Surf Links isn't about riding on surfboards at the ocean! I use the term "surf" here as meaning "to browse the Internet," or look through online content for something of interest (American Heritage Dictionary. The American HeritageŽ Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Houghton Mifflin Company, 2009). Actually the use of the term "surfing the Net" is not used very often anymore, and even The Jargon File's Guide to Hacker Slang deprecates the use of "surf" in this manner. But I use it here because I love retro stuff and gave up trying to be cool decades ago.
Why did I make Surf Links?
I prepared Surf Links as a way to have a compact set of links to explore Internet content. Originally, I realized I wanted such a set of links when I visited a Net Cafe with my netbook computer, and I wanted to browse Web content without logging into any site that required a password (such as for social networks). I could instead bookmark the Surf Links URL (http://www.december.com/info/surf/links.html) and then not enter my password on any site, and yet have plenty of stuff to listen to, watch, and read. There are a variety of security issues related to using public WiFi networks (such as firesheep). I consider my time in a Net Cafe as a time to relax and look at general Net content--as well to write in public, of course (I write in a text editor on my computer's hard drive, not online).
Aside from using the Surf Links to browse the Web in a Net Cafe, I realize that Surf Links serves as a general set of links useful to launch explorations into Web content. I therefore keep it as a tab in my browser window at all times, so that I can quickly get to content that I use regularly. I don't login to any sites on a public WiFi network--not my social networking sites and certainly not any financial, membership, or administrative or other sites that require a password.
I also made Surf Links because I've been making annotated lists of Net content since 1992--I can't stop! I've enjoyed putting together this set of Surf Links because I've seen how much the Internet has matured (and not matured) since then. I also have seen how the role of hand-crafted indexes such as this have changed over the years (hand-crafted indexes serve a niche role--and they have strengths and as well as drawbacks). My goal is to provide direction toward excellent information sources showing the big picture of Web content, but not to simply reproduce subject trees of information that can best be found elsewhere. I link to Net reference lists that I maintain elsewhere on my Web site. I particularly enjoy running across new Web sites that are amazing in their novel utility--my best discovery in this is Wolfram|Alpha that I found while putting together this index.
How to Use Surf Links
If you want to use Surf Links with a public WiFi network, first clear your browser's cache of any saved passwords. Make sure that your browser is set to NOT save passwords and so as to NOT log you in automatically when you encounter a site on which you might have an account--otherwise, on your first visit to maps.google.com, you will get logged into your google account! Actually, test this out before you go--I had to try several times to stop my Firefox web browser from remembering my passwords. Try clearing your entire browsing history, and then clear your browser cache, and set the browser to NOT remember NOR ask to save passwords at any site. I did this for my netbook's Web browser and leave it on this setting all the time. Only on my desktop computer do I save my passwords on my browser.
Once you've tamed your browser, you can browse Surf Links. As long as you don't enter your password on any site (such as customized google maps, for example), you can simply browse the Web for general content. You don't compromise any of your passwords or sensitive Web site content because you never access it.
You can bookmark the Surf Links URL (http://www.december.com/info/surf/links.html) into a tab in your Web browser. By holding down the control key and clicking on the links on that page, you can open a new tab (or browser window, based on your browser settings).
The Surf Links are also useful for general Web reference to find answers to specific questions. You can use it to quickly access major sites to search or access media, current conditions, reference, online books, maps, and selected other subjects. Of course, you could have these same bookmarks in your browser, but by having one Surf Links bookmark--you can have one bookmark to use in a variety of Web browsers. I have it bookmarked on my netbook computer or on my desktop computer--I thus don't have to worry about syncing browser bookmarks. Moreover, I continuosly update the Surf Links Web page. Changing and updating bookmarks is much more complicated.
You also might find Surf Links useful if you run a help desk or are helping people who have questions about what the Web could answer or provide. I use Surf Links to access information like weather, reference, streaming media--in fact the sections here--I use (and continue to use and refine) the Surf Links index for my own enjoyment.
In using any Internet information, or instructing others about it, you should be aware of:
- Evaluation Techniques of Internet Resources: be a savvy information consumer by being aware of information quality. In many cases, use a variety of methods to cross-check important facts online.
- Citing online information--for example APA Style: if you are a student or researcher, you can cite online resources that you use so that others can check your sources.
- Protect Yourself Online from common scams and problems that might occur--all new users should be told about common scams and problems that might occur.