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Internet FAQ

Note: the FAQ below was written several years ago, and is now fairly dated -- but we're in process of revamping this whole site, and especially the Spider Spinnings area, so expect to see big changes later this year.

We get asked a lot of questions, not all of which are related to our services. Often, people on mailing lists and newsgroups, or friends and acquaintances in Real Life™ (as net geeks like us call it) ask us questions about anything and everything Internet-related. So we've started compiling a few of the answers here. Over time, we'll be gathering up all the answers we've given out on places like that into a veritable tech library, but for now, here are few of the most popular:

I want to be a web designer just like you! What should I do?

That's bit too large a topic to be addressed in depth here, but we can give you a few pointers:

It's best to learn to hand-code first, before getting into using visual editors. You will understand the process a lot better that way. If you do decide to use a visual editor, use one that generated clean code and allows you a fair amount of control over it, like Macromedia Dreamweaver or Adobe GoLive.

You don't need to go back to school or take a lot of expensive training courses in order to learn to design web sites. There are some great resources free on the web, like the following:

Don't forget the design part of web design. Knowing how to code isn't enough - you need to know how to make a site look attractive and professional. There are some great design tips at:

And some excellent books that we highly recommend:

  • HTML 4 for the World Wide Web Visual Quickstart Guide by Elizabeth Castro
  • DHTML Visual Quickstart Guide by Jason Cranford Teague
  • The Non-Designer's Web Book by Robin Williams (no, not the actor)
  • Web Pages That Suck by Vincent Flanders & Michael Willis

What's the best place to host a web site?

We're partial to Dreamhost — see our Web Hosting page for more on that.

What's the best place to register a domain name?

We used to use and recommend Dotster, and while they're certainly still a good registrar, our web host, Dreamhost, has now dropped their registration prices low enough that we prefer to go with them for registration as well as hosting.

I'm broke. Is there anywhere I can host a site for free that won't put banners and pop-up ads all over it?

Well, our original answer to this question when we first put this page up was: "Yes. Just because you're creating a site on next to no budget doesn't mean you have to put up that sort of nonsense. Try DrakNet Free or Crosswinds. DrakNet also offers inexpensive domain name hosting, and if we didn't like Dreamhost so much, that's where we'd be putting our sites."

Unfortunately, since that time, free hosting services have been increasingly abused by spammers and traders in pirated software and MP3's. DrakNet has dropped their free hosting services altogether because of this, and Crosswinds has had to resort to ads, initially as a temporary fundraising measure, but now apparently on a permanent basis. Other formerly ad-free hosts have had similar problems. New ones have emerged since, but as they seem to have the lifespan of mayflies, there's very little point in recommending them as they seem to either disappear or move to paid or ad-based hosting very quickly. As unfortunate as it may be, it seems that ad-free free web hosting is a business model that simply didn't work, due the fact that a small number of opportunists decided to exploit and abuse it and therefore ruined it for everyone.

So, what can you do if you want web space and haven't got much cash? Well, your options are basically these:

  • Go with an inexpensive but reliable paid host, like Dreamhost or DrakNet.
  • See if your ISP includes web space with your account, and if so, use that
  • Go with a free host — Crosswinds is probably still one of the best — and simply put up with the ads. Check directories like Free Web Space or Free Web Page Provider Review to see who's still around. You can try and find one of the few remaining ad-free hosts, but be prepared to move your site often as they go under or switch to different business models.

If you do go with a free host, or any other way of hosting a site that doesn't include a domain name, we recommend getting a virtual address from someplace like V-3 Redirect Services so that if you change hosts or move up to your own domain, you won't have to worry about sending out a million change of address notices. Note that if you opt for the free version of their service, you will have to put up with an ad of some kind, but at least you get to choose what kind (we think the delay page is the lesser of three evils, because you only see it once), and it's not that expensive to remove the ads altogether — $18 US).

How can I avoid getting spam (unsolicited commercial e-mail)?

Spam, or unsolicited commercial e-mail, is something you can never really entirely get rid of, but you can at least reduce the amount of it that you get. Here are a few tips:

  • If you post on newsgroups or web discussion boards, alter your e-mail address slightly, perhaps by putting "nospam"in it somewhere, i.e. diva@spidersilk.net.nospam. That way, if someone wants to e-mail you individual, they can just remove the ".nospam", but the "robots: (automated programs) that spammers use to gather e-mail addresses won't be able to get yours.
  • If you put your e-mail address on your web site in a mailto link, use this handy mailto encoder to disguise it so that the robots won't be able to recognize it. The links will still work just fine. (Note: lately, some of the spambots seem to be getting smarter at deciphering things like this, but at least it will cut out some of it.)
  • When you do receive spam, NEVER reply to the "remove" address they include. They just use that to verify that it's a working address, and if you reply, you will get even more spam. Instead, use a service like SpamCop or Sam Spade to figure out where it came from, and report the spammers to their ISP.

How do I know if a virus alert or other warning I receive by e-mail is true?

There are a number of good sites out there that will help you learn whether a particular warning is legitimate, or a hoax or urban legend:

Is there any way I can offer free web-based e-mail (like Hotmail) from my domain?

Yes, there are a number of companies offering that service. The one we've heard recommended the most is Everyone.net. It's highly customizable, seems to be quite stable, and you have control over 50% of the ad space. You can also, of course, pay to have the ads removed entirely, if you want. They also offer customizable metasearch and virtual community features. Well worth checking out.

Copyright 1997-2007 by Spider Silk Design
E-mail: info@spidersilk.net
Last Updated: Mar 17, 2007