Cool Pick Hotel
Written by Wesley Tatters
Welcome to the first installment of Cool Pick Hotel. As the name suggests - well at least kind of - this column is all about the coolest places on the Internet and more specifically the World Wide Web.
In each installment of Cool Pick Hotel, a specific area of interest will be selected for exploration. As you can imagine, however, with thousands of new WWW pages and sites being added on a weekly basis, keeping track of what's cool and what's not is in itself a massive task.
So how will the Cool Pick Hotel keep up with all the latest sites? To a certain extent this is where you - the reader - can help. Like most things "Internet", keeping up to date needs to be a cooperative effort. As a result, if you discover a World Wide Web site that grabs your attention, why not send me an email message, so that we can share the site with the rest of the world. Also, if you have any ideas for Cool Pick Hotel topics, jot them down as well. Send all correspondence to: email@example.com, placing the words COOL PICK HOTEL in the Subject Line.
But, enough chatter for now. The featured topic for this installment is Search Tools.
According to recent estimates, the World Wide Web alone contains close to 10 million pages of information covering topics as diverse as Religion, Gardening and Virtual Reality. When you consider this estimate in the light of the thousands of Gopher sites, FTP servers and WAIS databases that also span the Net, you rapidly begin to under stand why Search Tools fall under the category of "Cool". In fact, for many people, having access to a good search engine is by far the coolest thing about the Internet.
SITE OF THE WEEK
Lycos is without a doubt the most well known of all the WWW search tools currently available, with over 15 million queries answered since its launch.
Basically, Lycos is an enormous database that contains links to over 8 million WWW pages. When you enter a word or group of words into the search field located on the Lycos home page, Lycos uses its database to create a list of WWW pages that contain matches for any or all of the words. By default, Lycos lists the first 10 sites that match your request, with the WWW pages that contain the most matches being listed first. Alternatively, if you want Lycos to display more matches or change the way that the search is conducted, select the Search Options link on the Lycos home page. If you select this option, you will be presented with a Search page that gives you greater control of how Lycos operates.
As an added bonus, Lycos also includes what its developers claim is the most up to date "top sites" listing on the Internet. Lycos generated this list by cross referencing the millions of WWW links located by it's "Spiders" as they roam the World Wide Web looking for new sites. The end result is a list of the 250 WWW pages that contain the most links from other sites. Some people argue that the most popular sites must be the ones that have the most "Hits" (or visitors), but the developers of Lycos argue that just because the same person visits a site a thousands times does not make it popular. Instead, a site should be considered popular, based on the number of other sites that point to it.
Although the World Wide Web is by far the most talked about element of the Internet. For many people, downloading software and files via FTP is still their favorite pastime.
Locating interesting files at FTP sites is best achieved using an indexing tool known as Archie. Archie is a database that contains a record of all the files stored on thousands of FTP severs that can be accessed using anonymous FTP.
Until recently, the best way to access the Archie database was via a dedicated Archie client or by logging onto a Archie server using Telnet. However, with the introduction of ArchiePlex, that has all changed. Using any of the numerous ArchiePlex pages located on WWW servers all around the world, you can now search for software and other files using a simple form based WWW page.
In addition, once ArchiePlex locates a list of FTP sites that contain the file or files you are looking for, using the FTP client built into most WWW browsers you can then download any of the selected files to your local hard drive.
With the number of newsgroups available on the Usenet now past the 20,000 mark, keeping up to date with all the latest discussions and conversations is an impossible task. In fact, with some newsgroups now carrying thousands of articles each day, keeping up to date with just a small number of newsgroups is becoming increasingly difficult. The problem has also been compounded further by the fact that there are now many newsgroups which discuss similar subjects, all of which may or may not contain information you are interested in reading.
There is, however, a World Wide Web site which may provide the answer to your Usenet backlog. DejaNews claims to contain the most comprehensive archive of Usenet newsgroups anywhere on the Internet. By using a set of simple forms, you can ask DejaNews to search it's entire archive and create a list of any articles that contain the word or words you specify. Once this list is created you can then view any of the articles that interest you by selecting the appropriate hotlink.
However, DejaNews was not been designed as a replacement for your existing Newsreader. If you need to locate information on the USENET occasionally, then Deja News is a good option. On the other hand, if you want to continually track Newsgroups using keywords, then the Netnews service offered by Stanford University is a better option.
Netnews provides a service that
continually searches all of the main
Usenet newsgroups. Using a Form, located
Although WAIS (Wide Area Information Service) has been around for some time, it is one of the sleeping giants of the Internet. To a large extent, the reason for the apparent lack of knowledge regarding WAIS, seems to come from the fact that in the past, you really needed access to a dedicated WAIS client to make the most of the features it provides. In addition, many of the databases maintained by WAIS systems relate to academic activities, so there has been relatively little penetration by the more commercial players. But, with the acquisition of WAIS Inc, by America On-line, this seems set to change.
One of the key services developed by WAIS Inc is a World Wide Web interface, called WAISgate. WAISgate gives people easy access to the hundreds of WAIS databases currently available without the need for access to special software. Using forms and lists, it is now possible to search the contents of WAIS and locate documents that contain information on a wide variety of topics, with nothing more than a WWW browser.
For students and researchers, WAISgate provides access to a wealth of valuable research information, including the contents of scientific papers, thesis, lecture notes, studies, reports and commentaries of subjects as diverse as Australian Aboriginal Studies, Tantric News, the phone and fax numbers of members of the U.S. Congress, papers on mathematical studies at MIT, and The CIA World Fact Book.
At its simplest level, InfoSeek is a WWW search tool like Lycos. It allows you to enter a list of words and then creates a list of WWW pages which match the query. Where InfoSeek comes into its own, however, is when you begin to look at its more commercial options.
Like most World Wide Web services, basic access to InfoSeek is free, but, if you choose to become a subscriber, you are given access to a host of additional databases and indexes, all of which can be search in a single pass. These databases include: a complete record of all USENET articles posted to over 10,000 Newsgroups (daily and for the past four weeks), all of the Cineman movie, book and music reviews since 1980, the MDX Health Digest, Hoover's Company Profiles, the InfoWorld Database and access to daily Wire Services.
As a subscriber, it will cost you 20 cents for each query you send to the InfoSeek database. Alternatively, if you are not a subscriber, you can search the WWW database for free, but you will only receive the top 100 matches.
Although most people find that they eventually choose one WWW search tool for their daily needs, there are times when what you really need is the ability to search a number of different databases. The main reason for doing this, is the fact that currently there is no single database that indexes the entire Internet. For example, Lycos does a great job locating pages on the World Wide Web, but is of little use when it comes to Gopher sites, FTP servers or WAIS databases.
When you want to search a variety of different databases, by far the best way to do so is using a WWW page that contains a Configurable Unified Search Interface or CUSI for short.
CUSI is basically a single WWW page that provides you with a method of searching most of the known indexes, directories and databases currently available on the Internet. These include:
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