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Computer Central

Tech questions and answers
by James Derk
Scripps Howard News Service

March 03, 2005

I have many e-mails and a guilty conscience, so let's get right to the answers.

Q: I heard Yahoo was using cookies to track what people do on the Web, not only on their site but other sites. Is that true or a myth?

A: It's actually true. Yahoo is using something called "Web beacons" or a "super cookie" that tracks not only where its users go on the Yahoo network but also tracks where they go outside of the Yahoo network using a persistent file on the hard drive. Note that you have to have a Yahoo account to be tracked. If you want to opt-out of this tracking, log in to your Yahoo account then go to

Scroll down to the section about cookies. You will see the words "Web beacons" as a highlighted item. Click on that. That will bring up another page and you'll see the phrase "outside the Yahoo network." There you will see a small link to "click to opt-out." Click on that.

That brings up a confirmation page saying you are now opted-out. STOP. If you click the normal looking confirmation button on the page, you will opt yourself back in. (Yahoo is learning sneaky tricks from spyware folks on how to trick people into clicking the wrong buttons.) Close the page using the X and if you trust Yahoo, you can consider yourself opted out.

Frankly I would never sign up for one of these free accounts any more using a real name or any real personal information. Nothing is free any more.

Q: I downloaded Firefox and am using it. I like it a lot. Should I delete Internet Explorer or just let it be?

A: Well, you really can't delete Internet Explorer even if you wanted to. Parts of it are entangled in Windows, so you're stuck with it. However, you need to keep it. As good as Firefox is, you will come across certain Web sites where it won't work. (My online bank and the online version of Quickbooks are two that I have come across that do not support Firefox.).

I would keep using Firefox if it meets your needs and keep IE around for sites that absolutely require it. Eventually as other browsers like Firefox and Safari get more popular, sites will learn they have to design to the html standards and not to Microsoft's.

Q: I saw where you recommended Microsoft's Anti-Spyware tool. I saw it was a beta product, should I be worried? Also what about that genuine Windows test? Is that a problem?

A: It's not really in beta in that sense because Microsoft bought a fully-working product. I would install it and use it given that it's free. It is yet another tool in the arsenal; it won't solve all your problems but it can help. As for the genuine software test, Microsoft is starting to require that updates go only to legal copies of Windows. Type in your activation code and the Web site will verify your copy is legit. For a limited time you also can just decline and also download the software, too.


WEEKLY WEB WONDER: Go to to download Firefox, the new browser, and some cool plug ins. I have one that tells me, right on my browser, if Abe Vigoda is still alive or not.


James Derk is co-owner of CyberDads, a computer repair company, and a computer columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is jim(at)


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