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Book Reviews

1999 Canadian Internet New User’s Handbook

by Jim Carroll and Rick Broadhead

1999 Canadian Internet Handbook: Tips, Tools, and Techniques to Enhance Your Internet Activities

by Jim Carroll and Rick Broadhead

Remember the pioneering days of the Internet? Before long we were all going to be shopping online, downloading movies, and getting all our information from the World Wide Web.

Well, the initial hype hasn’t quite materialized, but the quality of information and services available online has improved significantly since those early days, making it possible to reliably book a flight, read the day’s news, or even buy a car on the Web.

From the beginning, Jim Carroll, a chartered accountant, and Rick Broadhead, a teacher at York University’s division of executive development, have been spreading the gospel of the Internet to Canadians, and have together published several books on a variety of online topics.

The 1999 Canadian Internet New User’s Handbook is a revised version of the 1998 guide, and is written for absolute beginners. The material here gives the reader an overview of how the Internet works, and suggests possibilities for personal and business use. Terms are defined, directions are given on how to connect to the Net and how to send an e-mail, and a there is a discussion of the need for online security.

The most interesting part of the book is a descriptive tour of 24 useful web sites. “Radio Tower,” for example, lists radio stations from around the world, organized by country of origin and style of music played, that broadcast a live signal through the Internet. Another intriguing site posts 16,000 pages of information the FBI declassified in 1998, ranging from investigations of UFOs and international espionage to files on Elvis Presley.

There isn’t much new here, though. Readers with even a passing interest in technology will have picked up most of this information from newspapers and periodicals; the authors don’t help matters by making such vague, general statements as, “not all search engines are alike.” True. But what about giving the reader some tips on wading through the mountain of information available? The guide suffers, too, from platitudes and hokey advice. “If the Internet works for you, great. But don’t be silly in the way you advocate it. If it fails to live up to your expectations, don’t poke fun at those who do use it.”

The 1999 Canadian Internet Handbook is aimed at the more advanced user, but one doesn’t have to be an aficionado of the Internet to understand and benefit from the advice and information given. Take the issue of online privacy, for example. Users may think they’re surfing the Web anonymously, but the authors point out that this is rarely the case. Your e-mail address identifies you every time you log on to a web site. For users concerned with privacy, the authors recommend using a free service, www.anonymizer.com, to keep your e-mail identity confidential.

Other topics include web design, improving productivity on the Internet, speeding up connections, filtering out pop-up advertising, and beginning a personalized news clipping service of subjects you’d like to track. It’s a comprehensive guide that proves the Canadian champions of the Internet are still on the mark.