What Are Tracking Cookies and Are They Bad?

Have you ever been in the middle of a virus or
malware scan on your PC and been surprised at the climbing number of “threats”
detected? Your laptop surely doesn’t have 220 trojans festering on it, right?

Assuming you use a bit of discretion while
browsing the Web and downloading files, this is highly unlikely. What is
likely, however, is that you’ve been browsing websites that have been tracking
your activity in some way.

To call tracking cookies malicious or
dangerous might be a stretch—however, it’s for the user to determine if they’re
something worth regularly scanning for and deleting. With the introduction of
Do Not Track, many browsers allow you to block most tracking cookies. Still,
some slip through.

In this article, let’s dive into tracking
cookies and discuss what they are, how they’re used, and how you can get rid of
them.

What are Tracking Cookies?

To understand tracking cookies, let’s first
discuss what cookies are. A cookie is a small text file that is used to save
user-specific data. For example, when you log in to a website and tick the
checkbox to keep yourself logged in for future visits, your browser will store
a cookie on your hard drive that the website can later interact with to know your
preferences.

Other than storing visitors’ preferences,
another benign use for cookies is to store marketing data. This allows websites
to show targeted ads to users which may increase their conversion rates.
However, tracking cookies often take it a step further.

Some tracking cookies will go with you all across the Internet and relay your personal information and data back to a website when you revisit it. This is commonly used for retargeting advertising purposes.

For example, if a website is running ads served by Google, your activity on that website may carry over with you to an entirely different one that is also displaying Google’s ads.

Are Tracking Cookies Bad?

This mostly depends on what your definition of
“bad” is. If you’re someone who is alerted by tracking cookies during a virus
scan, be advised that these files are not malicious and will not do damage to
your computer.

However, over a long period of time, tracking
cookies from major advertising networks can grow to be so large and full of
your personal information that they may be seen as invasive. A few companies
that utilize tracking cookies in this way include AddThis, Facebook, Google,
Quantserve, and Twitter.

With aggressive tracking cookies, these
companies can know your location, device information, purchase history, search
queries, and so much more. Sometimes, you never even know this information is
being collected. However, some countries, like the UK, have adopted laws that
require websites to notify users about their data being collected through
cookies.

In summary, will tracking cookies damage your
PC? No. Can tracking cookies infringe upon your privacy in ways that you may
consider to be unethical? Yes.

How Can I Avoid Tracking Cookies?

Thanks to Do Not Track legislation, you can put a stop to many tracking cookies before they even materialize. Every major browser supports this functionality via privacy settings—we even have a guide on enabling Do Not Track in Microsoft Edge.

Google Chrome users can head to the Settings page, click on Advanced, at the bottom of the page,
and enable the “Send a “Do Not
Track” request with your browsing traffic
” option (under Privacy and Security).

Many individual advertisers and websites also
offer Do Not Track functionality. Twitter is one example, where going to the Personalization and Data settings will
show a variety of tracking-based preferences.

As far as advertisers go, the NAI Consumer Opt-Out page can assist you in identifying and opting out of advertisers who are using tracking cookies on your browser. It supports a mass opt-out feature that really simplifies the process.

You can also go directly to organizations like Oracle and Acxiom to opt out of their third-party, interest-based advertising.

Otherwise, you can clear your browser’s cookies at a regular interval or just get rid of tracking cookies during routine health scans. This is mindful enough to help prevent cookies from growing large enough to where they can be seen as invasive and dangerous.

In closing, the way you handle cookies is a
matter of your own preference and discretion. If you think it’s harmless for
websites to track your personal data and show you content related to your
browsing habits, pay no mind to them. Otherwise, the steps above can help in
making sure that your privacy is respected. Either way, your PC is safe!

Advanced Search on Reddit Like a Pro

Over the past decade, Reddit has gone from a simple Digg competitor to a complete replacement for a large portion of the internet’s forum and chat communities.

Today, with over 26 million active users, it’s the go-to social news and discussion platform. If you don’t use Reddit, you’re missing out on a wealth of breaking information and some very interesting conversations.

The good news is, if you’re just recently
joining Reddit, there’s a backlog of millions of posts for you to search
through! Want to know tips for getting started on the keto diet? Reddit’s got
them. Need information on which credit card is the best option for a teenager?
Reddit can help. However, finding exactly what you’re looking for requires you
to know a few tricks.

In this article, let’s go over Reddit’s
advanced search operators and learn how to navigate through Reddit’s search
like a pro.

Keyword Search Operators for
Reddit

Reddit’s keyword search operators use terms
that tell the text thereafter how to filter results. Using them is the most
advanced way to narrow down your search to the content you’re looking for.
There are currently nine of these, all shown below.

title

The “title” search operator limits
results to posts where the text thereafter (requiring quotation marks if more
than one word) is found within the title. This can be used as a way to find
entire threads about a particular topic.

author

The “author” search operator limits
results to posts made by a specific user. This is not case sensitive.

selftext

The “selftext” search operator limits results
to self-posts where the text thereafter (requiring quotation marks if more than
one word) is found within the body. This can sometimes behave strangely when
used with more than one word, even if wrapped in quotation marks.

url

The “url” search operator limits results to
link posts that contain the exact URL thereafter. This can sometimes return a
small percentage of link posts that don’t match the URL.

site

The “site” search operator limits results to
link posts that contain URLs that belong to a specific domain name.

nsfw

The “nsfw” search operator allows you to
toggle showing (with “yes” or “1”) or hiding (with “no” or “0”) NSFW posts.

self

The “self” search operator allows you to
toggle showing (with “yes” or “1”) or hiding (with “no” or “0”) self-posts.

subreddit

The “subreddit” search operator limits results
to posts made within a specific subreddit.

flair

The “flair” search operator limits results to
posts tagged with a certain flair text.

Boolean Search Operators for
Reddit

Reddit’s boolean search operators use strict
conditions to limit search results. I’ve noticed that these operators do not
seem to work properly when using Reddit’s new design, so you’ll need to revert
to the old design if you want to make use of these.

AND

The “AND” search operator limits results to
posts that include both terms. This works by default for basic query searches,
meaning you don’t have to use it, but this may be required in advanced cases
where several different operators are used.

OR

The “OR” search operator limits results to
posts that include either term. You must surround a term with quotation marks
if it contains more than one word.

NOT

The “NOT” search operator limits results to
posts that do not include the text thereafter. You must surround a term with
quotation marks if it contains more than one word.

The best part about Reddit’s advanced search
operators is that they can be used together! By surrounding each operator in
parentheses, you can string together a long set of conditions that can help you
narrow down millions of posts to just a small handful.

Another big tip is to try your search using
both the new and old Reddit designs. For some reason, certain operators seem to
behave differently across each. As noted above, the boolean operators actually
only work while using the old design. While Reddit clearly hasn’t ironed out
all of the kinks in their search feature, there’s no doubt that with the dozen
operators listed above, searching through Reddit is a breeze.

Curious to know how you can use similar tricks with Google’s search? Check out our article on Google search operators.

Advanced Search on Twitter Like a Pro

Did you know that Twitter churns through over
500 million tweets per day? While plenty of that is content that you and I
might not care about, if even 1% interests us then we’ve got a never-ending
supply of fresh material on our hands! However, how are we supposed to go
through millions of tweets on a daily basis? The answer is a bit cliché—very
carefully, of course.

Twitter is very generous with the number of search operators that it supports. These operators allow us to dig down and search through videos, images, retweets, lists, and much more.

However, most of us aren’t taking advantage of these and are only performing simple keyword-based searches. When you’re searching for something specific, that just doesn’t cut it.

In this article, let’s go over Twitter’s many
different search operators and learn how to narrow our searches down to get the
exact content we’re looking for.

Basic Search Operators for
Twitter

Twitter’s most basic search operators are a
set that you expect out of most search engines. The ability to exclude certain
terms and search for an exact phrase are things we’ve come to expect, and
Twitter doesn’t sell us short.

“” (quotation marks)

The quotation marks search operator limits
results to tweets that contain an exact phrase. This is not case sensitive, and
it’s the default behavior for single-word search terms.

– (hyphen)

The quotation marks search operator limits
results to tweets that do not include the term thereafter. This operator can’t
be used by itself, and you must surround the term with quotation marks if it
uses more than one word.

? (question mark)

The quotation marks search operator limits
results to tweets that contain a question.

OR

The “OR” search operator limits results to
tweets that include either term. You must surround a term with quotation marks
if it uses more than one word.

Interaction-Based Search Operators
for Twitter

As a social media site that revolves heavily
around communicating with others, Twitter supports multiple search operators
that allow us to filter through user interactions. These include mentions,
replies, and lists.

@ (“at” sign)

The “at” sign search operator limits results
to tweets that mention the Twitter user thereafter.

to

The “to” search operator limits results to
tweets that are directed to or made in reply to the Twitter user thereafter.

from

The “from” search operator limits results to
tweets that are sent by the Twitter user thereafter.

list

The “list” search operator limits results to
tweets that are sent by members of the Twitter list thereafter. This requires
both the username of the Twitter user who owns the list and the list’s URL
slug.

Filter-Based Search Operators for
Twitter

Some of Twitter’s most powerful and specific
filtering options revolve around the “filter” operator. With this operator, we
can narrow down tweets by what type of media they contain, when they were
tweeted, and which sites they link to.

filter:safe

The “filter:safe” search operator limits
results to tweets that are marked as safe and not potentially sensitive. This
operator can’t be used by itself.

filter:media

The “filter:media” search operator limits
results to tweets that contain an image or video. This operator can’t be used
by itself.

filter:retweets

The “filter:retweets” search operator limits
results to tweets that are not retweets. This operator can’t be used by itself.

filter:native_video

The “filter:native_video” search operator
limits results to tweets that contain video from Amplify, Periscope, or Vine.
This operator can’t be used by itself, and you can also filter specifically by
video platforms with “filter:periscope” and “filter:vine”.

filter:images

The “filter:images” search operator limits
results to tweets that contain images. This operator can’t be used by itself,
and you can only search for natively-hosted images with “filter:twimg”.

filter:links

The “filter:links” search operator limits
results to tweets that contain links. This operator can’t be used by itself and
will include tweets with comments on a retweet that contains a link.

url:amazon

The “url” search operator limits results to
tweets that contain a link including the text thereafter. This operator can’t
be used by itself.

since

The “since” search operator limits results to
tweets that have been tweeted after the date thereafter (year-month-day
format). This operator can’t be used by itself.

until

The “until” search operator limits results to
tweets that have been tweeted after the date thereafter (year-month-day
format). This operator can’t be used by itself.

A great trick you can use is combining the
hyphen search operator with any of the “filter” operators. This will allow you
to do things like search for tweets that don’t contain images or contain
potentially sensitive material. Stringing together more than one operator can
really laser-focus your search to the exact results that you’re looking for.

Get creative when you’re searching through
Twitter! Your search is only limited by your mastery of Twitter and these
search operators, and there are billions of tweets for you to browse through.
You’re guaranteed to find something that will surprise you.

Want to know how you can achieve these same results with Google’s search? Check out our article on Google search operators.

How to Change the Location of Spotify’s Local Storage in Windows

One of the most frustrating parts of having a
small SSD dedicated to your Windows operating system is the fact that some
software installers simply won’t give you the option of installing outside of
the primary drive.

There are even some applications that allow
you to store your installation data on a secondary drive but still place
temporary or cache files on the primary drive. For anyone interested in keeping
their primary drive nice and tidy, this can be a major issue.

Spotify is one of the many Windows
applications that you’ll eventually find taking up a whole mess of space. This
is due to the way Spotify locally caches your data so that you aren’t
constantly re-streaming music off of their servers. It serves as a way for
Spotify to save bandwidth and instantly deliver your music without needing to
buffer.

However, this comes at a price for those of us
trying to save precious disk space. Not everyone can afford to have several
gigabytes of local Spotify data on their primary drive, and the good news is
that there’s a way around it. Let’s talk about how you can move Spotify’s local
cache data to a new location within Windows.

How to Change the Location of
Spotify Data in Windows

To perform this task, we’re going to use
something called a symbolic link or directory junction. A directory junction
effectively creates a mirror of your data at one file path but actually stores
the data in another.

The first thing we’re going to need to do is
to find exactly where our Spotify’s data folder actually is. To do so, press
the Windows + R keys to bring up a
Run prompt. Here, type in “%localappdata
and press Enter.

This should bring up a Windows Explorer window
of the AppData\Local folder within
your Windows user profile location. In this list of files, find the Spotify folder and open it.

The Data
folder within is what contains all of your cached music data. You may want to
right-click on it and select Properties
to see how large this folder is. Is it so big that you’d like to move it off of
your current drive and onto another? Great! That’s what we’re going to do next.

The first step is to be sure that Spotify is not currently running on your machine. After making sure that it’s closed, you want to select the Data folder and press the Ctrl + C keys to copy it.

Next, bring up a second Windows Explorer window of the location where you want to move your Spotify data. At that location, press Ctrl + V to paste the folder.

Above, you can see that I’ve created a new
location to store my data at D:\craig\Spotify.
The pasted Data folder here contains
the contents of that same folder in C:\Users\craig\AppData\Local\Spotify.

Next, be sure that the two folders are
identical. Look inside both of them to see that you’ve fully copied all of the
files properly. Once complete, go back to the original Spotify folder location (in our first Windows Explorer window at AppData\Local), select the Data folder that we just copied, and
hit the Delete key to delete it.

Next, we’re going to create a directory
junction so that your new Data
folder points to where the old one once was. To do so, press the Windows + R keys to again bring up the
Run prompt. Type in “cmd”, but be
sure to press Ctrl + Shift + Enter
(instead of just Enter)—this runs
the prompt as Administrator.

This is where we’ll begin to create our
directory junction. You want to type in the following command: mklink /j <link> <target>,
where <link> is the path to
the original folder (that we’re recreating) and <target> is the path to the new folder (that we’ve pasted).

In my example above, I’d run this command: mklink /j
C:\Users\craig\AppData\Local\Spotify D:\craig\Spotify

It’s important to enclose the folder paths in
quotation marks if they contain a space.

You’ll see a success message after the
directory junction has been created. You should also see that the Data folder now appears again at our
original location, this time with the small “shortcut” icon at the bottom-left
corner.

That’s it! Now, when you play music in
Spotify, it will still cache that data in the original folder at your link
location. However, the directory junction will automatically move it to the new
location and “mirror” it at the original location.

For those of you who use Spotify on a daily
basis, years of regular use can cause this folder to swell to a massive size.
With this simple directory junction trick, you can store all of that data in
any folder on any drive.

Best of all is that this same procedure can be useful in many other useful scenarios—check out how we use a symbolic link to sync folders to Dropbox and OneDrive!

Search for Only Add-On Items on Amazon

Becoming a savvy Amazon shopper is an art.
You’ve got to know how, when, and where to find the best deals and savings, how
to utilize Warehouse Deals and Subscribe & Save offers, and so much more.
However, what do you know about add-on items?

Add-on items are a fairly new addition to
Amazon, and they allow you to access small items that can help fill up your
cart once you reach a minimum purchase threshold (usually $25). Add-on items
come as a wide range of products—you can find shampoo, snacks, small home
appliances, and plenty more.

The catch is that finding Amazon add-on items
isn’t very easy. You often come across them accidentally, and there’s currently
no way to search through a list of exclusively add-on items. Maybe Amazon just
hasn’t built this into their search yet, or maybe they have no plans to.

Either way, you can still find add-on items in
a few interesting ways. Let’s look into some of the best ways to scavenge
Amazon for these hidden gems.

Find Amazon Add-On Items Using
Amazon Search

The first option you have is the most
obvious—using Amazon itself. Although this method is a bit crude, since Amazon
currently doesn’t support filtering by add-on items only, the majority of the
results you’ll get are what you want. However, you will have to do a bit of
manual filtering since items that aren’t add-ons can sometimes show up in your
results.

All you have to do is search Amazon for the
phrase “add-on items”. Unfortunately, you can’t add any other terms to the
query. For example, “cookies add-on items” will not properly filter your
results to add-ons.

Even if you do execute this search properly,
Amazon still struggles to filter the results to only add-on items. You’ll see a
few results that aren’t add-ons, often Subscribe & Save items. However, at
least 90% of the results are add-on items.

Find Amazon Add-On Items Using
Third-Party Sites

Since using Amazon’s built-in search feature
doesn’t do the best job, there are a few third-party sites that have started to
index add-on items for searching and filtering. Let’s talk about the two best
sites for finding Amazon add-on items.

Amazon Add-On Item Finder

Amazon Add-On Item Finder is a search engine exclusively for Amazon’s add-on items.

Amazon Add-On Item Finder offers instant
filtering for the following product categories:

  • Baby & Child
  • Clothing & Miscellaneous
  • Food & Grocery
  • Health & Beauty
  • Household, Kitchen, Office
  • Outdoor, Garden, Garage
  • Pet & Animal Care
  • Toys, Games, Entertainment

This site also has a filtering option to show
add-on items below $2. This is great for tossing in filler items to reach a
threshold or squeeze out the last bit of a gift card balance.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many advanced
searching options beyond that. You can additionally search by keyword or
phrase, but you can’t filter by price range.

<*
amazon-add-on-item-finder.png – Amazon Add-On Item Finder *>

Amazon Add-On Item Finder is extremely easy to
use and definitely beats out using Amazon’s native search feature.

So Cool!

So Cool! is more than just a way to search for Amazon add-on items, but it is one of the few Amazon item aggregators that supports this functionality. However, knowing how to pull this off is a bit tricky. That’s why we’re here!

To filter your So Cool! search to add-on items
only, you have to first make a search for an item. After you’ve made the
search, below the search field and on the right side, click the text that reads
filters”.

A menu will pop out, and here, you’ll want to
toggle the “Add-on only” option on by clicking the OFF button to switch it on. Doing so will instantly filter all
items for your current search term to display only add-on items.

Unlike Amazon Add-On Item Finder, So Cool!
supports many additional filtering options such as price range and rating. When
you’re looking to find specific add-on items, So Cool! is the go-to solution.

Until Amazon natively supports a way to filter items by add-on status, using this Amazon search trick and these third-party websites are the best methods for finding add-on items.

Add-on items are a great way to find filler items that compete with many in-store prices, so knowing how to find them effectively is essential to becoming a master of Amazon shopping!