.Commentary: Control your own computer

.Commentary: Control your own computer

By Mike Lotz

Control your own computer

By Mike Lotz

Have you ever loaded up new software and had a bunch of other trial software and shortcut icons on your desktop?

Too many software developers (or marketing departments) think they own your computer. Software with built-in registration reminders are a common example.

After you tell them you don’t want to fill out a registration form, it announces, You will be reminded in 15 days, that it it will annoy you again two weeks later.

The same is true for CD-ROMs that add an America Online icon to your desktop when you install them. The makers of such programs should have their keyboards taken from them. They are doing things to your computer that you do not want, and doing it for their personal gain.

With the Internet becoming a standard, these market-driven companies have a couple new high-tech headaches.

The first offense is an e-mail that takes over your phone line. Here is how it works:

A company sends you an e-mail. The moment you look at the message, the e-mail activates a program that checks to see if you are online. If you’re not, it tries to log you on. Two e-mail offenders are iVillage.com and Prodigy.

The solution: unsubscribe, and change your e-mail preferences to text version instead of HTML version. The HTML version contains the code that automatically tries to connect you to the Internet.

Offense number two is web sites that will not let you leave. Here is how it works:

You get on a web site, surf around and then try to hit the ‘Back’ button to go to the previous page, and it doesn’t work! Several sites use a “lock-in” trick to cripple the web-browsing software you’re using. Web designers (not counting me) who use this trick think they’re clever. But they have no regard for the people that are on the site.

Top9.com (http://www.top9.com/locklin.html) has a list of sites that try to “lock-in” Internet surfers. Some sites only lock in people using Netscape browsers; the list includes dell.com, pepsi.com, macys.com and pizzahut.com. Other sites such as cnbc.com, upn.com and cherrycoke.com are designed to make it difficult for anyone to escape.

According to Top9.com, some web sites such as britneyspears.com, homedepot.com and weddingchannel.com have gotten the message and unlocked their sites, giving you control of your computer again.

The solution for sites that are not “unlocked” and the ‘Back’ button disabled is the following: Turn off “Enable Java” or “Enable JavaScript” in the preferences of your web browser software; this will disable the “lock-in” code of the site.

I hope this helps you fight back against these annoying quirks that you might run into. The web is a wonderful world, but it is also full of trap doors. The more you know, the more control you have, and you will be able to spot those trapdoors and avoid them.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at questions@iwebwerks.com.

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