Web review

Search Engine Watch

www.searchenginewatch.com

This site is dedicated to finding and using the sites that help you find and use stuff on the Net. It hosts a comprehensive list of search engines and explanatory articles on how to use them, as well as a guide to getting the best placement for your own Web page on search engines around the world. Other site features include a handy listing of ways to find out what terms people are searching for on the Web, and information about how major search engines rank pages.

NASA Fireworks

space.com/news/spacehistory/rocket_fireworks_000701.html

Space.com is a site dedicated to news about space exploration, and it also hosts a number of video clips. Among these are some fine "rocket bloopers" collected onto one page. If you have a fast broadband connection, you can entertain yourself by watching millions of dollars worth of hardware going up in smoke.

Entertainmentlink.net

www.entertainmentlink.net

Want something special for your next party or event? How about a live entertainer? Now you can choose from a smorgasbord of popular Australian performers, from one convenient Web site. Some can be booked directly from the site itself, while others can be reached through links to their agents or home pages.

Names like comedian Jimeoin and music biz personality Molly Meldrum appear on this site, which also covers ancillaries like exhibition centres and catering services. Though still new, Entertainmentlink.net has the potential to become a comprehensive starting point for anyone who wants to organise an entertaining social event.

OpenCulture

www.openculture.org

The rise of programs such as Napster and Gnutella has given rise to a dilemma: everybody likes to get something for free, but most realise that artists deserve to get paid for their work.

OpenCulture hopes to solicit donations from book and music fans, which in turn will be used to pay their favourite artists to produce more work. The finished products will then be placed into the public domain after the artists have been paid, making them freely available for everyone. In this way, the organisers hope, all players will win (except for record company executives, but everyone hates them anyway). Relying on donations may sound like a shaky business model, but an early experiment by author Stephen King showed that it is in fact possible to make it work.

Wicked Wines

www.wickedwines.com.au

Set up to promote its own custom-bottled wines, sold under the names of "Lust", "Greed" and "Envy", this site takes a fun approach to the promotion of its products. Aimed primarily at women, Wicked Wines hosts a variety of wicked party game ideas (and an interactive spin-the-bottle game), as well as a fascinating "Wicked Moments" page, where readers can confess their misdeeds and others "can vote on how bad they've been. This site is a lot more fun than run-of-the-mill marketing promotions, so much so that it took me a while to work out what they were actually selling.

Comic Relief

www.sluggy.com; www.gpf-comics.com; www.dotcomix.com

Is your Christmas lacking in ho-ho-ho? Then you might need a dose of some of the excellent daily comics available on the Web. There are hundreds available, some to suit every taste.

Sluggy Freelance is a cult phenomenon, its unlikely heroes (including a cute but homicidal bunny rabbit and his arch-enemy Santa Claus) fumbling and fighting their way through a maze of pop-culture and sci-fi references. It's well drawn and well-plotted, occasionally gory and considerably funny if you like that sort of thing.

GPF Comics is for the nerds among us. Focusing on the adventures of the employees of a small software company (named GPF after Windows' most dreaded error message), it's full of geeky in-jokes and technical references that most people won't get.

Dotcomix has broader appeal, with some popular favourites like Dilbert and Duke from Doonesbury among its stable, as well as original comics of its own. The difference is that all the Dotcomix are animated and have voice-overs instead of talk bubbles. Using a downloadable Pulse media player, 3D animated cartoon characters move and talk in a window on your browser.

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