Answers to some questions

John
John Gushue
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Once in awhile - sometimes, many times all at once - yours truly gets a question from a curious reader related to this column.

Usually, I hope, I have a useful response to offer, although there have been some stumpers over the years - not to mention the questions that I really never wanted to receive. (For instance, when readers ask me to provide the resources their children will need to write their school papers, I politely decline - especially when their deadline is tomorrow).

Once in awhile - sometimes, many times all at once - yours truly gets a question from a curious reader related to this column.

Usually, I hope, I have a useful response to offer, although there have been some stumpers over the years - not to mention the questions that I really never wanted to receive. (For instance, when readers ask me to provide the resources their children will need to write their school papers, I politely decline - especially when their deadline is tomorrow).

This week, I have some of the questions that I've recently fielded. I've done judicious editing of how questions were worded, for the sake of clarity.

Everyone else seems to be on Facebook. Should I?

This really does seem like high school again, doesn't it? Facebook has exploded over the last couple of months as the pre-eminent social networking site, which is pretty impressive. Its advantages are straightforward: it's easy to use from the start and easy to keep in touch with friends. Facebook blocks access to non-members, which adds to that clubby feeling, but does give an albeit thin veneer of privacy to what's posted inside.

It's also - to judge people in my own limited circle, and from what I read just about everywhere - really addictive, to the point that "facebooking" has already emerged as a verb. If you want a new way to connect with friends or make new ones, and maybe reconnect with old ones, you don't have much to lose.

One of the downsides? You may be overwhelmed by updates from your friends, particularly if you add a lot of them.

Is Firefox worth getting?

Oh, yes. As browsers go, Firefox is easier to use and much more elegant than Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer. It also makes flicking between multiple sites as easy as pie. Nonetheless, my default browser is Explorer, simply because two applications I use all day at work will work in Explorer only. Blech. The upside, sort of, is that Microsoft does follow Firefox's lead, which means Explorer users sooner or later catch up on the Firefox buzz.

I'm about to upload some cool video I shot in the park. Do I need the permission of the people who wound up getting taped?

This question surprised me, because very few people seem to care about others when it comes to posting things online. I wrote back to the person who sent this in to find out more, and it turns out that the people covertly videotaped were not doing anything extraordinary, and certainly nothing illegal.

The same rules that apply to the media would apply here: if it's recorded in a public place (like a park), the expectation of privacy is limited. In other words, if people are in the background, you're fine. However, bear in mind the privacy concerns of others, especially if children are, literally, in the picture. No one likes someone intruding on their personal space and certainly no one should have the feeling that they've been stalked.

Is a home wireless network worth it?

Definitely. We have one at home, and I can't imagine life - and work - without it. My wife works from home, and I do the first hour or two of my work schedule from my home office. There's something to be said for being able to move freely around the house while keeping a live Web connection.

One note, though: getting our network set up was not as easy as the alluring plug-and-play-unplugged pitch we got. I hired an IT-minded friend of mine to make sure there would be no surprises, and I was glad I did: our house turned out to have steel infrastructure that required more than a simple router to make the network function.

It took him some extra effort (and extra equipment), but I'm sure I would have thrown my arms up in exasperation if I had been on my own.

I can't find a link you once provided.

Without a doubt, the most common query I get - and often about something I wrote about months, if not years, ago. (A hint: if you're writing to me, please let me know what date the column you're referencing appeared. I sometimes get nothing more than the few words above, and not even the subject!) The sad reality is that the Internet is a living, evolving thing, and webpages come and go. This applies to media pages in particular, I find, but is especially true with blogs, where authors run out of energy or interest, and let their sites collapse.

That link is too long!

Last week, I referenced the updated Canada's Food Guide, and drew attention to the painfully (and typically) long URL that the federal government created for it. A reader helpfully suggested a highly useful tool that makes it easy to send Web addresses to others: http://Tinyurl.com

John Gushue is a news writer for CBC.ca in St. John's. E-mail: surf@thetelegram.com. Read past Surf's Up columns and daily updates at his blog: http://johngushue.typepad.com

Organizations: Microsoft

Geographic location: Canada, St. John's

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