The internet offers conveniences that we couldn’t have conceived of 20 years ago. Errands that used to take hours can now be accomplished with a few clicks. You don’t need to drive around, find parking or wait in hold queues on the phone. What’s more, it lets you quickly compare options. Want the cheapest price on an item you’re interested in? Just check the websites of online stores or do a search on a shopping aggregator site – no need to go from store to store.
There are many other ways the internet can help you out as well. You can keep in touch with friends and family; play games with other people without either of you needing to leave your home; secure your precious photos with a backup service; navigate with maps and even watch movies and TV shows. Once you’ve had a taste of the conveniences the internet has to offer, you won’t be able to go back!
First, though, there are a few things you’ll need before you can connect to the internet. These include:
i) An internet-connected device, such as a PC, tablet or smartphone
ii) An account with an Internet Service provider (ISP), such as Telstra, Optus or iinet, plus a broadband modem/router for connecting to internet devices at home, or
iii) A mobile broadband internet account, plus a SIM card, USB modem or wireless modem for connecting to the internet inside and outside the home using 3G/4G mobile phone networks.
Do all your banking and pay bills online
Every major bank and credit union in Australia now offers net banking. Net banking lets you check your finances, transfer money between accounts, redeem rewards, change credit limits and just about everything else you needed to go to a bank teller for in the past. They all also support BPAY, a method for payment of bills – no paperwork, phone calls or credit card details required.
If you’re looking to use net banking services, you can find the websites of the major banks by opening your web browser and searching under ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB or Westpac.
Email and social networking
Email lets you send letters, for free, to as many people as you like. They arrive instantly, and can be replied to straight away. A good place to start with email is opening www.gmail.com in your computer’s web browser. Gmail lets you send and receive email without having to install anything on your computer. You can even log onto it from anywhere. You just need to create an account with Gmail to get started.
Social networking has also become very popular. Social networking tools like Facebook allow you to chat at any time with friends and family who are online, share your photos with them, play games over the internet and much more.
Do your taxes (including GST) online
The Australian Taxation Office has a range of tools that will let you do all your taxes – personal and business – online, with all fields auto-calculated and an on-the-spot summary of your account. You can even pay your tax bill online.
You can do all your taxes online by heading to www.ato.gov.au in a web browser. You’ll need to sign up and install the ATO’s security software, but once you’ve done that you can do all you personal and business banking without the need for filling out endless forms.
Plus, when you register online with Centrelink you can access a range of services. You can claim a range of payments, receive forms and information, and update, view and print your details without having to wait in any queues.
The internet is the world’s biggest shopping mall. You can buy goods from hundreds of thousands of online stores, located all around the world. You can literally get many goods for half the price (and less) by buying them online. There’s almost nothing you can’t buy online, from white goods, to clothes, pharmaceuticals, insurance, books, games, toys, tools, car, boats – even homes.
What’s more, using various shopping aggregation sits, you can immediately compare prices between online stores. Try GetPrice, MyShopping, Shopbot and Ozbargain.
The internet has extensive mapping services that can allow you to zoom in and out from a global view to a street-level view. You can use services like Google Maps for GPS navigation, traffic directions and even an information resource. You can even make hard copy print outs of where you need to go so that you can take with you when you leave the house.
Entertainment and movies
For many people DVDs and other hard media is a thing of the past. You can download a full range of books, movies and music directly to your computer, smartphone or tablet. You can even then hook up or stream that media to your TV set.
There are also the immensely popular social media tools that let people upload their own videos. YouTube (www.youtube.com), for example, has millions of videos that you can watch in your web browser, ranging from the bizarre to the hilarious.
There are lots of online stores and sources for media, too, including the ABC, Apple iTunes, Google Play and Telstra BigPond Movies.
You may not be into the latest shoot-em ups, but did you know that the Internet allows you to play even simple games live with other players around the world. You can play card games, Scrabble, mah-jong, checkers, chess and many other games over the internet.
A new Windows computer actually has a lot of those games built in, but if you’re looking for more you can start with Facebook. Once you’ve set up a Facebook profile, you can add games (including Scrabble and other word games) and play with either your friends or with total strangers.
Moving your data around and backing it up
One of the great things about the internet is that it lets you grab your files from anywhere. You can also upload your files to online backup services – these are Internet hard drives that store your precious photos and important documents. That way even if you computer and camera are stolen or lost, you can always recover your documents.
If you’re looking to transfer files a good place to start is Dropbox, which creates an internet hard drive that you can copy files to, share with other people, and access from anywhere. You can also try YouSendIt, which lets you send large files (like photo collections) to other people using their email address.
If you’re worried about data loss, there are a host of great online backup services, including Carbonite, Mozy and Norton Online Backup.
This is really just the start of what you can do on the internet! You can bid at auctions, watch live sports and TV from around the world, download the latest episodes of TV shows, get new software for your PC and so much more. The internet is an enormous place, and even the most experienced users have only seen a fraction of what it can do.