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You can breathe a sigh of relief: Spending more than five hours a
week reading your e-mail and surfing the Net does not make you a
socially inept misfit.

You probably heard the news last week about the Stanford University
study that seemed to say just the opposite. As The Washington Post
summed it up: “The Internet is creating a class of people who … are so
solitary they can hardly be bothered to call Mom on her birthday.”

What you often didn’t learn — because the numbers were buried deep
in newspaper articles and rarely included in broadcast accounts — is
that all Netizens who are online more than five hours a week were being
called antisocial because 13 percent of their fellow surfers spend less
time with family and friends and 8 percent attend fewer social events.
Ah, come on.

(Another statistic from the study that you didn’t hear was about the
“digital divide” much trumpeted by Clinton and Gore. It turns that it’s
due mostly to education and age — not income, race or gender.)

The study also intimated that the fact that 84 percent of us
regularly use e-mail to communicate is somehow a bad thing. I’ll admit
that the person I heard of the other day who sent an electronic
condolence card has a problem. But long before there was an Internet,
there were plenty of people with bad judgment.

It turns out that the study’s methodology isn’t necessarily all that
scientific. Read the stinging indictment of it at href=http://ojr.usc.edu/content/ojc/commentary.cfm?request=333>online
journalism.com. And take time to click on the links — then you’ll be
really informed.

Bookmarking your bookmarks. If you’d like the convenience of
being able to access — and add to — your bookmarks no matter where you
are or what computer you’re hooked up to, several websites make it easy:

And while they aren’t as feature-rich as those mentioned, don’t
overlook the convenience of storing the URLs of your favorite websites
on any “my” sites that you already may be signed up for — href=http://www.my.yahoo.com>My Yahoo for instance. (We’ll be taking
a closer look at these sites next week.)

Whadda you do now? You push the button or flip the switch to
turn on your computer — and nothing happens. Or, just as disheartening,
you’re in the middle of a project when, all of a sudden, your screen
goes blank. Your hard drive has crashed.

We all know we should back up our important data — that’s what
floppies and Zip and Jaz drives are for, after all. But how many of us
do it with the regularity we know we should? Not many, I suspect.

I had an e-mail last week from another WND columnist who was just
recovering from a hard-disk crash and was now wondering if there were
free sites on the Web where she could store data and keep her bookmarks
— just in case this unlovely experience happened again sometime.

There are, and they’re useful for more than emergencies. Online data
storage is handy for college students, road warriors, work groups or
committees whose members aren’t in the same location, even people who
take work home at night and find that they wish they had the same
information on their home computer as on the one they use at work. Also
for anyone who bought a cute little iMac and then discovered how
limiting its lack of a floppy disk drive can be.

Choosing the right site from among the various places that will keep
data for you comes down to how you use your computer and your level of
expertise, plus how much data — and what kind — you need to store. The
following possibilities are listed by the amount of data they store —
with the largest first and the least at the bottom. But that doesn’t
mean the last ones on the list aren’t as good as those at the top.
Actually, they may be better for your particular needs. This is a
situation where it pays to visit several of the sites, see how easy
navigation is, read the FAQ files and especially the privacy and
security statements, and then give one of them a trial. If it doesn’t
work well for you, try another. After all, they’re free.

  • X:Drive, up to 100 MB of
    data, including audio, movie, MP3 and multimedia.

  • eTunnels, 50 MB,
    including MP3.

  • Just On, 50 MB. (This loaded very
    slowly every time I visited the site.)

  • Mydocs Online, 20
    MB.

  • Visto, 15 MB. You can
    organize your material into e-mail, calendar, address book and file
    storage. Coming soon: wireless access.

Prepaid storage. There are also companies that will backup
your data online — often automatically — for a fee. Usually they store
larger amounts of data than the free services. href=http://www.backup.com>@backup, for instance charges $100-$300
yearly, but allows a 30-day free trial. The pricing for href=http://www.unissen.com/main.html>Unissen’s Net Backup is $19.95
per month or $200 a year. And herf=http://www45.visto.com/login.html?>Visto, mentioned above, will
sell you 25 MB blocks of space for $25.

If you’ve had good or bad experiences with online storage — free or
otherwise — I’d like to hear about it. Let me know by href="mailto:lowejudy@yahoo.com">e-mail.

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