- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2006

It’s the season for new/old releases. “Casino Royale” is expected in theaters again, this time as Ian Fleming’s original drama, not a comic pastiche.

So it should be little surprise that Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s “original” Web browser, is appearing in a new role: slayer of Firefox, the popular Web browser.

Well, if 007 can be reinvented as a blond, why can’t an old software “dog,” as some users would call it, learn a few new tricks?

Along with dressing up the interface to Internet Explorer, or IE as it’s widely known, this new version 7 is said to offer some greater security and anti-phishing features designed to help safeguard users against attempts to steal their personal information and their identities.

I haven’t tried the phishing-protection features just yet. But the security seems to be good: I was able to log on to my online banking portal without hassle; ditto for Google’s Gmail service as well as other secure sites.

It would appear that security in IE 7 is good; though time will tell whether hackers will succeed in breaking through somehow.

At the same time, IE still works with the Google and AOL toolbars that had been installed on a previous version. Bookmarks carry over as well, as you might expect. And the general user interface hasn’t changed: The screen looks a little cleaner, but “Ctrl-L” will still open a window where you can enter the next Web address you’d like to visit.

I tested the IE 7 on a three-year-old computer running an Intel Pentium III CPU at 1.33 GHz. There are newer and faster machines on the market, and several are on loan here. But it’s nice to see that a rather new piece of software still ran nicely on an older system.

In operation, IE 7 performs well. Its default home page is for services offered under the “Windows Live” banner, and those services are chiefly Web based. Some, such as Windows Live Mail, are perhaps capable of growing into full Web services; others, such as news and weather headlines, are more informational.

Either way, Microsoft apparently is positioning this software to take advantage of such services, which only makes sense. Many software makers are repositioning themselves to deliver “subscriptions” to programs via the Web, making updates and price increases easier to deliver.

Right now, IE 7 delivers a satisfying Web experience with what seems to be better security and ease of use. No number of security features, however, will make up for common sense, and Internet users would do well to bring a highly refined skepticism to their online travels. If an offer sounds too good to be true, if an “official” looking Web site asks for too much information, then run for the hills.

Overall, though, the Internet remains a good place to buy and sell and research and learn. To do this, you need a good, reliable guide to the “terra incognita” you might find out there, and Internet Explorer 7 seems to be such a guide. You can find it at https://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.mspx.

At the same time, I bring a similar skeptic’s eye to Web browsers that I do to the Web overall, which is why the latest version of Mozilla Firefox (www.getmozilla.org) is always on my computer, too.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Technology blog on The Washington Times’ Web site at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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