Protect Yourself: Clear Your Cookies and History
Cookies are a threat to your privacy, though not in the way you probably think. The cookie files that Web sites use to personalize your online experience aren't immune to online snoops. But they're much more likely to reveal your surfing habits, shopping preferences, and private yearnings to nosy coworkers, kids, system administrators, and bosses who may poke around in your computer while you're momentarily away.
To uncover the secrets that your cookies reveal in Internet Explorer 6, choose Tools, Internet Options and--under the General tab--click the Settings button in the 'Temporary Internet files' area. In the Settings dialog box, click the View Files button. In either Mozilla 1.1 or Netscape 7, choose Tools, Cookie Manager, Manage Stored Cookies (see FIGURE 1). In Netscape 6.2, choose Edit, Preferences, select Cookies under the Privacy & Security category, and then click the View Stored Cookies button to open the Cookie Manager.
You may be a little surprised at the information you'll find: cookies containing URLs to racy magazines, job-seeking sites, shopping sites, and other revealing destinations. Fortunately, removing an individual unwanted cookie is easy. In IE, right-click the cookie's name in the Temporary Internet Files window you opened above, and choose Delete. To remove all cookies, choose Tools, Internet Options and click the Delete Cookies button. In Netscape, select a cookie in the Stored Cookies list and click the Remove Cookie button. You can erase all your cookies by clicking the Remove All Cookies button.
You're not finished yet, though. All browsers keep a history of all the URLs you've visited. To remove individual history items in Internet Explorer, Mozilla, or Netscape, press Ctrl-H to open the History Explorer Bar and right-click a history site domain name, an individual page URL, or an entire day's or week's worth of browsing history in the list. Now choose Delete. To erase all history entries in IE, choose Tools, Internet Options and click the Clear History button.
To accomplish the same thing in Netscape/Mozilla, click Edit, Preferences, select History under the Navigator category, and click the Clear History button.
In Netscape browsers, however, you must take an additional step: Choose Edit, Preferences, select History under the Navigator category, and then click the Clear Location Bar button.
Stream a Little Stream
With streaming Internet radio under attack by the recording industry, it may be time to take matters into your own hands. Since I last wrote about Internet radio, in August 2002 ("Listen to a World of Radio Stations on the Internet"), many stations have shut down due to high royalty rates. Into the fray rides PeerCast.org's free streaming client and server. PeerCast lets you set up anonymous streaming broadcasts using the same Gnutella peer-to-peer protocol that powers the Morpheus and Kazaa file-sharing systems. In addition to shielding your identity, PeerCast reduces the bandwidth required to broadcast. Because each listener's PC can also be a replicating server, you may reach thousands of listeners using only a 56-kbps modem connection.
Right now, PeerCast is beta software, and though it usually works fine, you'll need to read the broadcast configuration instructions carefully. For just listening to PeerCast broadcasts, download and install the software from peercast.org, and then pick your station from the PeerCast system tray icon's menu.
Kill Pop-Ups With Mozilla
PC World occasionally covers the many handy tools that prevent annoying pop-up and pop-under advertisement windows from littering your screen. However, if you use the free open-source Mozilla browser, you don't need an add-on utility. It's not an obvious feature, but the program has its own built-in pop-up killer hidden deep in the Preferences dialog box. To quash pop-ups in Mozilla 1.1, choose Edit, Preferences, double-click the Advanced category, select Scripts & Plugins, uncheck Open unrequested windows in the 'Allow scripts to' pane (your system may say 'Allow webpages to' instead), and click OK.