Test your firewall

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. I have a firewall to protect my computer from hackers, but how do I know it's working? Is there any way I can check to be sure it's not asleep on the job?

A. Hackerwatch provides a free service that allows you to test the security of your firewall. The test result you want to obtain is “Completely invisible to the outside world," and "No open ports were found." If the probe does detect a security vulnerability, it will let you know -- which will definitely ruin your day, but better to learn from a friendly source than after a hacker pays your system a visit.

Q. How do I prevent losing a Web page I’m on when I need to go to other Web pages? I was filling out a form on one Web page and I lost everything when I had to go to another site. I love your weekly newsletter. Thanks for being there, Mr. M.

A. You can avoid losing your starting point by opening additional windows or tabs when you need to leave one site and visit another. In other words, if you're visiting a Web site in one window, and you need to go to another site, depending on the browser you're using, press CTRL + N to open a new browser window, or CTRL + T to open a new tab. You can continue to do this, opening three, four, five or more windows or tabs, as many as you need.

When you open the new window or tab, type or paste a Web site address into the Address field, press ENTER and you will be transported to that site. When you’re finished with the second site, close that window or tab, and presto, you'll be back to your original site.

If you’re clicking links to get to other sites, instead of clicking as you normally would, right-click a link and select “Open Link in New Window,” or hold down the SHIFT key when right-clicking a link to open it in a new Window. Hold down the CTRL key when right-clicking a link to open it in a new tab -- again, depending on the browser you're using.

Q. When do I use a forward slash as opposed to a backward slash in computing? What's the difference between the two?

A. Besides the spelling (sorry, I couldn't resist), all Internet-related items use the forward slash to separate one resource from another. For example, Web-page names or folders on Web sites (servers) are separated from domain names in an address with forward slashes, such as: http://www.mrmodem.com/site/library.html.

On your computer, however, the slash is backward, such as in C:\Windows\Documents\Subpoenas. If you type “C:” (without the quotes) into the Address field of your browser and press ENTER, you will see the folders in your computer’s C:\ or root directory, but if you try to use a back slash when typing any Web site address, it won’t work. A back slash is a forbidden character when it comes to the Internet, not unlike my Uncle Morty when it comes to family reunions.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week:

Can I Have a Word?
This site provides fresh ideas to help inspire creative writing. Select from various projects including The Elements, Changing Voices, The Human Body, and The Odyssey. Once you enter the site, you can listen to poetry, watch slide shows of inspiring, topical images, and find classroom activities that will help mold students' minds -- though I'm not sure why we want moldy-minded students.
www.barbican.org.uk/canihaveaword

Old Superstitions
Here you’ll find bad-luck superstitions and good-luck superstitions, animal superstitions, home superstitions, baby superstitions and even hair superstitions. For example, to drop a comb while combing your hair is a sign of a coming disappointment -- or combing disappointment, as the case may be. Personally, I think finding my hair in the sink while combing my hair is a greater disappointment, but that’s probably just me.
www.bored.com/oldsuperstitions

For plain-English answers to your questions by email, plus helpful PC tips, subscribe to Mr. Modem’s Weekly Newsletter. For information, visit www.MrModem.com.