On Computing

Joel Howell

Article by Joel Howell Newsletter Editorial Board


Thanks to the usual sources, this issue considers a potential upgrade as well as a view of a little known part of the Internet.

If you are using Windows 7 or any version of Windows 8, you have undoubtedly received Microsoft's invitation asking you to reserve your free upgrade to Windows 10. This will give you some food for thought (you have actually until July 29 when Windows 10 ships in final release form).

Conventional wisdom says it is never a good idea to change to a new operating system until it has been out for some time (say six months to a year). The question then becomes whether you want to upgrade at all. Windows7 SP1 will be fully supported by Microsoft for at least four more years. If you already have a Windows 7 machine you will probably want to upgrade your hardware in that period of time, so it will come with a new operating system anyway.

If you're running Windows 8x, it supposedly fixed many of the underlying platform improvements of predecessor versions. With so many people used to the old start menu, Microsoft released Windows 8.1 to address that concern. Windows 10 has a new Start menu and universal apps that run in Windows-form side by side with other apps. Then there are some advances: a re-notification center, a voice-based digital system (Cortana), better interface with X-Box consoles, and a virtual desk-top feature.

Remember, you can always reserve the Windows 10 upgrade and then defer it. That may be the better part of wisdom at this point in time. However, if you're in an environment with multiple machines available and want to experiment, take one which is not in primary use, install the upgrade, and see how it suits you.

You may think you know a lot about the Internet, but have you ever heard of the Dark Web? While it is part of the public World Wide Web, it exists on darknets, websites that are publicly visible but hide the IP addresses of the servers that run them. (Don't try using a search engine; it won't work.)

Almost all websites on the Dark Web hide their identity using the Tor encryption tool. You can use Tor to hide your identity and spoof your location. To visit a site on the Dark Web, you will need Tor. To do this, go to www.torproject.org and select the Tor Browser Bundle. Download, choose an extraction location, open the folder, and click start with Tor Browser. The Vidalia Control Panel will automatically handle the randomized network setup.

While much of the dark web is innocent, a portion is dedicated to providing a marketplace for anything (read: use your imagination for anything illegal). As noted above, the difficult thing is knowing where to look since the Dark Web is not accessible thru typical search engines.

Specialist sites like DeepDotWeb and All Things Vice provide information about dark web sites and services. The Hidden Wiki also provides a considerable number of directories of content.

There are plenty of legitimate uses. People operating in China, for example, use the Dark Web to communicate with the outside world since its encryption lets you hide a lot of things. Nevertheless, a closing cautionary note: This is intended as a guide and not an endorsement or encouragement.

Questions or comments? Drop me an email: jwh3@mindspring.com