How to identify secure websites

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. What is SSL that I'm always reading about in articles about online security? Thanks for being there, Mr. M. My husband thanks you, too, since I used to pester him with my questions.

A. You're very welcome. Mr. Modem is pleased to have saved many marriages by alleviating technological strife. (At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.) SSL (pronounced as separate letters, S-S-L, never as “sissle”), is short for Secure Sockets Layer, a protocol originally developed by Netscape for transmitting private information securely via the Internet. It's more complicated than that, but does anybody really want to read a snooze-inducing dissertation about SSL and TSL symmetric cryptography? I think not.

The bottom line is that most mainstream browsers today support SSL. Financial transaction pages of Web sites (including MrModem.com) use the protocol to securely transmit confidential user information, such as credit card numbers. For your own safety, never enter financial data into a Web-based form if the URL does not display the prefix https. The “s” is important because it confirms that the Web page being accessed resides on a secure server.

Q. How can I find out what processor my computer has? I called tech support for a problem and they asked me. I had no idea what to tell them.

A. If you ever need to know what processor you have or how much RAM (memory) your system has, in Windows XP go to your Control Panel and double click the System icon. You will find this information on the General tab, in the Computer section. In Windows Vista, click Start > System Information.

In Windows 7, click Start and in the search field, type System, then click the System search result. As an alternative, go to your Control Panel > System and Security > System.

Q. I'm still getting used to my iPad and so far, so good, but is there a faster way to scroll through screens? For example, if I'm at the bottom of a Web site and I want to read a story back at the top, I know I can repeatedly drag my finger over the screen and move to the top. It just seems there should be an easier way. Do you know of anything?

A. All that finger dragging is an excellent way to develop dreaded phalangeal fatique that afflicts many amateur iPadders. Here's how the pros do it: Tap the Title bar of any Web page once. WOOOOSSHHH! You will be transported immediately to the top of the page. Note: Making the "wooosh" sound is optional. It doesn't speed up the process, but it does create a dramatic effect that is guaranteed to impress your friends and family.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week

DVD Review
Here you will find a wealth of information about DVD technology, media, and features. Check here for release schedules, read reviews of films and learn about digital transfer quality. The site also contains a database of movies on DVD and just about anything else you could possibly want to know about DVDs.
www.dvdreview.com

The Big Picture
A unique photo blog created to highlight high-quality, amazing imagery, with a focus on current events. New photos are posted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The majority of the images come from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Getty Images and are licensed; other photos come from public domain sources such as NASA, and others from private photographers who share them with this site for one-time use. Contributions from amateur photographers are welcome, with pre-approval, if they are extraordinarily good, high-resolution, free for use, and submitted more than four or five at a time. Mrs. Modem's patented “finger-over-the-lens” technique has not yet been approved, but hope springs eternal.
http://tinyurl.com/45weuf

Mr. Modem publishes the "Ask Mr. Modem!” newsletter each week, featuring PC tips, tricks, and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit www.MrModem.com.