Web Reviews: NASA, Boxerjam, Media World, browsers

NASA Human Space Flight

Ever feel like shouting, "Stop the planet, I want to get off"? NASA's Human Space Flight will give you the lift(off) you need. This site uses real-time data to plot an image moving across a world map that pinpoints the location of the International Space Station, travelling at 27,360km/h. It makes beautiful use of Flash to depict the people and events of the most recent Space Shuttle mission. There's a list of spacecraft-sighting opportunities in cities from Houston to Hanoi.www.spaceflight.nasa.gov.


The next time you find yourself stymied, take a break and clear your head at Boxerjam, one of the oldest game sites on the Net. The site contains game shows, word games, and puzzles at various levels of difficulty. For instance, Know It All lets you match wits against other players in a fast-moving, real-time quiz show that covers art, politics, and culture. Crossword Plus is a well-designed puzzle that lets you enter answers easily from your keyboard and click for help letters and words when you get stuck. The site has plans to begin charging a monthly fee (perhaps $US3 to $US5), but when the charges will take effect is uncertain. www.boxerjam.com.

Streaming Media World

If you're more interested in creating streaming media than in watching it, Streaming Media World is your place. This site offers tips and tools for making animations, as well as tutorials on compressing files and shooting and editing video for streaming media. Also featured are news reports and interviews with top creators and executives in the streaming media field. www.streamingmediaworld.com.editor's choice: Give your browser special powersIt never occurred to me that the macro-style scripting I've used to speed up common word processing and spreadsheet tasks might be possible within Web browsers. Then I caught wind of something called a bookmarklet, a combination bookmark and JavaScript that you run from your Favorites menu or a Web page to help speed up surfing chores. Bookmarklets are great for power searching, navigating Web pages, and Web page design.

To start using these tools, try www.bookmarklets.com, a site operated by Steve Kangas (who's widely regarded as the inventor of the term ‘bookmarklet'), or check out http://javascript.about.com/cs/bookmarklets.

A bookmarklet is essentially a Web link, but instead of a URL, the link contains a short piece of JavaScript. Most Web browsers support JavaScript, so you can usually use them in any browser.

I've tried a number of cool and useful book­marklets. One (available at www.bookmarklets.com/tools/misc/index.phtml#readck) instantly displays the cookies stored by the Web page I'm currently viewing. Another (available at www.bookmarklets.com/moreinfo.phtml) lets me highlight words on a Web page and dump them into a variety of search engines automatically.

But are they safe? When I try to add a bookmarklet to my Favorites menu, Internet Explorer 5.x warns me that it might be unsafe. One bookmarklet I came across reveals pass­-words that a Web page has remembered but blocked from view. That might be handy at a site where you've forgotten your password. Still, if a bookmarklet can uncover such information, there seems to be a risk that another bookmarklet could transmit it to unsavoury observers.

Kangas says the chance that a bookmarklet will wreak havoc is relatively slim (you can read his thoughts at www.bookmarklets.com/about/safety.html).

Although there's little current danger in bookmarklets, you should still be careful. Learn what you can about the source of each bookmarklet before you bookmark it.

- Brad Grimes.

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