University of Botswana History Department

Miscellaneous computer stuff

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NB: several of the computer services pages include illustrations showing what will appear on your screen as you follow step-by-step instructions. Although we hope these will be useful, the text is intended to contain all the necessary information, so if you find downloading the pictures too slow, then don't bother - they are not essential.


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Speed up your browsing:

When browsing the Web, it can take a frustratingly long time to load a page. There are a few things you can do to speed up the process:

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Switch off images

Image files often take a long time to load. For example, a web-page may be 15KB, but the pretty coloured heading may be 145KB. In that case, only 10% of the download is the actual page. You can tell your browser not to load image files, in which case, where the image would have been, there will be a blank rectangle (with the ALT text of that image). If you decide you do want to see it after it all, you can then tell your browser to load it.

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To switch off images:

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To show images:

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Open links in new window:

Often, you will find an index page which has links to a number of other pages - one of which is probably what you want. You can click on each link, and if the page turns out not to be what you want, click "Back". At each step you will have to wait for a page to load.

There is a faster way. Right-click the link, and select "Open in New Window" (this is the same for IE and Netscape). A new browser window is opened. By having several pages open at the same time you can be reading one while waiting for another to load. With a little experience you will find that your overall rate has increased significantly.

Advanced-level advice:

Opening new windows maximized: One of Internet Explorer's tiresome habits is that it tends to open new windows (when opened by right-click) in a small size rather than maximized. The following procedure will prevent this:

  1. Start IE
  2. Open a new window by right-click
  3. Go back to first window and close it
  4. Go to new window and adjust the size by dragging the corners, not by clicking maximize
  5. Close the window.

After this IE should open new windows at the size you set. There ought to be an easier way but we haven't yet found it - any suggestions gratefully received. The above method is from

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What is "right-clicking"?

Normally you click with the left button of the mouse. If instead you use the right button, a menu of extra options will open, which you can then select from. This is used in most Windows applications - the exact list of options varies from application to application and even within the application according to what you right-clicked. Try right-clicking things to see what options you are offered.

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Finding things in large pages

In large pages, or pages with complicated formatting, it may be difficult to find what you want quickly. For example, suppose you open a newspaper site and want to find "Auckland" which may appear in small type somewhere on the page.

The quickest way of finding it is to use the Find command. In most browsers (including Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla, and Opera) just press CTRL-F and a "Find" box will appear, just as in word-processing. Type in the text you are looking for and press Return. If it is on the page it will be found for you.

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Although English is the most common language on the Web, there is also a lot of material in other languages. For some of the most common languages, it is possible to get pages translated into English automatically.

There are several free translation services available on the web. One of the best is AltaVista Babelfish. If you go to this site, you will see that it offers two methods:

  1. Copy text into a window, and click "Translate". This is useful for small pieces of text.
  2. Enter a URL and click "Translate", in which case you will get the entire page you specified, translated. This is useful if you want, for example, to look at a foreign newspaper. You can click on the links, and each new page is translated.

NB: in either case, you have to tell it what it is translating to and from. I.e., if you are reading a German newspaper, and you want to read English, set "German to English".

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How good is the translation?

Well, not terribly good. But it is remarkable that it is as good as it is. When computers first appeared, it was assumed that it would be easy to program them to translate between langauges, but in fact it proved very difficult. "Natural language processing" is an area in which there is a great deal of high-powered work going on.

There is an old joke about a computer scientist who programs a computer to translate to and from Chinese, and has it translate the proverb "Out of sight, out of mind". He then has it translate the result back. It now reads "Invisible lunatic".

The automatic translators do not produce a neat, polished translation. What they produce is something that is usually good enough for you to understand. This is quite an achievement: someone who reads no German can now understand the basic content (if not the finer points) of a German newspaper.

To give you an idea of what it is like, here are a few examples. Firstly, here are the last three paragraphs, (including this one) after they have been translated into German and then back into English:

There is an old joke over a computer scientist, who a computer programmed, in order to translate to and of Chinese, and leaves it the proverb " from sight, from understanding " to translate out. It lets it translate then the result back. It reads now " invisible lunatic ".

The automatic compilers/translators do not produce a tidy, polished translation. Which they produce, is something, which is normally enough good, so that you understand. This is quite an execution: someone, which does not read German, can now understand fundamental contents (if not the finer points) of a German newspaper.

Is as, around to give you an idea of which it, you are some examples here. First of all are here the last three paragraphs, (including these) after they are translated into German and then back in English.

That is quite close, despite having been translated twice, probably because the original text was written in fairly simple English. Next, here is an item from the front page of the on-line version of Pravda, in Russian, 31 May 2001, as translated by AltaVista Babelfish:

Large CHP in Belorussia. Unknowns threw hand grenade with the past night in Minsk into the court of the embassy of Russia. As a result of the subsequent explosion is damaged the fence of embassy, wall of building they are beaten by splinters. Fortunately, no one suffered. On the spot of explosion was formed the funnel/hopper by the diameter of 17 centimeters. it is in more detail ...

This is not nearly as easy to follow, but it is comprehensible. Next, here is an item from the Italian paper La Repubblica, 31 May 2001, about the European single currency.

The Euro touches the new minimum

ROME - Still more low of 24 May. Then the euro it touched its minimum attestandosi to quota 0.8503 dollars, stamattina has made worse: the only currency is before sinked to 0.8500 dollars and after one half hour to 0.8497, making to mark the new minimum. In the afternoon, new decrease and new minimum: 0.8448.

Sand bank the loss also in the comparisons of the Japanese uniform: the relationship euro/yen is today to 101.4, against 103.6 of the closing yesterday in Europe and 102.77 of the indicative of the Sebc. The yen it is appraised also on the dollar and is exchanged to 119.17 against 120.25 found yesterday on the European markets.

This is worse still. This is a financial report, using specialized words which the translator does not recognize and hence leaves in the original, and also technical usages. Even so, it could be of some use if you urgently needed information. (Of course in this particular case you would be able to find a report of financial news in English, but this is just an example.)

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Getting IP addresses:

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To find your own machine's IP address:

Windows 95/98:

  1. Start menu - Run
  2. Type winipcfg

Windows NT/2000:

  1. Start menu - Run
  2. Type ipconfig

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Getting the IP address of a remote machine

The unix command is nslookup but this does not seem to come with Windows 95. However you can get freeware programs (such as NS-Batch 1.1) to do it for you. Also "ping".

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Setting a home page for your browser

When you start your browser, it goes first to a pre-defined home page. If this is a remote site like, there may be a significant delay while this opens. Also, do you actually want to go to this page every time you start the browser? You can change the home page to something more suitable.

In Microsoft Internet Explorer, the setting is found by going to
Tools - Internet Options - General tab.
At the top you will see "Home Page" with a box for an address. There are also three buttons, "Use Current", "Use Default", "Use Blank".

In Netscape Navigator, a similar box is found at
Edit - Preferences - Navigator.

The easiest way to set the page is to go to the page you want, and then make it the home page. I.e.:

  1. Go to the page you want, in the usual way
  2. Open the settings box as given above
  3. Click "Use Current" (IE) or "Use Current Page" (NN)
  4. Click "OK"

Whenever you click the "Home" button, the browser goes to this home page.

Making a home page on your hard drive

You can choose any page you like as your home page. One option is to set up a special home page on your own hard drive. the advantage of this is that it will load instantly.

Here is a sample home page of this sort:

Start page

[Your name]




Note that this page includes a Google search box. You can enter searches to Google directly from here, without having to go to the site first.

To create this page, follow these instructions:

  1. Open an MS-DOS window (Start menu - Programs - MS-DOS Prompt):
    C:\WINDOWS\>cd \
    C:\>mkdir web
  2. Open the Notepad text editor (Start Menu - Programs - Accessories - Notepad)
  3. Select and copy the following text below (from <!DOCTYPE to </html>):
    <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" "">
    <title>Start page</title>
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Script-Type" content="text/javascript">
    <meta name="description" content="Start page">
    <body bgcolor="#99FFFF" text="#000000"> <center>
    <h1>Start page</h1>
    <big><big>[Your name]</big></big>
    <hr> <center>
    <table summary="Layout" cellpadding="10" cellspacing="0" style="border: solid thick #FFFFFF">
    <td bgcolor="#000000">
    <form action="" method="get" name="f">
    <input type="text" value="" name="q" size="50" maxlength="256">
    <input name="btnG" type="submit" value="Google Search">
  4. Paste the text into the Notepad window
  5. Change "[Your name]" to your name, or whatever you like
  6. In Notepad:
    1. File - Save as
    2. In the box "File name" type:
      (NB type the opening and closing quotation marks)
  7. Click "Save"
  8. In the browser, type in the address box
    "c:\web\start.htm" (without the quotation marks)
    and press Return

You should now see the start page, and can set it as the home page using the instructions given above.

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Copyright © 2001 University of Botswana History Department
Last updated 5 December 2001