If you've never used anything but Microsoft software on your computer, I seriously recommend you at least consider starting with your web browser. It's a safe bet, it will not compromise your computer system and can happily co-exist alongside your current browser.
Now, in an effort to keep this post simple and non-geeky for newbies, hover your mouse over some tricky words, and an explanation will appear. Do it on the word 'explanation'. Yay!
~preface for newbies~
More than likely, you are looking at my blog with a web browser called Internet Explorer. For the rest of this post I will nickname it 'I.E'. The reason for this, is that the Windows operating system you are using has I.E already built-in (or bundled). Over the last few years, hackers have found ways of exploiting this browser to the point that it is very much unsafe and a security risk for any computer.
Microsoft continually release patches and updates to fix these holes, but this makes it an annoying product rather than being a helpful one. Computer users have had real horror stories because of these security flaws - from bankruptcy, fraud, misguided imprisonment - or the most immediate problem: Viruses. Then there's the advertising pop-ups and bugs that install themselves on your system and track your every move, secretly sending data back to spam companies who in turn bombard your email account. It's crazy, and although it started with e-mail, the most common way to get a virus is through a web browser.
Coz I've freaked you out now, I will introduce Mozilla. It's not the answer to all of these problems but will certainly help - as it's all 'under the hood'. Oh, and it's pioneered by a Kiwi. reason enough?
Mozilla is a new browser that has been bankrolled by Netscape.
Netscape has their own browser called Navigator and it was the worlds most used browser in the early days of the Internet (even I used it!), until Microsoft supplied it's operating system with a built-in (bundled) web browser called Explorer with the release of Windows 95. The rest is history.. Microsoft won the world over and Netscape couldn't match them.
Netscape has now partnered with the worlds most innovative programmers and created an organisation called Mozilla.org, which in short, constructs software from scratch, in an open enviroment - unlike Microsoft whom like to keep their code behind closed doors. Because Mozilla.org products are out there in the open, problems are discovered far more efficiently. This is good, especially when it comes to the most notorious pieces of software that impact the Internet environment the most: Email and Browsing.
Mozilla has developed a web browser called Firefox, an Email program called Thunderbird, and are currently developing a Calendar program called Sunbird.
Not only do the names sound wicked, but they are VERY easy to install, use and they look great. They are very refreshing. Just look at the logos throughout this post. At the time of publishing, Firefox was at version 0.9.3, Thunderbird at 0.7.3, Mozilla Browser at 1.7.2 and Sunbird at 0.2a (still a baby).
I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back that this software has it all 'under the hood'. Pop Ups were the first thing eliminated (or terminated as Arnie says). Next, came the option of nuking advertisements - done. Malicious scripts, and net-nasties were all severely kneecapped when Mozilla unleashed its browser - because the world had become accustomed to Microsoft programming and software. I suspect this is why the Mozilla logo is that of a T-Rex... it's a lean, mean beastly piece of work! It's awesome.
I recommend you install Mozilla Firefox and start surfing the net in actual peace. No popups for lotteries, credit cards, or penis enlargement. Just a browser doing what you asked it to do, and nothing more - if thats what you want. Mozilla Firefox can be filled to the brim with a whole lof of cool extra features upon your intention to enhance your online experience (I use a few), although most of these things - such as toolbars, news tickers and god-knows-what - just add clutter and we could really do without them.
Take the punt and install Firefox. You can download it direct from their website (no middle-men websites here) by clicking here - and it's free.
~Try It Out~
First thing I want you to try when it's installed (and it has kindly imported your I.E Bookmarks!), is load this blog page into Firefox. Select this address: http://richardphelps.blogspot.com/2004/09/mozilla-magic_14.html ..copy then paste it into the address bar in Firefox. Firefox will then tell me you are using it to view my page.. Groovy huh?
Here is where Firefox will change the way you browse the internet - for the better. Firefox has made whats called 'tabbed browsing' a phenomenon. Heres how:
Hold down the Control button on your keyboard, press T. This will open a new blank tab. You will see two new buttons appear just under the address bar, These are called tabs and you can switch from one page to another as quick as you can click. So what? - well, do it again - do it six more times.. Control+T. You can view as many pages as you like WITHIN the one browser. Its a big deal because it allows you to bounce between completely different websites without tying up and slowing down your computer. When was the last time you opened 15 windows at a time? ..can you imagine the mess? Firefox keeps it all nice and tidy. OK, close down all of those new tabs - except one. So you should have my blog open, and a blank tab. Here's the trick I've been dying to teach you, just keep tabbing back and forward from this blog to follow these instructions:
Click on the empty tab, and at the top right of the browser you'll see another empty box. This is the Google search engine at your fingertips! Punch in something, anything and hit enter on your keyboard. The search results display in this new tab. See a result that interests you? Even if you don't, try this: Instead of clicking on a link to view it, right-click it and select from the menu 'Open In New Tab'. That page you selected now opens in a 3rd tab! So, I can now assume you have 3 tabs open. this blog, Google search results, and a page you opened as a result of the search.
Hey, while that page is loading, click back to the google search results and choose another website link, say halfway down. Open that in a new tab too. I hope you now see how browsing the web this way makes it so much easier to manage everything, and ultimately save you buckets of time.
Oh, you might not have noticed any pop ups. Firefox nuked them when they tried to load. Cool huh!
The safer, faster, better web browser with exciting new features such as tabbed browsing and integrated search. Stop pop-ups, spyware, viruses and other nuisances. Beware of spyware. If you can, use the Firefox browser. - USA Today (Sept 8, 2004)
Try Firefox for a week or so. If you still feel uneasy, then use I.E and at least share some of the workload with Firefox. You will notice the better performer when you realise that IE may have two, three, five, maybe ten pop ups at the end of your session, whereas Firefox will have none. Just itself. To me, that earns BIG brownie points and was what hooked me in from day one.
I've been using Firefox since March 2004 and it's not failed me yet. As a result I have more faith in products that are not built by Microsoft and ever since, I've been migrating away from Microsoft. I use Firefox for browsing, Thunderbird for email, and I just installed Sunbird for my calendar. I now do not use anything Microsoft except for the Operating System itself and I might even ditch that soon one day although ironically, I've had no problems since I erased the other Microsoft products. Coincidence?
A preview version of the first release is available for download, although I'd suggest you wait for the official release. In other news, Firefox is making "waves" in the news. About bloody time.