Web reviews

Spot that satellite!

http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/realtime/JTrack/Spacecraft.html

With the addition of the main solar panels to the International Space Station, it's set to become the third-brightest object in the night sky, though it will only be visible from Australia some of the time. How to find it?

NASA offers several handy and fascinating tools for satellite-spotters. At the top of this Web page is a row of links to Java applets that will tell you which man-made objects are passing through the sky above you, and where they are. Jpass lets you enter your location and the satellites you want to see, and graphically displays a list of times when they will be visible in your area.

There are other useful applets as well, but the most fun one is Jtrack 3D, pictured, which shows the position of more than 500 satellites in real time on a global display that you can zoom and rotate. It also has a "Select Satellite" dialogue box that lets you get historical information about each orbital device. It's amazing how much is up there.

The Internet Oracle

www.cs.indiana.edu/~oracle/

Do you have a question or dilemma on which you need supernatural advice? The answers given by the Internet Oracle might not be exactly what you want to hear, but they're more than likely to give you a laugh.

Formerly known as the Usenet Oracle, the Internet Oracle is one of the institutions of the Net, and can trace its history all the way back to 1975, which makes it an ancient tradition in computer terms. According to its maintainers, the Oracle "is a collective effort at humor by the denizens of the internet. Questions mailed to the Oracle are forwarded to other Oracle users, who serve as an ‘incarnation' of the Oracle by providing a witty answer to the question. The funniest and cleverest answers are selected by the Oracular Priesthood for inclusion in the famous Oracularities." You can read previous Oracularities on the Web site, or ask your own question, but beware - the Oracle always demands a price.

Beliefnet

www.beliefnet.com

Billing itself as "the source for Spirituality, Religion and Morality", Beliefnet has set itself up as a multi-faith portal to religion on the Internet. It doesn't favour one particular faith, but covers a fairly comprehensive range of major religions available in the Western world. From numerous flavours of Christianity, through to Sikhism and Zoroastrianism, most are represented.

Besides giving an overview and introduction to each faith, Beliefnet also helps you to search sacred texts online and provides discussion forums of many types. Features include regular columns by some of the foremost proponents of different religions, as well as "Spiritual Tools" like the "Spiritual Type Quiz" for generic seekers, or the "Find a Coven" form which is handy if you're a Wiccan.

The site appears to be financed by a consortium of venture capitalists, and perhaps this explains the occasionally distracting ads - somehow, "Win Cash in your Email" doesn't quite seem to go with higher spirituality. But Beliefnet needs to survive somehow, and the service it provides seems well worth putting up with a bit of capitalism.

The good old days

www.abandonkeep.com, www.dejavu.org

What happens to computer programs after they die in the market? Some of them enter the digital afterlife in the form of abandonware - formerly popular software that's no longer maintained by its creators, but lovingly preserved by fans of computer history.

The Keep is a site dedicated to archiving forgotten and superseded software, providing a trip down memory lane for anyone who's spent a few years with computers. Favourite classic games, long-obsolete utilities, and even some original operating systems inhabit this archive of golden oldies.

The Web has changed enormously since its invention a mere decade ago, and so have the browsers we use to view it. Deja Vu provides an opportunity to relive those golden days if you're an old-timer, or marvel at the primitive past if you're new to the Net.

The Deja Vu Browser Emulator brings up a window that mimics the behaviour of the classic low-featured browsers of the past. From the text-only Lynx and Line-Mode Browser to the first graphical program, NCSA Mosaic, the Emulator gives a feel for the evolution of the Web since the early 1990s. The site also hosts a timeline which details the history of the Web from 1992 onwards, marking its development from a tool for academic information exchange to the world's most powerful medium of expression in just a few short years.

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Aldis Ozols

PC World
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