By JULES ALLEN
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 13, 2000
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Places to start online
The new computer is fired up, your Internet connection is ready and you wonder: Where do I start? Here are some suggestions for first-time surfers:
It's hard to throw a bread roll in a restaurant and not hit somebody who has had an idea for a portal. A portal was a wildly popular idea a few years ago, a one-stop site to tie together all kinds of information, such as stocks, weather, news and the like. And it's weathered the test of time -- Internet time, which seems to run much faster than real time. Both general purpose and specific theme portals are everywhere. But I don't think anybody carries off the one-size-fits-all concept as well as Yahoo. The depth of the content you can customize to your tastes is second to none.
Best computer education
If Yahoo is the king of the general purpose portal, C/Net rules the computer and technology space. Its computer industry news at News.com is one of my first stops in the morning, and its Shopper.com is my favorite way to find the lowest prices on hardware and software. It's not just for experts and geeks: The content is built for consumers as well.
Best search engine
Sure, it's a strange name but it's easy to remember and you'll get great search results. Google used to be the best-kept secret on the Net, but a recent high-profile deal with Yahoo catapulted it into the mainstream. What makes Google tick is quite simple: The theory goes that the more links a page has to it, the more relevant it is. And, for the most part, it's working.
Best technobabble slayer
Getting beyond the basics in the world of computers can be a bit of a struggle. It's compounded by the flagrant use of acronyms by tech jocks. ADSL, CORBA and ASICs, oh my! But don't be put off if you don't understand what any of it means. Make a note and head over to WhatIs. It's a sane, well-thought-out key to enlightenment.
Best file storage
Floppy disks are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. A megabyte and a half was plenty of space a few years ago, but today a Word document with a few graphics can easily suck up that space. And the reliability of floppies is almost a joke: If you rely on them, make sure you write to at least two if you're saving anything marginally important. If you're hooked to the Net, why not investigate Xdrive, a free virtual drive that's much bigger than a bunch of floppies. Browser-based, it's available anywhere you've got a reliable connection. Windows users can download free software to make drive X appear as a drive on the desktop. It's slow, but it's nicer than a browser.
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- Jules Allen takes readers on a tour of interesting Web sites in the Site Seeing column that appears in Tech Times each Monday.
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