Dear Subscribers:Here's our lineup this first week of April:
- Search engines: Confusion & help (kid-safe searching update)
- McAfee's new online-safety resource
- Web News Briefs: Americans' Net crime fears; Tech in the classroom; MIT's confidence vote; CIPA update; Law newsletter filtered; Cable modems vs. DSL; Home networking….
- Net music breakthroughs
- A subscriber writes: Award-winning police work
Publishers Pipeline - low-cost or free educational software, housewares,
PC hardware, music CDs, etc. Examples this week:
Reader Rabbit Kindergarten (Reg price $29.99, FREE after mail-in rebate)
Proctor Silex Euro-Design Coffee Grinder (Reg price $39.99, FREE after mail-in rebate)
Argus Digital Camera (Reg price $159.99, $59.99 after new "Instant Rebate")
Search engines: They still confuse
A two-year study shows that surfers are still confused about how to use Web browser software and search engines. According to Cyberatlas.com, the study, by Alexa Research, found that, "rather than entering a URL into the address field of their Web browsers, millions of Internet users enter the name of the site they want into the search box of their start-up homepage or other search engine." Alexa says it analyzed 42 million search-results pages in 10 major search engines/portals: Altavista.com, AOL.com, Excite.com, Go.com, Google.com, GoTo.com, Lycos.com, MSN.com, Netscape.com, and Yahoo.com.
The Alexa study also found that "the most popular term people search for online is 'sex'," Cyberatlas reports. Alexa's researchers didn't find that particularly surprising, but they were surprised to see that "Hotmail" - or variations of that name of a free email service owned by Microsoft - was the No. 2 most popular search term. "Yahoo" was third, and "Ebay" and "AOL" were also in the Top 10. CNET recently ran a piece with different results for the most popular Web search terms for 2000 (e.g., "Britney Spears" was No. 1 at both Yahoo and Lycos). And ZDNet has "four tips for superior Web searches" (nothing terribly new, but good reminders).
Filtered search engines are no more fail-safe than software that filters the Web as a whole, but they can reduce the amount of sexually explicit, violent, hateful, etc. content a child might encounter when s/he uses these services (after a parent has activated them). Here is SearchEngineWatch's list of the seven major filtered search engines. We would add Google's "SafeSearch Filtering" (here Google tells you how to activate it). There are also some great children's Web directories, including Yahooligans.com and KidsClick!.
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McAfee's new online-safety program
In what looks to be both smart product promotion and an effort to show good corporate Netizenship, McAfee has just launched an online-safety-education service called "McAfee Kids". It includes good Internet-safety advice for parents and teachers (nothing terribly new, but sound), tips for kids (usefully including 10 of the most common problems they might run into online), and 30% off on a subscription to the "McAfee Privacy Service." In its Web site, the company says that, with this service, parents can set online time limits; block URLs, banner ads, and the sending of personal information; and monitor online activity, including chat (there's no mention of IM). Here's is Internet.com's writeup on McAfee Kids.
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Web News Briefs
- Americans on Net crime
When asked about Internet crime, Americans' No. 1 concern by far is child pornography. According to the latest study by the Pew Internet & American Life project, 92% percent of all Americans say they are concerned about it and a whopping 80% say they are "very concerned." That goes for both Net users and non-users alike. Fifty percent of Americans cite child porn as the single most heinous crime that takes place online. As for other Net-based crimes, credit-card theft was the No. 2 concern (87%), followed by organized terrorism (82%), wide-scale fraud (80%) and destructive computer viruses (70%).
The study was looking into how Americans feel about the FBI monitoring suspects' email with its "Carnivore" program. "The overall public anxiety about online crime occurs at the same time that Americans express growing distrust of the government. Only 31% of Americans say they trust the government to do the right thing most of the time or all of the time. That figure is down from 41% in 1988," says the Pew report, continuing: "So, it is perhaps not very surprising that, while Americans express a willingness to let law enforcement agencies intercept suspects' email, they also support the general idea that new laws should be written to cover how law enforcement agencies monitor email."
Meanwhile, the US Justice Department aims to nip the problem at its source. According to TheRegister.com, the DOJ plans to introduce legislation that requires digital cameras (a tool of pornographers) sold after the first of this month to include technology that "recognizes and prohibits 'child pornography' or 'obscenity' from being recorded." See TheRegister.com piece for details on the technology.
- Teachers on classroom Net use
Ninety-seven percent of teachers surveyed recently indicated that the Internet is not a major resource in the classroom. "Despite the Internet's near ubiquity in schools," reports the Nando Times, "most teachers say they don't spend much time online and don't turn to the Web when developing lesson plans." Eighty-seven percent, however, said they're comfortable using the Net. Here are some other interesting findings from the survey of 600 teachers by NetDay, a California nonprofit organization that helps schools use technology:
Here's Wired News audio with coverage of the NetDay survey.
- Less than half of teachers believe the Internet has become a more important teaching tool in the past two years.
- 60% said they spend half an hour or less online at school each day. Only 6% said they spend an hour or more online.
- Only one-third said the Internet is integrated into their classrooms.
- 29% said the Internet has changed the way they teach.
- MIT's confidence vote
Advocates of Web-based learning are cheering MIT, according to Wired News. They believe the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's announcement that it will put all of course material online for free within 10 years will benefit the field of distance learning, Wired reports. MIT officials "hope the resources will be used by schools around the world as a source of curriculum development." While this is being viewed by other educators as a tremendous public service, they also point out, interestingly, the difference between access (to text-delivered information) and education (a two-way, interactive experience).
- CIPA update
Wired News reported on a hearing on CIPA that was held in the US Congress this week, providing a useful update. We're referring to the US's recently passed Children's Internet Protection Act (requiring filtering on connected computers in schools and libraries receiving federal "e-rate" funds), now being challenged in the courts by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, and other organizations. The hearing, by the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet was reportedly designed "to create a record that a member of the committee will use to defend CIPA in court."
- Law newsletter filtered?
Yes. That's why, according to the New York Times, the Tech Law Journal intentionally misspells words like sex (sez) and pornography (pormography) and camouflages the names of computer viruses. It's a good example of filtering software's flaws. The Tech Law Journal is a Web site and daily email newsletter that provides "news, records, and analysis of legislation, litigation, and regulation affecting the computer and Internet industry" to more than 1,200 subscribers.
- Cable modem vs. DSL
If any of you are thinking about making the leap to "broadband" at home, here's a useful article from ZDNet. In it, writer David Coursey - who has both! - compares the two kinds of fast Internet connections.
- And for those with high-speed access
More than one-third of US households with high-speed access and nearly a third (29%) of PC households currently have multiple PCs, according to Internet service provider Earthlink. As DSL and other types of high-speed access take off, home networking is expected to take off (market researcher Yankee Group says 12 million to 15 million US homes will have networks by 2005). Earthlink is prepping for that with its new service, EarthLink Home Networking. It will "let families link computers onto a single network enabling them to share printers and files," Reuters reports (via CNET), adding: "Eventually, [the service] will allow people to surf the Web, watch video-on-demand, and get voice over the Internet simultaneously through different devices." If you're looking for alternatives to Earthlink, several are mentioned in this ZDNet piece on how to start a home network.
- How to protect Net privacy
As it gets easier and easier for Internet businesses to invade Web users' privacy, just what exactly is being done to protect it?! A thorough piece by The Wharton School's pub Knowledge@Wharton looks at what's new in this old story: "the amount of attention privacy is receiving from A) the U.S. Congress, which is currently considering a variety of privacy-related bills B) the business community…, C) highly vocal privacy groups intent on reining in what they see as the worst abuses…, and D) a flurry of new online companies aimed at helping consumers protect their privacy." Meanwhile, if your curious about how privacy invasion works, ZDNet published this piece this week: "How eBay, Yahoo compromise your private data".
- Teen entrepreneur's assets frozen
The 18-year-old owner of two Web hosting services in Minnesota is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission "for allegedly swindling his customers out of thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges for 'bandwidth overuse'," Wired News reports. A Minnesota federal judge froze the assets of Page Creators and Trinity Host and seized the businesses after the FTC requested those actions. Wired News reports that the FTC wanted to prevent evidence from being destroyed before the case comes to trial. No criminal charges have been filed against the teen.
- Aibo user groups
From the "What Next? Department," the Los Angeles Times reports that those with enough disposable income to have afforded Sony's $1,500 tech dog, Aibo, are now gathering in their own user groups. But the story's really about a new phenomenon called "Aibo Adoration." It suggests that not only in the size of their bank accounts are Aibo adorers not terribly representative of the general population. Of course, nobody is these days!
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Net music breakthroughs
It does appear that this week saw some forward movement toward breaking the online music logjam. The music companies say the day of downloading their tunes "safely" (i.e., without copyright infringement and fee-based) has arrived, reports Washtech.com. Maybe that's because hearings were about to occur on Capitol Hill. According to CNET, "the big record labels appear to be moving toward just the kind of licensing and music services [they've] pursued … for the last several years." To wit: On Monday RealNetworks cut a deal with three of the world's largest music companies - AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann, and EMI Group - to establish a new online music subscription service online called MusicNet. TheRegister.com says the parties want Napster to join in the deal. And RealNetworks competitor Microsoft won't be left behind; CNET also reports on this week's unveiling of the MSN Music site. And Wired News had a fulsome piece on two music trade associations finally joining the discussion on the consumer side.
And music file-sharing fans appear to remain largely unaffected by the controversy and restrictions. TheRegister.com reports that Napster use was on the increase in March, after a post-filtering dip. And Jupiter/MediaMetrix market research shows that US users are not even Napster's No. 1 market. Canada, Argentina, and Spain lead the world in Napster use (the US is fifth). The rest of Napster's top 13 countries (which represent 85% of the world's online population), are - in order- Brazil (4th), Italy (6th), Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, the United Kingdom, France, and Japan.
Here are other interesting developments and ideas that emerged this week. In the hearings, Napster asked Congress to give Web sites/services "compulsory licenses," the practice that allows radio stations to broadcast music without copyright holders' permission by paying into a royalty pool, reports Washtech.com. The New York Times looks at how the Net-music debate has reheated tensions between musicians and record companies, as represented by fascinating cases and causes spearheaded by Don Henley, Courtney Love, and other musicians. And a Times opinion piece, "Paperback Music: One Solution to the MP3 Debate" sensibly suggests that the music industry consider the "paperback" or "video" model by creating a new "second run" market for music made up of consumers who don't mind waiting a bit in order to pay less for a slightly lower-quality product. After all, soft book covers and 6-month-old movies on TV screens have created whole new revenue streams for publishers and filmmakers! Picture a Billboard "Top 40" chart for music downloads. On the non-music Net-audio front: Major-league games will soon be heard on the Web via RealNetworks - for a price, Wired News reports.
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A subscriber writes: Award-winning police work
Two years ago subscriber and officer Bob Williams got his supervisors at the Greenwich Police Department to let him start an online-safety-ed program for parents. Last month he and his partner, Detective Edward Zack, were presented by the Greenwich Lions Club with its prestigious Dr. John Clarke Award. The award is given annually to an outstanding police officer in the community, this year recognizing these officers' expertise in Internet crimes. This week Officer Williams emailed us these kind words:
"Each issue of your newsletter gives me useful information to mention in my 'Child Internet Safety Talks to Parents' here in Connecticut.
"My partner and I have been recognized for our work in this area… I wanted to say 'Thank You' to you and your staff for publishing your newsletter. Your informative articles and software product information has helped our program become a success in the battle to keep children safe online. Keep up the good work…."
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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