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  PC-Net's PC News - August 2002
 
Don Watkins

New Ways to Search and Fax

By Don Watkins

 
 
 

 

June 1999--Last month, we discussed ways to find information on the Web. At the spring Internet World conference, I found more items to add to that list.

Asking of Jeeves
Ask Jeeves is a different kind of search engine. First, it understands conversational English, something most search engines have no clue about. Second, it's entertaining. Feed it a question and you'll be amazed at the results. For fun, I asked, "What's the meaning of 42?" (If you are a fan of author Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you'll recognize the irony of the question). Sure enough, the first search response that came back was "Team 42 The Meaning of Life." (For those not acquainted with Adams' books, the number 42 is associated with "the meaning of life" in one of his novels). Give this site a look.

Google.com
In 1998, Web researchers Sergey Brin and Larry Page set out to make it easier to find information on the Web. Working at Stanford University's Computer Science Department, they spent three years researching Web searching and data mining. The results of their work can be found at www.google.com. What makes their search engine different is the way it uses data to generate search results. For more information on the how and why of the project, visit this site. http://www.google.com/why_use.html.

Be sure to use the "I'm feeling lucky" button. The results are very interesting.

Alexa's story
Alexa takes a different approach. You download a free program that installs a small window on your browser that provides a list of links to sites related to the Web page you are viewing. The window also has a small ad (again, related to what you are viewing), but the ad doesn't detract from the information, as do so many other free products and services that depend on these kind of sponsorships. Alexa has also created Web archives. This allows you to go back in time and see a page as it looked in the past. This can also be used to resolve a link for a site that's no longer available. I don't know how far back their archives go, but I was told it consumes many terabytes of storage.

Free fax
If you're like me, you don't receive many faxes. I don't use a separate phone line for faxing. When someone wants to send me a fax, I have to manually start my computer's fax program and tell others not to answer the phone, which can be a hassle. Most of my work is done via email and I prefer to use that whenever possible.

Now there is a way to combine fax and email. In fact, there are two methods, both providing the ability to receive your faxes in your email inbox. The best thing about them is that they are free.

Fax, e-style
E-Fax requires you to install a free viewer program on your computer that allows you to view faxes which are sent to you as email attachments. This viewer has a border with ads. The copy of the fax you receive can be printed (without the ads) if needed. The service is free--no setup costs or per-page fees.

The call of the wave
Callwave uses a slightly different approach. They send out marketing surveys at certain intervals and you must complete and return these to continue using the service. The faxes have no ads attached. They use the Kodak Imaging (.xif) format. Windows includes a viewer for this format, so there is nothing else needed to view or print these files. Other than the time it takes to complete the surveys, this service is also free--there are no setup costs or per-page charges.

If you are like me and prefer email to fax, or travel and need to receive faxes anywhere you go, these services are highly recommended.

Next month
I'm currently testing a couple of universal serial bus (USB) modems--look for a review of them next month.

Until next month, stay connected!

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