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