If I decline to accept the cookies and do not give out my e-mail address, how did they get it?
Answer: Although it may seem to you that wandering into a sex site led to an onslaught of porn junk mail, there is no real reason to think the events are related.
Despite the care you take, spammers may have simply harvested your name from America Online's member list or from your personal profile on the service, if you created one.
Wary or not, Internet users have to be prepared for finding themselves on spam lists.
Even the most innocuous Web site often asks visitors to register and leave their e-mail addresses.
The lists compiled from the registration forms are a good source of income for Webmasters who sell them to marketers, who then recoup their investment by selling them to other spammers, who . . . You get the idea.
Some junk e-mailers troll newsgroups, gathering the e-mail addresses of all who have posted messages to the groups.
But you are not without defenses. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself against unwanted spam, X-rated or otherwise:
* If you subscribe to an online service such as America Online, check its site for suggestions about protecting your e-mail address.
* Get a software program that cloaks your e-mail address. There are several shareware products available, though not all are easy to use.
* Falsify your e-mail address when you leave it in a public Internet site. Rather than leave my correct e-mail address as email@example.com, I could leave it as firstname.lastname@example.org or as email@example.com
Savvy computer users can see through the phony addition and will remove it to make your address usable.
Yes, spammers are savvy and may spot the deception among the hundreds of addresses they gather - if they are collecting them manually.
But many spammers use special programs to gather and organize e-mail addresses and those programs are not likely to catch your cloaking efforts.
* Never answer spam mail, not even to tell spammers that they are the lowest of lowlifes. Answering a spam tells the sender that you are paying attention.
* Forward all spam messages to your Internet service provider or to your online service and complain.
Q: When I dial into my company's mainframe from home, I seldom manage to connect at 14.4 baud. On most occasions I connect at the painfully slow speed of 2400.
As I often have to log onto our corporate mainframe from home, I find this frustrating.
I have a 486 machine, eight megs of RAM and am using Windows 3.1.
Is the problem at my end or my company's?
A: I thought it best to drop this one into the lap of Jim Samuels, an information systems expert at Vanguard, where you work.
His explanation is as follows:
Like many companies, Vanguard has several phone numbers for employees dialing into its network.
One connects to a bank of 2400-baud modems. The other into a faster set of 14.4 modems.
Most of the time you may be connecting to the 2400 bank. But when all those lines are busy the system may be switching you to the bank of 14.4 modems.
That explains why, once in a while, you are getting faster access.
If you have been trying to dial into the 14.4 modem bank directly, a noisy or defective phone line may be behind the 2400-baud connection with which you wind up.
Have your phone company check the line leading into your home and fix it, if necessary.
If the fault is in the wiring within the house, repairing it will be your responsibility.
If noise is not the problem, the focus shifts to your antiquated computer operating system.
Consider upgrading to Windows 95 or 98 - which will also mean upgrading your memory to at least 24, if not 32, megs of RAM.
Windows 95 and 98 have Dial-Up Networking, a technologically advanced program for linking computers.
Window 98 comes with the newest version of Dial-Up Networking and with an instructional help guide that, in many cases, can ease the pain of configuring the connection.
Whether you choose Windows 95 or 98, talk to the people who administer Vanguard's phone network first. They will have to supply you with some data you will need to set up Dial-Up Networking.
After completing these steps, you should have a more stable way of connecting to Vanguard. And, best of all, you will be able to take advantage of the company's bank of 28.8 modems.
BEGINNER'S CORNER Q: Can you explain the swapfile?
A: The swapfile is a type of extra memory.
As you work, Windows, which creates the swapfile on the hard drive, uses a swapfile as a temporary holding area for material that is not crucial to your immediate task.
The swapfile - which is also known as virtual memory - frees the chip-based random access memory for more critical tasks.
The swapfile needs room to work as it was intended.
Some techies think that you should have at least 10 percent of your hard drive free at all times so that Windows can create an adequate swapfile.
Other experts think that the amount of free space should be four times the amount of RAM in your machine.
According to this formula, if you have 32 megs of RAM, you should have at least 128 megabytes of free space on your drive.
Although it is possible for the computer user to control the size of the swapfile, it is generally a better idea to let Windows adapt it automatically.
But the conscientious computer user can ensure that the swapfile works as magnificently as it should.
Defragmenting the hard drive - running a utility that makes sure that all the free space available is in a contiguous lot - is important.
If you are running a compressed drive, make sure that there is enough room on the uncompressed portion of the drive to accommodate the swapfile. Windows must then be directed to create it there.
If you have a large hard drive that has been partitioned, configure Windows to create the swapfile in a partition that is not used for any other purpose, such as storing files or programs.
As reader Joe Robinson points out, keeping the swapfile in a partition that is not used for anything else guarantees that Windows will have lots of space to create its swapfile and that the space will never be fragmented.
We welcome questions from readers, but cannot answer phone queries. Include information about your computer, including its make, operating system and size of RAM and hard drive. E-mail: John.Fried@phillynews.com or write John J. Fried, The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101.