Dear Subscribers:Happy Mother's Day to all of you who celebrate it! The newsletter will be taking a Moms' Day break next week, to be back in your in-boxes May 25. Here's our lineup for this second week of May:
- Family Tech: Home networking help; By kids, for Mom
- Web News Briefs: Net at Oxford; UK's online kids & filtering there and in Korea; AOL's filtering milestone; US Army filters; American surfers; Net layoffs; Gifts for grads; Earth's Netizens; ICQ & IM; TV, Net-style….
Publishers Pipeline - low-cost or free educational software, housewares,
PC hardware, music CDs, etc. Examples this week:
Where in the USA is Carmen SanDiego? (Reg price $39.99, FREE after mail-in rebate)
Coby Hands-Free Cellular Car Kit (Reg price $51.45, $11.45 after mail-in rebate)
JumpStart 2nd Grade Math (Reg price $29.99, FREE after mail-in rebate)
- Home networking help
Even if you're really nervous about networking your home computers, a site called HomeNetHelp.com has a tutorial that will tell you enough about what's involved to help you make a calm, rational decision. And rational is good, when it comes to technology!
The tutorial, "Your First Home Network!", explains "how to set up a small network for file and printer sharing," which is what most families with more than one computer are looking for in a network. Equipment shopping lists are included, and there's a section of the site showing current "Rebates and Deals" on home networking hardware. Here's a flow chart (with links) that helps aspiring networkers to visualize and decide what steps to take.
The site actually has information for networkers of all levels, including reviews of products needed to maintain a network, big or small, and networking news. And, best of all, there's a discussion board for networkers to ask each other questions and get answers from people who've "been there." Fortunately for Mac users, there's a "Mac specific" discussion area just for you.
About those boards, HomeNetHelp.com's Chris Kaminski told us: "There actually are many good networking tutorials all over the big [tech] magazines, many of them impressive. However, when something does not work exactly like the tutorial said it would (this always happens!), we offer the message boards to help clear things up."
While we're on the networking subject, you might enjoy "My personal hell: The house that home networking forgot", by ZDNet's David Coursey. The bad news is stated in the headline; the good news is, he's renting the house. :-) (If you have a personal-home-networking-hell - or heaven - story and would like to vent, feel free to email us via firstname.lastname@example.org!) But take the "personal hell" piece with a grain of salt. Chris at HomeNetHelp.com advises, "The ZDNet article, like many others, focuses on solutions on an unlimited budget! Those wirless hubs start at $200 each and each wireless adapter is $100-$175 each…. Ouch!"
Finally, for perspective, here are two home-networking pieces by SafeKids.com's Larry Magid: "Phone Wires Ring Useful in Home Network" for the Los Angeles Times and a thorough overview, "Broadband And Home LANs: A Real Campaign Platform," for Microtimes Magazine.
- By kids, for Mom
Our thanks to FamilyEducation.com for pointing out this fun Mother's Day brunch that kids can make, courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens. Time is short, but if your kids prefer to make a different sort of treat, BHG has a whole page on Mother's Day that includes crafts and hand-made gifts. Disney's Family.com has a great page like this, too (we liked the bagel family portraits!).
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Web News Briefs
- The Internet at Oxford
Oxford University plans to open the world's first Internet institute, according to the Financial Times. "Dame Stephanie Shirley, one of Britain's richest women and founder of FI Group, a UK IT services group, has donated 10 million pounds ($14.5 million) toward the creation of the Oxford Internet Institute," the FT reports, adding that it is "expected to become a forum for debate in Europe about the impact of the Internet on all aspects of society." Its researchers are likely to look at such subjects as e-government, the digital divide, global law enforcement, privacy and security, and the Net's impact on the arts. Here's CNET's version of the story.
- UK's online kids: Gambling, porn, & filtering
As far as surfing habits go, British children are following their elders' lead, according to TheRegister.com. In a sketchy piece citing recent NetValue research, The Register reports that "more than a quarter of the 1.5 million UK youngsters [under 17] currently estimated to be online visited gambling sites during March," and "one in five visited pornographic Web sites loitering for an average of 28 minutes." The article links to summer '00 research on UK adult users' Web interests. Much more recent research (released today by Roper Starch and AOL Europe) about general European Internet use can be found at Roper.com.
Meanwhile, some British computer retailers are making an interesting, somewhat controversial move to protect kids online. The Guardian reports that the country's three largest such retailers (which together "dominate the home PC market") to install filtering on the computers they sell. The software will be a filtered version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser (a BBC piece focuses on this software). Civil liberties groups in the UK are questioning the retailers' move, adds the Guardian report, which also looks at other measures being taken in the UK to reduce children's exposure to adult Web content and pedophilia. Meanwhile, in Korea, the filtering debate is just as, if not more, heated. Here's the Korea Times's report on controversial national filtering legislation.
- Filtering followup: AOL's new system
Interesting in light of the growing filtering debate worldwide: America Online's new partnership with RuleSpace (automated filtering) "could have a significant impact on the future of filtering the Net, moving the market toward one massive, automatically maintained database of blacklisted sites that becomes a standard," reports Wired News. Part of the reason is AOL's sheer size (29 million+ members) and the credibility that represents in the corporate marketplace (i.e., corporations that are also making filtering decisions).
Also interesting is what Wired says about the type of filtering AOL chose (automation vs. human editors). Automated filtering can better keep up with the Web's rapid growth (one figure given is 7 million new Web sites a day), but it's the kind of filtering that civil libertarians say over-blocks. Another issue Wired covers is whether filtering technology has improved. Some experts say RuleSpace's context-recognition technology is the next step beyond the keyword-recognition type found in many consumer filtering products now on the market. The Wired piece would be very useful to anyone seeking some context to the filtering debate. Our item on this last week can be found here.
- US Army filters
Lots in the news on filtering these days! A report from England has it that the US Army will soon be filtering Net access on more than 100 bases worldwide. According to TheRegister.com, the filtering software of choice in this case is Websense, which focuses on the corporate market. The Register adds that each base will get to choose what types of sites it wants blocked.
- Americans' changing media habits
A new study by Scarborough Research found that 23% US of Internet users said they now view TV less frequently since they began surfing the Web, according to Newsbytes.com. For magazines, 20% of Net users said the same thing, with newspaper reading down 15% and radio listening off 9%. Even so, "a majority of survey participants said the Net either has not affected their consumption of traditional media, or they are not sure if their habits have changed," Newbytes added. The study also found that 48% of US adults surveyed had used the Internet in the past 30 days, and 55% had been online for three or more years.
- Net layoffs 'milestone'
Internet-related layoffs passed the 100,000 mark this week, according to one counter - that of TheStandard.com. They're referring to layoffs since December '99. It was 3Com, with its announcement Monday of 3,000 layoffs, that added another "0" to The Standard's Layoff Tracker. As of this report, 727 Net-related companies have announced layoffs, and the Tracker hit the 50,000 mark at the beginning of this past February. The Standard says its figures are conservative, compared to those of other researchers, adding that the US Labor Department announced last week that nationwide unemployment had hit 4.5%, "the highest jobless rate since 1998." On a chart on that page, the article says, "50% of the Net firms that announced three or more rounds of layoffs are now out of business."
- Earth's Netizens: Approaching 400 million
The actual figure cited in the Nua Internet Surveys report is 379 million users worldwide, but that's just those who access the Net from home. The study, by Nielsen/NetRatings, found that South Koreans view the most Web pages per month of surfers in the 21 countries Nielsen surveyed - 92 pages per session. However, Koreans also spent the least time on each page (28 seconds), while Australian and American Net users spent the longest (averaging 54 seconds). Another study looked just at Japan, which now has 47 million Net users, a 74% increase since 1999. According to Nua Internet Surveys, that translates to 37% of the population, a proportion quite similar to that of Britain, at 37.2% (see our item on this). Japan's own Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications did this survey, which also found that 24.4 million (4 times the '99 figure) of Japan's users access the Net through mobile devices. Some connect via PCs (37 million) as well as mobile devices.
- Gifts for grads
ZDNet has pulled together a buying guide of tech products graduates (from gamers to writers to master communicators) can really use. Read reviews of hand-picked desktops, laptops, handhelds, MP3 players, scanners, etc. Here's the PC page, for starters.
If you do buy a new PC, and if you want to move any data or programs from an existing one to the new one, don't miss some excellent advice from SafeKids.com's Larry Magid in "Help Available to Move Data to a New PC" for the Los Angeles Times.
- AOL at school in PA
Pennsylvania is now the fourth state - after Virginia, Florida, and Maryland - to sign on with America Online for its program of free content for schools, "AOL@School." Some 6,000 Pennsylvania schools will be affected by the state government's decision, according to InternetNews.com.
AOL offers its program to all schools, US-wide, spokeperson Billy Kenny told us, but - when entire states sign up - their schools get a special state-focused section of the site to which the state can add its own educational content. That's in addition to the Students (with sections K-2, 3-5, 6-8,9-12), Teachers, and Administrators sections available to all schools. The content's available online, but if schools order the companion software they also get the communications piece of the program (email accounts, instant messaging, and chat). Schools can turn on filtering and allow or disallow any of the communications features through the standard AOL Parental Controls that come with the program as well.
Billy tells us that the @School software comes with email, IM, and chat turned off; schools must activate these features. If they're activated for grade levels with kids under 13, a window pops up reminding schools of US federal kids'-online-privacy regulations for that age group, a good way to spread the word about the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA - see the FTC's KidzPrivacy.com or the Center for Media Education's KidsPrivacy.org).
Here's the item we ran a year ago on AOL@School (Web News Brief #5), when AOL first announced this great example of both philanthropy and smart marketing.
- Toward a better ICQ
For IM aficionados, ZDNet tells of three downloads that can make "the world's best instant messenger program" even better. They're referring to ICQ, which claims 100 million registered users as of this month, and which is owned by American Online. For any parents mystified by this "IM thing," books like "Teach Yourself ICQ in 24 Hours" (by the writer of this ZDNet piece, Preston Gralla) and "ICQ for Dummies" should shed some light on the overall subject. CNET's piece on the ICQ milestone might also.
- TV, Internet-style
It's "hardly a fast track to success," the New York Times points out, but it could be the future of television. Television on the Internet, of course. One producer of this type of TV program (who is also director, writer, and technician) calls his show a sort of "West Wing" for the Internet, or "West Wing" with real-time, real-life elements to it. Depending on tastes, it may or may not be good news for viewers, but the good news for people on the creative side (like our children, perhaps) are the low barriers to entry and opportunities for experimentation that the Internet represents - for television just as it has all along for print.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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