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Internet Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things about Going Online [Paperback]

Preston Gralla

Price: 15.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

30 Jan 2005 0596007353 978-0596007355 1

What began as an intrepid U.S. Government initiative in the early 1970's has turned into a global way of life. Indeed, with more than 500 million current users (and counting), the Internet has revolutionized the way societies function the world over. From dating and shopping online, to conducting informational research, to communicating via email, today seemingly everyone uses the Internet for one purpose or another. How, then, can something so vast and powerful be defiled by something as trivial as spam?It's true. The fact remains that despite the leading-edge technological sophistication fueling the Net, there are still many related annoyances that complicate and tarnish the Internet experience. And it doesn't matter if you're a homemaker in search of a fresh chicken recipe, or a civil engineer researching plans for a new skyscraper, the problems are the same.Internet Annoyances understands the universal nature of the Internet and strives to make its use as stress-free as possible. This insightful guide shows you how to overcome the most annoying Internet-related quirks, bugs, and hassles. You'll learn how to make a seamless connection, thwart would-be hackers, ensure greater security while surfing, eliminate pop-up ads, maximize online services, conduct more effective Google searches, better utilize digital media (music and video), and much more.In addition, Internet Annoyances discusses how to design and host a personal web site something once thought of as only possible for the technically gifted. Topics like blogs, domain names, setup, HTML, fonts, and graphics and are all dissected and analyzed for easy consumption.Unlike other books on the subject, Internet Annoyances assumes readers already possess a working knowledge of the Internet. By fully recognizing the experience level of today's Internet culture, author Preston Galla is able to cut immediately to the chase and not waste time on the more obvious points. Internet Annoyances, therefore, is a quick read that presents succinct solutions for the many glitches that still populate the Internet experience.

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About the Author

Preston Gralla is the author of more than 20 books about computers and the Internet, including Windows XP Hacks and Windows XP Power Hound (both from O'Reilly). He's been writing about technology since the dawn of the PC, was a founding editor of both PC Week and PC/Computing, an executive editor at CNET/ZDNet, and contributor to dozens of publications, including PC Magazine, Computerworld, and the Los Angeles Times.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 8 Searching Annoyances

Quick, answer this question: do you spend more time on the Internet searching for things or actually finding them?

I thought so – searching. After all, it’s easy to type a few words into a search box, but it’s tough to actually find anything you want. And that’s no surprise. The internet is a big, big place filled with billions of pages of text, not nice, neat, indexable database records. Crafting the right search criteria for each different search engine, accommodating their quirks and limits, learning their arcane syntaxes, pawing through paid results looking for the real thing, is… well, bloody annoying. It’s amazing we ever find anything! There’s a wealth of information out there, though, and the tips within this chapter will show you how to bend the search engines to your will and track down whatever you’re looking for.

General Search Annoyances

Weed out sponsored search results

The Annoyance: Call me an old fogey, but I remember the days when you used a search site and got back results based on relevance to your query. These days, the results are skewed – sponsors get top billing while everything else falls off the screen, and it’s not always easy to tell sponsored results from really relevant results. How can I filter out these ads masquerading as search results?

The Fix: Use the AdSubtract utility’s Search Sanity feature. AdSubtract’s main job is to block ads while you surf the Web, but its Search Sanity feature is even more useful – it eliminates annoying sponsored and paid results so that you can only see pages that match your search.

You can get AdSubtract from adsubtract.com (It’s free to try for 30 days and costs $29.95 if you keep it.) When you install it, you’ll have to turn on Search Sanity. Double-click the AdSubtract icon in the Windows System Tray, choose Search Sanity, and check the boxes next to the search engines whose results you want to filter. Click OK, and sponsored results and ads will be banished!

Search The Past With the Wayback Machine

The Annoyance: My favourite web site crashed and burned several years ago, never to be heard from again. I desperately need a piece of information on that site. Am I out of luck?

The Fix: Maybe not. The Internet Archive at archive.org has been saving web pages since 1996, and the site you’re looking for might be there. Search the archive’s Wayback Machine for any web site address of phrase, and you’ll get a list of relevant pages, organized by year and month. Click the links to view the pages – well, at least what the Archive was able to get its hands on. Graphics are often missing, but the text is usually there. Links on retrieved pages don’t always work, and occasionally you’ll find a page that’s largely blank. But when it comes to finding the remains of the Web, the Archive is about your only option.

Google Toolbar Alternatives

The Annoyance: The Google Toolbar is way convenient – but I don’t just use Google. Surely the competition has kept up! Do sites like HotBot and AltaVista have toolbars? Where can I get them?

The Fix: These days, any search site worth its salt has its own toolbar. Here are some of the notable ones:

Ask Jeeves Toolbar
AltaVista Toolbar
Dogpile Toolbar
HotBot Quick Search Toolbar
Teoma Search Bar
Yahoo! Companion Toolbar
MSN Toolbar

These toolbars offer an array of features – some (such as Yahoo!’s) go in for pop-up blocking, while others (such as HotBot’s) offer the ability to search files on your PC. They don’t conflict with each other, either, so yes, you can pile ‘em on.

Change IE’s Default Search Engine

The Annoyance: Whenever I search from Internet Explorer’s Address Box, it always defaults to MSN Search – my least favourite search engine. Please tell me I can change this!

The Fix: You can indeed use other search sites, including Google and Yahoo!, among others. Here’s how:

1. Click the Search button in the IE toolbar. A vertical Search window will open on the left.

2. Click the Customize button. In the Customize Search Settings dialog, click the Autosearch Settings button.

3. From the drop-down list in the Customize Autosearch Settings dialog box, choose the search service you want to use. (If the search engine you want isn’t on the list, check the next annoyance for a semi-fix.)

4. Click OK and OK again. From now on, when you search the Web from the Address Bar (or click IE’s Search button), IE will use this service.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another outstanding Annoyances book... 10 Feb 2005
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
I recently had the chance to read and review the book Internet Annoyances by Preston Gralla (O'Reilly). All I can say is that I'm really getting hooked on this Annoyances series. Internet Annoyances is no exception...

Chapter List:

Chapter 1 - Email and Spam Annoyances: General Email Annoyances; Spam; Outlook 2003 and Outlook Express; Gmail; Eudora 6

Chapter 2 - Making The Connection Annoyances: General Connection Annoyances; Broadband: Cable and DSL Connections; Routers and Home Networks

Chapter 3 - Wireless Annoyances: Home Wireless Networks and Routers; Cell Phones and the Net; WiFi Security; HotSpots

Chapter 4 - Web Hosting, Design, and Blog Annoyances: Domain and Hosting Hassles; Design and Maintenance Help; Blogging

Chapter 5 - Browser Annoyances: Pop-Ups, Ads, and Flash; Favorites and Bookmarks; Working the Interface; Speedups and Shortcuts; Cookies

Chapter 6 - AOL Annoyances: General AOL Annoyances; Email

Chapter 7 - IM Annoyances: General Instant Messaging Annoyances; AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Windows Messenger; Yahoo! Messenger; ICQ

Chapter 8 - Searching Annoyances: General Search Annoyances; Government and the Law; Google; Amazon; eBay; Yahoo!

Chapter 9 - Security Annoyances: General Security Annoyances; Spyware; Trojans, Worms, and Viruses; Firewalls

Chapter 10 - Shopping and Auction Annoyances: General Shopping Annoyances; eBay Annoyances; Amazon Annoyances


As you can see, this book covers quite a bit of ground. Each chapter/subsection consists of a number of annoyances in the form of "questions" from readers or contributors. Imagine a weekly newspaper Q&A column and you get the idea. Gralla then answers the question in a straight-forward, understandable way that often includes a liberal dose of humor. What's even better is that he often includes links to websites that offer some unique service or twist on the subject (like using Teoma as a search engine for tech subjects) or a lead to a piece of software that will dramatically change the way you do something (like the Asterisk Key utility to show you the passwords behind the asterisks in a password field). And sometimes its just letting you know that Amazon.com *does* have a 1-800 number for customer service where you can speak to a real person (1-800-201-7575).

You won't necessarily learn something from every tip included in the book. You may even skip entire chapters (don't ask me questions about the AOL chapter, OK?). But that's OK and to be expected. Odds are that you'll pick up at least 10 - 20 tips or tricks that will make the whole book worth every penny you spend on it. Just the fact I don't have to continue to see IE launched as a quarter-size window any more was worth the price of admission for me!

Great stuff here, and a recommended read...
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding selection of helpful hints 28 Jan 2005
By Jack D. Herrington - Published on Amazon.com
This is an outstanding selection of hints and tips for everything from fighting spam, to blocking popups, blogging, searching, buying, and a host of other activities on the Internet. The book has around 300 annoyances, each with an explanation of the problem and a solution. The annoyances, and the explanations, are all in play english for laymen.

Some of these hints are given several pages to play out. One particularly good one discusses the selection of a web hosting service. There is even a table with prices, storage sizes, bandwidth amounts, and more. It's great information presented in an easy to use form. Other hints, like the explanation of why you can't return a TV that is greater than 27 inches, seem out of place. But those are few and far between.

There are a number of books out there for Internet users looking for helpful hints. This is the best one I have seen so far. The writing is engaging, the content is great.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Internet Annoyances 14 Jun 2005
By Gregory West - Published on Amazon.com
SCUG Book Review: Internet Annoyances

By Gregory West

Editor, SCUG Report

Sarnia Computer User's Group - [...]

By Preston Gralla.

Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.

Category: Internet.

ISBN: 0-596-00735-3

Format: Paperback, 239pp

U.S. $24.95 / CAN. $36.95

Anyone who has been surfing the Internet knows that around every corner there is always something new and exciting. "Internet Annoyances" is one of those things, a cyberspace goldmine book that is loaded with far too many tips and tricks for Internet travelers to mention here. Preston Gralla is an author of more than 30 books about the Internet and computing, as well he was the founding editor of PC/Computing. He helped establish ZDNet online service and now he shares these experiences in this fascinating book.

Preston Gralla spent years collecting emails about annoying issues that Internet users have complained about and turned these problems into solutions. This book is organized into 10 chapters covering various aspects of computering problems and their solutions: Email and Spam, Making the Connection, Wireless, Web Hosting / Design and Blogs, Browsers, AOL, Instant Messaging, Searching Annoyances, Security, and Shopping / Auction annoyances. This book is deigned for you to flip about looking for those computer annoyances that irritate you the most. Of course, if you have a specific problem you can easily find a solution in the well-organized Index at the back of the book.

The pages are loaded with tons of screen shots identifying the specific topics, along with the problem stated and "The Fix" where you will be led systematic in a correction process that is easy to follow. Along with the screenshots, there are many highlighted features of both manufacturers programs and links to many free programs. A lot of the time these work just as well, if not better than those you have to pay for do. To take you a bit farther there are periodic "tip" boxes that help explain why you need to do this certain action, thus helping you learn more about the Internet and its various aspects of use. For instance, in the Security chapter you are given warnings and solutions about how to "Block Snooping Neighbours", "Spoofed Emails", "Phishing Expeditions", and of course a great section on Adware and Spyware, Trojans / Worms and Viruses. In the Shopping and Auction chapter you will learn about the various frauds such as identity theft and how to prevent it, faster form filling, and many Ebay tips.

Anyone who has a wireless setup at home, or for those who travel and use public WIFI access, Chapter 3: Wireless Annoyances is a must read. This section leads you into safe surfing and gives you step-by-step tips on how to secure your system from hackers and how to stop "BANDWIDTH VAMPIRES". You will also learn how to boost your signals, extend your wireless range, and find those hotspots while on the road.

This book is great for those who are just heading out on their first adventure into the World Wide Web, and for those who want to take their adventures to the next level. As the author points out, "Don't expect to read this book straight through from cover-to-cover. It's best to jump around, first solving those annoyances that annoy you the most, then discovering other annoyances you can head off at the pass." It pays to be aware out there on the World Wide Web, and this book does just that for you.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars some annoyances are dangerous 24 Feb 2005
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
For most of us, a huge value of our computers is being able to hook to the Internet. This once science fictional dream has now become an everyday reality. Alas, as this book mentions, such a reality also includes many annoying problems.

One way to read this book is to divide those annoyances into two groups. The first group is the little things, like tweaking the various Microsoft Office products. The second group of annoyances can be more troublesome. Like viruses/worms and spam. Malware.

Consider spam. The universal scourge. The book has a good, quick discussion of the main antispam techniques, like Bayesians or hashing. Plus advice that is a little cynical, but realistic. Like how the Can Spam act has largely proved useless. Or how you should not use naughty words in your outgoing email, to minimise chances of it being tagged as spam by your recipient's email provider.

Hotspots are also discussed heavily, due to their popularity and often insecure mode of operation. There is a great danger of someone running a packet sniffer. So your key communications should use https, if you are engaged in sensitive matters, like using your credit card. But the book does not go into how a phisher could launch a deadlier man in the middle attack. Where she replaces the hot spot device with her own, or subverts the device's software. Then, she runs a pocket universe, where she might have copied the websites of various banks, and she directs http queries to those banks to her fake websites [pharms]. This method totally negates https. Granted, it is technically quite hard to do and so is still somewhat uncommon. But the book should warn of it, if you want to stay ahead of the curve.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars still informative even after two years 2 May 2007
By Sunny - Published on Amazon.com
I read this book two years after it came out. Surprisingly, there are only a few out-of-date items (dead urls, new Google features, Internet Explorer 7 now has tabs..). There's still quite a lot of useful, relevant information in it. It's worth at least a loan from the library.

The sections I personally learned something new from were the fixes to Privacy Annoyances and the Shopping Annoyances (warning about restocking fees at online electronics stores).

Althought it's true you can google for solutions to a problem, this is worth having as a handy reference because it's a big help if, say, you're having issues getting connected to the Internet in the first place. And all the solutions are categorized already, so all you have to do is flip to the relevant chapter instead of wading through search-engine results.
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