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High-Tech Times Article 014

The Best World-Wide Web Sites

All of my columns to date are based on either (1) things that bother me, or (2) things that bother my readers who call me to complain. This month, I haven't had either. I'm not sure if this reflects the superb hardware and software we use, or if all of you are scrambling to keep your systems up and running.


In any case, this month I'm going to share with you some of the best World-Wide Web sites that I've encountered and find the most useful. At last count, there were approximately 112,750,000 people online as of February 1998, according to a series of surveys run by Nua Internet Surveys. And according to Bluesky Marketing, there were 18,116,139 Web sites as of September 1997.  So your chance of finding anything particularly useful out there is not real good unless you know some key sites to access.


Let's start with the common problem of locating a particular file that you know the full name for, but just can't find in those stacks of floppy diskettes. Try browsing over to <>, ignoring the brackets. This is an Archie site that connects you up to hundreds of millions of filenames around the world. You will also get filenames that may have more letters than what you asked for (ask for "helv.ttf" and you may get "helv-lt.ttf" as well). Check the dates and file sizes to ensure you get what you're looking for, but this site has saved me hundreds of hours in the past year.


Do you have an obscure CD-ROM drive, and can't locate a driver for Windows 95? Run, don't walk, to <> for the latest and greatest. And when you can't find that elusive hardware or software manufacturer anywhere else, <> probably has just the URL for you.


Would you like to carry on a conversation with your son or daughter living on the Mainland, or over in Asia? Download a free copy of ICQ and an ID from <>, and you can chat to your heart's content, once again at no extra cost. And if you happen to have a Web-compatible video camera hooked to your computer, NetMeeting <> is one of the nice free things that Microsoft offers. I use it every weekend to see and hear my granddaughter in Japan for a few hours. Cost for this capability? Zero!


One of the few frustrating things about living in Hawaii is how quickly the weather can change, and how to find out about it when you need to. Head over to <>, where you'll find just about anything you can imagine about not only Hawaii weather, but most other places on the planet. As a former Air Force pilot, I know how to read the weather charts, but even those of you who don't know a millibar from a millipede will find lots of useful information.


Like to listen to music? Well, the Internet can provide that for you, too. On <>, you'll find more than 150 audio channels playing just about any type of music, and all of it can be played using the free RealPlayer plug-in for either Netscape or Internet Explorer; download the player at <>.


Are you a voyeur? Do you like to look around places you've never been? Go wander around <> and peer through lenses of over 1,000 live cameras. Some of these sites let you interact with devices from miniature gardens to model railroads. I've been known to watch Cujo the African Grey parrot and Whaldo the chameleon just as a break from normal reality.


Have you ever been lost in another city? Would you like to create your own custom maps of any area in the U.S.? The people at <> may be your answer. Once you log in and give them some basic information, you can access the site to get mapping info in any format you need. You can even generate driving instructions from, say, Los Angeles to Fort Collins, Colorado, with driving times, nearby attractions, and even hotels on your route.


Have you ever wondered whether Pu'u O'o on the Big Island is likely to explode the way Mt. Rainier did a few years ago? Point your browser to <> for more information on volcanoes than you ever wanted to know. They even have educational comics for those of you who prefer the lighter side of molten lava.


All of us Web-crawlers have our favorite search-engines; mine is AltaVista <>. But sometimes it helps to know what advantages another search-engine may have, especially when you're looking for something in particular, like information buried 'way down in someone's Web-site. The folks at <> have compiled a detailed list of everything from how the top engines rank sites to "crawling factors."


The WWW is perfect for finding obscure data - IF you know where to look. Try <> for locating Zip+4 data. Federal Express has its site <> set up so you can locate your mother's gift anywhere on earth (as long as you have the tracking number, of course). UPS has a similar site <>. And if you know the name of a city, but AT&T has just changed the area code so even the operator can't help, <http://555‑> is a great place to know about.


Are you stuck for two weeks in Laredo, Texas, and can't stand country music? Rabbett Abbott has nothing but Hawaiian music at his H-4 Hawaii's Data Superhighway station at <>. And IRH Hawaiian Music <> even offers stereo over a 28.8 modem! And if you're really hard-up for Hawaiian info, you can find any Federal, State, or County employee at <>!


If you're looking for a company that makes underwater basket-weaving parts, start at <>. To find your old high school girlfriend, try <> or <>; both of these directories give you several ways to search for friends and acquaintances. And when you absolutely positively have to find someone or something, <> will probably offer a solution.


Driving cross-country through the southwest, and want to know where you'd better not put the pedal to the metal quite so hard? A visit to the Speedtrap Registry  <> may save you a few hundred dollars in speeding tickets. But if you do happen to get caught going a bit over the speed limit, ask the judge to let you contact <> to locate a lawyer nearly anywhere in the country.


My file BOOKMARKS.HTM is well over a megabyte, so I could go on like this for days. Once you've found these valuable sites, be SURE to back up this file, "just in case." I hope you've found at least some of these Web-sites to be useful. See you next month.