Learning the Basics – Cookies and Firewalls

I did mention when I started this blog that I’d be learning on the job. Well, here are a few bits I’ve recently learnt. Things that I think every computer should now. Things most of us have heard of but few really know what they are.

What is a Cookie?

Not the chocolate variety – I mean the cryptic collection of information that is placed on your hard drive without you really knowing. What’s worse is that they are not actually that easy to find. Below is cookie picture:

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(I know – the power of graphics makes the blog come alive. Shit, it’s just a crappy text file with a load of code & perhaps a sneaky clue as to what the hell it is…)

How about that? Back in 2014 I had a thing for Fort Boyard. I watched loads of episodes; I also used to watch it in France. So, I checked it out online. Brilliant show but I had no idea the website had stored information on my hard drive. Here’s a picture of the real castle – good isn’t it.

Fort_Boyard_low_tide

Luckily, we now all get that lovely warning which pops up warning you that the website use cookies. Also, of course, they can be useful for making browsing your favourite sites quicker.

So, where’s the problem? Well, some people think they’re intrusive. For me, it was just the surprise of not knowing they were there. It was simply learning that others had stored information on my computer without my knowledge (or least without my educated knowledge).

What’s in the Cookie Jar?

A quick search on your Windows 10 PC will not yield instant results when searching for your cookie jar. You can google how to find them – here’s how I did it:

  • Type ‘run in the ‘Type here to search box’
  • Into the pop up run box type ‘shell:cookies’
  • Hey presto, the cookies will appear in Windows Explorer – to be reviewing

Sure, there are easier ways to delete or clear your cookie history but it’s interesting to have a look through these mysterious text files. Your octane-fuelled browser will have some cunning options to help you manage cookies including blocking them completely.

What is a Firewall?

OK we pretty much all know that one right? For most of us, it’s software that examines communication traffic, blocking or permitting according to a set of user-defined rules. In most cases, our crafty anti-virus software helps us decide on these rules.

But what’s it actually protecting us from? Well, just have a look at this:

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Hang on wrong picture. That’s my good pal Adam Pulman shooting himself rather than being converted into a zombie. That’s the kind of guy he is. Anyway, back to the picture I wanted to post:

Image3

That’s ‘much more better’ as my young daughter likes to say.

Most anti-virus software comes packaged up with a neat firewall – something better than the basic supplied with your operating system. Just have a look at the blocked intrusions from my firewall history. There are pages & pages of content. Tracing the IP addresses, I can see these are from all over the world. It kinda feels like everyone wants to get on my PC. In reality, it’s pretty typical. It’s why you need a firewall.

Now, not all blocked attempts are sneaky villains. Some were blocked accidentally but it does prove a point I hope.

There you go. Two simple things – cookies & firewalls. No great point to make. No test for readers. Just a note to myself not to forget these tiny but super-powered features in computing.

Here’s another needless picture – it’s me & a girl I met when I was down in the bunker……

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