Novice Net users can take a lesson from Web Teacher


April 8, 2001




If you or someone you know is just getting started on the Internet and the World Wide Web, there's a Web address you might want to pass along to them.

A Web site called Web Teacher is designed to answer those questions that newcomers are sometimes embarrassed to ask.

Web Teacher is geared for the novice user and includes very basic lessons about using the Internet. The site doesn't get too technical with its explanations, but it does offer some "how-to's" that allow users to make the most of their Internet experience.

The Web site makes use of an animated letter "e" character named "Mister E" to help new users navigate around the site.

Even veteran users may want to check out the site's Jargon Buster, which takes complication and intimidating computer geek jargon and translates them into all into plain English.

Using the Internet isn't difficult, but it can seem intimidating to novice users. I've found that people who have used the Web for a while often explain it to newcomers so quickly they are a little confused by it all.

The Web Teacher site should help get new users a little more comfortable with the Web.

Point your browser to

GOING POSTAL. The United States Postal Service may consider doing away with Saturday mail delivery, and one reason why may be as close as your computer.

Electronic mail has hurt the volume of traditional mail that travels from business to consumer and from business to business.

Internet research firm The Gartner Group estimates that the average American worker spends four hours each day reading, writing and forwarding e-mails.

The group's research also found that e-mail now carries up to 75 percent of a company's communications.

Seventy-five percent of U.S. workers had e-mail access by the end of 2000, the researchers found.

But e-mail hasn't eliminated traditional mail, and according to surveys, e-mail can't replace traditional mailing methods.

While more and more people in business and at their homes use e-mail, they still prefer the security of traditional mail for receiving financial documents, a study by Pitney Bowes said.

Ninety-three percent of individuals surveyed said they preferred traditional mail for important documents as well as product announcements and promotional mailings.

Seventy-three percent of users said traditional mail has higher levels of security than e-mail, the survey said. More than 60 percent found postal mail faster to answer than e-mail.

Unsolicited mail is usually thrown away when it arrives via e-mail. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said they never read unsolicited e-mail.

The survey found that 74 percent of people open and read their junk mail that comes via the U.S. Postal Service.

Postal mail will keep an edge over e-mail because it doesn't require special knowledge, training or equipment. It's universal, secure and personal, according to the survey.

NAPSTER SHAKEOUT CONTINUES. While Napster, the original user-to-user file swapping service, tries to comply with a court order to prohibit the swapping of copyrighted music files, similar services have begun to follow Napster's lead.

The Israel-based iMesh service began recently alerting users it would start blocking copyrighted music files.

Since iMesh is based outside the U.S., there were rumors circulating that it would be outside the reach of the Recording Industry Association of America.

The RIAA's request or iMesh to block copyrighted file swapping isn't unexpected. With Napster's moves to eliminate copyrighted music files, users have been logging in with other file-swapping services like iMesh.

And iMesh appears to have been one of the top alternatives for ex-Napster users.

According to the Web site, nearly 7 million people have downloaded the free iMesh software from that site alone. More than 330,000 users downloaded the software during a recent week.

OUTLOOK TOUGH ON VIRUSES. With the next generation of e-mail software now being readied for release, Microsoft is planning to take some action to help reduce the spread of e-mail viruses.

Microsoft Office XP, the next version of the popular Office productivity business software package, will include a revised and updated version of the Outlook 2002 e-mail program.

One of the changes Microsoft is making to combat the spread of e-mail viruses is that now, by default, the software will reject more than 30 types of files sent as e-mail attachments.

Attachments have been the way most e-mail viruses have been spread in recent outbreaks.

The attachments that will be rejected by Outlook 2002 included executable files, batch files, Windows help files, Java and Visual Basic scripting files. The software also blocks photo CD images, screensavers and HTML application files, according to Microsoft.

The list means many attachments now sent via e-mail won't make it to the mailboxes of people running Outlook 2002. The software is set for release later this year.

Outlook 2002 users will be able to send all types of attachments -- including those they cannot receive -- to other users. A warning prompts Outlook 2002 users that other Outlook users may not be able to open the restricted file attachments.

Restricting file attachments isn't new, and in fact, while Microsoft's move sounds like they are throwing out the baby with the bath water, it highlights how easy it has been to spread viruses via e-mail.

Microsoft's patches for past versions of Outlook contained some restrictions on file attachments, but they were optional to install. Outlook 2002 will apply the same level of restriction to all Office XP users.

E-mail viruses have caused havoc in corporate America in the past.

The "I Love You" virus and its variations are said to have infected more than 600,000 computers and caused more than $2.5 billion in damages.

Corporate installations of the new Microsoft Office XP will have some flexibility on how e-mail attachments are received, but corporate computer gurus are being discouraged from changing the default settings.

Even if you don't upgrade to Office XP or Outlook 2002 in the near future, Microsoft's concern over e-mailed file attachments is still valid. Never click on a file attachment unless you know who sent it and they've already told you to expect it.

Some viruses automatically e-mail themselves to other users, and can mimic a legitimate e-mail. Never open any file e-mailed to you unless you know what it is.

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