For me to be giving anyone advice about the Internet is laughable. But I do have one qualification: I’m as frustrated and mystified by it all as most of you.

So perhaps these revelations will be useful:

1. It really may be worth your calling AT&T at 800-400-1447 and requesting their free WorldNet software. If you are an AT&T long distance customer, they’ll provide the first year’s access free, up to 5 hours a month ($2.50 an hour thereafter) or unlimited access for $19.95. I found that even for me installation was easy, including the time I spent on that same 800-number with a human who walked me through the glitch of dual Netscape versions. More to the point, once set up, it seems to work fine. Somehow I don’t picture AT&T having quite as many glitches and busy signals as some of the newer kids on the block.

2. If you haven’t already, you should definitely visit and bookmark www.altavista.digital.com, which is the search engine from Digital Equipment. Yahoo and other search engines like it are similar to a Table of Contents at the front of the book, good for finding general areas of interest, whereas AltaVista is like the Index at the back of the book, good for finding specific items. Aha! Among other things, this makes it much better for research than the others I’ve used.

Being human, I first searched Yahoo for my own name and found nothing. I then tried it with AltaVista, and, just like an index at the back of the book, found loads of references (including one titled Andrew Tobias is a Slippery Sleazeball, or words to that effect).

3. I actually owe the revelation of this distinction between Yahoo and AltaVista, to a really neat site called www.eachmovie.com. As you’ll see if you visit, first you log in with your e-mail address, then you rate some movies you’ve seen. Then, based on your likes and dislikes, it tries to figure out some movies you haven’t seen that you might like. And it does so, supposedly, and interestingly, not just by noting that you like Demi Moore, but by building a confidential (they assure us) profile of how you rank various movies. This helps them find others who share the same tastes. Then (assuming I understand this properly, always an open question), if one of those people loved Vampire Drag Race Derby, it will suggest that you might like it, too.

In truth, the recommending part didn’t dazzle me. I doubt it works very well. But the concept is neat. (As the authors of this web site explain, if Yahoo is the Table of Contents in the front of the book and AltaVista is the Index on the back, then EachMovie is like a yellow sticker on the book jacket saying, “see page 211, I think you’ll like it”).

And even if none of that interests you, EachMovie is a quick way to find reviews and ratings and credits and summaries of hundreds of recent and soon-to-be-released movies. Was that Fear you were meaning to see or Primal Fear? Or Cape Fear? Before you head out to the wrong movie, check it out. (Have you seen The Truth About Cats and Dogs? Good flick! And shame on you for missing Sabrina and The American President! Rent them.)

4. Finally, speaking of yellow stickers, I recently installed 3M’s Post-it (TM) Software Notes. Like many of us, I use the yellow stickers a lot. Well, here’s a way to stick ‘em to your computer screen, as it were. It’s cheap and clever and the sound effects are fun. To get a free sample, click www.mmm.com/psnotes. So far, this little program hasn’t caused any loopy conflicts with my non-Windows software, or with anything else.

 

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