Past newsletters may be viewed at http://editor.actrix.gen.nz/
This newsletter has been produced to help you get the most out of the Internet and to keep you,
as an Actrix customer, informed of developments and services within the company.
Questions and comments about the newsletter can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Other inquiries should be emailed to email@example.com
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Explorer versus Netscape (Part 1)
|With this article I hope to detail a little of the history involved with browser development. Read on, I don't believe it's as dry as it sounds. In fact, as these two programs have developed side by side in competition, they've played an enormous part in the state of the world wide web today. Knowing a little web and browser history can only be a good and useful thing. Next month I hope to write a little about the strengths and weaknesses of each one for the average computer user.|
|I'm going to start by letting the cat out of
the bag. These two programs are, of course, fierce competitors, and because of that,
comparing them is only natural. I've used both reasonably extensively, but in the end I
believe I have to come down on the side of Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Unix users, Linux lovers and Macintosh maniacs please note that I am writing mainly for home computer users who probably already use Windows platforms. By restricting myself to these two programs, I am not for one minute suggesting that the platform you love isn't the best thing since sliced salami.
There isn't a whole lot in it. The very nature of the Internet means that both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer have to be very similar in what they are capable of doing. To me it comes down to which program does which function best, or to which program does more functions best more often! I know there are plenty who will disagree. Netscape enthusiasts don't tend to be as rabid as Unix enthusiasts, but they do exist. Often I think that a loathing of anything "Microsofty" drives people to Netscape more than Netscape's superior features (which aren't that many). And of course, the biggest deciding factor will be what a user is used to, or which browser was already on their computer when they purchased it.
|As we all probably know, this is where Microsoft have acquired the edge. From time out of mind they've been supplying Internet Explorer free with computer purchases. This has given them an indisputable market dominance. Most new computer users simply accept by default that Internet Explorer is their browser. After all, it's already on their machine. Most probably don't even think about Netscape Navigator, perhaps until they come across an article such as this one.|
|It does not have to be this way at all.
Netscape Navigator is freely available for download from www.netscape.com, and if large downloads are difficult, the cd can be
ordered very cheaply from the same site. Both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Explorer
can exist together on the same hard drive. They can be used at the same time, and a user
can even visit the exact same site at the same time with both programs. In fact, I often
find it advantageous to do so. Where one fails in some aspect, the other will often
The first major browser that could read gif images (back when the Internet was just kicking off for academics and government departments) was neither Netscape Navigator nor Internet Explorer. It was called Mosaic 1.0 and it was produced by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). It was extremely basic and could only handle simple Html. Back then the Internet was so small (and we're talking about the early 90s here) that Mosaic even had a feature called "New Sites" that was only updated weekly. These days, if you could get a list of new sites published every day it would take a week just to read through the list!
A man named Marc Andreeson left the NCSA to help found Netscape Communications and it was about then that Microsoft chimed in with Internet Explorer, debuting it with version 2.0. Mosaic seems now to have faded into relative obscurity leaving the two major browsers to battle it out.
With these "second-generation" browsers the Internet started to
become more and more exciting. Now you could see background colours (if you were lucky
enough to have a colour monitor), tables images, and even simple animations. Netscape was
until Internet Explorer 4.
|The World Wide Web Consortium
The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) now exists (thankfully) to provide consistency for the web. In theory, the W3C is supposed to set the standard for the industry to follow.
|This means that they are supposed to
determine how Html is to be interpreted and displayed by browsers so that the web will
behave consistently no matter which browser a user has. In reality, however, they have no
power of enforcement. Netscape and Microsoft simply compete trying to develop new features
that will give their program an advantage, and at the same time they develop their own
versions of each other's features. The W3C is often in the position of simply compiling a
list of features declaring some standard and some older ones deprecated (discouraged from
use). In this sense, Netscape and Microsoft seem to share an uneasy alliance, as they
develop side by side and neck and neck. Ultimately this is very much a good thing. The
effects of them going off in entirely separate directions would be detrimental. The web
would become fragmented in that it would not be the same thing for different people with
different browsers. Competition might heat up, but the web would cease to grow, I believe.
Eventually web development might even grind to a halt.
Next month, as promised, I hope to write more directly about how the two browsers compare for users. In the meantime, if you're not using one or the other, why not do a little comparing of your own?
Actrix News and Links
The link to the Actrix news page has been lying reasonably
dormant for the last many months, but I am pleased to announce that we are now giving this
page much more regular attention. You are encouraged to visit often. Simply click the News
and Links button at our home page.
The second section of the page contains links to sites that are useful or interesting. There are already hundreds of links there under the following categories:
Content Control, Downloads (General), Downloads (Recommended), Games, general Sites of Interest, Html Help, Internet Help, Internet Tutorials, Macintosh Sites, Media, Modem Drivers, New Zealand Sites, Online Stores, Political Parties, Radio Stations, Search Engines, Software Updates and Virus Protection.
Please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you come across a fitting news story or link for inclusion. But please note. My intention is not to provide your site with free advertising. I am looking for sites of general interest that will be of benefit to the wider Actrix community, particularly children's sites at present.
Q: What's the shortest book in the world?
I have a couple of recommendations for you this week. I use both programs myself regularly, but no I receive no personal benefit from recommending them to you.
Every computer should come equipped with Winamp, the net's most popular mp3 player.
Winamp is free to download from www.winamp.com. When opened the program's
interface resembles a home stereo system. Mp3s to be played can be managed using the
add/remove buttons, and a setlist to play can be put together from various places around
your hard drive. There are a variety of neat plug-ins that can also be downloaded, and
searching for just the right skin or appearance to download can be a lot of fun. They
range from supermodels to comic book themes. Winamp's features are intuitive, making the
program easy to use.
|What's All This We've Been Hearing About
Opinions expressed in this article do not represent the official position of Actrix. or anyone other than myself. - Editor
|Most will be aware that Napster
has appeared in the news and current affairs programmes lately. Just what are the issues
involved with this controversial program?
extremely popular amongst Internet music enthusiasts, and for understandable reasons. Mp3s
(compressed music files) have been around for a long time, but they were often difficult
to find. With Napster, finding your favourite songs in Mp3 format so that you can play
them on your computer is pretty quick and easy. To participate, all you have to do is go
to the Napster site (www.napster.com)
and download their free program onto your hard drive. When you do so, you have to agree to
let the Napster site scan your hard drive for Mp3 files that you already have. Then,
with each subsequent log in, Napster scans your designated Mp3 directory for the music
files you have saved for sharing with other users.
It is not hard to see why some people find this easy song
sharing objectionable, so much so that they are willing to take Napster to court. The big
names here, of course, are the band Metallica and the Recording Industry Association of
America (RIAA), who are suing Napster for infringing on musicians' intellectual property
|The KAK Worm Virus:
It's a sad fact that there are many hundreds of computer virii ("viruses") propagating themselves throughout the internet. However most of these virii reproduce themselves through email attachments which get forwarded from computer to computer.
As a result, the sensible internet user can avoid the majority of them by simply using caution and common sense when dealing with attachments in their inbox. If an email containing a suspicious attachment is simply deleted from the inbox, it can't do any damage even if the attachment did contain a virus. It's only by "opening" an attachment that any virus lurking inside can be activated. Simply viewing, reading or opening the email itself can't do any harm (whether you view it in the Outlook Express "preview pane" or double-click to open the email into a separate window - the attachment is still untouched and any lurking virus can't be activated).
Melts in Your Mouth!
Win Norrie Chocolate!
|However, there is
one exception to this rule! It comes in the form of a particular virus called the
"KAK Worm" virus (technically referred to as WScript/Kak.worm or VBS.KakWorm).
This is the only email virus (that I'm aware of, anyway) that can be activated just by
looking at or reading the infected email in your inbox or preview pane. The virus takes
advantage of a security hole in Internet Explorer and Outlook Express (and possibly
Outlook 95/97/2000) which allows an embedded ActiveX script to be run as soon as the email
is viewed. The infected email won't show the paperclip symbol indicating an attachment. As
soon as the infected email is viewed, the virus will activate and will modify certain
files on your computer (including the Windows Registry). Fortunately the virus doesn't do
any serious damage or delete any important files - it simply sets your computer up to
include copies of itself on all your outbound Rich Text Format emails.
"Okay Jeremy, cut the techno-babble, just tell me how to check if I've got the virus!"
Well, one indication that your computer
is infected with KAK will be messages that pop up saying things like "Do you want to allow software such as ActiveX controls and plug-ins to
run?", or "Kagou-Anti-Kro$oft says not today!",
or "S3 driver memory alloc failed". However even if
you don't get messages like this, it might be an idea to check your computer for the virus
anyway - just to be on the safe side.
- Jeremy Fairbrass
I get underway with my big announcement, I'd like to thank all those who have used my
www.actrix.gen.nz/users/norrie to help them create one of their own. It has been great to get the positive feedback and to watch some humble homepages blossom. If you'd like to have a go at teaching yourself some basic html to put together your own site, why not surf on over? I've tried to make it as simple as possible, and I've included information on how to download and create with FrontPage Express as well as the gen on what's involved with going further and putting together your own domain.
But now, can I have a drum roll?
I am pleased to announce the launch of my very own brand of chocolate bar! Yes, I'm serious. Cadbury and Hershey's eat your heart out. My chocolate bars are smooth and creamy, and aesthetically pleasing, because they're in the shape of me!
Some readers have complained that my past challenges (stump me on a technical matter and win chocolate fish) have excluded them because they're just not technical. Well, here's your chance. The first ten people who can email me and tell me who I sang a duet with will be sent a Norrie the Nerd chocolate bar courtesy of Actrix! The only rules are that you must be an Actrix customer, but you can't be employed by Actrix. The answer is there for anybody to find, so be quick and email me at email@example.com to win!
University Diploma Spam
Actrix customers may have noticed some pretty clever spam
in their mailboxes lately. It comes with a title such as (1010) and offers you a
university diploma for sale. It asks you to phone a number in the United States.
Curiously, source information for the spam is hidden.
Unfortunately, this sort of thing is only going to get more common. It is quite immoral in that the senders know full well that whichever domain they are attacking is going to have bogged down mail-servers if they get through.
Unfortunately, the fact that Actrix was New Zealand's first ISP (and hence we've been around the longest) means that overseas spammers are more likely to know about us. Actrix will block spam like this as soon as possible and we apologise for what has found its way through so far.
Buying a diploma? Surely, only in America.......
|Milk Zone is a hot new web site that makes
milk a cool choice for kids.
It has been developed by NEW ZEALAND MILK for children aged 8 to 13. It features funky graphics, fun games and a launch competition - kids can enter the draw to win a scooter.
Why not take a look for yourself and see what an outstanding site it is?
|Force Technology offer a range of
four Viewsonic LCD monitors to meet your needs.
All of the VE and VP series have removable bases and are wall mountable! They offer the maximum in flexibility and customisability and are available from Forcetech in 14, 15 and 18 inch sizes.
The page height in Portrait mode makes these monitors the best choice for legal, government and medical organisations, or for anyone else who desires or requires the ability to display entire pages crisply and cleanly.
Forcetech prices (including free delivery) for these products are as follows:
You can find out more about these monitors at http://www.viewsonic.com/.
|The Stages Virus
It seems that every time you turn around, another virus hits the ground. The latest is an email attached scrap file (LIFE_STAGES.TXT.SHS) which, when executed, invokes Notepad to display a text file that takes a humorous look at the stages of life of both male and female. During this time, the virus installs itself on your system.
The virus attachment looks like a text file, complete with ".txt" extension. But the real extension is ".shs," which stands for Windows Shell Scrap Object. A Scrap file can contain anything, including executable and malicious code. The ".shs" extension does not appear even if a user sets Windows to show all file extensions. Microsoft designed this extension to be invisible, and it cannot be changed without entering your computer's most fragile configuration systems.
Your best defence is still common sense. Keep your virus protection up-to-date, and be really careful opening attachments, obviously even ones that appear as simple text (.txt) files.
You can follow progress on this and other virii by reading the Actrix News and Links page regularly.
|My Back Page|
|The holiday was great, but I'm
pleased to be back. Once again, I hope there was something that interested you in this
month's newsletter. Stay tuned for next month when I hope to continue with my comparison
between Netscape and Explorer. I'll also be reporting on any interesting developments with
Napster. I there's something else you think deserves attention, feel free to contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org any time.
Having said that, I must ask you please not to email support enquiries to that address. Every month there are half a dozen or so who do. You will get more prompt attention by emailing our support desk at email@example.com or by phoning them on 0800-228749. The support desk is open from 6:30 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. (that's 1:30 in the morning!) on weekdays, and from 7:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. each weekend.
Don't forget to email an answer to Norrie's question in the hope of winning yourself a Norrie the Nerd chocolate bar. They really are quite yummy.
'Til next month, then,
"Obviously I'm not an IBM computer any more than I'm an ashtray." - Bob Dylan