The  Imbecile's  Guide  to  Computers  and  the  Internet


Ben  releases  another  fish  wrapper


Copyright  ©2011




FOREWORD



Who was the first computer programmer?
Eve - she had an Apple in one hand and a Wang in the other.


We use computers for a number of things: to write ridiculous books (like this one), to send/receive messages to/from friends and total strangers, to download music and videos, to buy and sell things, and to obtain information from the Internet. If you want to learn about the Internet, just ask its inventor, Al Gore. But seriously, the Internet started out during the Nixon administration as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANet). It was funded mainly by U.S. military sources. Eventually the ARPANet became the Internet because military applications weren't considered to be as important as jokes and porn.

Today's computers have processing capacities and storage capabilities that surpass anything we might have imagined in my day. A typical home computer can store literally trillions of bits of data. When I was a kid, hand-held calculators were a modern marvel, and a bargain at only $190!

Computers have come a long way. I remember using a PDP-8, entering machine language instructions bit by bit with levers and getting the results on punched paper tape. But I won't bore you with those details, because this book is about computers that were built after the Industrial Revolution.

You might be asking why I would write a book about computers when so many other books have already been written about them. Well, I offer one thing that other authors don't: brevity. You see, most books have more words than mine do. They tend to contain unnecessary baggage like tables of contents, page numbers, publisher information, hard covers, etc. As a result they can weigh upwards of half a pound or more. They are also read by a lot more people than mine are, so a lot more copies have to be printed. What a waste of trees! My three-ounce pamphlets, of which only a few dozen exist, are kinder to the environment and save you the trouble of having to learn anything.

By the way, in this book I mention a number of Web sites, some of which might no longer exist by the time you get around to visiting them. If this annoys you, return the book and I'll refund whatever you paid for it. You cheap bastard.


Chapter 1

BUYING  A  COMPUTER


What do you get when you cross a Macintosh with a Jewish woman? A computer that never goes down on you.


Companies such as Dell, Sony and Hewlett Packard are making some great hardware, but the company that built the machine isn't as important, from a user's (i.e., idiot's) standpoint, as the operating system. Microsoft Windows is the most commonly used and widely known operating system. You might have XP, ME, NT or whatever, but they are all flavors of Windows. This is the environment that provides Outlook, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer and other nice programs, and waits until you're right in the middle of something very important to freeze on you. Then all you have to do is curse, reboot, and spend the better part of your weekend re-entering your data.

The first thing you need when using a computer is ... a computer. Go to any computer store, and bring a computer-savvy friend with you. The store will have employees to help you, but they are often smug know-it-alls who do not know it all. Don't give them a chance to steer you wrong. If you don't have a computer-savvy friend – or any friends at all – then here's a quick buyers guide.

There are all levels of speed and cost, but for morons like us, who use our computers mainly to send electronic mail (e-mail) and write stupid books, the low end is fine. I won't confuse you by listing and describing all the internal parts, but there are certain minimums you want in your computer:

All right, that's it for minimums. Other things that would be nice to have are a floppy disk drive and a DVD (digital versatile disk) drive. Floppy disks have fallen out of favor since CDs came along so you can probably get along without a floppy disk drive. A DVD drive will enable you to watch DVD movies, and I can think of no better use for a $900 computer than to watch Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Speaking of watching, you'll need a monitor. This holds the screen that displays your data. There are different types of screen technologies. A CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor will be bulky and heavy; while an LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor will be thin and light (but more expensive). Laptop computers use LCD displays. Speaking of laptops, I know nothing about them because I'm too lazy to do the research. As far as I'm concerned, a laptop is something an exotic dancer sits on while I put dollar bills between her breasts.

I recommend a flat screen (to reduce glare) and a size of least 17 inches. Oh, and when it comes to measuring CRT monitors, companies deceive us by measuring the case that holds the screen, not the screen itself, so a 17-inch screen might have a viewable area of only 15 inches. Plus they measure it diagonally, just like the con artists in the television industry. So the screen of a 17-inch monitor with a 15-inch viewable area might only measure 9 by 12 inches. Why this blatant dishonesty about size? Because monitors are marketed by men.

There are myriad accessories you can get that will connect to your computer. Let’s look at two of them.

A printer will print data and pictures on paper. Ink jet printers are very cheap -- you can get a decent one that prints in color for $50. The drawback with ink is that it's water soluble, so if it gets wet it will smudge. I learned this the hard way while holding a printout of Pamela Anderson. Laser jet printers use toner, which is not water soluble, but they cost considerably more. Both ink and toner periodically run out, and new cartridges are expensive! There are companies that sell cartridge refill kits, but they don't always work because printer companies are always redesigning their cartridges to thwart refill attempts. The bastards.

A scanner allows you to make color images of things and store them in digital format on your computer. You can then view them on your monitor, print them, or send them to friends via e-mail. I love my scanner except for the fact that it's too small to photocopy my ass, so I had to go to Kinko's to do it, and let me tell you, those people waiting in line behind me had no sense of humor.


Chapter 2

DEFINITIONS


Computer termDaffynition
consoleWhat one does to a "down" computer.
cursorAn expert in 4-letter words.
keyboardAn instrument used for typing errors.
loopSee "loop".
machine-independentWill not run on any machine.
passwordNonsense word taped to your terminal.


There is a lot of confusing technical jargon such as memory, motherboard, microprocessor, and mouse. We'll learn a few of these but, as usual, I'll keep you ignorant because I'm ignorant.

A microprocessor is a computer processor on a microchip. It is the "engine" that goes into motion when you turn your computer on. It's designed to perform arithmetic and logic operations.

Memory – short for random access memory (RAM) – is the place in a computer where data in current use are kept so that they can be quickly reached by the microprocessor. RAM is much faster to read from and write to than the other kinds of storage (hard drive, floppy disk, CDROM, etc).

A motherboard is a planar surface containing the computer's basic circuitry, as well as the microprocessor and memory.

What is the Web? Well, there is a vast, intricate network of computers and fiber optic cables across the globe that compose something called the Internet. Anyone on the Internet can, theoretically, communicate with anyone else on it. Data is shared between computers via protocols, which are special sets of rules for communication. One particular protocol, called the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), enables the exchange of text, images, sound and video, and also enables files to contain references to other files. All of the data connected via HTTP is called the Web. When you look at pages of data, these are "Web pages". There are gargantuan amounts of information on the Web, and some of it is good. The other 97% is bullshit.

Each Web page has a URL (uniform resource locator), which is its address. For example, my beer book is located at http://www.benbrew.com/beerbook.html. The http:// portion means that it uses the HTTP protocol; www.benbrew.com is the domain name, which points to a directory at a numerical address; and anything after the single slash (beerbook.html in this case) indicates a particular file under that directory. Note that some Internet resources can be accessed via different protocols. For example, ftp://www.foo.com/something is accessed via the FTP protocol. What this means I have no idea.

Web pages are accessed with a Web browser, described in chapter 4. All you have to do to access a Web page is type its URL into a browser's URL bar, which is a text box at the top. It is not necessary to type the http:// portion of a URL; if no protocol is typed, http:// is assumed. For example, to access my beer book, you need only type www.benbrew.com/beerbook.html.

A URL is merely a textual representation of a numeric address, called an IP address (IP stands for Internet Protocol). Under the current decades-old addressing system, called Internet Protocol Version 4 (Ipv4), an IP address is a series of 4 numbers, each in the range of 0-255. There are therefore 2564 or 4,294,967,296 possible addresses. Believe it or not, this is not enough: with all the new computers being added to the Internet, we are running out of addresses. Furthermore, there are plans to assign IP addresses to household appliances so consumers can operate them remotely. This could revolutionize the way we live. For example, you could take a shit, then flush the toilet from your computer. Of course, why anyone would want to do this is beyond me. Okay, here's a more practical example: before leaving for work, you put a raw turkey that takes three hours to cook into the unheated oven. At 3:00 p.m. you turn on the oven remotely from your office so that the turkey will be cooked by 6:00. This is much simpler than the old method, which was for a man to phone his wife telling her to start baking, with her telling him to stick a particular digit where there is no sunlight. Anyway, there are more people than there are Ipv4 addresses, and with the possibility of having several IP addresses per person, another addressing system, called Internet Protocol Version 6 (Ipv6), will replace Ipv4. Under Ipv6, there will be 4,294,967,296 to the 4th power, or 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 possible addresses, which means that there would be one for every woman that Bill Clinton has sexually harassed. No, really, every grain of sand on Earth could have its own IP address. There is an experimental worldwide network for testing IPv6. It's called "6bone", which stands for "IPv6 backbone". This has gotten its inventors into trouble ("Hey, you wanna connect with my 6bone?")

We hear "download" a lot. In the old days, download was a term you used when you took a dump, as in, "I have to download." In computer jargon, download means to copy data from the Internet (i.e., another computer) to your computer. Now when we defecate we have to use other terms such as "drop the kids at the pool" and "honk out a dirt snake".


Chapter 3

GETTING  CONNECTED


A man was crossing the road one day when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess." He bent over, picked up the frog, and put it in his pocket. The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week." The man took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it, and returned it to the pocket. The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll stay with you for a week and do ANYTHING you want." Again the man took the frog out, smiled at it, and put it back into his pocket. Finally the frog asked, "What is it? I've told you I'm a beautiful princess, that I'll stay with you for a week and do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?" The man said, "Look, I'm a computer programmer. I don't have time for girlfriends or sex, but a talking frog is really cool."


In order to get "online", you will need an Internet service provider (ISP). Companies such as Verizon, Comcast, and many others will enable you to connect to the outside world for a monthly fee. Some connections are faster than others. Dial-up, which uses a telephone jack, is the slowest. Not only that, it ties up your phone line while you're connected. I recommend a faster connection such as cable or fiber optics if it's available. It enables you to browse the Web and send e-mail at very high speed while not losing use of your phone. The reason you need speed is that most Web sites have graphics that take a lot longer to download than text does, so connection speed is very important. Especially when downloading porn.

If you don't want to pay for online service, or even a computer for that matter, then just go to your local library and surf the Web for free. You cheap shit.

There are wireless handheld devices that allow you to connect to the Internet via satellite. Many cell phones even do this! Now I feel even stupider than I did before. I mean, I can barely figure out how to make calls with my cell phone, while 10-year-olds are using theirs to send text messages and write doctoral theses.

Hey, I just thought of something: theses rhymes with feces!


Chapter 4

STUFF  YOU  CAN  DO


A man was in his yard mowing the grass when his blonde neighbor came out of her house, went to her mailbox, opened it, slammed it shut and stormed back into the house. A little later she came out and did the same thing. When she finally came out a third time, he went over to her as she was slamming the mailbox shut and asked, "Is something wrong?" She replied, "There certainly is! My stupid new computer keeps saying that I've got mail!"


It's astounding how much you can do with a computer and Internet connectivity. Want to find a car without having to drive to a dealership? Want to locate and reserve a book without going to the library? How about filing taxes, ordering stuff through the mail, or getting the best rate on a loan? All of these can be done online, without any means of transportation, a telephone, or a pen. And if you don't have a TV or a radio, you can listen to online radio stations or watch videos. You can even take classes online. That's how I got my masters degree. It saved me from having to go to Guadalajara.

The Web can be explored using a program called a Web browser. There are several to choose from. Internet Explorer (by Microsoft) is the most popular and your computer probably came with it already loaded. Other browsers such as Opera and Firefox are good too. You can search for particular information, which would be the responsible thing to do; or you can Web surf, which simply means to explore the Web without a predefined agenda. In other words, to wander aimlessly, like going to the mall except without getting a single iota of exercise. Millions of Americans do this every day. No wonder they're mostly fat, low-grade sloths who actually consider American Idol to be good programming.

"Web surfing" is an oxymoron. When we hear the word "surfing" we might envision a slim, athletic person "catching a wave", "shooting the curl", or whatever jargon surfers use. Web surfing is anything but that. Virtually anyone can do it: obese people, heart patients, thieves, pedophiles, morons. But enough about Congress.

As I mentioned, the responsible way to use a browser is to search for something in particular. The way to find information is to use a search engine, which is a program hooked to a database with information about millions of Web sites. There are many search engines. Two of the best ones are Yahoo (http://search.yahoo.com) and Google (http://www.google.com). Go to either site and type something to search for. (See the Appendix for tips on how to search using Google.) Your search will return links (URLs) to all the sites in its database that contain that text. These found links are often referred to as hits. Often you can find what you want by typing appropriate synonyms. For example, if you're looking for information about Rush Limbaugh, you can type "fat lying hypocrite".

Some people practice what's called egosurfing. This is when you search the Internet for your name. After all, it's all about you, isn't it? Who cares about the economy or diseases or human suffering? We just want to know how important we are! One way to gauge your importance is to Google yourself, then Google other terms and compare the number of hits. For example, Google found me on a few dozen pages. (Note that there are other Ben Schwalbs, including a film producer who got thousands of hits.) Then I Googled the following:

You know what? Every single word and phrase got more hits than I did. That's right, folks. I am more obscure than uvula cancer and offal soup.

Then I wondered if there's anything I'm more famous than. There isn't. No matter how obscure the item or idea, it is better known than I am, whether it's existential clowns or purple chocolate or naked curling. In fact, the only idea I could think of that got fewer hits than I did was "Hugh Grant is hetero".

Search engines obtain their information via software, called a spider or a crawler, that traverses the Internet examining Web sites. The information is passed to database software that indexes it and makes it available to us. When we search for something, the software uses algorithms – incomprehensible to our tiny brains – that determine which sites are most relevant to our query, and gives us the links. However, once information about a Web site is stored, it might stay there forever even if the site goes away, so some of the links we're given might not work ("dead links"). Also, it can be months or years before the database is completely updated, and in the meantime a site's content might have changed to the point where it is no longer relevant to our search criteria.

Our search results are given to us in descending order of relevance. Well, in theory anyway. In reality, many advertisers pay search engine companies to present their Web site links first, no matter how infinitesimal their relevance to the query actually is, in order to maximize exposure, because most of us are lazy and won't look past the first five or ten hits. After a while you'll develop an eye for which links are commercial, and if you have an ounce of common sense you'll skip them and visit only the non-commercial sites in order to get relatively unbiased information.

Different search engines have different crawling and indexing strategies, so if one search engine doesn't help you find what you're looking for, try another. There are also metasearch engines that can save you time by enabling you to get results from many search engines with a single query. I've compiled a list of helpful resources at http:// www.benbrew.com/engines.html.

E-mail is a great way to communicate with others. You can send messages to and receive messages from people all over the world. And not just text either. You can exchange images and videos of anything, from pictures of your kids to porn. With some people, pictures of their kids are porn. But enough about Michael Jackson. (All right, don't get your panties in a bunch. I wrote that joke before he died.)

Y'ever send someone an e-mail message, only to have them not reply? Then when you see them or talk to them on the phone, they claim that they never got it? You, being the forgiving sort that you are, naturally excuse them, thinking that the message somehow got lost in cyberspace. Well, I've got news for you: unless you get a bounce-back message saying that the message was not delivered, the person got your message. Yes, it's true. He or she is a filthy liar. Well, maybe not. I mean, we all get busy and choose not to spend time congratulating someone on the birth of their child or thanking them for the off-color joke they sent. Fair enough. But sometimes you have a legitimate question or you send some very helpful information, and the person doesn't have the decency to muster up even a one-sentence reply. How busy can anyone be that he/she can't spare 15 seconds to acknowledge your existence?

That said, we (or at least most of us) are human, and for one reason or another, we occasionally gloss mindlessly over e-mails or just don't feel like responding. So I've devised an excuse card that can be used once per year per friend/acquaintance:

Get Out of Mail Free Card

This card entitles me to ignore one electronic mail
message/joke/favor request. I dissed you because I:

__ have a life
__ can't stand you

Please keep me in your good graces because I:
__ don't want to hurt your feelings
__ might need you someday

The only drawback to e-mail is that communication is not instantaneous – you have to wait for the recipient to check his or her messages and reply to you. For real-time chat there are programs such as Instant Messenger that allow you to have typewritten conversations. There are abbreviations for many often-used terms that enable you to speed up your typing:

AbbreviationMeans
LOLLaughing Out Loud
IMHOIn My Humble Opinion
FYIFor Your Information
IADI'm A Dork
BMBlow Me

There are also character sequences you can use to convey feelings. They're called emoticons. They are to be read with your head tilted to the left. Here are a few examples:
:)smile
:(frown
:Dbig smile
;)wink
:()laughing
%*}drunk
:)8woman
:)8Dolly Parton

You can make up your own character sequences to communicate anything you want. For example, the following, which do not require tilting of the head, are called assicons:
(_._)normal ass
(__.__)Rosie O'Donnell's ass
(_o_)Elton John's ass

Chat programs are the CB radio of the 21st century. I had a CB radio in 1976. It was a medium that allowed random strangers to talk to each other yet remain anonymous via the use of a pseudonym (known as a handle). My handle was Python. No, not for the reason you're thinking, you perv. I was into snakes, and I was also a Monty Python fan. Anyway, people communicated via a special CB language that made everyone sound like extraterrestrial rednecks:

"Breaker breaker one-seven."
"Go breaker."
"Gas Master lookin' fer Sugar Bitch, are you 10-6?"
<pause>
"10-77 on that, thanks fer the break."
"You got Pizza Face, what's yer 20?"
"We're mobile doin' the double nickel on 95, c'mon back."
"Roger, good buddy. Any bears in sight?"
"That's a negatory. Looks like smooth sailin' down to Beantown."
"That's a big 10-4. Well, keep the bugs off yer glass."

Now, in the scores of words that these two people just exchanged, what useful information was imparted? I think they could have shortened their conversation thusly:

"I have no life."
"Me either."

There are online chat rooms where computer users "gather" to "talk", which shows what a pathetic generation of cyberdweebs we've become. We no longer visit people or even talk on the phone; now we completely eliminate any visual or verbal contact and reduce our communications to letters on a screen. And most online chat isn't even between friends -- it involves folks who have never met. They use screen names that hide their identity, e.g., HoneyPot or LoveLance. So we've got millions of no-lifes sitting at home, using our elaborate network infrastructure to exchange idle banter, often masquerading as something they're not. For example, many a man believes he's having hot computer sex with a young, gorgeous woman, when in fact the person at the other keyboard is a fat, 51-year-old plumber named George.

By the way, computer sex – also called cybersex – is simply masturbating while "chatting". I could never do that because merely reading doesn't get me horny. If it did, I could spank the monkey to the Starr Report.

Some folks actually refer to people they've chatted with but never met as their "boyfriend" or "girlfriend". Why stop there? Why not "husband" or "wife"? I mean, if we're going to delude ourselves that anonymous strangers are intimate companions, let's go all the way. Think about it: with a cyberspouse, you bypass all that nasty relationship stuff. No nagging; no being ignored because the playoffs are on; no having to cook dinner; no arguments over money, sex, or how to raise the children. In fact, no children at all, so no burden of raising dysfunctional brats who you spend more time and energy getting them to do their homework and clean up after themselves than it would take to simply do these things yourself. Even if someone cheated on their cyberspouse, it wouldn't be so bad. In fact, it might even turn out positively. I mean, imagine people in a chat room engaged in one-handed activity like this:

CooterPie:"Yes, give it to me, baby!"
PassionPickle:"Oh, you're so soft and supple."
WhiskerBiscuit:"What's going on here?!"
PassionPickle"Oops."
WhiskerBiscuit"Is my typing not good enough for you?"
PassionPickle"Well, I-"
CooterPie"Excuse me. I was just about to type the most pleasurable cyberorgasm ever."
WhiskerBiscuit8"Really? Ooh, I'm getting all wet."
PassionPickle8"Cool!"

On the other hand, things might not turn out that well. I hope the following never happens to you:

CooterPie:"Yes, give it to me, baby!"
PassionPickle:"Oh, you're so soft and supple."
CooterPie"I'm going to explode!"
PassionPickle:"Yes, yes, please do!"
CooterPie"I gotta go. My mommy just walked in."

There are Internet dating services where you can post and read ads and maybe meet that special someone. Of course, when I say "maybe", I mean "not". Let's say your perfect match would be a caring, sensitive, shapely, good-looking, horny, wealthy person with good moral character. What are the odds that such a person 1) has had to resort to the Internet to find dates, and 2) would want someone like you? Get real. You'll be lucky if the people you meet online aren't serial killers.

In case you're curious about online dating, I'll describe it. You're feeling lonely because all the desirable people you meet are taken, so you go to www.desperation.com or wherever. You browse the ads and see lots of attractive singles "just waiting to meet you". You sign up and pay using your credit card number, which is immediately sent to a shady group in Sri Lanka that uses it to make illegal purchases. You send messages to all the people you find physically, mentally and geographically desirable. Then, several presidential administrations later, when you haven't received a single message except for the occasional ad for Viagra or porn, your self-esteem sinks lower than a snake fart because you think that no one finds you attractive. Well, you needn't feel bad because nobody got any of your messages. You see, in order to hoodwink people into signing up, dating businesses fabricate ads with pictures of models and bogus introductions, so trying to contact them is about as useful as trying to effect political change by writing to your Congressman.

Now, I'm not saying that all the ads are bogus. People have met on the Internet. And seeing as the only other viable option to meet someone is the bar scene, which is about as much fun as hemorrhoids, it's understandable that folks have turned to online dating: it's quicker; you make yourself known to many more people; and you don't have to deal with noise, smoke, and drunken assholes.

There are some genuine people out there who really do want to meet someone like you. Why? Simple: U.S. citizenship. Remember, the Internet reaches around the world, so your ad will be read by people who routinely wait in line for hours to get a loaf of bread. You are their ticket to the good life inside our borders, so don't be surprised if you receive the following answer to your ad:

I have decided write to you because you to me most the other have liked. I would search such for the person who might understand and love me. I to search such for someone with whom I my future life might connect. If you want with me to get acquainted that write to me soon at helpme@inbox.ru. I very much wait for you.
Other undesirable things can be done online too. For example, work. Via telecommuting, there are no annoying bosses or coworkers, and you no longer have to go into politics in order to get paid while snorting cocaine and cheating on your spouse.

Online shopping is huge business. You see, most people are possession-addicted zombies with an insatiable need to buy. This is why Walmart is always busy. The Internet gives people a way to buy stuff without even getting up off their Doritos-fed asses. Many companies enable you to order stuff from their Web sites. There are also auction sites such as eBay where people sell every type of object imaginable. And no matter what's for sale, somebody buys it. So folks all over the world are sifting through junk in their attics and basements and placing online ads for appliances, books, coins, sports equipment, clothing, dishware, toys – you name it. This is stuff that people wouldn't pay a dollar for at a yard sale, but when someone in Albuquerque takes a picture of it and auctions it on eBay, folks fight for the privilege of paying twenty bucks plus shipping.

I used to laugh at people who shop on eBay, until I realized that it provides the ability to locate items that would otherwise be very difficult to find. Years ago when someone who lived more than a few miles from you had something you wanted, you had no way of knowing. Now, with the Internet, distance is not an issue. Looking for a Led Zeppelin poster? A bag of wishbones? A giant comb? You can find them all. I know because I have these items at my house. No, I didn't buy them online -- I've had them for more than 25 years, which goes to show you what a dweeb I am.

Online shopping is a good thing because it enables us to buy stuff without having to mingle with strangers. Let's face it: most of humanity is scummy and ignorant. Don't believe me? Just go to any Walmart or Motor Vehicle Administration. My contempt for "normal" people begins before I even enter a store. As I drive through the parking lot, I have to avoid jerks and morons who walk right in front of my vehicle. Some don't even look; others look, see me coming, and walk anyway. Do they have a death wish? Do they hope to win huge personal injury settlements? Inside, people are buying every manner of consumer goods: clothes, electronics, toys, umbrellas, Styrofoam cups. We are such a consumer, throw-away society. Buy it. Use it. Throw it in the landfill. Buy another. I hate buying stuff because I'll never use it. My list of useful items consists of food, beer and duct tape. That's pretty much it. Anything else will stay in storage until I move or my next yard sale.

One problem with online shopping is that when you have a problem with a product, you can't just bring it back to a store. I had a product break down on me, so I called the manufacturer. After waiting on hold for 20 minutes I was dumped off on a female teenage "customer service" rep with a Valley Girl accent and about as much intelligence as an O.J. juror. I explained how the device had malfunctioned after only the third time using it and that I wanted a replacement. She said it's not their policy to replace their products when customers break them. I asked her how she'd feel if she were using one of her company's products and it stopped working. And anyway, how much could another penis extender cost them?

A lot of multimedia is available on the Web. You can download songs, sound excerpts, pictures and movies, because the Internet is teeming with data files, audio files, video files, and pedophiles.

There is a lot of free software (called freeware) that you can download in order to give your computer more functionality. If it did not come loaded with programs like QuickTime, RealPlayer and Acrobat, simply go to www.downloads.com and look for them. There are also games and other neat stuff that you can get for free. Oh sure, you can go to the store and buy software, but that's about as smart as a senator paying for his own hookers.

You can make your own Web page. It can be either business or personal, depending on whether you want to make money or stroke your ego. All you need is Web space to store your files. Usually your ISP will give you space as part of their service. If they don't, you can buy space elsewhere, or you can get space for free (the drawback to free Web space being that they usually insert pop-up ads when people go to your page). Web pages are usually written in a language called HTML, although some are written in XML or Java. There are Web builders that enable you to create Web pages without any knowledge of these languages, but I don't like them because they tend to insert extraneous code and make pages behave in ways that I don't intend. I've created a primer at http://www.benbrew.com/primer.html for those who'd like to learn HTML. Once you've written your Web page files, you can upload them to your Web server with a freeware program such as CoffeeCup. You simply drag and drop files as though you were copying them to another folder on your computer. How do you get CoffeeCup? Search the Web, you lazy mouse potato!

You can make money from your Web page by "selling clicks". The way it works is advertisers put ads on your page, and when visitors click those ads, you get paid just for exposing people to those ads. You can get into this by signing up with one of the many click-selling services such as Google AdSense, Click2Sell and Reply.com. I tried this with my site www.benbrew.com but unfortunately they rejected it because they claimed that it contains too much profanity. I don't know what those fuckin' assholes are talking about.

Similar to a Web page is something called a Web log, or "blog" for short. This is a forum where people post their stupid opinions. At least that's what I do. Go to http://benranting.blogspot.com to see what I mean. You think my books are bad? Wait til you see the cyperpoo on my blog!

There are lots of "newsgroups" you can subscribe to. Some people call them discussion groups or bulletin boards. Or maybe there's a difference, which shows how stupid I am. Anyway, each one deals with a particular topic. If you go to groups.yahoo.com or groups.google.com or any of a number of other discussion group sites, you can read messages from people all over the world, and post messages for them to read. Whether you're interested in geography, art, math, chess, trucks, or self-publishing inane books, there is a newsgroup for you.

You can write to CDs and/or DVDs if your computer has a CD burner and/or a DVD burner. The word "burn" in this context means "write", but I don't like that slang. Burn is what you do to brassieres and draft cards. Anyhoo, a lot of people download songs and videos, and burn them to CDs and DVDs. You can do this legally or illegally. There are sites where you can pay for media files (legal), or you can get free file-sharing software and download files for free (illegal). You can also use your DVD burner to burn copies of DVDs that you own or rent. This is illegal, so let me state for the record that I am not advocating the illegal copying or downloading of videos and music. All I'm saying is that if you do it, don't get caught.

If you have more than one computer in your house, you might want to network them. This involves buying a router and hooking all computers to it via Ethernet cables. This enables them to share information, which is useful for backing up data. Additionally, all computers can be hooked to the Internet simultaneously. Thus the entire household can be Web-addicted zombies at the same time, which is the kind of wholesome 21st century family fun we've all come to expect. Why take a walk or play a game or even eat dinner together when there's such a vast array of chat rooms and pornography to occupy our time?

Did you know that you can hook up a digital camera to your computer? That's right – you can view, store and print your pictures, thereby making it unnecessary to have them developed at a retail store. Digital cameras are very advanced compared to film cameras. They hardly even make noise when you take a picture, except for the Japanese models, which go "crick".

Now, I'm not making fun of our Japanese friends. After all, they're very intelligent. We Americans like to think that we're smart, but let's face it: McDonalds employees have to use cash registers with pictures of the food. Meanwhile a Japanese person can go through your garbage and make a radio.


Chapter 5

SOCIAL  NETWORKING


A guy walks into a bar and says to the bartender, "I have trouble making friends. Know what I mean, Fatso?"


Unless you live in a cave, you have heard of social networking sites. There are different sites that serve different purposes. For example, LinkedIn helps people connect on a professional level so that they can exchange ideas, make business contacts, etc. Classmates.com helps people connect with old classmates. Why anyone would want to connect with old classmates is beyond me. I mean, there's a reason that you never bothered to keep in contact with certain people. Why 30 years later is it suddenly necessary to locate them? And what kind of initial message do people send? Maybe something like this:

Dear Rocco

Hi. My name is Larry Nerdstrom. We went to Loserton High School together. You might remember me from the various wedgies and swirlies you used to give me. Oh, and do you remember my clarinet? Well, I’m happy to say that after three surgeries all parts of it were successfully removed.

How are you? I assume that you no longer live on other people’s lunch money and have successfully landed a job in the bartending or fast food industry. That is, if you’ve managed to stay out of jail.

As for me, I got a degree in computer engineering and, after spending twelve years at a large software company, started my own business where I design products that are enjoyed by millions. It’s not as glamorous as, say, wearing a leather jacket and terrorizing underclassmen, but my patents and residuals make it all worthwhile.

Please write back soon and let me know how you are and whether Mrs. Fussberger ever dropped the restraining order against you.

Sincerely, Larry

P.S. I have attached a photo of my extremely hot wife. You asshole.


For the past several years the trend has been "fun" sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Twitter, etc. They are more robust than e-mail and chat rooms in facilitating communication. They allow people to broadcast what they're doing or even thinking at any given moment. How do I feel about this? Well, let me tell you in the kind of pseudo-language that seems to be in use by most of the morons who populate cyberspace:

ive had it with thez nolifes who post the stupidest shit to social network like facebook nd myspace they r a bunch of dumshits LOL i mean wtf sum 1 with an oozi shud bust a cap in ther ass LOL if u dont agree then ur as stuped as they r so f u ROFLMAO

In plain English, millions of cretins inform their cyber "friends" that they're cooking dinner or enjoying the weather. I've got news for all you Internet-addicted hemorrhoids: no one gives a flying fuck what you're doing right now. Not even the other enema bags who post their current activities, because they're too busy telling everyone how useless their own lives are. If I were to post what I'm doing or thinking every few minutes, my "wall" would look like this:

Ben shouldn't have had that burrito for lunch.
Ben just took a two-flusher.
Ben just drank 3 beers.
Ben What the hell makes me shiver after I piss?
Ben Likes his dog a lot more than he likes most people.
Ben is eating month-old leftover Chinese food.
Ben just threw up.


Social networks are a powerful way to communicate. When you post some text, everyone can see it immediately. Discussion groups have this capability too, but in order to see someone's post, you must be looking at that particular discussion (called a "thread"). Social networks put everything out there so that everyone can see everything at once. It's kind of like going to a strip club, except not as dignified.

By 2009 social networks had surpassed e-mail in popularity. Think about this. E-mail used to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It was a huge step forward from sending letters through the U.S. mail: messages were delivered in seconds, and they were free to send. It was even more powerful than the telephone because you could send one message to many people. Now, with social networks, contacts who are logged in can see your messages instantly and reply to them instantly, others can join in, you don't have to delete messages, and all "discussions" show up on one page. Many people don't even have e-mail accounts; they communicate solely via social networks and mobile texting. E-mail is now for old geezers like me. One day it will go the way of the VCR, the telegraph, and smoke signals. What will be the next great communication tool? I suppose one in which you can actually touch the people you're communicating with. What will they call it? How about Molestbook?

In addition to text, networking sites allow you to upload pictures and videos. Thus you can communicate a lot about yourself and your life to people you've never met and never will meet, because let's face it, you've got nothing better to do.

What makes some networking sites more popular than others? There are several factors such as features and ease of use. People can be fickle in their choice too. Remember when MySpace was the big thing? Tens of millions of people jumped on the MySpace bandwagon in a short period. I will always have a place in my heart for MySpace because that's where I met my girlfriend. And by girlfriend I mean an actual person, not a cyber girlfriend. We met shortly after hooking up electronically, became intimate, and she promises to marry me as soon as she turns eighteen.

Within a few years Facebook surpassed MySpace in popularity. Why? Well, one reason is that MySpace allows people to design their own page, which at first you'd think would make it more popular, until you actually look at MySpace pages and see what horrible designers people are. They've got images all over the place and crappy songs blaring at you and backgrounds that make you feel like you've got glaucoma. Facebook has a clean, easy-to-read interface and does not allow its moron users to change it.

You can search networking sites for people. This makes these sites a haven for stalkers. When you publicize your name, your activities, and who else you're friends with, you give burglars, rapists and pedophiles all the information they need to take advantage of you. For example, if you let everyone know that you're going out of town for a few days, don't be surprised upon your return to find that your house has been robbed. If you state that you're home alone, don't be surprised if a scary looking man knocks on your door. If you mention that your kid is having a sleepover party, don't be surprised if a priest shows up.

Social networking doesn't allow you to find everybody you'd like to find. No matter which networking site you join, you can find only people who have created an account on that site. If someone doesn't want to be found, then the only way to find him or her is to have a professional service do an extensive search. At least that's how my creditors find me.


Chapter 6

COMPUTER  SECURITY


How to know that you're addicted to the Internet

You find yourself typing "com" after every period.com
All of your friends have an @ in their name.
You ask a plumber how much it would cost to replace the chair in front of your computer with a commode.


There are vandals everywhere, and the Internet is no exception. Maggots are constantly developing programs to steal and/or destroy other computers' data. Such a program is referred to as a virus. Technically, some "viruses" are actually worms or Trojan horses. What's the difference? To you and me, zero. The distinction matters only to computer geeks who have nothing better to do than split hairs over trivial semantics because they can't get dates.

Many viruses get named. Here are a few:

How do viruses get onto our computers? A common method is by e-mail. Someone sends you a message with an attachment (for example, a picture or movie file) that, unbeknownst to him/her, contains a virus. You innocently open the attachment, and this allows the virus to place itself on your computer. Sometimes you don't even have to open the attachment – merely opening the message can allow the malicious code to run. It can then delete or corrupt your files, or use your e-mail program to mail itself to all the people in your address book.

Another route of transmission is to download a program that contains a virus. This can happen when a program you download contains malicious software ("malware"). Sometimes merely clicking a link will put a malicious program on your computer. For example, a site might entice you with promises like, "Click here to see pictures of Marlon Brando having sex with a cow!" You, being a sick individual, click the link. While you're looking at the picture, trying to determine which is Marlon Brando and which is the cow, some malware is quietly downloaded to your computer.

There are other routes of transmission, but we don't need to know them all. What's important to know is that computers are like people: they can be fun to play with, but if you're not careful, you can pick up a serious infection.

Let's look at what you can do to thwart viruses. If you don't recognize the name of the sender of a message, delete it. Also, set your e-mail program to not have a preview pane. A preview pane automatically opens the first or last message in the queue, and that's bad if the message contains a virus. If you use Microsoft Outlook, click View at the top, then uncheck Preview Pane (or Reading Pane). If you use Microsoft Outlook Express, click View, then click Layout, and uncheck the box next to "Show preview pane". (The procedure might be slightly different for recent versions of these programs.)

Get some anti-virus software. Norton and McAfee are two of the better known names in this business. The way it works is you buy their software and install it on your machine. "Good," you’re thinking. "That one purchase will protect my computer forever." Not quite. The software "expires" after a while. Then the company insists that you pay them more money for periodic updates that will handle the new malicious code being developed. Now, imagine if you bought a car alarm and the company you bought it from told you that you had to pay them more money each year to ensure that it continued to work. You'd be pretty pissed, wouldn't you? So why do we fork over our hard-earned cash to computer security companies? Because we are computer-addicted lemmings who will do whatever it takes to ensure that we don't miss a single piece of e-mail. After all, it would be just awful if we had to actually talk to someone on the phone.

Seriously, $40 or however much they charge per year for updates is worth it, because no matter how well you're protected against known malicious code, all it takes is one new destructive program to ruin your day.

Anti-virus software scans incoming and outgoing e-mail messages for known viruses. This way you will be warned when someone sends you an infected attachment. You can also use it to scan individual files, and you should definitely scan every file you download. Additionally, anti-virus software can be used to scan your entire computer for viruses; I recommend that you do this at least once a week.

Another kind of security mechanism is a firewall. Exactly how a firewall works is a mystery to me, but I think it has something to do with filtering network packets (whatever those are) to determine whether to forward them to your computer. As you can see, I'm just a shitload of help.

Some delinquents send fraudulent e-mails in order to obtain personal information such as your name, social security number, and credit card numbers. This is called "phishing". For example, when I was a Comcast subscriber, every so often I'd get a message that said, "Your information has expired. Please send Comcast your updated information within 48 hours or your account will be terminated." Well, the fact that the e-mail address they wanted me to send my information to was not in the Comcast domain was a dead giveaway, but even if it had been, common sense should tell us that no legitimate company would ever give their customers such a short deadline. Many people read their e-mail only once a week, and at any time a certain portion will be on vacation, so 48 hours is extremely unreasonable. Also, no company will ever demand your information over the Internet, or even the phone. If they need something from you, they will send you a business letter. Yes, an actual piece of paper delivered by the United States Postal Service. Crude and archaic, but an effective way of weeding out imposters. So never, ever send any personal information in response to an e-mail message. Unless it's from me.

Some phishers put a link in the message for you to click on. It will usually appear at first glance to be a valid address, for example, http://www.citibank.com:ac=8t7g@www.phish.com. The problem in this case is that many browsers ignore everything up to and including the @, so clicking the above link would take you to www.phish.com.

Some phishers create links that, when clicked, take the user somewhere different from what the link says. For example, just because a link appears as http://www.citibank.com, that doesn't necessarily mean that clicking it will take you there. For this reason, never click on any link in a suspicious e-mail. If you really want to go where the link says, type it into your browser's URL bar.

The bottom line when doing anything on the Internet is to keep personal information to yourself unless you are absolutely sure you know what you're doing, because one mistake could allow you to become a victim of identity theft. I'm not worried about identity theft because no one could be as big a dick as I am.

Do periodic backups. Any of a number of things can destroy your data: malicious code, hard drive failure, power surge, theft, fire. Burn a CD or DVD and keep it in another room, preferably the basement if you have one, or, better yet, in another building (office, friend's house, nuclear bunker).

I mentioned before that Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) is the most popular browser. Unfortunately it’s also the most susceptible to attacks. Why? Well, since it is the most popular browser, a lot of malicious code is custom built to exploit it. Additionally, IE is built for convenience and ease of use, but this functionality is paid for with lack of security. Other browsers such as Opera and Firefox have good security built into them, so you might want to use one of these instead. They're free, and they're pretty easy to find on the Web.

If you insist on using IE, there are a few things you can do to increase security. First of all, use version 6 or later; it's more secure than previous versions. As of this writing the latest is version 8, but some dinosaurs are still using old versions. To find out what version you have, click Help, and then select About Internet Explorer. If you don't have version 6 or later, go to www.downloads.com and get the latest version (it's free).

Here are a few more steps that will increase IE's security. Keep in mind that these procedures might or might not apply depending on which version of IE you're running. Click Tools, then click Internet Options. From here, do two things: 1) Click the Advanced tab, scroll down to the Security section, and put a check in the box labeled "Empty Temporary Internet Folder when browser is closed". 2) Click the Privacy tab, click the Advanced button, and make sure that all the options that have anything to do with ActiveX or Userdata persistence are set to either Prompt or Disable. A lot of spyware and adware is downloaded using ActiveX. The drawback to disabling it is that your browser will lose some functionality, but that's the trade-off: the more you block potential security gaps, the less you can do; while the more features you enable, the more ways there are for villains to mess with you. It's like society: Nazi Germany and Communist Russia had great security but they made everyone miserable; while our society is free and great but we have to put up with Lindsay Lohan.


Chapter 7

SPAM


I'm pink, therefore I'm Spam.


A big Internet annoyance is spam. Spam is any unsolicited message sent by greedy lowlifes in order to obtain your money by tricking you into either divulging personal information or buying cheap medications, penis enlargers and other stuff. The first piece of spam was sent in 1994 by a law firm. Figures.

Spammers collect e-mail addresses and construct huge lists that they sell and trade amongst each other so that they maximize the number of people they annoy. Then, with one push of a button, the same message can be sent to thousands of computer users. It costs them literally nothing to burden us: no paper, no stamps, no trip to the Post Office, no newspaper or magazine ads. Just nameless, faceless leeches throwing electronic shit at us in an unscrupulous attempt to rob us.

There is more spam than legitimate e-mail. A typical spam message is sent to thousands of recipients at once; whereas when you or I send a message, it only goes to one or a few folks. Even if I were to send a message to every friend I have in the whole world, it would only go to three people.

Some spam messages contain Trojan horse programs that propagate the message to other computers by sending mail to people in your address book.

Most spam messages are easy to identify, because the subject lines usually contain something a friend wouldn't type. If you get an e-mail message with any of the following in the subject line, it is spam and should be deleted immediately:

How do spammers get your e-mail address? One way is to get you to unwittingly give it to them. For example, a site might require your e-mail address in order to gain access to certain information or be entered in a sweepstakes. The site collects all the addresses that naïve people type and sells them to spammers. Even when you sign up for legitimate things like newsletters, online shopping accounts, newsgroups and chat rooms, the e-mail address you provide might still be sold to spammers. Unfortunately, once your address gets into circulation, it can be distributed to hundreds of spammers, and there's no way to delete it from their list.

Remember the spider software that I talked about in chapter 4? Well, spammers use that kind of program to search Web sites for text strings that look like e-mail addresses. Any string containing @ in the middle is a possible e-mail address. The program stores these strings in a database that spam programs use. Many of these strings will turn out not to be e-mail addresses, and messages sent to them will be returned ("bounce"), but spammers don't care because bounced messages cost them nothing. The fuckers.

A clever way of generating spam is not to obtain e-mail addresses, but to guess them. By combining all common words and names with all the common e-mail providers, computer programs can generate millions of possible e-mail addresses (bobdog@comcast.net, bobdog@aol.com, bobcat@comcast.net, etc). This is called the dictionary attack. Many of these will be legitimate and spammers don't care about the ones that bounce.

So how can we reduce spam? One way is to use a spam filter. There are many filters available, some for a price, and some for free. They allow you to catch messages containing certain words and phrases, such as "Viagra" or "low mortgage rates", and delete them or place them in a special folder. Unfortunately, spammers can get around this by changing the spellings of these keywords. For example, "Viagra" becomes "V1agra"; "rates" becomes "rate$"; "penis" becomes "glandstand".

Never reply to spam mail. I know it's frustrating when assholes clutter your electronic mailbox with crap, and you want to send them a nasty message telling them where to shove their spam, but no human will actually read your message. Spammers use software that sends automated replies to incoming messages on the assumption that you are responding to their offer. So not only will you not get your address removed from any list, but you will also bring more spam upon yourself.

Some spammers put a note at the bottom of their messages saying that if you don't want to receive any more messages from them, reply with a certain word in the subject line, or click a certain link. Don't do it. This is just a ruse to get you to confirm that there is a live human being at your e-mail address. If you respond, even more spammers will send you stuff.

Never open any attachment in a spam message. There's a good chance that it will install adware or spyware on your computer (see next chapter for a discussion of these).

Redirect spam. Get a free e-mail account at www.yahoo.com or www.hotmail.com, and give this address, not the one you pay for, whenever an e-mail address is required for a service that you want. Granted, you will then have two e-mail accounts to read, and you'll still have to deal with spam in order to get to the news or other stuff you signed up for using your free account, but at least you're keeping this spam away from your main account that you use to communicate with your friends and family.

Thwart the dictionary attack by choosing an e-mail name that's not a combination of words. I made the mistake of choosing the name "benbrew", and now I get spam messages addressed to hundreds of potential recipients such as benboss@verizon.net, benbrass@verizon.net, etc. I've heard that if you can't think of anything original that won't be guessed, all you have to do is use your first and middle initial followed by the first six letters of your last name. For example, someone named Amanda Sue Pickering would have e-mail name "aspicker". Ida Beatrice Ballinger would be "ibballin". Isabelle Haydon Adcock would be "ihadcock".


Chapter 8

COOKIES,  ADWARE,  SPYWARE  AND  POP-UP  ADS


How to tell if a redneck has been on your computer:


When you visit a Web site, it sends more than just the things you see; there is other stuff going on behind the scenes. The site can put information on your hard drive so that it can remember something about you at a later time. This information is called a cookie. Cookies can be helpful. For example, if you frequently visit a site that requires a login name and password, the site might ask you if you want it to remember this information. If you answer yes, it will give you a cookie so that whenever you visit the site from this particular computer, it will automatically log you in, saving you the time and trouble of entering a login name and password every time. But, as usual, some people have found a way to use a good thing to annoy us. You see, the Internet, being a global resource, is a powerful vehicle for advertising and sales, and this attracts all sorts of vermin, from mortgage lenders to porn pushers to small-time authors.

Cookies are used to store information about your surfing habits in order to throw certain kinds of advertisements at you later. For example, let's say you visit you visit a porn site. Yes, I know you've never even thought Ads can be presented in several ways. One type is a banner. This is simply an eye-catching box that appears on the page you surf to. Banners are very common and you cannot surf for more than five minutes without encountering one. If you click a banner ad you will be brought to a full-page ad and probably receive another cookie, so you'll want to avoid it like Kirstie Alley avoids her bathroom scale.

A more annoying type of ad is the pop-up. When you go to a Web site, another window pops up in front of your browser window, blocking what you want to see with something you don't want to see, kind of like when your spouse walks in front of the TV. It's a frustrating irritation that does nothing more than spoil your fun. (I'm referring to the pop-up, not your spouse.) At least a banner ad can simply be avoided by scrolling past it; pop-up ads break your concentration by requiring you to click the X in the top right corner in order to kill them. I have developed a sadistic satisfaction out of doing that, and now when I kill pop-ups I make explosion sounds and scream "Die you bastard!!" My boss thinks I'm crazy.

Another Internet annoyance is spyware. It's like cookies but worse. While a cookie can be helpful and is used only by the site that put it there, spyware is programming whose sole purpose is to gather information about you and relay it to advertisers so that they can inundate you with ads specifically tailored to someone with your surfing habits. For example, if you visit travel sites, you might get ads for vacation packages; if you view Paris Hilton's sex video, you'll probably get an ad for penicillin. Spyware is secretly installed on your computer, and can get there in a number of ways: when you visit a site, download new software, click on an innocent-looking pop-up, or get a virus. This is all the more reason to be careful which sites you visit, get anti-virus protection, and scan every file you download.

Adware is any program that gets stored on your computer for the purpose of presenting advertisements. You can be innocently surfing the Web and an ad will pop up seemingly for no reason. I've never understood why anyone would think that this form of advertising would work. I mean, I get so annoyed by this advertising that I go out of my way not to buy the featured products. For example, I've gotten unwanted ads for soap, so I don't shower. At least that's the reason I give everyone.

Much of this irritating software runs without your knowledge, because when it gets downloaded, it is added to the list of programs that invoke themselves whenever your machine is powered up. To see which programs run themselves at startup time, click the Start button in the lower left of your screen, click R..., then type msconfig. At the top of the window that appears, click the Startup tab. A list of programs will appear; the ones with checked boxes are the ones that run at startup time. Only a handful of these are necessary or even desirable. Others are necessary only for certain programs, e.g., ccApp and SNDMon are needed only if you run Norton; mcagent and mcupdate are needed only if you run McAfee. Programs whose boxes should be unchecked include ALCMTR, ALCWZRD, hkcmd, msgmsgs, qttask, showwnd, SOUNDMAN, viewmgr and zhotkey (most likely you don't have all of these, and you certainly have others not listed here). Some of these programs contain spyware and some do not, but they are all unnecessary entities that will do nothing more than drain resources, kind of like Rodney King.

Pop-ups can be blocked with freeware such as Pop-up Blocker, spyware can be removed with freeware such as Spybot, and adware can be removed with freeware such as Ad-Aware. I strongly suggest that you search for them at www.downloads.com and put them on your computer. Anti-pop-up software needs to be run only once, but anti-spyware and anti-adware software should be run at least every week.

You can configure your browser to prevent pop-ups and cookies. For example, if you use Internet Explorer, do the following (again, these procedures might or might not apply depending on which version you're running). Click Tools at the top, then click Internet Options... in the pulldown menu, and click the Privacy tab. From here, do two things: 1) At the bottom, check the box next to Turn on Pop-up Blocker. 2) Click the Advanced button. Down where says "Override automatic cookie handling", the Accept button is probably checked. Clicking Block will block all cookies. You can also click Prompt, which will cause you to be notified every time a site attempts to put a cookie on your machine, and you will be asked whether to allow it. It will get very annoying because you'll keep getting the same question over and over and over, and eventually you'll say yes just to make it go away. That's how my ex-wife got me to marry her.


Chapter 9

HOAXES  AND  URBAN  LEGENDS


Computer haikus

An important file?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.


The Internet is full of hoaxes. Why? Because there are lots of no-lifes who have nothing better to do than make up stories about saving pop tops in order to pay for someone's dialysis, or getting your kidneys stolen. Be skeptical about any e-mail message that:

Don't be quick to just blindly believe anything you read; any moron with a keyboard can propagate any kind of bullshit. This book, for example. Naiveté is what allows corporations, religions, scam artists and politicians to get the better of us. We are easily fooled and swindled when we unquestioningly believe everything we read and hear. If you forward hoaxes and urban legends, you will irritate people you know (and possibly some that you don't know). I repeat: do not believe everything you read. Believe what you are reading right now. Join me. It's painless.

You wanna see how easy it is to make up a believable hoax? Okay, here's a virus hoax that I crafted by making a few changes to an existing hoax. Note the misspellings, exclamation marks and vague source reference.

VIRUS WARNING!!!! PLEASE READ!!!!

There is a new virus going arond that you should be aware of. If you recieve email entitled "A Card for You", please delete it WITHOUT reading it. If you read it, it will delete evrything on your hard drive. The virus originated in Koala Lumpur and has already infected 300 million computers in the U.S. You can tell if your infected by looking for the file C:\Program Files\Outlook Express\msimn.exe. If you find this file, DELETE IT IMMEADIATELY. Then go to your recycle bin and delete it from there as well.

Please forward this message to evryone you know. If you send it to at least 20 people, Bill Gates will send you $1000. I know because a guy I work with said that his brother-in-law got a check last week.

PLEASE PASS THIS ON! WE MUST ALL BE VIJILANT!

That message contains more bullshit than the Psychic Friends Network, but people who don't know any better might be fooled into deleting a legitimate file from their own computer.

For comprehensive information on hoaxes and urban legends, visit the following sites:




Chapter 10

PROGRAMS  AND  FILE  TYPES


New computer books

"Computer Memories" by Meg Abight
"Computer Expert" by Virgil Reality


There are many, many different software programs. Some are sold in stores, others are available on the Web, and others come already packaged on your computer system. There are video games, art programs, picture managers, movie viewers ... you name it. They enable us to spend our lives titillating ourselves with electronic sights and sounds instead of wasting time exercising or raising our kids.

Microsoft offers several text/graphics programs such as Excel, PowerPoint, Access and FrontPage. They're all good for certain types of applications, but the only one I find useful for my needs is Word. I write all my books and design all the covers using nothing but Word. So blame Bill Gates.

I appreciate how much expertise goes into writing software because I used to be a computer programmer. I spent two decades writing software in weird computer languages with mutant names like C, C++, XML and Perl. I also wrote some Java, which is apparently the language that Starbucks uses to generate 37 different names for coffee. Some of the languages I learned in college sounded like cartoon thugs: Cobol, Fortran, Prolog. Others had questionable origins, e.g., LISP.

Each program uses files that are in a certain format. Files come in all sorts of different formats, and the file extension (the portion of the name after the period) indicates what the format is. For example, myfile.doc would be a Word document, while myfile.gif would be an image file in graphic interchange format.

Fortunately it is not necessary to memorize the scores of different file types because Windows is configured to handle most of them. By simply double-clicking on a file name, Windows will open the file with the appropriate software because it "knows" what each file extension means. For example, myfile.gif would be opened with a picture viewer; while myfile.exe, which Windows recognizes as an executable program, would be allowed to run. This is one of the ways in which computers enable us to function in society while remaining complete morons.

The Windows operating system has a program called Windows Explorer (not to be confused with Internet Explorer) that enables you to see what files are on your computer. By default, this program does not show file extensions, and I think that this is one of Microsoft's biggest oversights. I highly recommend making Windows Explorer (WE) show file extensions because otherwise it will not be readily apparent what types of files you have. For example, by default, the file myfile.gif will display as myfile. How would you know that it was an image file? It could be a Word file (myfile.doc), an HTML file (myfile.html), or any other kind of file. Furthermore, not seeing file extensions opens you up to a little trick that people who create malicious software use. You see, they know that a lot of folks don't change the WE defaults, so they'll write a program called something like picture.gif.exe. When you view your file names with WE, this file name will, by default, display as picture.gif. You innocently click it expecting to see a picture, but since the real file extension is .exe, Windows allows the program to run, and you are then at the mercy of the creator.

Okay, here's how to display file extensions. With WE running, click Tools at the top. In the pulldown menu click Folder Options...    Next click the View tab. In the Advanced settings window, look for the line that says "Hide file extensions for known file types". If the box is checked, then uncheck it, click Apply and click OK.

Even after you unhide file extensions using the above steps, you still cannot see certain hidden extensions such as .shs, .pif and .lnk, which shows what morons the folks over at Microsoft are. Files with these extensions are executable, and are rapidly becoming the most popular choices for many Trojan horses. For example, a file named myfile.jpg.pif will always appear as myfile.jpg no matter what. This is one reason that I hate Microsoft, although I continue to use their products. I'm the same way with oil companies.


Chapter 11

BENEFITS  OF  COMPUTERS


Computer messages you don't want to see

Smash forehead on keyboard to continue.
Enter any 11-digit prime number to continue.
Press any key to continue or any other key to quit.
Press any key except... no, not that one!


Computers have put more power at our fingertips than our ancestors ever dreamed of. This is just one of the ways in which society has pampered us and turned us into a bunch of wimpy, demanding whiners. While people in other countries deal stoically with real problems such as death and disease, we complain about spam. While three quarters of the world lives without adequate food, water or medicine, we panic when our Internet connection goes down because it means that we have to spend one day without jokes and porn. I mean, God forbid we should take a walk or play with our kids.

Via computers we can find information on literally any topic, and get it in a matter of seconds. What a fantastic era this is! In the old days, people's main source of information was organized religion, which taught them that the world was flat and that anyone who disagreed was a heretic to be burned to death. People actually went to weekly meetings at buildings called "churches" where they would listen quietly to the ramblings of religious leaders, sing praises to metaphysical "gods", and donate money. Thank goodness no one is ignorant enough to do that anymore!

Computers have been a saving grace for nerds everywhere. Now just about any sensitive, intelligent pansy who routinely got beaten up in school can become a savvy techno-geek who makes good money and is therefore able to get dates with women who just a few generations ago would have thrown their drink in his face as they walked off, arm in arm, with a 200-pound jock who had the mental capacity of a roundworm. In fact, there is now an expression that refers to knowledgeable computer users: computer jock. How ironic that the word "jock" is being used in a way that has nothing to do with what "jock" used to mean. Kind of like the word "crack".


Chapter 12

COMMUNICATION  PITFALLS


A rabbi is offering circumcisions via the Internet. He's an e-mohel.


As you might expect, a lot of people get pissed off at each other on the Internet, just like they do in real life. This is caused by three factors: 1) assholes, 2) easily upset people, and 3) anonymity. Let's look at each of these individually.

  1. Assholes. Some people just write anything they want, without caring whether they offend anyone else. I even know one guy who puts entire books together and then distributes them to innocent people. What an asshole.
  2. Easily upset people. Some people get upset at the slightest thing. It's as though they have a chip on their shoulder and they're just looking for an excuse to complain. They spend most of their lives being outraged. I can't stand people like that and I wish they'd just shut their friggin' pieholes or I'm gonna go postal on them!
  3. Anonymity. You can send e-mail and "chat" and maintain Web sites and do all sorts of other stuff without ever revealing your name. This makes assholes be even bigger assholes because they know that no matter who they piss off, no one will find out who they are so they will never get the beatings they deserve.

These three ingredients make a recipe for negative feelings. For example, let's say that someone has a blog. Being the asshole that he is, he posts something like this:

With all the "physically challenged" people we have, there are more and more mobility devices such as wheelchairs and personal scooters. I agree that truly crippled people should get to roll around in some kind of mobility device. What irks me is people who don't have any kind of spinal or joint problem that should hinder their ability to walk, but use wheelchairs and personal scooters anyway merely because they're fat. I have compassion for people who are paralyzed because of birth defects or age or disease or accidents, but swine who consciously allow themselves to grow hugely obese and then get their insurance companies to fund personal transportation devices just because they're too friggin' gluttonous to drop the fork don't deserve one milligram of sympathy or special parking spaces. And if you're one of these lazy piles of human debris, then instead of getting angry at me for calling you what you are, get off your grotesquely huge ass and take a walk, or at least forgo that third helping of pie.

Well, you know that at least some people who read that are going to get upset, and someone is probably going to respond with a comment like this:

Hey Jerk

I strongly object to your use of the word "fat". As a Person Of Size myself, I have a right to be as large as I'd like, and I don't ask for anyone's assistance. I pay for my own food, buy two tickets when I fly, and put my belt on with a boomerang.

Chunky N. Corpulent

Then the asshole might respond with:

Dear Fatso

I had no idea that anyone so fat could be so thin-skinned. I realize that the gravitationally enhanced can serve in many useful ways. For example, as ballast. Why don't you organize all the fat people into a demonstration in Washington DC so the rest of us can see what a large (har!) group you are. You could call it the Million Ton March.

I'd like to write more but Emeril is on.

Sincerely,

Ben   <-------- not my real name




Chapter 13

REPAIRS  AND  SERVICE


Why do computer programmers dress up in costumes on Christmas? Because 25 dec = 31 oct.


Computers tend to degrade over time. Components wear out, and the system acquires junk such as extraneous files, spyware, worms and viruses. One of my computers had more infections than a crack whore. I used to feed it penicillin.

Sometimes a computer needs to be treated by a computer repair worker. Oh, excuse me: a service technician professional. When you bring your computer in for repair, do you think that it is placed in the hands of a college graduate who took numerous classes on the intricate workings of all types of computers, including yours? Well, Sparky, I hate to burst your bubble, but your machine will most likely end up being opened by some ignorant kid who can barely spell the word "college" and who thinks Johnny Cash is a pay toilet. Let me tell you of my experiences with "service technician professionals".

In early 2003 my computer was having a sporadic problem booting and I brought it in for repair at the store where I had bought it. Now, in order to avoid a lawsuit, I won't tell you the name of the store, but the first 4 letters of its name are the same as the first four letters of the word "computer", and its last 3 letters are our country's initials. Anyway, after more than 2 weeks in the shop, they replaced the hard drive and I took my computer home. I was a little irritated because it took many hours to reload all my software and restore my address book, bookmarks and system defaults, but it was worth it because the machine was operational. Well, within a month the same problem resurfaced, so perhaps the hard drive wasn't the defective part. I brought it back to the store, annoyed but not really surprised at their failure. It is this particular store's policy to give a misdiagnosed machine to the same technician who originally worked on it, the logic being that he "knows" the machine better than any of the other technicians. (Well, if he knows the machine so well, then why didn't he fix it?)

I had to wait a few more weeks because the "professional" who worked on it often didn't show up for work. What was his ultimate solution? He ordered another hard drive. I swear I am not making this up. I tried reasoning with him and anyone else I could contact on the phone, but they insisted that sometimes the hard drives they order are not new but "rebuilt", so the one they had installed could have been defective. Great, so they're installing used parts. Powerless to change their modus operandi, I let them replace the hard drive, which of course necessitated several more hours of my personal time to restore the machine to the state I had worked so hard to get it in. Oh, and did I mention that when I got the machine back, one of my operating system CDs was missing? I went back into the repair shop and found it on the floor. Uh huh. The cretin register clerk – who had even fewer neurons than the computer repair guys – had dropped the CD case, which had caused it to open and a CD to fall out, and when she had picked it up, she hadn't even bothered to count the CDs in order to make sure that they were all still there. Of course not. That would have required extra effort – the kind of effort that might help her get a better job. Meanwhile she probably carries the title "customer service professional". Anyway, I picked up my wayward CD, brushed it off and used all my self-control to suppress the urge to wring the pencil neck that supported her three brain cells, which were just functional enough to make my bad day even worse.

Later that year my machine developed more sporadic booting problems, and once again I found myself back at Morons R Us for additional service. Luckily the guy who had bungled my machine's repair didn't work there anymore. Well, perhaps he was the only idiot the store had ever hired, and if so, here was their chance to prove that all their other technicians are talented or at least adequate. After a week of not hearing back from them, I called to check the status. The guy working on it informed me that he had ordered – are you ready? – another hard drive. I explained to him very slowly and clearly that this would be the 4th hard drive in this machine, and that perhaps the problem was somewhere else. So he - without doing any further diagnostics - decided on the spot to order a new motherboard. Forget about testing all the components to isolate the problem; computer repair is a guessing game. Keep replacing parts until the problem goes away. What kind of training or expertise does that take? Even the imbecile working the register could do that. Well, a few days later I called to check the progress on my machine. A dumb-sounding kid answered.

Me:"I'd like to check the status of repair order number 39718407."
Kid:"Hold, please."

A few minutes of impatient waiting.

Kid:"A part is on order."
Me:"What kind of part? A hard drive or a motherboard?"
Kid:"Uh, I wasn't paying attention."
Me:"Well, could you check please?"
Kid:"Hold on."

More waiting.

Kid:"It's a hard drive."
Me:"What?? The guy working on it told me he was ordering a motherboard!"
Kid:"He's right here. Would you like to speak to him?"

No, I want to feel helpless and frustrated while you report his idiocy to me.

Me:"Yes."
Kid:"Hold, please."

I won't give the repair guy's real name. Let's just call him Dum.

Dum:"Can I help you?"

Apparently not.

Me:"You told me a few days ago that you ordered a new motherboard for my computer."
Dum:"We are not allowed to have two parts on order at the same time, so as soon as the hard drive I had previously ordered arrives, I can order the new motherboard."

Mind you, he didn't speak as well as my writing indicates; I removed his past/present/future tense errors and added some articles for the sake of making this discourse grammatically correct. In any case, a few days later he replaced the motherboard and called me to say that he was done and that the machine was fine. So I picked it up, brought it home, hooked it up, and ... it wouldn't boot.

The next day I called the store, and I was informed that my technician didn't show up for work. Of course. So I asked to speak to the manager. He didn't show up either. So I waited another day, called to make sure the manager was there, and brought my computer in. I insisted that the manager attempt to boot the machine in order to show him how incompetent his underlings were and to give him a chance to diagnose it himself. After about 15 minutes of fiddling and diddling, he informed me that the video card was the defective component. I wondered why he was able to pinpoint the problem so quickly when a "professional", who had supposedly spent days running tests, had failed, but I didn't ask because I knew the answer: the technician was a dolt. Just like the guy who had misdiagnosed the same machine months earlier.

But wait. There's more. A week and a half later I got a call from the manager. He told me that he had replaced the video card but that the motherboard was bad. I said that the other guy had just replaced the motherboard. At least, that's what the guy had told me. The manager suggested that maybe there had been a power surge that had fried the new motherboard. Sure, and maybe Britney Spears has talent. No matter, because my machine was still covered under an extended warranty (for which I had paid more than $400), so this absurdity wasn't costing me any money. I can imagine how much other people who didn't buy warranties are paying for this kind of "service". Anyway, after another week and a half the manager called to say that he was still waiting for the new motherboard and that it should arrive within a day or two. You see, the Einsteins in the service department perceive no need to stock computer parts, even though they're constantly replacing them. Every time a part is needed, a special order is placed for it, which keeps customers waiting that much longer.

Well, a few days went by and I didn't hear back from the manager, so I called him. He said that he had installed the new motherboard but that the new video card had malfunctioned. So yet another order was placed for a part that computer service departments, if they had any sense, would keep plenty of on hand. The video card was eventually replaced and that miraculously fixed the problem. Thank heavens for the supremely talented, educated and intelligent folks who work in computer service repair! They actually repaired my personal computer by making only six parts replacements (two hard drives, two motherboards and two video cards). I know that they could apply their expertise in any field. For example, if they were garage mechanics and your car was having trouble starting, they could fix it by ordering a new water pump, which would cause you to tell them not to do that because they had just replaced it a few months earlier, which would cause them to order two sets of fuel injectors and two starter solenoids, which would eventually get your car running, and all you would have to do in the meantime is take taxicabs to work for a few months.

Now, I'm not suggesting that computer service "professionals" are inept. Nor am I implying that they are nothing but a bunch of pimple-faced, barely-escaped-high-school dweebs who don't have the wherewithal to get real jobs. I'm sure that in terms of knowledge and skill, they're right up there with chimpanzees. In fact, I'm sure that they can do a lot of things that chimps can do, like use tools and fling poo. But my point is that you and I are not much better at computer repair, which is why we have to bring our broken machines to a group of people who are too young to remember Ronald Reagan and who can't count above 10 without removing their shoes.


Appendix

GOOGLE  SEARCH  TIPS


Although there are many search engines, I selected Google because it's one of the most robust and popular, and you will probably end up using it for most of your searches anyway.

Let's say you want to learn about beer. You could simply type beer and you would get many links (called "hits") to sites that mention beer. However, you'd get links to everything from beer tasting to beer brewing to Coors to partying.

To narrow your search, add other search terms (Google assumes that you want pages that contain all of the search terms, not just any of them). For example, if you want to learn how to brew stout beer, brewing stout beer would return hits that contain all three of those terms, so there is a high likelihood that you'll find pages on brewing stout. However, the terms can appear anywhere on a page, so a page containing the text "A stout man drank beer while brewing coffee" would qualify, but it wouldn't be what you want.

To find pages containing phrases, use quotation marks. For example, "brewing stout beer" will return hits only for pages that contain those three words in a row.

Search words are not case sensitive. Therefore all of the following queries would return the same results:

If you'd like to find pages that contain any of several words or phrases, use the OR operator. (This operator is case sensitive, and it must be capitalized.) For example, the query

"brewing stout beer" OR "brewing lambic beer"

will find pages related to brewing stout as well as pages related to brewing lambic.

To exclude certain words from a search, put a minus sign in front of them. For example, the query

"Bill Clinton" -adultery -Lewinsky -perjury -liar

would return hits to pages that mention Bill Clinton but not the activities he's most famous for.

There is a wildcard feature. An asterisk (*) can be inserted into a search phrase in order to match any word. For example, the query

"I want to * your hand"

will find pages containing "I want to hold your hand", "I want to kiss your hand", etc. (I was so tempted to write something dirty here.)

Unfortunately the asterisk can't be used for letter substitution. For example, you cannot search for *han*uka* in order to find references to all spellings of the Jewish holiday; your query would have to be:

Chanukah OR Channukah OR Hanukkah OR Hannukkah

Number ranges can be specified by separating two values with two periods and no spaces. For example, to find references to hippies in the 1960s, you could search for

hippie 1960..1969

Google even recognizes dollar amounts. For example, to find a TV in the $100 to $200 price range, you could search for

television $100..$200

You can find synonyms by placing a tilde (~) in front of a keyword. For example, a search for

~pig

will find swine, hog, boar, and Howard Stern.

Google has several query modifiers that can make searches more effective. I'll only explain a few of them because I'm lazy and because this book is already long enough.

The site: modifier finds results under a given domain, or not under a given domain if the minus sign is used. For example, the query

beer site:www.cia.gov

will find references to beer in only those pages under CIA's Web site. The query

beer -site:www.beertown.org

will find beer in Web pages that are not under www.beertown.org.

The inurl: modifier finds documents containing the keyword in the URL. For example, the query

beer inurl:brewing

will find references to beer only in pages that contain "brewing" as part of the URL (for example, in www.nzs.com/recreation/brewing).

The link: modifier finds pages that have links to a specific page. (It cannot be used with keyword search terms.) For example, the query

link:benbrew.com

finds all pages that link to my Web page (not many I bet).

The filetype: modifier finds documents of a certain type. Each document type is indicated by an abbreviation, which is usually the same as the file extension: doc (Word), xls (Excel), ppt (PowerPoint), pdf (portable document format), rtf (rich text format), ps (postscript), txt (text), etc. For example, the query

beer filetype:doc

will find only Word documents that contain beer. Note that there are XML versions of three Windows applications, and files in those formats are denoted by adding an 'x' to their extension (docx, pptx, xlsx). Each must be ORed with its corresponding non-XML extension in order to find all files belonging to that application. For example, to find all XML and non-XML Word documents that contain beer, your query would have to be:

beer (filetype:doc OR filetype:docx)


ABOUT  THE  AUTHOR


Ben is a licensed driver. He has a high school degree and owns several pairs of socks. He is a freelance beer drinker and can digest many types of food. An upstanding member of AAA, he has been known to watch television and surf the Web – often in the same day. His goals are, um, okay, he has none, but his lack of ambition makes the rest of us look good.