Net News

Clippings from the Internet about the Intrernet, relevant to organisations and business...

4 AUG 2014 – The importance of live chat to business

By Dustin Dean terms of the relationship between businesses and customers, the parallel to the mobile messaging app is the increasing popularity of live engagement via chat. And as a channel, chat covers a lot of bases. At one level it allows you to establish a meaningful relationship with customers on a one-to-one level. Think of it this way - if your customer has a problem finding what he or she wants or needs more information, help is just a click away.

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15 JUL 2014 – Ten backroom things to consider when building a website

By Jamin Andrews

So you want to build a website. Naturally your attention is on the design and features of the website. A common mistake shared by many website owners is not giving enough attention to backroom elements of website management.

The truth of the matter is you need to give as much attention to the behind-the-scenes part of your website strategy, as much as you would for how it looks like and what your customers can do with it.

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18 SEP 2012 Product Review - The National Broadband Network

By Nick Ross, ABC Technology and Games reporter

Despite being announced three years ago, many Australians still have little idea what the NBN actually is. This coupled with some of the worst media coverage of anything, well, ever plus a raft of politicians and commentators saying things about it which are disingenuous or simply not true has led to the primary discussion surrounding it focusing on who said what. Today we're ignoring the politics and reviewing the NBN as though it were a new television or a phone: rating it according to performance, features and value.

If you hold the common misconception that the NBN is simply an expensive way of accessing web pages and YouTube videos faster, then this is the article for you. We'll deal with the general benefits of super-fast broadband, the technologies that deliver it and the cost of delivery. There's also a lengthy section addressing common criticisms and alternatives that you can gloss over or skip to as desired.

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21 FEB 2012 The Great NBN Fail

By Nick Ross, ABC Technology and Games reporter

I've had enough and something has got to be done. I'm pretty much certain now that, outside of the tech sector, the majority of Australians hate the NBN. Many people hate it because of its ties with Labor. Some hate the idea of the (perceived) massive amounts of tax money being spent on an infrastructure for geeks which is irrelevant to them. Some are hating it because the Coalition is telling them to. And I no longer blame them.

This is immensely long article but it needs to be. It's a digest of a dozen other massive articles I've been planning to write, but as you'll see, they're going to take a long time and time is running out. If you hate the NBN, or if you're a mainstream journalist who reports on it, or if you're a member of the Coalition, Labor or NBN Co, then you really should read the following.

In a nutshell, Labor and NBN Co's failure to explain the NBN's benefits is undermining the entire project. Viewing the NBN simply as a business which delivers fast web access is utterly wrong. The cost savings to health and power industries will pay for the entire build. Healthcare, education, business innovation and, in many quarters, society in general will be revolutionized for all Australians - particularly for those in rural areas plus the elderly.

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17 OCT 2011 Apple’s iPhone 4S is a game changer … Siri-ously

By David Glance at The Conversation

The recent release of the Apple iPhone 4S was met with some disappointment because it wasn't the iPhone 5.

Curiously, people seemed to be most disappointed that the shape of the phone hadn't changed. What seemed to go completely unnoticed was a new feature that promises not only to revolutionise the way we interact with mobile phones but also with computers, tablets and potentially all other smart electronic devices.

The feature has also introduced a new word to our vocabulary: Siri.
Q: Siri, what are you? A: I live to serve.

Siri needs to be used to be believed, and also to begin to understand why this has been described as a revolutionary change. It is easy to dismiss Siri as voice control for the iPhone. Most smart phones have had a voice control feature where using a number of preconfigured voice commands, you can ask the phone to dial a number.

But Siri is more than that. It is, in essence, a piece of software with voice recognition and sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

Voice recognition translates your spoken commands into text. The AI then uses a combination of techniques that include natural language processing to interpret the text and propose a spoken answer. A lot of the processing gets done on the phone but Siri also communicates with a server and a number of services such as Bing, Google, Wolfram Alpha and Yelp.

Read on at the Conversation:

12 SEP 2011 VPS - Businesses need not buy entire computer servers anymore

John Eng ABC Technology and Games

Virtual Private Server (VPS) refers to cloud services that allow small businesses, medium enterprises, solution providers and web professionals to utilise and control a partition of a server at a fraction of the cost of a fully dedicated server. VPS emphasises that the virtual machine, although running in software on the same physical computer as other customers' virtual machines, is functionally equivalent to a separate physical computer, is dedicated to the individual customer's needs, has the privacy of a separate physical computer, and can be configured to run as a server. In short, you get the control and flexibility of a server but at a very reasonable price.

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8 SEP 2011 NBN positives at last

Nick Ross ABC Technology and Games

Yesterday's demostration of live NBN services at a new housing estate at Doonside will hopefully be the start of more positive stories regarding the NBN. Up to now, the focus by many media organisations has been on picking the government policy apart and scrutinising every detail behind its construction (plus downright animosity and misinformation in some quarters). But now we have a first live site which is starting to show people what all the fuss is about.

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3 JUN 2011 Using Twitter for laptop theft

The images began arriving in Joshua Kaufman's inbox. The grainy photos are low-lit and intimate: a man curled up on a couch, sound asleep; the same man propped up against pillows on a bed, shirtless. Who was this stranger sitting with Kaufman's stolen laptop? The Oakland, San Francisco resident collected the images and took them to police, who did not help him. So he went online, publishing the pictures on Twitter and in a blog titled "This Guy Has My MacBook".

"People who followed me on Twitter retweeted it. It got picked up by social media and the press. It went super viral," he said. On the same day that he posted his website on Twitter, police came calling.

Police on Tuesday arrested a 27-year-old cab driver, Muthanna Aldebashi. On Wednesday, Kaufman picked up his laptop from the police. Kaufman said he was "surprised and amazed" when he began receiving images of the man using his laptop. Kaufman's case is the latest example of people, not police, using technological tools to help find their own stolen property such as cars, mobile phones and digital cameras.

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3 JUN 2011 Internet 2 0 - your guide to the national broadband network

If email was the "killer app" which got so many of us hooked on the net when it first came out then what will a faster, national broadband network (NBN)-connected future look like? The answer to that is what a new book, named A Faster Future, endeavours to find out, writes Ben Grubb.

The book delves into a world in which faster broadband is ubiquitous. From teachers videoconferencing with classrooms in other countries and patients being diagnosed from the comfort of their own homes, to high-definition video embedded in a home's walls that you can stream from the web and change in real-time, it gives a fascinating visualisation and overview of what an NBN-connected world will look like.

"I think everyone out there is looking for the killer app," Australian co-author of the book, Brad Howarth, says.

"And I don't think anyone is yet to find what the future of broadband is going to be. I think part of the reason is that we may not realise what the killer app is until we've been using it for several years. If you look at email, [it was] the killer app for the internet but wasn't necessarily acknowledged that it was until sometime later on."

Howarth is a freelance journalist, author and speaker with 16 years experience covering the technology and marketing industries. He wrote the book with Janelle Ledwidge, a professional coach, communications practitioner and digital media industry specialist.

Howarth's views on finding a "killer app" appear to be echoed by Google's Vint Cerf, who has been dubbed the "father of the internet". He believes that about 99 per cent of what's possible on the internet hasn't been invented yet.

Director of engineering at Google Australia, Alan Noble, told Fairfax Media that the NBN would be "the digital equivalent of the Trans-Australian Railway, linking towns small and large, bringing new life and new opportunities to our economy and our communities".

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19 FEB 2011 Pipe dreams of a faster future

STEPHEN Conroy is not one for bad dreams. Bad dreams come to people who doubt, who repress their anxiety. It's hard to imagine the federal Communications Minister repressing anything - he's always in the moment.

Conroy will admit the big milestones in a multibillion-dollar infrastructure project sometimes force a moment's pause. Last week, as he completed his letter of offer to Telstra settling a commercial agreement for the use of its infrastructure for his national broadband network, the magnitude and scale of the project materialised before him.

Conroy is striding through a courtyard on a humid afternoon in Armidale, the pretty university town in northern New South Wales slowly giving birth to the NBN. He is tall and walks with determination. We are not quite level when I ask whether he has nightmares about falling on his face.

He turns around and frowns for a moment, wondering where the question leads, fearing the formation of an egregious anecdote. ''No,'' he says.

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1 FEB 2011 Social media had crucial role in floods

SOCIAL media stood out in providing essential information to southeast Queensland residents at the height of the floods crisis. Local faced not only a wall of floodwaters, but isolation, no power, darkness, uncertainty and often no information.

There is already a national emergency alert program that pushes out emergency SMSs to landline and all varieties of mobile phones. The SMSs are directed to the relevant regions based on the phone account's billing address. But it means you won't receive the right notifications on your mobile if you are far from home.

When it came to apps and smart phones, the old staples of Facebook and Twitter proved excellent sources of emergency information, both from the authorities and anecdotally between those affected.

The Queensland Police Services Facebook Group (162,000 followers) was a rich source of evacuation warnings, local conditions and community feedback. Its warnings were mirrored in its Twitter feed. The Queensland and Toowoomba flood groups, also on Facebook, offered forums for people searching for loved ones, evacuating, seeking food, water and shelter, and pinpointing floodwaters.

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14 APR 2010 Social networks: the place for a bargain

Every Friday morning, about 400 people tweet the words "I'm entering @Crust-Pizza #CrustFreePizzaFriday". Their goal is to win five pizzas in a competition run by fast-growing chain Crust Pizza.

Free Pizza Friday has been a big success for the fast-growing company, which launched a concerted social-media strategy last year and only intended to keep the competition running for a short time.

It has been so successful, however, that it's been extended indefinitely - validating a social media strategy that has netted 1800 followers via a Twitter page and about 2000 more on Facebook.

But has it affected the company's bottom line? Most definitely.

"It has increased sales," the chief executive of Crust, Michael Logos, says. "And while it's hard to say directly how much return you get, dollar-wise, from having a presence on Twitter and Facebook, it has increased our ability to communicate with customers in real time and to rectify problems in real time."

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18 MAR 2010 Cerf on internet without borders

VINTON Cerf clearly recalls something billionaire investor George Soros told him in 1994: "He said just because the internet is open now doesn't mean it will stay that way." That observation, Cerf says, holds as much today as it did in 1994, maybe even more so.

As one of the creators of the key technology behind the internet, Cerf has strong beliefs about the freedom people should have online. Yet increasingly governments, including Australia's, are taking steps to restrict full access to the medium.

Cerf says there may even come a day when the internet operates at two speeds, restricted and unrestricted, depending on which country you live in.

''I'm not sure it will be a terribly effective outcome but there may be people who want that,'' he says.

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16 MAR 2010 Link juice - how to make people link to your website

The battle to rank at the top of Google search results is fierce and mysterious. Nobody can or will unveil all the secrets. Still, search insiders agree that the credibility generated by outside links pointing to your small business site is vital. The more links the merrier, but calibre counts.

Classy links - from sites that the search giants respect - can rocket your ranking. Call the hot leads "link juice" - a phrase that went viral after search engine optimisation (SEO) consultant Greg Boser coined it with a little help from his friends in 2005.

"Initially, it was just a phrase we used amongst ourselves hanging out at conferences," Boser says. "I don't remember the exact point it went mainstream. But I think it was after an episode of SEO Rockstars," he adds, referring to the online marketing show.

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3 JAN 2010 Internet words form the language of 2moro

TRADITIONAL spellings could be killed off by the internet within a few decades, a language expert has claimed.

The advent of blogs and chat rooms meant that for the first time in centuries printed words were widely distributed without having been edited or proofread, said Professor David Crystal, of the University of Wales.

As a result, writers could spell words differently and their versions could enter common usage and become accepted by children.

Within a few decades, the spellings favoured by many internet users could replace the current, more complex versions, he said. Current spellings were standardised in the 18th century with the advent of dictionaries.

It could mean that internet slang - such as ''2moro'' instead of ''tomorrow'' or ''thx'' for ''thanks'' - may enter into mainstream publications. Professor Crystal, a pioneer of language theory, said many spellings bore no relation to meaning or pronunciation.

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18 SEP 2009 Google slams Murdoch plan to charge for online news

Publishers of general news would find it hard to charge for their content online because too much free content is available, the chief executive of Google said.

Speaking to a group of British broadcasting executives via video link, Eric Schmidt said he could, however, imagine niche providers of content such as business news succeeding in this area.

Schmidt was responding to an announcement by News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch that he could start charging for content online.

"In general these models have not worked for general public consumption because there are enough free sources that the marginal value of paying is not justified based on the incremental value of quantity," he said.

"So my guess is for niche and specialist markets ... it will be possible to do it but I think it is unlikely that you will be able to do it for all news."

Murdoch, whose press empire includes popular tabloids like the New York Post and Britain's Sun as well as The London Times, said in August he may start charging for access to news websites by the middle of next year.

The Wall Street Journal, bought by News Corp in 2007, is one of the few daily newspapers that makes people pay to read its news on the web.

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16 SEP 2009 Taming Your Digital Distractions

Is there any human invention more duplicitous than the personal computer? These machines were manufactured and initially marketed as devices to help us at work. We were told they would perform amazing feats of office derring-do — adding up rows of numbers effortlessly, turning our musings into beautiful magazine-quality documents, and letting us collaborate with one another across continents.

Boy, that turned out well, didn’t it? Sure, you could use your PC to analyze stats for the annual sales report due in two days. But hey, look at this — someone wants to be your friend on Facebook! And wait a second: A zany couple decided to start off their wedding by dancing down the aisle, and lucky for everyone, they posted the video on YouTube. And did you hear what that ignorant congressman just said about health care? Now you’ve got no choice but to spend the next five minutes crafting an impassioned tweet to express your outrage.

And so it goes: You get to your PC every morning with hours of productive time ahead of you. Next thing you know, it’s 5 p.m. and you’ve frittered the day away on Digg, Hulu, Wikipedia and your fantasy football league. And no wonder — how can anyone expect to get anything done when you’re plying your trade on one of the most distracting machines ever invented? With so much available on your PC — your friends, blogs, games and even TV shows — working in a modern office can often seem as rattling as working on the floor of a Las Vegas casino.

During the last few weeks, I’ve been using a slate of programs to tame these digital distractions. The apps break down into three broad categories. The most innocuous simply try to monitor my online habits in an effort to shame me into working more productively. Others reduce visual bells and whistles on my desktop as a way to keep me focused.


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30 APR 2009 How to get protection from Facebook grief

NICK ABRAHAMS April 30, 2009

Last week Telstra announced its social networking policy and we are now seeing an uptick in organisations wanting to follow suit.

Social Networking is not a fad that is going away, research company Nielsen reports that social networking and blogging is now the 4th most popular online activity (ahead of personal email) and is growing twice as fast as any of the other online activities. Facebook is visited monthly by 3 in every 10 people online. Therefore it is increasingly important that organisations make decisions about how to deal with social networking by employees.

According to a recent survey, 20% of Australian employers block access to social networking sites. Blocking is one way to deal with the issue, though it can have adverse impacts on both market competitiveness and on the employee group, especially if the organisation employs a lot of knowledge workers. This was the experience of one major UK law firm recently which blocked Facebook and was forced to unblock it 3 months later after adverse employee reaction.

An alternative to blocking is to manage employees' use of social networking sites by way of a specific policy. As mentioned, last week Telstra took a leadership position on this by launching an enterprise-wide social networking policy and I think ultimately most organisations will follow this lead.

Recently we have seen an increase in employers wanting to take action in relation to posts made by employees in social networking sites. Having a clear social networking policy is important in this regard, especially if employers are going to seek to caution or terminate employees based on posts on such sites.

All organisations should have an Email and Internet Policy. If not, then it can be difficult for the employer to legally look at employees' internet and email usage even in the event of fraud. The social networking policy can be an extension to this policy or a standalone policy. The length and severity of the policy depends on the nature of the business and the potential for risk as well as cultural and other issues. For example, an advertising agency's policy will differ from a bank's policy.

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23 JUL 2008 Crowd-sourcing the eCar

A Finnish internet community is seeking to apply the collective approach taken by online collaborators like the authors of Wikipedia to start converting used petrol-fuelled cars to electric ones, with the first roll-out due this year.

The Finnish-language forum, " eCars - Now!" claims to be first of its kind in the world, and wants to provide an alternative to what its members perceive as foot-dragging in the oil and auto industries.

The group is working in the tradition of "open source" projects laid down by information technology - like the Linux computer operating system which was started by a Finn and challenged Microsoft's dominance.

"If we succeed very well it will create similar projects across the world with whom we can share what we know," said project participant Jukka Jarvinen, adding that a similar scheme was launching in Denmark.

"We're hoping to create a global movement."

Electric cars have struggled to shake off a quirky image with tiny sales of often fantastical vehicles at prohibitive prices, or economy-sized "golf carts" with limited range.

But because they are charged from the power grid and make more efficient use of energy, they produce fewer emissions and are seen as a promising clean-air alternative to petrol-powered vehicles.

When it comes to promises, auto-makers are keen to capitalise on mounting consumer concern about high gasoline prices which is prompting trade-ins of gas-guzzling SUVs.

Chrysler LLC was one of the latest to say it plans to launch all-electric vehicles in the next three to five years.

General Motors is rushing to complete the design of its Chevy Volt, which is a plug-in hybrid, Mitsubishi Motors plans to launch its electric compact car "i-MiEV" in Japan in 2009, and in Europe Daimler's electric Smart and Mercedes models are touted for 2010.

But the Finnish group offers an outlet for fans who have so far been disappointed by the car industry. Some experts say it will still take 5-10 years for alternatives to petrol-fuelled cars to take root, given the capacity challenge for an auto industry that is adding 65 million new cars a year to a fleet of 1 billion.

Open Source

The group is starting small. It has identified demand for more than 500 electric conversions in Finland and its website aims to begin introducing potential buyers to sellers of suitable used cars and components, and mechanics who can make the conversion with an electric motor and lithium batteries.

Its first conversion model will be a Toyota Corolla - it aims to produce a few dozen finished eCorollas this year - which it says would have a range of 150 kilometers per charge and a top speed of 120 km/h.

This compares with Oslo-based specialist car producer Think's model City, which travels up to 180 kilometers with a top speed of 100 km/h.

The forum expects the used car and mechanics' work in total to cost roughly $US38,000, close to the price of a new Corolla in Finland, and will make the conversions using commercially available components.

On the forum, participants feed ideas to the site's discussion boards and email lists, the best of which the non-profit community will put into use.

The community believes 500 orders would be sufficient for mass conversions: Think plans a batch of 8,000 electric cars next year at 20,000 euros each.

Its experts are volunteers who negotiate prices for the components and car conversions. End-users will pay for the car, the component costs and the mechanic.

"We are not trying to jealously build any sort of corporation out of this," Jarvinen said. "This kind of an unorganized organism that grows in small cells across the world cannot be bought out."


The old common problem of electric cars - heavy batteries with a limited life-span - has mostly been overcome with lithium battery technology, although limits to the range remain.

Infrastructure for power is a hurdle: there are few public spots where one can charge an electric car in Finland, but they can also be charged at home.

Renault and Nissan have signed a deal with Portugal to make the country one of the first to offer consumers the possibility of nationwide electric car charging stations. The two makers have also said they will mass-market electric cars in Israel and Denmark in 2011.

The e-group's intentions are good, says researcher Juhani Laurikko of the Technical Research Centre of Finland, but they are not yet approaching the issue in a sustainable way.

"Frankly, there is not much potential here, but these are moves in the right direction. Converting petrol-fuelled cars that are only a few years old is a waste of natural resources," he said.

"I would rather see conversions done on used cars older than 10 years with older petrol-engine technology."

The community says it is best for the electric car's image to start with new cars rather than tired models.

Finland's Vehicle Administration said the community's cars could be admitted to the roads in Finland.

"They may well be admitted, as long as they fulfil the legally set criteria," said Erik Asplund, senior officer at the vehicle inspection unit. "There are a few of these criteria but probably nothing that couldn't be overcome."

Source or read on...

Update: Go to the eCars Now website...

6 MAY 2008 Google launches security group for open source

By Dan Goodin in San Francisco + More by this author oCERT to make the world safe for GPL

Google is spearheading a volunteer workforce it hopes will become the centralized authority for responding to security issues in open source software.

oCERT, short for the open source computer emergency response team, will aim to remediate security vulnerabilities and exploits in a wide range of open source programs by coordinating communication among publishers. According to Google's security blog, the group "will strive to contact software authors with all security reports and aid in debugging and patching, especially in cases where the author, or the reporter, doesn't have a background in security."

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3 JAN 2008 Wikia social search engine set for launch

Edmund Tadros January 3, 2008 - 11:34AM

A new collaborative approach to the field of search and potential rival to Google will be launched next week by the founder of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says the goal of Wikia Search is to let volunteers improve search technology collectively, the way Wikipedia lets anyone add or change entries, regardless of expertise.

"That reduces the sort of bottleneck of two or three firms really controlling the flow of search traffic," said Wales, chairman of Wikia Inc., the for-profit venture behind the search project.

Wikia Search will be opened to the general public on January 7 after weeks of invitation-only testing.

Wales has said that current search engines - such as Yahoo and Google - are opaque services that don't explain how results are arrived at, IDG News reported.

AAP reports: Wales said taking the site won't dethrone Google Inc. or another major search engine - at least not soon.

Engineers at Google and other search companies continually tweak their complex software algorithms to improve results and fight spammers - those who try to artificially boost the rankings of their own sites. Search companies have not disclosed many details to avoid tipping off competitors and spammers.

Wales' approach would open that process. Initially, participants will help make such decisions as whether a site on "Paris Hilton" refers to the celebrity or a French hotel.

Wikia Search has assembled the basic technologies for a search engine, including a search application, search algorithm and Web crawler, according to IDG News.

The Search Wikia Labs website states that the future of internet search must be based upon transparency, community, quality and privacy.

Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of the industry Web site Search Engine Land, has his doubts. Finding all the web ites to index and staying ahead of spammers are huge undertakings, Sullivan said.

"I think he doesn't really understand the scale of what Google has to handle in terms of the queries from around the world and the amount of traffic that flows to it and the attempts that are made to try to manipulate it," Sullivan said.

Wales said the project would launch with about 50 million to 100 million Web pages indexed, a fraction of the billions available with major search engines.

Even as Wales tries to challenge search, Google has announced a project that could challenge Wikipedia. Google's version, called knol, will differ from Wikipedia by identifying who wrote each article and giving authors a chance to share in Google's advertising revenue.

With AP

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31 DEC 2007 Netscape browser consigned to history

Netscape Navigator, the world's first commercial Web browser and the launch pad of the Internet boom, will be pulled off life support Feb. 1 after a 13-year run.

Its current caretakers, Time Warner's AOL, decided to kill further development and technical support to focus on growing the company as an advertising business. Netscape's usage dwindled with Microsoft Corp.'s entry into the browser business, and Netscape all but faded away following the birth of its open-source cousin, Firefox.

"While internal groups within AOL have invested a great deal of time and energy in attempting to revive Netscape Navigator, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer," Netscape Director Tom Drapeau wrote in a blog entry Friday.

In recent years, Netscape has been little more than a repackaged version of the more popular Firefox, which commands about 10 percent of the Web browser market, with almost all of the rest going to Internet Explorer.

People will still be able to download and use the Netscape browser indefinitely, but AOL will stop releasing security and other updates on February 1. Drapeau recommended that the small pool of Netscape users download Firefox instead.

A separate Netscape Web portal, which has had several incarnations in recent years, will continue to operate.

The World Wide Web was but a few years old when in April 1993 a team at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications released Mosaic, the first Web browser to integrate images and sound with words. Before Mosaic, access to the Internet and the Web was largely limited to text, with any graphics displayed in separate windows.

Marc Andreessen and many of his university colleagues soon left to form a company tasked with commercialising the browser. The first version of Netscape came out in late 1994.

Netscape fed the gold-rush atmosphere with a landmark initial public offering of stock in August 1995. Netscape's stock carried a then-steep IPO price of $US28 per share, a price that doubled on opening day to give the startup a $2 billion market value even though it had only $US20 million in sales.

But Netscape's success also drew the attention of Microsoft, which quickly won market share by giving away its Internet Explorer browser for free with its flagship Windows operating system. The bundling prompted a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit and later a settlement with Microsoft.

Netscape eventually dropped fees for the software, but it was too late. Undone by IE, Netscape sold itself to AOL in a $US10 billion deal completed in early 1999.

Netscape spawned an open-source project called Mozilla, in which developers from around the world freely contribute to writing and testing the software. Mozilla released its standalone browser, Firefox, and Netscape was never able to regain its former footing.


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28 DEC 2007 Networking in the virtual world

Online social networking websites saw their ranks swell and values soar this year as everyone from moody teenagers and mellow music lovers to mate-seeking seniors joined online communities.

Google's freshly released "Zeitgeist 2007" reveals that seven out of the 10 hottest topics which triggered Internet queries during the year involved social networking.

A Top Ten list compiled by the world's most-used search engine includes British website Badoo, Spanish-language Hi5, and US-based Facebook.

Video-sharing websites YouTube and Dailymotion are on the list, along with the Club Penguin online role playing game where children pretending to be the flightless birds "waddle about and play" together.

Read on....

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16 APR 2007 Scrap the internet, start over

The Age April 16, 2007 - 2:51PM

Although it has already taken nearly four decades to get this far in building the internet, some university researchers with the US federal government's blessing want to scrap all that and start over.

The idea may seem unthinkable, even absurd, but many believe a "clean slate" approach is the only way to truly address security, mobility and other challenges that have cropped up since UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock helped supervise the first exchange of meaningless test data between two machines on September 2, 1969.

The internet "works well in many situations but was designed for completely different assumptions," said Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a Rutgers University professor overseeing three clean-slate projects. "It's sort of a miracle that it continues to work well today."

No longer constrained by slow connections and computer processors and high costs for storage, researchers say the time has come to rethink the internet's underlying architecture, a move that could mean replacing networking equipment and rewriting software on computers to better channel future traffic over the existing pipes.

Even Vinton Cerf, one of the internet's founding fathers as co-developer of the key communications techniques, said the exercise was "generally healthy" because the current technology "does not satisfy all needs."


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27 MAR 2007 Get a Second Life, why don't you?

Graeme Philipson March 27, 2007

One of the most remarkable works of science fiction ever written is the Otherland trilogy, by Tad Williams. The first volume was published more than 10 years ago but it's remarkable how timely it is.

Williams writes about a virtual world, almost a parallel reality, that people can visit via the internet. In Williams' books this virtual world is a spooky place, where avatars, or virtual personas, become as real as living people, and where places and events assume an authenticity that competes with reality.

I couldn't finish the Otherland trilogy - it was too scary (I call it a trilogy, but in the true traditions of science fiction, Williams has written a fourth book in the series). But I can't help thinking of it whenever I enter Second Life, the virtual world that has become one of the web's most popular destinations.

You have probably heard of Second Life by now. It is five years old, but it's only in the last year that it has really taken off. In the past six months the number of registered users has exploded, from 1 million to 5 million.

The ABC's Four Corners even devoted a program to it last week. Thousands of Australians visit it regularly. Like Amazon and Google, Second Life is in the process of becoming one of the true phenomena of the internet age, a virtual reality that many people seem to prefer to the real world.

Visiting virtual cafes, holding witty conversations with attractive cartoon-like avatars, and flying over surreal landscapes that previously existed only in your dreams can be lots of fun. But not all the attention Second Life is attracting is favourable.

Many businesses have banned the site as a time-waster at work, even as corporations are flocking to set up their presence there. A number of companies, including Telstra Australia, have set up in Second Life as sort of soft-sell branding campaigns. Last week Calvin Klein launched a perfume there (though they haven't worked out how to transmit scents over the internet).

Politicians are holding meetings there. Reuters has established a news agency. You can find recruitment companies, escort agencies, games developers, and clothing designers. Not all of them add to the virtual experience.

There have even been market researchers at work in Second Life. German firm Komjuniti (it's pronounced "community") recently conducted a survey of 200 avatar-players in which three-quarters of them expressed disappointment with the commercialisation of the site. But nearly half also said that they thought it was a short-term phenomenon, because companies were not using the site properly.


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15 MAR 2007 Disney to launch website for parents

Disney announced Tuesday that it will launch a website for parents interested in sharing stories and finding answers to questions from potty training to sending children to uni.

Disney Online vice president Paul Yanover unveiled the website at a Digital Media gathering in Hollywood devoted to how the Internet was changing the way films and television shows are delivered.

A test version of DisneyFamily will debut by the end of the week, coming in the wake of the January launch of the iconic studio's overhauled children-oriented Extreme Digital (XD) website, according to Yanover. is "a place for parents to go online for all the answers they need," Yanover told a conference room of approximately 200 technology and entertainment industry executives and entrepreneurs.

"It could be simple things like getting their kids to sleep through the night or serious things like dealing with problems in high school."

The website has postings from "mommy bloggers," former professionals in areas such as finance that provide advice on related aspects of parenting.

It also has features ranging from film reviews to "baby date finders," a demonstration showed.

In the coming months, Disney will add a "Parentpedia" feature that will allow users to contribute their insights and knowledge to an online compendium of parenting knowledge.

"Parentpedia is a kind of wiki for parents," Yanover said. "We want to present a thousand topics with everything you need to know from the day your baby comes home from the hospital to the day your child goes off to college."

The children's website will also be enhanced this year with more channels and character-themed virtual worlds such as one in which users can pretend to be pirates in the spirit of "Pirates of the Caribbean."

In the two months since Disney launched its first virtual world, devoted to fairies in the spirit of its Tinkerbell character from "Peter Pan," users have created more than 700,000 custom animated online fairy characters.

"Disney has a treasure trove of story-driven experiences that we can turn into believable, immersive worlds that children and parents can get involved in," Yanover said.


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1 FEB 2007 Sweden plans embassy in Second Life

Sweden is to become the first country to establish diplomatic representation in the virtual reality world of Second Life, officials said.

"We are planning to establish a Swedish embassy in Second Life primarily as an information portal for Sweden," Swedish Institute (SI) director Olle Waestberg has told AFP.

The embassy would not provide passports or visas but would instruct visitors how to obtain such documents in the real world and act as a link to web-based information about the Scandinavian country.

"Second Life allows us to inform people about Sweden and broaden the opportunity for contact with Sweden easily and cheaply," Waestberg said.

The Swedish Institute is an agency of the Swedish foreign ministry tasked with informing the world about Sweden. The ministry fully backed the initiative, he added.

Second Life - a fantasy world inhabited by computer-generated residents (called avatars) created by San Francisco technology company Linden Lab - has attracted several real-world companies, including car manufacturers and sports clothing makers, which created 3-D stores.

While there were individuals in Second Life calling themselves the "Canadian Ambassador" and "The United States Embassy to Second Life", the Swedish initiative would however be the first officially sanctioned embassy in Second Life.

Waestberg hoped the embassy would open soon. In the longer term the Swedish Institute envisaged buying an island in the virtual world to create a home for Swedish companies.


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29 JAN 2007 YouTube to pay contributors

Ad share planned By John Oates Published Monday 29th January 2007 10:59 GMT

YouTube founder Chad Hurley says the company will soon start to share advertising revenue with users of the service who post popular videos.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday, Hurley gave no details of how this would be achieved or how much contributors would be paid.

Hurley told the Financial Times that the company had initially rejected paying for content because "we didn't feel it was a great way to build a community. We wanted to keep it pure".

But thanks to an audience which has grown since the company was taken over by Google, this had changed. Hurley said: "We are getting an audience large enough where we have an opportunity to support creativity, to foster creativity through sharing revenue with our users. So in the coming months we are going to be opening that up."

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10 JAN 2007 Apple enters living room

Nick Miller January 10, 2007

Apple CEO Steve Jobs' Macworld keynote was largely focused on the iPhone, but he also debuted the long-awaited Apple TV.

Available worldwide, including Australia, next month, the Apple TV stores music and high definition video in a small white box that connects directly to the TV.

It was previewed in September as the "iTV", but its final name was never confirmed until today.

The Apple TV syncs with iTunes just like an iPod, storing the data on an internal hard drive. It can also stream audio and video directly from the internet or from computers in a local network.

The Apple TV will cost $449 in Australia.

Jobs spent little time or emphasis on the Apple TV, partly because it had already been announced, but also because his thunder had been stolen days before by a competitor.

Microsoft's uber-nerd Bill Gates had used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to outline his vision for the "digital decade" in which "connected experiences" were the key.

Home media servers chock full of digital music and video, networked through the home, and high definition television delivered on-demand over the internet, were at the centre of Gates' strategy, which he described as a combination of hardware, software and the all-important service providers.

Most parts of the puzzle were already real, available products. Microsoft's Media Center software is several years old and about to launch its first major revision.

Also at CES, companies such as SlingBox and TiVo offered similar products aimed at recording TV and re-broadcasting it around the home or over the Internet.

Nick Miller was flown to San Francisco by Apple

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27 APR 2006 New internet game looks at the books

The French government is to launch an Internet game called Cyberbudget to help teach the public about the difficulties of balancing the country's books, Budget Minister Jean-Francois Cope said Wednesday.

In a speech announcing new arrangements for income tax collection, Cope said the game would be available online by the end of May.

"It is an idea which comes from Japan and we've adapted it for the public at large. Players have to take my place as budget minister, draw up the state budget and then manage it in the face of unforeseen circumstances. It should be a fun way to think about budget issues," he said.

Media reports said that up to 10,000 players will be able to take part simultaneously.

"The French want reforms but they gnash their teeth whenever it's a question of cutting costs. So this is a way of familiarising them with the budget," Cope told Le Parisien newspaper.

Virtual ministers will have to control some 300 billion euros ($498 billion) of expenditure, taking care to keep the annual deficit within three percent and overall debt within 60 percent of output in accordance with EU rules.


19 APR 2006 The rise of the blogger

Bloggers and internet pundits are exerting a "disproportionately large influence" on society, a report by technology researchers says.

The study suggests that while "active" web users make up only a small proportion of Europe's online population, they are increasingly dominating public conversations and creating business trends.

More than half of the continent's internet users are passive and do not contribute to the web at all, while a further

23 per cent only respond when prompted. But the remainder who do engage with the net - through message boards, websites and blogs - are helping change national conversations, the study says.

"We're seeing this growing," said Julian Smith, an online advertising analyst with JupiterResearch and author of the report.

"The strongest part of their influence is on the media: if something online suddenly becomes a story in the local press, then it matters."

Although unprompted contributors were generally younger and more vocal than the wider online population, they were increasingly important as opinion formers and trendsetters. Mr Smith said businesses, media organisations and advertisers reading blogs should be wary of making assumptions about their wider significance but that their muscle could not be ignored.

"They're not representative of the larger audience, but what they're saying does matter," he said. "It's a good straw poll - a snapshot of the verbal conversations going on that we can't measure."

"That's exactly right," said Glenn Reynolds, author of An Army of Davids, which explores the explosion in web punditry. "Bloggers and blog readers are 'influentials' - the minority that pays attention to events outside of political and news cycles. They also tend on average to be better off, better educated and, more importantly, employed."

There are now more than 35 million blogs worldwide, according to the search engine Technorati. While most bloggers only write for small audiences, they can sometimes achieve wider fame or become the focus of consumer campaigns.

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6 FEB 2006 Net prices set for rise

Paul Osborne

FEBRUARY 06, 2006

FAMILIES, schools and businesses are set to face a hike in broadband internet prices, experts say.

Telstra announced last week that it would increase the price it charges its competitors to access the copper lines between households and telephone exchanges. Companies such as Optus and iiNet currently pay about $22 a line per month in city areas and $100 in rural areas.

But Telstra said the new price for its unconditioned local loop (ULL), as it is known, would be a national average of $30 a month.

The decision to introduce the new price within two months pre-empted a review of ULL pricing by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), initiated by Prime Minister John Howard last year.

The ACCC has argued for a range of prices, from $7 in city central business districts to $13 per customer per month in city suburbs and $144 in rural areas.

But Telstra says the ACCC proposal would cost it about $1 billion in revenue.

Communications analyst Paul Budde said under the Telstra plan internet users could expect higher prices in the city, but lower prices in rural areas.

"The increase in the all-important metro market varies between 230 per cent and 36 per cent, and obviously this will have to be passed on to consumers in these markets," Mr Budde said.

"The price does mean a decrease for rural charges."

Mr Budde said the move would undermine competition in city areas, which the government is trying to encourage in the lead-up to Telstra's full sale.

"The key of the wholesale and competition policy of the government is to make sure that better prices and innovations in metro markets are secured through increased competition, while the $3 billion fund for regional infrastructure should secure good broadband services in those areas," he said.

"Telstra's strategy is squarely aimed at undermining the competition where it is hurting them the most - in metro Australia."

The Competitive Carriers Coalition, which represents Telstra's competition, estimated the rise in broadband cost in the city to be around $10 a month.

An Optus spokesperson said the move was not justified.

"It is outrageous of Telstra to increase ULL to $30 in circumstances where the ACCC has not approved an undertaking at that price and while there are other disputes on foot," the spokeswoman said.

A spokeswoman for Telstra said the $30 average price was fair and would ensure parity of service and price nationwide.


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26 JAN 2006 Report confounds net critics

Stephen Collinson JANUARY 26, 2006 THE internet has not torn apart society, and families and friendships, as some dissidents of the online revolution predicted, a new report has found.

Far from driving people apart, a new survey published by The Pew Internet and American Life project found that new tools for email, online phone calls, webcams and instant messaging are bringing them closer.

The research, one of the first studies to uncover such a trend, finds people are increasingly turning to the net for help at a crisis point in life, or to seek a new job or home.

"There has been a growing realisation the internet is not this strange beast," University of Toronto sociologist Barry Wellman said who helped prepare the report said.

The report, The Strength of Internet Ties, finds that rather than supplanting contact with others, the internet, largely through email, fits into people's lives and makes it easier to stay in touch.

"The larger, the more far-flung, and the more diverse a person's network, the more important email is," report co-author and University of Toronto researcher Jeffrey Boase, said

"You can't make phone calls or personal visits to all your friends very often, but you can 'cc' them regularly with a couple of keystrokes. That turns out to be very important."

The Pew report finds that people "mobilise" their social networks when they face problems or important decisions.

"When you need help these days, you don't need a bugle to call the cavalry, you need a big buddy list," John Horrigan associate director for research at the Pew Internet Project said.

Mr Wellman argues the internet and the mobile phone have transformed communications and led to what he calls "networked individualism" whereby people's social lives are not necessarily constrained by where they live.

"This creates a new basis for community. Rather than relying on a single community for social support, individuals often must actively seek out a variety of appropriate people and resources for different situations," Mr Wellman said.

The report cites Pew research that shows that 45 per cent of internet users in the US - about 60 million Americans - say the web has been an important, or critical factor in a major decision in the last two years.

The research found people had used the web to get career training, research an illness from which a friend or relative was suffering, choose a school for their child or buy a car.

Some 16 million people said the web had played a crucial or important role in making a major financial decision, while 10 million said the internet had played a crucial or important role in finding a new place to live.

Agence France-Presse

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10 JAN 2006 Net speeds off the pace

James Riley

JANUARY 10, 2006

BROADBAND internet connections in homes and small businesses have doubled in the past 12 months, but critics warn that Australians are being lumbered with a snail's-pace service, compared with the rest of the advanced world.

More than 1.2million new customers signed up for high-speed internet services last year, with a 20 per cent increase in the September quarter, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reports in a survey released yesterday.

Australia's market penetration for broadband is improving by international standards but is well below the leaders. And just as Australia sheds its reputation as a laggard in adopting high-speed internet services, experts now say the broadband we have is too slow, far behind accepted speeds in the rest of the developed world.

Industry consultant Paul Budde says while many advance nations regard broadband as a data transfer speed of 4 megabits per second, Australia defines speeds as slow as 256 kilobits -- 16 times slower -- as broadband.

"What is happening in other countries is a move to much faster broadband speeds and that's where we are now lagging behind," he said. "While the rest of the world is now enjoying internet telephony and TV, we are still to make that leap to higher speeds."

The latest survey has renewed the debate between Telstra and the regulator over how the next generation of high-speed internet should be introduced.

The ACCC's quarterly Snapshot of Broadband Deployment reports there were nearly 2.6million broadband services connected in Australia at the end of September last year.

The survey does not distinguish between business and residential connections, although the ACCC says services into homes would represent more than one million of the new broadband customers.

"As with the results of the previous quarter, this represents an increase of over one million customers, or 98 per cent, over the preceding 12-month period," ACCC commissioner Ed Willett said. "This outcome continues the growth of broadband take-up that was stimulated by a more competitive broadband market that emerged during 2004-2005."

But Telstra said these customers were already starting to demand faster services, such as movie downloads, that cannot be offered using current technology.

"Let's remember it was Telstra that kickstarted this boom by lowering prices -- and that drew nothing but criticism from the ACCC," said Telstra spokesman Rod Bruem. "What Australia needs to do to keep up with the rest of the world is a fibre rollout as Telstra has proposed.

"But Telstra can't proceed with a fibre rollout under current laws. So the broadband numbers announced today are a bit of an illusion, because as soon as customers start to demand these new kinds of high-speed services, they are going to run into roadblocks."

Telstra has proposed a multi-billion-dollar rollout of fibre to the home to give customers much faster download speeds for multimedia services, but it wants government to give it regulatory conditions that will guarantee a profit return on the investment.

Australia's demand for faster downloads seems tepid compared with other developed nations.

Korea is ranked first, with 25.5 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, followed by The Netherlands (22.5), Denmark (21.8), Iceland (21.7) and Switzerland (20.3). Australia had 10.9 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants at June 30, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The Australian

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20 DEC 2005 US online sales show healthy gains

US online retail sales showed strong gains for the 2005 holiday season, according to two surveys released as the period for internet purchases drew to a close.

Shoppers spent $US18.6 billion ($A25.18 billion) through December 9, up 16 per cent from the corresponding period in 2004, according to a survey of 1000 shoppers by Goldman Sachs with Nielsen/NetRatings and Harris Interactive.

A separate survey released on Sunday by comScore Networks showed a 23 per cent gain in the period through December 16, to $US15.86 billion.

ComScore said the survey suggested overall online spending for the holiday season would top $US19 billion dollars.

"Apparel and consumer electronics are consistently among the most popular gifts purchased during the holidays, resulting in the largest share of online revenue," said Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst, Nielsen/NetRatings.

"Additionally, sales in the computer hardware category have been fuelled by aggressive discounting on items, such as PCs and laptops."

According to comScore, the biggest shopping day for the internet was December 12, with $US556 million in sales, followed by December 13, with $US554 million.

Although some had predicted a surge in sales at the start of the season on November 29 - dubbed 'Black Monday' - comScore said this was the ninth largest day for sales at $US484 million.

Based on figures so far, comScore said online sales for all of 2005 will be up 24 per cent at $US82.7 billion.

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20 DEC 2005 Wikipedia plans secure version

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, is to introduce a fixed version to counter potential abuse of its live content, founder Jimmy Wales has told the Financial Times.

"What we are doing in the long run is pursuing a model of having stable versions and live versions," Wales told the British business daily on Monday.

"The stable version will have been reviewed so we can say we have some confidence in that; it would be an integrated part of the website."

For Wikipedia's detractors, the fact that anyone can change the information renders it unreliable.

Wikipedia came under criticism when a spoof biography was posted on its site this year purporting to be that of John Siegenthaler, a retired journalist who was an aide in the 1960s to US attorney-general Robert Kennedy.

The joke entry said: "For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven."

But the British science journal Nature said last week it came close in accuracy to the paid-for Encyclopaedia Britannica in its articles on science.

Founded in 2001, Wikipedia is an "open source" of information that asks its users to write, edit and update entries.

Wikipedia has more than two million articles, including over 850,000 in English. It has sites in 200 languages, 10 with more than 50,000 articles - in English, German, French, Japanese, Polish, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish.

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12 DEC 2005 Dalai Lama launches personal website

Self-exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has launched a personal website to spread his message of world peace and take questions via email.

The website was inaugurated on Sunday, the International Human Rights Day and the 16th anniversary of his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.

"The website is not to promote the Dalai Lama himself. It is to reach out to the world with his message of love, peace and compassion and universal responsibility," a team member, who designed the website, said.

His messages have been posted both in English and Tibetan and questions can be emailed directly to the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan government-in-exile, based in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh state, had also launched an Arabic version of its official website, the team member said.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet and crossed over to neighbouring India in 1959 after the collapse of the resistance movement opposed to the 1950 Chinese invasion.

China has maintained that Tibet is a province of the country and that the invasion saved people from feudal oppression.

Beijing formally established a Tibetan Autonomous Region in 1965, but the Dalai Lama says there is no real autonomy and seeks greater rights for its six million people.

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28 JUL 2004 REVIEW: Going to the top of the search tree

By Philippa Yelland

You would be forgiven for thinking, based on the title, that this book helps to Google faster for bigger, better, cheaper widgets. But it's for web publishers and designers, not surfers, and they're not dummies.

Peter Kent is an e-commerce consultant. He gets paid, as the title goes on to say, for "making your website a favourite with all the top search engines".

The content is as applicable to large commercial sites as it is to family home pages or charity sites.

At $44.95, it is an excellent value-for-money reference tool with detailed descriptions, good lists of resources and web addresses in many categories.

It will help you whether you hand-code your HTML, use a Macromedia product such as Dreamweaver, or upload pages directly from Microsoft Word, Netscape or Mozilla.

But you must have at least a working knowledge of HTML and be comfortable with tags and their structure. An understanding of style-sheets, tables, frames and graphics as website design elements would also help.

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27 JUL 2004 FEATURE: Helping the little guys

Occasionally, when I'm reconfiguring a home network or computer system for family or friends, I wonder to myself: how do small businesses do it?

Organisations with a dozen computers and no money for a full-time administrator keep their network running through an invisible army of IT support staff, most of them unpaid.

Many members of this IT support army volunteer for the job, like me, to help friends and neighbours. Many thousands more are professionals, hardened veterans who are paid to fix people's PCs - mostly in one-person firms.

Take Lynn Pollock, a veteran of a dozen years in the computer business. He started by teaching classes in basic PC skills, then began charging a fee to fix what people broke.

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27 JUL 2004 OPINION: Hot tip in Microsoft mag: drop the lost Explorer

There is an alternative. It is called Firefox. I have been using it for a month and I can't envisage ever returning to Internet Explorer.

Firefox comes from the Mozilla people, who have had an open source browser of that name available for many years. I have occasionally used Mozilla but its advantages over Internet Explorer were not sufficient to lure me across permanently. Firefox is different, and it already has Microsoft worried.

You might say the chickens have come home to roost. It was Microsoft's decision to bundle Internet Explorer with Windows that was the primary cause of the US Department of Justice's anti-trust suit of recent years. Microsoft was found to have behaved improperly and given a severe slap on the wrists, but not before its tactics had ensured the virtual disappearance of Netscape Navigator, its erstwhile competitor in the browser stakes. It is one of the great scandals of the modern era that Microsoft's unethical and illegal behaviour has been rewarded rather than punished.

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20 JUL 2004 FEATURE: The wolves at Grandma's door

The way Grandma drives her PC is a menace to society - even though she doesn't know it. Broadband with no firewall or virus protection means the average home PC could be a virtual safe-haven for criminals - everyone from terrorists to pedophiles. Steve Bittinger, a research director at the Gartner Group IT analyst company, says society needs to be retrained - perhaps even licensed - in safe internet use.

The problem started with the original PC in the mid-1980s, conceived as an island work-station for individuals. Networking, and the internet, were an afterthought. Twenty years of personal computing later, teaching the community about which programs might be harmful is proving difficult, and one of the IT industry's most pressing concerns.

Gartner's long-standing recommendation on IT security training budgets is worth repeating. Big company system administrators need 30 per cent of the security education budget spent on them, so they can configure their networks properly. Corporate developers need 30 per cent, to avoid encoding common vulnerabilities. And 30 per cent should be spent on executives, so they understand the security implications of their decisions. Everyone else, Gartner says, should be serviced with the remaining 10 per cent, perhaps via e-learning.

But Tracey Fellows, Microsoft's director of business and marketing operations, says the challenge is to get smaller companies to take IT security education seriously.

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