Have you ever thought much about the Internet?

The web can be fun and annoyingWelcome to the site! The Internet is brilliant, isn’t it? You can keep in touch with friends and family, access tons of information, and buy or sell stuff around the world. Millions of people use the web every day. You’re using it now!

It’s not all good though - the Internet can be annoying and frustrating too.

“What’s so bad about the Internet?”

Have you ever been bombarded by unwanted spam e-mails selling stuff, strange nonsensical error messages, viruses, obnoxious adverts, pop-up windows, etc etc… I was when I started out on the Internet. Not any more.

Collectively, I call all of that stuff “web annoyances”. Hence the name of this site, which I put together to help people like you. Especially if you’re new to computers and this whole Internet thing. For that matter, just what is the Internet anyway? Basically, it’s a worldwide network of computer networks. Millions of computers - and other devices like mobile phones - all connected; talking to one another, sharing information, using open standards.

Let me tell you a story…

When the Internet started it was primarily used for communications (e-mail, newsgroups) and sharing of information between universities, scientific research labs, US government and the like. This was the Internet’s founding spirit: “information wants to be free”.

Naturally, the Internet has evolved since then; and is evolving every day. Millions of people, and myriad businesses have joined in the fray. You could say the Internet is like a distorting mirror of the real world; or a vast sprawling metropolis.

Just like a big city, the Internet has good areas, and bad areas. On-line, though, there’s no such thing as geographic distance - you can just click on a link and jump thousands of miles in an instant. This lack of distance is great and mind-bending and world-changing and many books have been written about it.

But it also means you can easily and inadvertently run into the Internet’s bad areas. For example: offensive language and gross idiocy; organised criminals controlling armies of ‘zombie’ PCs; dodgy salesmen who want to rip you off; advertising companies pervasively spying on you; or malicious software which can take over and break your computer, simply by you visiting the wrong site, or opening an infected e-mail message.

In short, there’s tons of stuff out there that you and your loved ones wouldn’t want to run into.

“But it can’t be that bad surely…”

After all, nothing’s ever happened to you, right? You’ve never had problems with the Internet, therefore these problems don’t exist. Or maybe you knew that stuff anyway, and it’s no big deal because you’ll never go to those bad areas. What’s wrong with a few adverts? I’m just scaremongering, aren’t I??

If only. All those above web annoyances are very much out there, and they can get to you, even without you wanting them to. That’s why you have to use anti-virus software on PCs - I won’t bore you by quoting statistics like thatin 2005, there were already 114,000 PC viruses. (Oops, I just said I wouldn’t do that!)

“So why is there all this junk on the Internet?”

Prepare to be annoyed!

Just why do all these web annoyances exist? Why is this irritating, dangerous stuff online? In short: greed and ignorance. You see there’s lots of money to be made via the Internet. Tens of thousands of people make a living selling stuff on eBay.

Unfortunately organised criminals have caught on to the Internet’s opportunities too. One of their tricks is to use ‘botnets’ to send spam (junk mail) pretending to be from your bank, to trick you into visiting fake bank login pages - and giving them your bank or credit card details - so they can steal your identity or drain your accounts.

This is technically known as phishing (pronounced fishing). My bank even publicly warns me about this every time I login to their site. Maybe your bank does too?

Then there’s viruses. It seems every few months some big new PC worm virus comes along and makes the news, halting productivity in offices around the world. IT technicians and anti-virus companies scramble to sort out the symptoms. Have you had days in your office where “all the computers are down”. Or you phoned a company and they said “sorry our computers are really slow today”? Viruses are only part of the story though. They’re just one of a whole class of malware (malicious software) that includes trojans, keyloggers, adware…

“OK, How do I get rid of them?”

Fortunately there are ways to get rid of viruses, trojans etc… In fact there’s a whole industry of products designed to stop each difference type of online threat. That’s almost part of the problem! Just what do you really need? How would you know? Who can you trust? There is a lot of information out there, some of it’s even free. Unfortunately, most of it is biased, daft, overly technical, or is just trying to sell you something. Not this site!Let me tell you an open secret…

What “they” don’t want you to know:

You don’t need to buy lots of stuff to protect yourself on the Internet. There are some basics you definitely need. Virtually all of it is available free. If you know where to look, and how it configure it properly, that is. If you don’t, and can’t be bothered to learn - after all, why should you have to? - then in the future I plan on adding quick how-to guides, and recommending a few easy-to-use non-free utilities.

Remember: good advice and (un)common sense really goes a long way when you get computer problems…

Webannoyances.com - Advert-free, plain English
That’s where this website comes in. It’s all about saving time, money and frustration on the Internet. Here you’ll learn how to be more productive online. How to avoid annoying distractions while finding what you want. How to protect yourself, your family and friends from the bad stuff on the Internet. All in down-to-earthplain English!

In short, the aim of this site is for you to stay happy and safe on-line, by learning what you need to know - simply.

NB:This site - like all good sites - is expanding - adding useful information all the time, so bookmark the site and drop by in the next few weeks for more. Meanwhile here are a few pages you couldand should read:

>>David, author of webannoyances.com.