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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

Got Net trouble with a capital IE? Take the Firefox cure

By Steve Shinney

Madonna may have lived in a material world, but these days most people live in a world of the digital variety.

Like computers before it and cars before that, the Internet is here to stay, leaving naysayers and old people in the dust ever since its inception. Those who do catch hold of the new technology aren't always happy with their online experience.

Most people who use the Information Superhighway express concern or frustration with pop-ups, viruses, spyware, slow loading times, identity theft and online predators. Unfortunately, half of these problems, and the more serious half at that, can only be prevented by smart surfing. No program in the world can tell if the guy your daughter is talking to is 14 or 40, and if you send your bank account information to the "Financial Prime Minister" of Nigeria, you deserve what ever you get.

However, relief does exist for a lot of the other problems out and it's a lot easier than you may fear. Firefox is a browser -- a program used to view Web pages -- that is safer, faster and in the eyes of almost everyone who's tried it, better than the more commonly used Internet Explorer and Safari. To make things even better, Firefox is completely free.

Firefox was release officially in November, 2004 and has been downloaded 200 million times since then. It's a quick download, it's easy to install and is user-friendly enough for anyone who has used another browser.

At the computer lab where I work we have Firefox installed on all the machines. This has worked out great for those of us paid to troubleshoot people's every problem. I can't count the number of conversations that have gone along the following lines:

"I have a stupid question," the lab user tells me.

"Nonsense, there's no such thing," I reassure them, because that's the kind of lab consultant I am.

"I can't get (insert some Internet based problem here) to work," they say.

"Are you using Internet Explorer or Firefox," I ask, usually feeling smug because I think I know the answer.

"Internet Explorer," they tell me, confirming my suspicions.

"Try it in Firefox, if still doesn't work, come get me," I tell them, and go back to my work.

There are occasional times when someone will have the opposite problem. The only time I've ever seen something work in IE and not in Firefox is when a program on the page you're looking at doesn't recognize it.

As more people join team Firefox, the more other companies will take note and accept it.

Pop-up ads can be more than an annoyance, they can lead to sites that install spyware on your machine. I've had better luck with Firefox's built in pop-up blocker than any add-on for IE. Firefox is also more secure than IE. While no program is entirely safe. Firefox developers take security very seriously. IE can take months to patch a known issue, while the team at Firefox are usually have a much faster turn-around.

Some say this is because they have less holes to deal with in the first place.

These bugs also turn up quicker because Firefox is open source software, meaning anyone with the desire and knowledge can take a look at the computer code that makes it tick. With more eyes looking for bugs and trying to fix them flaws are patched quickly. With IE once someone finds a flaw only Microsoft employees can find it, when they get around to it.

Since the Net became publicly available, various corporate and government organizations have tried to limit illegal activities such as piracy, passing viruses and child solicitation. While these groups are doing well in their respective spheres, they don't address the way the Net works, only how it's used. The problem is while most people know how to send e-mail, scan e-bay and download naked pictures of anybody who's ever been naked, they have no idea how the whole process works.

The truth is there is an organization who looks to bring order and civilization to the online world. Dubbed the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), this group has create a list of standard rules for Web pages. A Web page in reality is nothing more than a page of text with special sections of code, called tags, that tell the browser how to display the content. W3C has create list of standards of how browsers should interpret certain tags.

Firefox, and other alternative browsers, follow these standards. For some reason IE does not. Because IE is so popular, Web monkeys have to add extra code to make their pages look right. Extra code that slows the Net as a whole down.

Is this extra code the only thing slowing down your download of the video of the cat running face first into the wall? No, but it's not helping.

Cubicle dwelling programmers and anti-social geeks aren't the only ones encouraging a switch to Firefox. Google recommends Firefox for faster searching. IBM's corporate helpdesk recommends employees use it. Major computer distributor Dell has even started shipping machines with it preinstalled to the United Kingdom.

So go install Firefox. It won't end world hunger or cure cancer, but neither will anything else that you can do in the two to five minutes it takes to download and install the browser. What it will do is make your life a little more easy, a little more secure and a little more serene.

That and thousand of Webmonkeys will thank you.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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