NETSURFER DIGEST
More Signal, Less Noise
Volume 04, Issue 37
Saturday, December 19, 1998

NETSURFER LINKS
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Netsurfer Science E-Zine
BREAKING SURF
Gulf Conflict at Jane's
President Clinton Impeached, Speaker Elect Livingston Resigns
Doubtful Divx
Disney and Infoseek's Go Network Available for Preview
Mars: NASA Runs Contest to Name Polar Lander Probes
Palm Pilot Cracks Cars, Hacks Phones
Number 46 with a Bullet!
Cleaning out the Mailbox Again
ONLINE CULTURE
Real Life, Real Stories, RealVideo
Greeting Card Wars: Blue Mountain vs. Microsoft
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Look, Don't Read
Colorful Cartoon Characters
BOOKS & E-ZINES
Netsurfer Book Recommendations
E-Mail We Process So You Don't Have to - But Here It Is Anyway
Event Horizon
Gertie Was Quite a Gal
Striving for the Show
SURFING SCIENCE
The Wright Brothers' Flights of Inspiration
Baxter Embiggens Breasts
Bone up on Your Dinosaurs
Stereoscopic Dinosaurs
A Spot for Decompression
Living in a Genetically Modified World
Zookeeping
SOFTWARE
Corel Releases WordPerfect for Linux
Symantec Releases Visual Cafe 3.0
COMMUNITY SUPPORT
Team SETI Wants You
CORRECTIONS
Ozark Avalon Leaves the Inner Sanctum
OTHER LINKS
BOOK REVIEWS
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Contact and Subscription Information
Credits


BREAKING SURF

Gulf Conflict at Jane's

With weapons flying above and into the Middle East yet again, what better place to visit than Jane's. Long considered the authoritative guide to military hardware, Jane's was founded by Fred T. Jane ("He can be expected to go a long way," observed one of his masters at Exeter, "in one direction or another.") who turned a magazine assignment to sketch the German and English fleets into the definitive guide to the world's fighting ships. Today, Jane's keeps track of military and intelligence affairs around the globe. Click on the Defense link for a special feature on the Gulf crisis - a refreshingly military-focused alternative to the anemic major media coverage. Serious war hardware buffs may also want to check out the phallically significant Jane's Missiles and Rockets. And all who think Iraq is just an innocent victim of Clinton's desire to remain president ought to read "How Saddam Almost Built His Bomb".
Jane's: http://www.janes.com/
Missiles: http://jmr.janes.com/
Bomb: http://www.janes.com/defence/features/iraq/jir9712.html

President Clinton Impeached, Speaker Elect Livingston Resigns

There's nothing we could add to this story that you haven't already heard so we're not going to waste your time. The media coverage is overwhelming. Yahoo has links to just about all the major domestic coverage on one page. The official US House of Representatives Web site, with the roll call of who and how they voted, can't be reached.
Yahoo: http://headlines.yahoo.com/FC/US/Intern/
House: http://clerkweb.house.gov/evs/1998/index.asp

Doubtful Divx

In a nice piece of investigative journalism, Wired has uncovered some pretty strong circumstantial evidence that Circuit City or someone associated with them may have created a bogus "fan" site for the Divx video technology. Circuit City backs Divx, basically a DVD video disk with a time-out feature - you can only view the disk for 48 hours after you buy it unless you pay-per-view again. From the customer's point of view, it's a solution in search of a problem, with some privacy implications thrown in. Not surprisingly, consumers aren't buying it. Wired found two Web sites ostensibly created by Divx fans, but suspiciously corporate in mindset. Content that could only have been created by a clueless marketing department, an address suspiciously close to Circuit City headquarters, and over-inflated claims of site popularity - backed by some anonymous hacking - make a pretty good case for some underhanded marketing. It's an entertaining story.
Story: http://www.wired.com/news/news/culture/story/16889.html
Followup: http://www.wired.com/news/news/culture/story/16923.html

Disney and Infoseek's Go Network Available for Preview

This portal site resembles any other, except that Disney backs it up and it's decorated in a blue motif. Infoseek provides the back-end Net search engine for this venture, while Disney children ABC and ESPN provide the usual shallow news headlines. It comes together as kind of a combination between the front page of a newspaper and a compilation of major commercial links. So what distinguishes the Go Network from Yahoo, Excite, and others? Like we said, nothing but the colors and the massive Disney marketing machine - which may make a difference. Is it only us or did all those portal sites have their soul sucked out of them by men in grey suits?
http://www.go.com/

Mars: NASA Runs Contest to Name Polar Lander Probes

The assault on Mars continued with last week's launch of the Climate Orbiter. This spacecraft is part of the Mars Surveyor 98 mission, which includes the Polar Lander scheduled to blast off Jan. 3. The Orbiter will map the atmosphere and serve as a communications relay for the Lander. The Lander contains several neat payloads. A microphone, funded without cost to NASA by the Planetary Society, will record atmospheric sounds which will be posted on the Web. The Lander will also release two microprobes on approaching the planet. The probes will crash into the Martian surface at about 200 m/s and penetrate a couple of meters into the soil. NASA is running a contest to name the probes - you have until Apr. 30 to enter.
Climate Orbiter: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msp98/orbiter/
Mission: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msp98/
Lander: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msp98/lander/
Contest: http://nmp.jpl.nasa.gov/ds2/contest/index.html

Palm Pilot Cracks Cars, Hacks Phones

New Scientist magazine reports that PalmPilot PDAs with an infrared port can unlock certain keyless-entry car doors. And Wired brought to our attention a Canadian hacking site, Hack Canada, that has posted a red box program for the PalmPilot. A red box is a device or program that lets you make free phone calls from certain public phones by fooling the phone into thinking you've deposited coins. It looks like a fine demonstration of the old adage we just made up: Computing power is real power. New Scientist:
http://www.newscientist.com/cgi-bin/pageserver.cgi?/ns/981205/newsstory6.html W
ired: http://www.wired.com/news/news/technology/story/16775.html
Hack Canada: http://www.hackcanada.com/palmphreak/index.html

Number 46 with a Bullet!

Yahoo Internet Life, a paper mag, published its list of Best of the Best Sites '98 in its January 1999 issue. We found ourselves 46th on the list, tagged as the Best Way to Keep Up With New Sites. The issue's not online, but you can find us on page 142.
http://www.zdnet.com/yil/

Cleaning out the Mailbox Again

With this last issue of 1998, we have an ecology-inspired Letters to the Editor. See ya next year.
http://www.netsurf.com/nsd/letters/letter.04.37.html

ONLINE CULTURE

Real Life, Real Stories, RealVideo

Real life imitates Hollywood. The recent "The Truman Show" told the story of a man whose entire life was broadcast on television. RealNetworks took a slice from show business and ran a contest in which people vied to be subjects of the camera's never-blinking eye for a day. RealNetworks has chosen the three winners and posted the short video clips they submitted on its Web site. The grand prize winner, a blind computer programmer from Las Vegas who does stand-up comedy and gets into sword fights at the local Renaissance Club - we're not making this up - gets $50,000 and maximum online exposure in RealVideo format. His day-in-the-life video will be broadcast online Jan. 1.
Press Release: http://www.real.com/company/pressroom/pr/98/winners.html
Real Life: http://www.real.com/reallife/

Greeting Card Wars: Blue Mountain vs. Microsoft

Every other day somebody seems to file a new lawsuit against Microsoft. Normally, the suits are about as exciting as the fine print on a software license, but this one has a certain seasonal touch that piqued our interest. Blue Mountain publishes electronic postcards online, big business this time of year. Microsoft also recently entered the business of sending electronic postcards. When Microsoft released the beta of Internet Explorer 5.0, its e-mail client was set up to classify Blue Mountain cards as "junk" and toss them automatically into the "junk mail" folder. Around the same time in November, WebTV, a Microsoft subsidiary, suddenly blocked subscribers from receiving Blue Mountain postcards. Coincidence? Are Blue Mountain cards spam or not? And should Microsoft decide for you? Enjoy the filing.
http://www1.bluemountain.com/home/bluemountain_vs_Microsoft.html

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Look, Don't Read

Joseph Cornell has a lot to answer for. The aesthetic of his boxes, filled with fragments of maps, stuffed birds, and jars of sand, have had an inadequately examined influence on the imagery infusing CD-ROMs and artistic Web sites - conceptually, the same sort of box. Cornell had no access to RealAudio, so his objects, perhaps wisely, remained silent. Studio Cleo, with its scraps of faded handwriting, Dead Can Dance sound clips, and textured rock walls, is a pixelled epigone of Mr. Cornell. Stay away from any of Studio Cleo's text - no one who thinks the Latin tag "et in Arcadia ego" refers to happy days gone by is to be trusted - and stick with the images. Even so, there's a lot of solid work here, both digital and physical. The designer looks like a talented worker in a number of materials, and much time can be spent peeking into the various compartments of her online box.
http://members.tripod.com/~StudioCleo/

Colorful Cartoon Characters

To lure a small person away from trashy TV, try some genuinely fun, creative learning. The people at Educational Web Adventures have designed interactive games to teach art to kids age 8 and older. Cartoon characters have adventures which introduce great artists and their masterpieces. One page explains the color wheel and explores color theory, leading a player to use that knowledge to click on the correctly configured wheel from among a group. Lesson plans are posted for teachers. Great fun, whether you color inside or outside the lines.
http://www.sanford-artedventures.com/

BOOKS & E-ZINES


Netsurfer Book Recommendations

Books our staff likes and you might too. Click on the cover or title to order the books at a hefty discount from Amazon.com and send a few pennies our way as well.

Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester
Alfred Bester, Robert Silverberg (Introduction), Byron Preiss, Keith R.
Vintage Books; ISBN: 0679767835

Take a rip-roaring romp through the mind of one of the best stylists of early science fiction. Alfred Bester (1913-1987) was by far the most inventive of the first wave of SF writers, deservedly winning the very first Hugo award for his seminal work, "The Dem olished Man". These stories dazzle you with fast wit and sharply etched images, and never let you catch your breath. Some aspects of the stories appear a bit dated now - and more charming for it - but these tales, state-of-the-art writing 30 years ago, still manage to enthrall. Lots of fun.



Secrets of Successful Web Sites: Project Management on the World Wide Web
David S. Siegel
Hayden Books; ISBN: 1568303823

The prolific David Siegel gives us another great book about the harsh realities of creating complex and successful Web sites. The book dissects 15 high-profile Web projects and extracts hard lessons about immature technology, the perils of unreliable contractors, clueless clients, and the finer points of bidding for projects. If you're anywhere beyond "Hey, we know HTML - let's start a Web page business," you need this book.



Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ
Peter Gabriel
Uni/Geffen; ASIN: B000000OR5

Need an alternative to the annoying holiday music you hear in department stores, elevators, and interminable family gatherings? Try this inventive, passionate, atmospheric, and occasionally disturbing work. Turn down the ligths, gaze at the stars, and become haunted. Your religion is irrelevant to the enjoyment of this album - this is high art.



E-Mail We Process So You Don't Have to - But Here It Is Anyway

"Dear Sirs; I would like to submit a short science fiction story of 5 women who attempt to colonize a star and solve a problem with rheumatoid arthritis with potassium supplements." Take a stiff drink or three and enjoy.
http://members.tripod.com/~charles_W/gigolo.html

Event Horizon

If you've ever wondered about science fiction, fantasy or horror writing, then Event Horizon will fill in any gaps with its provocative analysis and challenging commentary. Lucius Shepard's views on recent SF offerings ("generally speaking these novels are populated by characters with no more personality than styrofoam peanuts"), for example, look into the development of thriller/detective novels from traditional SF. Interviews and online chats with prominent writers (Neil Gaiman, Kim Stanley Robinson), a healthy slab of reviews, online fiction, and info on authors and publishers make you wonder why you ever bothered reading anything that even vaguely resembled sober reality.
http://www.e-horizon.com/eventhorizon/

Gertie Was Quite a Gal

"I am writing for myself and strangers. This is the only way that I can do it...." The World of Gertrude Stein Web site pays tribute to the author extraordinaire. Learn about Gertrude's response to the fame that came with "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas", savor clever quotes about her life with Alice ("Alice does know how to make everything be something, we get along fine."), and remember, "a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."
http://www.ionet.net/~jellenc/gstein1.html

Striving for the Show

Most e-zines have a section called Rant, or something similar. Impression is no different, but it would be a mistake to think that rants are confined to the section by that name. Someone's always discovering that this season's sitcoms suck, or that good bands are inadequately appreciated, while bad ones are overhyped. Impression, funded by the University of Missouri School of Journalism, even has someone who does Mark Leyner lite for the Web. There's more promise than performance here, but, hey, how much are you paying for it? In Impression, you'll find about 40 percent rock criticism, ten percent coming-of-age angst, 30 percent kvetching, and 20 percent stuff that might lead to something. Who among the writers will make it, so that you can say you read them when? Who will vanish like an unarchived Web page? You puts down your clicks and you takes your choice.
http://www.impressionmag.com/

SURFING SCIENCE

The Wright Brothers' Flights of Inspiration

"We had taken up aeronautics merely as a sport. We reluctantly entered upon the scientific side of it." So say the Wright Brothers about their early efforts to perfect a flying machine. The richly detailed and superbly illustrated story of their work is part of this new Franklin Institute online exhibit. The thrifty brothers used scraps of wallpaper to jot down notes, and here are the fragments, pasted as pictures on the Web. Images of their notebooks complement the excerpts woven through the exhibit's narrative. While no blueprints of the Wright's flyer exist, their early sketches - difficult to display in a museum due to their fragile condition but easily distributed online - survive. There's much more, including excellent resources for teachers and students. It won't take you long to cruise through this fine site, but we guarantee that you'll enjoy it.
http://www.fi.edu/flights/

Baxter Embiggens Breasts

You say you've always wondered how, exactly, they make breasts bigger? Let Dr. Richard Baxter talk you and your strong stomach through an edited movie of an actual breast augmentation surgery, originally sent out live over the Web. His discussion is succinct and informative. Hear Dr. Baxter describe, in a benignly sorrowful tone, how the pre-op breast "wouldn't fill an A cup". Then, watch the incision along the edge of the areola (conceals the scar), the insertion of the bag under the muscle (Dr. Baxter's preferred placement), and the slow inflation of the breast as saline is pumped in. Weirdly miraculous - this particular segment is probably on infinite loop on a screen in a club somewhere. In a few minutes, you're eye to eye with two perky hemispheroids. Reflect that you live in the most wondrous of centuries.
http://www.baxterplasticsurgery.com/live.htm

Bone up on Your Dinosaurs

The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History's Department of Paleobiology has put together a Web site to serve as a virtual tour of the museum's dinosaur collection, now on exhibit. The site displays less than 40 of the 1500 specimens, but it offers a solid overview of the collection. You can choose to view the fossils grouped by time period, by alphabetical listing, or by body type. Check out the most common misconceptions about dinosaurs and be sure to peek behind the scenes to get a glimpse of what it's like to be a paleobiologist.
http://www.nmnh.si.edu/paleo/dino/

Stereoscopic Dinosaurs

Dinosaur predators had binocular vision and could see in 3-D. Since the largest dinosaur carnivores had eyes further apart than ours (and probably yours), they could see in 3-D at a much greater distance than we can. The Stereoscopic Dinosaur site has, in thematic reversal, several images of dinosaurs you can view in 3-D. You have to cross your eyes just right to make them pop out of your screen. A brief discussion of 3-D visual devices of the past (Stereopticons! Viewmasters!) accompanies this. All cute, but the images are huge, so if your pipe is small, you'll be waiting until the next mass extinction event for a dino to leer at you.
http://www.dinosaur.org/3ddino.htm

A Spot for Decompression

The Society for Underwater Exploration's Web site teems with information on underwater excavations. From the front page, you can find out about their current expedition to the ancient city of Alexandria or a past expedition to the lost galleon, the San Diego. If you think archaeology in a desert takes a long time, check out this tidbit from the San Diego section. It effectively takes one person nearly six hours to clear one square meter of the underwater site. A diver works 30 or 40 minutes on the bottom, during which he excavates the meter, then requires an hour of underwater decompression and four hours of rest before diving again. If you're curious as to what it's like and have RealVideo installed, you can watch a clip from the Discovery Channel of divers at work in the harbor of Alexandria.
http://www.underwaterdiscovery.org/

Living in a Genetically Modified World

New Scientist's highly acclaimed Planet Science site offers a special report on genetic modification and future shock. "Even though GM (genetically modified) crops do not spell disaster for wildlife and the developing world, their impact is unlikely to be wholly benign." Covering topics as diverse as agricultural biochemistry, resistance genes, and engineered crops in the Third World, this page provides an exhaustive look at the issues surrounding genetic modification. Follow the search for the blue rose and you'll get more than you bargained for, a delightful and ever present aspect of any edition of New Scientist.
http://gmworld.newscientist.com/

Zookeeping

Abby's Keeper's Page brims with wonderful pictures and profiles of zoo animals, as you might expect, but it also contains much more. Abby's been a keeper for seven years now, and she has many experiences to share. She has created a great quiz that tests knowledge of everything from animal lifespans to country of origin to eyeball identity. We liked "So You Want to Be a Zookeeper", in which Abby runs down her typical daily schedule. It's enough to scare off anyone who requires caffeination to move in the mornings. Just in case the daily schedule doesn't frighten you off, Abby also posts a list of things you can do to prepare to become a zookeeper. It's a terrific site with kids in mind.
http://members.aol.com/abbie555/index.html

SOFTWARE

Corel Releases WordPerfect for Linux

WordPerfect was the dominant word processing program until the formidable Microsoft marketing machine made Microsoft Word triumphant. In another sign of how far Linux has come as a viable alternative to Windows, Corel has made the program available for that platform, offering a free downloadable version for non-commercial use, a personal use edition for $70, and a jazzed up server edition for $495. With this release, Corel, one of the big names in PC software, clearly signals that Linux is beginning to register on the larger companies' fiscal horizons. If you use Linux and want an alternative to Emacs and vi, you'll want to check this out.
http://linux.corel.com/linux8/index.htm

Symantec Releases Visual Cafe 3.0

The Cafe line is the best selling integrated Java development environment on the market. Symantec just rolled out a revision of the software package that features support for Java 2 (formerly known as JDK 1.2). They've also added support for JFC/Swing, JavaBeans, Servlets, and tossed in over 200 JavaBeans for your development pleasure. If you buy before Feb. 28, expect to pay the competitive price of $149 for the professional edition and $400 for the database edition. As usual, the Web site has more information.
http://www.visualcafe.com/vcafe30.html

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Team SETI Wants You

This time of year, we get many requests for contributions to one cause or another. Of all the pleas for help we've gotten this year, this has to be the coolest. The privately funded SETI Institute took over the search for extraterrestrial intelligence when the US government cut funding for the project in 1993. The Institute is asking for your membership to help keep the search going. Just think how you'll feel when they manage to contact some intelligent slime mold from Antares and you realize you could have been a part of it for a measly $35. Do you really want to take the chance on missing out on such a historic opportunity? We thought not. Besides, there are pins, clothes, and newsletters to be had. Surely there are many worse ways to blow 35 bucks.
http://www.teamseti.org/

CORRECTIONS

Ozark Avalon Leaves the Inner Sanctum

We covered Ozark Avalon in 1997's Halloween issue, NSD 3.35. Although the "pagan land sanctuary" still ies by the Missouri River, its Internet manifestation has moved.
http://www.pagans.org/ozarkavalon

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CREDITS
Publisher: Arthur Bebak
Editor: Lawrence Nyveen
Contributing Editor:
Production Manager: Bill Woodcock
Copy Editor: Elvi Dalgaard

Netsurfer Communications, Inc.

  • President: Arthur Bebak
  • Vice President: S.M. Lieu

Writers and Netsurfers:
  • Sue Abbott
  • Regan Avery
  • Kirsty Brooks
  • Marshall Camp
  • Judith David
  • Joanne Eglash
  • Alex Jablokow
  • Elizabeth Rollins
  • Kenneth Schulze
  • Gavian Whishaw

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