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Internet Fundamentals: Blogs, Social Networks, Email and More Fun on the Internet
 
 
Internet Fundamentals: Blogs, Social Networks, Email and More Fun on the Internet
Electronic Mail (email):

Remember when we used to write a letter with a pen and put a stamp on an envelope and give it to the postman? Of course, we still do that, but hundreds of thousands of communications have now been replaced with "email." Email, in many instances, has nullified the need for clerical support and even air travel, which may or may not be seen as a good thing. Even important business communications that require signatures are being attached to email and sent over the Internet, avoiding the cost, the time and energy it takes to mail a document.
Even more astonishing, we can file our tax documents, send photos, greeting cards, and receive tickets and resolve relationship problems with the help of the Internet and our email accounts.

Email has proved to be invaluable for the elderly and infirm, as well as children and everyone in between. It has changed relationships with distant relatives and friends, and has given us the ability to quickly communicate that we could never have imagined in the past.

Considering how fast it works, it is amazing to understand that your email message goes through one router after another, often in separate packets, but winds up on your computer in one piece. Probably the most heavily used feature of the Internet, email has transformed our culture as much as anything.

Your ISP, or Internet Service Provider will probably supply you with an email account. If you would prefer not to use your provider's services, you can get email accounts with many free services on the web. Yahoo, Google™, and MSN Hotmail all offer free email accounts. When you use one of these services, your email account actually resides on the Internet and not on your computer. Therefore, if your Internet service is down, you may not be able to access your mail. On the other hand, Yahoo, for instance, offers unlimited storage in your email account, which means you can amass thousands of sent and received emails without ever having to delete them, and without clogging up your computer.

An email address always contains a name of some kind, the @ symbol, which means "at," a provider name, and an extension, or suffix. For instance, an internet address can look like this:
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You are allowed more than one email address, which can come in handy if you want certain types of mail to be isolated in certain types of accounts.
If you do not already have an email address, get one. It is the heart of the Internet and will connect you in ways you cannot imagine.
Of course, your email account can become susceptible to unwanted ads and unsolicited communications.

Blogs and Blogging:
A rather awkward word, "blog" came from the term "weblog," which provides a clue as to its nature. A blog is a column or diary that is often updated daily. There are blogs on almost every subject and every aspect of every subject. Blogs give people a chance to vent their ideas and opinions, as well as practice their writing skills, while entertaining those who read them.

Blogging has become so popular that many news reporters and editors use this format to influence and inform the public. Blogging has had an impressive impact on political elections and public opinion over the last few years, and is now an accepted part of Internet participation. Blog topics range from very personal reflections to music, art, travel, fashion, education, and corporate life.

You can read and join blogs in virtually every area in which you are interested. But, you do not need to go to each blog several times a day to see what has been updated or added. Technology called RSS, which stands for "Really Simple Syndication," will feed to your computer the updates from the blogs you choose to subscribe to, every time there is an update. How's that for hi-tech?

So, you can either "search" the web for blogs that interest you, and read them when you want, or you can "subscribe" to blogs and have updates fed to you as they occur.

In order to start your own blog, search Google™ for free blogging accounts. There are hundreds to choose from. Read some other blogs to get familiar with the format and the genre, then, start blogging!! (Hint: Google™ the term "free blog.")


Social Networks:

Few people have not heard of Facebook or MySpace. Most of us know of these social sites through word of mouth, the news media or other stories of relationships made, broken or restarted through these incredible electronic hangout sites. They are certainly not just for kids; many business professionals and companies have their own page on Facebook or MySpace.

On March 11, 2009, Reuters reported that "Networking and blogging sites account for almost ten percent of time spent on the internet -- more than on email." The article goes on to say, "The biggest growth in Facebook membership comes from the 35-49 year old set. Facebook has added twice as many 50-64 year old visitors as it has visitors under 18.

A social network provides the user with a personal page, upon which he or she can post anything and everything about himself, his life, his likes, interests, his poetry or any other expression of self, and especially, his friends! On your page, you can "link" with "friends" who also have their own pages. Those friends will show up on other friends' pages, and perhaps, those people will link up, as well. Thus, the "network" concept. Internet, and sign up, using their format, a username and a password. You can add as much or as little about yourself as you'd like. You may find the practice addictive, as you see the things that people "post" on your "wall," and the photos of people you may or may not have heard of.

No doubt, social networking has become especially popular among young teens who are not yet old enough to get out and about, but want to flirt and communicate with other people. To check out a couple, try typing in: www.myspace.com, orwww.facebook.com. Good luck with this, and have fun!!

More fun: Dating Sites:

Is it possible to find a mate, or a date, through the Internet? It certainly is!! There are hundreds of "dating" sites on the web that allow you to meet people in the safety and privacy of your own home via your computer. What is the point of this? What are advantages or disadvantages?

First, before you begin even just a friendly relationship it is always good to know the basics about a person. Most dating sites require a certain amount of information before you are allowed to post your availability and, of course, there is always a danger of meeting someone who has not been honest. However, a dating website gives you a chance to email someone and strike up a conversation, an acquaintance, a friendship and later, perhaps, a meeting for coffee.

There are many warnings about online dating, but in the past few years, there are almost as many success stories. People who are busy, timid, who dislike bars and singles' scenes, find these sites more productive than ever. No longer are web-daters what we formerly viewed as "losers," but many are professionals and upstanding citizens who want to meet someone they can relate to and enjoy. Since we no longer have barn raisings and Sunday socials, our opportunities to meet compatible partners have diminished, leaving us with some fairly undesirable options. It might be a better idea to pay to join a dating site. The sites that carefully screen your matches are even more efficient at finding people you would like to meet and can weed out, for the most part, characteristics in a person that you don't like.

Always follow the dos and don'ts for dating sites, and take every precaution to protect yourself. It is wise to use good judgment before you agree to meet someone in person; make sure you know this person fairly well through the Internet and telephone, and even then, be sure that someone knows where you are meeting and when!
On the other hand, at this moment I know fourteen people who have successfully paired up as a result of meeting on a dating site, so go for it! Some popular sites are www.Match.com and www.EHarmony.com. There are now dating sites for specific groups that cater to certain nationalities, religions, sexual preferences and even income level!

Chat Rooms:

Naturally, a chat room is not actually a room, but a location in cyberspace where people can talk to one another in "real time" about shared interests of all kinds. If you Google™ "chat room" you will find hundreds of different kinds to choose from. You can go to a chat room and talk about your pets, cooking, movies, business, finance - everything from silliness to things of great import - chat rooms are a great way to "meet" lots of people who like to talk about subjects that interest you.

Online Auctions:
eBay™ is a giant marketplace where people sell everything you can possibly imagine. You can bid in an auction format for something you want, or you can purchase an item at a "Buy Now" set price. As an eBay™ seller, there are thousands of dollars to be made. It is worth getting books and CD's on eBay™ to learn how to list and sell your products effectively on the Internet. There is definitely an art to it, and eBay™ is a world unto itself.

There are other online auction sites besides eBay™, but eBay™ is a good place to start. The operating system is simple and smooth, and the possibilities are endless. Another incredible use of the Internet!!

Downloads, Internet Games, etc.

Downloading: Downloading is the process of copying files from a larger network to a smaller system, like from the Internet to your PC. For the most part, downloading has been made easy for the average user. We click a link, and wait for a file to load onto our local computers without having to do much else. But there is a different system in operation for a download. Behind the scenes, the Internet's File Transfer Protocol (FTP) software is what allows us to download, as well as upload, to the Internet. FTP is simply another set of rules, or protocols, which governs an Internet process. We will discuss FTP again later when we learn about setting up a website.


Most files are compressed in order to save time in the download process, and must be opened, or unzipped, once they reach their destination. Not to worry - it is a rare Internet site that demands we know all about FTP and its workings. For now, just remember that some downloads can damage your computer if they are infected with a virus. Also, consider the fact that your computer needs sufficient memory and disk space to handle whatever you are bringing from the Internet.

We can now easily download music, graphics, text and video, following the instructions provided with the download link.

Patches, Service Packs and Drivers: As developments in technology continuously hum along, software developers are constantly having to create adjustments, repairs and compatibility fixes, to take into account any problems their product may be causing its users. The companies provide these in the form of downloads, which can usually be easily found on their company websites. Sometimes the service packs and patches are simply improvements to the product. These can all be easily downloaded, and in the case of Windows, should be downloaded, as they come along. Do not hesitate to download updates from Microsoft for Windows, as well as any other major pieces of software that might provide them. They will help your computer run more smoothly, and are worth a few minutes.

A driver is software that controls a device, such as a printer, a disk drive, a monitor or a mouse. Most drivers are already installed when you get a new system. But, if you get a new piece of hardware, or you want to install something on your system that needs a driver, and you don't have the software that comes with it, it is easy to go to the company's website, find the model number of your new toy, and download the driver for it.

Downloads are prepared with instructions for installation; they generally pretty much take care of themselves, with a few simple clicks from you, and they know the best places to store themselves once they reach your computer.

Games: Watching someone with headset in place, controller glued to his thumbs, talking to someone in another country while he competes in a shockingly lifelike video game is a phenomenon no one could have imagined ten years ago. Computer games that have multiplayer capacity can be played on the Internet now with unlimited numbers of players. Graphics have reached a new level of excellence, as the player finds his way through a city, jungle, complex structure or other frighteningly real environment, watching for predators and threats to his player's existence, while nimbly jumping, running, turning flips and firing weapons..exhausting and exhilarating. The games tend to be violent and are restricted in some cases, but are screamingly good fun and can quickly become addictive.

Some of the popular games at this time are World of Warcraft, Rock Star and Halo-3; many games require a game console, such as X-box or Play Station, and charge a monthly fee to join the adventure.

Virtual Reality:
A virtual reality is an artificially created "world" or "environment" that can be experienced on a computer. To a certain degree, virtual reality is already available on the Internet, on sites that allow us to walk through virtual worlds. Preston Gralla tells us we can "walk through a giant computer, explore bizarre art galleries, visit outer space, go to the sites of what seem like ancient ruins, explore inside the human brain, and much more" (Gralla p. 275). Virtual reality, for the average Internet user, is still on the horizon. Loading entire worlds, as you can imagine, takes a lot of memory because of the humungous graphics involved, but it is coming. In the meantime, it is already being used in medicine and education, allowing scientists to learn about worlds we cannot see with the human eye, and "territories," ranging from a molecule to the cosmos. Currently, we can experience virtual reality with special gloves, goggles and other gadgets that are usually available in entertainment centers. Virtual reality is definitely the wave of the future.

Wiki-sites:
The term "wiki" refers to a website that is built in collaboration among contributors who volunteer information. A wiki site allows anyone to comment on the material or suggest edits. These sites can be highly informational, but perhaps not completely reliable when you are working on an important thesis or doing more serious research. Sites such as "Wikipedia" are highly informational and can provide the curious with a quick and often articulate explanation or accounting of historical events, current events, people and every other imaginable topic.

*Glossary

 
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