The Internet is a strange place. Billions of devices create a conglomeration of connected information that spans languages, time zones, and different types of technology. There is no end to the information that can be gathered and manipulated, especially with the advent of Big Data (think of what is collected by your phone listening for you to say “Hey Siri”; everything prior to you saying “Hey Siri” doesn’t just disappear through some sort of “He isn’t saying ‘hey, Siri’ so ignore” filter. The words you say are heard and collected and used by analytics to determine patterns of behavior and other marketable information. Think of how many people are talking around a listening device. Think of allll of that information. Like, whoa.)
Anyway, back to the Internet. This post isn’t to teach you how the electrical signals traversing a cable are transposed into the words you are reading on your screen right now. That would take a few years of computer science classes to completely grasp (I might be biased, but PLEASE take a computer science class. The more you learn, the less you know. And it is so cool.) This post is to teach you about a few ways the Internet can make your life easier. I’m not talking about googling the best way to make chicken tikka masala. I am talking about how to gather and manipulate your own information through a few tools. None of these tools are illegal, but they do allow some ethically questionable behavior if used correctly incorrectly.
- Incognito Mode
This is the entire reason I am writing this post. I didn’t know until last week that there were people who don’t know about this portion of Google’s Chrome Browser. Are you concerned about constantly having to delete your browser history? What if you die and you had last googled “man shoves lemon up butthole”? How would your family feel if they brought up your browser history and saw that after your death? Their image of you could be forever tainted by citrusy coitus! Well, Google’s Chrome Browser stepped up to the plate with “incognito mode.” This browsing mode removes all traces of search history on your computer, and prevents websites from storing your cookies (a cached reference between your computer and the Internet, to put it simply). This means that everything you do is “private”.
Now, don’t get it twisted. This keeps your browsing private on a very simple level, think against nosy housemates who don’t know anything about computers. This DOESN’T protect you from any of the following: keyloggers that record every keystroke, parental controls that screenshot activity, and network monitoring tools that report ports, protocols, sources, and destinations (nTAP, Wireshark, etc). So browse at your own risk.
How to Do It:
-Download Chrome and use it as a browser. All browsers have a private mode of some sort but use Chrome. Do this because Internet Explorer/Firefox/Opera blow.
-Open a new browsing session. Tap on the three dots on the top right hand corner of the page and select “New Incognito Tab”
You’ll notice that the screen goes dark and shifty-looking. This is perfect, you spy you.
- The Wayback Machine
You know that saying “Once it is on the Internet, it is there forever’? This website is proof of that ideology. Since 2001, a company has been backing up the Internet, using web crawlers to take virtual snapshots of the Internet. Take a second and appreciate the forethought and the amount of storage this takes. It doesn’t matter if the web server is gone forever, a snapshot of its data has been stored. You can browse what websites looked like from 2001!
How to Do It:
-Navigate to https://archive.org/web/
-Type in the url (web address) of the website you want to view and when
-The blue highlighted days show when a screenshot was taken so you can see the differentials of the days
Keep in mind this isn’t all inclusive but it does give an interesting view of pages that might be missing. Conversely, you can also ask for this information to be removed by emailing email@example.com if you own the webpage. Or you can ensure a proper crawl if you do want your site archived.
- Google Voice
Imagine having multiple phone numbers on one device. Google Voice allows this feature by creating a phone number that is separate from the number associated to the SIM card on your phone. You can use Google Voice to prevent people from having your real number, which comes in handy when someone tries to harass you and sign you up for car shipping services to spam call your phone. It’s easy to get rid of a Google Voice number, plus it doesn’t show up on your phone bill when you text with it like regular texts do. Use that as you will since evidently some of you have that problem.
How to Do it:
-Download the Google Voice app in your phone’s App Store
-Follow the prompts to get a new number.
- Informed Delivery with USPS
This is a service provided by the US Postal Service that will scan all mail that is sent to your address and it will send you an EMAIL with an image of all of the scanned mail for everyone at your address. This is super cool and super helpful if you travel or are used to roommates “misplacing” mail.
How to Do it:
-Venture here and create an account.
These are just a few of the tips I have to help some of you. Stay tuned for Part II!