Monthly Archives: December 2016

More Efficient Internet Searching

Did you hate memorizing seemingly insignificant facts for tests at school? No photographic memory? Good news! Life is now an open-book exam — assuming you have a computer, browser, and Internet access. If you know how to use a good search engine, you don’t have to stuff your mind with facts that are useful only when playing Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit.

Chances are, you aren’t the first person to run across the problem you are experiencing. Chances are also good that an answer is awaiting your discovery on the Internet — you just have to remove the irrelevant pages and the unhelpful/incorrect results to find that needle in the haystack.

Google has been fanatical about speed. There is little doubt that it has built an incredibly fast and thorough search engine. Unfortunately, the human element of the Internet search equation is often overlooked. These 10 tips are designed to improve that human element and better your Internet search skills. (Note: All examples below refer to the Google search engine.)

1: Use unique, specific terms

It is simply amazing how many Web pages are returned when performing a search. You might guess that the terms blue dolphin are relatively specialized. A Google search of those terms returned 2,440,000 results! To reduce the number of pages returned, use unique terms that are specific to the subject you are researching.

2: Use the minus operator (-) to narrow the search

How many times have you searched for a term and had the search engine return something totally unexpected? Terms with multiple meanings can return a lot of unwanted results. The rarely used but powerful minus operator, equivalent to a Boolean NOT, can remove many unwanted results. For example, when searching for the insect caterpillar, references to the company Caterpillar, Inc. will also be returned. Use Caterpillar -Inc to exclude references to the company or Caterpillar -Inc -Cat to further refine the search.

3: Use quotation marks for exact phrases

I often remember parts of phrases I have seen on a Web page or part of a quotation I want to track down. Using quotation marks around a phrase will return only those exact words in that order. It’s one of the best ways to limit the pages returned. Example: “Be nice to nerds”.Of course, you must have the phrase exactly right — and if your memory is as good as mine, that can be problematic.

4: Don’t use common words and punctuation

Common terms like a and the are called stop words and are usually ignored. Punctuation is also typically ignored. But there are exceptions. Common words and punctuation marks should be used when searching for a specific phrase inside quotes. There are cases when common words like the are significant. For instance, Raven and The Raven return entirely different results.

5: Capitalization

Most search engines do not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase, even within quotation marks. The following are all equivalent:

  • technology
  • Technology
  • TECHNOLOGY
  • “technology”
  • “Technology”

6: Drop the suffixes

It’s usually best to enter the base word so that you don’t exclude relevant pages. For example, bird and not birds, walkand not walked. One exception is if you are looking for sites that focus on the act of walking, enter the whole term walking.

7: Maximize AutoComplete

Ordering search terms from general to specific in the search box will display helpful results in a drop-down list and is the most efficient way to use AutoComplete. Selecting the appropriate item as it appears will save time typing. You have several choices for how the AutoComplete feature works:

Use Google AutoComplete. The standard Google start page will display a drop-down list of suggestions supplied by the Google search engine. This option can be a handy way to discover similar, related searches. For example, typing in Tucson fast will not only bring up the suggestion Tucson fast food but also Tucson fast food coupons. Use browser AutoComplete. Use this Google start page to disable the Google AutoComplete feature and display a list of yourprevious searches in a drop-down box. I find this particularly useful when I’ve made dozens of searches in the past for a particular item. The browser’s AutoComplete feature must be turned on for this option to work. Click one of these links for instructions detailing how to turn AutoComplete on or off in I.E. and Firefox.

Examples:

  • Visual Basic statement case
  • Visual Basic statement for
  • Visual Basic call

8: Customize your searches

There are several other less well known ways to limit the number of results returned and reduce your search time:

  • The plus operator (+): As mentioned above, stop words are typically ignored by the search engine. The plus operator tells the search engine to include those words in the result set. Example: tall +and short will return results that include the word and.
  • The tilde operator (~): Include a tilde in front of a word to return results that include synonyms. The tilde operator does not work well for all terms and sometimes not at all. A search for ~CSS includes the synonym style and returns fashion related style pages —not exactly what someone searching for CSS wants. Examples: ~HTML to get results for HTML with synonyms; ~HTML -HTML to get synonyms only for HTML.
  • The wildcard operator (*): Google calls it the fill in the blank operator. For example, amusement * will return pages with amusement and any other term(s) the Google search engine deems relevant. You can’t use wildcards for parts of words. So for example, amusement p* is invalid.
  • The OR operator (OR) or (|): Use this operator to return results with either of two terms. For example happy joy will return pages with both happy and joy, while happy | joy will return pages with either happy or joy.
  • Numeric ranges: You can refine searches that use numeric terms by returning a specific range, but you must supply the unit of measurement. Examples: Windows XP 2003..2005, PC $700 $800.
  • Site search: Many Web sites have their own site search feature, but you may find that Google site search will return more pages. When doing research, it’s best to go directly to the source, and site search is a great way to do that. Example: site:www.intel.com rapid storage technology.
  • Related sites: For example, related:www.youtube.com can be used to find sites similar to YouTube.
  • Change your preferences: Search preferences can be set globally by clicking on the gear icon in the upper-right corner and selecting Search Settings. I like to change the Number Of Results option to 100 to reduce total search time.
  • Forums-only search: Under the Google logo on the left side of the search result page, click More | Discussions or go to Google Groups. Forums are great places to look for solutions to technical problems.
  • Advanced searches: Click the Advanced Search button by the search box on the Google start or results page to refine your search by date, country, amount, language, or other criteria.
  • Wonder Wheel: The Google Wonder Wheel can visually assist you as you refine your search from general to specific. Here’s how to use this tool:
  1. Click on More Search Tools | Wonder Wheel in the lower-left section of the screen (Figure A) to load the Wonder Wheel page.
  2. Click on dbms tutorial (Figure B).

As you can see in Figure C, Google now displays two wheels showing the DBMS and dbms tutorial Wonder Wheels, with the results for dbms tutorial on the right side of the page. You can continue drilling down the tree to further narrow your search. Click the Close button at the top of the results to remove the Wonder Wheel(s).

9: Use browser history

Many times, I will be researching an item and scanning through dozens of pages when I suddenly remember something I had originally dismissed as being irrelevant. How do you quickly go back to that Web site? You can try to remember the exact words used for the search and then scan the results for the right site, but there is an easier way. If you can remember the general date and time of the search you can look through the browser history to find the Web page

10: Set a time limit — then change tactics

Sometimes, you never can find what you are looking for. Start an internal clock, and when a certain amount of time has elapsed without results, stop beating your head against the wall. It’s time to try something else:

  • Use a different search engine, like Yahoo!, Bing, Startpage, or Lycos.
  • Ask a peer.
  • Call support.
  • Ask a question in the appropriate forum.
  • Use search experts who can find the answer for you.

Shold You Know About Internet Browsing Safety

If you think devious Web sites are the only places where spyware awaits its victims, you are in for a shock. Spyware lurks in many corners of the Internet; often in places where you’d least expect it. All it takes is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to compromise your Internet browsing safety.

Here’s where the danger lies:

  • You open your Web browser and begin browsing
  • You visit a site and unknowingly fall into a spyware trap, such as:
    • A pop-up you click on, even to close it
    • A deceptive link that you follow
    • A clickable graphic that leads down a dangerous path
  • Spyware loads onto your PC without your knowledge
  • Sometimes simply opening a Web page or an HTML email starts the installation
  • Your computer is infected and your personal information is at risk

Spyware quickly begins its task of stealing your information (including credit card numbers, usernames and passwords), directing your browser to suspect sites, changing or deleting your files, pummeling you with pop-ups and slowing your PC to a crawl.

Internet browsing safety

Internet safety can be deceiving. Seemingly reputable sites may contain spyware traps, or the sites themselves may be counterfeit — phishing sites posing as the real thing to lure you into their scams and debacles. The path away from Internet safety often begins innocently enough; however, certain sites are more prone to be a source of spyware, including:

  • Adult sites
  • File sharing sites
  • Social networking sites

Follow these internet safety tips for avoiding spyware and fortify your computer security right away:

  • Avoid questionable Web sites
  • Only download software from sites you trust. Carefully evaluate free software and file-sharing applications before downloading them.
  • Update your operating system regularly
  • Increase your browser security settings
  • Type in a trusted URL for a company’s site into the address bar of your browser to bypass links in an email or instant message
  • Make sure that you have the best security software [http://www.webroot.com] products installed on your PC:
  • Use antivirus protection and a firewall
  • Get antispyware software protection

Stay safe online

An unprotected computer is like an open door for Web sites that threaten your Internet safety with spyware and computer viruses. Firewalls monitor Internet traffic in and out of your computer and hide your PC from online scammers looking for easy targets. Products like Webroot Internet Security Essentials and Webroot AntiVirus with Spy Sweeper make avoiding spyware easier by thwarting spyware and viruses before they can enter your PC, standing guard at every possible entrance of your computer and fending off threats that try to enter, even the most damaging and devious strains. If a spyware or virus threat is detected, questionable content is quarantined or deleted. While free antispyware and antivirus downloads are available, they just can’t keep up with the continuous onslaught of new spyware strains. Previously undetected forms of spyware and viruses can often do the most damage, so it’s critical to have up-to-the-minute, guaranteed protection.

Improving Home Wi-Fi Performance

A basic Wi-Fi wireless home network can be assembled fairly quickly. However, the performance of a Wi-Fi network can decline for a number of reasons. Many homeowners aren’t aware of the options available to maintain a network and make it better over time.

Consider these suggestions for improving the capability, performance and security of your wireless home network.

Upgrade and Add Equipment

While Wi-Fi gear can run for many years before failing, you should consider replacing older equipment. Many homeowners know about network routers and access points, but they may not realize that Wi-Fi technology continually improves. Newer Wi-Fi gear typically runs faster, is more reliable and offers better compatibility with your home electronic gadgets.

Don’t overlook the benefits that more advanced gear, including wireless print servers, range extenders and game adapters. Before settling for the cheapest basic network setup that supports only a few PCs or phones, research these types of products to see if they may benefit your home and can be acquired for reasonable prices.

Move the Router to a Better Location

Users often quickly setup their wireless network only to find that it doesn’t function well in certain areas of the home, while others may enjoy a working setup at first but find that their network crashes when a microwave oven or cordless phone is turned on.

PCs in a basement, attic or corner room may suffer from chronically poor network performance, but it may be unclear how to fix the problem.

One easy way to address these common Wi-Fi networking issues is to simply move the wireless router to a better location. More »

Change the Wi-Fi Channel Number

In most countries, Wi-Fi equipment can transmit signals on any of several different channels (similar to televisions). Interference on a channel can impact your Wi-Fi network’s performance.

Most wireless routers ship with the same default channel numbers and most users never think about changing this. You may experience radio interference from a neighbor’s router on the same channel, or even from some other piece of electronic equipment.

Changing the Wi-Fi channel is often the best way to fix this problem.More »

Upgrade Router Firmware

Wireless routers contain built-in programmable logic called firmware. Much like software, firmware can be upgraded and improved.

A version of firmware is installed on the router by the manufacturer, and this logic is essential to the operation of the device. Many routers offer a firmware upgrade capability that allows users to install newer versions.

Updating your firmware can provide performance improvements, security enhancements or better reliability. Look for firmware updates on the router manufacturer’s website—usually under a support section—and upgrade as needed. More »

Increase Signal Strength and Range of the Router

No matter where in a residence a wireless router is installed, sometimes the Wi-Fi signal will simply not be strong enough to maintain a good connection. The likelihood of this problem increases the further away from the router a client is and the more obstructions, such as brick walls, stand between the client and the router.

One way to solve this problem is to upgrade the Wi-Fi antenna installed on the router. Some routers do not support antenna upgrades, but many do. The alternative involves installing an additional device called a repeater. More »

Increase Signal Strength and Range of the Clients

As with wireless routers, you can also improve the signal strength of wireless clients. Consider this when dealing with a single Wi-Fi device that suffers from a very short signal range compared to the rest of your devices. This technique can improve the ability of laptop computers to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots, for example. More »

Increase Wireless Network Security

Many homeowners consider their wireless network setup a success when basic file and internet connection sharing are functional. However the job should not be considered finished until proper security measures are in place. Follow this checklist of essential steps for establishing and maintaining good Wi-Fi securityon a home network.