Clear the Cache

What's in your wallet? If you have ever had a web page load out-of- date material or not work correctly for you and ended up calling the Help Desk with the problem, chances are you were told to clear your browser’s cache. What are you really being asked to do?

Let’s step back for a second and review what your browser’s cache is and how it affects your browsing. Wikipedia states "In computer science, a cache (pronounced / kash) is a component that improves performance by transparently storing data such that future requests for that data can be served faster. “ Or in my terms, “cache is a record of sites you’ve been to that your browser saves to speed up your web browsing. If you revisit a page that your browser has a copy of, it will be loaded from the local copy, making the page display faster."

Why is it we ask you to clear your cache? Pages on the Web might have changed since being stored on your computer or you may want to clear any sensitive information you may have entered while on the Web.

Here are the steps involved in clearing the cache.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0
  1. Click Tools in the upper toolbar or click on the Tools icon.
  2. Click Internet Options to open Internet Properties.
  3. Click the General tab
  4. Click Delete under "Browsing History".
  5. Click Delete Files under "Temporary Internet Files".
  6. Click Yes on the Delete Files dialog box.
  7. Click Close and then OK.
Mozilla Firefox 3.5 - 3.6
  1. Click Tools in the upper toolbar and select Clear Recent History.
  2. Select the Time Range to clear (drop-down menu). - Select Everything to clear all cache.
  3. Click Details to choose what history elements to clear. - e.g. cache and cookies
  4. Click the Clear Now button.
  5. Exit and re-launch the browser.

A quicker way to clear the cache for just the page you are on is to hold the shift key down and click the refresh button on your browser. If that doesn’t solve your problem then follow the steps above to clear the whole cache.

Once you do this you should notice your browser displaying fresh content and running much faster.

If you want to get rid of some of the other kind of cash, like in the picture, you can send it to me. Nothing bigger than $100’s please, or people will start asking questions.

How To Toggle Browser Form Autofill

On your personal computer or smart phone you may have noticed that Web browsers are able to remember many of the things you've done (filling out Web forms, for example). When you start to repeat a process, they'll jump right in and offer to automatically complete form fields for you. It's a nice convenience for some kinds of repetitive tasks.

You may have also noticed that SCLS-supported staff computers don't offer you this "autofill" feature. There's a simple but perhaps not obvious reason for that: too much sharing can be a bad thing.

If your SCLS Network PC is used by several people, and you all share a generic Windows logon, then having the Web browser remember everything you fill out on forms might get very messy. It might even be inappropriate, depending on the context and content of the forms.

Sharing a staff PC is far more common than not, so SCLS turns off form autofill features by default. However, if you want that feature on your PC, it is easy to turn it on again.

Turning on Form Autofill in IE

  1. From the IE tool bar, pull down the Tools menu and choose Internet Options.
  2. Select the Content tab.
  3. Find the section labeled AutoComplete and click the Settings button there.
  4. Mark the Forms checkbox and click OK.
  5. Click OK to finish the process.

Turning on Form Autofill in Firefox

  1. In the Firefox address bar, type about:config and press Enter.
  2. Read the warning message and click the I'll be careful button.
  3. In the Filter field, type formfill.
  4. Find the line for the setting named browser.formfill.enable.
  5. Double click on that line to toggle its value from false to true.
  6. Close the browser or continue using it as normal.


PS: This TechBits topic was brought up at the request of a member library. If you have a topic you'd like to see covered in TechBits, please feel free to call, email or IM someone on the SCLS Tech Team to let us know what's on your mind.

Identifying Firefox and Internet Explorer in the Wild

Each web browser has a few distinctive markers that help identify it at a glance while you're using it (in addition to the functional differences*). Here are some visual clues to tell which is which:

Logos: You'll see the logos for Firefox and Internet Explorer in many places. Firefox uses a fox in its logo; Internet Explorer uses the letter "e."

Firefox logo icon   Internet Explorer icon

Top of the browser window: Each browser's logo and name appear in the blue bar at the top of the window:

Screenshot of blue bar showing Firefox logo and name

Screenshot of blue bar showing Internet Explorer logo and name

Bottom of the screen, in the Taskbar: Each browser's logo will be visible in the Taskbar, too:

Screenshot of Firefox and Internet Explorer in the Taskbar

Browser Help menu: If there is any doubt, check the browser's Help menu. Choosing the "About" option in each browser will tell you its version number as well.

Screenshot of the Firefox Help menu

Screenshot of the Internet Explorer Help menu

* If Firefox and Internet Explorer were cars, this visual guide would compare hood ornaments and headlight shapes. To learn about "under the hood" differences, it's best to learn about some of the functional differences and take a test drive!

Shortcut to Open a URL With Your Non-Default Browser

When you create a desktop shortcut for a URL, it is going to launch the URL with your default web browser.  What do you do if you want to create a shortcut to a URL, but have it open with a browser that isn’t set as your default?  An example would be the Library Online Administration page.  If Firefox is your default, you probably want to make a shortcut that will open it with Internet Explorer so that you can view the reports.  Follow these instructions to create a shortcut that will open a URL with your non-default web browser:

Shortcut to Open a URL with IE When Firefox is Default
  1. Click Start
  2. Click Programs
  3. Click-and-drag Internet Explorer to your desktop
  4. Right-click the new shortcut and select Properties
  5. On the Shortcut tab, click the Target field and move the cursor to the end of all the text
  6. Enter a single space and then enter your URL URL_IE
  7. Click Apply
  8. Click the General tab
  9. In the text field at the top, give your shortcut an appropriate name
  10. Click OK
Shortcut to Open a URL with Firefox when IE is Default
  1. Click Start
  2. Click Programs
  3. Click Mozilla Firefox
  4. Right-click the Mozilla Firefox icon and select Send To and then select Desktop (create shortcut)
  5. Right-click the new shortcut and select Properties
  6. On the Shortcut tab, click the Target field and move the cursor to the end of all the text
  7. Enter a single space and then enter your URL URL_FF
  8. Click Apply
  9. Click the General tab
  10. In the text field at the top, give your shortcut an appropriate name
  11. Click OK

Poisonous Popups Redux

I know I wrote about this back in April of last year, but we’re seeing another surge of fake anti-virusPoison  popups again so it’s worth another mention. 

If you get a popup window saying your PC is infected, it could be a fake.  These popups usually look like the real thing, often have names that are very close to the names of legitimate antivirus software and can even come from legitimate websites and not just "dodgy" ones.   

So how do you tell if you’ve got a fake?  A quick way is to check for the name of the software.  While the fakes use a multitude of different names, if the name’s not the same as your anti-virus software, it’s a fake.  Be careful though since the name used might be really close to your antivirus software’s name.  (See the Wikipedia entry for a partial list of the fake software names.)

If you get a suspicious popup, do not click on anything in it.  The Cancel button is a lie.  The X in the upper corner is too.  The entire popup window should just be considered poisonous. 

So how do you kill the window without touching it?  The easiest way is to do Ctrl-Alt-Del (hold down the Ctrl and Alt buttons and hit the Delete key) and choose Task Manager.  In Task Manager, make sure the Applications tab is selected then find your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) in the list.  Highlight your browser in the list and click on End Task.  Repeat if necessary until the popup disappears. 

If someone has already clicked on the popup, please call the appropriate support staff immediately.  While running an antivirus scan of your PC is a good start, it may not remove all of the fake software and undo all of the damages.  If you need to try and remove the software yourself, make sure that any removal tools you download are from legitimate sites like major antivirus vendors. 

Changing Your Default Web Browser

Today, when I clicked on a link in one of my emails, the link opened up in Internet Explorer.  I never use Internet Explorer unless the site requires ActiveX.  I changed my default web browser back to Firefox so that it wouldn't happen again.  You can also set Firefox as your default web browser by following these steps:

Firefox 2.x

  1. Launch Firefox
  2. Click ToolsJ0446463
  3. Click Options
  4. Click Main
  5. Beneath the System Defaults section, click Check Now
  6. Click Yes
  7. Click OK

Firefox 3.x

  1. Launch Firefox
  2. Click Tools
  3. Click Options
  4. Click Advanced
  5. Click the General tab
  6. Beneath the System Defaults section, click Check Now
  7. Click Yes
  8. Click OK

After you have changed your default browser to Firefox, all your links in email and on your desktop will open in Firefox.  I know some people still prefer Internet Explorer.  You can set Internet Explorer as your default browser by following these steps:

Internet Explorer 7 & 8

  1. Launch Internet Explorer
  2. Click Tools
  3. Click Internet Options
  4. Click Programs
  5. In the Default Web Browser section, click Make Default (grayed out if already the default)
  6. Click OK

A delicious way to keep things

As some of you may know, I have a hard time keeping track of things. funny-pictures-cat-searches-for-a-fileMy desk is often buried under paperwork because I just can't decide how to file it (under "X"? or "Y"? or "Z"?). I used to have the same problem filing websites I wanted to bookmark, but now I use Delicious.com.

Delicious.com is a social bookmarking site which allows Internet users to save bookmarks to a public website and describe them with tags.

Here are some links to very good explanations of social bookmarking:

How I use it: I added a bookmarklet to my browser that lets me click on a button to bookmark a website. A window pops up that allows me to add notes about the site, add tags (keywords), and save it to my Delicious account. Later, I can use these tags to easily find these bookmarks again.

Why I like it:

  • A single bookmark can have multiple tags, allowing me to find it many ways.
  • There's a simple way to share bookmarks with other Delicious users.
  • I have access to all my bookmarks from any PC that can access delicious.com.
  • Bookmarks can be private or public.

If you use Delicious, I would recommend periodically backing up your Delicious bookmarks to make sure you have a copy if anything should happen to the service. Although Delicious is probably *the* leading social bookmarking service (and was purchased by Yahoo), unexpected things happen and it never hurts to have a backup!

If you're already using Delicious and are interested in doing more with it, check out the Project Play "Do More with Delicious" post.  If you're interested in how libraries are using Delicious, check out this post from the Delaware Division of Libraries.

Cheating in a good way

I would love to "cheat" when using software and do *everything* with keyboard shortcuts and handy tips, but I have a hard time remembering them long enough for them to become part of my repertoire. That's why I was very excited when MakeUseOf.com recently had a post highlighting cheat sheets for common applications including:

IMG_1479_j

Here are a few others not mentioned in the post that may also prove helpful:

Now I have some quick references to help me work those shortcuts into my brain!

Liar, Liar

You are looking something up online when you suddenly receive a pop-up window on your PC saying that your PC is infected with viruses.  Ack!  Panic time!  Or is it?Liar-liar

While a virus infected PC is a very serious matter, not all "Your PC is infected" pop up messages are legitimate.  Phony antivirus ads are increasing in number and even major legitimate websites have been know to suffer from these pesky pop-ups.  A recent search returned nearly 62 million hits on Google, and that's just for one of the versions.

There are a number of variants of the scam software by different names but they all claim to do the same thing: clean viruses/trojans/spyware infections off of your PC.  So what do these malign malware in sheep's clothing actually do?  The most benign just constantly bother you with fake "we found viruses!!" messages asking you to register and pay for the sham software.  On the other end of the scale, they can install viruses, spyware and/or keylogging software that attempts to steal your passwords and turn your PC into a "zombie" they can use for their own nefarious purposes.

So what do you do if you get a virus warning?  Well, you can't just assume it's a deception and ignore it.  It could actually be a legitimate warning from your antivirus software and not a fraudulent browser pop-up window.  How do you tell?  The most basic check is if the virus warning window does not say it's from the antivirus software you already have installed on your PC, it's most likely a fraud.  If the window says Internet Explorer or Firefox at the top, it's almost certainly a fraud.

How do you get rid of these pop-ups?  First off, never click on anything in those ads.  The Cancel button and the X button in the upper right hand corner are usually fakes so clicking on those buttons, or anywhere else in the pop-up window for that matter, will cause the software to start to install.  The best way to get rid of a poisonous pop-up is to close out of your browser window by either doing Alt-F4, right clicking  on the browser box(es) on the taskbar and choosing Close or by doing Ctrl-Alt-Delete, clicking on Task Manager, finding the browser in the Applications tab, highlighting it and clicking on End Task.

What if it's too late?  If you or someone else did install the fake antivirus, please contact the appropriate staff immediately.  If you are trying to download a removal tool for any of these fake antivirus products, make sure you get it from a reputable source, one of the major antivirus firms would be a good choice.  Some of the "removal" tools you can find online are actually more counterfeit tools by the same people who made the original.

Stay tuned for more tips on safer browsing!