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First the rule:
Do not use the email address that you receive from your ISP, the company you pay for your Internet connection. Although they are free, using that email address, be it from Earthink, RoadRunner, AOL, or another Internet provider, using that free email address will cost you a lot more in the long run. Instead get an email address from an independent provider, like Yahoo.
Now the story:
When RoadRunner, Time-Warner's fast Internet service, became available in our area I got it immediately. At the time I paid Road Runner $42 a month for this Internet access.
Several years later I received a call from a salesperson at Road Runner. She informed me that they'd been undercharging us or their service. I really should have been paying $60 a month, not $42. Being nice people, they wouldn't make me pay back all that money, but from now on I'd be paying $60 a month..... except if I agreed to take Cable TV along with fast Internet access, in which case they'd only charge me $58 a month, nice people that they were.
I informed her that I detested commercial TV, that if they put it in our home our children wouldn't do their homework and my family would stop talking to each other. The nice woman pointed out that we didn't have to actually hook the cable up to our TV - just have them put it on our bill to save us the $2 a month. I suppose then they could officially tell their advertisers they had another subscriber.
The call did not make me feel kindly toward Time Warner. It felt like extortion. So I called Earthlink. I'd heard they also had fast Internet service in the area. They offered me free installation, the first three months for $29 a month and $42 a month thereafter. So I went ahead and ordered Earthlink. Now here's the kicker..... it turns out that both Road Runner's and Earthlink's service go over the same wires and use the same equipment, owned by another branch of Time-Warner altogether. So when the day came for me to switch from Road Runner to Earthlink, someone just flipped a switch in an office somewhere and that was it. Like changing from one long distance phone carrier to another, nothing changed except who I made the check out to.
I would not have been able to do this, at least not anywhere near as easily, had I originally given out my free Road Runner email address to friends and family. But instead I had gotten a Yahoo email address and thus didn't have to depend on Road Runner for my email. That had made all the difference.
Now I'm going to say all this in a far longer, more intricate, and technical manner.
If you are more interested in how I set up email, rather than why I set up it up this way, here is the short course:
My primary email address comes from yahoo.com
I use yahoo for webmail.
Webmail is used to check email when one is not at ones home computer.
I don't use the free Yahoo version but get Yahoo Email Plus for $20 a year.
This allows me to also download my messages onto my computer. I use the Outlook Express email program to download email onto my computer.
I use this program to look at, sort, and compose email on my computer.
I use the Opera browser to look at Internet web sites.
This is my primary web browser.
I use Microsoft's Internet Explorer as my secondary browser.
Some sites or site functions don't work right with Opera.
So I leave Internet Explorer as my default browser,
but still use Opera most of the time.
I use Google as my search engine and home page.
If possible I always get a fast Internet connection.
But I never use AOL for Broadband for fast Internet or regular AOL as my dialup provider.
If one has to keep ones AOL email address, get the webmail only version. With this version you pay for the address alone. It costs $5 a month. Then use AOL Communicator as an email client, to write, read, and download email onto ones computer.
Here are the reasons why I set up my email in this manner:
I want to be able to email friends and family all the way through to the end of my life. In this way email and the Internet will allow me to communicate on a daily basis with the people I love, long past the time I otherwise would be able to. It may also allow me to be active and effective in our world much longer than otherwise possible.
Besides communicating with family and friends I presently use email as an ongoing record of business transactions. I have been using it this way for almost a decade now. Because emails are searchable I can find documents that I could never put my hands on if I were to save them in hardcopy paper form. These are the considerations that have shaped my current email strategy.
My rule: Ones primary email address should not come from ones Internet Service Provider (ISP).
So although I now pay Earthlink for my Internet connection, I still use email@example.com
This strategy allows me to change my Internet Service Provider (ISP), the company I pay for the actual physical connection to the Internet, without having to change my email address. Over the years this has saved me a considerable amount of money. It has also saved me the time and effort of notifying everyone whenever I change my ISP and has given me the security of knowing that my connection to people who are important in my life will not be broken.
Email viewed and composed on a specific Internet website is called webmail. That's the generic name. All Internet email providers offer some form of webmail. But being able to also download email (actually bring ones email messages down onto ones own computer and save them there) has great advantages, especially if one has a slower dialup connection to the Internet. In this case one can download all email messages at once and disconnect from the Internet, leaving ones telephone free. It is also much quicker and easier to work with email, to read, sort, and delete it from within a program that resides on ones computer. One can even compose email without being connected to the Internet, and then send it when one connects.
As an aside, a 'dialup connection' uses a regular phone line to connect to the Internet. This is as opposed to a 'cable' or 'DSL' connection. These two types of connections are collectively known as 'broadband' type connections. Broadband connections are much faster, up to 100 times faster than a dialup Internet connection.
Although they are more expensive than dialup connections, there are great advantages, as well as some disadvantages, to having a quicker connection to the Internet. The new computer user is often tempted to go with the less expensive alternative, seeing that they probably won't be using the Internet for much more than email. But this can be pound-foolish and penny wise, since dialup Internet connections also add a layer of complexity to the entire process of trying to access the Internet. Too often I have seen this cause individuals to give up entirely on using their computers.
I spoke before about programs that allow individuals to work with email on their computers, as opposed to email that one looks at and composes from a specific Internet web site. Outlook Express (provided by Microsoft) is one such program. There's also a program called Eudora and a program called Thunderbird.
I compose messages and access my email through the Outlook Express email program and use it to organize my email folders.
Yahoo offers free email but I pay $20 a year for “Yahoo Mail Plus”. This includes a feature called “POP Access and Forwarding”. “POP Access and Forwarding” gives one the ability to download email into the email program residing on ones computer as well as look at ones email from any Internet connected computer. It also has other valuable features like a bulk mail (anti-SPAM folder) and temporary email addresses.
The only reason I go onto the Yahoo web site other than to check my mail from another computer, is to look through this folder and make sure there's no email I really want delivered to me.
Since I get huge amounts of spam I've mechanized this procedure. I page through it, quickly eyeballing each page. If I see an email from someone I know, I mark it as not spam and move it over to my inbox, where it is downloaded into the email program on my computer.
When I first used this feature I found such emails quite often but recently it almost never occurs. I have to check anyway. After a month emails are automatically deleted from the bulk mail folder.
Yahoo Email Plus has a feature where you can block specific email addresses from sending mail. You can block up to 200 such addresses. It also has a feature where you can make up temporary email addresses. This is handy when you want don't want someone to have your permanent email address, say when you are ordering things on the Internet.
These features are all described on the Yahoo Email Options page.
Finally, for $20 a year with Email Plus I get a two-gigabyte mailbox. This is a huge amount of space that resides not on my computer but on some other computer on the Internet. I specify that my Outlook Express email program (residing on my computer) leave copies of all email in my Yahoo mailbox indefinitely. This is my backup for all the email I may want to keep. It also allows me to access all this email from other computers. Eventually I will have to get rid of the oldest of this saved email, but after six months I still have only used up 8% of the two billion bytes allotted.
I also use that 2-gigabyte mailbox as a backup for my critical data and documents. Periodically I use the WinZip program to compact a great number of documents into a much smaller file, then attach that file to an email that I send to myself. I login to my email account on the Yahoo website and put these emails into special folders for saving. Or if I'm working on a long article I might just copy and paste it into an email that I send to myself.
As part of my overall strategy for backing up my data I also periodically save this data onto CD's. But it is reassuring to know that if anything happens, even if my house were to burn down and my computer and all those backup CD's were destroyed, I'd still have these documents out there on a Website. I even WinZip and attach my Thunderbird email folders and send them to myself, along with burning these achieved emails onto CD's.
Please note that one cannot absolutely depend on Yahoo mailboxes being secure from hackers. I also encrypt my most important data before emailing it to myself. By the way, if you don't understand what 'hackers' or 'encryption', that's OK. I just say it here for completeness.
Here's a glossary of terms:
The generic term for a company you pay for your Internet connection is an ISP, Internet Service Provider. Examples of ISP's are AOL, MSN, Earthlink, Road Runner, and PeoplePC, but there are literally thousands of such companies. Most of the smaller companies sell only 'dialup' connections.
A dialup connection is when you connect to the Internet via a regular phone line. While you are using that phone line to access the Internet you cannot use it for any other purpose, though some companies are now offering the ability to answer a call via caller id and then jump right back into your Internet session.
There are alternatives to a dialup telephone connection. Cable connections (associated with cable TV services) and DSL connections (a faster connection via phone lines) are generically known as “broadband connections”. There are even 'satellite' connections, where information is beamed down to ones computer via satellite. These last types of connections are far faster than the dialup telephone connection. By 'fast' I mean how quickly a web page is displayed on ones browser. They are also generally more expensive.
The 'browser' is the generic name for a program used to display an Internet 'web site'. That is mostly what the Internet is, millions and millions of different web sites, each made up of 'web pages'. Each web site is capable of being formatted with different types of content and used for different types of services. Each 'web site' has a unique 'Internet address', also known as a URL. If you look at a browser the Internet address is generally displayed toward the top of the window. The address often begins with: “http://www.”and ends with “.com, .org, or .edu.” These stand for commercial, organizations, and educational based web sites.
A browser is just a program that utilizes ones Internet connection to display web sites. You can use more than one browser to access the Internet at the same time. (This works best with a fast connection.) You can also have several instances of the same browser open to different websites at the same time. This way you can cross-reference a website, getting information on the site to access other sites, while still being able to look at the original site.
There are many 'browsers'. The most well known are Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera and now Firefox or Mozilla, but other browser programs exist.
Right now I have the Internet Explorer program running and accessing some web sites and also Opera running, accessing other websites. My primary 'browser' is Opera. I find it easier to use and less prone to attracting viruses and other bad programs on the Internet.
Opera also allows me to change the size of my screen using the Ctrl key and scroll wheel on my mouse. It's terrific. You should try it. Hold down the Ctrl key (very lower left of keypad) with one hand and push the scroll wheel of your mouse back and forth. (By the way, not all mice have scroll wheels. If yours doesn't you might think about buying one that does. They're very helpful.)
As you move the scroll wheel back and forth the size font in the Opera Screen or Microsoft Word window will get larger or smaller. This only changes the perceived font with Microsoft Word. When you go to print out a document it will still print out as your default font.
I use Opera as my primary browser because font size is important. (You can't work with something that you can't see.) It is also a very compact fast browser and this allows one to open up multiple tabbed browser windows at once. Since I look at computers as tools, mainly for research, this is very useful. I can open up three, four, or more windows without impacting the computer's performance. I can then cross reference web pages, keeping all of them open in separate windows. So, for instance, if I'm researching automobiles, I can keep one web site window open, click on a link and have that easily accessible also. The only problem is when one becomes confused by all the open windows.
I keep Internet Explorer as my secondary browser it has functions that Opera does not have and there are web sites that won't display correctly or even at all using Opera.
All browsers work in much the same way and you can use multiple browsers at once (if you can keep track of all the windows.) Right now I have three browsers running at once, Opera, Internet Explorer, and Firefox. If you are new to computers it's probably best to stick with one browser.
AOL actually uses a version of the Internet Explorer browser. AOL is a conglomerate of different services. It has a browser of course, plus email, plus the ability to download and access ones email on ones computer, plus something called Instant Messenger, plus many advertisements.
More and more I am coming to the position that it is best to separate the different functions, services, and programs offered for using the Internet. If one is already using a specific program I can appreciate how difficult it is to learn something else, especially since AOL is so confusing and difficult to learn in the first place. But sticking with AOL can cost you money in the long run. More important, it severely limits your ability to learn and grow in your use of the Internet.
Every service and function that AOL offers can be found in numerous other Internet programs, many of which are free and easier to learn if one is just starting out with computers and the Internet. AOL seems to have specifically crafted their product to make it difficult to use any other products along with it. If you stick with AOL you are wedded to it.
Yahoo is also a conglomerate of different services attached to a central website. The only Yahoo service I actively use is their email. I use it as my email provider for many reasons, one of which is that if email providers start going out of business, Yahoo has a good chance of sticking around.
Google is also starting to offer email. Google began as a search engine. Now they are branching out to offer other services. Conceptually, Google is several things. First of all it is a company that operates a 'web site'. On their web site you can find a program they created which allows you to find other Internet web sites by searching for them. You search by putting in what's known as 'key words'. For instance if I were trying to find the web site operated by Microsoft I could type in 'Microsoft' and hit enter and get a list of all the web sites that mention the word 'Microsoft' in them. This would undoubtedly number in the tens of millions, so it wouldn't be very useful. But Google is a very useful and intelligent program, if a program can be said to be 'intelligent'. You can be very specific as to the 'key words' you put in, enabling one to find very specific information on a huge number of subjects. I don't think one really needs anything else but Google to search with. It's easy to learn and easy to use.
Now some things to look out for:
If you do use a dialup Internet connection make sure that the number you dial is a local number. If you ever happen to move and take your computer to another location make sure to change this number, otherwise cheap dialup connections get expensive quickly.
With any connection watch out for free offers. It used to be safe to click on “GET THIS FREE!!!” Now it isn't. There are programs generically called “spyware” and “adware”, along with programs that contain viruses. These will slow down your computer and even stop it. There are a lot of useful freebies on the Internet, but one has to know which ones are safe to download.
Finally I want to warn you about the greatest danger in using the Internet. The Internet is an amazing thing. It is an incredible repository of knowledge. But do not become enamored of it to the exclusion of other things in your life, especially the people you are closet to. Also when you first begin using a computer and the Internet, be aware of physical strain. It's easy to forget and work for hours on end. This excess can be dangerous for older individuals.
Alan L. Silverman
Stone Ridge, NY 12484
May be distributed for non-commercial purposes with attribution to author.
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If the above link doesn't bring up your email program, copy and paste this address into an email: firstname.lastname@example.org