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By JULES ALLEN
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 18, 1999
A nice first start
Yahoo and Yahooligans are great sites for kids but only if they have a good command of the English language. And "English" is key since much of the Web isn't Spanish- or other language-friendly. But if you don't read, who cares anyway. Should your little ones be adept at rolling a mouse about but haven't a clue what the Web's words and spaces mean, Alfy.com is a great home page. Lots of cartoons of Alfy (who I think is a mega-grinning dog) and lots of links to picture-rich, kid-safe sites. Considering how many times my nephews can watch the Purple Dinosaur, they might not want to leave Alfy.com at all. Just as well as more than a few of the links dump into text-land that will get toddlers howling.
Take a number
If you or somebody you know gave birth on Oct. 12, pat yourself on the back because you helped push the world population over the 6-billion mark. Now that's a lot of people. If you're an educator or simply interested in what this number of humans means to our rock, you might want to click around this site. It's sponsored by Population Action International, which seems to advocate a less populated planet. Guaranteed to get you going if this kind of thing gets you going, so the usual disclaimers apply.
Learn by looking back
Somebody famous said something along the lines of those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I've been thinking a lot about that lately and have been devouring books such as Simon Singh's The Code Book and anything I can find on the Industrial Revolution to try and get a better perspective of where this whole Internet thing might end up. Marry this view of yesterday with quality reading such as Tim O'Reilly's Linux World keynote speech and I still have no idea where it will end up. It's great reading nonetheless.
Small and useless
And if you thought I was talking about myself, you'd be wrong. I'm small and semi-useless. Fire up your browser and see what those boffins at Cornell University have been doing. They've spent many hours crafting a submicroscopic guitar 10-millionths of a meter long. I thought they also must have crafted a really small camera to take the picture on the site but then wondered where they would take the submicroscopic film to get it developed. She Who Must Be Obeyed suggested that they probably used a very powerful microscope and I heartily agreed because I like a quiet home life.
The Hollywood model of developing software is an idea that has been slow to catch on. The idea is that you don't employ that many people but call in hired guns when you want to get something done -- sort of like making a movie. It's an interesting concept but as far as I can see, this is the first site that's taken the model, applied it to technology and made it completely virtual. It allows you to post your difficult technical questions and get an uber geek to answer it for the price that you want to pay. The smart people answering the questions get cash for their brain power and QuestionExchange.com gets a slice of the action. QuestionExchange.com's idea could propel the adoption of Open Source software such as Linux, FreeBSD and the like.
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