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By JULES ALLEN
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 15, 1999
So, you're online for the first time? Let's go shopping. You should cozy up to C/net's consistently excellent comparison site for electronic gadgetry you can buy online. It may become your best buddy this holiday season. If visions of consumer electronics and cell phones dance in your head, you're also in luck: Rate comparison info lives here, too. The site acts as an information clearinghouse, with links to sites where you can buy the stuff. The best thing is you can compare prices on all things geeky and save your pennies for unimportant things such as food and the mortgage.
The road to somewhere
I'm an addict when it comes to customized Web pages, which are offered by some Internet gateways known as portals. These customized pages deliver only the information you want -- say, scores for your favorite team, weather for your ZIP code and particular news topics that you follow. I live for these pages. I spend much more time than a human should fine-tuning my preferences, and I jump like some nerd puppy from customized site A when customized site B adds a groovy feature. But I keep returning to my.yahoo.com as my main squeeze for news and stocks. Its simple design is consistent in just about any browser on any platform. And before you know it, you're taking advantage of the integrated calendar, address book and other features. I may be a site-wandering hussy but my.yahoo.com understands my indiscretions and takes me back after my other portal dalliances.
Bad design, great content
It's not often that you find a site where it's worth squinting at the flashing graphics because the content is so compelling. It is in Deja.com's case. This site indexes years' worth of Usenet group discussion postings, the world's global bulletin board. This makes it one of the finest research tools on the planet since it presents ratings by users on people, places and products. Do yourself a favor: Bookmark the power search feature and pick Deja Classic as your search results type. Like a lot of sites, Deja offers a free e-mail service. This one is worth having because you can use it to safely post to Usenet without being spammed (junk e-mailed) to death. A common way for spammers to harvest your e-mail address is to traverse newsgroups and suck the e-mail addresses out of the messages. Deja's industrial-strength filters, like the rest of the services it offers, are free.
Google sure sounds like a silly name for a search engine, but Yahoo started the silly name game way back when the business types thought the Microsoft Network would kill Internet access. So you can't really finger either of them for their choice of a moniker. Weird or not, Google is one you'll remember and for good reason: It's the best search engine around. I've consistently gotten wonderful results from Google. I've pretty much abandoned the other guys. Google ranks its results based on a formula that counts the number of links to a given site. The more links a site has, the more relevant it might be (or so goes the theory). And, for the time being, it seems to be working.
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