Is my computer use being tracked online?

Ask Mr. Modem

Q. When I go to Google and search for items to buy, later on I see those same or related items as ads at the top of other pages I visit. It sure seems like I’m being tracked and then being solicited soon thereafter. Is that what is happening or do you think it is just a coincidence?

A. It is definitely not a coincidence. Tracking (also called search profiling) is an inherent part of life online today. Everything we do online leaves a trail, and in your situation, Google (and other search engines) do indeed monitor searches and use that data to personalize what appears on subsequent searches as far as advertising. It’s very similar to going to a grocery store where you participate in a loyalty program or use a “club card” to take advantage of frequent shopper discounts: Everything you purchase is archived, your shopping profile analyzed, and coupons and other targeted ads provided, based on your previous purchases.

Q. Those flexible, flat, ribbon cables inside my computer, do they need to be replaced periodically or do they last for the life of the computer?

A. Multiple hard drives, DVD drives, even old floppy drives, all connect to your computer’s motherboard with flat, ribbon-like cables known as Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment (PATA) interface cables or Multiple ATA (MATA) cables. (Bonus Tip: If you ever have a problem with the latter, simply ask your tech support person, “What’s the MATA?” then stand back and enjoy the gales of laughter that are sure to follow.)

Available in a variety of lengths and colors, in 40- and 80-pin configurations, these cables, in addition to being an inexpensive method of transferring data, have a high tolerance for heat and great flexibility (not unlike Mr. Modem 40 years ago) for reaching even the most awkwardly placed motherboard connections.

The sturdy construction of a typical ribbon cable adds significantly to its longevity. In fact, I have never had to replace a ribbon cable due to any malfunction caused by degradation of the cable itself. So unless a ribbon cable has suffered physical damage, such as a cut or tear, you should not have to replace any of these cables during the working life of your computer.

Q. Where can I find the CheckDisk utility and run it? I’m using Windows Vista.

A. CheckDisk (CHKDSK) is a Windows utility designed to check and correct hard drive errors. To run CheckDisk in either Vista or Windows 7, click Start > Computer, then right-click the drive that you want to scan. Click Properties > Tools tab > Check Now (under error checking.)

A dialog box will appear that provides an option to automatically repair errors, as well as an option to look for and attempt to fix bad drive sectors. If a sector of your hard drive contains corrupted data, it can probably be recovered. If a sector is bad due to a hardware problem, such as physical damage to the disk surface, then it cannot be recovered. It’s a good idea to click (select) both boxes.

Once you click Start, CheckDisk can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to complete, so it’s often best to run it at night when you won’t be using the computer. Whenever you decide to run it, be patient and let it take whatever time it requires before using the computer again.

CheckDisk has been redesigned in Windows 8 (of course), so visit for step-by-step instructions.

Mr. Modem’s DME (Don’t Miss ’Em) sites of the month

Dog Tricks

This site not only contains written instructions on how to teach your poodle to doodle, but it also has video instructions. Some of the tricks include turn around, crawl, speak, twirl, high-five, take a bow, make a sandwich, wash the car, groom the cat – it’s amazing. Click the trick you want to teach your canine, then follow the instructions. I started to check out a similar site in order to teach my cats tricks, but one of the cats jumped on my keyboard and hissed, “Don’t even think about it.” Sigh.

Forget the Film, Watch the Titles

When Mrs. Modem and I leave the compound and go to the movies, it always annoys her that I’m the last one to leave the theater because I remain seated until the final closing credits scroll off and the screen goes dark. This site celebrates the talented people who create the opening and closing credits that most movie-going heathens ignore. This isn’t a site that will appeal to everyone (Mrs. M. comes to mind), but I think it is interesting to peek behind the scenes and see how the credits can transcend their functional role of setting the tone for a movie by becoming mini works of art.


A treasure trove of videos about extraordinary women from all walks of life. Through video interviews, these fascinating women share their life experiences and personal stories.

Rendered 07/16/2024 19:43