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This week we look at useful sites — how you can learn Chinese
online, quickly and easily search millions of military and government
pages, and drive your computer in for a pit stop. We’ll also make a
couple of cyberstops at lighthearted websites. Hang on — we’re off to
explore the vast and never-dull Web World.

Vote for your favorites. Each year the Webbys — the Net’s
equivalent of filmdom’s Oscars — are awarded to websites that a panel
of judges considers the best in their category. But you, the ordinary
Web surfer, can also vote — for the People’s Voice awards, which are
awarded in the same 27 categories. And if you don’t like the five
nominees in any category — say if you’d like WorldNetDaily to win for
News — you can cast a write-in vote (but only if you register).

Seeing the weather on your computer. No, it’s not just for
those too engrossed in WND that they don’t want to take time to look out
the window. If you’d like to see current Doppler radar, weather cams and
satellite images of the weather just about anywhere (including Europe),
a reader recommends heading to Live Weather Images. It
even provides surf info.

Are you a quart low? Well, you can’t just pull into a
full-service PC station and ask the tech to check for you. Or can you?
Ed Farabaugh writes, “I recently ran into a website that provides an
extensive real-time analysis of your hardware and software (Windows).
Not only does PC Pitstop tell you
how to optimize your system, it also discovers potential Internet
security risks and tells you precisely what configuration changes to
make, or, if you wish, it will make many of them for you automatically.”
Ed’s right; you need to vroom right in.

For more advanced users. Along a similar line, I’ve been
collecting sites that provide utilities that help you speed up your
surfing — not as fast as a blazing new computer, of course, but better
than you’re currently doing:

The quick brown fox. … How’s your typing? If it could be
better, Easy Type has a free online
typing course that’s excellent. And even if your skills aren’t rusty,
consider this for your kids. Nowadays, it may be the only way they’ll
learn to type, a valuable computer skill. (You will, however, need to
enable session-only cookies.)

In the blink of an eye. Pretty in pink, I Dream of Jeannie: The Web
covers everything imaginable detail about the sitcom. Audio
clips, photos, games, discussions of episodes, mistakes, comparisons
between Jeannie and Bewitched, info on all the stars … the list is
almost never-ending. A trick to remember: If the home page is loading
very slowly, scroll to near the bottom of the page and click on “quick
blink menus.”

And the question is. … The online version of Jeopardy has a section for
students called College Jeopardy
. It’s for multiple as well as single players. Also at this
site are Wheel of Fortune
and Trivial

It’s Greek to me. So you want to learn to read, write or speak
Chinese? Dr. Tianwei Xie of California State University at Long Beach
makes it easy at Learning
Chinese Online
. Cantonese, Mandarin, characters, pronunciation —
everything is comprehensively covered. And even better, it’s extremely
well organized so you can head straight to the info you need most.

Needle in a haystack. Sometimes that’s what it seems like when
you’re trying to find information at a huge site or at a group of sites
with a common theme. Now there’s a search engine that has indexed more
than 1 million U.S. military pages and ranked them according to their
popularity. SearchMil.com also
gives you excerpts of each page it returns, so you can often tell
whether it’s what you want or not without actually trying every one.

The same people also run SearchGov.com, with sections divided
into executive agencies (Labor, State, etc.), state and local
government, and independent agencies (postal service and TVA, for

An even bigger effort is SearchEdu.com, which lets you search
more than 20 million university and education sites. And because
it includes a cached copy of each page, you don’t have to worry about
broken links.

Finding your way. When you need to know how to get from one
place to another, you’ve probably learned to access one of the Web’s map
sites. Usually we bookmark one and go back each time we need directions.
But is your mapping site the best? Staffers at the online version of Big World travel magazine tested a number of map
and rated them according to performance, speed and ease of
use. The top four (in order) were MapQuest, MapBlast, Maps on Us and Etak.com.

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