Backbytes: Rubik's, AMDMB, FindSounds, Sharky Extreme

Rubik's Cube

This brainteaser was an international obsession in the 1970s and 1980s and now the fixation has come to the Net. The site is immensely simple, but refreshingly well done, with great graphics and smooth motion. Simply drag your mouse over the background to view the cube from any angle, then click and drag sections of the cube to move them left or right, up or down, until you manage to make every side of the cube a solid colour.www.rubikscube.com.

AMDMB

Many people are finding AMD CPUs a good alternative to Intel processors. If you're researching this area or have already chosen an AMD CPU, AMDMB is a site to keep near the top of your favourites list. It is the self-proclaimed number one source for AMD reviews and information. It follows the standard formula for a technical site of reviews: FAQs, forums and news. All this is complemented by a comprehensive download section containing many BIOS updates for pretty much every motherboard under the sun.www.amdmb.com.

FindSounds.com

This search engine locates sound files in .wav, .aiff, and .au formats, ranging from splashing water to crying babies. You can use the files to liven up e-mail messages or Web pages. The site's directory divides sounds into 16 categories, including nature sounds, musical instruments, and a host of household noises. A free audio player shows you a colour graph of sounds as they play. Drag your mouse over any portion of the graph, and you can instruct the engine to find a similar sound.www.findsounds.com.

Sharky Extreme

Sharky (whoever he/she/it is) Extreme is a store of hardware and software reviews all helpfully sorted into separate sections for CPUs, motherboards, video cards, and more. All kinds of goodies are here and the forum is invaluable in your search for upgrade knowledge. However, you may want to skip the US price guide and find local costings.www.sharkyextreme.com.editor's choice: Sometimes it's worth itA lot has changed online over the past year. Now that the hype bubble has burst, people have got used to a Web in which companies must charge to stay in business. Here are some sites, services, and downloadable shareware I've found to be worth the investment.

SpamStalker: in a nutshell, this antispam shareware replies to junk mail with messages telling the sender that your e-mail address is no longer valid. The idea is to fool spammers into removing your address from their lists. Try SpamStalker for free, but pay $US25 if you intend to keep it. (www.spamstalker.com).

Pop-Up Ad Filter: after I'd tried various free ad filters with mixed results, several readers turned me on to this $US25 ad blocker. It works only with Internet Explorer, but it does so effortlessly and exceptionally well. A free trial version blocks about 40 ads - which should last you roughly one day. (www.meaya.com/?xfx).

Mailshell: for $US35 a year, you get your own domain name and the ability to control spam by creating an unlimited number of e-mail addresses. (www.mailshell.com).

Safari Tech Books Online: this subscription site features the digital versions of more than 600 books from publishers such as O'Reilly & Associates and Addison-Wesley. Every 30 days you can swap any or all titles in your account for new ones, so you can trade up from introductory titles to advanced ones, for example. Subscription rates are based on the number of books you buy; each title is assigned a point value of one to three points, and a minimum five-point subscription costs $US10 a month. (http://safari.oreilly.com/mainhom.asp?home).

Caveat surfer: the stuff worth paying for is still the exception, not the rule. Even if everything online were as good as gold, I wouldn't plunk down my credit card willy-nilly. Still, I'll be content as long as my total monthly expenses for Web services are lower than my broadband bill - which means I still have money left to burn on Web goodies.

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