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Chapter 1. The Online World > Exploring the Net

Exploring the Net

What draws tens of millions of new people to the Internet every year? For many, it's the sights, sounds, and pure information of countless online destinations. The World Wide Web combines ease of use and ease of participation; anyone can contribute to the Web by creating his or her own Web pages easily, as we will show in this book. The Web has become the most popular way to learn about ancient civilizations or about inkjet technology, kudzu, and Cambodia. (The quickly spreading kudzu plant used to be a popular metaphor for the Net's rapid growth.) It's also the place for the information that you need to manage your life, from weather forecasts to airline schedules.

Electronic mail is the most popular and biggest single use of the Internet, but large amounts of data flow between computers on a daily basis in the form of FTP (File Transfer Protocol). FTP allows a user at one computer to enter the address of another computer virtually anywhere on the Internet and browse through the file directories until a sought-after program or document is located. FTP has opened an immense world of shareware and public domain software to the public's access. Beyond FTP is Usenet. This is a remarkable array of computer conferences that run on tens of thousands of computers around the globe. Usenet has discussion groups on every subject imaginable, from the risks of computer technology to groups about duck raising and management to child rearing theory. Some of the groups have literally become communities, linking thousands of people who share a common interest. In the Usenet world, some of the groups are an uncontrolled electronic stream of consciousness, whereas others are moderated by one of several members who serves as moderator.

Some of the most fascinating aspects of the Internet are the electronic libraries and commercial online databases. Another is the vast numbers of electronic books (eBooks) available on the Web. Users can purchase an eBook on a disk or CD, but the most popular way is to purchase and download a file from an eBook sales site on the Web. (Some books are sold, some are for a nominal fee, and some are free.) eBooks can be downloaded and read on desktop, laptop, or palm computers. You can use a specialized eBook reader, which will allow you to make notes, highlight passages, and save selected text, but special hardware and software isn't necessary to read. The book's pages are displayed in full color with graphics and photos, and they resemble the printed pages of a book. Generally, an eBook can be downloaded in less than five minutes.

The Internet isn't just about text and information. It's also about people. People meet online in a variety of ways. They meet in chat rooms on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). This is a way for people to drop in on real-time global conversations. By typing on the keyboard, they can exchange some idle chat with someone in New Zealand or Sweden. These conversations go on 24/7. And once they've found friends all over the globe, people can stay in touch with IRC and instant messaging (IM), carry on private conversations, and “see” when their friends are on their computers (see Chapter 7).

People have found a variety of ways to meet. Online dating is a big business. From the comfort and safety of your home, you can view and read about potential mates all around the world. Another way to meet people is with MOGs (massively online games) and MUDs (multiple user dungeons; the name heralds back to the board game Dungeons & Dragons) where you can interact—talk and compete against or simply play—with others online.

Music has become a highlight of the Web, so it's not all about just text or images. Of course, you can read about your favorite band or singer, but you can also download music and convert music from one file format to another. The Web has changed the face of the music industry with Napster, where users traded copyrighted music, causing lots of legal issues and challenges to arise. Plenty of alternatives to Napster abound. If you're uncomfortable with the gray area sites, there are places to find good music that's legal for downloading. Some bands have realized that offering free MP3 files can help them sell more albums. Start with Rolling Stone (www.rollingstone.com/dds/). It offers free downloads of tracks from top artists in various formats. MP3.com (www.mp3.com) is another hot spot, especially for unknown artists. (MP3.com and MP3 are not the same thing. MP3.com is a library of MP3 files, whereas MP3 is a popular music file type. For more information, Chapter 5 is all about music.)

The World Wide Web Has Much to Offer

This book is a guide to help you get on the Web and direct you to the key features. There are more things on the Web than we could cover in one book, even a thick one. This book tries to guide you to find what you really need and covers what you really need to know. There is so much more out there, though.

The world is ever changing, and the Web changes, as well. Like never before, get instant updates on world news, sports, weather, and politics. The Web is a tool. As you learn more, your tastes will change and evolve. No matter what it is you are looking for, if you know how to look (and this book will give you that knowledge), you can find what you seek.


The Internet is a 24-hour news source. And with an online news site—unlike your television or newspaper—you can personalize the news to your preferences. There are plenty of choices to get the news. Television networks such as CNN (www.cnn.com), BBS (http://news.bbc.co.uk), MSNBC (www.msnbc.com), and ABCNews (www.abcnews.go.com) offer something for everyone. Newspaper Web sites such as New York Times (www.nytimes.com), LA Times (www.latimes.com), and USA Today (www.usatoday.com) supplement their static newspapers with frequently updated, online versions. There are specialty news sites focusing on a specific topic such as TechWeb for IT news (www.techweb.com), Sports Illustrated for sports (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/), United Nations (www.un.org/News/), National Geographic News for science (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/), and Zap2it for entertainment (www.zap2it.com/index).


Exploring genealogy is easier with the Internet. Web sites such as Family Search (www.familysearch.org/), state and country government sites, newspapers, and other significant places with archives abound. One such archive is Ellis Island (www.ellisislandrecords.org/), which can beat trying to hire some remote researcher to dig through microfiche. As people gather information and get details on locations, the next step may be to contact a government in another country or a newspaper that lists marriages and deaths. The Internet has enabled us to search our family history without the need to travel. There are specialty sites for those with a specific background, such as JewishGen (www.jewishgen.org), which helps those with a Jewish background, and Italian Genealogy Homepage for those with Italian ancestry (http://italiangenealogy.tardio.com/). Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites links to over 175,000 Web sites (www.cyndislist.com).


Book your airplane reservations and your hotel reservations online. Check competing airlines for the best price. Reserve car rentals, one-way moving trucks, and motor homes. Check the weather, (www.weather.com or www.intellicast.com). Check road conditions or highway construction projects. Check around the Web for restaurant ideas, entertainment, and historical places to visit. If it's a business trip, maybe you can look up other businesses to visit while you're there. Going to another country? No problem; many sites have currency converters and language dictionaries. If you are just exploring ideas, try Travelocity (www.travelocity.com), Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com), and Fodor's (www.fodors.com).


The Internet is a gold mine for investors in terms of up-to-date information. View the latest company press releases, news articles, and financial data on the Web. Research companies and read their financial reports—without going to the library or calling the company and asking for its report. Trade, buy, and sell stocks online. Start with Wall Street City (www.wallstreetcity.com).


Going nuts over what to have for dinner tonight? Dining out isn't always an option. Is your cookbook thinner than skim milk? Never fear; all the recipes you'll ever need are sitting on Allrecipes (www.allrecipes.com) and similar sites. You've probably got a cupboard full of unused ingredients; search for meals containing your favorite spice, meat, vegetable, etc. Specially formatted pages are linked so that you can print out any recipe for a 3 × 5 or 4 × 6 note card. It's finger-clicking good.

Classic Books

Name one online (and electronic) resource that has been around for decades? No, we're talking pre-Yahoo!, folks. When you want to “rent” a book, you probably go to your public library. When you want to buy a book, you might think of heading to Amazon.com. But over at Project Guttenberg (http://promo.net/pg/), you will find a group that has been making classic books available to the world in a common “text” format. There's nothing terribly recent (because of copyright laws), but here you'll find the complete works of Shakespeare, Aesop's fables, and Plato's philosophies. You can leave your library card at home this time; eBooks have already arrived, and you can start grabbing them without dropping a dime.


What does it mean when you dream of being chased by giant mirrors? I'm almost afraid to look! Wake up to a world of internalized subliminal processes with sites such as Dreamdoctor.com. Share your sleep-time experiences on a discussion board and look up meanings in the dream symbols dictionary. Do your dreams share a common thread with other dreamers? Love to learn about other people's dreams? I suppose that fiction is stranger than truth.

Home Improvement

Did you know that a screwdriver can double as a hammer? Did you know a butter knife can double as a screwdriver? Or that a nail file can double as a butter knife? Well, they can in our world. If you have a computer question, we're your guys. When it comes to home improvement, you may have to inquire elsewhere. Want some real tips for improving your home or tackling that next big project? Ask someone such as Tim Carter from Ask the Builder (http://askthebuilder.com). He knows so much, in fact, that his columns are nationally syndicated and he has own radio show in Ohio. The station, for whatever it's worth, isn't WKRP. “Baby, if you've ever wondered; wondered whatever became of my skill saw...” (Venus Flytrap was never much of a home builder, you know.)

Career Advice

Show me the money! No, really...show me the money! No, I'm serious...I need money. Well, who doesn't need money? Money, after all, is how we attain certain necessities: clothes, food, shelter, and digital cameras. The problem is, you have to work for money. What's up with that!? What and where are the best jobs? And more importantly, could you make more doing the same job in a different state? Before sending out those resumes, check here. Head to a site such as salary.com, and you'll see the average pay rate of an occupation, depending on its state (snow plow operators may find higher pay in Iowa than in Arizona). This destination also includes articles and advice for staying on top of the business world. Now get back to work. You need money.

Unit Conversion

There's an old story, which may or may not be true, about a dispatch taking place in the middle of the ocean: “Change your course to avoid a collision.” “How?” “Turn forty degrees starboard.” “Um...we're a lighhouse.” Insane, I tell you. It's too bad that those shipmates didn't have access to this site; carrying over 8,000 units, they could have converted anything to anything. At a site such as OnlineConversion.com, specific categories have been designated for the various measurements. And thanks to the cooking section, everything's as easy as pie (with two and a half cups of flour). This URL should be etched in your memory. Whether two feet from shore or 20,000 leagues under the sea, knowing how many “Xs” are in a “Y” just might save your life.


“The entire Internet is now on a map of Antarctica.” Well, I guess someone had to do it. That may sound a little strange, but oddly enough—it appears to work. Click on any one of the 17 map categories at Visual Net (http://map.net), and you can start exploring the Internet. The more you click, the narrower your search becomes. It's perfect for someone who doesn't know exactly what they're looking for and wants to see everything that's available. If map clicking isn't your cup of Java, there's always the plain ole text search. Hey, Lockergnome's there!

Consumer Protection

It seems as though everyone has either been sued or is getting sued these days, doesn't it? Well, there are plenty of frivolous lawsuits floating around, but let's not forget that there are some legitimate charges being made by consumers who just want to get what they paid for. If you think you're a little fish in a giant corporate pond, swim on over to a site such as Big Class Action (http://bigclassaction.com). Join a group of people seeking a class action or register your own complaint.


Different people tend to ask similar questions. So instead of wasting man hours and resources on answering the frequently asked questions, people put together FAQs (which, oddly enough, stands for Frequently Asked Questions). You'll find that most heavily traveled Web sites have FAQs that newcomers may read to make themselves familiar with the “rules” of that particular group. Internet FAQ Archives (www.faqs.org/faqs) is a great place to start.

Email has been around forever (as far as this e-world is concerned). For some users, it makes sense to have a Web-accessible account. For those who stay in one spot, not so much. So which service is the best one? Depends on who you are and what you need. There are all kinds of companies willing to give you a mailbox; they're now just a click away. Doesn't matter where you're from or what language you hablas. A great free guide is at Free Email Providers Guide (http://fepg.net).

Who really understands what goes on after you click on a link? Sure, with any luck, a new Web page pops up. But how does that really happen? Don't immerse yourself in technojargon—download this beautifully illustrated movie. Don't you know how data flows in a networked environment? Are packets good or bad? Who's this “Lan” guy, and why is he setting walls on fire? Young grasshopper: Sit back, watch, and learn through Warriors of the Net (www.warriorsofthe.net).

Ever notice those three little letters after the dot in a file name? For instance, the file extension for the Word document “ilovelockergnome.doc” would be “DOC.” Hopefully, you're aware of the most common file extensions; sometimes a strange one will spring up. What the heck is an SCR? Or LST? Or CAB? Or...well, you get the idea. Filext.com is the site for you if a file extension has you flabbergasted. Just enter it into this search engine (sans dot) and extsearch.com will tell you what the extension possibly stands for (as well as its respective file type). You would have gone MAD without it, although you probably wouldn't have any idea what it meant.

You need graphics. No, I'm telling you: You need graphics. You might be designing a Web page, working on invitations, or any number of things, and this site is there to satisfy all of your graphical needs. The best part is that it's free at Flamingtext.com. Need some cool text effects? Just select the font size, the color, the style, the shadow, the bevel...you get the picture. There are also cool links to clip art, buttons, wallpaper, and tools—all of those things that make your fancy Web world even fancier.

You've probably seen those commercials on television featuring state-of-the-art refill systems for your inkjet. That's all fine and dandy, but different cartridges require different methods of refilling. A site such as Refill-FAQ (www.refill-faq.de) should answer any questions still lingering—if you choose to refill your cartridges (as opposed to just buying new ones when the old ones run dry). They walk you through the basics of refilling while addressing problems associated with this “money-saving” technique. Ah, I went laser four years ago and haven't looked back.


The Internet is a paradise for sports lovers. Find statistics on favorite teams and athletes. Get news and sports updates. Interact with other sports fans. Buy merchandise, and a lot more. ESPN (www.espn.com), CBS Sportsline (www.cbs.sportsline.com), and The Sports Network (www.sportsnetwork.com) offer coverage on all sports. Their updates reflect the latest seasonal sports and any hot news, such as draft picks. Sports sites categorize their pages for easy reference with the hot news on the front page. Diehard fans of specific sports can find pages dedicated to one sport. Soccer (or football to countries outside of the United States) fans can go to Federation Internationale de Football Association (www.fifa.com) and FA (www.thefa.com) for everything soccer. All professional and amateur sports organizations have their own Web sites, such as National Hockey League (www.nhl.com), Major League Baseball (www.majorleaguebaseball.com), National Basketball Association (www.nba.com), and NCAA for college sports (www.ncaa.org). Annual or recurring events have their own Web sites, such as the Olympics (www.olympic.org), Super Bowl (www.superbowl.com), and World Cup Soccer (fifaworldcup.yahoo.com). We haven't even covered teams' or players' Web sites. Colleges, professionals, and amateur team sports and players offer sites for their teams. Do a Web search for your favorite team or player, and you should be able to get there in no time. (For information on Web searches, go to Chapter 4.)


Whether you prefer to buy a new vehicle online or locally, start your research online. Kelly Blue Book (www.kbb.com), a car buyer's guide, has a Web site where you can calculate the price and trade-in value of used vehicles. Automakers have information about every car they make and sell on their Web sites. They feature vehicle comparison charts, loan calculators, model guides, and all the information you need to know before dealing with a local dealer. Web sites such as MSN Autos (http://autos.msn.com/) and cars.com (www.cars.com) are a good place to start when you don't have anything specific in mind.

Dvorak's Personal Portal and HomePage


This is John C. Dvorak's homepage. The Personal Portal is a collection of links that the author has carefully selected for efficiency and reliability. Point your Web browser to http://www.dvorak.org/home.htm/.

Replacement Parts

Need an updated driver? A resolution to a software problem? Information about a favorite board game? Try the Internet first before calling and waiting on hold for hours for tech support. It might be faster to search for the answer than to call tech support or every game store in town. When I upgraded to a new operating system, I needed updated drivers and got them all online. My mom had a small set of old and useful cocktail forks. I went on eBay and found more of the same brand to increase her set. When a gadget still in fine working order has a broken or missing part, go look on the Internet for replacements. It may be cheaper than replacing the gadget. Did another china plate break? Even if your china is no longer in production, try Replacements, Ltd. (www.replacements.com/), which stores sets that are no longer produced.

Chris Pirillo's Various Web Sites

There's no stopping this guy. He seems to create a new Web site every week.

http://www.pirillo.com/ is where you will find advice on how to be a better Internet entrepreneur.

http://www.lockergnome.com/ is where you will find fresh technology help.

http://tutorials.lockergnome.com/ is where you can download his helpful guides.

http://ask.pirillo.com/ is where you can ask Chris a technical question.

http://chris.pirillo.com/ is his personal Web page.

http://www.rentmychest.com/ is where you can...rent his chest.

http://www.gnomedex.com/ is where you can learn more about his annual tech conference.

See? Told ya!

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