BOOT CAMP 341 (31/08/04)
Time for a change, part 1
Enough is enough! Since
version 1 of Internet Explorer first appeared almost ten years ago I have stuck
with it through thick and thin but now it’s time for a change. Until the
beginning of last year Internet Explorer and the bundled email client program
Outlook Express served me reasonably well but within the last year the
unrelenting efforts of Microsoft’s enemies combined with the proliferation of
broadband has made life with IE and OE intolerable.
I vaguely hoped things
might have improved by now with Internet and email users becoming better
informed and more vigilant but that hasn’t happened. I suspect worse is to come
and I just can’t spare the time and effort any more to ward off the constant
barrage of viruses, worms, trojans, homepage hijackers, spam and pop-up ads
attempting to infiltrate my computer every day.
So far I have managed to
avoid any serious infections and keep other annoyances under control but I fear
that sooner or later something really nasty is going to penetrate the many
layers of protection I have had to deploy, which all need constant monitoring,
maintenance and upgrading.
I give up and if you
feel like doing likewise here are some simple steps to install and configure a
new and (currently) much safer browser. Next week we’ll look at how to switch to
a more secure email client program.
It’s not a complete
break, though and some Internet sites and web pages can only be viewed using
Internet Explorer. So don’t worry, IE will remain on your PC and you can
instantly revert back or use it at the same time as your new browser, should you
feel so inclined.
The criteria for
choosing a new browser are simple. It should have similar functionality and be
as easy to use as IE but a lot more secure. Features like tabbed browsing and a
pop-up stopper would be very welcome and like IE it should be free. There were
several candidates but in the end it came down to two choices, Mozilla and
Both programs are ‘open
source’ and there are versions for all popular platforms (Windows, Linux and Mac
OS). Open source basically means it is being constantly improved and refined by
a large community of users and developers, rather than tightly controlled by
just one company. Mozilla was born out of IE’s main rival Netscape; the project
was launched in 1998 and is funded by voluntary contributions and merchandising,
but there’s no advertising or adware to worry about, and your web surfing will
be more private -- see Tip of the Week.
Mozilla most closely
resembles IE in that it is a suite of programs and utilities with a built-in
email and newsgroup program, address book and HTML editor. Mozilla Firefox is
simply a browser and because of its streamlined nature it is faster and very
easy to use. The lack of email facilities in Firefox is not a problem, you can
continue to use Outlook Express as normal or better still, migrate to Mozilla’s
email and newsgroup client program Thunderbird, which we’ll be looking at in
more detail next week.
Both Mozilla and Firefox
are worth trialling if you have not yet made up your mind but for a first timer
dipping their toes into the world of alternative browsers and email I suggest
starting with Firefox. The actual download is fairly small at around 4.7Mb or
you can order it on CD. Mozilla downloads and details of how to order a CD can
be found at: http://www.mozilla.org/.
Installation is very
straightforward, just download the file onto your PC, open it and follow the
prompts. It should automatically recognise your Internet connection and the only
configuration changes you’ll want to make, to begin with at least, is to set
your home page. Simply go to Tools > Options and click the General icon. On
the same page there’s a check box to make Firefox your default browser but you
can leave that alone until you are ready. By default Firefox is set to block
pop-up ads but if for any reason you want to switch it off, or customise the
settings click the Web Features icon.
Tabbed browsing is just one of Firefox’s many useful
features and you can make it even easier to use by adding New Tab and New Window
buttons to the Toolbar; you’ll quickly come to appreciate them. Just right click
in to an empty area of the toolbar, select Customise then drag and drop the
icons on to the toolbar. While you are there you might also want to add the
Printer and Bookmark icons.
Talking of bookmarks,
you can transfer all of your IE Favorites, Links and passwords into Firefox by
going to Import on the File menu, select Microsoft Internet Explorer, click the
Next button, select the items you want to copy, click Next and it’s done. By the
way, this doesn’t affect IE in any way and all of your settings are
That’s all there is to
it, it’ll take you only a few minutes to get used to the new icons and buttons
and after a very short time I suspect you’ll be hooked; the Internet will
suddenly seem a lot friendlier and your PC will be a lot
Next week – Time for a change, part 2
Mark-up Language - hidden codes used to develop design and compile text and
graphic elements in web pages, emails and documents
Software with minimal licensing and broad, often free
distribution, which users are encouraged to help develop
Feature that allows a number of web pages to appear in a
single browser window at the same time
TIP OF THE WEEK
Unlike Internet Explorer Mozilla and Mozilla Firefox do not
keep a secret hidden file listing all of the web sites you have visited. It does
store cookies though and there is also a page cache and a History file and
Password Manager, but these are all much easier to control. In Firefox go to
Tools > Options and click the Privacy icon where you will find details of
everything Firefox stores, how long it is kept and buttons to clear the files.
In Mozilla go to Preferences on the Edit menu and under Categories click Privacy
and Security for a similar set of options.