Ask Omni Omni

March 2011

Cadets, this month I'd like to ask you a question. Have your parents seen the Academy on Facebook or Twitter? If you haven't checked out the Academy's social network page together, I welcome you to take a look.

Social media has its benefits and drawbacks, but the Academy is committed to using web technologies for social good. We've set up our profile pages and would like families and classrooms to keep up to date by following us there.

Have a question for Commander Omni? Email it to: omni [AT]

Ask Omni Archives

February 2011

Q:What is Data Rot?

Data rot is the technical term for all those crumbs and whatnot trapped inside your keyboard. If you don't believe it's there, go ahead and shake it out upside down. See all that gross stuff? Data rot. Nasty, right? You really need to clean that out more often!

But anyway, that isn't really what data rot is! Data rot, otherwise known as bit rot, is the gradual decay of information stored on any device. Basically, it is the same thing as regular rot, only it happens to your saved data!

For example, say you have a thumb drive with some pictures stored on it. If you leave the thumb drive alone for several years and then try to use it, you might find that some of the pictures cannot be accessed. The spooky part is that no one knows exactly why it happens! The only thing that experts agree on is that you should save your data often and transfer it to new technology every five years or so.

January 2011

Q:What is Software Bloat?

I don’t know about you, Cadets, but all this holiday overeating has left me feeling as bloated as my software!

Software bloat, or bloatware, describes any software that isn’t programmed as efficiently as it should be. This sort of programming can lead to software that uses way more system resources than it should. The result? SSSLLLOOOWWW computers. Fortunately there are many software products out there, so you can try to pick one that best suits your needs without adding a lot of features you won’t use.

December 2010

Q:What are Reusable Software Components?

Well…they’re software components. And you can reuse them! That was fun. Make sure to come back next month for a new installment of Ask Omni.

What, you want more? Good, because I want to say more!

Reusable software components are features that are shared between different programs. This is done so that software developers don’t have to create all the different features of a certain program from scratch.

For example, your word processing program probably has a spell check feature. You might notice that many other programs you use also have spell check. Usually, instead of creating an entirely new spell check feature, the software developer will just borrow that feature from an existing program. This way, the programs you use are consistent and the software developers don’t have to slave over a hot keyboard all day!

November 2010

Q:What is a Daemon?

A: I know Halloween is over, but I couldn’t resist answering this seemingly ghoulish question! Well, firstly, let me say, there’s nothing evil about this sort of daemon (pronounced just like “demon”). Computer daemons are simply programs that run in the background that the user generally has no control over.

A daemon operates by taking over the function that is started by another program and making sure that it runs correctly. Basically, it’s sort of like day care for computer programs. The system that begins the program hands control over to the daemon which will then continue to run it in the background of your computer. There are tons of daemons (also known as “services” for Windows users) that you are using right now as you read this.

So remember, there’s no reason to call an exorcist if your computer is full of daemons!

October 2010

Q:What is Cybersecurity Awareness Month?

A: Sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a time to remind people that the Internet can be a scary place, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you are careful. For the past seven years, the U.S. government has been encouraging everyone to pay attention to what they put on the Internet. Remember, once your information is out there, there is no taking it back!

It’s also extremely important to make sure you keep your anti-malware protection up to date. The Internet is full of wonderful people and information, but it also has its fair share of weirdos and harmful Web sites. As long as you do your part, the Internet can be a fun and exciting place to share ideas. Just remember: above all else, be smart! If something doesn’t seem right with your computer or someone is bothering you, tell a trusted adult right away.

Lastly, I just wanted to say that, although National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is sponsored by the U.S. government, EVERYONE can participate. I know our friend Cadet Yoko is celebrating, and she lives all the way in Japan! Geography and nationality is no reason to shirk your responsibility. As citizens of the Earth, we’re all entrusted with keeping the Internet safe for everyone!

September 2010

Q:What is Net Neutrality?

A: Unless you’ve been totally out of touch lately – because, for example, you were stuck in the 1980’s fighting a time-travelling cyber villain – you’ve probably heard people talking about network neutrality. Network neutrality, otherwise known as Internet neutrality or simply net neutrality, is an ideal that states no government or Internet service provider should restrict online communication in any way. Basically, it is a concept that the Internet should be a neutral place where people from different backgrounds can meet and talk freely.

People that oppose net neutrality believe that people who are willing to pay more should get the best access to the Internet. In other words, if a person does not purchase a premium Internet package, they will only be able to download a certain amount of data per month and at a slower speed. In many ways, the people against net neutrality want the Internet to function like cable television or mobile phone plans, where the more you pay, the more you get to play.

So what do you think, Cadets? Should phone and Internet companies charge everyone the same for the equal access to the Internet or should they charge people depending on how much bandwidth they use?

August 2010

Q: What is DOS?

Since we’re stuck in the 80’s, I might as well use this time to teach you about great old technology we used back then. DOS was a generic term for any Disk Operating System that was used by PCs from 1981 to around 1995. Although none of the DOS-style operating systems actually called themselves just DOS, the abbreviation was commonly used as part of the larger name. Some examples of this are MS-DOS (MicroSoft DOS), PTS-DOS (Processor Technology DOS), and DR-DOS (Digital Research DOS).

So, say you were using DOS and you wanted to have both a spreadsheet program and a word processing program open at the same time. Well, you’d better have two computers! DOS could only handle one program at a time, so multi-tasking was out of the question. And say you want to run that word processing program. Just click the icon for it, and start typing away, right? Nope! First you have to write a command prompt requesting the system to run your program. A command prompt is entered text that instructs the computer to perform a task. The prompt would look something like this:

  • C:\Program Files\wordprocessor\

What a pain!

In review, DOS was great for the time, but we can work with computers much, much faster today. Oh I can’t wait to be back in modern times!

July 2010

Q: What’s the Difference between a 3.5” Floppy Disk and a 5.25” Floppy Disk?

A: Look at me, I’m frogging! Or was it called “clogging”? “Flogging”? It’s me, Captain Wits, writing to you from 1995! So, this is a smart phone, huh? Looks like a fancy calculator to me! And how does it connect to the Internet, anyway? Just kidding, we have wireless in 1995, but it’s slower than molasses flowing uphill in January! Let’s talk a little about past technologies, starting with floppy disks.

So what’s the difference between 3.5” and 5.25” floppy disks? About 1.75”! Ha, I crack myself up. But seriously, 3.5” floppies can hold a lot more information. Floppy disks record data on a thin, bendable disk of magnetic material protected by a plastic case. 5.25” floppies have been used since 1976 and could hold around 89 kilobytes of data. In 1995, 3.5” floppies hold 21,000 kilobytes. That’s over 235 times as much information in a smaller package! Cadet, I mean, Commander, Omni tells me that in the future things called USB Drives can hold as much as 64 gigabytes, or 67,108,864 kilobytes. Amazing!

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June 2010

Q: What's the difference between .com, .net, and .org domain names?

A: Have you ever wondered why there are so many different types of domain name extensions. I mean, do we really need .com, .edu, .net, .org, .info, .mil, .gov, .biz, and so on and so on? Originally, the only options people had were .com, .net, and .org. If the website was about technology, it had a .net ending. If it was a business website it had a .com ending, unless it was a non-profit business, in which case the domain name ended with .org.

Now, anyone can use these domain name extensions for any purpose. Because these endings became general, other more specific endings had to be made. Now we've got .biz for businesses, .tel for networks, .mil for military, .edu for education, and many others.

It's a good thing that the domain name endings tell the user what sort of website they're visiting, but do we really need so many? If you’re looking for a full list of all domain name endings, check out this website (it’s a .com, for what it’s worth).

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May 2010

Q: What is Ego Surfing?

A: Have you ever done a search for yourself on the Internet? If so, you’re an ego surfer! There are many different reasons why people choose to ego surf. In my experience, most people do it just because they’re curious. Who knows what information about you is on the Web! Ego surfing is a great way to make sure that there’s no embarrassing or harmful information about you out there for anyone to see.

When you go ego surfing, remember this – you might not be the only person in the world with your name. This may sound silly, but you would be surprised! To find the real you, enclose your first and last name inside quotation marks, and narrow the search further by adding your hometown or school. If the information you find is something you don’t want anyone else to see, ask a trusted adult to help you take it off the Internet.

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April 2010

Q: Why is Summer Vacation Starting Early?

A: Well Cadets, I’m sad to say that the Cyber Academy is closing its doors for good at the end of April. I’ve had a great time teaching here and seeing you grow into the strong, smart, and safe Cadets that are reading this today. Unfortunately, a recent tragedy has struck the Academy, forcing us to shut down forever.

It started last week. Captain Wits was surfing the Internet and downloading what he thought was a freeware program that would help him train his bees. What he got instead was the dreaded Gotcha Virus.

Now for those Cadets who don’t know, the Gotcha Virus is particularly nasty because it can jump from the computer to people! Sadly, this is exactly what happened. Soon Captain Wits was going around and telling people their shoes were untied. When they’d look down to check, he’d shout “Gotcha!” and run to his next victim. This is how the disease spreads!

Soon, all the Cadets and faculty fell victim to this terrible virus. The halls were full of people offering each other Hurts Donuts or telling each other they had something on the front of their shirt, only to flick their victims in the nose when they looked down to check. It was terrible! We hadn’t seen an outbreak this bad since the Cooties Incident on Valentine’s Day of ’04!

And so, Cadets, we have to shut the Academy down early for the summer to prevent the spread of this terrible virus. It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye and wish you all luck in the future. And for those of you who read this and believed everything I wrote, let me just say…


April Fools!!!

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March 2010

Q: What is Cloud Computing?

If you’ve ever used an Internet-based email account, you’ve used cloud computing! Cloud computing takes services and programs, such as email, and moves them from your computer’s hard drive to the Internet. So exactly why is this important? For starters, cloud computing allows for a lot more mobility in terms of computing.

Imagine you’re working on a project on a school computer. Instead of having to email it to yourself or load it on a flash drive so you can work on it at home, you could just save the file on the Internet program you were using. Then, you could access that file from any computer, provided you had Internet access!

Cloud computing makes everything easier from a programmer’s perspective, too. Instead of demanding that users update their computers/programs every so often, someone would just have to update the central application! And consider the amount of hard drive space you could save if all your files weren’t stored on your computer? With several large computer companies beginning to push cloud computing to new heights (get it?), we’re sure to see many more uses for it in the future.

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February 2010

Q: What are the Differences between Laptops, Notebooks, and Netbooks?

A: Honestly, not much. In fact, some people say the terms are all interchangeable. In my opinion, there are some important differences in each that you should know about.

Laptops are generally larger, more powerful portable computers. If you like storing large amounts of pictures or music files, laptops are your best bet.

Notebooks are smaller, less-expensive portable computers. They are great for doing homework or if you only use one or two applications at a time, since they are less powerful.

The smallest of the three, netbooks are a fairly new type of laptop. They are even smaller and more portable than the notebook, and are also less powerful.  If you really only use your computer for going on the internet, you might really enjoy having a netbook

And that’s all there is to it! Personally, I prefer notebooks since they’re more portable than the average laptop and have more power than most netbooks. It’s the best of both worlds!

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January 2010

Q: What’s the Difference between DVD and Blu-ray?

A: When it comes to entertainment, Blu-ray discs are replacing DVDs in everything from movies to video games. But why? What makes Blu-ray so much better? The difference basically comes down to the amount of information each disc type can hold.

The older DVD holds much less data than the newer Blu-ray. At its very best, the DVD can hold just under 18 gigabytes of information. The best Blu-ray disc, on the other hand, can hold as much as 500 gigabytes. That's almost like saying
1 top-quality Blu-ray is equal to 28 top-quality DVDs!

So how can a Blu-ray disc hold so much information? It all comes down to the color of the laser. DVD players use a red laser to read and record data. Blu-ray players use a blue-violet laser. Since the blue-violet laser has a shorter wavelength, it is more accurate. Therefore, information can be stored in smaller packets. Smaller packets, of course, mean a lot more information can be put on a Blu-ray disc than on a DVD.

And there you have it! When it comes right down to it, Blu-ray just holds more stuff.

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December 2009

Q: What's the Difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

A: Hypertext transfer protocol (http) is a way to send and receive information on the Internet. All Internet users work with http connections, and it is usually used to view hypertext markup language (html) sites.

Https is identical to http with one big difference - the "s" is used to show that the user requesting the information needs a secure connection. In other words, the user doesn't trust a normal connection, so https connections send the data after it has been encrypted. This way, even if the secret information is found by some cyber criminal, it will be all jumbled and useless.

Https another great way to keep your personal information private! Some browsers will show a little lock symbol at the bottom of the Web site. If the lock is closed, the site is using https, which means that it is secure. If it is unlocked, the site is using normal http, so it is unsecure.

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November 2009

Q: What is an ARG?

It's the sound you make when you stub your toe. Next question!

OK, sorry, that was a bad joke. ARG is short for Alternate Reality Game. Basically, instead having a game controlled by artificial intelligence , the players' actions directly affect what happens in-game!

These Internet games are always multiplayer and often use real world objects as part of the game experience. For example, a player might receive a phone call on their cell phone. What they say and hear has a direct affect on the game. Other real-world objects and places used by these games include local libraries, e-mail accounts, and physical mailing addresses.

Generally, these games focus on a mystery the player can solve. To solve it, the player must find clues in many in-game and out-of-game ways. Talk about an immersive game! Some employers are even starting to use these games to see how employees do at solving problems. I'm sure Alan will be happy to know that his video game skills might help him get a job one day!

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October 2009

Q: What is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is a tricky thing to define since it can mean one of two things. Generally speaking, bandwidth describes the speed of your Internet connection. If your connection's bandwidth is rated for 5 mbps, it should be able to process 5 megabytes of digital information every second without slowing down or crashing. The more bytes per second the connection can handle, the faster your connection will be. If you try downloading more than your connection can manage, you may get lag or get disconnected entirely!

Bandwidth can also describe the amount of information you are allowed to process by, say, your school. For example, here at the Academy, the Cadets have a weekly 10-gigabyte bandwidth allowance. If they use more than that much without permission, they might be banned from the network for a while! If you go over the limit that your home ISP has set, your parents could have to pay a lot more money on their monthly bill, so be careful.

Speaking of using more than your fair share of bandwidth, I'm getting some strange readings from the dorm rooms. I hope the Cadets haven't gotten themselves into any trouble.

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September 2009

Q: What’s the Difference between Shareware and Freeware?

A: In order to answer this question, let's first talk about what they have in common. Generally speaking, both shareware and freeware are types of software downloaded from the Internet. Another similarity is that both have an EULA (End User License Agreement). Both are also generally free of charge. Well, at least they are free of charge at first.

Freeware is totally free of charge. Shareware, on the other hand, is only free for a little while. Before you get to use the shareware, you need to accept the EULA. This will tell you how long you can use the program for free before the programmer asks for money. This period can be a length of time, like a week or a month, or it could be how many times you open the program.

Remembering the difference between is easy - freeware is always free, shareware is freely shared for a little while.

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August 2009

Q: What are some Different Ways to Create a Web Site?

A: Without getting into things like buying a domain name or choosing a web host (you should get a parent or trusted adult to help you with these things), creating a web site comes down to the fun of designing the site itself. HTML (hyper text mark-up language) is the basic web programming language that people use to build Web sites. In my opinion, the easiest way for you to start a web site is to use something called a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) web editor. This software allows for very easy web page design without having to bother with coding. Simply put, if you can use a word processor, you should have no trouble with this type of program. Examples of WYSIWYG web editors are Dreamweaver, which is a great option if you have the money to spend on it, or KompoZer, which is a freeware web editor.

Both of these programs have online tutorials that help you get started designing your first web site, so get on the Internet, get your program, and get creative!

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July 2009

Q: What is the Difference between a Bit and a Byte?

A: The simple answer to this question is that a bit is 1/8th of a byte. Of course, if there is a simple answer to a question, there must also be a more complex answer.

A bit, or binary digit, is the smallest unit of measure used for computer information storage. At its most basic, a bit represents either a one (1) or zero (0), which a computer reads as an "on" or "off". Maybe it would be helpful to think of a bit as a letter and a byte as a word. Each individual letter carries information (in our case either "on" or "off") but no real meaning. When these letters are combined to form words, however, they can be used to convey a variety of information. By rearranging the ones and zeroes, a byte can represent 256 unique combinations and therefore can convey 256 different messages to a computer. It always amazes me that something as simple as this two-paragraph document is made up of almost 27 kilobytes, or 216,000 bits!

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June 2009

Q: What is Web 2.0?

A: When the Internet was first created, most of the information was delivered in a one-sided manner, from creator to viewer. Someone would create a Web site and you would go look at it to get the information. This is considered "Web 1.0," or the "first" version of the Internet. "Web 2.0" is a sort of second version of the Internet that allows people to have two-sided, back-and-forth communication and collaboration. Examples of Web 2.0 trends are socializing on social networking sites, running software applications through the browser, publishing blogs that other people can comment on, and sharing media through sites like YouTube and Flickr.

While the technology of the Internet has stayed the same for the most part, Web 2.0 has come about because developers and users are changing the way they use the Internet. Web 2.0 trends allow users to do a lot more than just get information. If you think of Web 1.0 like watching a video about trees, Web 2.0 might allow you to ask questions about trees, let you comment on the video or share a story about trees, publish your own video or pictures of trees, and share the video with your friends in Cyberspace so they can see what you think, too.

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May 2009

Q: How can I protect my computer from hackers?

A: To protect your computer from hackers, there are a few things you can do:

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April 2009

Q: What is the Difference Between Bitmap, JPEG,
and GIF Files?

A: All images that come from a scanner or digital camera are bitmap files. A bitmap file is made up of pixels aligned in a grid, a "map" of "bits." Because the number of pixels is set, if you try to increase the size it will reduce the image quality. However, by decreasing the size, it can be faster to send an image to others by email or download from a Web site.

JPEGs and GIFs are two common bitmap file formats. Each format reduces the size of a digital image but in different ways.

  • GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) can display anything up to 256 colors. When you save an image as a GIF, the format reduces the size of an image file by reducing the number of colors in the image. GIF files are good for images with few colors, such as logos, drawings and comics. They also allow transparency and animation, so they can be used for simple special effects on Web pages.
  • JPEGs (Joint Photographic Experts Group) can
    display millions of colors and, therefore, are better for photographs. Instead of dropping colors, JPEGs reduce the size of an image file by discarding details that are usually barely noticeable to the human eye, which is a process called compression. The more compressed a file is, the more distorted it will appear. JPEGs are not good for images that have very little data to compress, like line drawings.

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March 2009

Q: What Causes Slow Internet Service?

A: Many factors can cause your Internet service to slow down. Some of these causes are out of your control, such as a bad line, too many people trying to access the Internet at the same time, system trouble at your ISP, and trying to access an overloaded Web or file server.

There are also causes that you do have some control over, such as your modem's speed, your computer's settings, and software that might be slowing your computer down. One of the biggest causes of a slow Internet connection is a malware infection, such as a virus or spyware, so using anti-virus software and keeping it up-to-date to prevent infection is an important step to a fast Internet connection.

Like malware, other software programs might also be running in the background and slowing your computer down. Some of these, like anti-virus software, need to be running, but you might be able to remove others.

You can also adjust your Web browser settings to speed up your connection. You can reduce the size of your web cache and clean it out regularly, so your browser has less files to sift through, and prevent animations and scripts from loading automatically to make Web pages load faster.

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February 2009

Q: What are the Different Ways to Connect
to the Internet?

A: There are many different ways to connect to the Internet, at many different speeds:

  • Dial-up - The slowest and least expensive way to connect to the Internet, dial-up uses a modem and transfers data through the telephone line. It also ties up the telephone line, so you can't receive or make any calls while connected to the Internet. You have to dial in to connect and hang up to disconnect. Connections can also be easily disrupted by noise on the line.
  • Broadband connections such as DSL and Cable Modem - Broadband connections use cable television lines or a DSL line and are up to 70 times faster than dial-up. DSL lines allow you to connect to the Internet and talk on the phone at the same time, but you have to have a subscription to the service. Broadband connections allow you to stay connected to the Internet all the time. You just open a browser window. Because of this they also put your computer at a higher risk for malware infection.
  • Satellite - Satellite is another form of broadband that uses satellite transmissions rather than landlines. It is popular in areas where cable and DSL are unreliable or unavailable. Satellite connections are usually slower and very choppy, especially when playing games or downloading.
  • FIOS (Fiber Optic Service) - FIOS uses special fiber optic lines that transmit data with light, rather than with electrical signals like the copper lines used for television and telephone lines. Fiber optic lines can cover longer distances and handle more traffic than copper lines. The slowest connection speed with FIOS is faster than DSL, but FIOS is not available everywhere, and the lines must be installed in order to bring service to an area.
  • Wireless - You can also connect to the Internet from a wireless modem or mobile device like a cell phone. To connect to the Internet wirelessly, there must be a Wi-Fi, WiMax, or cellular network in range of the device. Connection speeds vary a lot, depending on the device, the distance from the access point, and the strength of the signal.

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January 2009

Q: Are the Internet and the World Wide Web
the Same Thing?

A: The Internet is a world-wide system of connected computer networks consisting of countless machines linked by cables and wireless connections. It is the pipeline that carries data like emails, files, instant messages, and web pages between computers. The Internet is what gives you access to the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web is usually referred to as "the Web" and is what the WWW stands for in a URL. It is a system of linked hypertext documents, or Web pages. The Web is only one of the many resources on the Internet, but it is one of the most popular.

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December 2008

Q: What is a ZIP file?

A: A ZIP file is a single file, sometimes called an archive, that contains one or more compressed files. Compressing files reduces their size, so they take up less space on your computer. Compressed file archives make it easier to store related files together and to send or download a group of files at the same time. ZIP files have the file extension .zip and require software to both create and uncompress them.

The ZIP file format is one of many data compression file formats, and is called "ZIP" because it is a little faster than some of the others. ZIP files compress each file separately, so that you don't have to unzip everything just to retrieve one file in the archive.

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November 2008

Q: What is the difference between Hardware
and Software?

A: Hardware and software are both components of digital devices like computers or cell phones.

Hardware are the physical components, things you can touch and hold, like the hard drive, motherboard, and memory cards. Software are the programs that run on the hardware and make it work, like the operating system and web browser. Each software program is a set of instructions written in computer language that tells the hardware how to act. The kind of software you can use on a device will be limited by the kind of hardware you have.

Hardware and software can both develop problems. Physical damage (like dropping your computer or spilling water on it) mostly affects your hardware, and you can fix it by replacing the damaged part. Malware and bugs mostly affect your software, and you can fix it with patches or by re-installing the affected programs. In both cases, you'll probably lose some of your files while you repair the problem.

Back up your files regularly, so any work you do on your computer is safe from these problems.

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October 2008

Q: What should I be concerned about when using
public computers?

A: There are a few general safety issues that you need to be aware of when using a public computer or even a public network:

  • Malware - Public computers can have a lot more malware on them than your computer at home. Public networks are not always secure. To protect your own devices, like portable hard drives or mp3 players, do not plug them into a public computer.

    Avoid entering or viewing personal information on public computers. Someone or something could steal your information, such as credit card numbers or even personal information in your email inbox. For example, spyware and keyloggers are tools that cyber criminals can use to track any information you transmit.

    If you absolutely have to log in to an account, change your password once you are back on a secure computer.

  • Leaving behind information - Anything you leave behind on a public computer is accessible to anyone who uses it after you. Don't use any of the options to store your information on the computer, delete any documents you have viewed, clear the browser cache and history, and empty the trash before you walk away.

  • Snooping - Some people just can't help looking at other people's computer monitors. If you're doing something you don't want other people to see, don't do it on a public computer.

  • Germs - Who knows how many people have touched that computer mouse before you or how dirty their hands were! After using a public computer, wash your hands.

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September 2008

Q: What is an MMOG?

A: MMOG is short for massively multiplayer online game. MMOG is a game played over the Internet at the same time as hundreds or thousands of other players.

Most MMOGs have what is called a persistent universe, which means the game continues even when you stop playing. Players appear on screen as customizable characters, or avatars. The avatars complete tasks by themselves or with a group of other players. Players can also interact with each other by trading, chatting or playing mini-games.

Most MMOGs have a monthly subscription fee. The most popular type of MMOG is the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Since players can chat with each other, MMOGs carry the same cybersecurity risks as other online communications like chat rooms and instant messenger.

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August 2008

Q: What do I do if I think someone I've been chatting
with online is lying about who they really are?

A:If you know this person in real life, someone could have hacked into their account and is pretending to be them. If it's someone that you met online and you think they are lying to you, you should talk to a trusted adult for advice. It's okay to have online friends, but it's safest to keep them as online-only friends.

Unfortunately it is very easy for people to hide behind a lie on the Internet, so always be careful when chatting and don't share any of your personal information with anyone. Watch out for people asking for your personal information or to meet in person, they can be trying to harm you or steal your identity. If this person won't leave you alone, you can block them from contacting you or sending you messages. You can also contact the police for help if you are worried about your safety.

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July 2008

Q: What do I do if I am being Cyber bullied?

A: Cyber bullying is when people use the Internet to harass, intimidate, embarrass, or put-down others. If you are being Cyber bullied, tell your parents or a trusted adult right away! They can help you take care of the problem by identifying and blocking the Cyber bully or reporting them to the authorities. If you receive threatening or harassing emails or text messages, save them as evidence. If it's someone you go to school with, your school may be able to provide counseling or mediation between you and the Cyber bully.

The best way to combat Cyber bullying is to prevent it from ever happening. What you do and say in Cyberspace has real-world consequences and can really hurt people, so don't be a bully yourself and avoid people that try to bully you.

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June 2008

Q: How can I stop popups?

A: Pop-ups are mostly harmless, but they can be annoying and can also slow down your computer. You can use a pop-up blocker to prevent them from displaying. Most Web browsers have built-in pop-up blockers, or you can use a popup-blocker that runs as a desktop application.

Some reliable Web sites can use pop-ups so if you block all pop-ups, you might have trouble using those sites. You can change the settings of your pop-up blocker to allow them from certain sites that you decide are reliable.

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May 2008

Q: What is Flaming?

A: Flaming is posting messages that are deliberately hostile and insulting to an Internet discussion board or blog. Flaming is a type of cyber bullying and Flaming can sometimes even grow into a flame war.

Flamers usually have a strong opinion on a topic and may personally attack others who disagree. Sometimes a message meant as a joke can be mistaken for flaming.

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April 2008

Q: What is a Social Networking Site?

A: A Social Networking site is a Web site that brings people together to talk, gossip, share ideas and interests, and make new friends.

Most are available for free on the Web and can have a variety of ways for users to interact, such as chat rooms, instant messaging, email, file sharing, blogging, and forums. They often allow you to create a profile, upload a picture, and allow your network or group of "friends" to view your profile or contact you.

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March 2008

Q: What is a Blog?

A: A blog (a combination of the words "web" and "log") is a personal Web site where you can post entries containing text, pictures, links, or video for anyone in Cyberspace to see. Many people use their blogs as an online diary, but others focus on the news or a particular subject. Many blogs allow people who visit them to leave comments on what they read.

Be sure to check out the Academy faculty and cadet blogs on this site!

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February 2008

Q: What is a URL?

A: A URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is like an address and is a way to locate something such as a Web site in Cyberspace. URLs are usually entered into the address bar of a Web browser and they are a combination of parts that describe a network location in Cyberspace and how you want to access it.

For example, the URL breaks down into these parts:

  • HTTP:// - This part is called the Scheme and is how you want to access that Web location. "HTTP" is used when you are viewing a Web site.
  • WWW - This refers to the World Wide Web and is also used when viewing a Web site
  • - this is the domain name and identifies the computer on the Internet where the site is. ".com" means it is a commercial site.

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January 2008

Q: What does WWW mean?

A: WWW stands for World Wide Web, or The Web for short. The Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents (or Web pages) that you access through the Internet using a browser. You can navigate between pages on the Web by clicking on hyperlinks in the pages. The letters "www" are commonly found at the beginning of web addresses, but they are not required.

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December 2007

Q: What is personal information

A: Personal information is any information about you that could be used to find or identify you in real life. This information is part of your OFFLINE identity and should not be shared with others in Cyberspace. Personal information can be obvious things like your real name, your address, your age, your school, and who your friends and family are, but it can also include not-so-obvious things such as places you like to visit often and your parent's license plate number.

For a printable list of different types of personal information, check out the Hint Sheet for the Communications Level 1 Mission.

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November 2007

Q: What is a Firewall?

A: A firewall is a hardware or software device that controls the flow of data between computer networks. Just like a firewall in a building is used to prevent fire from spreading, a firewall in a computer prevents intrusion into a private network. When set up properly, a firewall can prevent attacks to your computer and your network from the outside.

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October 2007

Q: What does LOL mean?

A: LOL is short for Laugh out Loud and is the most commonly used chat slang to illustrate you are laughing during a text conversation or that you found something funny. Chat slang is when you use words or letters instead of real words. For example, instead of typing out "are", a user may only type "r".

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