Tuesday, 20 October 1998

For the Cyber-Challenged

Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

The Internet or "web" can be a confusing labyrinth full of deadends and things you'd rather not know about.  I wanted this website to be a "container" that would feel safe and familiar for those with little or no experience in exploring  or "surfing" (although "trawling" is perhaps more accurate) the web.
So, I'm going to start with a few basics -- and leave it at that.  When you need to know more things, you'll be motivated to learn them.  To hear about them beforehand might only drive you away.....


To get to the bottom of a page rapidly:  hold down the ctrl ("control") button (left bottom of your keyboard) and hit the End (probably on the right) button.  You'll be whooshed to the end.
To get to the top of as page rapidly:  hold down the ctrl button and hit the Home button.
Hyperlinks and hypertexts:  I'm honestly not sure of the difference (if any) between them, but this doesn't matter.  Neither you nor I need to know this.  All that matters is that when you see a word or phrase or URL underlined, and/or in a different color from the rest of the text, it's usually "hot."
This means that you can move the cursor of your mouse to this place and click on the left hand side of the mouse -- then you'll be taken to another "page" of the website you're already on, or else to a "page" on an entirely different website (this doesn't happen instantly -- it takes time for the data to "load," especially if it's image-rich).  If you have Netscape as your "browser" (i.e., the program you use to get onto the web in the first place), you'll know the hyperlink is "hot" because your cursor's arrow will usually turn into a hand; sometimes the hyperlink itself will change color when you click on it (all mine do this because I like the effect).  Other browsers have different conventions.
[Note: sometimes nothing happens -- for example, if you try clicking on any of the underlined black words on this page, you'll go nowhere.  They're not "hot."  On my pages, and on many other websites, hyperlinks have to be underlined as well as in a different color.  You can still click on them, by the way -- you won't harm anything.]
Later, when you've explored the "hot" hyperlinked site and wish to return to where you started, the now-visited hyperlink should no longer be the same color it was when you first clicked on it -- it should be a third color --- i.e., not the same as it was, and also not the same as the surrounding text (because that would make it too hard to find again).   Traditionally, the text will be black, the original color of the link will be blue, and the "visited" link will be a pale purple.  But web designers now play with many color combinations.  For example, on my site when I use a woodsey green background, my text is cream, my unvisited links (or "hyperlinks") are blue, when you click on them (or "activate" them) they'll momentarily turn a brilliant grass-green, and when you return to them, they'll be a pale green.
This change in color allows you to see at a glance which links you've already clicked on and which are still "virgin."  Unfortunately, not all websites change the colors of already-visited links; I find this a nuisance since I like to click on things out of sequence and it's hard to remember where I've been.  Also, many of the same links appear on many websites; those that change color on one website will show up in that same changed color across the board on your own computer anytime that already-visited link appears on your screen.  If the color stays the same, you wind up wasting a lot of time in redundancy.
Depending upon your browser settings, these changes will be "remembered" for varying periods of time.  Mine is set for "forever" as it might be a year before I return to series of sites & I like to see what I've already looked at there.  You might want your visited links to revert to their original settings after only a week, or month, or whatever.  I'm not going to tell you how to change these settings since all browsers are different.  If your "default" setting really annoys you enough, you'll buy a guidebook and dig a little deeper.  Or ask a computer-wiz friend.
Getting back to where you started:  many hyperlinked webpages will give you a symbol (or "icon" -- it's what they're called, unfortunately -- the name has nothing whatever to do with Russian sacred art), like an arrow or image (but sometimes just a hypertext word), at the bottom of the page that'll take you back to where you started.  If you don't like a page you're on, you can hold down the "control" button, hit "end," and you'll get to the page's bottom swiftly and can then look for the appropriate navigational "escape" symbols, hopefully, a complete section-menu (as on my pages) or at least a choice of "Previous" or "Next" plus a "Home Page."
But when you get to the bottom, many times you may find that the only navigational tool provided is to the site's "Home Page." This is fine if that's where you just came from, but not if you've surfed many intervening pages, which means the page where you just were is many layers deeper than the Home Page, and it's especially not fine if you can't remember which menus you followed to get there!  Then you want a "Back button"......

Back Button:  On Netscape, it's on a toolbar near the top left of the screen.  When you click the left side of your mouse on it, you'll be taken back to the very last place you visited.

If you can't find a "Back" button, or get tired of running your mouse all over the place, you can click on the right side of your mouse and get a mini-menu to pop up.  Among other items on that menu, it'll have "Back" (or something that means the same thing) on it; move the mouse's cursor to the word (no hand will appear this time) and left-click the mouse.  This will also take you to the previous site.

There's another advantage to using "back" instead of clicking on a Home Page:  when you click on a Home Page, you'll automatically be taken back to the very beginning of that page.  If it's a lengthy page, and you've already explored much of it, you then have to scroll a long time to get back to where you left off (this gets time-consuming if you have to go back & forth a lot).  If you use the "back" button or mouse-menu, you'll be taken back, not to the page's top, but midway down -- or wherever you actually just were.

Now that you know how to get back to this page, I'm going to give you a sample hyperlink to try.  When you left-click on it, you'll go back to my home page.  When you click on "Back," whether on a toolbar or with your right-clicked/mini-mouse menu (which you then need to left-click on "Back"), you'll come back here.  And you'll find that what was blue a moment ago, will be pale green.
Home page
Server Down/or No DNS:  sometimes when you click on a hot link, you eventually get a message saying that your browser can't reach the number because the server might be down, or there's no DNS number, or some such thing.  This could mean that the person who created the site happens to be making time-consuming changes just when you want to look at it.  It could mean your own internet service provider (ISP) is having some temporary problems (they never tell you it's their fault -- they make you think it's yours or someone else's).  Or it could mean that the "host," who owns all the equipment that runs that particular website (and thousands more), is experiencing technical problems.  These could be brief or could last for hours.  All hosts (including mine) experience random outages, some more than others.  If you get this, try again in a few hours, or a day or two.

If you continue to get a no DNS number, then the link really is somehow faulty and you may never get through.  If you're desperate to reach that number, you might need to manually insert a www. (if it's missing) after the opening http:// -- or alternately, if the number already has a www. but no http:// you might try adding the http://  at the beginning of the address.  Sometimes this works.

If it doesn't, and if the address is very long and full of many parts with #'s and ~'s and /"s, your last resort would be to delete elements starting at the far right.  For example, say the address looks something like this: http://www.forestry.org/trees~hardwoods~worldwide/#2~added#10.html
That's a non-existent address, but if it were valid, it would refer to a specific page on worldwide hardwoods linked to a forestry site.  If you were desperate to get to the site and you knew it should be working, then you might manually delete everything on the far right back to .org/ and then try again -- it would then look like this: http://www.forestry.org/    This should get you to the site's home page, where you might discover that the page you initially sought no longer exists but at least you can get in touch with the people who created the page if you want more data.

If the address, on the other hand, is a simple, basic one, like http://www.creamygoatsmilk.com -- and you continually get a no DNS/or server down message, you're stuck.  There's nothing there to delete.

"Reading File -- Done":  When I saw this along the bottom of my screen, I used to think this meant what it said -- that the page was "done" and I'd be annoyed to discover that the computer had lied because images would be half-baked and text would stop midline and data was obviously still coming through.  Finally I understood that "Reading File" isn't at all the same as "Loading" it.  First the computer privately reads the data for itself.  But until it loads it onto your screen, you're not going to see much.  When it's really done, it'll say Document Done.

"Reload" Button: when a page is loading onto your screen, bear in mind that it loads (and gives you confusing percentages and timings along the bottom of your screen) in "layers" -- a layer for words, for animation, for progressive levels of clarity in an image, for each image separately, etc, etc. -- this takes time and some layers finish before others.  Sometimes, midway through one of the layers, the page just stops.  Along the bottom of your screen it might say something like "72% done, 13 seconds remaining."  And it just stays there until long after 13 seconds.  This means that somewhere in all the intricate connections that make computers work, something got hung up and the page can't finish loading.  If it's mostly loaded, except for a few fuzzy images, it probably doesn't matter that much; but more often, although the text is fine, the images only show a tantalizing slice of what they really are.  In this case, press "Reload" (usually somewhere along the top of your screen).  It jogs the whole thing into shape much faster than the first go-round, and soon you have 100%.

Saving a site's address to your own computer:  sometimes you love a particular site and want to keep it handy without having to retrace your steps through Mything Links every time you wish to visit it.  Then you "bookmark" it (it's not the term I'd choose, but it's what it's called).  Some browsers have a "Bookmark" button and then you need to left-click your mouse on something like "Add to Bookmarks."  It's added instantly -- this is one of the simplest and nicest operations connected to the web.  (Eventually, of course, you have to think about organizing all those bookmarks -- but never let that stop you from bookmarking a few dozen more addresses!)

Annoying Commercials:  some sites have ads, usually at the top, and usually in the form of gaudy "banners."  Some of these are so cunningly designed that they look as if they're part of the genuine website and you click on them, thinking this is so.  Others have an "official" look, making you think they're a message from your own browser offering to make a speedier connection, etc.  After your first few mistakes, you get the "feel" of ads.  If the product interests you, by all means follow the link.  Some of them, however, disable your "Back" button as well as your mouse's mini-menu access.  This means you're stuck.  You then have to disconnect from the ad's site and start all over again.  If you've been surfing for hours and have no idea how you got to where you just were, then don't click on any ads!  It's too big a risk.
Getting stuck in "frames":  you can also find your "Back" navigational tools disabled by many sites with frames.  I have no idea why some designers do this.  If it happens, all you can do is find the site's e-mail contact, write an angry note, then exit, and try to retrace your steps as best you can.
Printing out Mything Links:  Computers exist, partially, to save trees.  Thus, most people won't need to print out this site -- they'll simply bookmark the links they want and keep going.  That's why I designed the site to be visually appealing, not easy-to-print.
For those who do wish a print-out, however, many printers won't be able to print these pages because of their dark background and light text.  So you'll need to change the colors as they appear on your own screen.  This isn't as bad as it sounds...
If you have Netscape, hit Edit (on toolbar along the top, right next to File); on the next menu hit Preferences; on the following menu hit Appearance; then Colors.  Under the Colors menu, you'll see a colored box labeled "Text" and another labeled "Background."  (Ignore any settings on links unless the setting for the "Link Text" is really pale.)
First, jot down what the current two (or three) settings are so that you can restore them later.  Then click on the colored "Text" box and you'll get a lovely palette full of colors -- skip the pretty ones & just click on the black box.  (Do the same for "Link Text," if it's in a super-pale color.)

Then click on the colored "Background" box, and click on the palette's white box.

It sounds much more complicated than it really is.  Once you've made these 2 or 3 minimal changes, just print it out in whatever way you usually do this.  Then go back in, repeat these steps, and restore the 2 or 3 former settings.

[FYI: If you don't have Netscape, I'm afraid you'll need to get a guidebook for your own browser -- I wish standard set-ups were used for such changes, but they're not.]
By the way, this page (actually there are 4 or 5 of them, depending on your printer) for the Cyber-Challenged will print out so that if you need to refer to any of these instructions, you'll have them handy.
Hopefully, you should now have all you need to know to get started without feeling too overwhelmed.  I hope you'll enjoy the experience and return to the site whenever your own research might be enriched by following these "mythinglinks."


If you have comments or suggestions,
please email me at jenks7@webcom.com


This page created with Netscape Gold

Technical assistance: William Weeks

Text and Design:
Copyright 1998, 1999 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

[Scared little gargoyle is free clipart from a collection of  public domain materials.]


Updates: 13 November 1998; 29 January 1999.