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Difference between harmless, nosy cookies

By JOHN TORRO

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 6, 2000


Q: In a recent column, you said, "Accepting a cookie does not give a Web site access to your computer or any personal information about you and is harmless." The Times recently had an article that said some government Web sites have cookies that record information about an Internet user's browsing habits. Can you clarify this?

A: First, let's make it clear that accepting a cookie does not give a Web site access to your computer or any personal information about you, other than what you provide by entering customized settings for that Web site or by typing into forms on the site. Further, cookies can be read only by the server that set the cookie.

So then what are the privacy concerns being raised? They have to do with what is referred to as "third party" cookies. These are cookies that are placed on your computer by a third, less-apparent, party. The most common third-party cookies are placed by companies, such as DoubleClick, that provide the banner ads that appear on many sites. When you travel to another site that has banner ads from the same company that placed the original third party cookie, that information can be recorded in the cookie without the knowledge of the Web site that you're visiting.

Microsoft is working on a solution that will distinguish between regular cookies that for the most part enhance your Web experience and are not a privacy concern and the third party cookies. Using this new technology you'll be able to prevent these third party cookies from downloading. To read more about this or to download the Privacy Enhancement add-on for Internet Explorer that will give you control over the third party cookies, go to www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.htm.

Making a Works template

Q: Is there a way to change the default font size from 10 to 12 in the Microsoft Works 2000 word processor?

A: According to Microsoft, to change the default font or font size in Works 2000 word processor, you'll need to create a default word processor template configured to use the font and font size you want. To do this:

1. Open a blank document in the Works word processor.

2. Select the font and font size you want to use for new word processor documents.

3. Click Save As on the File menu, then click Template.

4. Type a name for the word processor template, click to select the "Use this template for new Word Processor documents" check box, and click OK.

Analog and digital

Q: Could you explain the difference between analog and digital in layman terms as it applies to computers?

A: Analog is a transmission method that uses sound or electrical waves to send signals, while digital uses a binary code (zeros and ones) to represent information. While analog components and methods are not really a big part of today's computers, the disadvantage of analog technologies in other devices, such as phones and camcorders, is that analog signals are susceptible to interference (noise and distortions) and are much less efficient when converted to work with computers, which understand only 0s and 1s.

Benefits of FAT32

Q: My laptop has a single hard disk divided into C and D drives. Drive D has a lot of free space, FAT32 file system and a capacity of 2.53 gigabytes. Drive C is almost full, has FAT file system and a capacity of 1.99GB. I often get messages that drive C is running out of space, and options include converting to FAT32 file system. Is this a wise choice?

A: Yes. The FAT32 file system is much more efficient. It uses smaller cluster sizes and therefore can store most files in less physical space than the older FAT16 file system. Every system will be different, but you can expect to save about 20 percent of your disk space by using FAT32.

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