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Searching for answers

Lycos is getting under the skin of Internet Explorer 3.0. The Net searcher offers a tiny program on its Web site called Quick Search that allows IE users to make Lycos the default engine for that browser.

    With the weekend upon us, Vermel the Terrible is agitating for the unthinkable: He wants us to put the house on the market and move to Fremont, California so we can enjoy @Home's cable modem service. 28.8 just doesn't cut it with the kid. "I need more speed," he says, driving himself deeper beneath my skin.

    Lycos is getting under the skin of Internet Explorer 3.0. The Net searcher offers a tiny program on its Web site called Quick Search that allows IE users to make Lycos the default engine for that browser. Now, instead of clicking out manually to the Lycos site, users can reduce the threat of carpal tunnel by entering queries directly into IE's address window--a feature Microsoft calls AutoSearch.

    Regular Rumor Mill readers know that Excite offers the same "convenience" for visitors to its site. The two mighty search engineers were apparently ticked off at Microsoft for cutting a solo deal with Yahoo allowing it to be the default engine in IE 3.0. Industry moles told the Skinster that other search engines may try to squeeze into IE's AutoSearch feature sometime soon.

    There's a potentially nasty side effect to the Lycos Quick Search program though.

    Before Lycos installs the program--which was actually created and digitally signed by InfoSpace--in your browser, IE's Authenticode security window pops up. The window gives users the option to reject or accept the code, as well as to accept all further code from InfoSpace without warning. Whether a user agrees to accept future code from InfoSpace, the company installs itself among the "trusted publishers" in IE's security directory, a rather sneaky move that could give you some surprise code a few URLs down the Infobahn.

    I got a surprise myself after installing the Lycos and InfoSpace Quick Search program. One of my browser's meticulously-designed custom Links buttons simply disappeared, replaced by--surprise, surprise--a link to the InfoSpace home page. As Grandma DuBaud often says when she's annoyed: "Feh!"

    Windows users have their problems, Linux users have others. Take Java, for example. Acolytes of the freeware Unix OS are fuming that Sun has left them high and dry without Java. Four weeks ago, the company was supposed to give a group of developers, who are porting Java to Linux, a crucial license for the software. What would Linus Torvalds say?

    Apropos of Java, I triggered an avalanche of email from developers with my last column, which pointed to the amusing, alarmist language in Microsoft's licensing agreement for IE. Although I credited the agreement--which warns of the perils of using Java in aircraft and nuclear power plants--to a Java-leery Microsoft, the developers protested that the language actually hails from Sun's Java license. So I'm not perfect. Neither are you, unless you send me a rumor now.