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Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, June 2, 2013

In this Issue:
Special Feature: What is Spam? Why Is It So Common?
Special Series: Twenty Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web: Evolving to a Faster Web
Featured Computer Term: What’s The Difference between a Browser and a Home Page?
This Week's Topic: Fix These Bad Email Habits
Special Feature: iPad Basics - Syncing with iCloud - Hardware and Software Requirements
Websites of Interest: Adopt a Shelter Cat Month; Cognifit; D-Day; Professor Kite and the Secret of Kites


Special Feature: What is Spam? Why Is It So Common?

From worldstart.com

Spam, which is otherwise known as junk mail or spam mail, is a huge annoyance for every user of e-mail. So what exactly is it? Why is it so common? How do you prevent spam? Why don’t internet service providers stop accepting spam? The answers to these questions may surprise you.

What is spam?
Spam, in the most basic sense, is any e-mail that you didn’t request or sign up for it to be delivered to you. Spam can range from mass market advertising from a major retailer to advertisements about illicit websites or pharmacological products, to virus/spam e-mails. Spam mail in the year 2011 was estimated at almost seven trillion messages (7,000,000,000,000), and has resulted in a massive amount of wasted energy and labor by internet providers and end users. Spam is no longer limited to just e-mail, either; with instant message, text message, social network and other brands spam on the rise.

Why is spam so common?
This one throws most people for a loop when they hear the answer. YOU! Not particularly you (the person reading this article), but the human race in general has proven that spam mail works. The cost to send a single e-mail message is so low and the amount of people who will read and click on a link is so high that it makes spamming a money making business. If only a small fraction of e-mails results in a sale of a product or an infection of a machine, then the spammers have made money.

How do you prevent spam?
You can end up being the target of spam in quite a few different ways. If you put your e-mail address on any company’s website or online form, make sure you know the policy they have on what e-mails they will send and if they will share that information. Many people also find their e-mail address gets added to spammers lists by signing up for “free” offers or contests, which as part of the signup process gives permission for that company and its partners to send you e-mails. Most e-mail clients have options to mark a message as spam or junk and will attempt to learn from your selections as to which e-mails are spam and which are not.

Why don’t internet providers stop accepting spam?
Internet service providers actually do a lot to prevent and mitigate the effects of spam e-mail. Many providers use advanced e-mail processing servers which have lists of known spam addresses and types of spam and automatically refuse the message before it makes it to your inbox. Internet providers can’t out right ban or refuse spam, though, because spammers are very creative at getting around blocks. One person’s spam may be another person’s requested advertisements, so it’s often better for the provider to allow the message through than risk thousands of angry customers who didn’t get an ad flyer due to it possibly being spam.

Spam may be a huge annoyance, but by being smart with who you give your e-mail address to and using the spam/junk mail filters will keep this internet blight to a minimum.


Special Series: Twenty Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web: Evolving to a Faster Web

Many of us these days depend on the World Wide Web to bring the world’s information to our fingertips, and put us in touch with people and events across the globe instantaneously.

These powerful online experiences are possible thanks to an open web that can be accessed by anyone through a web browser, on any Internet-connected device in the world.

But how do our browsers and the web actually work? How has the World Wide Web evolved into what we know and love today? And what do we need to know to navigate the web safely and efficiently?

“20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web” is a short guide for anyone who’s curious about the basics of browsers and the web. Here’s what you’ll find here:

First we’ll look at the Internet, the very backbone that allows the web to exist. We’ll also take a look at how the web is used today, through cloud computing and web apps.

Then, we’ll introduce the building blocks of web pages like HTML and JavaScript, and review how their invention and evolution have changed the websites you visit every day. We’ll also take a look at the modern browser and how it helps users browse the web more safely and securely.

Finally, we’ll look ahead to the exciting innovations in browsers and web technologies that we believe will give us all even faster and more immersive online experiences in the future.

Life as citizens of the web can be liberating and empowering, but also deserves some self-education. Just as we’d want to know various basic facts as citizens of our physical neighborhoods -- water safety, key services, local businesses -- it’s increasingly important to understand a similar set of information about our online lives. That’s the spirit in which we wrote this guide. Many of the examples used to illustrate the features and functionality of the browser often refer back to Chrome, the open-source browser that we know well. We hope you find this guide as enjoyable to read as we did to create.
Happy browsing!
The Google Chrome Team

Evolving to a Faster Web

The web today is an amazing visual and interactive stew, teeming with images, photos, videos, and whizzy web apps. Some of the web’s most vivid experiences come from images and videos, from shared photo albums of family vacations to online video coverage from journalists in war zones.

It’s a far cry from the simple text and links that started it all. And it means that every time your browser loads a web page, much more data and complex code needs to be processed.

How much more, and how much more complex? A few astounding statistics:

Images and photos now make up about 65% of the information on a typical web page, in terms of bytes per page.

24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute of the day. (That’s like Hollywood releasing 130,000 new full-length movies every week, though with less popcorn.)

JavaScript programs have grown from a few lines to several hundred kilobytes of source code that must be processed each time a web page or application loads.

So won’t all these gushing floods of data slow down page loads on the browser? Will the Internet clog up and turn to molasses soon?

Probably not. Images and photos became commonplace on the web when computer scientists found ways to compress them into smaller files that could be sent and downloaded more easily. GIF and JPEG were the most popular of those early file-compression systems. Meanwhile, plug-ins were invented to work around the early limitations of HTML so that video could be embedded and played in web pages.

Looking ahead, the <video> tag in HTML5 makes it easy for videos to be embedded and played in web pages. Google is also collaborating with the web community on WebM, an effort to build out a free, open-source video format that adapts to the computing power and bandwidth conditions on the web, so quality video can be delivered to a computer in a farm house in Nebraska or a smartphone in Nairobi.

In the meantime, it’s true that web pages with lots of big photos or other images can still be very slow to load. That’s why a few engineers at Google have been experimenting with new ways to compress images even further while keeping the same image quality and resolution. The early results? Very promising. They’ve come up with a new image format called WebP that cuts down the average image file size by 39%.

The engines that run JavaScript code in modern web browsers have also been redesigned to process code faster than ever before. These fast JavaScript engines, such as Google Chrome’s V8, are now a core part of any modern web browser. That means the next generation of fabulously useful JavaScript-based web applications won’t be hampered by the complexity of more JavaScript code.

Another technique that modern browsers like Chrome use to fetch and load web pages much more quickly is called “DNS pre-resolution”. The process of translating a web address into an IP address through a DNS lookup, or vice versa, is often called “resolving.” With DNS pre-resolution, Chrome will simultaneously look up all the other links on the web page and pre-resolve those links into IP addresses in the background. So when you do actually click on one of the links on the page, the browser is ready to take you to the new page instantly. Over time, Chrome also learns from past visits so that the next time you go to a web page that you’ve previously visited, Chrome knows to automatically pre-resolve all the relevant links and elements on the web page.

Someday, browsers might be able to predict, before the page loads, not only which links to pre-resolve, but also which website elements (like images or videos) to pre-fetch ahead of time. That will make the web even quicker.

Soon enough, we hope, loading new pages on the browser will be as fast as flipping the pages of a picture book.

In our next edition: Open Source and Browsers


Featured Computer Term: What’s The Difference between a Browser and a Home Page?

From worldstart.com

Question: What’s the difference between a browser and a home page on your computer? My computer always opens up to Road Runner and that’s how I look around and find web pages and go to Facebook to play games. I was trying to explain a problem to my granddaughter and when she asked what my browser was, I said Road Runner. That’s where I get my e-mail. She says that’s my home page. I’m not sure I understand the difference. I use Windows 7.

Answer: Your browser or web browser is a program installed on your computer that allows you to navigate the Internet. You look at sites like Road Runner or Facebook using a browser. The most common browsers used in Windows are Internet Explorer (sometimes abbreviated IE), Firefox and Chrome.

Your homepage is the website that displays when you open the browser. I imagine you use the Road Runner page because they are your e-mail provider, but you can select any page you want for your home page.


Is there a computer term or phrase that you'd like to see an explanation of? Email it to info@computerkindergarten.com and we'll put the term and its definition in an upcoming newsletter.


Today's Topic: Fix These Bad Email Habits

By Christopher Null of pcworld.com

Keeping a Full Inbox (clean it out!)

Treat your inbox like your desk, with only essentials you need at that moment. As for everything else, file it, delete it, or transfer it to the calendar. Some task management approaches favor “inbox zero” (making your inbox totally empty), but the “no-scroll” goal (all inbox contents on a single screen) is more reachable for many.

Responding to Spam (don’t!)

There’s a difference between a mailing list or a promotional newsletter you signed up for and spam. The first you can unsubscribe from—and you should, liberally—the second you cannot. Use unsubscribe links for the former and invest in a spam filter for the latter. If spam becomes such a problem that you can’t manage it, consider the nuclear option: changing your email address.

Answering Instantly (think first!)

It’s tempting to write back to an email as quickly as possible so you can get it off your plate (and out of your inbox), but doing that can create its own problems. Consider setting your email client to delay its send/receive operation by 10 or 15 minutes. This gives you the chance to edit a message, add something to it (so that there is no second message, thereby keeping down the overall number of messages that you’re sending), and avoid the “I accidentally hit the Send button” goof-up. More critically, a delay lets the recipient know you took time to put together a thoughtful reply.

Replying to All (stop!)

One reason our inboxes are so full: We send so much email. Bob sends an email to a dozen people because he doesn’t know who can help him solve a problem—and those dozen people then reply to everyone. Use ‘Reply to All’ sparingly, and be certain every recipient on an email thread needs to read your response.


Special Feature: iPad Basics - Syncing with iCloud - Hardware and Software Requirements

From gcflearnfree.org

Before you set up iCloud on your iPad, make sure it meets the hardware and software requirements below. You should make sure your other devices are compatible too, so you can get the most out of iCloud's powerful syncing features.

iPad / iPad Mini

To set up iCloud on an iPad and/or iPad Mini, you'll need to confirm you're running one of the most recent versions of the operating system—either iOS 5 or iOS 6. If you're currently using an earlier version, you can update your software under Settings.

iPhone / iPod Touch

Older versions of these devices aren't compatible with iCloud. You'll need at least an iPhone 3GS or iPod Touch 3rd generation. The rest of the requirements are the same as above.

Mac Computers

To set up iCloud on a Mac, you'll need to have the latest version of Mac OS X Lion or Mac OS X Mountain Lion. You'll also need to make sure you're using iTunes 10.5 or higher. If you want to use Photo Stream with your computer, you'll need either iPhoto 9.2 or Aperture 3.2 (which you can purchase from the Mac App Store).

Windows PCs

To set up iCloud on a PC, you'll need to have Windows 7 or Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (Windows 8 is currently incompatible). You'll need to download the iCloud Control Panel for Windows from the Apple website. You'll also need to download iTunes 10.5 or higher. Note: In order to set up iCloud on your PC, you'll need to set up your other Apple devices first. At this time, you can't create an account from a Windows computer.


In our next edition:
Setting Up iCloud


Websites of Interest:

Adopt a Shelter Cat Month
June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month

Measure and improve your brain power.

June 6, 1944 was D-Day in Normandy, France. Visit these sites for information, history, video and spoken recollections of veterans who were there.

Professor Kite and the Secret of Kites
Kite Flying is fun and easy, if you know how.