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Technology Corner: What Browser Are You Using?

abstract:

Do you use Netscape? Internet Explorer? Safari? Mozilla? Firefox? Each browser has its own idiosyncrasies and you should know which ones are safe!  All browsers are not created equal!  And worse, some are dang dangerous.

article:

March 14, 2005
— The browser you use has likely changed over time.  Some people signed up with AOL for their first e-mail account and used that home page to search the web.  Others bought a PC and wound up using the proprietary browser that came installed - Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), while still others opted for its competitor at the time, NetscapeMAC users tend to use Safari and other Mozilla based browsers, and the latest on the market is Firefox, (also a Mozilla based product.)

Browser faithfulness is a bit like the brand of lipstick a woman uses: once you're hooked on a particulary browser, you use it pretty exclusively.  But all browsers are not created equal and it is worth your while to bulldoze through this article to find out why. Promise—no geek-talk.

The ABC's of Browsers

A browser is a client software that you open when you want to surf the web. It reads the html (hypertext markup language) document and transforms it into sentences and images using commands that determine what font size and type to use, whether to format the page a certain way, whether there will be a hyperlink inserted to take you to a different web page.

You can see the computer code for a page you are visiting by clicking on VIEW in your browser menu, and select SOURCE.
You can customize the browser you use with features such as: setting your opening page to a favorite site—the BBC World News, or Bookbuffet.com; you can bookmark your favorite sites; you can adjust your security settings to high, medium or low to allow for cookies or refuse pop-up windows, and so on.

Security

What is a cookie? Cookies have a bad reputation, but they can be advantageous or disadvantageous. People tend to believe that by allowing a cookie to be set they are disclosing personal information.  This may or may not be true. It is important to understand that html is "stateless", (it does not remember which page you're coming from or where you're going to next).

Each page on the web is completely independent of any other. In order for a website to remember information from a preceeding page when you click NEXT or BACK the sender and receiver have to have agreed to a "session managment".

This can be achieved in two ways, on the client side (cookies), or on the server side. A cookie is a small piece of information that is sent from the webserver to your browser during the time of your visit.

The kind of cookies you don't want are third party cookies. That's when, unbeknownst to you, you've visited a site and that site has shared your information with other websites its in cahoots with, and suddenly you're receiving spam from places you've never even visited. The solution is to go to "tools" on your browser bar, select "internet options" then "privacy" and set the cookies slide bar to "do not accept 3rd party cookies...".

What do they do with this information? For the most part it just helps them determine how best to optimise their site to handle your visits, and also to see which articles are popular so they can focus on features and editorial topics their readership is interested in.  Sometimes they even use this information to switch ads next to the popular articles, to entice you to click on something you may otherwise have missed in a different spot.  Ads bring in revenue and that helps pay the bills so you don't have to pay for access to the site.  It's a good thing - as Martha would say.

And Now For The Bad News

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team has issued a warning to the public, and simply put: Microspft's IE (Internet Explorer) is not safe.

It's rather complicated, but in a nut shell...     TO BE CONTINUED

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