| Street View links
Street View Virtual tours
Tutorial on YouTube – same link as top
Get driving directions with Street View
Street View: A year in review, and what's new – shows the U.S. coverage areas
Street View Fun – this website is just what it says
Google Street View – on Wikipedia
Google Mobile with Street View
Comedy(?) on YouTube – takes privacy issues about Street View to extreme
Google Street View cars
Best Pictures from Google Street View
I created my instructions and the icons here before I discovered that Google had already done it more thoroughly.
Top of page
Spam—unsolicited, junk email—accounts for more than 80% of all email traffic (this 2010 article says 9 out of 10 emails are
unsolicited), and if you are like me you don't want to be overwhelmed by come-ons for low mortgage rates and herbal Viagra every time you check
your email, so you may need to do something to deal with this.
I don't get spam anymore since I started using Gmail, which has excellent spam filtering. In Gmail I access my Gmail account and my pop3
(penceland.com) account. At one time I used Outlook Express for email with my pop3 account and I received a tremendous amount of spam, and this
section was written during that period.
- NEVER reply to spam. This just increases your chance of getting more spam.
- I have found it is safe and effective to use the "Unsubscribe" link in an unsolicited email from a business whose name you recognize.
There are several ways your email address can get obtained for spam abuse.
- Software generated spam lists
Spammers can use software that simply inputs or builds a list of names or words, and combines each of these entries with a particular mail
server's domain to create email addresses ('anyname@somedomain'). Many of these addresses will be returned as undeliverable, but
spammers can live with that, since many more will get through. You can see this pattern of construction if you look at the addresses in
the To: line and find a sequence of names that are alphabetically close to yours followed by the same domain. One interesting solution to
this spam problem that I heard and liked was to have ISPs charge a fraction of a cent for every email that is sent. This could be easily
absorbed in your monthly charge for a private email account. For spammers, this would add up to big bucks on their bulk
emailing, enough to make spamming not profitable.
- Posting your email address on web documents
If your email address appears on any Internet document it can be found by a spider, a program that visits websites gathering
information, typically for search engines. Spiders used by spammers to collect email addresses are commonly called "spambots". There may
be times when you want to leave your address on a web-based guestbook or newsgroup posting so that someone reading it can still contact
you. One safe way to do this is to alter your address in an obvious way, for instance to spell your email address as
name(at)domain.com with instructions to replace (at) with @ for the correct address. Spambots won't even
see your altered email address on a website since it doesn't contain @.
- Leaving your email address when ordering online
You risk spamming any time you provide your email address when it is needed to complete a form on a website, for instance, when placing an
online order. If you don't want to receive email as a result of this transaction, don't use your regular email address, create another
one at Hotmail or Yahoo to be used
only for the times when you are required to furnish one. Let this address be spammed and don't use it for personal email. If you do want
to check your spare address occasionally, for instance for shipping information on an order, Hotmail actually has pretty
good filters to direct spam to a special Junk Mail folder.
- Inadvertently requesting email when completing an online form
Sometimes you may want to place an order, register software, or sign up for something online. There is often a checkbox at the bottom of
the form indicating you are agreeing to receive email. If this is left with the check-mark in it you have just added your email address to
a spam list, which may sometimes even be sold to other spammers.
Please send me information about events
and special promotions
- Through your ISP
Your email address might be available to spammers through your Internet Service Provider, either if it was provided by them, or if a
spammer has procured the mail server's address-book (this happened to me at work).
You can set up filters in your email software to identify spam when it is received and keep it out of your Inbox. This
spam can be automatically deleted but I prefer to have my filters move it into a temporary folder where I can browse it before
deleting it in case a non-spam email gets mistaken for spam. When that happens, I just add the sender to my rule of
sources to accept email from.
Your email server may run software that identifies spam and puts a label in the subject that enables you to use a filter to
trap it. Some email software like Mozilla Thunderbird have good built in spam filtering. If you don't have something like
this you can create your own filters to catch spam. To set them up look for Filter or Rule options in your email
software. Every email you receive will be compared to the conditions specified in each of these rules in the order you list them.
Over the years before I had SpamAssassin I tried many combinations of the rules listed below and a variety of folders to
have email go to automatically, but ultimately I trimmed it down to two folders, Inbox (for good emails) and Spam?
(for questionable emails),
and several of the following rules.
For identifying good emails (these rules should be set to run first) . . .
For identifying spam . . .
- Where the From line contains specific addresses that you will accept email from
I have a 'whitelist' of senders who are not in my address book but whose emails I
want to receive, such as some mailing lists I am on. I created this as the first
rule with the instruction "Stop processing more rules" and only emails from known
sources will go into my Inbox.
You can also do this in reverse.
After copying all the email addresses from the address book click on Options
and select 'Message does not contain the people below'. This rule will identify
emails from unknown sources, and under Actions specify, 'Copy it to the Spam? folder.'
- Where the Subject line contains specific words or phrases
There are certain words in the subject of an email that I identify as something
that a friendly unknown emailer would say to me, like the name of my hometown, or
an interest in "music". When these are encountered they are given the instruction 'Stop
processing more rules' and they will be accepted into my Inbox.
With each of the above rules you want to be sure you have the "Stop processing more rules" instruction as the last
action to perform after it has acted on what it has filtered. Otherwise, the rest of the rules will continue to be
applied to an email, and it may end up having another action performed on it.
- Where the Subject line contains specific words or phrases
This is one of the most used rules. Emails whose subjects contain words like
"viagra", "inkjet", "mortgage" . . . are usually spam. You will notice the spammers
using different spellings of these words (like "V*I*A*G*R*A") to get past these
filters, so you may have also to add altered spellings to your list of words to trap.
The previously mentioned Spambusters
article makes some interesting points about the spam probability of certain words.
- Where the Message body contains specific words or phrases
You can also set up a rule to monitor for words or phrases in the message itself, but that limits what your
regular email correspondents can say in their emails, so make sure you screen out the good emails before this gets processed.
- Where the From line contains specific addresses that are spammers
Create a 'blacklist' of known spammers. If you regularly get spam emails from a
particular party, you can trap them automatically. In Outlook Express you
can also add them to the Blocked Senders List.
- Where the From line contains specific words
Many spammers make up a title from the subject (like a business would) and put it in the From name. Filter out emails that have words like "mortgage", "degree", "request", or "cheap"
in the name section.
- Where the To or CC line contains specific addresses
Sometimes I might get spam addressed to "Friend" <MyEmailAddress>. I assume the reason for this
configuration is that my email address has been acquired somehow, probably by a spambot, but not my real name,
which always goes out with email I send.
- Where the To or CC line does not contain "name@domain" (your actual email address)
When you examine a spam, frequently you won't find your email address in the ' To:' setting, but instead
you will see the name of a mailing list. Be sure you have your 'good' mailing lists specified on you acceptable rule before
this rule is applied.
Some email software also have a Blocked Senders List that you can set up to automatically move emails from frequent spammers to Trash.
Spambusters – an article about spam fighters that appeared in The Boston Globe¹ Magazine, October 5, 2003
| Anti-spam links|
Top 10 Spam Subjects – current spam subjects to add to your filter
Spam.abuse.net – Promote responsible net commerce: help stamp out spam!
Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy
Spamhaus.org – Who's behind your spam?
Ban The Spam
Stop Spam! – from the editors of Internet ScamBusters
Stop Spam FAQ
Junkbusters – bust the junk messages out of your life
CAUCE - Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email
The Anti-Spam Home Page
The SPAM-L FAQ
Fight Spam on the Internet!
Death to Spam
Dave Barry: Spam beats cafeteria food – a little humor never hurts
Spam, the business model
Easy "FBI Virus" Removal – this is a scam virus that falsely claims you are infected
Top of page
Spyware & Popups
Popup ads can be almost as annoying as spam. When you visit a website you don't want the content of the site to be blocked by some unsolicited
advertisement that overlays the page. You are targeted for many of these ads based on your web viewing, and information about you is gathered by
spybots installed on your computer and transmitted back to
spyware vendors like Bonzi Buddy, Comet Cursor, and Gator. Besides being an invasion of your privacy, having these data-mining
components running in the background can also slow down your computer. The best way to remove these spybots from your system is to run some of
the freeware solutions regularly (see WinPatrol, Spybot Search & Destroy, and Ad-Aware below). To
keep popups entirely out of your browser you can use a web-browser like Firefox, Avant, or Opera that have settings for
that, or in Internet Explorer you can add the Google and Yahoo! toolbars which both have great popup blockers. The Yahoo! toolbar also has
an Anti-Spy button that you can run on demand.
Popups are not always just used for ads. Sometimes they can be an amusing and very suitable way to present some content. I use them in many
places on my website, some for effect, for instance, the
View of the World from 9th Avenue link on my Humor page,
some for links where the original content on another website was displayed in a popup, as in several of the Boston.com links under my Big Dig section. I never have unrequested commercial popups originate from my website,
so if you have popups blocked in your browser (as I do) you can safely enable them for my site.
| Spyware killers|
||These are the applications that I use to keep my PCs relatively spyware free.
- WinPatrol monitors for spyware, web attacks, and parasites that try to install themselves on your
computer. When spyware tries to update your Registry or put items in your Startup you get
the option to stop this in a popup alert.
- Yahoo Anti-Spy
- This comes as an icon on the Yahoo! toolbar. It does an excellent job of allowing you to remove
identified spyware and cookies. You can also run it directly from its default install location,
'C:\Program Files\Yahoo!\YPSR\ypsr.exe' (put a shortcut icon to it on your desktop).
- A scanning utility for known datamining, aggressive advertising, and tracking components, SpyBot
detects and removes the worst that the Internet and shareware/freeware have to offer.
- SpyBot - Search & Destroy
- Detects and removes spyware of different kinds from your computer. Some spyware is hidden, and
some is obvious. If you see new toolbars in your Internet Explorer that you didn't intentionally
install, if your browser crashes, or if your browser start page has changed without your knowing,
you most probably have spyware.
| Prevent your browser from accessing undesirable sites|
||Before Windows uses a URL on your PC it looks in the hosts file (the computer’s DNS resolver) to see if you have a
"redirect" specified for that IP address or host name. If for instance you get tired of seeing ads for DoubleClick on webpages
put this entry in your hosts file to loopback locally when it encounters it and you will get a placeholder instead of an ad.
# Put this line in your hosts file . . .
The XP location of the hosts file is: %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc\. (Please note: this requires a
reboot to take effect.) I used this technique to trap a bad host name that a virus inserted into each of the thousands of .html files on my PC,
so if one of those webpages tried to send my PC to the bad location it was redirected to my PC.
Blocking Unwanted Parasites with a Hosts File – more info here
| Web beacons
Web beacons are images on websites that are used to transfer information about a site's visitors by activating a
script on a remote server. When the image is loaded into the web browser it sends information such as the visitor's
IP address and type of browser to the server. If you consider this an invasion of privacy, disabling cookies will shut
it off. Commercial sites use web beacons to track visitors, and many personal sites (like mine) have counters that do
this. If you want to see an example of this type of tracking go to the bottom of my main page and click on the hit count, which will take you to the remote
server and show what kind of information is typically gathered. Unfortunately, spammers can put transparent '.gif'
images in unsolicitied emails as web beacons, and if you open up the email the transmission will validate your email address.
| PC or Mac? Windows or Linux?|
I have a PC running Windows at home, and that seems to be the target of this spyware activity.) According to Mark Morford,
an SF Gate columnist, Macs, and PCs on Linux, are immune to it. If it gets too annoying maybe I will install Linux,
or consider switching to Mac. My website, where you are now, runs on a Linux server, so it seems pretty resistant to virus attacks.
Ad-Aware – find and remove adware
Spybot Search & Destroy – find and remove spyware
Google Toolbar – has popup blocker
Yahoo! Companion Toolbar – has popup blocker and anti-spyware tool
GetNetWise.com – Spotlight on Spyware section
SpywareGuard – prevent an invader from changing IE's home page
How To Clear a Hijack – from PestPatrol.com
ISTBar Removal Instructions – a very annoying hijacker
NoAds – popup blocker software
Adware, Spyware and Advertising Trojans – info & removal procedures
SpywareInfo: Spyware and Hijackware Removal Specialists
Popups must die! – tips, forums, and more, including a list of website abusers
Top of page
The online world is full of hoaxes of various kinds. Most of these are harmless but it
is best to recognize them when you encounter them so you don't waste your time (and the
time of others, and Internet resources) by unknowingly spreading and perpetuating them.
Two kinds that I encounter a lot are virus hoaxes (I find these annoying)
and urban legends (some of these are pretty amusing).
Symantec Security Response – hoax page
You may receive an email sometime, perhaps from someone you know, that warns you of a spreading Internet virus and
tells you to look for a specific file on your computer and delete it, and it may also tell you to forward this
warning to others. Before you act on this you should search for the filename in
Google and often you will find that this is actually a malicious hoax being emailed around innocently by
well-meaning people, as in the case of the sulfnbk.exe virus
hoax of 2001, which instructed you to delete a 'harmful' file from your computer. This is what is known as a social
virus, where the damage to your computer is not caused by harmful software but is 'human' inflicted when you
are tricked into doing it yourself, and by forwarding this warning to others you can spread the 'virus' to their
computers. A virus hoax may be totally harmless to computers, like the Good Times virus myth, but it can spread like a virus causing alarm and mistrust of email, which is harmful in
its own way.
Vmyths.com – computer virus myths, hoaxes, urban legends, hysteria
CIAC Hoax Pages – from the U. S. Department of Energy
Hoax Busters – the BIG LIST of Internet Hoaxes
Korova.com Forums – "Hoax du Jour" sightings, discussion, and other topics
The AFU & Urban Legends Archive – from the newsgroup alt.folklore.urban
These folklore tales have been going around for decades, since before the Internet and
home computers even existed. Although urban legends may sound like true stories, and
some are, they generally lack evidence to corroborate them, but perhaps since
they are seldom proven to be false it adds to their credibility and keeps them
circulating. A couple of the classic, pre-cyberspace stories that you may have heard are
a thriller favorite, and Alligators in the
Sewers, which many of us believed for years (and possibly still do). A more recent
urban legend, the Tourist Guy,
was supposedly the last photo taken atop the World Trade Center. Even though the Tourist
Guy confessed the
hoax his notoriety continued when he began to appear everywhere.
Snopes.com – Urban Legends Reference Pages
About.com - Urban Legends and Folklore
Scams, Urban Legends & Other False Information
Museum of Hoaxes
Cliff Pickover's Internet Encyclopedia of Hoaxes – includes links to many sites
Health Related Hoaxes and Rumors – from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
History Buff - Hoaxes in Journalism
Top of page
Mozilla Firefox is the browser I use most, but I also have experience with
Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Opera, which is 100% W3C compliant. To download the latest version of any of these browsers click on the
corresponding icon above. To learn more about the Viewable With Any Browser campaign, click on the Any Browser icon.
Firefox is an open-sourced, tabbed browser that also has a lot of nice features, including a built in Google
search bar and a popup blocker. I also like the way Firefox handles Favicons. In other browsers that show these website icons in the address bar you have to bookmark the site
to have the icon appear, but in Firefox you will see the icon the first time you visit the site.
- Firefox settings
One of the coolest things about Firefox is the easy access provided to all your browser settings not accessible from the Firefox
options dialogue. In the address bar type in about:config
and it will display a page of the settings. Double-click them to change them. True/false settings will toggle and settings with values
I disovered this when I Googled about how to make my browser check for a new page every time it visits a site.
0 - Once per session
1 - Each time (my choice)
2 - Never
3 - When appropriate/automatically (default)
See all the entries at kb.mozillazine.org/About:config_entries.
Back up your localstore.rdf file
I keep a copy of localstore.rdf in a backup folder after I have Firefox configured just the way I want it. Periodically Firefox loses it's
customized toolbar settings, so I close Firefox and copy this file to the profile folder, then when I open up Firefox again I have all my
toolbar customizations back. There is more on this at Corrupt localstore.rdf.
New Tab button
You can create a New Tab button by editing the localstore.rdf file in the profile folder. Insert new-tab-button where you want to locate
it (you can relocate this with Customize in the GUI). For instance, I wanted it immediately after the URL on the navigation bar so this
is what I have:
My New Tab button shows after the URL like this
- Favorite Firefox extensions
Firefox is easily customizable with add-ons call "extensions." These are some of the ones I like the best. The titles
are links to the Firefox add-on page for the extension.
Old Default Image Style
Firefox now displays top-level images, i.e. images that are alone and not in a webpage, with a black background. To get back to a white background
install this extension.
Xmarks allows you to synchronize bookmarks across multiple machines by saving them on the Firefox server. With this
extension I can have the same bookmarks on my PCs at work, at home, and on my laptop.
This replaces the Google Toolbar, which stopped being available after Firefox 4. Googlebar Lite offers a lot of the same features
I liked, including allowing search results to be displayed in a new tab, putting search history in a dropdown from the search
box, and showing the current search words to be clicked on to find on the page. I installed the Googlebar Lite toolbar and in
Customize... dragged it to the 'empty' area of the top menu bar and don't display the toolbar.
This is a download manager that I use primarly to capture and save videos on webpages.
This extension lets you edit the HTML source of the page on display with the editor of your choice. It's really useful if you are
maintaining a website like mine.
This plugin adds an option to the webpage context menu to download and convert webpages, links, videos,
documents, and images. I particularly like the ability to rip an MP3 off a YouTube video to put on my smartphone.
- Bookmarks Toolbar
Browsers provide a toolbar for quick access to specially bookmarked sites, called the Bookmarks Toolbar. Links are saved to this toolbar using
the same method you use for regular Bookmarks or Favorites. To set mine up, I first eliminated the links that came preset in the browser (these
were useless to me) and created folders (with names like News or Maps) using Manage Bookmarks or Show All Bookmarks (Firefox) or Organize
Favorites (IE) to contain the collections of links I add. These folders are all I see on the toolbar, and clicking them gives me a menu
type list of the links in them.
- Shrink your toolbars
I like to make the content area of a webpage as large as possible by minimizing the space taken up by toolbars. After using a browser for awhile
you shouldn't need the text next to each button to know its function (you can always get this from the button's popup Tooltip text) so you
can set it to just show the icons, and if your browser allows you to remove buttons you don't use regularly (most button commands are available
on menus) it will make the toolbars even smaller. If you choose the Small icons setting it will also reduce the height of the toolbars.
After you have trimmed them down this way, some browsers allow you to combine more than one toolbar on the same horizontal line. These toolbars
are dockable, and if you move a toolbar to the same line as another toolbar they will align themselves. To move them up or down, set them to
"unlocked" and use the mouse to grab the move handle at the left end of the toolbar. I also take components off the Google toolbar like the
search box and drag them to the gray area on the right half of the menu toolbar, and then I stopped displaying the Google toolbar.
- Multiple browser windows
There are many times when you may want to have more than one webpage open at the same time. You may be on a webpage
and want to see another webpage without having to remember or save the current page's address to be able to return
to it later, or maybe you like to have multiple pages open concurrently in your normal web viewing. To do this you
just start up another browser window (File » New, or
Ctrl-N). Tabbed browsers give you a tab in the browser for the new window, non-tabbed browsers show another instance
of the browser on the Windows taskbar. Browsers are usually configurable to start the new window with your default
home page or the current page or even a blank page.
- Disabled Back button
Some websites disable the Back button () on your toolbar so you cannot return
to the previous page. You may also visit a website that immediately redirects to a new page, so when you click on it returns to the page that reloads the new page again, basically trapping you there.
To get around this situation display the drop-down list of previous websites for this browser session and click on the page you want to return
to. In many browsers you can see this list by clicking the symbol located near the Back
& Forward arrows on the toolbar ( ). This tip does not apply when a link starts up a new browser window to display the page.
- Get last-modified date of a web document
Explorer create a Favorite (add any webpage and modify it afterwards in Organize Favorites) with the setting for the URL as
date and time the current webpage was last changed.
| Mozilla Firefox|
Firefox Help: Options Window
Web Sites That Don't Work Well With Firefox
netscape.mozilla.user.general – General issues
netscape.mozilla.user.win32 – Windows issues
netscape.mozilla.user.mac – Macintosh issues
netscape.mozilla.user.unix – Linux issues
Microsoft Internet Explorer Home Page
| Internet Explorer|
Bob Cerelli's Internet Explorer Tips
IE Info Site
Internet Explorer 5.0 and 5.5 Tips
Opera Software - the Best Internet Experience
Configure and customize Opera
Opera.ini settings explained
Customizing Opera – Opera tweaks
Tips for Better Browsing
NeoPlanet Browser Home
Viewable with Any Browser: Campaign
Google Toolbar – includes a popup blocker
Yahoo! Toolbar – includes a popup blocker
Browser News – newsletter showing browser standards and statistics
Browser Trends – browser usage percentages
The Web Standards Project – Fighting for Standards in our Browsers
Run IE8/IE7/IE6, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera from the web – install the add-on, then return to page to use it
Top of page
Internet & Technology links
(find more related links at Web-authoring links and Programming)
ComputerUser.com – lots of good resources
Whatis?com – the wall of words
File Extensions – "Every File Format in the World"
TechEncyclopedia – more than 20,000 IT terms
Wikipedia – user-maintained online encyclopedia
Webopedia – Online Dictionary for Computer and Internet Terms
FOLDOC – Free On-Line Dictionary Of Computing
Internet FAQ Archives – from the Internet FAQ Consortium
Netiquette Guidelines - RFC1855 – yes, there is Internet etiquette
The PC Guide – an online PC reference guide
EchoEcho.com – web tutorials, references, and stats
Cyberwalker – computer help and troubleshooting
Extended ASCII Codes
Google Groups – search newsgroups
Usenet groups by name
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – protect online privacy, free expression
Blue Ribbon Campaign
Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)
Internet Society (ISOC)
Internet Caucus Advisory Committee
Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA)
Information Technology Association of America (ITAA)
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Chilling Effects Clearinghouse – monitoring the legal climate for Internet activity
CERT Coordination Center – Internet security expertise
CPT's Page on Open Access – protect open and non-discriminatory access on the Internet
Open Content – promote creation of freely available, high-quality, well-maintained Content
The Open Source Page – sharing is a great concept for software
Cookie Central – "You have zero privacy anyway." Scott McNealy (Sun Microsystems)
Adware, Spyware and Advertising Trojans – info & removal procedures
Spybot Search & Destroy
Ad-Aware (free) - detect and remove advertising spyware from your system
SpyBlocker (free) - block unauthorized transmissions when you are online
Shields UP! – test your computer's Internet connection security
Zone Labs – you may want a firewall for your cable or DSL modem connection
What-is-exe.com – Computer Task Database and Spyware Directory
ICANN – Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
InterNIC – the Internet's Network Information Center
Network Solutions – domain name registration (PENCELAND.com is with them)
Register.com – domain name registration
Uwhois.com – the universal "who is" for Internet domains
Root-Zone TLD Code Index – identify country in Top-Level Domain
ARIN – American Registry for Internet Numbers
RIPE – Réseaux IP Européens
APNIC – Asia Pacific Network Information Centre
LACNIC – Latin American and Caribbean IP address Regional Registry
Warwick Online Bandwidth Meter
Verizon Online Speedtest
Internet Pioneers – profiles ten individuals who helped start the Internet
F-Secure Computer Virus Info Center – updated frequently with virus descriptions
Internet & World Wide Web History
The Internet Archive – surf the web using the Wayback Machine
The List – The Definitive ISP Buyer's Guide
Eeggs.com – The Easter Egg Archive: Hidden secrets in software, movies, music and more
The Unofficial Cookie FAQ
The Unofficial Smiley Dictionary – see also my ASCII Art page
Inside Outlook Express
CataList, the catalog of LISTSERV lists – search for mailing lists of interest
The WildList Organization International – information on viruses that are running around the Internet
Timeline: 50 Years of Hard Drives
Top of page
My broadband saga
Mass market in fast Net service is coming – article in the Globe about broadband
Broadband is touted as a high-speed Internet connection (see the "bare-bones" definition of broadband
in the above article), but as a consumer, especially if you are one of millions of customers of a
large, impersonal company, watch out or you may not get what you are lead to believe you are
paying for. It took several years for this to become clear to me, but in the end, through my own
persistence and with very inadequate help from my Internet Service Provider, AT&T, I
reached a satisfactory conclusion.
|In the beginning, very fast!|
Since 1998 our house has been connected to the Internet over a cable-modem via our cable-TV provider, MediaOne,
which later became AT&T Broadband, then Comcast. Most of what I am describing here occurred while
it was AT&T. In the beginning the connection was extremely fast, and using some download tests I estimated
that it was 15-20 times faster than a 56k dialup connection, somewhere in the range of 800-1000k. Over the years
it appeared to slow down a little, and in my experience with ISPs this often occurred when they overloaded their
hardware with new accounts, but it was generally resolved with upgrades to their equipment.
However, this did not seem to be the case with AT&T. I began to regularly run a bandwidth speedtest and was surprised to see that I was
connected at around 100k, sometimes even slower, but never faster then 250k. In the fall of 2001 I called
AT&T tech support and their technicians ran tests on my connection and reported that everything was OK. They
said there were some problems at some locations in New England that were being worked on, so I was hopeful that I
would benefit from that. After a month or so I had detected no improvement, so I called again and technicians
were sent to the house several times to check all the cabling between the box on the pole outside and the
cable-modem connected to my PC. Everything was in proper working order so they said the problem must be outside my
immediate area. A neighbor on my block said he also had this same slow Internet connection, which supported that
conclusion. Once again I was hopeful that this would be fixed, but over the next several months nothing changed.
I began to call AT&T regularly (I live in Massachusetts but these toll-free calls were answered in
Newfoundland, Canada) to remind them the problem still existed and that I wanted a solution. I was
asked to run a series of trace-route tests on several occasions and email them the results. These
tests showed the speeds over the entire path that my browser's request to a remote server took and
they also showed that everything was working fine. About 6 months after my initial call to AT&T
one tech support person told me that my speed was within their "acceptable" range, the low end being
40k, slower than a dialup modem. I began to realize that they really saw no need to help me
improve my connection speed, and at this point I considered switching to DSL, but instead I became
more determined to achieve the truly faster speeds available on a cable-modem. I felt very frustrated
until another neighbor told me his connection with AT&T was fine, and it turned out that though we
both rented our cable-modems from AT&T, he had a new Toshiba modem and I still had the same
LANcity modem I got from them in 1998. He disconnected his modem and brought it over to my house,
where I hooked it up and found to my amazement that I was connected at 1000k! So, all along the modem
was the culprit. I called AT&T with this news and requested one of the new modems, only to be told
that since my old one was still functional (by their definition of functional) they would not
replace it. (My anger was reaching new heights!)
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I decided to purchase my own cable-modem and stop paying $10/month rental to AT&T for an inadequate one, a decision I
should have made years before. Looking in the newspaper I saw an ad for the same Toshiba modem on sale for a great price with a
manufacturer's rebate. I bought it, returned the old modem to AT&T (which I hope they won't try to give to someone else),
and now I am connected at 1000k again!
I want to spread the word about this to help others, who are being taken advantage of by AT&T and
other ISPs, to help them get the true broadband speeds they are paying for. Shame on you, AT&T!
(By the way, since this was written I have gone through several modems and routers to keep my speed up to the max.)
I frequently download software from the Internet, sometimes utilities that help me in my everyday computing
needs, sometimes upgrades or fixes to software I am currently using on my PC.
Download.com – from c/net
| Shareware & freeware sites|
Shareware.com – from c/net
Pass The Shareware
Stroud's CWSApps - Index of Apps
DLL-files.com – download missing dll-files
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My shareware & freeware favorites
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- WinPatrol - (freeware) - WinPatrol.com
- WinPatrol monitors for spyware, web attacks, and parasites that try to install themselves on your computer. When spyware tries to update your Registry or put
items in your Startup you get the option to stop this in a popup alert.
- Ad-Aware - (freeware) - www.lavasoftusa.com
- A scanning utility for known datamining, aggressive advertising, and tracking
components, SpyBot detects and removes the worst that the Internet and
shareware/freeware have to offer.
- SpyBot - Search & Destroy - (freeware) - www.safer-networking.org
- Detects and removes spyware of different kinds from your computer. Some spyware is hidden, and some is obvious.
If you see new toolbars in your Internet Explorer that you didn't intentionally
install, if your browser crashes, or if your browser start page has changed without
your knowing, you most probably have spyware.
- Icon Corral - (shareware) - download from Annoyances.org
- I have this nifty program launch in my Startup folder. It puts a little icon in the system
tray that you can configure to capture specific items that have been minimized to the taskbar.
It is particularly useful for holding items that run minimized whenever you have the PC booted,
for example a calendar, or network connection. These items just take up space on the taskbar and the infrequent
times you may want to go to them you can access them from the popup menu of the Icon Corral tray icon, or even give them their own tray icons.
- IrfanView - (freeware) - IrfanView 32
- This is a nice graphic image viewer/converter. It has a very good method of compacting binary storage. I
have decreased the size of many of the GIFs and JPGs on my website simply by opening them up in
IrfanView, making a minimal adjustment to the color with a slider, and saving them.
- SUPER © (Simplified Universal Player Encoder & Renderer) - (freeware) - SUPER ©
- This program converts most standard video formats to different formats.
- FileZilla - (freeware) - FileZilla Homepage
- An FTP program with an intuitive GUI interface. I use this to maintain my website.
- e-Mail Notify - (freeware) - download from WinPlanet
- This program puts a little mailbox in the tray that will poll your email pop account (or multiple accounts) at
specified intervals to see if you have email waiting. It displays a little counter when you have mail
and can audibly signal you (I have mine beep but you can play a wave file). You can launch
your email reader from here or just look at the senders and titles without receiving the mail, and
you can even view the mail contents without removing it from the server.
- Alarm++ - (shareware) - 12noon::Alarm++
- Set up reminders to occur at a specified dates and times, and a little message
dialogue pops up to display your own text for each alarm. Alarms can be set to run
programs or send email, and there are snooze and very sophisticated repeat features.
- TextPad - (shareware) - www.textpad.com
- This MDI (Multiple Document Interface) ASCII editor provides language-specific color-tokenizing, with support for many
programming languages. I use it when I edit my webpages. You can toggle between open documents by clicking on
tabs, which is great when you want to copy and paste from one document to another.
- WordWeb - (freeware) - wordweb.info/free/
- This English dictionary and thesaurus from Princeton University is very useful to have when you don't have access to a print version, like when you are
traveling with a laptop. It is freeware and there is a purchasable upgrade, WordWeb Pro.
- Tweak UI - (freeware) - download from Microsoft
(also on the Windows 98 CD in the \tools\reskit\powertoy folder)
- This Microsoft program is part of the Power Toys Set from MS and it is very useful for configuring the Windows user interface, like eliminating the
'Shortcut to...' prefix Windows like to add to shortcut icon text, or rebuild your
icons without having to mess with the ShellIconCache file.
- WCPUID - (freeware) - Major Geeks.com
- This is a great little tool for displaying system info about a PC.
- ComboFix - (freeware) - http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/combofix/
- I had a virus that hijacked Google links on my PC, so that when I searched with Google it displayed the links but when I clicked on one I was redirected to another site.
After a successful search I found a recommendation for this program. I downloaded it and ran it, and not only did I get Google back but I think
my PC's performance has improved. FYI: I was told to use this site for the download because ComboFix might be offered elsewhere
but not be the correct version. I have used it many times over the years and always found it reliable. On subsequent runs of ComboFix it will often tell me
there is a newer version available and offer to download it before running it. To always have the latest virus definitions
I do this each time.
When I created my website in 1994, there were not many tools available, so I focused on learning HTML. I accomplished this primarily with books, references I found online, and using my browser's View » Source menu option to see the HTML source-code for the current page
in the browser (ah, so that's how they do that). Today, in addition to there being WYSIWYG (What
You See Is
What You G
et) webpage software like Dreamweaver and Microsoft Frontpage, many Internet providers even supply templates and the
methods to format your site online. Being a programmer, I still prefer coding the HTML directly to get my results, so my website has grown
from that perspective. I edit my code using TextPad, an MDI (Multiple-Document-Interface) text editor downloadable at www.textpad.com. I developed the site on an IBM-compatible PC running Windows software, but
this shouldn't affect its viewing on a Mac or on a PC operating in a non-Windows environment
. Currently my website is hosted on a Linux server so I have made sure it is all case-sensitive.
When I make a change to my site that involves trying out a new technique, or even when using tables for
alignment, which can be tricky sometimes, I review the results in a variety of browsers with different text sizes before uploading it to the
server and making it publicly available. Sometimes I have to make adjustments to the code to get things to look the way I intend, but I try to
stay in compliance with the current W3C HTML specification. I admit I do fudge
this occasionally, but only if my code is supported by the browsers of a vast percentage of users. It's been my observation that both Firefox and Internet Explorer are guilty of doing
some things that are proprietary to their own browser. When I encounter these kinds of things that work in only one browser, if it has a
neutral interpretation in other browsers I may still use it, but if it has a negative consequence I won't. I have not made any effort to
comply with PDA or cellphone technology, so I'm not sure how my site displays on these portable devices (yet), but I do try to verify that my
site does not require using a specific web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) to function well. See my Web browsers section for for more information about specific browsers.
The format and content of the web have evolved over the years as more and more people in the general public have
gotten online. When the Internet was primarily used for non-commercial research purposes at institutions like
schools, libraries, and the government, text based browsers were the norm. Then Marc Andreessen and others at NCSA (National Center for
Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois) created Mosaic, a graphical browser, and the format of
web content changed forever. Now that many workplaces are online and PCs are being sold with Internet access
pre-loaded, websites are advancing to even more sophisticated levels (check out my
I recommend you keep the graphics that load automatically with your page to a minimum to decrease the time it takes the
page to be completely loaded. If you want to provide a large image, make a smaller version of it and put it on the page
as a thumbnail that can be clicked on to download the fullsize image. When you see an image on a site that you'd
like to use on your own homepage, point the mouse at the image and click with the right mouse button, and take
the Save as... option from the popup-menu to save it on your PC. Be aware of any copyright or intellectual
property considerations, but in general, there is not a lot to be concerned about on personal homepages.
You can use tables (the <table> tag) to divide up sections of your page into rows and cells to give you
greater control of aligning the elements you put there. This is compliant with the
non-browser-specific philosophy. Tables are containers for rows (the <tr> tag), and rows are
containers for cells (the <th> and <td> tags). In cells you
can use the align and valign attributes for text and image alignment . When possible try to use width="__%"
and height="__%" in tables instead of specifying an exact pixel size, since you don't know what size monitor and resolution the
page will be viewed on. I use tables on most of my pages for layout (when looking at a page, click on View > Source). They
are usually invisible because borders are turned off and they don't have background colors.
Tables can be nested within other tables. In the following example there are four tables. I gave three of them background colors so you would be
able to see them. Of these three, the left one has two rows, and each row contains only one cell. The middle table has three rows, and each row
contains three cells, which use the alignment attributes (valign for vertical, align for horizontal) to locate the text within the
cells. The right one has one row and it contains two cells. All three of these tables are contained in a parent table that has one
horizontal row with three cells, each cell holding one of the three colored tables.
The HTML code below produces the above illustration. The tags are indented when they are nested in
another tag's structure (this is entirely optional), with the level of indention showing the level of
nesting. The first <table> tag and last </table> tag are the beginning and ending of the parent table
definition. You can see the nesting of the other tables within this definition.
<table width="75%" height="150">
<td align="center" width="20%" bgcolor="#87ceeb">
<table width="95%" height="90%">
<tr><td height="68" bgcolor="#7fffd4"> </td></tr>
<tr><td height="68" bgcolor="#7fffd4"> </td></tr>
<td width="60%" bgcolor="#87ceeb" align="center">
<table width="98%" height="90%">
<td width="33%" height="45" align="left" valign="top" bgcolor="#7fffd4">top left</td>
<td width="33%" align="center" valign="top" bgcolor="#7fffd4">top center</td>
<td width="33%" align="right" valign="top" bgcolor="#7fffd4">top right</td>
<td width="33%" height="45" align="left" bgcolor="#7fffd4">middle left</td>
<td width="33%" align="center" bgcolor="#7fffd4">middle center</td>
<td width="33%" align="right" bgcolor="#7fffd4">middle right</td>
<td width="33%" height="45" align="left" valign="bottom" bgcolor="#7fffd4">bottom left</td>
<td width="33%" align="center" valign="bottom" bgcolor="#7fffd4">bottom center</td>
<td width="33%" align="right" valign="bottom" bgcolor="#7fffd4">bottom right</td>
<td align="center" width="20%" bgcolor="#87ceeb">
<table width="95%" height="90%">
<td height="140" width="50%" bgcolor="#7fffd4"> </td>
<td height="140" width="50%" bgcolor="#7fffd4"> </td>
Another useful place for a table is when you want to control the wrapping of text that is
placed next to another element, like an image. By default, if the text is too long to fit
on one line it will wrap to the next line, which is below the image. To prevent this,
create a table, put the image in one cell and the text in an adjacent cell, and the text
will only wrap within its cell, which will keep it next to the image. For examples of
this text wrap control technique, see my Search Tips where
I have used it on the descriptions next to my search examples. It's also very useful when you want to display captions
beneath photos like I do here with my class pictures from elementary school.
I prefer to let the user's browser handle the fonts. On my pages, I primarily use the <font> tag to change the relative
size of the text or the color. Specify size="+1" to increase the font size by one relative unit and
size="-1" to decrease the font size. The value for size can be 1 through 7. I often review my pages by
changing the settings for fonts and sizes in my browser to get an idea how the page will look in a variety of font settings. You
should do this to see how your text wraps within the cells if you use tables.
CSS - Cascading Style Sheets
– this is the CSS file I created that loads with each page on my website, holding classes I use for a variety of things
including . . .
Words of caution . . .
- The gradient I use as the background image on all my webpages (varies by browser)
- To control the font and color attributes on my links.
Move your mouse over the following link types to see these link attributes.
I put the name of the class I use after each so you can look them up in my CSS file.
- The date display at the top of my first page,
- Making the borders around my code samples
- Watch out for settings you put on the default link type because they will be applied to image links. I found this
out the hard way when I changed the background color and it was shown on all my images when I went to click on
- I used to try to make the hover attribute on links have a bold font, but even when I decreased the text size on the hover setting (font-size: 90%;
height="1"2px) I was unable to keep certain letters from noticeably changing size when they switch to bold and causing movement in the text
(note the difference between abc and ABC),
so I have given that up in favor of just changing the color. Combinations of letters can sometimes accomodate each other in their size changing—xyz gets smaller and tuvw gets larger—but when
put together tuvwxyz they balance each other nicely.
W3C - Cascading Style Sheets
Using a transparent file for spacing
A really interesting layout tool is having a 1x1 pixel transparent .gif file to use as a spacer. Mine is called clearspacer.gif
(don't click that . . . I made a link of it if you want to copy it with Save Target/Link As... from the popup menu) and I use it extensively throughout my website (view the source of this page to see). The way to use it is to place it where you
need to define some space between things and set the height or width to whatever you need to create the empty space. For example, if
you want a blank line that is more or less than what you get with the <p> tag, use the spacer file between two <br>
Music can be nice on a website, but it is not always desirable. If you have music that starts when your page loads
with the <embed> tag, it is best to make the control panel available so that the user
has the ability to shut it off. Sometimes the page may be viewed in an environment where music might be out of place,
like a corporate office, or a family home late at night when someone is sleeping. Remember, if a visitor is put off by
music on your site he or she might not return.
Place this code where you want the audio control
// To automatically play the song...
<embed src="song.mp3" width="200" height="15" volume="50">
// To require the user to click to start the song (like above)...
<embed src="song.mp3" width="200" height="15" volume="50" type="audio/mpeg" autostart="false">
||Here are some links to more information on style. I found them interesting though not necessarily the
gospel. They offer good guidance when developing a web site.
Style Guide for Online Hypertext – from Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the web
Web Style Guide, 3rd Edition
The Ten Commandments of HTML
Composing Good HTML
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World Wide Web – this is the world's first website created at CERN in 1993
As you can imagine, the Internet is full of information on how to develop a webpage. Books are
great but it's nice to have online, regularly-updated, hyperlinked references.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – they develop the protocols for the WWW
HTML 4.01 Specification
Index of Elements
HTML Validation Service
W3C Link Checker
Tim Berners-Lee homepage – the inventor of the World Wide Web
HTML Tag list – has a good drop-down menu of tag references at the top
Deprecated HTML tags and alternatives
Dave Arns’ HTML Reference
HTML Help by The Web Design Group (WDG) – one of the best development resources
HTML 4.0 Elements
FAQ Archives – many web design FAQ's
useit.com: Jakob Nielsen's Website – a guru of Web page usability
Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design – ten most egregious offenses against users
The HTML Writers Guild
The Web Master's Page – archived (26-Oct-95) from Bob Allison's legendary site, BOBAWORLD (see ASCII Art)
eBORcOM: Web Development Resources
Yahoo! - ...HTML/Guides and Tutorials – quite extensive
Viewable With Any Browser – pointers on making your site non browser-specific
Web Pages That Suck – some bad examples
lynda.com – excellent tips here
How to make an Annoying Web Page
IPOWER – my site is hosted here, very generous
Website Hosting Directory
Hex Color Chips – a great color picker page
HTML Color Codes – I like this one because you can tweak the color
The O'Reilly Web Palette – browser safe colors
Special HTML Characters – entities
HTML URL Encoding Reference
JPG vs GIF
Web Developer's Journal
Favicon Tutorial – give your site it's own IE5 favorites icon
Web Publishing Related Sites – from Dr. Paul Steward
WWW Programming Resources – from Marty Hall, author of Core Web Programming
thesitewizard.com – lots of tips here
Xenu's Link Sleuth – link testing freeware
Site Meter – I use this to track my visitors
SoftwareQATest.com – Web Site Test Tools and Site Management Tools
Browser Sandbox – Run any browser from the web
Find additional related links above under sections for Web browsers and Internet & technology links.
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After you've built your site, you have the responsibility of keeping the links up-to-date. Periodically,
you need to check all your links or you will find that sometimes they move and sometimes they just cease to exist (you've
probably seen the "404 - File not found" message). I've planned to create a Java applet to test my links, but until I get it
working, I am using Xenu's Link Sleuth, a downloadable, freeware
program that checks your links, showing errors as it finds them, and produces a report of the results. A nice free online
link-checking service is W3C Link Checker.
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Here are several books I found quite helpful. Some may no longer be in print, or there may be newer versions available.
||Hip Pocket Guide to HTML – Ed Tittel and James Michael Stewart (IDG books)
- small binder format with good tag cross-references
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||I used to have all the web authoring usenet groups listed here but they don't seem to function in browsers anymore, so I am just providing a link to
Google Groups, where they are offered in a web format.
There are more newsgroups on my Programming page.