Web for kids
This site was created by three sisters in Australia who kept getting asked how to make Web pages by their friends. Emily, Sarah and Elise decided the best way to answer the question would be to build a site where kids could design and publish their own simple pages.
So far, it's been a great success, with well over 5000 young members making their own pages. With its friendly environment and lack of intrusive advertising pop-ups, Matmice looks better than many of the "grown up" free hosting sites out there.
What, where and when
Want to know what's going on in the world of fun? This site hosts a comprehensive list of popular events, festivals, celebrations and just plain weird goings-on around the world.
One shortfall of the site is that while you can search for events in the US by date, category or geographical location, for international events you can only search by location. But that's not to say the international coverage is bad - there are plenty of Australian occasions listed.
Spying on the spies
Ever wondered what Big Brother is up to? This site has gained such a reputation in the intelligence underground that it's the first stop for many whistleblowers who want to leak things that governments would prefer to keep quiet. Details of the FBI's Carnivore Net-tapping device, an offer to sell the security details for China's largest banks, and information about the latest in security technology have all appeared here in the past.
Cryptome was subjected to a mysterious hacking attack that put it off the air for several days after revealing the names and addresses of 400 Japanese secret service agents some months ago - that could be a coincidence, but this paranoid reviewer prefers to see it as an endorsement of the site's quality.
Of course you've heard of distributed computing in projects like SETI@home, which uses the idle time of millions of processors around the world to create a "virtual supercomputer" (for more, see February's alt.net column). But why let the chip in your PC have all the distributed processing fun, when you can use similar methods to employ the idle power of the human brain?
The Mars Clickworkers project is run by a group of scientists at NASA. At its Web site, you can participate in the detection and classification of craters on the surface of Mars. By clicking on four points at the outside edges of each crater you see, you help this research project gain data which would otherwise require many hours of tedious work by junior scientists.
Internet Movie Database
Also known as the IMDb, this is an enormous free resource that is basically your one-stop shop for movie, TV and DVD/video information. It features a comprehensive news service as well as sections such as message boards, opinion polls, independent films, biographies and gossip. In addition to English, the site is also available in German and Italian.
IMDb was started in 1990 by a group of movie fans, and in 1998 became part of the Amazon.com group. It now boasts over 400,000 actor bios, 40,000 director bios, over 200,000 movie and TV titles and thousands of other titbits of information.
Enter the name of any film and you'll receive a wealth of information: who made it, who was in it, and much more. You are also provided with the movie's catchphrase or best one-liner and a plot summary (both brief and in depth). You can vote on the movie's rating, read reviews (or write one yourself), view photos from the movie, download the trailer or use the links to Amazon.com to buy the relevant DVD, sound track and marketing paraphernalia. Besides discovering almost everything you ever wanted to know about the movie, you can click on "genre" to find other movies of a similar type. This is just one example of IMDb's depth - there's much more to be found, but not enough space to talk about it here.