- By Michael Cheek
- Nov 18, 1996
Q. "What's a "cookie'? Should I be worried about it?"
A. Do you like chocolate chip? OK, so it's not that kind of cookie.
When you visit a World Wide Web site, sometimes the server asks your browser for
information--what operating system runs on your PC, which browser you're using, recent
sites you've visited and even your e-mail address.
If you provide other information to that server, for example by filling out an on-line
form, the server turns around and gives that data back to your PC in what is called a
Example: At http://www.msn.com,
the Microsoft Network lets you personalize a start page for yourself by selecting certain
news, features, screen designs and sounds to appear when you visit. Microsoft's server
doesn't store that information. Instead, it compiles it into a code that's zapped back to
you as a cookie. Next time you visit MSN, the server asks your browser for the cookie and
then draws up the page just the way you wanted.
You can stop cookies in Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 and Netscape Navigator 3.0. In
Explorer's View menu, select Options and click on the Advanced tab. Check the box next to
"Warn before accepting cookies." With Netscape 3.0, in the Options menu, select
Network Preferences, then click on the Protocols tab. Check the box next to
"Accepting a cookie."
With both browsers, you'll see a window pop up before a cookie is sent; you can accept
or refuse it at that time.
If you're very concerned about security, don't complete any forms when pages ask you
for information. To keep your browser from telling servers your e-mail address, don't fill
out that information as requested by your browser, and don't use the mail application that
accompanied your browser.
Q. "My computer doesn't have enough power to handle complex
tasks. It's slow and often crashes. But because it's so slow, I never can tell if it's
crashed or if it's still working."
A. This is an easy one. Every once in a while, a little Windows
gremlin can bring computing to a halt, freezing your cursor. To tell whether your PC is
locked up (requiring a reboot) or momentarily frozen (meaning you might recover), press
the Caps Lock or Num Lock key. If the on/off indicator lights on your keyboard flash
appropriately, your system is still working. If the status lights stay as they were, your
PC has crashed.
Keep testing, because the system eventually could crash. If you recover, you probably
should reboot anyway.