Tuesday, December 12

The Very First Step

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“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu. This ancient proverb will be our starting point on what is possibly a never ending journey. That journey is to enjoy the internet without worrying about your privacy being breached or getting the dreaded virus. There are many anti-virus programs to choose from, but that shouldn’t be the first step. Obviously, to browse the internet we will need an Internet Browser. This is our first stop.

By far the most used internet browser Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Most people that use it do so because it is on their computer when they buy it. Bill and friends just aren’t in to loading alternate browsers on Windows machines, and who can blame them? Personally, I used Internet Explorer for a number of years and didn’t know there was anything to be concerned about. I double clicked it and the internet popped up magically. What’s to worry about? Come to find out, there was plenty to worry about! I got my first virus. It was a lovely creature that infected every part of my system. I tried the anti-virus software that came with the computer but the virus kept coming back. Apparently I had a trojan downloader. I would scan and clean my system, then more viruses! Eventually this led me to format my hard drive and reinstall Windows XP. Unfortunately, I lost 3 months of important notes by not backing things up properly. Yes, it was my fault but considering how totally flustered I was about this virus situation, I didn’t blame myself.

I learned one important lesson. Internet Explorer was not a very good or safe browser. Why? Well, it is huge, not secure, and a piece of trash. I will couple this extreme point of view with Windows Firewall. You know the one…may stop an incoming connection or two but will not stop any outgoing connections once something gets through. My quest for a secure computer had begun, and I will share my journey of enlightenment with any who will listen.

The first step was to ditch IE for good. But what was I going to use? Opera was the first up. I chose it because of Fravia. If you don’t know what that is then click either one of the links on his name. The first is a mirror of his reverse engineering pages, the second is searchlores. Great stuff but I couldn’t get into the Opera browser (although I use Opera mini on my G1 Android). I’m not saying that Opera is a bad browser by any means. It is an awesome browser, just not for me. I don’t think the average internet user will find Opera to their liking.

Then Firefox emerged. It was just what I was looking for and it had a cool icon. But what did it have besides that? Did I really dump IE for a cool fox icon? No, I did it for several reasons. First was the promise of greater internet security. After the fiasco with the viruses that caused me to lose 3 months of important work, I just wanted to be secure. I found Firefox to be not only a better browser in terms of protection, but it looked and worked better, too. The tabs were nicer, there were many themes to customize it, and the add-ons were, and are, incredible! It was a perfect fit for my internet habits.

Here is a simple list of my Firefox including themes, settings and add-ons:

Themes-My current theme is “purple fox”. It is just a purple and black color scheme but I like it a lot. My sister-in-law is using the Chicago Cubs theme and was really glad I sent the link to her. I have used other themes but I like this one for now. The point is that when I get tired of this one, I have over 400 more to choose from. No doubt there will be many more in the near future.

Settings-A quick click on  Tools then Options…gives you access to Firefox’s main settings. These are pretty basic and shouldn’t be a problem for the average user (like me). If there are any questions then a quick trip to google will provide the answer.  The first tab allows you to set your home page, download location and manage add-ons. The tab section is self explanatory then it is to the content section, which controls pop ups, javascript, java, fonts and colors and language. I personally don’t allow javascript to resize or move my browser windows and I can control it with these options. Other sections allow the user to set Applications, Privacy and Security, while the last section is for Advanced options like networking, updates and encryption.

Add-ons-This is where Firefox can get fun and exciting. I have tried a ton of add-ons and here are a few of my favorites. First is Adblock Plus. Stop those annoying ads that pollute the internet. There are a few sites that I wouldn’t go to any more because of the ad content. After I discovered Firefox with Adblock Plus, I didn’t have to worry at all. Those pesky ads were a thing of the past. A good ad block subscription will even block the infamous “rick roll”! Another great add on is the StumbleUpon button. If you haven’t tried this then you are missing out on 99% of the internet. Well, maybe not, but this is the best way to find new web pages that match your interests. Unfortunately, it is extremely addictive. User Agent Switcher is all about fooling web sites into believing you are using Internet Explorer (or some other browser). It does come in handy. If privacy is a concern then try Ghostery, which blocks trackers.

Firefox is hands down the best browser for surfing the internet. Some would disagree citing no problems with Internet Explorer or the “superiority” of Opera or Chrome, but don’t listen to them. If you are still using IE then use it only one more time, and that is to go to Mozilla.com and download Firefox. After that, never click that annoying IE icon again…go ahead and send it to the recycling bin.

Remember, this is the first step on a never ending journey.

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