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In The Forum:
Hard Wiring - Installation
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In The Forum:
Hard Wiring - Installation
Topic:
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In The Forum:
Vonage UK
Topic:
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In The Forum:
Vonage UK
Topic:
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In The Forum:
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Technology
Shareware Helps Make Internet A Safer Place
Spam, Spyware, Viruses, Pop-Ups Sneaky Hazards That Can Drown Unwary Surfers


January 5, 2004

By Rob Pegoraro

It was the year the Internet officially stopped being fun.

In 2003, the festering problems of spam, spyware, viruses, worms and pop-ups boiled over, making the online experience annoying at best, financially and emotionally destructive at worst.

Users of Microsoft Windows found themselves in the bull's-eye -- years of inattention to security issues in Redmond, Wash., left them exposed to the Blaster worm, the Sobig virus, Messenger Service pop-ups, spyware infestations and worse, while Mac and Linux users missed out on all the ``fun.''

Microsoft seems to have taken the hint and is developing a promising update to Windows XP that will fix long-standing flaws in its firewall, network and browser settings, but don't expect to see it before next summer.

Meanwhile, it has fallen to other developers to pick up the slack.

Sick of spyware? Download AdAware (www.lavasoftusa.com) or Spybot Search and Destroy (www.spybot.info). Need a firewall? Download the free ZoneAlarm (www.zonelabs.com).

Tired of pop-up ads? Install the Google Toolbar add-on for Internet Explorer -- or switch to such competing browsers as Mozilla and Mozilla Firebird, which block pop-ups and offer tabbed browsing, possibly the greatest advance in Web software since the bookmarks menu.

Unfortunately, there's no bulletproof solution for spam. Filtering has improved a great deal -- for instance, the new mail-management features in Microsoft's Outlook 2003 made it the company's most welcome software release this year -- and challenge-response systems can eliminate spam completely for users whose e-mail usage fits the right pattern. But the best defense against spam remains keeping your e-mail address as obscure as possible.

Fortunately, not every software developer on the Internet was tied down playing defense all year. In April, Apple opened the iTunes Music Store, whose 99-cents-a-song pricing and liberal usage rights could only have been considered revolutionary in the perverse context of earlier, lamer attempts.

Competing services began selling songs under similar terms in the fall, about the same time Apple brought iTunes to Windows users -- but by then, the Cupertino, Calif., company had secured a commanding lead, allowing it to sell its 25 millionth song on Dec. 15.

The iTunes, Musicmatch and Napster stores, if they continue to expand their inventory, may wind up doing far more to stop MP3 file-swapping than all the lawsuits the Recording Industry Association of America files against MP3 file sharers.

When they thank the operators of these stores, the record labels can also thank the broadband Internet providers that successfully rolled out fast Internet connections -- via cable, digital subscriber line and, for a small but significant number of users, WiFi wireless -- to millions of new users.

Three other trends online didn't get much ink in the nontechnical press this year, but I suspect they will soon earn their share of headlines: RSS (``Really Simple Syndication''), a simple way to get the latest news automatically from a huge variety of Web sites; free audio and video chat via instant-messaging programs; and such telephone-replacement ``voice over Internet protocol'' services as Vonage.

This story also appeared in:
  • Modesto Bee, 1/6/04
  • Fort Wayne News Sentinel, 1/5/03
  • Akron Beacon Journal, 1/5/05



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    †AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

    1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

    2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

    HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

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