Start Me Up
Despite heavy competition from Microsoft, don't count Netscape out. It still produces an industrial-strength browser that's now free (http://www.netscape.com). And check out Business Journal (http://home.netscape.com/netcenter/businessjournal), Netscape's start page for businesses. Every ISP is scrambling to produce start pages rich with content--the prize is advertising dollars, and the biggest hit counts go to pages that automatically load when a user signs on.
Netscape is a keen player in this quest, and Business Journal is a winner. It's easily customizable, and with a few mouse clicks, you'll be greeted whenever you sign on with "My News" (your personal newspaper). A premium version ($3.95 per month) is available, but for many users, the free edition offers the right amount of information at just the right price.
Give It The Boot
What do you plan to do with that dusty 486DX computer cluttering your closet? Head to OnLine Exchange (http://www.uce.com), run by United Computer Exchange (UCE), and put it up for sale in a global Internet marketplace. How will you collect your cash? UCE handles that. For a fee based on a percentage of the sale (commissions vary from 10 percent to 15 percent), UCE advertises your computer's availability, then if you like an offer, UCE clears the credit card or check. In the meantime, you send the computer to UCE. You then get your cash, and the buyer gets the computer. It's a deal that takes a lot of the fear and uncertainty out of Net buying and selling.
How would you like to set up your own private Internet chat room--one that lets visitors click a "knock" button to see if you're in and, if you're not, just leave "stickies" that tell you they were there? Too complicated? Not with EarthLink's new Internet Rooms (http://www.earthlink.net/room), an all-in-one Web product that gives users private chat rooms.
Users can customize their rooms--Dilbert cartoons can be posted on "walls," for instance--but the real value is that it's a no-brainer way to set up an information kiosk about your business. EarthLink claims if you can use a keyboard and a mouse, you can set up a chat room. Check it out free for 30 days; thereafter, the cost is $29.95 annually. (EarthLink membership is also required; it costs $19.95 per month.)
Research says most of us remember words better than numbers. For a quick tool that can make your phone number more memorable, surf to phoneSpell (http://www.phonespell.org). Type in a phone number, and this free site returns various word forms that match your phone number. You can also test possibilities before asking the phone company for a new number that translates into just the words you want.
What A Find!
"I never find what I need on the Web." This ranks high among Net users' beefs. The Web is cluttered with junk, while the free search engines--Yahoo!, Lycos and the rest--are tricky to tweak to get the results you want. A better way to hunt is with Northern Light (http://www.northernlight.com), an exceptionally powerful and smart search tool that scours both the Web and a special collection of articles and reports culled from some 3,400 magazines, books, journals and news wires.
Searches of the Web are free. When you want to read material from the special collection, you're charged $1 to $4 per piece. Serious researchers will find that Electric Library (http://www.elibrary.com), at $59.95 per year for unlimited searches, is a better buy. But for infrequent researchers, Northern Light is a site worth a bookmark.
To contact Robert McGarvey, visit his Web site at http://members.aol.com/rjmcgarvey