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 Mozilla Firefox.


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:


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 retained.


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 safer!


Next week – Time for a change, part 2





Hypertext 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




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.

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