Thursday, 30-May-2024 15:54:32 EDT         

     All About Cookies


  1. What are cookies?

  2. Why do they call them cookies?

  3. How do turn cookies on?

  4. Should I delete cookies?

  1. When you retrieve a page from a website, you are anonymous. This is especially true for WebTV users, who may retrieve the HTML text under one IP number, and the graphic images on the page under two more IP numbers.

    That's fine for many purposes, but some webmasters are after the "Cheers" factor - you know, a place where everyone knows your name? When you walk into the barbershop, you know Joe the barber has a kid who is studying Chemical Engineering at SMU, and a daughter who had a baby 5 months after she got married, but then, she always was enthusiastic and industrious. At the same time, he knows you are terrible at euchre, but you could take apart an automatic transmission and rebuild it, blindfolded.

    In real life, we have faces and names that enable this. On the web, we have cookies. As you get a web page, the website tells your browser, "Here, hold this, and show it to me every time you visit me again." And your browser agrees. The website looks at the data, and says, hey, I know this guy!

    Cookies - or "magic cookies" as they were originally called - are these tiny pieces of data. Cookies are limited in size, and there are limits both in cookies per site, and in total cookies. If you get too many cookies, your browser automatically throws away ones you haven't used recently. And cookies have expiry dates, so that some get thrown away even if you have room. Some sites use "session" cookies, which are deleted when you log off.

    If www.siteone.com gives you a cookie, www.sitetwo.com cannot read that cookie, even if both sites are owned by the same company.

  2. Back when cookies were new, there was a funny little program that you'd stick in a friend's computer. Every so often, the program would say "I want cookie". You could ignore it, but the program would start asking for a cookie more and more often, until it finally would get really annoying.

    To get rid of the program, you simply had to type "oreo".

    Yeah, it's innocent and silly - but then, cookies were invented by the folks who named their browser Mozilla - a cross between the NCSA Mosaic browser and Godzilla.

  3. If you've been told you don't have cookies enabled, you are dealing with a poorly-designed website.

    You don't turn cookies on if you have WebTV. They already are on, and you cannot turn them off.

    Websites using cookies need to send cache control headers to users; otherwise, when you ask for a page from that site, you may receive a page from the WebTV cache instead of from the website.

    The engineers at WebTV Networks, Inc., are able to instruct the firewall to not cache certain domains, to correct errors on the part of the webmasters. However, sometimes these override instructions get lost by the firewall, or changes in the domain will cause these instructions to be ignored.

  4. If you think that cookies slow your surfing down, they don't. Cookies are kept on the servers, not in your little black box, and they get transmitted to and from websites in less than the blink of an eye. Not having cookies can slow you down far more.

    If you think that cookies use up your memory, they don't. They are stored on the servers, not in your little black box, and the only time you ever see them is when you go to a website that has the special codes that instruct your box to retrieve your cookies.

    Note that these sites do not themselves have access to your cookies. They simply instruct your box to show them to you.

    If you think that in going to your family church website after the playboy.com site has deposited cookies will be embarassing, it won't be. Websites don't have access to cookies other websites have given you. Websites do get told what page you immediately are coming from, though, so be sure to touch base somewhere innocent before going to that church site.

    If you are engaged in criminal activities, you probably would wear a stocking mask over your head in person, and probably want to avoid cookies on the web. Better switch to a computer. In fact, you probably want to use a public-access computer at the library. Otherwise, it's too easy to trace you....

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