Web reviews

Fun with GPS

www.geocaching.com; www.confluence.org

New technologies spawn new pastimes, and the wide availability of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices has combined with the Internet to produce new hobbies.

Geocaching involves hiding a container with a few "treasures" and noting its exact location using GPS. Since the accuracy of GPS can be as close as 1m, others can find the cache by navigating to it.

Photos, stories and clues for finding caches are found on the Geocaching Web site, which acts as a central information exchange for participants. The site entry contains an exact grid location, and may also include pictures, a cache log, a description of contents, map, and cryptic hints to help find the cache. Once a cache is placed, others go to look for it, and to take some of the "treasures" there and exchange them for others. The finder, for instance, might write a log entry, take a Matchbox car, and leave a pack of playing cards. Often, disposable cameras are left so the finders can make a photographic log.

Degree confluences are the points on the surface of the Earth at which meridians of longitude intersect exactly with parallels of latitude, every 100km or so. They have no natural significance - they're just points on an imaginary grid - but because they can now be located without a surveying team, they've become the centrepiece of a hobby for outdoor-oriented geeks.

In a similar way to the Geocaching site, Confluence.org exchanges information between people who are determined to be the first to find and photograph one of the 11,000 confluences on land.

Eminent domain


The Internet works not by names, but by numbers. However, "helpscreen.com.au" is easier for most people to remember than, and so we've become used to the familiar Web addresses ending in .com, .org, .net and .au. These human-friendly names are translated to Internet Protocol numbers by machines called Domain Name Servers.

If you can have a .com or .net address, why can't you have a .biz, .faq, or .god domain? Well, Youcann! Youcann.org is a play on the name of the "official" domain name assignment organisation, ICANN. The latter is an undemocratic body created by the US Department of Commerce to administer top level domain names, and so far it has alienated just about every other player in the Internet game through its greed and arrogance.

Because the Net is voluntary in nature, people can work around groups like ICANN by agreeing to run their own root Domain Name Servers in parallel with existing ones, allowing users to access new domain names in addition to the familiar range. Youcann.org provides instructions for home computer users to enable new domains like .biz, .social and .jobs, without disturbing currently available Web sites. It's small now, but it's a sign that if ICANN continues to alienate the rest of the Internet world, the market is capable of rectifying the situation.

Cinema for the time challenged


In today's busy world, who can afford to waste several hours sitting in a cinema and watching a movie? The Movie-A-Minute page helps you avoid such useless activities while still picking up your dose of the cultural references we all need to make daily conversation viable. Dozens of cinematic masterpieces have been lovingly condensed to their very essence, leaving you to read only that material which is strictly necessary for the understanding of each filmic work.

As one example of this worthy effort, we present the definitive short guide to "The Godfather":

Marlon Brando: Those who cross the family must be punished. (almost dies) (dies)

Al Pacino: I'll run the family business straight now, after I kill all these people. THE END

It is difficult to underestimate the contribution to world culture made by this fine site.

Buzzword free zone


Chiefly famous for winning the Useless Site of the Year Award for 1998, this small but fascinating page boasts a number of silly Web tricks that will amuse propellerheads and confuse others. One of these toys is the clock-in-url: a blank Web page in which the Location bar gives the Greenwich Mean Time, updated every few seconds.

Be bad


It just wouldn't be Backbytes without essential information for evildoers, would it? Badvogato is a new community site run by villains, for villains. Basing itself on the successful software design community, Advogato.org, it provides a forum in which criminal masterminds can register, plot each other's downfall, and discuss Evil Plans to destroy or take over the world. Don't be bad without it.

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Aldis Ozols

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