with the seller.
After you have filled out the order form, print it. When the seller sends
you a confirmation notice by e-mail, print that, too. Keeping a paper trail
is a hassle, but if you lose your customer order number or aren’t sure
when the package arrives whether everything you ordered is inside it,
you will be glad you kept the papers. For that matter, print the Web page
that describes the item. That way, you can be sure that you purchased
what you thought you were purchasing.
✦ Know the company’s privacy policy. Does the company intend to sell
your name to spammers? Can you request that your name and personal
information be kept private? As a matter of principle, I don’t do business
online with any company that doesn’t post its privacy policy on its Web
site.
✦ Inspect your purchase as soon as it arrives. Is this what you ordered?
Some online retailers, especially during the holiday season, are so hurried that they fill orders incorrectly.
✦ Trust your instincts! If you are uncomfortable purchasing an item over
the Internet, don’t do it. If “supplies are running out,” you are being pressured to buy an item, or you feel uneasy about it, don’t buy. Make a cup
of tea or putter in the garden instead.
Shopping Search Engines
405
How safe is online shopping?
Naturally, people have concerns about shopping online. Sending a credit card number
across the Internet can be disconcerting. Is the
number going to end up on a computer somewhere for anyone to see and steal?
You don’t need to worry. Buying items with a
credit card is safe. Online merchants have
gone to great lengths to make sure that credit
card information is kept private:
If you’re not sure whether a company has
secured its site, just look on the right side of the
status bar in your Web browser. Secure sites
show a lock icon, while unsecure sites do not.
What’s more, as an online buyer, the same federal laws that protect mail orders and telephone orders also protect you. You have the
right to return an item if it is broken or not what
you thought you ordered.
The American Bar Association maintains a Web site called Safe Shopping
(www.safeshopping.org) that explains, from a legal point of view, everything you need to know about online shopping, including your rights as an
online customer.
Shopping Search Engines
A shopping search engine works like a standard search engine, except it is
trained to look for items that are for sale online (Book II, Chapter 3 explains
how search engines work). Like other search engines, shopping search
engines send automated spiders onto the Internet to index and describe
Web pages, but shopping search engines focus on merchandise. Use a shopping search engine to find an item for sale online, and then check out the
comparison-shopping Web sites in the next section of this chapter to compare prices for the item.
Table 1-1 describes shopping search engines. Some of these search engines
can compare prices for the same item at different Web sites. If the search
engine offers one, click the Advanced Search link and describe your search
as pointedly as you can. Broad searches yield far too many results. Figure 1-1
shows the Advanced Search page at Froogle, Google’s shopping search
engine. Notice all the options for narrowing the search.
Book VI
Chapter 1
Searching for
Bargains
Sensitive information is scrambled and
encrypted on merchants’ Web servers so
that outsiders can’t read it.
Encryption technology is used to establish
the identity of the buyer so that no one can
pose as someone else.
406
Shopping Search Engines
Figure 1-1:
Froogle is
Google’s
shopping
search
engine.
Table 1-1
Shopping Search Engines
Search
Engine
Web Address
Description
Bizrate
www.bizrate.com
Choose an option from the Departments drop-down menu to narrow
your search.
Froogle
www.google.com/
froogle
On the Advanced Search page,
choose an option from the Category
drop-down menu to narrow your
search to a category. To comparisonshop, select the Grid View option to
be able to see several items at once.
“Froogle” is a play on the word frugal.
(Click the Froogle link on the Google
home page at www.google.com.)
My Simon www.mysimon.com
Click the Compare All Prices link in
search results to compare prices
from different vendors in a chart.
Yahoo!
http://shopping.
Shopping yahoo.com
On the Advanced search page, you
can search by price range and use
Boolean search techniques. (From
the Yahoo! home page at www.
yahoo.com, click the Shopping link.)
Advanced
Search?
Looking at Some Price-Comparison Web Sites
407
Surprise.com (www.surprise.com) is an unusual search engine designed to
help you find the perfect gift for someone you know or love. Click the Get
Started button and take a survey to describe the person. On the basis of
your answers, the Web site presents you with gifts in different categories.
Select a category to see gift suggestions. Click the name of a gift and you go
to a Web site where you can buy it.
Looking at Some Price-Comparison Web Sites
Table 1-2
Comparison Shopping Web Sites
Web Site
Web Address
Description
Aim Lower
www.aimlower.com
Focuses on computers and
electronics.
Best Web Buys
www.bestwebbuys.com
Compare prices for books, music,
videos, electronic equipment, and
bicycles.
Buy Path
www.buypath.com
Read product reviews as well as
compare prices.
Froogle
www.google.com/froogle
Click the Advanced Froogle
Search link and, on the Advanced
Search page, click the Grid View
option to use this search engine
for comparison-shopping purposes.
Next Tag
www.nextag.com
Price comparisons factor in sales
tax and shipping. Includes seller
reviews.
Price Grabber
www.pricegrabber.com
Considered the best comparison
shopper; enter your zip code to
include the sales tax in an item’s
price.
Shopping
http://shopping.com
As well as shop, you can read
product reviews from e-pinions.
Shopping Aisles
www.shoppingaisles.com
Specializes in books, magazines,
videos, and video games.
Street Prices
www.streetprices.com
Specializes in electronics.
Book VI
Chapter 1
Searching for
Bargains
Comparison-shopping Web sites give you the opportunity to search the
Internet for an item and compare its selling price at different online vendors.
Table 1-2 lists price-comparison Web sites. Of course, the Internet being
what it is, you can also buy items from one of these Web sites. Some of them
also do double duty as shopping search engines. And some also offer product reviews and reviews of online stores. Figure 1-2 shows what a product
comparison table looks like. You can see at a glance which store offers the
lowest price.
408
Reading Online Catalogs
Figure 1-2:
Comparisonshopping at
Best Web
Buys.
For die-hard online shoppers, the Shelron Group makes a toolbar called
ActivShopper that fits into the Internet Explorer window. When you come to
a product description page at an online store, the toolbar automatically
searches the Internet for other Web sites where the product is sold.
ActivShopper generates a comparison table so that you can compare prices.
To download ActivShopper, go to this Web site: www.activshopper.com.
Reading Online Catalogs
If you’re the kind of person who likes getting product catalogs in the mail,
you’ll be glad to know that now you can search for Web-page replicas of catalogs and read them online. Catalogs appear in the Google Catalog viewer,
shown in Figure 1-3. Click a catalog page to enlarge and read it on-screen.
You can also find commands for zooming in and out of pages and displaying
pages in different ways. These are the same catalogs you get in the mail.
Companies submit their catalogs to Google so that you can find them online.
To search for a catalog, open the Google Catalogs Search page and enter keywords for your search. You can click the Advanced Catalog Search link to
search more thoroughly for a catalog. To get to the Google Catalogs Search
page, do one of the following:
✦ Go to the Google home page (www.google.com), click the More link, and
on the More page, click the Catalogs link.
✦ Open your Web browser to this address: http://catalogs.google.com.
Hunting for Bargains at Online Stores
409
Book VI
Chapter 1
Hunting for Bargains at Online Stores
Chapter 4 of this mini-book describes numerous online stores in different
shopping categories. These stores sell all manner of things, and they sell
them at bargain-basement prices. You never know what you’ll find in these
stores. The stores that follow are worth rummaging through when you’re in
the rummaging mood:
✦ Deal Catcher: This Web site is for coupon clippers, but instead of clipping coupons out of the newspaper, you can get them at this Web site,
print them, and use them when you’re shopping at a genuine brick-andmortar store. Address: www.dealcatcher.com
✦ Good Bazaar: Use this Web site to take advantage of online sales and
free shipping at different stores. Good Bazaar steers you to Web sites
that are currently having sales. Address: www.goodbazaar.com
✦ Half.com: This Web site sells new and used books, music, movies, electronics, sporting goods, computer stuff, and video games for, at most,
half of their original price. Goods are often sold at a quarter of their original price. Address: http://half.ebay.com
✦ Overstock: Excess inventory has to be moved out of the warehouse to
make room for items that are selling. How to move this excess inventory? One way is to sell it at Overstock.com. You can find many bargains
here as long as you aren’t in a hurry. Address: www.overstock.com
Searching for
Bargains
Figure 1-3:
The online
replica of a
catalog.
410
Product Reviews and Consumer Reports
✦ Smart Bargains: Clothing, bedding, jewelry, and electronics are offered
at this Web site. When fewer than ten pieces of an item are left, the Web
site tells you as much. Address: www.smartbargains.com
On the subject of bargains, take a look at Ugly Dress (www.uglydress.com),
“the archive of the world’s ugliest bridesmaid dresses,” and ask yourself
how many of these dresses were purchased for a bargain. You can also find
a frightening collection of ugly shoes. Woot (www.woot.com) is an unusual
Web site. It only sells one item at a time and offers a new item each day. And
the item, whatever it is, is sold at a very low price.
Product Reviews and Consumer Reports
Before you buy that digital camera or that watch, find out what people who
already bought it think about it. You can do that very easily on the Internet at
one of the Web sites listed in Table 1-3. Most of these Web sites have a rating
system similar to the five-star system BizRate uses, as shown in Figure 1-4.
You can register at most of these Web sites and write product reviews. You,
too, can be a critic-at-large.
Table 1-3
Product Review and Consumer Report Web Sites
Web Site
Web Address
Notes
Amazon
www.amazon.com
The place to go to read book
reviews (click the Books tab).
Audio Review
www.audioreview.com
Click the Reviews link to read
what audiophiles think of their
audio equipment and TVs.
BizRate
www.bizrate.com
As the name implies, you can read
reviews of online businesses as
well as the products they sell.
Cnet
www.cnet.com
The place to go for software
reviews and reviews of computer
equipment.
Consumer Reports
www.consumerreports.org The online version of the highly
regarded magazine, this Web site
tests products in all areas.
Consumer Review
www.consumerreview.com
Read reviews of golf equipment
and sporting goods, as well as
consumer electronics.
Consumer Search
www.consumersearch.com
A comprehensive product review
Web site; also ranks the best
products in 100 different categories.
Product Reviews and Consumer Reports
411
Web Site
Web Address
Notes
Epinions
www.epinions.com
Not as many reviews as other
sites, but very friendly and easy to
navigate.
Planet Feedback
www.planetfeedback.
com/consumer
Starting at this Web page, you can
write to a company to complain
about its products or services.
Rate It All
www.rateitall.com
You can even rate politicians at
this Web site!
Book VI
Chapter 1
Searching for
Bargains
Figure 1-4:
Product
ratings at
BizRate.
412
Book VI: Bargain Shopping
Chapter 2: Buying at
an Online Auction
In This Chapter
Surveying online auction houses
Looking at auction house search engines
Registering and signing in to eBay
Searching for stuff to bid on at eBay
Designating favorite searches, categories, and sellers at eBay
Keeping a watch list of items you are interested in
Getting a winning bid at eBay
Closing an auction transaction at eBay
D
epending on your point of view, eBay is either the world’s greatest auction bazaar or the world’s greatest rummage sale. At any given time,
about a half-million items are being auctioned on eBay. A recent 60 Minutes
story about the online auction house revealed that over 150,000 people earn
an income selling items on eBay.
I’m not the kind of person who enjoys shopping, but I visit eBay three or
four times a week because I enjoy looking at and occasionally purchasing
folk art items. I have purchased about 20 folk art items on eBay in the past
three years. Along the way, I became something of an expert on paño arte
handkerchief drawings by prisoners in the American southwest, hand-knit
sweaters made by the Salish Indians of British Columbia, sandpaper paintings from the 19th century, and West African barbershop art. I owe these
peculiar fascinations to eBay. It’s been a lot of fun.
The problem with eBay is that so many items are up for auction that finding
what you’re interested in can be difficult. Unless you know how to look for
items that interest you or where to find these items, you can soon get lost.
This chapter starts with a look at several online auction houses and delivers
some bad news about auction search engines (only one really works). Then
the chapter explains how to search eBay and how to maintain a “My eBay”
414
Looking at the Online Auction Houses
page, where you can save searches and the names of sellers you like. You
also get strategies for bidding and discover the mechanics of eBay — how to
place bids, research sellers, and close a sale.
Looking at the Online Auction Houses
eBay isn’t the world’s only online auction house, although it is the best by far.
If buying by auction is your cup of tea, I suggest sticking with eBay but occasionally using the auction search engines to find items you hanker for at
other auction houses (the next section in this chapter looks at auction search
engines). Table 2-1 describes online auction houses, including eBay. To bid at
these houses, you must register. Sellers decide the method of payment.
Table 2-1
Online Auction Houses
Name
Web Address
Notes
Amazon
www.auctions.amazon.com
Amazon, the be-all-everything
company, also offers online auctions. As you may expect, Books is
the largest category.
Bidz
www.bidz.com
This auction house specializes in
jewelry. Click the 3 Minute
Auction link to eyeball auctions
ending in three minutes or less.
eBay
www.ebay.com
eBay is the largest online auction
house. Most of this chapter
describes bidding and buying
at eBay.
QXL
www.qxl.com
This online auction house is based
in the United Kingdom.
Shop Goodwill
www.shopgoodwill.com
Browse items in 20 categories. All
profits go to Goodwill Industries, a
charity that helps the poor.
uBid Auctions
www.ubid.com
This house specializes in computer equipment and electronics.
Yahoo! Auctions http://auctions.yahoo.com Yahoo!’s is the second-largest
auction house after eBay.
On the subject of auctions, check out Disturbing Auctions at this address:
www.disturbingauctions.com. The Web site describes disturbing items
that were auctioned on the Internet. The Terrifying Dolls category alone is
worth a look.
Registering with eBay
415
Using Auction Search Engines
Auction search engines look at what’s being offered at different online houses
and report what they find so that you can compare prices or locate a hard-tofind item. Unfortunately, these search engines don’t do their jobs very well.
They are slow and, in my experiments, they didn’t uncover items that I knew
to be there. Only one auction search engine, Auction Beagle, passed the test
in my experiments. You can find Auction Beagle at this Web address: www.
auctionbeagle.com. It searches auctions being held at Amazon, eBay, and
Yahoo!.
Use few keywords carefully and be very specific in your online auction
searches. If you don’t heed my advice, you will have to examine many items
in the search results.
To bid on items at eBay, you must register. Registering costs nothing. Besides
being able to bid, registered members get to keep a My eBay page for tracking
items they are watching or bidding on. Registering also entitles you to a
Favorites page, where you can save searches, save category names so that
you can go to categories quickly, and save the names of eBay sellers whose
goods you like.
To register, go to this address: www.ebay.com. Then click the Register link
and fill in the form. You are asked the usual stuff — your name, address, and
so on. Remember your password, because you must enter it whenever you
sign in. Don’t use your e-mail address for a User ID. Doing so makes you susceptible to all kinds of junk mail. If you need to change names, passwords, or
other personal information, click the eBay Preferences link on the My eBay
page (the next section in this chapter explains how to open this page).
Occasionally, eBay members get e-mail solicitations that look as though
they are from eBay; the solicitations ask for personal information such as
addresses and credit card numbers. These solicitations are fraudulent.
Registering is the only time that eBay asks for personal information. If
you get an e-mail that supposedly comes from eBay and asks you to update
your personal information, go to the eBay Security Center at http://
pages.ebay.com/securitycenter and report this false solicitation. You
can also forward the e-mail to [email protected] All messages that eBay
sends to you land in the My Messages section of your My eBay page.
Buying at an Online
Auction
Registering with eBay
Book VI
Chapter 2
416
Signing in to Your My eBay Page
Signing in to Your My eBay Page
To sign into eBay, go to www.ebay.com, click the My eBay link, enter your
User ID and password, and click the Secure Sign In button. You land in your
My eBay page, as shown in Figure 2-1. Every registered member gets one of
these pages. Starting here, you can do just about anything a body can do in
eBay. To return to your My eBay page at any time, click the My eBay link at
the top of the screen.
Figure 2-1:
The My
eBay page.
The left side of the My eBay page offers these links that you can click to
track your activity in eBay:
✦ All Buying: A master list with items you’re watching, items you’re bidding on, items you’ve won, and items you didn’t win because you were
outbid.
✦ Watching: Items you’ve placed on your Watching list because you want
to bid on them or you are curious how much they fetch (see “Keeping a
Watching List,” later in this chapter). Watching an item means to bookmark it so that you can click its name on the Watching list and revisit its
Web page.
✦ Bidding: A list of items you have placed a bid on. For each item on this
tab, eBay tells you its current price, how many bids have been made
on it, and how much time is left before the auction closes (if it hasn’t
already closed).
Searching for Items of Interest
417
✦ Won: A list of items you’ve won. Use this list to track whether you’ve
received items.
✦ Didn’t Win: A list of items you didn’t win.
✦ Selling: A list of items you are selling or have sold (this one doesn’t
appear if you aren’t selling items on eBay).
✦ My Messages: A list of messages you’ve received from from eBay. eBay
does not send its members messages by e-mail.
✦ All Favorites: A master list with your favorite searches, sellers, and
categories. (See “Saving searches, categories, and sellers,” later in this
chapter.)
✦ Sellers: A list of eBay sellers whose merchandise consistently interests
you. Click a seller’s name on the list to see all of his or her online auctions.
✦ Categories: A list of your favorite categories. By clicking a category
name, you can search a category instantly.
✦ My Accounts: A master list with your PayPal account information and
feedback ratings from sellers.
✦ Personal Information: The personal information you gave eBay when
you signed up. You can change the information here.
✦ Addresses: Your shipping address and address under which you are registered. You can change the information here.
✦ Manage Subscriptions: A list of services for eBay sellers.
✦ eBay Preferences: Options for changing how you sign in and how eBay
pages are displayed.
✦ Feedback: Starting here, you can rate people who have sold you items
and see how sellers have rated you. eBay maintains buyer and seller ratings so that buyers can buy with confidence and sellers can sell with
confidence.
✦ PayPal: If you use PayPal (see Chapter 3 of this minibook), you can view
account transactions here.
Searching for Items of Interest
What are you interested in? Stereo equipment? Antique cowboy clothes?
Bank vaults? The question is Where on eBay is your item of interest located?
Unless the item you want to find has a very specific name — say, a Canon
Book VI
Chapter 2
Buying at an Online
Auction
✦ Searches: A list of saved searches. After you have carefully constructed
a search (say, for Elvis 45s), you can save the search and instantly conduct it again by clicking its name on this list.
418
Searching for Items of Interest
S50 Powershot S-50 — you may have trouble finding it. You can’t simply enter
camera in the Search box, because you end up wading through thousands of
auctions before finding the camera you want. As an experiment, I just entered
camera in the search box and got 45,314 auctions pertaining to cameras! You
would need a lot of stamina and time to look into that many auctions.
To help you find your diamond in the rough, the following pages explain how
to search eBay. All searches begin on the My eBay page (refer to Figure 2-1).
A straight search
As I just explained, a straight search is useful if the item you are looking for
has a very specific name. For example, I entered Canon S50 Powershot S-50
in the Search text box, and I found 67 auctions rather than the 45,314 I got
when I entered camera.
eBay offers two ways to conduct a straight search:
✦ Simple search: Enter the term in the Start New Search text box on any
eBay page and click the Search button.
✦ Basic or Advanced search: Click the Advanced Search link on any eBay
page. You see a Search form. From here, you can fill in a form and conduct a Basic Search or an Advanced Search (by clicking the Advanced
Search link). These forms offer many criteria for narrowing a search and
finding what you want. Figure 2-2 shows the Advanced Search form.
Figure 2-2:
An
advanced
search of
eBay
auctions.
Searching for Items of Interest
419
To get more search results, select the Search Title and Description check
box. This tells eBay to look for your search terms in item descriptions as
well as titles.
The Advanced search page offers a Favorite Searches drop-down menu. The
menu has searches you deemed as favorites (see “Saving searches, categories,
and sellers,” later in this chapter). You can choose an option from the menu
and quickly run a search.
Browsing eBay categories
1. On your My eBay page, click the Buy link.
You see the Browse Categories list shown in Figure 2-3.
2. Scroll down to see the complete category and subcategory list.
3. Click a category or subcategory and start browsing different items.
Figure 2-3:
Browsing
by category
and
subcategory.
Book VI
Chapter 2
Buying at an Online
Auction
eBay auctions are classified by category, subcategory, sub-subcategory, and
so on. In the browsing search method, you locate a category or subcategory
that describes items you are interested in, you get a list of items in the category or subcategory, and you then click items one at a time to look them
over. The browsing technique requires a fair amount of free time. For every
gem you discover, you have to look at about 300 pieces of dross. Oh well,
browsing can be fun. Follow these steps to browse different eBay categories:
420
Searching for Items of Interest
Want to see detailed category lists with the names of many sub-subcategories?
Click the See All Categories link at the bottom of the Browse Categories
window (refer to Figure 2-3). From here, you can select a category and get a
detailed list with many subcategories. Finding a subcategory like this is a great
way to pinpoint what you are interested in.
Browsing to and searching a single category
A browse/search permits you to search exclusively in a single eBay category
or subcategory. Under this searching method, you browse to the category
you are interested in and then you conduct a search exclusively in that category. In my experience, this is the most efficient way to search eBay.
In Figure 2-4, for example, I browsed to the Westerns sub-subcategory (using
techniques I describe in the previous section of this chapter). In the Basic
Search form at the top of the page, I entered Randolph Scott to search for
western movies starring that golden-haired box office idol of yesteryear.
Only 37 items showed up in the search.
Figure 2-4:
Searching
one
category.
Saving searches, categories, and sellers
After you hang around eBay a while, you find yourself (depending on your
interests) revisiting the same categories, conducting the same searches,
and looking at wares offered by the same handful of sellers. Rather than construct the same searches or browse the same categories repeatedly, you can
Searching for Items of Interest
421
put these searches and categories on the All Favorites portion of your My
eBay page. Then, to conduct a search or visit a category, you just click its
name on a Favorites page.
Putting the name of a seller or eBay store on the All Favorites list is a great
way to see a seller’s items. I have identified four sellers on eBay who consistently offer items I am interested in. I can see these items merely by clicking
the Sellers link on the My eBay page and then clicking a seller’s name.
Follow the instructions in the next three sections of this chapter to be able
to quickly conduct searches for your favorite items, visit your favorite categories, conduct searches, or see what is being offered by your favorite sellers.
On your My eBay page, click the Searches link and, on the My Favorite
Searches page, click the Add New Search link. You see a Basic Search form.
Describe the search and click the Search button. If the search results are to
your liking, click the Add to Favorites link. Now you can run the search starting from your My Favorite Searches page.
Favorite categories
On your My eBay page, click the Categories link and, on the My Favorite
Categories page, click the Add New Category link. Then click the names of
categories and subcategories till you come to a category you like to visit
often. Click the Submit button at the bottom of the page.
Favorite sellers
On every auction page is a link called View Seller’s Other Items. By clicking
this link, you can see a list of other items that the seller is offering. When
you find a seller who consistently offers items you find interesting, jot down
his or her name or store name. Then follow these steps to add the seller’s
name to your My Favorite Sellers page:
1. On your My eBay page, click the Sellers link to go to the My Favorite
Sellers page.
2. Click the Add New Seller or Store link.
3. Enter the seller’s name or store name in the Seller’s User ID or Store
Name text box and click the Continue button.
4. Select the check box if you want to be notified by e-mail when the
seller is offering a new item.
5. Click the Add to Favorites button.
Buying at an Online
Auction
Favorite searches
Book VI
Chapter 2
422
Keeping a Watching List
Managing your All Favorites list
To change around your All Favorites list, follow these instructions:
✦ Rearranging the lists: To change the order of lists on the All Favorites
page, click a list’s Move This View Up or Move This View Down button.
✦ Removing a search, seller, or category: Select the check box next to the
search, seller, or category name and click the Delete button.
✦ Refining a search: Click the button next to “Edit Preferences” and
choose Refine Search on the pop-up menu, as shown in Figure 2-5. The
Search page opens. Choose new search options and click the Search
button to run the search. If the search is satisfactory, click the Add to
Favorites link.
✦ Changing a search/seller name or requesting e-mails: Click the Edit
Preferences link. On the Edit Favorites page, change the name and
change how you want to be alerted by e-mail.
Figure 2-5:
Use the
buttons on
the right
side of the
screen to
manage the
All Favorites
list.
Keeping a Watching List
When you come upon an item in eBay that piques your interest, either
because you want to bid on it later or you’re curious how much it will sell
for, click the Watch This Item link. You can find this link in the upper-right
corner of an item’s eBay page. Clicking the link places the item on
theWatching list. Figure 2-6 shows an Watching list. You can bid on items
from this list, see how much items are selling for, and see how much time is
left to bid on items.
To get to your Watching list, click the Watching link on your My eBay page.
Knowing the Rules of the Road
423
Figure 2-6:
An Items I’m
Watching
list.
Book VI
Chapter 2
Observe these rules as you bid on eBay items:
✦ Avoid impulse bidding. Yes, the beanbag chair is being offered at a
good price, but do you really need a beanbag chair?
✦ Investigate the price. Just because an item is being auctioned at eBay
doesn’t mean that it’s a good buy. Many people who auction at eBay are
merely reselling items that they purchased at a discount. Sometimes you
can purchase these items straight from the manufacturer and buy them
cheaply. After all, all kinds of stuff is for sale on the Internet. The previous chapter in this minibook explains how to search for and investigate
merchandise on the Internet.
✦ Know what the shipping and handling charges are. Some sellers who
auction items cheaply make up the lost revenue by charging exorbitant
fees for shipping and handling.
✦ Contact the seller if you have any questions. eBay makes it easy to
contact a seller. On the item’s eBay page, click the Ask Seller a Question
link. A message form appears so that you can send an e-mail to the
seller. The reply will be sent to the e-mail address you gave eBay when
you registered.
✦ Investigate the seller. On the item’s eBay page, you can click the Read
Feedback Comments link to see a summary of the seller’s transactions
and ratings, as shown in Figure 2-7. Scroll down the page to see what
buyers have said about the seller.
✦ Ask yourself how difficult the item is to assemble, if it needs assembling. Not everyone can interpret the complicated directions that come
with items you have to put together yourself. Not everyone can wield a
screwdriver. Because purchases are delivered by mail, they need assembling more often than other purchases. If you’re not good at assembling
things, make sure that the items you buy are already assembled.
Buying at an Online
Auction
Knowing the Rules of the Road
424
Bidding on Items
Figure 2-7:
Investigating a seller.
Bidding on Items
When you find an item you just gotta have, the next step is to bid on it. Go
ahead. Don’t be shy. eBay bidding is slightly different from conventional auction bidding, as I explain shortly. I also explain how to place a bid and close
a sale.
How bidding works
Each auction page tells you how many days, hours, and minutes are left till
closing time. The person who submits the highest bid before closing time,
of course, wins the item, but it’s not quite that simple. eBay auctions are
not live auctions. Because not everyone who wants to bid can be online and
signed in to eBay at closing time, eBay buyers make what are called maximum bids. Only the bidder knows what his or her maximum bid is. As long
as your maximum bid — the maximum amount you are willing to pay for an
item — exceeds other buyers’ maximum bids, you are the high bidder. But
if you make a maximum bid and someone who bid before has made a maximum bid that is higher than yours, you are not the high bidder. Instead the
stated price of the item rises to the amount that you submitted in your maximum bid.
Confusing, huh? To see how it works, imagine an auction for a Chippendale
mirror. The bidding starts at $50. The bid increment — the amount by which
each bid must exceed the previous bid — is $2.50.
Dave, the first bidder, enters a maximum bid of $75. On the auction page,
however, the price remains at $50. Dave has merely stated how high he is
willing to go to win the item. Remember: Only Dave knows what his maximum bid is.
The next bidder, Sally, enters a maximum bid of $60, but because her $60
doesn’t exceed Dave’s maximum bid of $75, eBay informs Sally that she is
not the high bidder. In the meantime, the price of the item rises to $60, the
amount of Sally’s maximum bid. If no one else bids, Dave can buy the mirror
for $60.
Bidding on Items
425
Sally, still keen to own the mirror, enters a maximum bid of $65, but eBay
informs Sally that she is still not the highest bidder. At $75, Dave remains
the high bidder. The price of the item rises to $65, the amount of Sally’s
second bid.
Sally just has to have that beautiful Chippendale mirror. She enters a maximum bid of $85. Now she is the high bidder and the stated price of the item
is $77.50, Dave’s original maximum bid ($75) plus the bid increment ($2.50).
Because you never know what the current maximum bid is, you never know
whether a maximum bid you submit will make you the high bidder. The maximum bid formula is designed to keep one person from outbidding another by
a few dollars at the last minute. It also gives you a chance to participate in
auctions without having to be present at your computer at bid closing time.
Placing a bid
To place a bid and declare the maximum amount you will pay for an item,
scroll to the bottom of the item’s eBay auction page and look for the words
Ready to Bid? As shown in Figure 2-8, enter your maximum bid and click the
Place Bid button. You see the Review and Confirm Bid window, where you
have a last chance to review your bid before clicking the Confirm Bid button.
Figure 2-8:
Making
a bid.
As soon as you submit a bid, eBay tells you whether you are the high bidder.
The item you are bidding on is placed on your Items I’m Bidding On list. You
can see this list by clicking the Bidding link on your My eBay page. If someone
outbids you, eBay sends you an e-mail telling you as much. The e-mail is sent
Book VI
Chapter 2
Buying at an Online
Auction
eBay informs Dave by e-mail that he has been outbid. Dave clicks the Bidding
link on his My eBay page, goes to his Items I’m Bidding On list, selects the
Chippendale mirror auction, and goes to the Chippendale mirror auction page.
He sees that the item now costs $77.50. He has been outbid. He enters a maximum bid of $90. eBay tells Dave that he is the high bidder. The price of the
mirror is now $87.50, the amount of Sally’s maximum bid ($85) plus the bid
increment ($2.50). Dave will win the mirror for $87.50 as long as no one outbids his maximum bid of $90.
426
Bidding on Items
to the address you entered when you registered. To change this address, click
the Personal Information link on your My eBay page.
Strategies for successful bidding
To be a successful bidder, be coy. When you see an item you really like, don’t
bid on it right away. Click the Watch This Item link to enter the item on your
Watching list, a list you can see by clicking the Watching link of your My
eBay page. From the Watching list, you can click the item’s name and go to
its auction page to find out whether others have placed a bid.
Ideally, bids should be placed at the last minute, but forgetting to bid on an
item is easy. One strategy for remembering to bid is to enter a low bid in the
early going. Each time you are outbid, eBay sends you an e-mail telling you
so. The e-mail message includes a link that you can click to go directly to the
auction page and up your bid.
Setting aside what I just said about being coy, if you really, really want an
item, make a large bid for it. This way, you can scare off other bidders and
decrease your chances of being sniped.
Auction sniping
Auction sniping means to outbid competitors at
the last possible moment in an eBay auction. If
the auction ends at high noon, the successful
auction sniper makes the final, highest bid at
11:59:59. If you spend any time on eBay, you are
bound to be sniped sooner or later. eBay maintains an article about auction sniping at this
address: http://pages.ebay.com/help/
basics/g-sniping.html.
Most people don’t have the spare time to be an
auction sniper, but several Internet services can
do it for you — for a fee, of course. After registering for these services, you tell the service
which eBay item you are bidding on, set your
price, and let the auction sniper place the bid for
you at the last moment. Here are some auctionsniping services and the Web-site addresses
where you can find out more about them:
AuctionSniper: The cost is 1 percent of the
auction price, with a minimum fee of $0.25
and a maximum fee of $5. Address: www.
auctionsniper.com
AuctionStealer: The cost is $9 to $10
per month, depending on how long you
enroll. Address: http://auctionchief.
auctionstealer.com/home.cfm
Bidnapper: The cost is between $4 and $10
per month, depending on how long you
enroll. Address: www.bidnapper.com
HammerSnipe: The cost is $6 to $9 per
month, depending on how long you enroll.
Address: http://hammertap.auction
stealer.com/home.cfm
Making the Purchase
427
Making the Purchase
When you win an auction, eBay sends you an e-mail telling you how much
the item costs, including shipping and handling. At that point, it is up to
you to pay for the item. If you did your homework, you know how the seller
prefers to be paid. You can usually pay by check, a credit card, or PayPal
(see the next chapter in this minibook).
When the transaction is complete and you have the item in hand, be sure to
describe the seller to eBay. You can do this by clicking the Feedback link on
your My eBay page. Click the Leave Feedback link to see a list of people who
sold you items. Click a seller’s name and enter a rating and brief description
of the transaction. Other buyers depend on this information to decide
whether a seller is trustworthy.
Book VI
Chapter 2
Buying at an Online
Auction
428
Book VI: Bargain Shopping
Chapter 3: Using PayPal
In This Chapter
Understanding how PayPal works
Signing up for PayPal
Logging in to PayPal
Making payments through PayPal
Receiving payments through PayPal
A
s you know if you’ve purchased items on eBay, PayPal is a very convenient way to make a payment. More than 40 million people have
signed up with PayPal. Payment information is encrypted so that the seller’s
and buyer’s credit card and checking account information remains private.
This chapter looks at PayPal, how to sign up with the service, and how to
send and receive payments.
Discovering PayPal
PayPal is a convenient online system for sending and receiving payments
over the Internet. If you’ve bought anything at eBay, you probably already
know what PayPal is. Most eBay sellers prefer to receive payments by
PayPal (eBay, in fact, owns PayPal). Apart from the cost of items they purchase, buyers pay nothing to send payments through PayPal. The money
to purchase items is deducted from their credit card accounts or checking
accounts and sent to the seller. For the convenience of receiving payments
through PayPal, sellers pay a fee amounting to about 3 percent of the purchase price.
For buyers, using PayPal offers the advantage of getting the items they purchased that much sooner because sellers don’t have to wait for checks to
clear the bank before sending items. What’s more, PayPal offers eBay buyers
its buyer protection program. The cost of purchasing an item can be refunded
if the item was never delivered or if it is significantly different from what the
buyer thought he or she was getting. And using PayPal spares you trips to the
post office because purchases are made by e-mail. You can pay for an item
and deliver the payment to the seller without leaving your computer.
430
Discovering PayPal
For sellers, using PayPal means receiving payments very quickly. And online
stores can use PayPal in place of expensive checkout procedures that they
would otherwise have to develop and maintain on their own. Your customers can click a PayPal button to make a purchase. They don’t have to
negotiate a hard-to-follow checkout rigmarole.
For sellers and buyers, PayPal tracks all purchases and sales in an account
ledger similar to a bank statement. At any time, you can go online to review
purchases and sales you have made with the help of PayPal.
Types of PayPal accounts
PayPal offers three kinds of accounts. If you run an online business, sign up
for a Premier or Business account:
✦ Personal account: Send and receive payments for free. Funds to pay for
items are withdrawn from a credit card you register with PayPal. You
can’t, however, receive credit- or debit-card payments with this kind of
account.
✦ Premier account: Send payments for free, but pay a small fee to receive
payments. You can receive payments from a customer’s credit or debit
card with this kind of account. You can also use the PayPal checkout
tools — the Buy Now buttons and the Shopping Cart. This account is for
individuals running small businesses.
✦ Business account: Same as a premier account, except more than one
person can access the account. This account type is for small businesses with more than one employee.
For a complete explanation of PayPal features that are available to businesses,
go to this Web address:
www.paypal.com/en_US/pdf/merchantOverview_interactive.pdf
Costs of using PayPal
PayPal operates a two-tiered fee structure. The standard rate charged for
transactions is 2.9 percent plus 30 cents for each transaction taking place in
the United States. A payment of $50, for example, costs the seller $1.75:
($50.00 × 2.9%) + 0.30 =
$1.75
For a transaction in which one of the parties is not in the United States, the
standard rate rises to 3.9 percent plus 30 cents for each transaction. A payment of $50 costs the seller $2.25:
($50.00 × 3.9%) + 0.30 = $2.25
Logging in to the PayPal Window
431
To reward merchants who receive more than $3,000 per month, PayPal offers
a cheaper merchant rate. This rate varies from 1.9 percent to 2.5 percent per
transaction, depending on how much sales volume your business shows
each month. For example, the per-transaction rate drops below 2.2 percent if
your monthly sales exceed $10,000.
Go to this Web address for a complete explanation of the fees that PayPal
charges:
www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_display-fees
Signing Up for a PayPal Account
1. Open your Web browser and go to this address: www.paypal.com.
You come to the PayPal home page.
2. Click the Sign Up link.
3. Choose the kind of account you want and the country you live in; then
click the Continue button.
4. Fill in the Sign Up form and click the Sign Up button.
5. Open the e-mail account whose address you gave to PayPal.
6. Open the e-mail message from PayPal.
7. Click the PayPal confirmation link in the e-mail message.
You go to the PayPal Welcome page. Starting here, you can log in and
start using PayPal.
Logging in to the PayPal Window
To log in to PayPal, go to the PayPal home page (www.paypal.com), enter
your e-mail address, and enter your password. You land on the My Account
tab of the PayPal window, as shown in Figure 3-1. This is the starting point
for all your activity in PayPal. Click one of these tabs to get going:
✦ My Account: Add or withdraw money from your PayPal account, as well
as see a history of your account transactions with PayPal, resolve a dispute with a buyer, and change the personal information you filed with
PayPal.
Using PayPal
Signing up for a PayPal account is free. When you sign up for an account,
PayPal asks for your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address, as
well as a credit or debit card number and bank account information. Follow
these steps to sign up for a PayPal account:
Book VI
Chapter 3
432
Sending a Payment through PayPal
✦ Send Money: Send money to a seller.
✦ Request Money: Request a payment from a buyer.
✦ Merchant Tools: For merchants, include PayPal checkout mechanisms
on your Web site.
✦ Auction Tools: Take advantage of PayPal features designed especially
for people who sell items on eBay.
Figure 3-1:
The My
Account
tab of the
PayPal
window.
Sending a Payment through PayPal
Paying for an item you purchased at eBay with PayPal is a cinch. After you win
the auction, click the Pay Now with PayPal button on the Congratulations, You
Are a Winner page. Then sign in to PayPal, if you haven’t already done so, and
process the payment.
You can make a payment through PayPal to anyone in the United States,
as long as the person has an e-mail address and is either already a PayPal
member or is willing to be a PayPal member to collect the money. Log in to
PayPal and follow these steps to send a payment:
1. Select the Send Money tab.
2. Click the Pay Anyone tab.
Figure 3-2 shows the Pay Anyone tab.
3. Enter an e-mail address, the amount of the payment, the payment
type, a subject for your e-mail message, and a note explaining what
the payment is for.
4. Click the Continue button.
Receiving a Payment
433
5. Make sure that your address is listed correctly and click the Send
Money button.
The e-mail message is sent to the recipient. It tells the recipient that you
have sent a payment through PayPal. If the recipient is a PayPal member,
he or she can log in to PayPal and receive the money. Otherwise, the
recipient must register with PayPal to receive the money you sent.
Book VI
Chapter 3
Using PayPal
Figure 3-2:
Making a
payment
through
PayPal.
You can see a complete history of all payments you’ve sent and received
through PayPal by going to the My Account tab of the PayPal window and
clicking the History tab.
Receiving a Payment
You’ll know when someone has sent you a payment through PayPal because
the notice arrives by e-mail, as shown in Figure 3-3. The notice tells you who
sent the payment and how much the payment is for. The payment is deposited
immediately into your PayPal account. You can see it in the My Account tab of
the PayPal window (refer to Figure 3-1).
Log in to PayPal and follow these steps to withdraw funds from a PayPal
account:
1. Select the My Account tab in the PayPal window, if it isn’t already
selected.
2. Select the Withdraw tab.
434
Receiving a Payment
3. Click the Transfer Funds to Your Bank Account link or the Request a
Check from PayPal link, and follow the instructions.
4. Click the Submit button.
The money will appear in your bank account in four to seven business
days, depending on which country you live in. You incur no charge if you
elect to have funds electronically sent to your bank account, but it costs
$1.50 to receive a check from PayPal.
Figure 3-3:
Receiving
a payment
through
PayPal.
Chapter 4: Taking a Stroll
through the Cyberbazaar
In This Chapter
Antiques
Apparel
Art
Computers and Electronics
Furniture
Gift Ideas
Health and Beauty
Jewelry
Kitsch
Sporting Goods
Toys
T
his chapter describes online shops that are worth visiting. Any list of
this kind is bound to reflect the bias of the person who put it together.
I am biased toward shops that offer exceptional goods or goods that you
can’t find anywhere else on the Internet. I am interested in the weird and
wonderful. I am interested in one-of-a-kind items that are made by hand. I
am interested in online shops that are fun to browse in.
If you are looking for a particular item, try using a shopping search engine
or a comparison-shopping Web site (Chapter 1 of this minibook explains
what those are). This chapter is strictly for people who want to browse and
have the time to do it.
Many lovely antiques are presented on
this Web site.
Antique porcelain and figurines from
the U.K.
French and English stone statuary and
garden antiquary.
Unusual Victorian antique porcelain,
glass, silver, and other eclectic items
collected in British Columbia.
Antiques on Old Plank Road
Castle Bryher
Fleur
Woto and Wife Antiques
Sarongs from Indonesia, as well as other
Indonesian folk arts and crafts.
Every kind of men’s underwear found
on Earth.
“We exist to meet the bow tie needs of
the world’s bow tie wearers.”
“Designer clothing sold at a discount.
Over 350 designers; up to 75 percent off.”
Traditional Chinese wedding gowns and
clothing for men, women, and children.
Special, UV-protection clothing, hats,
sunglasses, and swimwear from Australia.
Great collection of hats at modest prices.
Hula-board shorts, asha skirts, and other
items for teenage girls.
1 World Sarongs
Attivo
Beau Ties Ltd.
Blue Fly
China Bridal
Coolibar
Dad’s Hats
Delias
Apparel
“We are proud of our diverse collections
of Samplers, Majolica, Steins as well as the
other antique accessories that we stock for
designers and homeowners.”
Antiques Company
Antiques
www.delias.com
www.dadshats.com
www.coolibar.com
http://chinabridal.com
www.bluefly.com
www.beautiesltd.com
www.attivousa.com
http://1worldsarongs.com
http://wotoandwife.bc.ca
http://fleur-newyork.com
www.castle-bryher.co.uk
www.oldplank.com/
www.theantiquescompany.com
436
Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar
Clothing for full-figured women.
Brand-name hosiery, tights, and socks
sold at discount.
Islamic clothing, jewelry, and daggers and
Muslim décor.
Volund and dale sweaters imported from
Norway.
Classic Pendleton clothes — the real thing —
made in Pendleton, Oregon.
Sturdy prison blues — that’s clothes to the
rest of us — made by prisoners in Oregon.
Some of the proceeds fund rehabilitation and
victim-restitution programs.
Clothes for cowboys, would-be cowboys,
and plain-old dudes.
Leg Wear Direct
NetStage
Norway Sweaters
Pendleton
Prison Blues
Sheplers
Buy glasses frames straight from the
manufacturer. Over 100,000 frames and
styles are available.
Frames Direct
Just My Size
Mules, slides, thongs, flip-flops and other
unusual footwear.
Flip Flop Trunk Show
Rugged clothes for people who work outdoors.
Shop for vintage clothing by decade, from
the 1920s to the present.
Fashion Dig
Silk clothing — scarves, lingerie, pajamas —
imported from Hong Kong.
Special bug-resistant clothing for men,
women, and children.
Ex Officio
Hong Kong Silk Company
Marked-down designer-name clothes and
handbags.
eLuxury
www.sheplers.com
www.prisonblues.com
www.pendleton-usa.com
www.norwaysweaters.com
www.desertstore.com
www.legweardirect.com
www.justmysize.com
www.hksilk.com
www.gemplers.com
www.framesdirect.com
www.flipfloptrunkshow.com
www.fashiondig.com
www.exofficio.com
www.eluxury.com
www.designeroutlet.com
Taking a Stroll
through the
Cyberbazaar
Gempler’s
Shop for low-priced designer clothing in
different categories.
Designer Outlet
Apparel (continued)
Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar
437
Book VI
Chapter 4
Prescription eyeglasses for $19. It’s hard
to beat that.
Warning: Not everyone looks supercool in
a zoot suit; the store also sells retro shoes
and hats.
Zenni Optical
Zoot Suit Store
Movie, sports, fine-art, and vintage posters.
Fiesta ware pottery in all shapes and colors.
Buy framed New Yorker cartoons — or
cartoons on T-shirts.
Paintings, sculptures, jewelry, dolls, and
textiles from India.
Fair-trade arts and crafts from Africa,
including jewelry, clothing, baskets, and glass.
Clothing, home décor, and gifts from East Asia.
I just had to stick this one in the book somewhere,
and yes, this museum also has a store.
Vintage movie posters from old to not so old.
“The easiest way to find and buy original
paintings.”
All Posters
Bauer Boys
Cartoonbank
Exotic India
Global Crafts
Good Orient
Museum of Bad Art
Night Owl Books
Painting Direct
Art
Underwear for all occasions.
Regardless of whether you wear hats, check
out the variety at this Web site.
Unusual, easy-to-clean, sturdy clothes for
travelers.
Travel Smith
Village Hat Shop
Ties, ties, and more ties, including a tie museum
and instructions for tying different tie knots.
Ties
Underneath
Lots of stockings, some shocking and some not.
Stockings HQ
Apparel (continued)
www.paintingdirect.com
http://nightowlbooks.com
www.museumofbadart.org
www.goodorient.com
www.globalcrafts.org
www.exoticindiaart.com
www.cartoonbank.com
http://bauerboys.com
http://allposters.com
www.zootsuitstore.com
http://19dollareyeglasses.com
www.villagehatshop.com
www.underneath.com
www.travelsmith.com
www.ties.com
www.stockingshq.com
438
Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar
Vintage posters from around the world.
Postergroup
The HoverCopter Deluxe Kit, the Shower Stick,
the Bun and Thigh Roller, and every other weird
invention you’ve seen advertised on late-night
TV is available here.
Lots of fun gadgetry at low prices.
Low-cost computer hardware and software.
Telephones of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
The latest electronic gadgets from the most
gadgetized country on earth — Japan.
The biggest, brightest, gaudiest, and most
technologically advanced TVs are served up here.
Bid on or buy factory seconds from electronics
manufacturers.
As Seen on TV
Cambridge Soundworks
Chumbo
Custom Phones
Dynamism
Tweeter
UBid
Search by room for articles of furniture.
Wrought-iron furniture for the garden
or backyard.
Furniture Find
Ironworx Designs
Furniture
This spy shop offers the world’s smallest
video camera, surveillance equipment, and
“spy optics.”
www.ironworxdesigns.com
www.furniturefind.com
www.ubid.com
www.tweeter.com
www.dynamism.com
www.customphones.com
www.chumbo.com
www.cambridgesoundworks.com
www.asontv.com
www.advanced-intelligence.com
www.postergroup.com
www.photowow.com
Taking a Stroll
through the
Cyberbazaar
Advanced Intelligence
Computers and Electronics
Submit snapshots of your family or friends and
have the turned into hand-tinted pop-art prints.
Photowow
Art (continued)
Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar
439
Book VI
Chapter 4
Elegant, expertly crafted furniture from
time-tested Shaker designs.
Shaker Furniture
Nautical knickknacks for people who
love the sea.
Look in the Car Products section for high-tech
items for the car, including satellite radios and
radar detectors.
Home of the “Fruit of the Month Club.”
Unusual items from the old Soviet Union,
including propaganda posters and military
collectibles, including arts and crafts.
“Discover planetary magic and unusual gift
ideas. Mama’s Minerals has rocks, gems,
minerals, geodes, quartz crystals, and more.”
Order reproductions — most with illustrations —
of patents issued by the U.S. Patent Office.
Exotic items imported from Vietnam.
Uber orbs, lasers, and other exotic gadgetry
for the nerd or the geek.
Custom-made calendars with pictures of
family members and pets.
All Nautical
Crutchfield
Harry and David
Interactive Russia
Mama’s Minerals
Patent Museum
Saigoniste
ThinkGeek
Year Box
Gift Ideas
Antique furniture and gilded mirrors from
the U.K.
Minerva Antiques
Furniture (continued)
http://www.yearbox.com
www.thinkgeek.com
http://saigoniste.com
www.patentmuseum.com
http://mamasminerals.com
www.in-russia.com/store
www.harryanddavid.com
www.crutchfield.com
http://allnautical.com
www.shakerworkshops.com
www.minerva-antiques.co.uk
440
Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar
This rather unusual Web site combines
medicine with nostalgia for times past. It
offers “brands you grew up with” — antiseptics
and beauty products from your childhood
medicine cabinet.
Devoted to wigs and wig products.
Hair-care, makeup, and skin-care stuff.
Medicinal products for travelers — mosquito
repellants, jet-lag remedies, and more.
Garish makeup in unusual colors, some of
them found in nature.
Medichest
Paula Young Wigs
Sephora
Travel Medicine
Urban Decay
Charm bracelets from Italy at very
affordable prices.
Victorian, Edwardian, art nouveau, art deco,
and retro jewelry.
Enjoy the jewelry of yesteryear.
An entire Web site devoted to this slowly
disappearing piece of men’s attire — the cufflink.
Antique jewelry collected from estate sales.
Absolutely Vintage
Antique Jewelry Exchange
Cufflinks
Love Joy Jewelry
www.lovejoyjewelry.com
www.cufflinks.com
http://antiquejewelryexch.com
http://absolutelyvintage.net
www.italianbraceletcharms.com
www.urbandecay.com
www.travmed.com
www.sephora.com
www.paulayoung.com
www.medichest.com
http://ebubbles.com
Taking a Stroll
through the
Cyberbazaar
Italian Bracelet Charms
Jewelry
Bubble-bath powders, creams, lotions,
massage oil, and other products to make you
feel scrumptious.
eBubbles
Health and Beauty
Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar
441
Book VI
Chapter 4
Retro clocks, radios, and other items, most
from the 1950s.
All things stupid — gifts, candy, toys.
Reproductions of 1950s items, including
furniture, clocks, signs, and kitchenware.
Retro Junction
Stupid
Vintage Vending
Rods, reels, flies, wading gear, and everything
else fishermen and fisherwomen need.
Army and Navy surplus items, including
camouflage face paint and water-treatment gear.
Get in your morning run and air out the baby
at the same time.
Buy all-natural bug repellant made from
cactus juice.
New gear, used gear, and closeout camping
gear.
You can find a huge selection of inexpensive
hiking, backpacking, and camping gear, as well
as outdoor clothing.
AA Outfitters
Army Surplus
Baby Jogging Strollers
Cactus Juice
Outdoor Gear Exchange
Sierra Trading Post
Sporting Goods
Check out the Mozart Action Figure and other
tacky but wonderful gifts.
Archie McPhee
Kitsch
www.sierratradingpost.com
www.gearx.com
www.cactusjuicetm.com
www.baby-jogging-strollers.com
www.armygear.net
www.aaoutfitters.com
www.vintagevending.com
www.stupid.com
www.retrojunction.com
www.mcphee.com
442
Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar
Unusual toys for children of all ages.
Exotic kites, windsocks, and other items
that dance in the sky.
Educational toys for bright kids and kids
whose parents think they’re bright.
Marbles of all shapes, colors, and sizes.
Offers wagons, go-carts, and other items
that kids can ride.
Big Fun Toys
Catch the Wind
Copernicus Toys & Gifts
Land of Marbles
Mobileation
www.mobileation.com
http://landofmarbles.com
www.copernicustoys.com
www.catchthewind.com
www.bigfuntoys.com
Taking a Stroll
through the
Cyberbazaar
Toys
Taking a Stroll through the Cyberbazaar
443
Book VI
Chapter 4
444
Book VI: Bargain Shopping
Book VII
Selling on the
Internet
Contents at a Glance
Chapter 1: Selling Items on eBay ......................................................................................447
Chapter 2: Selling Items Online ........................................................................................457
Chapter 3: Sending It to the Buyer ....................................................................................463
Chapter 1: Selling Items on eBay
In This Chapter
Examining the costs of selling on eBay
Signing up to be a seller
Getting ready to sell an item
Posting an item for sale on eBay
Monitoring the progress of an auction
Closing the sale
F
rom the seller’s point of view, eBay presents a convenient way to empty
the attic or garage of unwanted items, or a way to make a living. You
may be interested to know that some 150,000 Americans make a living by
selling items on eBay. Most eBay sellers, however, use the service to sell the
occasional item — a piece of jewelry that isn’t wanted, an old painting, or
some used stereo equipment.
eBay understands that more sellers using the service necessarily attract
more bidders and buyers, because more goods are available for them to
choose from, and that more bidders and buyers, in turn, increase the cost
of items at eBay and make the service more attractive to sellers, too. To
speed this vicious cycle of sellers attracting buyers and buyers attracting
sellers, eBay has done its best to please both parties. It has made selling
items on eBay pretty easy.
This chapter explains how much it costs to sell items on eBay and describes
the background work you must do to sell an item successfully. It shows how
to sign up to sell an item and put up an item for auction. You also discover
how to monitor an auction and close a sale.
By the way, don’t attempt to sell anything at eBay until you are familiar
with online auctions and, preferably, have purchased some items from eBay.
Book VI, Chapter 2 explains how to buy items at an eBay auction.
Figuring the Costs of Selling on eBay
Before you consider selling an item on eBay, I bet you want to know the
costs of selling. The costs, I’m happy to report, are low. How much it costs
to sell an item on eBay depends on how much the item is sold for and
448
Signing Up to Sell on eBay
whether you want amenities such as including more than one picture on
your auction page. Fees break down like this:
✦ Insertion Fee: A fee each seller must pay regardless of whether the item
sells. The amount of the insertion fee is based on the starting or reserve
price. As of this writing, fees range from 30 cents for items with a starting or reserve price under $1 to $4.80 for items with a starting or reserve
price over $500.
✦ Final Value Fee: The fee each seller pays if the item sells. The fee is not
paid if the item doesn’t sell. For an item that sold in the $25 to $1,000
range, the final value fee is 5.25 percent of the initial $25, plus another
2.75 percent for the remaining balance. For example, for an item that
sold for $40, the final value fee is calculated like so:
Initial $25: $25 × 5.25% = $1.31
Remaining balance: $15 × 2.75% = $0.42
______________________________________
Total = $1.73
✦ Optional Reserve Price Fee: eBay charges you if you list a reserve price
for an item you sell. For items that sell for below $50, the fee is $1; for
items between $50 and $200, the fee is $2; after that, the reserve fee is 1
percent of the reserve price.
✦ Optional Picture Service Fees: The first picture you post on an auction
page is free; after that, pictures cost 15 cents each. A super-size picture
costs 75 cents.
eBay charges other fees as well if you want fancy stuff on your auction
pages. Go to this Web page to get complete, up-to-date fee rates for selling
items on eBay:
http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/fees.html
Signing Up to Sell on eBay
In addition to what you told eBay when you signed up to buy items at the
online auction house, eBay needs to know one or two things about you.
Chiefly, eBay needs your credit card number and checking account number.
The checking account number confirms that you are who you say you are.
eBay charges your credit card when you put up an item for bidding and complete a sale.
Sign in to eBay and follow these steps to start signing up as an eBay seller:
1. Click the My eBay button to go to your my eBay page.
As Book VI, Chapter 2 explains, every registered eBay member gets a My
eBay page for tracking items that he or she is watching and bidding on. If
Signing Up to Sell on eBay
449
you have not yet signed up to sell items on eBay, a Start Selling link
appears on the left side of the window (this link is called All Selling if
you have signed up already).
2. Click the Start Selling link.
You come to the How to Sell Items window.
3. Click the Set Up a Seller’s Account link.
You land in the Create Seller’s Account window.
4. Click the Create Seller’s Account button.
Now you’re getting somewhere. You see the Create Seller’s Account
window shown in Figure 1-1. It’s time to start entering credit card and
bank account information.
Book VII
Chapter 1
Selling Items
on eBay
Figure 1-1:
Creating a
seller’s
account
at eBay.
In the next several windows, eBay asks for this information:
✦ Credit or Debit Card: Enter your credit or debit card number.
✦ Expiration date: Use the drop-down menus to enter the card’s expiration date.
✦ Card Identification Number: You can find this three-digit number on the
back of your card.
✦ Account holder: The name of the person who is listed on your checking
account (that’s probably you).
✦ Bank Name: Your bank’s name.
450
Doing the Background Work
✦ Bank Routing Number: You can get this number by looking at a check.
It’s the first nine digits in the lower-left corner, the ones between the
first and second colons (:).
✦ Checking Account Number: You can also get this from a check. It’s the
last nine or ten digits, the ones to the right of the second colon.
✦ Pay selling fees: Tell eBay whether to take fees from your checking
account or credit card account.
✦ Password: Enter your eBay password.
To change anything about the seller information you entered, go to your My
eBay page and click the Personal Information link. You can find this link
under the My Account link. Click the Change link next to the words Checking
Account or Credit Card to change the information you entered.
Doing the Background Work
Before you attempt to sell an item on eBay, do the background work. Find
out how much you can realistically get from the item on eBay, take a photograph of the item, and write its description. Sure, you can write the description as you put the item up for bid, but I suggest thinking it over carefully
beforehand and writing a good description in your word processor. You can
paste the description into your auction page later.
Researching the cost of the item
Obviously, you want the highest price you can get for your item without running the risk of failing to sell it. Here are ways to gauge how much to charge
for an item:
✦ Search eBay: Book VI, Chapter 2 explains how to conduct a search of
eBay for an item. Find out whether anyone is currently selling the item
you want to sell. For that matter, find out how much similar items are
selling for. You can also find out how much similar items have sold for
in previous auctions.
✦ Search the Internet: Search the Internet to see how much online stores
are charging for the item, if the item is sold at online stores. Book VI,
Chapter 1 lists shopping search engines and comparison-shopping Web
sites where you can find out how much an item is selling for.
By the way, some items can’t be sold on eBay. These items include firearms,
pesticides, and tobacco. For a complete list of items that can’t be sold on
eBay, go to this Web page:
http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/item_allowed.html
Putting Up an Item for Bidding
451
Writing your item description
Along with taking a photograph, writing an item description is the most
important task you can do to make an item enticing to bidders. Be sure to
list the specifics of the item — its size, brand name, the year in which it was
made, and the materials it is made of. If it has any blemishes, include them
in your description. Bidders trust you more if you do, and no one will be able
to complain later that you didn’t list the blemishes.
In your description, declare as well what makes the item special. Try to
appeal to the inner shopper in everyone and suggest why the item is perfect,
useful, or necessary. Make the bidder feel enthusiastic about buying the
item. End your description by wishing the bidder good luck in the auction.
Taking the photograph
eBay does not charge for including a photograph on an auction page. After
the initial photograph, photographs cost a paltry 15 cents each. Because a
picture is worth a thousand words, you would do well to include a photograph of the item.
Digital cameras have made it easy to take photographs that can be posted
on the Internet. As you take your photograph, consider these pointers:
✦ Use good lighting. Put the item near a window and photograph it in natural light. If you have to use artificial light, illuminate the item from two
directions so that shadows don’t appear.
✦ Use a contrasting background. Use a neutral background that contrasts
with the color of the item. This shows off the item’s appearance.
✦ Show some indication of size. If necessary, place a ruler or other familiar
object next to the item so that bidders can clearly measure its size.
Putting Up an Item for Bidding
Putting up an item for bidding is a matter of completing five tasks:
✦ Choosing a category
✦ Entering the title and description
✦ Uploading a photograph
✦ Declaring how you want to be paid and how you will ship the item
✦ Submitting your item for bidding
Selling Items
on eBay
✦ Shoot from different sides. If you plan to post more than one photo,
shoot the item from different angles to give bidders a better idea what it
looks like.
Book VII
Chapter 1
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Putting Up an Item for Bidding
These five tasks are described in the pages that follow.
To put up an item for bidding, you must have registered to sell on eBay as
well as buy on eBay (see “Signing Up to Sell on eBay,” earlier in this chapter).
Choosing a category
To put an item up for bidding, start by signing in to eBay and following these
steps:
1. Click the Sell button along the top of the screen.
You come to the Sell window.
2. Click the Sell Your Item button.
You see the Choose a Selling Format window.
3. Select the Sell Item on Online Auction option button; then click the
Continue button.
You land in the Select Category window.
4. Select a category for the item you want to sell; then click the Continue
button.
Choose a category carefully. Buyers sometimes browse through categories looking for items to buy.
5. Select a subcategory for the item; then click the Continue button.
You can place your item in more than one category. To do so, select the
List in Second Category for Greater Visibility option button, click the
Continue button, choose another category, and click the Continue
button again.
Now you’re ready to describe the item.
Describing your item
Which windows you see next depends on the category in which your item is
placed. For all items, however, you are asked for the following, as shown in
Figure 1-2:
✦ Item Title: The name of the item. What you enter here appears along the
top of the auction page and in search results. Name the item as clearly
and concisely as you can. Use the adjective rare in the title if the item is
indeed rare. By using a common name, you increase the chances of the
item coming up in an eBay search.
✦ Subtitle: A subtitle is optional and costs 50 cents. Spending the extra
money is worth it if you can make the item seem a little more enticing.
Putting Up an Item for Bidding
453
Figure 1-2:
Describing
an item.
✦ Item Description: On the Standard tab, paste the description you wrote
earlier (see “Writing your item description,” earlier in this chapter). You
can click the Enter Your Own HTML tab and paste HTML code and text
as well, if you know your way around HTML coding.
Book VII
Chapter 1
Providing the pictures and item details
✦ Starting Price: Enter your starting price in the text box. eBay recommends a low starting price, even if it means running the risk of selling
the item below value. Low starting prices encourage people to bid.
Studies show that once a bidder makes an initial bid, he or she is likely
to get the competitive spirit and keep bidding if others bid higher.
✦ Reserve Price: A reserve price is the price that must be met for the item
to be sold. Enter a reserve price if you can’t part with the item for anything less than a certain amount. However, reserve prices discourage
bidders who think that a reserve price means an item is not a bargain.
✦ Buy It Now Price: By paying this price, you offer buyers the chance to
bypass bidding and acquire the item right away. As soon as someone
makes an initial bid, however, the Buy It Now price disappears, and the
auction is conducted like other auctions.
✦ Duration: From the drop-down menu, choose how long you want the auction to last: 1, 3, 5, 7, or 10 days. Choose 1 day for “hot” items that bidders
may snatch up immediately. If you expect bidders to run up the price,
choose 7 or 10 days to give them time to run the price especially high.
Selling Items
on eBay
Now comes the important part — the pricing and the pictures:
454
Putting Up an Item for Bidding
✦ Quantity: If you are selling more than one copy of the item, enter the
number you are selling in the Number of Items text box.
✦ Adding Pictures: Click the Add Pictures button and select your picture
in the Open dialog box. For 15 cents more, you can place more than one
picture on your auction page.
✦ Selecting a Layout: Choose a layout option to tell eBay how to arrange
text and photos on your auction page. The preview box shows precisely
what your choices are.
✦ Selecting a Theme: Using the drop-down menu and option choices,
choose a theme for your auction page.
Click the Continue button to move ahead to the Payment & Shipping page.
Choosing the payment and shipping methods
Select check boxes to declare how you will accept payments and ship the
item. If you are signed up with PayPal (see Book VI, Chapter 3), you can
accept payments by PayPal. Make sure that the correct e-mail address is
shown to the right of the PayPal check box so that notification that you’ve
been paid is sent to the correct e-mail address.
Select the check boxes to declare where you will ship the items. In the
Shipping Costs section, state how much you plan to charge for shipping
(Book VII, Chapter 3 has advice for calculating shipping charges). Declare
your return policy as well by selecting options from the drop-down menus
under in the Return Policy section.
The Payment Instructions text box can be very useful for clearing up ambiguities in your payment and shipping policies. Buyers should clearly understand your policies before they bid. State the policies plainly in this text box,
and you will spare yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
Reviewing and submitting
Before clicking the Submit Listing button at the bottom of the Review &
Submit Listing page, take a last look at the options you chose for your item.
If something needs changing, you can click a link on the right side of the
window to go back to a page and make changes. Click the Save Changes
button on the page to return to the Review & Submit Listing page.
After you click the Submit Listing button, eBay sends you an e-mail to confirm that your item is up for bid.
Closing the Sale
455
Monitoring the Auction
To find out whether anyone has bid on an item you are selling, go to your My
eBay page and click the Selling link. For each item you are selling, the Selling
page lists its current price, the number of bids, the ID of the highest bidder,
the number of people who have put the item on their Watch lists, and the
number of questions you have been asked about the item.
Questions arrive at the e-mail account you gave eBay when you signed up.
Be sure to answer these questions promptly. Doing so greatly increases your
chances of making a sale.
Closing the Sale
When the auction ends, eBay sends you an e-mail message saying as much.
With a little luck, you get a “Congratulations” message because the item
sold. The message tells you who the buyer is, the closing price, and the total
owed you — including shipping and handling and insurance, if the buyer
purchased insurance.
You can also go to your My eBay page and click the Sold link to find out how
much an item sold for, as shown in Figure 1-3. The Sold page tells you the
buyer’s name, the selling price, and the total price.
Book VII
Chapter 1
Selling Items
on eBay
Figure 1-3:
The Sold
page tells
you how
much
someone
paid for your
item.
456
Closing the Sale
At this point, it’s up to you to communicate with the buyer about sending
the package. You need to get the buyer’s address and the sending instructions. Follow these steps to send the buyer an e-mail message:
1. On the Sold page (refer to Figure 1-3), click the name of the item you
sold.
You go to the auction page. It tells you that your item sold and how
much it sold for.
2. Click the Contact the Buyer link.
You can find this link next to the winning bidder’s name. You land in the
Contact eBay Member window, shown in Figure 1-4.
Figure 1-4:
Contacting
the buyer.
3. Write the buyer an e-mail message and click the Send Message button.
In your message, congratulate the buyer for winning the item. Be sure to
state the winning bid amount, the cost of shipping and packing, and the
total cost. Explain as well how long you hold on to checks before they
clear the bank, if the buyer is paying by check. Ask for the buyer’s
address so that you know where to ship the item.
If you and the buyer are signed up with PayPal and you declared before the
auction that you accept payments by PayPal, you may already have been
paid. If so, PayPal has sent a message to your e-mail account explaining that
a payment was made. Book VI, Chapter 3 explains PayPal.
Chapter 2: Selling Items Online
In This Chapter
Settling into a niche market
Setting up a commerce Web site
Looking at e-commerce software programs
F
irst, some bad news. Starting a business on the Internet really isn’t very
different from starting a conventional business. You still have to find
customers. You still have to deliver a product that sets you apart from the
competition. You still have to work hard and think innovatively to succeed.
The good news is that the Internet levels the playing field somewhat. You
have a direct connection to the millions of people who surf the Internet
daily. You don’t have to rent a storefront or send out hundreds of thousands
of catalogs. You don’t have to lay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to
get started. You have a direct line to customers, and not just to customers
in one geographic area. Your customers are potentially everywhere that
people can connect to the Internet.
This chapter introduces you to selling online. Entire books have been written
on this subject, and one chapter can’t really do it justice, but this chapter
lets you know what you’re getting into and gives you ideas to consider as
you set up an online business. You discover how to serve a market on the
Internet, what is involved in setting up an e-commerce Web site, and which
e-commerce software is available to you.
Choosing the Right Market
Generally speaking, the type of goods that sell on the Internet are the same
type of goods that sell in catalogs — clothing, electronics, sporting goods. If
a potential buyer has to feel it, taste it, or see it in person in order to buy it,
it’s hard to sell it online.
The trick is to find a niche market and become the official Web site for customers in that niche. It would be a mistake to try to sell backpacking equipment because you would have to compete with brand-name online retailers
whose resources far exceed yours. But what if you were to specialize in
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Setting Up Your Web Site
German-made hiking boots or Swiss rock-climbing equipment? Instead of
selling sports memorabilia in general, you could specialize in one sport,
such as baseball.
Here are some examples of online businesses that have been successful. If
these businesses have anything in common, it is that they discovered a
market niche and made it their own:
✦ FlightSimCentral: This Web site specializes in selling flight-simulation
games. The games are described in great detail so that hobbyists can
find one just right for them. Address: http://stores.yahoo.com/fsc
✦ FridgeDoor: This Web site is the be-all and end-all of refrigerator magnets. Address: http://stores.yahoo.com/fridgedoor
✦ Gun Dog Supply: This Web site offers supplies for training hunting dogs.
Talk about a market niche! Address: www.gundogsupply.com
✦ MyVitaNet: Selling vitamins is nothing new, but this Web site has made a
success of it by offering information about vitamins as well as selling the
pills themselves. Address: www.myvitanet.com
Setting Up Your Web Site
Normally, if a Web site is to attract visitors, it has to present a good appearance and offer something special or something of value. An online business’s
Web site has to do even more than that. It has to present the items or services that are for sale in a good light, assure customers that they can buy with
confidence, and be easy to navigate.
On the Internet, customers tend to judge a book by its cover. A comfortable,
easy-to-use Web site is considered the sign of a good company, one worth
buying items from. A good Web site inspires customer confidence. To be
easy to navigate, a Web site needs tabs or buttons so that visitors can get
quickly from place to place and always know where they are.
As shown in Figure 2-1, Amazon.com (www.amazon.com) has perfected the
art of keeping customers from getting lost. You can tell at a glance how this
Web site is structured and where you need to go to find the item you’re interested in. In fact, Amazon.com’s success can be attributed largely to its Website design. Customers are comfortable at Amazon.com and they make many
purchases there, although the goods that Amazon.com sells can be purchased for less money at other Web sites. Another example of a Web site
that is well structured is Barnes & Noble (www.barnesandnoble.com),
shown in Figure 2-2. The tabs along the top of the window make it very easy
to get from place to place.
Setting Up Your Web Site
459
Figure 2-1:
The popularity of
Amazon.com
can be
attributed
to its user
interface.
Book VII
Chapter 2
Selling Items Online
Figure 2-2:
It’s easy to
get around
at the
Barnes &
Noble Web
site.
At the top of Figure 2-1, notice that Amazon.com has a shopping-cart mechanism. This is standard procedure at e-commerce Web sites. Customers
need to be able to select items for purchase easily and be able to tell which
items they have selected for purchase. They ought to be able to examine
the items in the shopping cart and remove one from the list if they so
choose.
460
E-Commerce Software
On the subject of earning the confidence of your customers, one way to do
that is to include a phone number and street address on your Web site. This
ensures customers that yours is a real, three-dimensional company, not just
a presence in cyberspace.
The next section in this chapter describes some software that you can use to
set up commercial Web sites with shopping carts and customer checkout
procedures. If you decide to create your Web site on your own without using
e-commerce software, be prepared to spend $75 to $150 per hour on Website developers. Past work can give you an idea of how good a designer is,
but just as importantly, take note of how curious designers are about your
business as you interview them. Every company is different, and therefore
every company’s Web site should be different as well. A designer who understands this should ask about your company as he or she contemplates how
to make your Web site.
E-Commerce Software
Setting up a Web site for an online business is no piece of cake. This is not
something you should try at home unless you are a good hand with computers. Besides presenting the products you want to sell, the Web site has to be
able to process payments from customers. In other words, it requires a
shopping-cart mechanism so that customers can buy items and understand
how much they cost, including tax and shipping charges. The Web site also
has to process credit card payments.
A handful of software is available to help entrepreneurs run their businesses
on the Internet. Table 2-1 describes these programs. Good e-commerce software can help you create a Web site and handle credit card transactions.
Some programs also generate reports so that you can find out which products are selling and what your expenses and profits are.
Table 2-1
Software for Online Businesses
Software
Web Address
Setup
Fee
Monthly Notes
Fee
bCentral
Commerce
Manager
www.microsoft.com/
smallbusiness/bc/
default.mspx
-
$25
Build a catalog-style
Web site; orderprocessing and
management tools are
excellent; support
costs an extra $10
per month.
Bigstep
www.bigstep.com
-
$30
Build a Web site from
templates; has limited
reporting capabilities.
E-Commerce Software
Software
Web Address
461
Setup
Fee
Monthly Notes
Fee
FreeMerchant www.freemerchant.com
$25
$50
Few reporting features;
basic Web-site tools.
Interland
Online
Marketing
www.interland.com
$50
$50
Uses PayPal to handle
payment processing;
good Web-site tools.
SimpleNet
Commerce
www.simplenet.com
$50
$35
Step-by-step sitebuilding tools;
commerce features
are hard to set up.
StoreSense
www.storesense.com
$100
$50
Good site-building
tools; good administrative tools for
commerce.
Yahoo!
Merchant
http://smallbusiness.
yahoo.com/merchant
$40
$50+
Offers many
e-commerce options;
charges 1.5% for
transactions.
Book VII
Chapter 2
Selling Items Online
462
Book VII: Selling on the Internet
Chapter 3: Sending It to the Buyer
In This Chapter
Calculating the costs of shipping an item
Packing items
Purchasing stamps online
Tracking items to their delivery
Y
ou sold it, which means now you have to ship it. And if you want repeat
customers, you have to ship it in a timely fashion and make sure it gets
there in one piece.
The responsibility for sending items undamaged and making sure they arrive
on time rests with the seller. Even if your customer purchases insurance
or your item listing says that you are not responsible for goods being damaged in transit, you are responsible. It’s the law. If the item is damaged, the
customer has the right to a refund.
This brief chapter looks at how to decide how much to charge your customers for shipping an item, packing items, buying postage online, and
tracking items to their point of delivery.
Determining the Shipping Costs
Telling your customers what the shipping costs of an item are up front is
essential. Customers consider the shipping costs as they decide whether to
purchase or bid on an item. And they can tell when the shipping costs are too
high. Many sellers pad the shipping costs to earn extra income from a sale,
but the extra income gained from padding is lost when you consider how
many customers turn down a purchase because they don’t want to pay
the extra shipping costs. By stating the shipping costs up front, you make it
the buyer’s responsibility to pay these costs. The buyer can’t quarrel with the
shipping costs after the purchase.
If the item weighs more than a half-pound, is fragile, or has an unusual
shape and requires special care in packing, determining the shipping and
packaging costs can be a chore. Here are things to consider as you tabulate
the shipping costs of an item:
✦ The postage costs
✦ The cost of all packing materials
464
Determining the Shipping Costs
✦ The time you spend packaging the item
✦ The time you spend delivering the item to the post office or other service you use for shipping, if the carrier doesn’t come to your door
As you consider these costs, remember that postage and packing materials
are tax deductible. You recoup some of these costs if you itemize them on
your tax return.
Whether you charge a flat rate or a variable rate for shipping depends on
whether you want to gamble on making lower shipping rates an incentive
for buyers who live near you. Obviously, declaring a flat rate is simpler. With
a variable rate, you count on bidders and the buyer to make the extra effort
to find out what the shipping charges are. eBay sellers can include a shipping calculator on their Web pages. A bidder can enter a zip code in the
calculator to see precisely what his or her shipping charges are. To look
into the eBay shipping calculator, go to this Web page:
http://pages.ebay.com/services/buyandsell/shippingcenter7.html
Go to these Web sites to calculate the cost of sending a package:
✦ FedEx: Click the Ship tab and choose Get Rates on the drop-down menu.
Address: www.fedex.com/us
✦ UPS: Click the Calculate Time and Cost link. Address:
www.ups.com/content/us/en/shipping/index.html
✦ USPS: Click the Calculate Postage link, as shown in Figure 3-1. Address:
www.usps.com
Figure 3-1:
A visit to the
online post
office.
Packing It
465
If you buy stamps from Stamps.com, you can hide your postage costs. The
postage costs don’t appear on the label. Some buyers are resentful when
they see that the cost of postage is lower than the shipping cost, but you can
get around this problem by buying stamps at Stamps.com (see “Buying
Postage Stamps Online,” later in this chapter).
Packing It
It’s no coincidence that the first online seller to make a name for itself was
Amazon.com. Amazon.com started by selling books, and books are easy to
package. They’re durable and impossible to break. Nothing is easier than
packing a book because its pages serve as packing material. Unless the box
is oversize, you don’t have to wrap a book in bubble wrap or popcorn. An
old folded newspaper suffices.
Packing some items can be difficult, but going to extra trouble when packing
pays dividends. It encourages customers to come back for more. On eBay,
buyers often mention how items were packed in their seller assessments.
When you pack an item, pack it as though you were going to purposefully
damage it after you finish packing. For that matter, pack it as you would like
it to be packed if it were being sent to you.
The cost of packing materials can add up. Here are some free or low-cost
sources of packing materials:
✦ Shredded paper: If you live near an industrial park or other place where
offices run paper through shredders, you may be able to convince an
office to let you have first dibs on its shredded paper. Or, if you generate
a lot of paper, get your own paper shredder. Electronic paper shredders
cost $150 and up.
✦ Bulk purchases: If you buy boxes in bulk, they cost less. Buying boxes in
bulk is an option if the items you send are roughly the same size. (And
don’t forget, you can recycle boxes that others send you.)
Be sure to enclose an invoice in the package so that the customer understands clearly what is in the package and where it came from. If the package
is damaged in the mail, the carrier can open it and find out from the invoice
who sent it and where it is meant to go.
Sending It
to the Buyer
✦ Delivery services: If you are a steady customer, you can get free boxes
and labels from delivery services.
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Chapter 3
466
Buying Postage Stamps Online
What about delivery confirmation?
Whether to use delivery confirmation depends
on the items you sell. If the items are inexpensive and easy to replace in the event they are
lost, delivery confirmation isn’t really necessary. But delivery confirmation offers advantages if you sell items worth $20 or more. You
know when the package was delivered and
that it was delivered. Delivery confirmations are
a defense against scam buyers, the people who
order an item and then claim it wasn’t delivered. And customers like being able to track
deliveries online. After you send a customer a
tracking number by e-mail, the customer can
go online to find out where the item is and how
close it is to being delivered.
Buying Postage Stamps Online
Thanks to the miracle of the Internet and Stamps.com (www.stamps.com),
you no longer need to wait in line at the post office to buy stamps. You can
buy them online with a credit card, print postage at any amount, affix the
postage to the package, and drop off the package at the post office without
having to wait in line. The Web site also offers postage-rate calculators
and a means of tracking your packages through the mail. Figure 3-2 shows
Stamps.com.
Figure 3-2:
Buy stamps
online at
Stamps.com.
Tracking It
467
Tracking It
Go to one of these Web sites when you want to track the progress of a
package:
✦ FedEx: Click the Track tab. Address: www.fedex.com/us
✦ UPS: Click the Tracking tab. Address: www.ups.com/content/
us/en/index.jsx
✦ USPS: Click the Track and Confirm link. Address: www.usps.com
At Pack Track (www.packtrack.com), you can track the progress of a
package mailed with UPS, FedEx, Airborne, or 55 other carriers. Enter
the tracking number, choose the carrier, and click the Track button.
Book VII
Chapter 3
Sending It
to the Buyer
468
Book VII: Selling on the Internet
Book VIII
Hobbies and
Pastimes
Contents at a Glance
Chapter 1: Playing Games Online ....................................................................................471
Chapter 2: Planning Your Next Vacation ..........................................................................479
Chapter 3: Let Me Entertain You ......................................................................................497
Chapter 4: The Internet for Music Lovers ........................................................................509
Chapter 5: Buying and Playing Music with iTunes ..........................................................517
Chapter 6: Genealogy Online ............................................................................................531
Chapter 1: Playing Games Online
In This Chapter
Playing card, arcade-style, casino, and board games
Taking a look at some unusual games only found on the Internet
Finding a good fantasy sports Web site
Surveying Web sites for video-gamers
W
hat with almost everyone being anonymous, and all the strange Web
sites, and all the oddball opinions getting tossed back and forth,
some would argue that the Internet is one big game to begin with. And they
may be right. However, this chapter looks at games on the Internet, not
whether the Internet is a game.
This chapter describes Web sites where you can play standard games and
off-the-wall games that can only be found on the Internet, Web sites devoted
to fantasy sports leagues, and Web sites for people who enjoy playing video
games.
All-Purpose Game Sites
All-purpose game sites are Web sites that offer many different games — card
games, casino-style games, board games, puzzles, and word games. At these
sites, you can play against other players or a computer. I should warn you
that the all-purpose game sites are addicting. The hands of the clock move
faster when you’re playing a game at one of these sites. You think 15 minutes
have passed, but you glance at the clock to discover you wasted the entire
afternoon!
You can download card and puzzle games for free or very inexpensively
at Download Free Games. The Web site is located at this address:
www.download-free-games.com.
MSN Zone
The mother of the all-purpose game sites is MSN Zone (http://zone.msn.
com). As Figure 1-1 shows, The Zone (as it is known to its habitués) offers
card games, trivia games, puzzles, casino-type games, and board games. You
can play against a computer or against one of the 150,000 people who on
average are signed in to The Zone. You can chat with other players as well.
472
All-Purpose Game Sites
Figure 1-1:
The MSN
Zone home
page.
To play games at MSN Zone, you must have a .NET passport. Appendix B
explains how to get one of those. Click the Sign In button to enter The Zone
and start playing. You are asked to choose a nickname the first time you
All-Purpose Game Sites
473
sign in. The Zone keeps track of your play and assigns you a rating for
the different games you indulge in, as the lower-right corner of Figure 1-1
shows.
While you are signed in, you can right-click the nickname of a person you
encounter in The Zone, choose Add to Friends on the shortcut menu, and
place the person’s name on your Friends list. (The Zone has more than its
share of cheaters and curmudgeons. Many people use their Friends list to
keep track of them.) The Friends list appears in the ZoneFriends dialog box,
shown at the bottom of Figure 1-1. This dialog box appears while you are
signed in to The Zone. Use it to maintain your privacy and send messages
to other players:
✦ Sending and receiving messages from friends: Right-click a friend’s
name, choose Send Zone Message, enter a message, and click the Send
button. When someone sends you a message, the Zone Message window
appears. Read the message and enter a reply, if you dare.
✦ Maintaining your privacy: Open the Options menu and choose a Show
Me option (Online, Away, Do Not Disturb) to tell your friends whether
you want to be sent messages. The icon beside names on the list indicates which option a friend chose. Choose Options➪Privacy to open the
Privacy dialog box and be very clear about safeguarding your privacy.
You can find options in the dialog box for being invisible to your friends
or to everybody.
Yahoo! Games
Yahoo! Games is not nearly as sophisticated or smooth-running as MSN
Zone (see the previous section in this chapter). Most of the games are Java
applets — small applications that run on your computer. The applets are
clunky, unappealing to look at, and unwieldy. You can find about a hundred
games at Yahoo! Games. To play, you need a Yahoo! account and you must
sign in to Yahoo! (Appendix A explains all that).
Use either of these methods to get to the Yahoo! Games page:
Book VIII
Chapter 1
✦ Go to Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) and click the Games link.
The only reason I include Yahoo! Games in this chapter is because the arcadestyle games are kind of fun and can’t be found elsewhere on the Internet.
Look for downloadable arcade-style games in the Arcade & Other Games
category.
Playing Games
Online
✦ Go straight to the Yahoo! Games page at this address: http://games.
yahoo.com.
474
Some Slightly Off-the-Wall Games
Pogo
Like MSN Zone and Yahoo! Games, Pogo offers the usual array of card games,
puzzles, word games, and casino-style games. You can chat with other players.
You can play with other people or play against the computer. What makes this
Web site a little unusual are the cash prize drawings and the jackpots. Win a
game and you win some play money. Win enough play money and you get a
chance to spin the jackpot wheel. Spin the wheel to the right spot and you win
real money (or a gift certificate to Tower Records if you are under age 18), not
play money.
You must register to play games at Pogo. Pogo’s address is www.pogo.com.
ItsYourTurn
ItsYourTurn offers online versions of games in which players take turns —
Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Go, and others. What makes this site special
is the ongoing games. You can leave ItsYourTurn in the middle of a game,
come back a day later, see your opponent’s latest move, and make your next
move. The site tracks all games so that you can pick up or leave a game as
you please.
Games begin in the Waiting Room, where you either accept someone’s invitation to play or invite others to play. You must register and sign in to play
games at ItsYourTurn. The address is www.itsyourturn.com.
Boxerjam
Boxerjam is also an all-purpose game site, but the games are not to be found
anywhere else. Games include Atomica, where players turn atoms into molecules to score points, and Mah Jong Solitaire, a puzzle game in which players
match tiles in pairs to eliminate them from the board.
You must register and sign in to play games at Boxerjam. Visit the site at this
address: www.boxerjam.com.
Some Slightly Off-the-Wall Games
Wherever the Internet is, you can bank on finding a few off-the-wall items.
The games I describe here defy categorization. They are off-the-wall, unusual,
quirky, and just plain weird.
20 Questions
Welcome to the Internet version of 20 Questions, the old parlor game. This is
your chance to find out how smart computers really are. In 20Q, you choose
an animal, vegetable, mineral, other, or unknown, and you answer yea or nay
Some Slightly Off-the-Wall Games
475
as the computer tries to find out the thing you chose. Be careful, because
according to the makers of this game, the computer keeps getting smarter:
“20Q.net is an experiment in artificial intelligence. The program is very
simple but its behavior is complex. Everything that it knows and all questions that it asks were entered by people playing this game. 20Q.net is a
learning system; the more it is played, the smarter it gets.” Go to this
address to play 20 Questions against a computer: www.20q.net.
City Creator
In this little ditty of a game (it’s for children and easily amused adults), you
create a medieval, snowbound, or modern city by choosing and arranging
buildings as you please. Just be sure to lay down the roads before putting
the buildings up. Snaking the roads around the buildings is hard work.
You can try your hand at city-building by going to this address:
http://citycreator.com.
The ESP Game
In this game, two players who can’t see the other’s computer screen are presented with an image collected at random from the Internet. As shown in
Figure 1-2, each player types descriptive words about the image, being careful
not to type a word on the Taboo list. When both players type the same word,
they score points and are presented with another image. To play The ESP
(extra sensory perception) Game, go to this address: http://espgame.org.
Book VIII
Chapter 1
Playing Games
Online
Figure 1-2:
Playing The
ESP Game.
476
Some Slightly Off-the-Wall Games
This game has another purpose besides having fun and passing the time.
Computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University invented it as a way of
labeling images on the Internet for search purposes. Here’s how it works:
Two players type the word moon, for example, to describe an image, and
the image is assigned the keyword moon. Later, someone searching for
images with the ESP search engine who types the word moon gets the image
in the search results. The game is a way to accurately assign keywords to
images. To test-drive the ESP search engine, click the ESP Image Search link
on The ESP Game home page or go to this address: www.captcha.net/
esp-search.html.
Geocaching
Geocaching calls itself a “sport.” Not only that, it is, according to its inventors,
“the sport where you are the search engine.” Maybe Geocaching really is a
sport. New sports develop as technology develops. The spear begat the
javelin toss. The bow and arrow begat archery. The internal combustion
engine begat auto racing. Geocaching is the child of two modern technological
advances, the Internet and the GPS (global positioning system) device. A GPS
device is a pocket-sized instrument that receives signals from satellites to pinpoint your location and mark it by latitude and longitude coordinates. You can
buy a GPS device for less than $100. To see what Geocaching is about, go to
this address: www.geocaching.com.
In Geocaching, a player hides or buries a cache (the word is pronounced
“cash”), usually a plastic container with a few select objects and a logbook
where you can write your name. The player measures the cache’s coordinates with a GPS device and posts the coordinates at Geocaching.com
along with directions for finding the cache, as shown in Figure 1-3. Players
at Geocaching.com can find out where each cache is hidden or buried,
visit a cache, add a little something to the cache or write their names in
the logbook, and report on their excursion at the Web site. Cache hiders
get the pleasure of reading reports from people who have found their
cache. Caches are usually hidden in scenic or otherwise interesting
places. Cache seekers enjoy discovering lovely new places they didn’t
know about.
Enter your zip code at the Geocaching home page to see whether any
caches are hidden in your neighborhood. I was surprised to find nine
caches within a mile of my home, and I live in San Francisco, a crowded
city. It’s kind of exciting to think of all that buried treasure just waiting to
be found.
477
Playing Fantasy Sports Online
Figure 1-3:
A description of a
cache at
Geocaching.
com.
Playing Fantasy Sports Online
In a fantasy sports league, players assemble teams composed of real athletes, and points are awarded according to how well the real athletes play.
If Shaquille O’Neal scores 45 points in a game one week, the lucky manager
who has O’Neal on his or her fantasy basketball team scores a lot of points,
too. The Internet makes tracking fantasy sports that much easier because
managers can get statistics about players in a matter of seconds. Managers
can translate statistics into fantasy points in a matter of seconds, too.
Table 1-1 describes some Web sites for fans of fantasy sports.
Fantasy Sports Web Sites
Web Site
Sports
Address
CBS SportsLine
Auto racing, baseball, basketball,
football, golf, hockey, tennis
http://fantasy.
sportsline.com
The Roto Times
Auto racing, baseball, basketball,
football, hockey
www.rototimes.com
(continued)
Playing Games
Online
Table 1-1
Book VIII
Chapter 1
478
Web Sites for Gamers
Table 1-1 (continued)
Web Site
Sports
Address
USA Today Fantasy
Leagues
Baseball, basketball, football,
hockey
www.usatoday.com/
sports/fantasy/
front.htm
WhatIfSports
Baseball, basketball, football,
hockey
www.whatifsports.
com
Yahoo! Fantasy
Sports
Auto racing, baseball, basketball,
football, hockey
http://fantasysports.
yahoo.com
WhatIfSports is the unusual one in the bunch. At WhatIfSports you can
assemble a team with players from the past as well as the present. For the
record, my all-NBA basketball fantasy team consists of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
at center, Rick Barry and Larry Bird at forward, and Magic Johnson and
Oscar Robertson at guard.
Web Sites for Gamers
In case you don’t know, a gamer is someone who loves to play video games.
Here are a handful of sites for gamers:
✦ Electronic Arts: Sample EA games, get upgrades, and compete against
other players online at this Web site. If you look carefully (the Web site
is quite large), you can find free arcade games that unregistered users
can try. Address: www.eagames.com
✦ GameSpy: Preview upcoming releases, sample new and old games, and
see how games are rated at this Web site. You can also trade strategies
and tactics with other gamers on the forums. Address: www.gamespy.com
✦ Playstation Online Gaming: At this Web site, you can play Sony
Playstation games online. Or, you can trade tactics with other gamers on
the message boards. You can also preview soon-to-be-released games.
Address: www.us.playstation.com/onlinegaming
✦ Xbox Live: Play Xbox games with other enthusiasts over the Internet at
this Web site. After you register, you get a Gamertag — a name you are
known by in every game you play. This site includes a message board
and the opportunity to download extras for your games. Address:
www.xbox.com
Looking for a good video game? At Epinions, people express their opinions
about all kinds of stuff, including video games. You can read what other
gamers have to say about different games by going to this address:
www.epinions.com/game-Software-All.
Chapter 2: Planning Your Next
Vacation
In This Chapter
Looking at travel-booking services and travel search engines
Searching for travel bargains
Finding a cheap airline ticket
Looking for bargain hotel rooms
Finding detailed maps of destinations
Getting advice for making the most of your vacation
Traveling in your armchair
Seeking outdoor adventures
Traveling by train
Traveling abroad
Taking a look at some eccentric Web sites for travelers
M
ost people, however tentatively, are planning their next vacation. You
need something to look forward to. About 3:00, when the afternoon
starts to wane, lunch is a distant memory, and two or three hours of work
are still due at the office, most people dream of being on vacation: backpacking in the Sierra Nevada, partying at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, cruising up the Amazon in a steamer, or basking in the sun on a beach in Bali.
This chapter is dedicated to people who want to make their next vacation
the best ever. It describes how to research a destination — how the Internet
can help you find out where to stay and what to do while you’re away. You
find out how to obtain inexpensive airfares, hotel rooms, and rental cars.
This chapter also presents Internet resources for traveling abroad.
Figuring Out Where to Begin
You know where you want to go. You’ve been dreaming about going there
for some time now. The question is, “How do you make arrangements to get
there?” Thousands of Web sites on the Internet are devoted to travel. Where
do you start looking on the Internet to buy an airline ticket, book a hotel
room, or rent a car?
480
Figuring Out Where to Begin
The conventional answer to that question is this: Start looking at Expedia,
Orbitz, or Travelocity, the Web sites listed in Table 2-1. The “big three”
travel-booking agencies account for three-fourths of online bookings, according to PhoCusWright, a research firm that tracks the online travel industry.
However, Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity aren’t necessarily the best Web
sites from which to make travel purchases. The “big three” only work on
behalf of companies with which they have a contract. Because they don’t
have contracts to sell tickets for low-cost carriers such as Independence Air
or JetBlue, for example, the “big three” don’t sell tickets on behalf of those
airlines. Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity are not all-inclusive when it comes
to finding an airline ticket, hotel room, or rental car.
Table 2-1
The Big Three Travel-Booking Services
Service
Web Site
Flights
Hotels
Cars
Rail
Expedia
www.expedia.com
Orbitz
www.orbitz.com
Travelocity
www.travelocity.com
Cruises
A better way to search for travel bargains is to begin with a travel search
engine, also known as an aggregator. These Google-like search engines scour
many different Web sites, including JetBlue’s and Independence Air’s, for bargains. Table 2-2 lists the travel search engines. My favorite is Mobissimo (the
word means “the ultimate in mobility” in Italian). It searches 81 travel sites,
including Expedia and Travelocity, as well as other travel search engines. The
results of the search appear in a list like the one shown in Figure 2-1. Travel
search engines earn their daily bread from referrals. Clicking the Details
button at the Mobissimo Web site, for example, refers you to an airline’s Web
site. If you buy a ticket there, Mobissimo makes a commission of $5.
Table 2-2
Travel Search Engines, or Aggregators
Search Engine
Description
Address
Cheapflights
Searches 100+ sites for flights
www.cheapflights.com
FareChase
Searches 50 sites for flights,
hotels, and rental cars
http://farechase.yahoo.com
Kayak
Searches 60+ sites for flights,
hotels, and rental cars
http://kayak.com
Mobissimo
Searches 81 sites for flights,
hotels, and rental cars
www.mobissimo.com
Opodo
Searches 9 large European
carriers for flights
www.opodo.com
Qixo
Searches 50+ sites for flights,
hotels, rental cars, and cruises
www.qixo.com
Finding a Travel Bargain
481
Figure 2-1:
Search
results at
Mobissimo.
Travel search engine commissions are half of what travel-booking service
commissions are, with the exception of Qixo, which charges a whopping $14
commission per ticket. The cheapest way to travel is to do some of the legwork yourself and avoid paying commissions. With a booking agency or
travel search engine, find a bargain and then buy the ticket on your own. For
example, find a cheap flight with Mobissimo, jot down the flight’s departure
time and number, call the airline, and buy the ticket directly. You can find a
thorough list of airlines, their Web sites, and their toll-free telephone numbers at this Web address: www.cheapflights.com/agents. For hotels and
car rental agencies, you’ll have to look up phone numbers on the Internet.
Book II, Chapter 3 explains how.
Finding a Travel Bargain
Besides checking out the travel-booking sites and travel search engines (see
the previous section in this chapter), you would do well to look into these
bargain travel sites. You never know what you will find here:
✦ Go-Today: This site specializes in travel packages, some of them at cutrate prices. You don’t necessarily have to purchase a package today, but
make your travel decision quickly, because offers come and go quickly
on this Web site. Address: www.go-today.com
Planning Your Next
Vacation
✦ Cheaptickets: This site’s specialty is package tours — cheap ones. It
also has a search engine for finding airline tickets, rental cars, hotel
rooms, and cruises. Address: www.cheaptickets.com
Book VIII
Chapter 2
482
Flying There
✦ Johnnyjet: This site, maintained by inveterate traveler John DeScala,
offers links to hundreds of travel Web sites. What makes it useful to
people looking for cheap airline tickets is “Today’s Top Picks,” a list of
the best airline bargains of the day. Address: www.johnnyjet.com
✦ Site59: This site specializes in last-minute travel bargains. Travel services
with airplanes to fill, hotels rooms that are empty, and rental cars to
move off the lot advertise their wares here. Address: www.site59.com
✦ Travelzoo: “Outstanding deals handpicked daily” is the motto of
Travelzoo. This site is a sort of bargain basement for travelers. You can
find some great deals here. Address: www.travelzoo.com
Flying There
At the start of this chapter, the section “Figuring Out Where to Begin” explains
how to use travel search engines and travel-booking services to buy airline
tickets. Here are some other Web sites devoted to flying that you may find
useful:
✦ Airline Meals: Yikes! Three thousand photos of airline meals. And check
out the message boards, where visitors submit photos of awful meals
and describe what they tasted like. Gag me with a spoon! Address:
www.airlinemeals.net
✦ Airliners: If you are the kind of person who doesn’t take the miracle of
flying for granted, you may like this Web site and its thousands of pictures of commercial airplanes in flight. There is also a message board in
which pilots talk the tricks of the trade. Figure 2-2 shows the Web site’s
home page. Address: www.airliners.net
Figure 2-2:
Airliners, a
Web site
for people
who love
airplanes.
Finding a Hotel or Motel Room
483
✦ AirSafe: This Web site is devoted to helping people who are afraid to fly
get over their fear of flying. Still, you have to wonder what the makers of
this site were thinking when they included the Fatal Events and the Sole
Survivors links. The Sole Survivors link takes you to a Web page that
describes airplane crashes in which only one passenger survived. Grisly!
Address: www.airsafe.com
✦ Around the World Air Fare: Suppose you were going to travel around
the world by airplane, stopping in this or that country, of course, to
shop for souvenirs. How much would it cost and which airlines would
you take? You can find out at this Web site. Address: www.airtreks.com
✦ Discount Airport Parking: Make an online reservation to park at one
of 65 airports in the United States. Address: www.discountairport
parking.net
✦ Flight Arrivals & Departures: Is the flight leaving on time? Arriving on
time? If the flight is a commercial flight in the United States or Canada,
you can find out at this Web site. You can also get a weather report for
81 North American airports. Address: www.flightarrivals.com
Finding a Hotel or Motel Room
At the start of this chapter, “Figuring Out Where to Begin” explains how to
use travel search engines and travel-booking services to find a hotel room.
But if you are looking for something special — a romantic retreat or a cozy
hideaway — look into these sites:
✦ BedandBreakfast.com: If you are turned off by impersonal hotel chains,
this is the site to visit. Address: www.bedandbreakfast.com
✦ Epinions: At Epinions, people state their opinions about electronic
devices, garden tools, beauty products — you name it. They also offer
their opinions about hotels. This Web site is a great place to cut through
the hype and find out whether a hotel is really worth staying in. Address:
www.epinions.com/trvl
✦ InnSite: InnSite is “the bed and breakfast, lodging and accommodation
guide to bed and breakfasts, country inns, and small luxury hotels
throughout the world.” This site is slow, perhaps because it indexes
50,000 pages of inn directories. But the wait is worthwhile. Address:
www.innsite.com
✦ Rentvillas: Why stay in a measly hotel room when you can stay in a
villa? This site offers villas — country estates — in England, Ireland,
France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Address: www.rentvillas.com
Book VIII
Chapter 2
Planning Your Next
Vacation
✦ Hostelling International: They don’t call them “youth hostels” anymore,
because hostels are for everybody, not just the budget backpacking
crowd. Starting here, you can search for a hostel in the part of the world
you want to visit. Address: www.iyhf.org
484
Exchanging Your Home with Another Family’s
✦ Vacation Direct: Owners list their vacation homes and condos at this
site, where you can find descriptions of the vacation rentals and instructions for contacting the owners. Address: www.vacationdirect.com
Of course, you can also go the Web sites of the different hotel chains to book
last-minute deals.
Exchanging Your Home with Another Family’s
Exchanging your home with another family’s home is an excellent way
to lower the cost of traveling. You don’t have to pay hotel bills. In some
exchanges, parties borrow each others’ cars. You can cook your meals and
do your laundry in a private residence. Because you aren’t staying in a hotel,
you can make like a local and immerse yourself in the culture of the place
you’re visiting. Home exchanges make for a better travel experience.
Table 2-3 describes Web sites that arrange home exchanges. Sign up with one
of these sites and you can post descriptions and photos of your home, and
view others’ homes. The Web sites don’t arrange for the exchange of homes.
That is up to you. Read home descriptions, see who wants to visit your town
or city, and trade a few e-mail messages to make the exchange happen.
Table 2-3
Name
Home Exchange Web Sites
Listings
Cost Per
Year
Notes
Address
HomeExchange 6,000
$50
You can look at home
listings without being
a member, but you have
to sign up to contact
other members. Does
not offer a printed
directory of listings.
www.home
exchange.com
HomeLink
14,000
$75
You must be a member
to view listings and contact
other members. For $45,
HomeLink sends you a
printed directory of listings.
www.swapnow.com
Intervac
11,000
$65
You must be a member
to view listings and
contact other members.
For $120, Intervac sends
you a color-printed
directory of listings.
http://intervaconline.com
Driving There
485
Letting strangers into your home can be a nerve-wracking proposition. Here
are some guidelines to make home exchanges go smoothly:
✦ Make sure that both parties know the ground rules of staying in one
another’s home. For example, make a list of the household items and
amenities — the washer and dryer, your car, your computer — that your
guests can use.
✦ Check with your insurance agent to make sure that your policy covers
home exchanges. If you intend to swap cars as well as homes, see
whether your auto insurance policy covers guests driving your car.
✦ Start looking well in advance of your trip for a home to exchange so that
you can get to know the other party well before your vacation starts.
✦ Leave the name of friend or neighbor that the other party can contact in
the event of an emergency.
Driving There
The Web sites listed here are meant to keep you from getting lost and help
you take the scenic route. These Web sites present online mapping tools to
help you go from point A to point B (the next section in this chapter recommends advanced mapping tools). Still, before you look at the Web sites, consider the advantages of getting lost. Being lost quickens the senses. It makes
you acutely aware of your surroundings. It makes you feel alive. Someday, a
genius is going to put up a Web site with instructions for helping people get
lost. Check out these driving Web sites:
✦ America’s Byways: Since 1992, the United States Department of
Transportation has been overseeing a collaborative effort with states
and counties to recognize and preserve especially lovely stretches of
the American highway. This Web site tells you where these byways
are located and what you can expect when you drive them. Address:
www.byways.org
✦ How far is it?: As the crow flies, how far is Athens, Georgia, from Athens,
Greece? The answer: 5,628 miles (or 9,058 kilometers). This very friendly
Web site for crows and travel-planners calculates distances in no time at
all. Address: www.indo.com/distance
✦ Maps On Us: The best of the mapping Web sites has less clutter than the
others. You can enter your starting address and destination address,
and this site creates a map for getting from one to the other, as shown in
Figure 2-3. Address: www.mapsonus.com
Book VIII
Chapter 2
Planning Your Next
Vacation
✦ AccuTraffic: From here, you can get the latest report about road conditions on American highways. Click the Traffic link and select a state to go
the official Web site of the state’s Department of Transportation. Weather
reports are also available from this site. Address: www.accutraffic.com
486
Advanced Mapping
Figure 2-3:
Getting
driving
directions at
Maps On
Us.
✦ MapQuest: At this site for creating a map, you enter an address and click
the Get Map button to get your map. Address: www.mapquest.com
✦ MSN Maps & Directions: Displaying a map is pretty simple, and the
tools for zooming in, zooming out, and printing are easy to understand
and use. You can also get driving directions here by clicking the
Directions tab. Address: http://mappoint.msn.com
✦ Speed Trap Exchange: By definition, a speed trap is a stretch of highway
where police trap unsuspecting motorists who are driving too fast and
give them tickets. At this Web site for cross-country road-trippers, you
can find out where speed traps are located and nominate speed traps of
your own. Address: www.speedtrap.org
✦ The Subway Navigator: For several dozen cities around the world —
about a dozen in the United States — plan a subway or light-train route
from one station to the next. Address: www.subwaynavigator.com
Before you embark on a long car trip, visit the Radio-Locator at this Web
address: www.radio-locator.com. You can find radio stations in various
locales at this Web site and even listen to Internet radio. I don’t want you to
be lonely when you’re driving deep into the hinterland.
Advanced Mapping
Cross-country backpackers, four-wheel-drive enthusiasts, and geocachers
need sophisticated maps and navigation tools. When you really, really need
to know the lay of the land, look into these Web sites:
How’s the Weather?
487
✦ Keyhole: Keyhole is a satellite-imagery program that you can download
from the Internet. The images are remarkably clear. I was alerted to this
program by a friend who found his mother’s house with her car clearly
visible in the driveway! The cost is $29.95, although a seven-day free trial
is available as of this writing. Address: www.keyhole.com
✦ Terraserver: View aerial and satellite imagery at a resolution of 8 meters
and above. Subscription rates range from seven days ($9.95) to one year
($119.95). I remember when only the CIA and the KGB could see satellite
images as sharp as these. You can also download and print topographical maps. Address: www.terraserver.com
✦ TopoZone: From this Web site, you can view topographical maps of
the United States, as shown in Figure 2-4. The maps are generated from
USGS (United States Geological Survey) maps. As a paid subscriber,
you can download the maps and view aerial photos as well. Address:
www.topozone.com
Figure 2-4:
A topographical
map at
TopoZone.
Ants and mosquitoes can ruin a good picnic, but that’s nothing compared to
what a vigorous storm can do to a weekend at the beach. Before you leave
for that dream vacation, check out these Web sites to see what kind of
weather you will encounter:
✦ AccuWeather: While you are deciding whether to pack a sweater or a
t-shirt, sunblock or an umbrella, pay a visit to AccuWeather. By entering
a city or zip code, you can find out what meteorologists think the weather
Planning Your Next
Vacation
How’s the Weather?
Book VIII
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488
Deciding What to Do When You Get There
will be for the coming week at your destination. You can also choose a
state and watch a satellite animation showing changes in the weather.
Address: www.accuweather.com
✦ Daily Tide Predictions: Surfers, fisherfolk, and open-water swimmers in
the western United States and Canada can go to this Web site to generate
easy-to-read tide charts. Just choose a location from one of the dropdown menus. Address: www.duckcentral.com/daily_tideA.shtml
✦ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: From this Web site,
you can get long-term forecasts, eight days in advance. Address:
www.noaa.com
✦ USA Today Online Weather Almanac: For travel planning, this site offers
monthly climate data for cities the world over. Go here to find out what
the average monthly high and low temperatures, rainfall, and snowfall are
in a vacation spot that you are eyeing. Address: www.usatoday.com/
weather/walm0.htm
Deciding What to Do When You Get There
Taping a map to the wall and throwing darts at the map to decide where to
go next is one way of travel planning. However, mathematicians have determined that the amount of pleasure you derive from a vacation is directly
proportional to the amount of time you spend planning it. The following
Web sites can help you match your desires and interests with attractions
and destinations:
✦ Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel Online: This site is the Internet companion to the famous Frommer’s Travel Guides. Besides travel advice,
you can look for hotel accommodations, nightlife, shopping, and dining
opportunities in cities the world over. Address: www.frommers.com
✦ Chowhound: What’s the best place to eat in Akron, Ohio? You can find
out by running a search at this Web site. Or, go to Chowhound’s message
boards and post a question about a good place to eat. Address:
www.chowhound.com
✦ Citysearch.com: This site currently offers comprehensive guides to
several dozen U.S. cities and a handful of cities abroad. The guides
are up to date, with detailed information about local restaurants,
nightspots, clubs, and shopping. Address: www.citysearch.com
✦ IgoUgo: “Real travelers; honest advice” is the motto of I Go, You Go.
To explore here, you have to register, but registering is worth it.
The site offers 3,000 travel diaries and some 80,000 photos. Address:
www.igougo.com
Armchair Traveling
489
✦ New York Times Travel: Many New York Times readers turn first to the
Travel section on Sundays to armchair travel and whet their appetite for
traveling to faraway places. You can research a destination by clicking
the map at this Web site. It presents travel articles from the Times dating
back to 1996. Address: www.nytimes.com/pages/travel/index.html
✦ Online City Guide: From this site, you can pinpoint a city in the United
States, find a list of hyperlinks with information about the city, and click
a link to help plan your vacation. The links are to private Web sites and
sometimes are not the greatest, but try your luck. Address: www.olcg.com
Armchair Traveling
If you can’t go there in the flesh, you may as well go there in your armchair.
Here are some worthy Web sites for armchair travelers:
✦ GeoSnapper: At this unusual Web site, travelers post photographs of
their vacations. Nothing new there, except when they post each photograph, they list the latitude and longitude where it was taken, as shown
in Figure 2-5. Knowing the coordinates, you could return to the very
spot where these pictures were taken, if you wanted to. Address:
http://geosnapper.com
✦ Leonard’s Worldwide Cam Directory: A cam is a mounted camera that
broadcasts pictures to the Internet at regular intervals. Starting at this
Web site, you can find a cam to get a glimpse of a part of the world that
interests you. Address: www.leonardsworlds.com/camera.html
Book VIII
Chapter 2
Planning Your Next
Vacation
Figure 2-5:
A travel
photograph
at
GeoSnapper.
490
Outdoor Adventuring
✦ Quiet American: From this site, you can download one-minute recordings made in exotic locations. Says the site, “One-minute vacations are
unedited recordings of somewhere, somewhen. Sixty seconds of something else. Sixty seconds to be someone else.” You’ll be surprised by
how fascinating — and soothing — these one-minute auditory vacations
are. Address: www.quietamerican.org/vacation.html
✦ Ruavista: At this Web site, you can travel in time as well as in space.
This unusual site presents photos of cities taken far in the past. Last
time I looked, you could stroll the streets of Moscow or Buenos Aires in
the 1960s. Address: http://ruavista.com
✦ Worldisround: Traveler’s post their diaries and travel photos at this
excellent Web site. Search for a place and travel there vicariously. This is
also a great place to research a trip. Address: www.worldisround.com/
Outdoor Adventuring
We are blessed in the United States with some of the most beautiful open
country in the world. You are hereby invited to explore it starting from these
Web sites:
✦ The Backpacker: Check out the hiking trail reviews on this Web site to
get ideas for your next backpacking trip. You can also hook up with other
backpackers from this Web site. Address: www.thebackpacker.com
✦ iExplore: For the adventurer, this is the place to search for fishing
trips, kayak tours, and all manner of rugged outdoor fun. Address:
www.iexplore.com
✦ Info Hub: This Web site offers numerous links to unusual travel
offerings — barging, sea kayaking, and off-road adventure. You can
even find ideas about where to go on a honeymoon. Address:
www.infohub.com
✦ National Park Service: See maps and get information about all of
America’s National Parks. You can also reserve campsites online starting here. Address: www.nps.gov
✦ Reserve America: Reserve a campsite at this Web site. You can view
maps of many of the campgrounds. Address: www.reserveamerica.com
✦ SkiMaps: Skiers will love this Web site. It shows three-dimensional maps
of ski resorts and ski runs, as shown in Figure 2-6. You can also find a
forum on which skiers discuss downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and
snowboarding. Address: www.skimaps.com
Resources for Traveling Abroad
491
Figure 2-6:
A map of the
Steamboat
Springs ski
runs and
lifts.
Traveling by Rail
Traveling by rail offers the pleasures of traveling by car without the hassles.
You can get up and stretch your legs. Instead of fast-food restaurants and highway clutter, the picturesque and the seedy roll past the window. Railroads cut
through mountain passes and fly above wild rivers. The planet never looked
as beautiful as it does from a railroad car.
Here are some Internet resources for traveling by rail:
✦ Amtrak: This, of course, is the United States passenger railway service.
From this site, you can plan a trip by railroad and purchase tickets.
Address: www.amtrak.com
✦ European Railways: This site offers planning tips and advice for traveling by rail in Europe. You can get information about the famous Eurail
Pass as well as schedules of all European trains. Address: www.
eurorailways.com
Resources for Traveling Abroad
Many people like to travel abroad. When you go to the expense and trouble
of traveling, you may want to land in a place where things look different and
no one speaks English. That way, you really feel like you’ve traveled somewhere! Here are some Internet resources for world travelers:
Planning Your Next
Vacation
✦ Via Rail Canada: This is the official site of Rail Canada. Use it to purchase
train tickets when traveling in the United States’ winsome windswept
neighbor to the north. Address: www.viarail.com
Book VIII
Chapter 2
492
Resources for Traveling Abroad
✦ Centers for Disease Control — Traveler’s Health: This invaluable Web
site offers advice for staying healthy during your vacation. It explains
which vaccinations you need and presents health information about
specific regions. Address: www.cdc.gov/travel
✦ Crazy Dog Travel Guide: This site offers tips, advice, and numerous
hyperlinks to help budget travelers all over the world plan their adventures. Address: www.crazydogtravel.com
✦ Foreign Languages for Travelers: How do you say “excuse me” in
Swedish? You say, “Ursakta,” as this Web site so ably points out. What
makes this site cool and useful is its sound capabilities. When you click
a foreign-language phrase, the Windows Media Player comes on-screen,
and you can hear the phrase. Address: www.travlang.com/languages
✦ Lonely Planet Online: From this superb Web site, you can research different destinations, get travel tips from others, or post a travel question
that is bound to get an answer from Lonely Planet’s legion of adventurers. Click the Search hyperlink to research a destination abroad or in
the United States. Click the Thorn Tree hyperlink to see what others
say about a destination, or post your own question about it. Address:
www.lonelyplanet.com
✦ Rough Guides: Rough Guides are written for the kind of people who
carry their belongings in a backpack as they travel. From this Web site,
you can get information about traveling on the lowdown to all four corners of the world. Address: www.roughguides.com
✦ Traveler’s Telephone Search Engine: This Web site gives you the callingcode instructions so that you can call from any nation to any other nation.
To call Japan from the United States, for example, you must dial the prefix
011 81, as this Web site informs you. Address: www.embassyworld.com/
directories/global_telephone.html
✦ The Universal Currency Converter: One United States dollar fetches
how many Malaysian ringgits? The answer: 3.799 (as of this writing,
anyway). Go to this easy-to-use Web site to see what happens when one
currency is converted into another. Address: www.xe.net/ucc
✦ U.S. Customs and Border Protection: This very helpful Web site explains
such matters as how to import a car and why you were charged for
what you thought was a duty-free purchase. Address: www.customs.
ustreas.gov
✦ U.S. Department of State — Travel Warnings and Consular Information
Sheets: Here, you can find the visa and entry requirements that Americans
must fulfill to travel to every country in the world. You can also find safety
statistics, descriptions of medical facilities, and embassy addresses.
Address: http://travel.state.gov/travel/warnings.html
Eccentric Sites for Eccentric Travelers
493
World Currency Gallery
The World Currency Gallery (www.banknotes.
com/images.htm) presents pictures of banknotes from the different countries of the world.
Some of these banknotes are nothing short
of beautiful. Scroll to the bottom of the World
Currency Gallery page, click the name of a
continent, and then click the name of a country to
see examples of its banknotes. I was surprised
to learn that Antarctica prints banknotes, and I
was doubly surprised to find out how beautiful
Antarctica’s banknotes are.
Eccentric Sites for Eccentric Travelers
Finally, here are some eccentric sites for eccentric travelers. One of the
drawbacks of getting travel information from the Internet is that much of the
information was put there by corporate hotel chains that want to sell you
something. These sites are devoted strictly to travel, its spontaneous joys,
and its occasional apprehensions:
✦ Bureau of Atomic Tourism: This site is dedicated to the promotion of
tourist locations worldwide that have witnessed atomic explosions or
display exhibits about the development of atomic devices. It’s hard to
tell how far the creators of this site have thrust their tongues into their
cheeks. At any rate, you can see many photos of nuclear devastation,
and yes, detailed tour schedules and visitor information are available,
too. Address: www.atomictourist.com
Planning Your Next
Vacation
✦ Dead Presidents: Manus Hand, surely one of the most eccentric people
on the Internet, has made it his hobby to take photographs of himself at
the graves of the presidents of the United States. Writes Mr. Hand, “If
you’re into dead presidents (and gosh, who isn’t?), you came to the right
place. By simply clicking your mouse button, you can see pictures of me,
Manus Hand, visiting the final resting places of every one of them (save
Book VIII
Chapter 2
494
Eccentric Sites for Eccentric Travelers
three — I’m still working on it!).” This site is living testimony that any
excuse will do when it comes to traveling. Address: http://starship.
python.net/crew/manus/Presidents
✦ Degree of Confluence Project: A confluence is where latitude and longitude integer degrees intersect. The goal of the Degree of Confluence
Project is to collect photographs from each of these intersections and,
in so doing, construct a representative picture of the earth. At this Web
site, you can view photographs taken at the intersections and submit
photos for intersections that haven’t been photographed yet. Address:
www.confluence.org
✦ National Caves Association: This site is dedicated to spelunkers and
their friends who enjoy exploring caves and caverns. Click the Caves &
Caverns Directory link to go to the United States map. From there, you
can click a state to look into its caves, caverns, and spelunking opportunities. Address: www.cavern.com
✦ Roadside America: This is unquestionably one of the very best sites on
the World Wide Web. Where to begin? How about the Electronic Map.
Click this link to go to a page with links to weird roadside attractions in 50
states (New Jersey, with the Uniroyal Giantess and Palace of Depression,
seems to have more than its share). Check out the pet cemetery, the
Travel Brain Trauma Center, or the Miraculous Virgin Mary Stump. The
site is shown in Figure 2-7. Address: www.roadsideamerica.com
Figure 2-7:
Go to
Roadside
America to
find out
where the
roadside
attractions
are.
Eccentric Sites for Eccentric Travelers
495
✦ Robert Young Pelton’s Dangerous Places: Traveling to dangerous
places can be exciting. Traveling vicariously to dangerous places can
be exciting as well, as this site demonstrates. Here, you can read tales
of dangerous locations and get advice for traveling to dangerous places
if you feel like taking the plunge. Address: www.comebackalive.com/
df/dplaces.htm
✦ The Walking Connection: Walking, if you have the time and you are
in good company, is the best way to travel. This site is devoted to
walking tourism. It offers a message board for walkers, news of
upcoming walks, and plenty of advice about good shoes. Address:
www.walkingconnection.com
✦ The World Clock: You’re going to Uzbekistan and you want to arrive
fit and refreshed. To do that, however, you have to put yourself
on Uzbekistan time three or four days before departure. What time
is it in Uzbekistan? You can find out at this Web site. Address:
www.timeanddate.com/worldclock
Book VIII
Chapter 2
Planning Your Next
Vacation
496
Book VIII: Hobbies and Pastimes
Chapter 3: Let Me Entertain You
In This Chapter
Viewing made-for-the-Internet movies
Visiting Web sites for movie fans
Renting a DVD online
Getting the local TV listings
Playing Internet radio
Finding a good book online
F
or many years now, pundits have predicted that the television, radio,
DVD player, and computer will merge into a supersonic entertainment
monster. Whether this hybrid creature will really come to pass remains to
be seen. For the time being, however, you can treat your computer like an
entertainment console. You can watch movies and listen to faraway radio
stations by way of the Internet. This chapter explains how to do all that —
or at least keep yourself occupied on a rainy day. Oh, and I also list some
good sites for buying books online in case you’re as old-fashioned as I am
and you occasionally prefer reading a book to slaving over your computer.
Playing Internet Shorts Online
The Internet has given birth to a new movie genre that I call the “Internet
short.” These are short videos that were not made for the big screen or for
television, but for the computer screen. Internet shorts are concise films,
usually no longer than three or four minutes. Many are made at home on
camcorders by amateur filmmakers. Some of the films available from these
Web sites are quite remarkable for their artistic merit; others are downright
goofy. If you have a broadband connection and a few minutes to spare, drop
into one of these Web sites and watch an Internet short:
✦ Albino Blacksheep: Click the Video Files link or the Flash Files link to
peruse the rather bizarre offerings at this sprawling Web site. If you look
carefully, you can find many sketches from the Comedy Central network. Address: www.albinoblacksheep.com
✦ IFilm: Besides Internet shorts, you can find celebrities doing pratfalls,
music videos, oddball commercials, movie trailers, and snippets from
498
Going to the Movies
Hollywood movies at this Web site. There is also a nice collection of viral
videos — videos, usually political in nature, that people e-mail to one
another. Address: http://www.ifilm.com
✦ Kontraband: You can find animations, movies, and humorous TV ads at
this Web site (as well as a nice selection of games). On the Movie pages
alone, you can find more than 400 different movies and sketches. Address:
www.kontraband.com
Want to download a movie — the genuine Hollywood article — to your computer and watch it on-screen? Movielink is to movies what iTunes is to songs.
You can download entire movies from Movielink and watch them, as long as
you pay the fee ($1.99 to $4.99 per movie), you have a broadband connection,
you have enough disk space on your computer to hold a movie (more than
120MB), and you agree to view the movie within a 24-hour period. Check out
Movielink at this address: www.movielink.com.
Book I, Chapter 6 explains the plug-in programs that you need to watch
videos and listen to Internet radio stations on your computer. It also
describes how to make one program the default that starts automatically
whenever you play a video or listen to the Internet radio.
Going to the Movies
Everybody loves a good movie, but these days, when you sometimes have to
shell out $8 or $9 dollars for a ticket, going to the movies is a risky endeavor.
Who wants to pay that much money to sit through a stinker? These pages
are devoted to helping make your movie experience a better one. Here are
Web sites for movie fans, sites where you can read movie reviews, and sites
where you can find out what’s playing in your neighborhood.
Sites for movie fans
Here are a handful of sites for people who love movies and the people who
make them. Some of these sites fall in the “gossip” category. Dish the dirt, girl!
✦ The Agony Booth: For those times when you want to watch a bad movie,
the Agony Booth is here to help. Says this Web site, “The Agony Booth is
an ongoing inquisition into some of the worst movies humanity has to
offer, and is not for the weak of spirit or the easily disheartened. However,
if you think you have the fortitude to completely immerse yourself in a
truly awful film, withstanding in-depth commentary and analysis, then the
Agony Booth is the place for you.” Address: www.agonybooth.com
✦ Ain’t It Cool: Ain’t It Cool is Harry Knowles’s personal take on Hollywood
and the movies. Who is Harry Knowles? Just your average rabid movie
fanatic gone berserk. At this Web site, Knowles picks and pans the
Going to the Movies
499
latest releases. He also dishes out celebrity gossip. Interestingly, this
Web site started out in 1996 as a mere blog, but it has since become
a highly regarded source of insider Hollywood news. Address:
www.aintitcool.com
✦ The Internet Movie Database: This Web site is indispensable if you are
a movie fan. Starting here, you can rummage through a vast database
with, as far as I can tell, everything there is to know about the movies.
Search by title, name, or character name. Or just click one of the numerous hyperlinks and see what happens. For example, you can click an
actor’s name to get a list of all the movies he or she was in, and by clicking a movie title, see a list of everybody who appeared in or worked on
the movie. Be prepared to get pleasurably lost in the Internet Movie
Database, which is shown in Figure 3-1. Address: www.imdb.com
Figure 3-1:
The Internet
Movie
Database.
Book VIII
Chapter 3
Let Me
Entertain You
✦ Nitpickers: At this amusing Web site for movie and TV watchers with a
discerning eye, fans point out mistakes and flubs in their favorite movies
and TV shows — the car driving the wrong direction across the Bay
Bridge (The Graduate), the Roosevelt dime appearing in 1912 (Titanic),
the Roman soldier wearing a wristwatch (Gladiator). If you care to refute
someone’s idea of a flub, you may do so as long as you register first.
Address: www.nitpickers.com
500
Going to the Movies
✦ The Smoking Gun: I’m not sure if The Smoking Gun is necessarily for
movie fans, but more than a few actors wind up at The Smoking Gun.
Besides, I had to fit The Smoking Gun into this book somehow. The
Smoking Gun’s motto is “Paving the Paper Trail.” At this Web site, you
can view public documents — court records, citations, and mug shots —
that shine a very bright light on celebrities and famous people behaving
badly. Address: www.thesmokinggun.com
Choosing a good movie
I’m not saying you have to agree with these movie critics, but if you are
hungry for a good movie, you could do worse than look to these Web sites
for a good one:
✦ Film Critic: At this Web site, a team of film critics, some members of the
Online Film Critics Society, serve up their opinions about some 5,000
different movies from the past and the present. Films are rated on a fivestar system. Address: www.filmcritic.com
✦ Movie Review Query Engine: This badly named Web site is quite marvelous. It’s a search engine for movie titles. Enter the name of a movie you
are curious about, click the Find Reviews button, and look in the search
results for a critique of or essay about your movie. The “query engine” has
mapped over 430,000 movie and DVD reviews. Address: www.mrqe.com
✦ Roger Ebert.com: Roger Ebert’s movie reviews are a pleasure to read,
even when you disagree with him. At this Web site, shown in Figure 3-2,
the chief critic of the TV show At the Movies offers a database of his own
movie reviews. You can search by title, people’s names, genre, or rating.
You can also read interviews with famous directors at this Web site.
Address: www.suntimes.com/ebert
Getting your local movie listings
The best place to find local movie listings is your hometown newspaper. If its
editors know anything about the 21st century, they know that publishing an
online edition of the newspaper with movie listings is a great source of ad
revenue. Whether your local newspaper has online movie listings, you can
find listings for your area at these Web sites:
✦ MSN Entertainment Movie Listings: Enter your zip code or the name of
the city where you live and click the Go button to get local movie listings. By clicking the Buy Tickets button and brandishing your credit
card, you can purchase movie tickets through this Web site. Address:
http://movies.msn.com
✦ Moviefone: Select the Zip or City option button and, in the Movie Search
text box, enter your zip code or the city were you live and click the Go
button. You’ll get a list of local theaters and the movies that are playing
in each one. Address: http://movies.channel.aol.com
Renting DVDs over the Internet
501
Figure 3-2:
Movie
reviews
from the
great Roger
Ebert.
Renting DVDs over the Internet
For a subscription rate of about $18 per month, you can rent DVDs over the
Internet. The DVDs are sent to you in the mail, and you return them by mail.
If $18 per month for renting DVDs seems expensive to you, consider how
much most people pay each month in late fees to their local video rental
store. Industry studies show that one-third of the income movie rental companies make comes from late fees. The advantage of renting DVDs over the
Internet is never having to pay late fees. And you don’t have to pay postage
for sending the DVDs back, either. When the DVD arrives, it comes with a
self-addressed stamped envelope. All you have to do is pop the DVD in the
envelope and put it in the mail when you are finished viewing it. You order
the DVDs online.
Let Me
Entertain You
Table 3-1 lists companies that rent DVDs over the Internet. These companies
offer many more videos than can be found in a video rental store. From my
point of view, that’s the advantage of renting DVDs over the Net. I have exhausted the video rental stores in my neighborhood, and it’s not necessarily
the stores’ fault. It would be impossible for the locals to satisfy my hunger for
westerns and obscure film noir movies. I have to go on the Internet to satisfy
my craving.
Book VIII
Chapter 3
502
Getting Your Local TV Listings
Table 3-1
Online DVD Rental Companies
Company
Web Address
Cost
Amazon
www.amazon.com
As of this writing, Amazon has announced
it will rent DVDs, but the company has not
announced rental prices.
Blockbuster
www.blockbuster.com
Rent three videos at any given time for a
$17.50-per-month flat rate.
netflix
www.netflix.com
Rent three videos at any given time for an
$18-per-month flat rate.
Wal-Mart
www.walmart.com
Rent two videos at any given time for a
$15.54-per-month flat rate; three for
$17.36; or four for $21.94.
DVD Price Search (www.dvdpricesearch.com) is a comparison-shopping
search engine for finding inexpensive DVDs at Internet stores. Search for a
title, and when you find it, click the Check Prices link to see how much different online stores charge for the DVD.
Getting Your Local TV Listings
I’m sure you’ve heard it said before: There are five hundred TV channels, but
nothing’s on. Actually, one or two shows are usually worth watching on television’s 500 channels. These Web sites can help you find the one or two:
✦ MSN Entertainment TV Listings: Enter your zip code, click the Go
button, and declare whether you want antenna, cable, or satellite listings
for your area. This fast, sleek, well-designed Web site is a big improvement over TV Guide. Address: http://tv.msn.com
✦ SpoilerFix: Want to know what happens next week on your favorite TV
show? This Web site is for people who simply can’t wait till next week
and have to know right now. It spoils a dozen different TV shows, and
you’ve been warned: Visiting SpoilerFix removes much of the suspense
from watching TV. Address: www.spoilerfix.com
✦ Television without Pity: At this aptly named Web site, critics skewer
reality shows and TV dramas, all in the name of good fun, mind you.
Address: www.televisionwithoutpity.com
✦ TV Guide: This is the online version of TV Guide, the bestselling magazine
in the United States. You have to register to look up TV listings at this Web
site. Click the name of a TV show to read its description on the left side of
the screen, as shown in Figure 3-3. Unfortunately, this site is run by a very
slow Java applet, although it is thorough. A faster way to look up TV listings is to go to MSN Entertainment TV. Address: www.tvguide.com
Listening to Internet Radio
503
Figure 3-3:
TV Guide
Online.
✦ TV Tome: This Web site is an all-volunteer attempt to document and
describe every TV show that ever appeared on American television,
from the Donna Reed Show to The Mod Squad to Everybody Loves
Raymond. Not all the shows have been “adopted” by a volunteer yet, so
you can’t get information about all of them, but for the majority of
shows, you can find out basic facts, such as when they aired and who
starred. Some shows offer an “episode list,” with detailed descriptions of
each episode. Address: www.tvtome.com
Listening to Internet Radio
Book VIII
Chapter 3
Let Me
Entertain You
I can’t imagine anything more cosmopolitan than Internet radio. You can
listen to broadcasts from Borneo to Bogotá. Because the cost of broadcasting is considerably less than broadcasting a traditional radio show, producers can devise shows for narrow-range audiences. You may be able to find an
Internet radio show devoted to your favorite music genre or your favorite
pastime, no matter how obscure it is. Some radio stations only broadcast on
the Internet. The number of Internet radio broadcasts is likely to grow in the
coming years because of advances in cell phone technology. For now, you
can only listen to the Internet radio while sitting at your computer, but soon,
cell phones will be able to get Internet radio. You will be able to listen to
Internet radio in your car. Maybe we are about to witness a rebirth of interest in the radio — another Radio Golden Age.
504
Listening to Internet Radio
One way to play Internet radio is to go to a radio station’s Web site, click the
Play link (or whatever it’s called), and start listening. The other way is to
keep track of the radio stations you know and love with an audio player, a
computer program capable of playing Internet radio, and play music from
there. Better read on.
Finding an Internet radio station
After you find an Internet radio station and go to its Web site, you can find a
link of some kind that you can click to start receiving the broadcast. Use
these Web sites to find Internet radio stations:
✦ Live 365.com: Click the Listen tab to search by genre or review the editors’ picks of the best online radio stations. For $3.95 a month, you can
buy a VIP membership and listen to stations without being bothered by
commercials. Address: www.live365.com
✦ MSN Radio: Click the name of a radio station on the list to start receiving it. Names that are grayed out are only available by subscription.
Subscribing to MSN Radio costs $29.99 per year or $4.99 per month.
Address: http://radio.msn.com
✦ Radio Free Virgin: Click the Listen tab and then the Channel Guide to
see a list of 60 online music stations. Click a Listen Now link to start listening to a station. Address: www.radiofreevirgin.com
✦ Radio-Locator: Under “Find Internet Streaming Audio,” select a format or
a country and click the Go link, as shown in Figure 3-4. You see a list of
radio stations. Stations with a lightning bolt next to their names offer
online broadcasting. Address: www.radio-locator.com
✦ Radio Lovers: Now this is my idea of an interesting radio station. From
here, you can listen for free to old radio shows — Dick Tracy, Hopalong
Cassidy, Al Jolson, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and others. Address:
www.radiolovers.com
✦ ShoutCast: Click the Listen tab to see the list of online radio stations.
What makes this Web site a little out of the ordinary is being able to
search not only by genre but also by bit rate. High-quality online radio
stations broadcast at 128 Kbps or higher. You can find those stations at
this Web site. Address: www.shoutcast.com
✦ Web Radio Directory: Search for radio stations by call letters, format,
state, or country. Address: www.radio-directory.fm/it_list.cfm
Be sure to bookmark the Web site of a radio station you like so that you can
visit it later. Finding a station all over again can be a difficult task unless you
bookmark it the first time around. Book II, Chapter 1 explains bookmarking.
Listening to Internet Radio
505
Figure 3-4:
Find a radio
station at
RadioLocator.
Receiving an Internet radio station
To listen to the Internet radio, you need a program that’s capable of playing
streaming audio. Streaming means that you don’t download a file to listen to
audio, but you listen as the audio arrives in your audio player. Table 3-2 lists
audio players that are capable of receiving and playing Internet radio stations. All of these audio players are free.
Table 3-2
Programs That Play the Internet Radio
Web Site
Musicmatch Jukebox (Musicmatch)
www.musicmatch.com
QuickTime (Apple)
www.apple.com/quicktime
RealPlayer (RealNetworks)
www.real.com
Winamp (Nullsoft)
www.winamp.com
Windows Media Player (Microsoft)
www.microsoft.com/windows/
windowsmedia/default.aspx
Book VIII
Chapter 3
Let Me
Entertain You
Audio Player
506
Listening to Internet Radio
Introducing Windows Media Player
If your computer runs Windows, you already have a very good audio player —
Windows Media Player, shown in Figure 3-5. This program is superb for listening to the Internet radio. Searching for stations and bookmarking your favorite
radio stations in Windows Media Player is pretty simple. The program is also a
CD player, MP3 player, and CD burner. Use one of these methods to open
Windows Media Player:
✦ Click the Windows Media Player icon on the Quick Launch toolbar.
✦ Choose Start➪All Programs➪Accessories➪Entertainment➪Windows
Media Player.
Click the Radio tab to listen to the Internet radio. Here are the basics of listening to the Internet radio with Windows Media Player:
✦ Searching for a station: Either search by category or enter a search term
in the Radio Search text box and click the Go button. You see a list of
radio stations brought to you by MSN Radio (http://radio.msn.com).
Click a radio station name to start receiving the station. Radio station
names that are grayed out are only available if you subscribe to MSN
Radio (subscriptions cost $29.99 for a year or $4.99 for a month).
Figure 3-5:
Windows
Media
Player.
Finding Books Online
507
✦ Controls: Controls for playing the radio are found at the bottom of the
window. These controls work like the ones on a tape player or video
player. Click the Stop button, for example, to turn off the radio. Click the
Play button to resume playing songs.
✦ Bookmarking stations: If you have a .NET passport (see Appendix B),
you can bookmark stations in Windows Media Player and be able to
revisit them easily. Click the Radio tab and then the Sign In link to sign in
with your .NET passport. Click the Add This Station to My Stations
button (refer to Figure 3-5) to place a station’s name on your My Stations
list. This list is found at the top of the station categories.
Finding Books Online
Books? Why, I remember them. Big bundles of paper all bound together. You
read them, right? You curl up in bed with one. Or you take one to the beach
for some “summer reading.” In case you enjoy the old-fashioned pleasures of
reading, Table 3-3 lists Web sites that specialize in selling books and search
engines that are designed especially for searching for books on the Internet.
Table 3-4 lists Web sites that offer books online; you can either read these
books on-screen or download them to your computer.
Table 3-3
Online Booksellers and Book Search Engines
Web Site
Address
Notes
Abe Books
www.abebooks.com
Specializes in rare and out-of-print
books.
Add All
www.addall.com/used
Search engine for used and out-ofprint books.
AKA Book
www.akabook.com
Excellent comparison-shopping
search engine for books.
Alibris
www.alibris.com
Largest seller of used books (as
well as videos and CDs) on the
Internet.
www.allsearchengines.
com/books.html
Lists search engines that specialize in finding books.
Amazon
www.amazon.com
The granddaddy of booksellers,
useful for its online book reviews.
Barnes and Noble
www.bn.com
Specializes in new books; easiest
bookseller site to navigate.
Best Book Buys
www.bestwebbuys.com/
books
Search engine for used books on
the Internet. Click the Compare
Prices button to find copies of a
book at different prices.
(continued)
Let Me
Entertain You
All Search Engines
Book VIII
Chapter 3
508
Finding Books Online
Table 3-3 (continued)
Web Site
Address
Notes
Book Finder
www.bookfinder.com
Search engine for used books for
sale at different Web sites.
Which Book?
www.whichbook.net
Get a book recommendation by
choosing adjectives that describe
what kind of book you want to read.
Table 3-4
Web Sites That Offer Online Books
Web Site
Address
Notes
Bartleby
www.bartelby.com
Literature, reference books, and
verse that you can read online.
Blackmask
www.blackmask.com
Books in many different categories
that you can download for free.
Magazine Boy
www.themagazineboy.com
Search for magazines that you can
read online.
Online Books Page
http://digital.library.
upenn.edu/books
Provides links to books that you
can download or read online for
free.
Project Guttenberg
http://promo.net/pg
Offers 6,000 classic books that you
can download for free.
Regarding the online booksellers listed in Table 3-3: Most of these sellers
don’t keep books in their inventories. They merely list used books that other
booksellers have. When you order a book, the word goes out to the bookseller who actually has the book, and that bookseller sends the book to you.
Some booksellers, however, don’t keep their inventories up to date, and
sometimes the book you ordered has already been sold.
Chapter 4: The Internet for
Music Lovers
In This Chapter
Exploring Web sites for music lovers
Buying songs from online music stores
Trading music files with others on the Internet
W
ho isn’t a music lover? Music soothes the soul and tames the savage
beasts. This chapter is devoted to Web sites and Internet services
for music lovers. Read on to discover Web sites for music lovers, find online
stores where you can buy music files, and get instructions for trading music
files online with others over the Internet. (The previous chapter explains
how to listen to Internet radio.)
Web Sites for Music Lovers
Any collection of Web sites for music lovers is bound to reflect the tastes
of the person who put the collection together. My apologies if your favorite
Web site didn’t make it in my collection. If you know of a good Web site
devoted to music, I would like to know about it, too. Please e-mail me at
[email protected] with the name of the Web site. If you’re a music
lover, check out the following Web sites:
✦ All Music: Go to All Music to read about your favorite singers and
musicians. As shown in Figure 4-1, you can find biographical information, discographies, and song lists at this Web site. Address:
www.allmusic.com
✦ Country Music Hall of Fame: I know that country music isn’t to everyone’s taste, but if it’s to yours, check out the Country Music Hall of
Fame. You can read about inductees and view online exhibits. Plus, the
Web site plays snippets of country music songs just for you. Address:
www.countrymusichalloffame.com
✦ Gramophone: This site bills itself as “The Classic Music Web Site.” You
will find CD reviews, articles, and composer biographies, all well written
and researched. Address: www.gramophone.co.uk
510
Web Sites for Music Lovers
Figure 4-1:
Checking up
on Little
Walter at All
Music.
✦ KissThisGuy – The Archive of Misheard Lyrics: In his song “Purple
Haze,” did Jimi Hendrix sing, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” or “Excuse
me while I kiss this guy”? You can find out at this Web site, which offers
numerous funny examples of misheard song lyrics. By the way, misheard
song and poetry lyrics are called mondegreens. The expression originated with a British writer who misheard the last lines of a poem called
“The Bonny Earl of Murray.” The real lines are They ha’e slain the Earl of
Murray, and they laid him on the Green, but she heard They ha’e slain the
Earl of Murray, and Lady Mondegreen. Address: www.kissthisguy.com
✦ Oddmusic: Do you know what an Aeolian wind harp sounds like? How
about a beer bottle organ? You can find out at this Web site by going to
the Oddmusic Gallery and clicking the speaker icon next to an instrument’s name. Click the name itself to find out the history of the instrument. Address: http://oddmusic.com
✦ Wilson & Allroy’s Record Reviews: David Wilson and John Allroy are a
couple of opinionated but also very witty music reviewers. They focus
mostly on rock and roll from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. If you’re looking to
explore new musical territory, you could do worse than check out this
site. Address: www.warr.org
Buying Music Online
511
✦ WWW Sites of Interests to Musicologists: I stumbled upon this eccentric
Web page one day and couldn’t believe my good luck. It has hyperlinks
to hundreds of Web sites of interest to the people who study music.
Some of the items on this list are downright bizarre — for example,
The Gregorian Chant Page, Hurdy-Gurdy: A Brief History, and The Lute
Society of America. Address: www.sas.upenn.edu/music/ams/
musicology_www.html
Buying Music Online
It appears that buying music online, not downloading it for free (a subject
taken up later in this chapter), is really catching on. The Apple iTunes online
music store has proved to be a resounding success. Music lovers like knowing that a song they are getting online is the real thing. At 99 cents a pop, the
songs are relatively inexpensive. And many online music stores offer special
software that you can use to play and organize the songs you purchase. The
software includes commands for burning songs to a CD and loading songs
onto an iPod or other portable music player.
Table 4-1 describes online music stores. At all these stores, you can preview a
song before you buy it. My favorite store is Apple iTunes. In fact, I like this
store and its iTunes music player so much, I devote an entire chapter to it —
the next chapter of this mini-book. In my opinion, being able to play and
organize the songs you buy from an online music store with software from the
store is a big plus. It makes downloading the songs and playing the songs —
not to mention burning CDs or loading songs onto a portable music player —
that much easier.
Table 4-1
Online Music Stores
Web Address
Notes
Apple iTunes
www.apple.com/itunes
Songs cost 99 cents; albums $9.99.
Offers 700,000 songs. Includes the
superb iTunes software program for
playing and organizing songs, as well
as burning CDs. Although the store is
managed by Apple, its iTunes software
is also available for PC users. (iTunes is
the subject of the next chapter in this
minibook.)
BuyMusic
www.buymusic.com
Songs cost 79 cents to $1.14; albums,
$7.95 to $12.95. Does not include software for playing and organizing songs.
(continued)
Book VIII
Chapter 4
The Internet for
Music Lovers
Site
512
Trading Free Music Files on the Internet
Table 4-1 (continued)
Site
Web Address
Notes
Connect
http://musicstore.
connect.com
Songs cost 99 cents. Includes the
Connect Player for playing and organizing songs, as well as burning CDs.
MSN Music
http://music.msn.com
Songs cost 99 cents. You can play
songs on Windows Media Player, but
this software is unstable and is not the
best, either for organizing songs or
burning CDs.
Musicmatch
www.musicmatch.com
Songs are 99 cents; albums $9.99. You
can download the MusicMatch
Jukebox, a software program for playing and organizing songs.
MusicNow
www.musicnow.com
Songs cost 99 cents; for a $9.95
monthly fee, you can listen to complete
songs and albums before buying. Does
not include software for playing and
organizing songs.
Napster 2.0
www.napster.com
Songs cost 99 cents; albums $9.99.
Does not include software for playing
and organizing songs.
Rhapsody
www.listen.com
Songs cost 79 cents; for a $9.95
monthly fee, you can listen to complete
songs and albums before buying.
Includes the Celestial Jukebox for playing and organizing songs, as well as
burning CDs.
Wal-Mart
http://musicdownloads.
walmart.com
Songs cost 89 cents; albums $9.44. Only
offers 300,000 songs, half the number of
other stores. Does not include software
for playing and organizing songs.
Trading Free Music Files on the Internet
Table 4-2 describes programs for trading files on the Internet. Most of these
programs are used for trading MP3 music files, although movies, images,
games, and computer programs are being shared with increasing regularity.
To share files with one of these programs, you download the program to
your computer, sign in to a network of file sharers, and search the network
for the song you’re looking for. The majority of file-sharing programs plug
into one of these four networks: eDonkey, FastTrack, Warez, or Gnutella.
When you find a song or file you want, you download it to your computer
from the network. Meanwhile, others on the network can download songs
and files on your computer to their computers.
Trading Free Music Files on the Internet
Table 4-2
513
File-Sharing Programs
Program
Web Address
Notes
Bearshare
www.bearshare.com
Connects users to the Gnutella
network.
eDonkey
www.edonkey.com
Now the most popular file-sharing
software with 230 million
downloads.
EMule
www.emule-project.net
An open-source software product
that connects users to the eDonkey
network.
Gnucleus
www.gnucleus.com
An open-source software product
for accessing the Gnutella network.
Gnutella
www.gnutella.com,
www.gnutelliums.com
An open-source file-sharing software product; the parent network of
Bearshare, Limewire, and others.
Kazaa
www.kazaa.com
This is the second-most popular
software for online file trading; 215
million people have downloaded it.
Kazaa Lite
www.kazaalite.nl/en
Kazaa without the spyware; this
software is not authorized by Kazaa.
Limewire
www.limewire.com
A software product that connects
users to the Gnutella network.
Shareaza
www.shareaza.com
Searching multiple networks, this
open-source client lets you preview
songs as you download them (refer
to Figure 4-2).
Warez P2P
www.warezclient.com
The fastest-growing file-sharing
network.
Xolox
www.xolox.com
Another Gnutella client.
The first file-sharing program was Napster. This program revolutionized the
Internet in the late 1990s. All of the sudden, millions of people around the
world were exchanging MP3 music files with Napster. Obscure songs that
were well-nigh impossible to find at the local music store could be plucked
Book VIII
Chapter 4
The Internet for
Music Lovers
Figure 4-2 shows the Search window in Shareaza. The important thing to
note when you search for files is the number of sources — the number of
computers on the network where the file you want to download resides. Files
download faster when many sources are available. Shareaza is typical in that
it gives you the opportunity to search by file type (audio, video, games, computer programs, or images). When you see a file you want to download, you
select it and click the Download button. Like most file-sharing programs,
Shareaza has a media player for playing the files you downloaded.
514
Trading Free Music Files on the Internet
for the taking off the Internet. Not-so-obscure songs could be acquired for
free as well. From the perspective of music lovers, it was too good to be true,
but music-industry executives grumbled because CD sales started falling.
Musicians and songwriters complained as well, because they weren’t being
compensated for their recordings. The Recording Industry Association of
America (RIAA) hit Napster with a series of lawsuits that ran the company
out of business (it has since been revived as a legitimate seller of online
music).
Napster was a registered company, with headquarters in California’s Silicon
Valley, but the next generation of file-sharing software manufacturers did not
have headquarters. Morpheus, Kazaa, Grokster, and the others were managed from small offices throughout the world. These companies weren’t registered in any country or state. They used peer-to-peer technology (more
about that in a minute) so that the sharing of files wasn’t managed from a
central point, but was managed all across the network of file sharers. The
decentralized structure of second-generation file-sharing was such that the
RIAA couldn’t sue the companies who manufactured the software. It had no
company to sue, so the RIAA did the next best thing — it sued registered
users of Kazaa for sharing copyrighted songs. “Our goal is not to be vindictive or punitive,” RIAA President Cary Sherman said in 2003 when the RIAA
issued lawsuits against 216 Kazaa users. “It is simply to get peer-to-peer
users to stop offering music that does not belong to them.”
Figure 4-2:
The Search
window in
Shareaza.
Trading Free Music Files on the Internet
515
In peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, files are stored on users’ computers, and
no central computer manages the sharing of files. In effect, each member’s
computer is a “mini-server,” with music files for all the members. As members sign in to the service, the service records the names of music files
stored on their computers. When a member asks for a music file, the service
merely points to where it’s located on members’ computers. What’s more, to
make downloading go faster, a music file can be cobbled together from files
on different computers. For example, if I ask for “Battle Hymn of the
Republic” and the service tells me that the same “Battle Hymn of the
Republic” file is on five members’ computers, I can download the file from all
five computers simultaneously and get the file that much faster. And because
files are broken into tiny pieces and reassembled as they are shared, my
computer can distribute a file at the same time as it downloads the file,
which makes for faster file sharing.
No one can say for certain how much the RIAA lawsuits slowed file sharing on
the Internet, but file sharing has been slowed. I suspect that the real reason
for the slowdown has to do with spyware and the fact that the legitimate
online music stores do such a good job of delivering music files. Most filesharing software contains harmful spyware. Kazaa, the second most popular
file-sharing program, with 215 million users, is notorious in this regard. In
November 2004, Computer Associates International, an Internet security company, officially declared Kazaa a spyware program, not a file-sharing program!
Computer Associates International put Kazaa at the head of its Top 5 list of
spyware threats. Install Kazaa on your computer and you will notice your
computer slowing down almost immediately, as your computer devotes processing time to spying on you and reporting back to spyware manufacturers.
Figure 4-3 shows the Kazaa home page. (Computer Associates International
maintains a Spyware Information Center at this address: www3.ca.com/
securityadvisor/pest).
Another drawback of file-sharing services is the quality of the music files.
You never know what you’ve downloaded until it arrives on your computer
and you play it. Music companies have been known to flood peer-to-peer filesharing networks with inferior, purposefully damaged files. Many files are
incomplete or of low quality. Sometimes the file you think you’re getting
turns out to be something else altogether.
The Internet for
Music Lovers
As to copyright issues, and speaking as someone who makes part of his
living from book royalties, I think it’s dishonest to skirt the copyright issue
and claim that file-sharing doesn’t violate the copyright laws. Songwriters
and performers own the songs being shared. They are entitled to royalties
for their creative work. The people who make their living by earning income
or collecting royalties from the sale of music and video being copied on the
Internet deserve our consideration and respect.
Book VIII
Chapter 4
516
Trading Free Music Files on the Internet
Figure 4-3:
Kazaa the
Notorious.
Disregard
the “No
Spyware”
claim.
Why not download music legally with iTunes or another service? You can
listen to 15 or 20 seconds of a song before you download it. The files you get
are sure to be of high quality. You can rest assured that you are not inviting
spyware into your computer. The musicians and songwriters receive their
royalties. All things considered, the cost of downloading songs from iTunes
or another online music seller isn’t very great. It costs a dollar to play a song
on a jukebox these days. For 99 cents, you can download a song from iTunes,
play it over and over, and burn it to a CD. That’s a bargain, I think.
Slyck News, a Web site devoted to file sharing and file-sharing programs,
offers the latest news, fix-its, and rankings for fans of file sharing on the
Internet. You can visit Slyck News at this address: www.slyck.com.
Chapter 5: Buying and Playing
Music with iTunes
In This Chapter
Getting acquainted with iTunes
Downloading iTunes software to your computer
Purchasing songs from the Apple Music Store
Playing songs in iTunes
Organizing songs in the Library
Adding songs you didn’t purchase from Apple to the Library
Burning a CD with your favorite songs
I
f Academy Awards were given out for software, I would nominate iTunes
for Software of the Year. The program is easy to use. You can buy songs
from the Apple Music Store with the software as well as play songs, burn
CDs, and organize your music collection. You can even play online radio and
copy songs from CDs to your computer. All these pleasurable tasks are
described in this chapter.
iTunes is free. Although iTunes is made by Apple Corporation, Windows
users are invited to the party, too. Apple makes a version of iTunes for
Macintosh computers and Windows computers. iTunes does not work with
Windows 98 software; you must have Windows XP or 2000.
Introducing iTunes
iTunes is a software program that serves many purposes. Use it to buy music
files from the Apple iTunes online music store. Rather than open a browser
and find your way to the store, open iTunes and search the store’s 700,000
songs with the iTunes program. Songs cost 99 cents each. After you buy
songs, you can play them with iTunes. For that matter, you can play songs
you didn’t buy from the Apple Music Store. You can burn a CD and download
music to an iPod with iTunes. You can arrange your songs into playlists to
make locating and playing songs easier. You can copy songs from CDs you
own to your computer. You can even listen to Internet radio with iTunes.
518
Introducing iTunes
Figure 5-1 shows the iTunes window in Library view. This view is for locating
and organizing songs in your music library so that you can play songs.
Notice the Source box on the left side of the window. By clicking items in the
Source box, you can do different things in iTunes:
✦ Library: Locate songs you want to play or collect in a playlist. A playlist
is a collection of songs you gather so that you can play them more easily
or burn them to a CD.
Figure 5-1:
The iTunes
window in
Library
view.
✦ Party Shuffle: Play songs at random. On the Source menu, choose where
to get the songs — from a playlist or the Library, for example.
✦ Radio: Find and play an online radio station.
✦ My Top Rated: List songs by rating. To rate a song, right-click its name,
choose Rating, and choose a rating.
✦ Recently Played: List the last three dozen songs you played.
✦ Top 25 Most Played: List the 25 songs you play most often — in other
words, your favorite songs.
✦ Playlists: Display a list of songs you collected and named.
If you prefer not to have the Party Shuffle and Radio items in the Source box,
choose Edit➪Preferences and, on the General tab of the iTunes dialog box,
deselect the Party Shuffle and Radio check boxes. Choose Large on the Source
Text drop-down menu if you want to make the text bigger in the Source box.
Buying Songs from the Apple Music Store
519
To remove the artwork at the bottom of the Source box and get more room
for playlist names, click the Show or Hide Song Artwork button.
Downloading iTunes Software
The first step in running iTunes is to download the software. Download
iTunes starting at this Web page:
www.apple.com/itunes/download
Downloading the software costs nothing. Well, if you have a slow Internet
connection, it costs a certain amount of time. At 20MB, the installation file is
fairly large.
During the installation, you are asked whether you want iTunes to be the
default player for audio files and QuickTime to be the default player for
video files (QuickTime is installed on your computer as part of the iTunes
installation). What this question really asks is, “Do you want iTunes to play
music files automatically or QuickTime to play video files automatically
when you open a music or video file on the Internet or on your computer?”
Maybe you prefer to watch videos with Windows Media Player. If so, deselect
the Use QuickTime as the Default Player for Media Files check box. I suggest
leaving the Use iTunes as the Default Player for Audio Files check box intact.
iTunes is the best program for playing audio files that I know of.
To tell your computer which program to open a file with by default, find an
example of the file in Windows Explorer or My Computer, right-click the file,
and choose Open With➪Choose Program. In the Open With dialog box,
select the name of the program that you want to open the file type automatically. Then select the Always Use the Selected Program to Open This Kind of
File check box and click OK.
Buying Songs from the Apple Music Store
To get to the Apple Music Store, open iTunes and click the Music Store item
in the Source box, as shown in Figure 5-2.
Buying and Playing
Music with iTunes
Songs cost 99 cents at the Apple Music Store, and you have some 700,000
songs to choose from. The songs you buy can be copied and played on three
computers besides the one to which you download a song from the music
store. Them’s the rules. (If you want to copy a song to a fifth computer, connect
to the Internet and deauthorize one of your computers by choosing
Advanced➪Deauthorize Computer.) These pages explain how to purchase
songs from the Apple Music Store and how to register your credit card with
the store so that you can purchase songs.
Book VIII
Chapter 5
520
Buying Songs from the Apple Music Store
Figure 5-2:
Visiting the
Apple
Music
Store.
Starting an account with Apple
The first time you visit the Apple Music Store online and attempt to purchase
a song, you are asked to create an account. Creating an account entails entering your e-mail address, entering your name, choosing a password, and
entering your credit card number. Your credit card is billed 99 cents each
time you buy a song. To create an account at any time, click the Sign In
button and click the Create New Account button in the iTunes dialog box.
Instead of an account name, you are identified by the e-mail address you give
Apple. It appears in the upper-right corner of the window (refer to 5-2).
Searching for a song to buy
Here are the different ways to search for that special song you used to dance
to in your flowering youth:
✦ Searching by keyword: In the Search Music Store text box, as shown in
Figure 5-3, enter an artist’s or composer’s name, the name of a song, or
the name of an album, and press Enter. You see a list of song titles that
match your search criteria.
✦ Conducting a more-thorough keyword search: Open the drop-down
menu in the Search Music Store text box and choose a category to
search in, as shown in Figure 5-3. Choose Power Search to look in several
categories — Song, Artist, Album, Genre, and Composer — at once.
✦ Searching for songs in record albums: Click the Browse Music link
(refer to Figure 5-2) and select a genre, an artist, and an album to see a
list of songs in the album.
Buying Songs from the Apple Music Store
521
Figure 5-3:
Searching
by keyword
for a song.
As you go from place to place in the Music Store, you can retrace your steps
by clicking the browser buttons — Back, Forward, and Home (refer to
Figure 5-2). These buttons work exactly like the buttons in a Web browser.
Clicking the Home button takes you to the home page of the Apple Music
Store.
Buying a song
Before you buy a song, preview it. Listen to a few bars and decide whether
you like it. To preview a song, double-click its name in a song list. Previews
last about 30 seconds.
To buy a song, click the Buy Song button (you may have to scroll to the right
to see it). A dialog box appears so that you can enter your password. Enter it
and click the Buy button. The song is downloaded to your computer.
Here are a few things worth knowing about buying songs:
✦ Instead of buying songs one at a time, you can buy them in bunches.
Choose Edit➪Preferences, select the Store tab in the iTunes dialog box,
and select the Buy Using a Shopping Cart option button. To see a list of
all the songs in your shopping cart, choose Advanced➪Check for
Purchased Music.
Buying and Playing
Music with iTunes
✦ Click the Purchased Music item in the Source box to see a list of songs
you purchased from the Apple Music Store.
Book VIII
Chapter 5
522
Playing Songs
✦ On your computer, songs you purchase land in subfolders of this folder:
C:\Documents and Settings\Your Name\My Documents\My Music\
iTunes\iTunes Music. In that folder, songs are filed away even deeper
by artist name and album name. If you prefer to keep incoming files in a
more convenient folder, choose Edit➪Preferences, select the Advanced
tab in the iTunes dialog box, and click the Change button to select a different folder.
Playing Songs
To play a song, double-click its name in the song list. You can tell which song
is playing because the Play icon appears beside its name. As shown in Figure
5-4, use the controls along the top of the screen to pause or play the song,
play the previous or next song on the song list, change the volume, rewind,
or fast-forward.
Figure 5-4:
Controls for
playing
songs.
You can also take advantage of these commands to make your listening experience more pleasurable:
✦ Shuffling: Shuffling plays the songs on the song list in random order.
Click the Turn Shuffle On or Off button, or choose Controls➪Shuffle to
shuffle songs on the list.
✦ Repeating songs: Choose a Controls➪Repeat command to repeat the
song list when it has finished playing (Repeat All), repeat the song that
is currently playing (Repeat One), or stop playing songs when the song
list has played through (Repeat Off). You can also give these commands
by successively clicking the Repeat button.
✦ Experimenting with sound distribution: Click the Open the Equalizer
Window button to see the Equalizer, shown in Figure 5-5. By dragging the
sliders or choosing an option from the menu, you can experiment with
how sound is distributed between the treble and bass register in the
songs you play.
✦ Watching the visual fireworks display: Click the Turn Full Screen Visual
Effects On button if you are easily entertained by computerized visual
effects displayed to the accompaniment of music. Press Esc or click the
screen to see the song list again.
Playing Songs
523
Making sure the song information is correct
The song list tells you each song’s name, the
artist who performs it, the name of the album it
is found on, and its genre, among other things.
But sometimes this information isn’t correct.
You may decide that a song has been placed in
the wrong genre. Especially if you acquired the
song from a source apart from the Apple Music
Store, the artist and title may be wrong.
To change the information by which a song is
categorized in the Library, select the song and
press Ctrl+I or right-click and choose Get Info.
A dialog box named after the song appears. On
the Info tab, enter the correct name, artist,
composer, and genre. If you own a lot of songs,
making sure this information is accurate is
essential for finding songs in the Library.
Book VIII
Chapter 5
Song lists tell you the name of each song, its length, the artist’s name, the
album name, and when you last played the song, among other things. To
decide what appears on a song list, choose Edit➪View Options (or press
Ctrl+J) and make selections in the View Options dialog box. You can sort, or
Buying and Playing
Music with iTunes
Figure 5-5:
The
Equalizer.
524
Organizing Your Songs with Playlists and the Library
rearrange, songs in a list by clicking a column heading. For example, clicking
the Artist column heading arranges the song list in alphabetical order by
artist name.
Organizing Your Songs with Playlists and the Library
How do you find a song you want to listen to? Start by clicking the Library
item in the Source box. The Library lists all the songs you purchased from
the Apple Music Store and well as songs you imported into iTunes (see
“Adding songs you didn’t get from Apple to the Library,” later in this chapter). Starting in the Library window, iTunes offers several different ways to
organize songs so that you can find them quickly:
✦ The Library: Click an artist’s name in the Artist list, and you see only
songs by the artist whose name you clicked. By clicking an album name
as well, you see songs from one album.
You can make Genre another category for arranging songs in the Library
(refer to Figure 5-1). Choose Edit➪Preferences and, on the General tab of
the iTunes dialog box, select the Show Genre When Browsing check box.
✦ Playlists: Playlists are the best way to organize music. To see the songs
in a playlist, click the playlist’s name in the Source box. To burn a CD,
you must create a playlist first with the songs you want to burn (see
“Burning a CD,” later in this chapter). Create playlists for your favorite
songs in different categories. You give a playlist a name when you create
it. iTunes offers two ways to create a playlist:
• Drag songs to the list: Choose File➪New Playlist (or press Ctrl+N)
and type a name for the playlist in the Source box. Then drag the
names of songs you want for the list onto the playlist name.
• Select the songs first: Select the songs by Ctrl+clicking their names
and choose File➪Create Playlist from Selection. Then type a name for
the playlist in the Source box.
✦ Smart Playlists: A smart playlist is one that iTunes creates for you based
on parameters you choose. Choose File➪New Smart Playlist. In the
Smart Playlist dialog box, describe which songs you want for the
playlist. The list is named after the words you enter in the text box.
To change a smart playlist, right-click its name and choose Edit Smart
Playlist. The Smart Playlist dialog box opens so that you can change
parameters.
✦ The Search text box: Enter a keyword in the Search text box in the
upper-right corner of the window. Entering the word blue, for example,
brings up a list of all songs with that word in their title.
Adding Your Own Songs to Your iTunes Collection
525
To delete a playlist, right-click its name in the Source box and choose Clear.
Deleting a playlist in no way, shape, or form deletes any song files from your
computer. You merely remove the playlist from the Source box. To remove a
song from a playlist, select it and press the Delete key. The song is removed
from the list, not deleted from your computer.
Adding Your Own Songs to Your iTunes Collection
You can make iTunes the means of organizing your entire music collection,
not just the songs you bought online from the Apple Music Store. Perhaps
you have MP3 files you got from other sources and you want to be able to
find and play them with the iTunes software. Or, you want to copy songs
from CDs you own to your computer and play them there. Better read on.
Copying songs from your CD collection
Copying a song from a CD to a computer is called ripping a song. Why ripping? I don’t know. Maybe the person who invented the term was feeling
macho that day. Maybe he was the kind of guy who likes to rip telephone
books in half. At any rate, the first step in ripping a song from a CD is to
choose how to encode the song files as you take them from your CD. Choose
Edit➪Preferences and, on the Importing tab of the iTunes dialog box, select
an Import Using Option:
✦ AAC Encoder: This is high-quality format is native to songs you get from
the Apple Music Store. Only Apple supports this format. MP3 players
apart from the iPod can’t play AAC-encoded songs.
✦ AIFF Encoder: This is the standard for sound on Macintosh computers.
Choose this one only if you have a Macintosh computer.
✦ Apple Lossless Encoder: Another standard for the Macintosh, this
format features slightly higher sound quality than AIFF.
✦ MP3 Encoder: MP3 is the most widely supported standard, but not the
highest-quality standard. This option is recommended for Windows computers and portable music players other than the iPod.
Follow these steps to copy songs from a CD to your computer with iTunes:
1. Put the CD in your CD player or DVD player.
A list of songs on the CD appears.
Buying and Playing
Music with iTunes
✦ WAV Encoder: This is also a Windows standard, but it’s of higher quality
than MP3.
Book VIII
Chapter 5
526
Adding Your Own Songs to Your iTunes Collection
2. Deselect the songs that you don’t want to copy.
To deselect a song, click the check box beside its name to remove the
check mark. Check boxes are found between song numbers and song
names.
3. Click the Import button.
You can find this button in the upper-right corner of the window. Songs
are played as soon as they are successfully copied to your computer. To
stop copying a song, click the Close button (the X) in the Time
Remaining box at the top of the window.
Adding songs you didn’t get
from Apple to the Library
Chances are, your computer has more than a few music files that you
acquired from friends or from here and there on the Internet. You can add
these songs to the iTunes Library to make finding and playing them easier.
The problem with adding foreign songs to the Library, however, is that song
information — the song’s official title, artist, and genre — is usually inaccurate, and you need song information to find and play songs in the Library.
The Apple Music Store is very good about tagging songs with correct titles
and artist names, but other programs and stores do it haphazardly. Bringing
foreign songs into the Library isn’t as simple as adding the songs, because
you also have to update the songs’ information.
Included in these instructions is a little trick for making sure that song information is updated as you add foreign songs to the Library:
1. Choose Edit➪View Options or press Ctrl+J.
The View Options dialog box appears. It lists categories you can put in
the song list.
2. Select the Date Added check box if it isn’t already selected, and click
the OK button.
Later, you will sort the song list on the Date Added category and, in so
doing, be able to find foreign songs you added to the Library.
3. Choose File➪Add Folder to Library and, in the Browse to Folder
dialog box, select the folder with the foreign songs you want to add;
then click the OK button.
4. Click the Library item in the Source box to display all songs in the
song list.
Make sure that all artists, albums, and genres (if genres are displayed)
are shown in the list.
Burning a CD
527
5. Scroll to and click the words Date Added at the top of the Date Added
column to arrange songs in the list according to the dates they were
added to the library.
6. Scroll to the bottom of the list to the view the songs you just added to
the Library.
You see the songs you just added.
7. One by one, right-click each song you just added, choose Get Info,
select the Info tab in the Song dialog box, and make sure that the
information listed there is correct.
Earlier in this chapter, the sidebar “Making sure the song information is
correct” explains what song information is and how to edit it.
All songs on iTunes song lists are actually shortcuts to the folder on your
computer where the songs are stored. If you move one of these song files, the
shortcut is rendered invalid, and you can’t play the song by double-clicking
its name in a song list. To find out where on your computer a song file is
located, right-click the song’s name and choose Show Song File. Doing so
opens My Computer to the folder where the song is stored.
To find out whether a song was entered more than once in the Library, choose
Edit➪Show Duplicate Songs. Duplicate copies of songs appear in the song list.
You can right-click the duplicate copy and choose Clear to remove it from the
library. Choose Edit➪Show All Songs to see the complete list again.
Burning a CD
Burning a CD means to copy songs from a computer to a CD that you can play
on a CD player in your car or your living room. Approximately 74 minutes of
songs (about 650MB of data) can fit on an audio CD, although some discs
allow 80 minutes (about 700MB). Roughly speaking, you can fit 20 songs on an
audio CD. Before you attempt to burn a CD, assemble the songs for the CD on
a playlist (see “Organizing Your Songs with Playlists and the Library,” earlier in
this chapter).
✦ Preferred Speed: iTunes is supposed to detect the speed rating of a CD.
Choose Maximum Possible, unless you have trouble burning CDs. In that
case, look on the package the CDs came in to see whether your CDs are
rated for a slower speed, and choose that speed from the drop-down
menu.
Buying and Playing
Music with iTunes
Start by declaring how you want to record the CD. Choose Edit➪Preferences
and, in the iTunes dialog box, select the Burning tab. Choose these recording
options:
Book VIII
Chapter 5
528
Burning a CD
✦ Disc Format: Your choices are Audio CD, MP3 CD, and Data CD. Audio
CDs are the ones that play on CD players in living rooms and cars.
✦ Gap Between Songs: From the drop-down menu, choose how many
silent seconds to place between songs.
✦ Use Sound Check: Select this option to make all files on the CD play at a
uniform volume.
Now you’re ready to burn the CD by following these steps:
1. In the Source box, select the playlist whose songs you want to burn to
a CD, as shown in Figure 5-6.
You can rearrange the order of songs in the playlist by dragging song
names upward or downward.
Figure 5-6:
Burning
a CD.
2. Click the Burn Disk button or choose File➪Burn Playlist to Disc.
3. Insert a blank CD in the CD burner.
4. Click the Burn Disc button again when iTunes tells you to click it.
The top of the window tells you when to click the button. Burning a CD
takes about ten minutes. The program copies as many songs as will fit
on the disc.
Burning a CD
529
Printing a jewel case insert
Write the playlist name on the CD you burned
to identify the CD. You can also print an insert
and fold it into the jewel case. The insert lists
the name of the playlist, artists’ names, the
name of each song on the playlist, and the playing time of each song. Follow these steps to
print jewel case inserts:
1. Select the playlist name if it isn’t already
selected.
2. Choose File➪Print (or press Ctrl+P).
3. Select a theme from the Theme drop-down
menu.
The dialog box clearly shows what your
choices are.
4. Click the OK button.
The printout shows you where to fold the
page to make it fit in the CD case. I hope
that you are a good folder and your origami
skills are up to the task.
You see the Print dialog box.
Book VIII
Chapter 5
Buying and Playing
Music with iTunes
530
Book VIII: Hobbies and Pastimes
Chapter 6: Genealogy Online
In This Chapter
Doing the background research before you go online
Searching from a comprehensive Web site
Obtaining information from the Social Security Death Index
Looking up vital records on the Internet
Searching by surname
Searching ships’ passenger lists
Searching within a locality
Obtaining vital records about an ancestor
T
he Internet has given a powerful boost to genealogists. What used to
require a trip to a Vital Records office can be done in minutes on the
Internet. Genealogists, who used to practice their hobby in obscurity, have
discovered one another. All across the Internet are sites where genealogists
post their findings for others to see. A brisk trade in genealogical data goes
on all day long. And a number of people, including me, have discovered
long-lost relatives in the course of their genealogical research.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that much of the genealogical data is
in list form or on hard-to-find Web sites. Much of it is still on microfiche. To
access most of it, you have to pay a few bucks to subscribe to a Web site.
You can’t just download your great-grandma’s birth certificate from a site
on the Internet, but you can find census data on an ancestor. You can find
census indexes, property records, and immigrant records. You can quickly
find out where data is kept and write to obtain the data. And your chances
get better by the day of finding another genealogist who is working the same
vein as you. We are, it appears, entering a golden age of genealogy.
This chapter explains a handful of ways to research your ancestors on the
Internet. You find out how to search census records, search other vital
records, scour the Internet to find information about a surname, and peer
into the ghastly-sounding Social Security Death Index to locate your ancestors. This chapter also looks into researching ancestors who lived in a particular place and obtaining vital records. Before you start researching your
ancestors, however, you have to do a little background work.
532
Doing the Detective Work
Doing the Detective Work
Before reaching into the misty past to connect with your ancestors, you
need to make like a detective. Would Sam Spade (as played by Humphrey
Bogart) search for the Maltese Falcon on the Internet without knowing what
bird he was searching for? Of course not. The same goes for genealogical
research. Before you jump in, take stock of what you already know, gather all
the material records you can, interview your relatives, and devise a plan for
storing all the data.
You probably already know the names and birthplaces of the previous one or
two generations of your family. Start by writing down what you know about
them. Why write it down? Because, like a detective, you can start putting the
clues together after you have written them down. Write down your ancestors’
names, birthdays, and places of residence. Write down their occupations and
the names of clubs, groups, and institutions to which they belonged. Every
scrap of evidence you have about an ancestor may be an important clue.
Next, assemble the material records about your family. Land titles, letters,
diaries, certificates of birth and death, court records, family Bibles, and
newspaper articles are examples of material records. These records can be
invaluable. A birth certificate, for example, reveals not only when an ancestor was born but also in which county his or her parents lived at the time of
the birth. Some birth certificates list the parents’ occupations. Ask around
for copies of material records that pertain to your family. Maybe you will get
lucky and stumble upon a pack rat who has saved old newspaper articles,
baptismal certificates, and so on.
On the subject of asking around, interview your relatives. They will be
delighted to tell you about the past. And be sure to bring along a tape
recorder and photographs. Photographs tend to jog people’s memories.
Here are some good questions to ask your relatives:
✦ When and where were you born?
✦ When and where were you married?
✦ Where did you go to school, and what clubs or institutions were you
affiliated with?
✦ From which country or countries did our ancestors come?
✦ Can you tell me anything about other relatives? When and where were
they born? Where did they go to school? What clubs or institutions were
they affiliated with?
✦ Were you in the military? Do you know of anyone in the family who was
in the military? To which units did you or other family members belong?
✦ Do you have any material records — birth certificates, photos, family
letters — that I can borrow and copy?
All-Purpose Searching Sites
533
Heritage Quest offers a Genealogy 101 primer for newcomers to genealogy at
this Web address: www.heritagequest.com/gen101/index.html.
Organizing Your Genealogical Data
One task remains after you’ve determined what you know, assembled the
material records, and interviewed your relatives: Think of a way to organize
your genealogical data. Dropping scraps of paper in a desk drawer won’t do
the trick. Look at it this way: For each generation you research, the number
of parents doubles. A search that goes back four generations requires tracking 30 different people. Go back five generations, and you are tracking 62
ancestors.
Some people make do with 3-by-5 index cards and manila folders. Others
create a database and work from there. One way to tackle the problem of
organizing the data is to enlist the help of software. Genealogy Software
Review (www.genealogy-software-review.com) rates and ranks the ten
leading programs. The programs cost from $20 to $76.
All-Purpose Searching Sites
Maybe the best way to get acquainted with all the different sites on the
Internet that pertain to genealogy is to visit one or two all-purpose genealogy Web sites, click a few links, and see where the adventure takes you.
Genealogists come in all stripes and colors. Your expedition will take you to
online government offices, online graveyards, and everything in between.
When you get stuck in the course of a genealogical exploration, try visiting
these Web sites to get unstuck:
✦ Cyndi’s List: You can’t go wrong at Cyndi’s List. This Web site lists hundreds, if not thousands, of links to genealogy Web sites. Bookmark this
site. Its A-to-Z index is invaluable. Address: www.cyndislist.com
✦ Genealogy Resources on the Internet: You can find a vast, eccentric A-toZ index of genealogy Web sites here. This is another place to find out just
how many types of genealogy Web sites there are. (In the address, notice
that a hyphen, not a period, appears after www.) Address: www-personal.
umich.edu/~cgaunt/gen_web.html
✦ Helm’s Genealogy Toolbox: This Web site offers an eclectic blend of
genealogical resources, including links to census, immigration, and military records. Address: www.genealogytoolbox.com
Book VIII
Chapter 6
Genealogy Online
✦ The Genealogy Home Page: Click the links at this user-friendly Web site
to sample the different resources on the Internet. The authors of this
site have divided genealogy into a dozen or so clearly defined categories
to get you started. Address: www.genealogyhomepage.com
534
Obtaining Vital Information from the Social Security Death Index
Obtaining Vital Information from
the Social Security Death Index
The Social Security Death Index, also known as the Death Master File (how
do you like these macabre names?), contains the names of people for whom
a lump-sum Social Security benefit was paid at the time of death. Usually, a
surviving family member, lawyer, or mortician requests the payment. Over
72 million names are in the index, and more importantly, you can find out a
lot by looking in the index. You can find out when an ancestor was born,
when he or she died, and where he or she died. Then, for $27, you can write
the Social Security Administration to obtain a copy of your ancestor’s Social
Security application. The application includes this vital information:
✦ Place of birth
✦ Mailing address at the time the application was filed
✦ Father’s full name
✦ Mother’s full name, including her maiden name
✦ The name and address of the person’s employer
The Social Security Index is perhaps the best, free way to get information
about an ancestor. To search the index and obtain an ancestor’s Social
Security application, follow these steps:
1. Open your browser and go to the following address:
http://ssdi.genealogy.rootsweb.com
2. Fill in the form as best you can, as shown in Figure 6-1.
The more information you can enter on the form, the better. Common
names, such as Smith and Martinez, can generate thousands of database
entries. If you’re looking for information about an ancestor with a
common name, click the Advanced Search button and enter more search
criteria on the Advanced Search page.
3. Click the Submit button.
If the name can be found, it appears in the search record. Scroll down to
see the name.
4. Click the SS-5 Letter link to generate a prewritten letter asking the
Social Security Administration to send you a copy of your ancestor’s
application.
If you click the link, you get a written copy of the letter that you can
print and send. Don’t forget to write your address on the letter and
enclose the $27.
Searching the Census and Other Vital Records
535
Figure 6-1:
Searching
for an
ancestor in
the Social
Security
Death Index.
Searching the Census and Other Vital Records
Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution tells the
Congress to carry out a census “every subsequent Term of ten Years, in
such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” And that is certainly good news
for genealogists. Starting with the first census in 1790, the United States
government has collected census records and maintained them at the offices
of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). By law, census
records can be made public only after 72 years have passed. As I write this,
the 1930 census records are about to be made available for the first time.
If you are willing to pay to look in vital records, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.
com) is the place to go. For $19.95, you can search the databases for three
months (free two-week trials and other, more-expensive plans are available as
well). According to Ancestry.com, the company’s databases contain 543 million
names. Besides census records, you can look in church records, military
records, immigration and naturalization records, and land records.
Book VIII
Chapter 6
Genealogy Online
But not all census records are available online. Nor are all the other vital
records that have been indexed in databases — church records, military
records, immigration and naturalization records, and land records. These
vital records are not available from a central location. One way to look up
vital records is to go to an all-purpose Web site (see “All-Purpose Searching
Sites,” earlier in this chapter), find a link that takes you to the state where
your ancestor lived, for example, and see whether you can find a census
database to search.
536
Searching for Information about a Surname
Figure 6-2 shows the results of a search at Ancestry.com in the census
records for my great-grandfather, Archibald McPhee. I found him in the 1920
census. By clicking the census image, I can see an enlarged version of the
actual census ledger where his name was recorded by hand 85 years ago. I
enlarged the image and discovered, written in the beautiful handwriting of
yesteryear, below the names of my great-grandparents, the names of my
great aunts (Ida, Mabel, Myrtle, and Winifred). I knew these illustrious old
ladies when I was very young but had forgotten their names. Typical of a
genealogical investigation, the handwritten census record shed light on my
ancestry but also added to its mystery. The official census record says
Archibald McPhee was born in Canada, but the ledger says he was born in
Scotland. Anyhow, seeing this handwritten census record on my computer
screen, I had one of those “the Internet really is amazing” moments.
Figure 6-2:
A census
record at
Ancestry.
com.
Searching for Information about a Surname
You probably aren’t the only person conducting a genealogical investigation
of a surname. Others are also looking for Chaffees, Goughs, or whatever surname you happen to be looking for. Wouldn’t it be great if you could connect
with someone who is doing the same research as you?
From the Web sites that follow, you can look into a surname and perhaps
swap data with another lonely soul who is looking down the same path you
are. You can also list your e-mail address or Web page at these sites to make
your research available to other genealogists:
Searching for Information about a Surname
537
✦ Ancestry.com Message Boards: To search for a message board with
messages devoted to a surname, enter a surname in the Find a Message
Board text box and click the Go button. To search across all the message
boards, enter keywords in the Search All Message Boards text box and
click the Go button. Address: http://boards.ancestry.com
✦ RootsWeb Message Boards: Ancestry.com purchased the RootsWeb
genealogical Web site a few years ago, but the RootsWeb message
boards remain from the old days. These message boards are different
from Ancestry.com’s, although the techniques for searching them are
the same (see the previous paragraph for instructions in searching these
message boards). Click the Message Boards tab to start searching.
Address: http://rsl.rootsweb.com
✦ SurnameWeb’s Genealogy Search Engine: From this site, you
can search for variants of a name as part of the search. Address:
www.surnameweb.org/search/Search.cgi
Sounding out the Soundex system
Occasionally, when you submit surname
searches in genealogy databases, you are
given the opportunity to submit a name under
the Soundex system. The Soundex system is an
attempt to account for surnames that sound the
same or sound alike but are spelled differently.
For example, instead of conducting four different searches for Christian, Christianson,
Christiansen, and Christiani, you can conduct
one search with the Soundex code C623.
Here is how the Soundex code works:
Each name, no matter how long it is, comprises four alphanumeric characters, with
one letter and three numbers.
Each consonant in the name (vowels are
excluded) is assigned a number using the
Zeroes are used if the end of the name is
reached prior to three digits.
Confused? Fortunately, a handful of Web sites
have come to the rescue and can convert a
name to a Soundex code in the wink of an eye.
Soundex codes really are a more efficient way
of searching databases. To convert a name to
its Soundex code, visit one of these Web sites:
Soundex Conversion: http://searches.
rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/Genea/
soundex.sh
The Soundex Machine: www.nara.gov/
genealogy/soundex/soundex.html
Book VIII
Chapter 6
Genealogy Online
The first letter of the name is the first letter
of the code.
Soundex key: 1 = b, f, p, v; 2 = c, g, k, j, q, s,
x; 3 = d, t; 4 = l; 5 = m, n; 6 = r. The following
letters are not assigned a number, but are
disregarded: a, e, h, i, o, u, y, w.
538
Searching the Passenger Lists
Are you interested in the old-world origins of a surname? In that case, you
can pay a visit to an outfit called The Guild of One-Name Studies (www.onename.org). Each member of the Guild is assigned a surname. The member’s
job is to identify the origins of the surname and track its distribution over
the centuries. From the Web site, you can look up a surname, get the name
and address of the person to whom it has been assigned, and e-mail or write
the person to learn more about the name.
Searching the Passenger Lists
Chances are, some of your ancestors came to the United States by ship. And
if they came by ship, they very likely arrived in New York’s Ellis Island. Here
are some Web sites for searching ships’ passenger lists:
✦ Ellis Island Passenger Arrivals: By registering, you can search the database of immigrants who arrived in the United States at Ellis Island, as
shown in Figure 6-3. The database tells you the immigrant’s date of
arrival, hometown, age upon arrival, port of departure, and ethnicity,
as well as the name of the ship that carried him or her across the water.
Address: http://webcenter.ellisisland.netscape.com
✦ Olive Tree Ship Lists: Search Canadian as well as American passenger
lists at this Web site. Address: http://olivetreegenealogy.com/
ships/index.shtml
Figure 6-3:
You can look
into ships’
passenger
lists at Ellis
Island
Passenger
Arrivals.
Obtaining Data from Localities
At some point, the search for your ancestors may take you to a state, country,
city, or other locality. Now you’re getting somewhere. You have pinpointed
Obtaining Data from Localities
539
where an ancestor lived. Your next step is to look for resources on the
Internet that are specific to different locales. Try starting from these sites:
✦ Genealogy.com – Genealogy Toolbox: Click the United States link.
When you come to a list of states, click a state name to see a list of geographic resources. (Click the Helpful Web Sites link.) Address:
www.genealogy.com/links/c/c-places-geographic.html
✦ North American Genealogy Resources: A comprehensive list of
genealogical resources in each state and in Canada is found at this Web
site. Address: www.genealogyhomepage.com/northamerican.html
✦ USGen Web Project: This Web site also organizes genealogical
resources on the Internet by states. Click the States link. Address:
www.usgenweb.org
Following the history of a surname
The Hamrick Software Surname Distribution
Web site is fascinating. From this Web site, you
can discover — in the 1850, 1880, 1920, or 1990
census — how common a surname was. Here,
for example, the results of the 1920 census
show that McPhee was a common name in the
Dakotas, Washington, and Michigan, but not
very common elsewhere in the United States.
Go to the Hamrick Software Surname
Distribution Web site to trace the path of a surname across the United States from 1850 to
1880 to 1920 to 1990. Enter a surname in the text
box, choose a census year, and click the
Display button. Address: www.hamrick.
com/names/index.html
Book VIII
Chapter 6
Genealogy Online
540
Writing to Obtain Vital Records
Don’t be discouraged if none of these Web sites turn up anything. The
Internet is full of genealogical societies, city directories, cemetery listings,
and other places where long-gone ancestors’ names may have been recorded.
Refer to Book II, Chapter 3 for information on how to conduct an Internet
search. Try running a search using your ancestor’s name, a place name, and
the word genealogy as the keywords. Maybe something will turn up.
Book IV, Chapters 3 and 4 describe mailing lists and newsgroups, respectively. Mailing lists and newsgroups are excellent places to conduct
genealogical research.
Writing to Obtain Vital Records
In the United States and its territories, certificates of births, marriages, deaths,
and divorces are kept on file in the Vital Statistics office of every city or county
where the event occurred. Some states also maintain offices where the records
are kept. As long as you know where and when an ancestor was born, married,
died, or divorced, you can write to the Vital Statistics office to obtain a copy of
a certificate.
To find out the address of the Vital Statistics office you are looking for, go
to this Web address: www.vitalrec.com. Click the States & Territories link to
see a list of states and U.S. territories. Then click a state name to find out how
to obtain vital records there.
Book IX
Appendixes
Contents at a Glance
Appendix A: Signing Up for a Yahoo! ID ..........................................................................543
Appendix B: Getting a .NET Passport................................................................................551
Appendix C: Getting a Google Account ............................................................................555
Glossary of Internet Terms ................................................................................................557
Appendix A: Signing Up
for a Yahoo! ID
In This Chapter
Looking at the advantages of having a Yahoo! account
Registering for a Yahoo! account
Signing in to your account
Creating a Yahoo! profile
Changing your Yahoo! ID
Closing a Yahoo! account
T
hroughout this book, I describe all the different things you can with
Yahoo!, one of the oldest and most venerable services on the Internet. To
take advantage of Yahoo!, however, you must be a registered Yahoo! member.
This appendix describes some of the advantages of being a Yahoo! member.
It explains how to become a member, how to sign in to Yahoo!, and how to
present yourself to other members in the form of a profile, a page on the
Internet where your vital statistics and interests are laid bare for all to see.
This appendix also shows how to change your Yahoo! ID and close a Yahoo!
account, should you decide Yahoo! isn’t the big deal everyone says it is.
By the way, the term Yahoo was coined by Jonathan Swift, the author of
Gulliver’s Travels. In Book 4 of that novel, Gulliver travels among the
Houyhnhnms — noble, intelligent horses who are constantly being plagued
by their enemies, the foul savage human Yahoos. The Houyhnhnms are
pleasantly surprised to find in Gulliver a human as cultivated as themselves,
but they soon discover that Gulliver has more in common with the hairy,
dirty Yahoos than they realized at first. I just thought you’d like to know.
What You Get with a Yahoo! Account
Signing up for a Yahoo! account is free and takes about two minutes. For
your trouble, here’s what signing up for a Yahoo! account entitles you to:
✦ Yahoo! Mail: A Web-based e-mail account. (Book III, Chapter 4 explains
Yahoo! Mail.)
544
Getting a Yahoo! Account
✦ My Yahoo!: The ability to track an investment portfolio online (see
Book V, Chapter 2) and bring together news items of interest to you
(see Book II, Chapter 6) at a Web page you create on My Yahoo! (http://
my.yahoo.com).
✦ Yahoo! GeoCities: A chance to create a Web site and present it online
at Yahoo! GeoCities (http://geocities.yahoo.com). (See Book IV,
Chapter 7.)
✦ Yahoo! Auctions: A ticket to bid on items at Yahoo! Auctions (http://
auctions.yahoo.com). (See Book VI, Chapter 2.)
✦ Yahoo! Groups: The means to join and create a Yahoo! group (http://
groups.yahoo.com), a discussion group for people with the same interest or hobby. (See Book IV, Chapter 5.)
✦ Yahoo! Personals: The possibility of making new friends and perhaps
mending a broken heart (http://personals.yahoo.com). (See Book IV,
Chapter 8.)
✦ Yahoo! Travel: An invitation to start planning your next glorious vacation
(http://travel.yahoo.com). (See Book VIII, Chapter 2.)
✦ Yahoo! Education: An entrée to Yahoo! Education (http://education.
yahoo.com), where you can research different topics, take sample SAT
tests, and otherwise rummage for the information you need to get the
term paper in on time. (See Book I, Chapter 7.)
✦ Yahoo! Games: A chance to engage others in games at the Yahoo! Games
Web site (http://games.yahoo.com). (See Book VIII, Chapter 1.)
✦ Yahoo! Messenger: A free pass to Yahoo! Messenger (http://messenger.
yahoo.com), an instant-messaging service. (See Book IV, Chapter 1.)
✦ Yahoo! Chat: An opportunity to chat with other Yahoo! members
(http://chat.yahoo.com). (Book IV, Chapter 6 looks into chatting
on the Internet.)
Getting a Yahoo! Account
To get a Yahoo! account, go to this Web page: http://login.yahoo.com.
Then click the Sign In Now link to open the Yahoo! Registration window
shown in Figure A-1. Starting here, answer these questions to get your
Yahoo! account:
✦ First Name: Enter your first name.
✦ Last Name: Enter your last name.
✦ Preferred Content: Choose the country you live in.
Getting a Yahoo! Account
545
Figure A-1:
Describe
yourself in
the Yahoo!
Registration
window.
✦ Gender: If you don’t know the answer to this question, look it up at
Google.
✦ Yahoo! ID: Enter a descriptive name. This is the name you will go by in
your dealings with Yahoo! If the name you enter is already taken, Yahoo!
gives you a chance to choose a different one.
✦ Password: Enter your password. Passwords can be six characters long
and are case sensitive. If your password includes capital letters, remember them well, because you will have to enter capital letters when you
type in your password.
✦ Re-Type Password: Enter the password you chose a second time.
✦ Yahoo! Mail: For the moment, deselect this check box. Book III, Chapter
4 explains how to sign up for Yahoo! Mail if that is why you’re getting a
Yahoo! account.
✦ Security Question: Choose a question whose answer you can give right
away without thinking. If you lose your password, you must answer this
question to obtain your password.
✦ Your Answer: Enter the answer to the security question you chose.
✦ Birthday: Enter your date of birth.
546
Signing In and Signing Out
✦ ZIP/Postal Code: Enter the zip or postal code where you live.
✦ Alternate Email: After you sign up, Yahoo! sends you a verification message to the e-mail address you enter here. To activate your account, you
click a link in that message. If you lose your password, you can ask
Yahoo! to send it to the e-mail address you enter here.
✦ Enter the Code Shown: Enter the number-and-letter code shown in the
box below. The purpose of this code is to prevent computer robots from
signing up with Yahoo!.
Click the Submit button when you have finished answering the questions. If
you entered the information completely and correctly, the next window tells
you to check your mail at the alternate e-mail address you gave to Yahoo!.
There you will find an e-mail message like the one in Figure A-2. To activate
your account, click the Important link in the e-mail message. Your browser
opens to an E-Mail Verification page at Yahoo!, where you enter your password and click the Verify button to activate your account. You land in your
Front Page. This is where you land when you sign in to Yahoo!.
Figure A-2:
Yahoo!
sends an
e-mail
message so
that you can
activate
your
account.
Signing In and Signing Out
After you have obtained a Yahoo! account, and your Yahoo! ID and password
are locked away safely in the dungeon of your memory, you can sign in to
your Yahoo! account by following these steps:
1. Open your browser to this Web page: www.yahoo.com
2. Click the My Yahoo! button or the My Yahoo! link.
You can find the button and link along the top of the window. After you
click the button or link, you land in the My Yahoo! Web page at
http://my.yahoo.com.
All about Yahoo! Profiles
547
3. Enter your Yahoo! ID and Yahoo! password.
4. Click the Sign In button.
You go to your Front Page, the starting point for your adventures in
Yahoo!
Select the Remember My ID & Password check box if you want your signin information to be recorded on your computer. Next time you click the
My Yahoo! button or the My Yahoo! link, you will be signed on right away
without having to enter an ID or password.
To sign out of Yahoo!, click the Sign Out link. You can find this link along the
top of most Yahoo! pages.
All about Yahoo! Profiles
Everyone with a Yahoo! account is given a Profile page like the one shown in
Figure A-3. To begin with, your Profile page doesn’t amount to much. All it
contains is your Yahoo! ID name and the date you became a Yahoo! member.
To describe yourself more thoroughly on the Profile page, be my guest. As I
explain shortly, Yahoo! members can visit other members’ pages and search
the profiles for people with common interests.
Figure A-3:
A Yahoo!
profile.
548
All about Yahoo! Profiles
Describing yourself in a profile
After you sign on to Yahoo!, follow these steps to describe yourself in a
profile:
1. Go to the Yahoo! Member Directory at this Web page:
http://members.yahoo.com
2. Click the View My Profiles link.
You can find this link in the upper-right corner of the window. After you
click it, you go to the Public Profiles page.
3. Click the Edit link, or, if you have created more than one profile to
describe yourself, click the link named after the profile you want
to change.
You come to your Profile page (refer to Figure A-3). This is the page
others see when your profile turns up in a search.
Now you’re getting somewhere. The Profile page offers four links for describing yourself to other Yahoo! members. Click one of these links to go to
another Web page and paint yourself in profile:
✦ Edit Profile Information: Enter your real name, age, marital status, and
other personal-type stuff. If you want others to be able to find and contact you by way of the Member Directory, be sure to select the Add This
Profile to the Yahoo! Member Directory check box.
✦ Edit Picture: Click the Browse button and select an image file from your
computer, or click the Our Gallery link and choose a cartoon character
to represent you. The image appears on your Profile page.
✦ Edit Voice: Enter the Web page address of a voice recording to make a
recorded voice a part of your profile. Recordings can be in the following
formats: AIF, MP3, MPEG, MIDI, MOV, RM, or WAV.
✦ Edit Page Colors: Choose a color scheme that illustrates your character
or disposition or temperament.
Checking out others’ profiles
To view others’ profiles and maybe make a friend with someone whose interests are the same as your own, sign in to Yahoo! and go to the Member
Directory at this Web page: http://members.yahoo.com. Here you find
tools for searching profiles. Click the Advanced Member Search link to
search with many criteria. Click subjects in the Browse Interest section to
look for members by interest group.
Closing a Yahoo! Account
549
Changing Your Yahoo! ID
Unfortunately, you can’t change your Yahoo! ID. If you want to abandon one
Yahoo! persona and take up another, your only options are to create a second
account with Yahoo! under a different ID name or create a second profile.
Operating under different profiles in Yahoo! is more trouble than it’s worth,
but if you want to try out having a second profile, go to the Yahoo! Member
Directory at http://members.yahoo.com, click the View My Profiles link, and
click the Create New Public Profile button. All you get from having another
profile is a second portrait of yourself in the Yahoo! Member Directory.
Closing a Yahoo! Account
Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. You and Yahoo! didn’t get along. If that is
the case, you can close your Yahoo! account by following these steps.
1. Sign in to Yahoo!.
2. Go to this Web address:
https://edit.yahoo.com/config/delete_user
3. Enter your password in the text box.
4. Click the Terminate This Account button.
Now wave good-bye to your Yahoo! account as it disappears into the
ether.
550
Book IX: Appendixes
Appendix B: Getting a .NET
Passport
In This Chapter
Understanding what a .NET passport is
Acquiring a .NET passport
Signing in with a .NET passport
Changing and closing your .NET passport account
A
.NET passport is a combination username and password that you establish when you register with the .NET passport service. This service,
offered by Microsoft, is supposed to make entering user IDs and passwords
easier. If you have a Hotmail or an MSN e-mail account, you already have a
.NET passport.
This appendix explains precisely what a .NET passport is, how to get a passport, and how to sign in with Web sites and Web services that require a
passport. Finally, you discover how to change your .NET passport and
delete your passport account.
What Is a .NET Passport?
The mighty Microsoft Corporation invented the .NET passport in 1999 as a
convenient way for people to sign in to Web sites without having to remember a dozen different sign-in names and passwords. Instead of all those
names and passwords, they would simply enter the username and password
that they registered with Microsoft when they got their .NET passport.
Microsoft hoped that Web-site developers would embrace the .NET passport
idea, but it never caught on. Developers liked the idea of Web-site visitors
not having to remember IDs and passwords, but they balked at the idea of
Microsoft knowing who was visiting their Web sites. Web surfers disliked the
prospect of Microsoft looking over their shoulders and knowing where they
traveled on the Internet.
552
Obtaining a .NET Passport
Now only Microsoft-owned Web services and a handful of others ask for .NET
passports when you log in. Three such services are described in this book:
✦ Hotmail: A Web-based e-mail service (see Book III, Chapter 4).
✦ MoneyCentral: A financial-management Web site where you can build
an online portfolio (http://moneycentral.msn.com). (See Book V,
Chapter 2).
✦ MSN Games: A great Web site where you can play any number of games,
including bridge and chess, with other people over the Internet
(http://zone.msn.com). (See Book VIII, Chapter 1.)
Obtaining a .NET Passport
To obtain a .NET passport, start by going to this Web site: http://register.
passport.com. You see the Passport Member Services Web page shown in
Figure B-1. Enter information like so:
✦ E-Mail Address: Enter your e-mail address.
✦ Password: Enter a password no longer than six characters, without any
spaces between characters.
Figure B-1:
Signing up
for a .NET
passport.
Signing In and Signing Out
553
Enabling cookies
When you visit a Web site, the site may deposit
a small text file, called a cookie, on your hard
drive. Cookies store information about you and
enable the Web site to retrieve this information
on visits subsequent to your first visit. The idea
is for the Web site to serve you better. The
cookie, for example, may store your preferences or user ID, which makes it unnecessary
for you to state your preferences or enter your
user ID on subsequent occasions when you
visit the Web site. Perhaps you’ve had the
experience of visiting a Web site, being asked
to identify yourself, and discovering your user
ID already entered on the Web page that asks
for your ID. Your ID is already there because a
cookie on your hard drive has identified you.
sites you have visited. For this reason, most
Web browsers allow you to turn off cookies.
However, you can’t make use of the .NET passport if cookies are disabled in your browser.
Follow these instructions to enable cookies:
Internet Explorer: Choose Tools➪Internet
Options, and select the Privacy tab in the
Options dialog box. Make sure that the
Settings slider isn’t pushed to the topmost
setting, Block All Cookies.
Mozilla: Choose Edit➪Preferences and, in
the Preferences dialog box, select the
Privacy & Security category and then the
Cookies subcategory. Make sure that the
Block Cookies option button is not selected.
Some people believe that cookies violate their
privacy because they leave a trail of the Web
✦ Retype Password: Reenter the password.
✦ Registration Check: Enter the letter-and-number code. This code prevents computer robots from getting .NET passports.
✦ Share My E-Mail Address: Select this check box if want Web sites that
accept .NET passports to be able to collect your e-mail address. I
strongly suggest deselecting this check box.
✦ E-Mail Address: Enter your e-mail address again.
Click the I Agree button when you have finished filling out the Web page.
Signing In and Signing Out
When a Web site or Web service wants you to provide your .NET password,
the Sign In button appears. Click this button and you see the .NET Password
Sign In form shown in Figure B-2. Enter your e-mail address and password,
and good luck to you.
554
Managing Your .NET Passport Account
Figure B-2:
Entering
your e-mail
address and
password.
Look for the Sign Out button when you want to sever your connection to the
Web site you are horsing around in. After you click the button, your .NET
password no longer gives you free reign to frolic inside the Web site.
Managing Your .NET Passport Account
If somewhere down the line you want to change something about your .NET
passport or close your account, start by going to this Web site: http://
memberservices.passport.net. Then click the Sign In button, enter your
e-mail address and password, and take care of business.
You find links on the page for changing your password, changing your profile
information, and even closing your .NET password account. Click the I Forgot
My Password link to recover a password that slipped behind the refrigerator
and was never seen again.
Appendix C: Getting
a Google Account
In This Chapter
Discovering the goodies you get with a Google account
Signing up for an account
T
his brief appendix explains how to sign up for a Google account — not a
Google e-mail account, but an account that permits you to post messages
in newsgroups and ask questions of Google experts. I wish all appendices
were this short.
What You Get with a Google Account
An account with Google entitles you to the keys to the kingdom and these
amenities:
✦ The opportunity to post messages to newsgroups with a Web browser
(see Book IV, Chapter 4).
✦ The chance to submit questions to Google researchers (see Book II,
Chapter 4).
✦ The opportunity to translate Google Web pages into foreign languages, if
you want to volunteer to do that.
✦ The means to develop your own Google applications (admittedly, this
one isn’t for everybody).
Obtaining a Google Account
To obtain an account with Google, open your Web browser and go to this
Web address: www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount. Then scroll down
the screen and enter this information:
✦ E-mail address: Enter an e-mail address. Google sends a confirmation
notice to this address when you finish setting up your account.
556
Obtaining a Google Account
If you intend to post messages to newsgroups using your Google account,
don’t enter your primary e-mail address. Enter a secondary address
instead. Spammers collect e-mail addresses from newsgroup posts. If you
enter your primary address, you subject yourself to lots of junk mail.
(Book III, Chapter 5 explains how to keep from getting spammed.)
✦ Password: Enter a password no longer than six characters.
✦ Re-enter password: Enter the password again.
✦ Word verification: Type the letters in the box below. The purpose of
this code is to prevent computer robots from signing up with Google.
Click the Create My Account button. Immediately, Google sends an e-mail
verification notice to the e-mail address you entered. The message is
from [email protected] and its subject is “Google Email
Verification.” Open the message and click the link inside it to activate your
account.
Glossary of Internet Terms
adjacent searching: See proximity searching.
adware: Software loaded surreptitiously on a computer that gathers information about the user’s browsing habits and displays advertisements in the
browser window tailored to the user’s tastes and browsing patterns. Adware
is a form of spyware. See also spyware.
aggregator: A software or Web-based program that collects and displays
headlines and story summaries from Web sites and blogs. By clicking a
headline in an aggregator, you can open a Web site and read a story. Also
called a feed reader, news aggregator, news reader, and RSS aggregator. See
also RSS and RSS feed.
airsnarf: A wireless device, attached to a network, designed to steal usernames and passwords from people who wirelessly connect to the Internet on
their laptop computers or cell phones by way of a hotspot. See also hotspot.
algorithm: In Internet searching, a mathematical formula for scoring a Web
page’s relevance compared to other Web pages in search results. Web pages
with more relevance are placed higher in the search results list.
antivirus program: A program that searches a computer’s hard drive for
viruses and removes any that are found.
applet: See Java applet.
article: A post, or contribution, to a newsgroup.
atom: A protocol for RSS feeds. See also RSS feed.
autoresponder: A computer program that responds automatically to e-mail
messages with a prewritten reply.
bandwidth: The speed at which data is transmitted on a given path or
medium. Bandwidth is expressed in bits per second (bps). In discussions
about modems, refers to DSL and cable modems, not dialup modems. See
also data transfer rate.
baud rate: The speed at which a modem transmits data. Named for J.M.E.
Baudot, a French engineer who invented the teletype.
Bayesian filtering: A statistical analysis method used to identify spam e-mail
messages. Bayesian filtering software looks at messages’ content and properties to determine whether messages are spam. See also spam.
558
binaries
binaries: Refers to media files — music and video files — posted on a
newsgroup.
blocking software: See filtering software.
blog: An online journal that includes frequent references to writings in other
online journals. The term is short for Web log.
blogger: One who maintains a blog on the Internet.
blogosphere: All blogs on the Internet. Also, the community of people who
write blogs and publish them on the Internet.
bookmark: To save a shortcut to a Web page so that you can click the shortcut and revisit the Web page quickly without having to enter the page’s
address. All Web browsers offer commands for bookmarking Web pages and
visiting Web pages that you bookmarked. The term also refers to a shortcut
to a Web page.
Boolean operators: Operators — AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR — that tell search
engines how to use keywords in a search of the Internet. The operators are
named for their inventor, George Boole, a 19th-century English logician. Also
called search operators. See also keyword.
bot: See spider.
bounce: When an e-mail message is returned as undeliverable.
browser: See Web browser.
browsing: To go from Web page to Web page during an exploration of the
Internet.
cable modem: A modem that connects a computer to the Internet by way of
cable TV wiring.
cam: See Webcam.
channel: See chat room.
chat: Real-time communication between people at different computers.
Chatters communicate by typing on their keyboards.
chat room: The metaphoric place on the Internet where chatters gather.
Also called a channel.
discussion group
559
cloaking: Placing keywords in a Web page that are invisible to Web-page visitors but can be indexed by spiders. Cloaking is a method of making a Web
page appear more prominently in Internet searches. Because more keywords
are indexed, more matches to the page are found in search results. See also
keyword loading, link loading, and spider.
cookie: A text file that a Web page deposits on your computer so that the
next time you visit, the Web site can identify you.
crawler: See spider.
cyberspace: The virtual reality of the Internet in which people communicate
by computers without regard for physical distance. The term was coined by
William Gibson in his 1982 novel Neuromancer.
cybersquatting: Registering a Web address name with the purpose of selling
it later to a person or company with which it is rightfully associated.
data transfer rate: In measuring Web-server use, how much data, in gigabytes,
a Web server has transferred in a month. Some Web-hosting services charge
fees according to the data transfer rate.
dead link: A hyperlink that is no longer valid because the page to which it
leads is either no longer available on the Internet or no longer available at
the address to which the hyperlink points. When you click a dead link, you
see a “Page cannot be displayed” message.
demilitarized zone: See DMZ.
dialup modem: A modem that sends data over the telephone lines rather
than through a dedicated circuit.
dictionary attack: In e-mail messaging, a technique for generating e-mail
addresses for the purpose of sending spam. Common names are randomly
assigned number combinations and then joined to a domain name to create
e-mail addresses. The addresses are then sent spam. See also spam.
digital subscriber line: See DSL.
directory: For Internet searches, a Web site at which Web pages are catalogued in categories and subcategories. Along with search engines, directories
are the primary means of searching the Internet. Yahoo! Search Directory and
the Open Directory Project are examples of directories. See also search
engine.
discussion group: See newsgroup.
560
DMZ (demilitarized zone)
DMZ (demilitarized zone): A part of a computer not protected by a firewall.
domain name: The part of a Web address that refers to the Web server
where a Web page and its attendant files are stored. See also Web address.
domain name server: A computer that provides computers with IP
addresses. See also IP address.
download: To transfer a copy of a file or program from a site on the Internet
to a personal computer. See also upload.
DSL (digital subscriber line): Digital technology that provides high-speed
transmissions over the telephone lines.
e-commerce: Commercial transactions — buying and selling — on the
Internet.
e-mail: Electronic messages sent over the Internet or a network.
e-mail bomb: To send hundreds or thousands of e-mail messages to the
same e-mail address, tying up the address and rendering it unusable.
e-mail discussion list: See mailing list.
e-mail newsletter: See mailing list.
e-mail spoofing: Forging an e-mail return address to make it appear as
though an e-mail message was sent from someone besides the real sender.
emoticon: In instant messages, e-mail messages, and chat rooms, a bundle of
characters that form a little picture meant to convey the writer’s emotional
state. Emoticons mimic the facial expressions that accompany real conversations. For example, tilt your head sideways and watch this emoticon wink at
you: ;-). Stands for “emotion icon.” Also called a smiley.
exact-phrase searching: See phrase searching.
excessive multi-posting (EMP): See spam.
false drop: In Internet searches, a search result that is returned erroneously.
Usually, false drops occur because words can have more than one meaning.
For example, a search for information about porcelain with the keyword
china can return false drops that have to do with the country of China.
FAQs (frequently asked questions): On a Web site, a page on which common
questions about the site are answered. Rhymes with backs.
home page
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feed reader: See aggregator.
filtering software: Software designed to keep inappropriate material from
appearing in a browser window. Also called blocking software.
firewall: Software or hardware that serves as a gateway between a computer
or network and the Internet. The firewall protects the computer or network
from unauthorized access.
flame: To bark childish insults at an anonymous stranger in a newsgroup or
message board. Two parties flaming each other is called a flame war.
freeware: Software programs that can be downloaded for free over the
Internet.
ftp (file transfer protocol): The protocol, or rule, that governs how files are
sent over the Internet.
ftp site: A Web site that can receive Web pages for display on the Internet.
Also a Web site with files that can be downloaded.
gateway: A computer that connects separate networks that use different
protocols.
Google-bombing: Taking advantage of a search engine’s method of obtaining
search results to artificially raise a Web page’s ranking in the search results
list. The name comes from the Google search engine’s practice of judging a
Web page’s relevancy according to how many Web pages are linked to it. By
purposefully linking many Web pages to a single page, pranksters can manipulate the Google search results to move a Web page higher in the search
results list.
Googlewhacking: A game in which players, using the Google search engine,
enter two or more keywords in searches with the aim of producing search
results with only one Web page on the search results list.
header: In an e-mail message, the sender’s and receiver’s addresses, the
message date, and the message subject.
hit: A visit to a Web site.
hit counter: A device on a Web page that registers how many people have
visited the Web page. Also called a Web counter.
home page: The Web page that opens in your browser when you start your
browser or click the Home button. Also the introductory page of a Web site.
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hotspot
hotspot: A location where anybody with a computer equipped for Wi-Fi can
go online wirelessly. See also Wi-Fi.
HTML: See hypertext markup language.
http: See hypertext transfer protocol.
http server: See Web server.
hyperlink: An electronic link between two Web pages or two different places
on the same Web page. When you click a hyperlink, you go directly to another
Web page or another place on the same page. You can tell when your pointer
has moved over a hyperlink because the pointer changes into a gloved hand.
hypertext markup language (HTML): The formatting codes that browsers
read to display Web pages on the Internet or on an intranet.
hypertext transfer protocol (http): A protocol by which computers are able
to communicate with and send files to one another.
IM: See instant messaging.
IMAP (Internet mail access protocol): A protocol by which an e-mail program accesses and downloads e-mail stored on an incoming mail server.
incoming mail server: A computer maintained by an Internet service provider
(ISP) where mail is kept until the person to whom it is addressed logs on to
the server and collects his or her mail. See also outgoing mail server.
instant messaging (IM): Exchanging text messages by way of AOL Instant
Messenger, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, or another such service.
Internet: The “network of networks” that links computers. Web pages are
displayed on the Internet, and e-mail can be sent across the Internet. The
term is an abbreviation of inter-network. Sometimes called the Net.
Internet Relay Chat: See IRC.
Internet service provider (ISP): A company that provides customers access
to the Internet and e-mail services. Some ISPs also allow customers to post
Web pages.
intranet: A private network, usually maintained by a company or institution,
to which only employees or members have access. Web sites and Web pages
can be posted on intranets as well as the Internet.
invisible Web: Refers to private databases that are connected to the Internet
but have not been mapped and indexed by search engines.
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IP (Internet protocol) address: The 32-bit binary number that identifies
each computer connected to the Internet. In the