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Five last articles
  • Building a Web Store on Shoestring Budget in less than Four Hours

  • Thursday, May 12, 2005
  • Effective Web Search with Google's "My Search History" Tool

  • Monday, April 25, 2005
  • Beware of Spyware

  • Thursday, April 7, 2005
  • How to Build a Business Website

  • Tuesday, March 22, 2005
  • Effective use of your online time

  • Saturday, March 5, 2005
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    Effective Web Search with Google's "My Search History" Tool Monday, April 25, 2005

    Effective Web Search with Google’s "My Search 
    History" Tool You were looking for certain information on the web. After several attempts using different words and phrases with your favorite search engine, you finally have found the required information but, as it happens, forgot to bookmark the pages. In a few days when you needed to check out the same pages again, to your utter dismay, you realized that you couldn’t recall how you searched out those pages. Sounds familiar? If you are like me, you probably face this problem quite frequently!

    Finding the right page link you are seeking from the browser’s history feature, out of hundreds of pages that you have visited recently, is not easy either! More over, browser’s history page remembers where you have been as you browse the web for a limited time only. Things may be a little easier if you use Google Desktop search or similar tools from other search engines, but again if you don’t always use the same computer, even this might not be of much help.

    My Search History – a new Google feature

    However, thanks to new "My Search History" feature from Google, now you are able to overcome this difficulty. The service, which is still at beta stage and released just recently, provides complete search history of all the past searches made through Google once you install it. The search histories are stored on Google’s servers, this enables you to access search histories from any computer. From your search history page you are able to make a query on the search history itself. On the history page at the right side you can see the search words or phrases used for making a query, time of the query made, pages visited related to the query and the page link. At the left side, there is a calendar to check out the search made by you on an earlier date. It also shows how many searches you have done on a certain day and how intense your search activity was on each day. A neat feature, which will help you get rid of the problem mentioned in the beginning of the article, will show you relevant search results from your "My History Pages" along with the new search results while you make a query. "This feature of Google Web search enables you to find information you thought you lost", Google claims on its site.

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    How to install?

    In order to add this feature go to the "My Search History" link on your Google home page and search results pages, by clicking the My Search History link on Google Labs, or by going directly to http://www.google.com/searchhistory. If you ever registered with any of Google’s services, i.e. Gmail, Newsgroups, Froogle, etc. you may use same user name and password to install this feature. If you don’t have account with Google as yet, don’t worry unlike Gmail account you can go to the following page https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount and create a new account. Once you created an account, you can turn on "My Search History", which will add the link to your Google home page and search results pages.

    Is this feature something new?

    This is actually not a new feature on the Internet. This service of Google has striking similarity to the one already existed on Meta Search tool www.a9.com. Other search engines like www.askjeeves.com and little know www.findory.com also have some thing similar incorporated to their systems. A9 also has a feature called "Discover", which along with your search results recommends sites relevant to the query. The My Yahoo Search test released in October also enables users to save, share and post notes on their own search results.

    Privacy issues

    There is always a reason to be concerned when your Internet activities are tracked and kept by any company. However, Google has taken several steps so that a user can have total control on how he exploits this service.

    First, you have to log on in order to use this feature. Your log in status is visible all the time on the Google home page. If you can see your account name on top right side of the page, this means you are signed in.

    If you don’t want certain searches to be tracked by Google, you have two choices. Either you can suspend the service for a while by clicking on the "pause" button or just log off from the service.

    You can also erase search results from history page by clicking on "Remove" link. Combination of all these mechanisms will allow you to keep your searches private and protected. However, if you are overly concerned about privacy, you better refrain from using this feature.

    Benefits

    Most of Google’s features carry great values for users. The personalization of search processes using "My Search History" allows you to get a better search experience. It’s a significant leap towards creating an ideal search system.

    The benefits of this feature for Google are also enormous! Almost all of Google’s revenue comes from search ads. Naturally, Google’s ability to provide more refined search results to users will allow vendors better targeting their market niche. They would spend substantially more if they could show ads to users based on their past search history. But, Google claims that at this moment it is not planning to post any ads on your history pages.

    No doubt, this is an interface that many of us have been waiting for quite a while. However, its impact on the future of search engines remains to be seen!


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    Beware of Spyware Thursday, April 7, 2005

    Beware of Spyware One day, you suddenly realize that your computer started to work noticeably slower than it used to. You decide to run de-fragmentation of your hard drive and add more virtual memory to the system. No luck! May be, its probably some viruses, you reckon turning on your virus scanning software. Even after running the anti-virus program you notice that the problem wont resolve. Not understanding whats happening frustrated you pick up the phone. Its time to call your tech-support. Sounds familiar? You are not alone! Each day, thousands of users are facing similar problems caused by malicious software called Spyware. According to Dell technical support, nowadays 12 percent of their support calls involve problems related to some kinds of Spyware. Microsoft reports that fifty percent of all computer crashes are caused by Spyware, viruses and Trojans.

    What is a Spyware?

    Spyware also named Malware or Adware are malicious software programs, which most of the time get installed on your computer without your knowledge. These programs are capable of doing many outrageous, sinister things to your computer such as changing computer settings, tracking your online behavior, monitoring and controlling your computer, recording your keystrokes, displaying unwanted advertisement and reporting needed information back to the person behind it.

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    The main types of Spyware are:

    Key loggers: This type of Spyware copies everything you type to a file and send it to the hacker. The more sophisticated type, which is used for identity theft, copies the information you provide when you are connected to a secure website.

    Browser hijacker: It modifies browser settings without your permission. This Spyware is capable of changing your start page, search page, search tool bar and redirect your url to specific pages.

    Email redirector: Surreptitiously copies all your incoming and outgoing emails and sends to the hacker.

    Dialers: This spyware install themselves to your dial-up settings and dials numbers without your knowledge, often to out of country numbers.

    Collectware: The purpose of this Spyware is to track your surfing habit and transmitting the statistical data to the hacker. This information later gets sold to advertisement companies.

    Adware: This Spyware downloads all sorts of banner advertisements every time you take some action such as typing a word on your search tool.

    Why my antivirus program does not block a Spyware?

    Although, Spyware uses same tactics like Trojan virus, technically it is not a virus. A virus is a program written to create trouble or possibly harm your computer system. Viruses are capable of replicate, evolve and cause severe damages to your computer files, registry or even hardware. Spyware, on the other hand, does not harm your computer intentionally. Any nuisance like system slow down is the collateral damage, which occurs while the Spyware serves its mission of monitoring your activities and making unwanted changes to your user experience.

    People rarely read the fine prints of the user agreements while downloading a file, a program, a game or other free stuffs from the Internet. Unethical sites use this to their advantage and add tiny Spyware with the file you are downloading.

    The anti-virus programs can not be sure, whether this program is installed deliberately by you or its a malicious Spyware. This makes identifying and blocking a Spyware difficult for an Anti-virus program. However, things are started to change! Major anti-virus companies are planning to integrate anti-spyware programs to their existing products very soon.


    How did I get infected with a Spyware?

    There are numerous ways how you might end up with having a Spyware on your system.

       When you download and install programs, games, smilies, pictures, screensavers from dubious sites, there is a big chance that you might install a sneaky Spyware along the way.

       Some websites and pop-up windows try to download and install Spyware while you are there. According a recent analysis of sex-based websites, up to 80 percent of these sites are now being used to upload Spyware, worms and Trojans to unsuspecting visitors.

       Some add-ons to you browser that is supposed to enhance your browser experience may secretively install Spyware.

       The most cynical method of infecting you with Spyware is when you receive a sudden pop-up ad, which claims that your computer is contaminated and you have to run certain program to cure your system. If you are credulous enough to run this program, it just installs a Spyware instead of eliminating any.

     

    How to fight back?

    If you carefully follow the instructions outlined below, your chances of getting infected with Spyware are pretty slim.

    Update your Windows
    Allow your version of Windows to update it automatically. Ensure that you have all the latest security patches installed.

    Use Firefox as your default browser
    Since Internet Explorer is the main target for many Spyware, you will be better of with Mozilla Firefox. Moreover, it is a better browser than IE in many aspects.

    Be extremely careful with your downloads
    Try not to download anything from a unknown site. If you still feel like getting a shareware or freeware program check it out on one of these online Spyware database. Spychecker is one such service, and Camtech 2000's Spy Chaser is a nifty downloadable database of nearly 1000 spyware-infested programs.

    Use an Anti-Spyware application
    Download and install one of the following anti-spyware programs: Ad-aware, Spybot or Microsoft AntiSpyware. Although, Microsofts Anti-Spyware is still at beta stage, I am using it and very happy with its performance.

    Get a Firewall
    If you are using Windows XP with Service Pack 2, you are probably fine! In other cases, if your computer is connected to the Internet directly you should get a firewall and install it. Zone alarm is a great firewall you can download for free.

    A recently conducted survey of the Top Network Security threats in 2005 reveals that two-thirds of IT managers and administrators believe that Spyware will be the number one threat to network security. So dont take any chance! Make sure that you are protected!

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