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Published 02-Nov-2000
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webDotWiz Column: 02-Nov-2000


  Christmas Shopping Online  

E-tailers are expecting Internet shopping to total about $US12 billion this Christmas ($US7bn last year). But it would be wise to do some homework before adding your money to that total.

You can look up some answers to questions such as: Is it safe? What makes a site secure? How can I tell? How do I pay? in an article appropriately titled "Everything you need to know to shop smartly online".

Other information to look for at a site you're considering to buy from is whether the business also has a traditional shopfront; whether it's a large, respectable e-tailer or a small e-tailer. Regardless, there should be a phone number and email address, a privacy policy and a returns policy. Another practical point is delivery time. As a measure, webDotWiz ordered a couple of books from the USA - these were delivered to Rushworth within 5 days of ordering (delivery cost, including air freight, was $US10).

Finally, if you want to buy from overseas, particularly from the USA, check with your bank on the current exchange rate (the market rate and bank rate aren't necessarily the same) that you'll be charged on your credit card.

  Family Trees  

The Internet has become a valuable resource for those interested in drawing up their family tree. It's always an interesting exercise to trace back through the history of our ancestors.

You'll find that you can obtain a great deal of information at no charge, but some sites charge a fee for accessing databases of births and marriages for example. However, you'll be able to do a fair bit of work for yourself.

To get a start at a site such as Family Tree (www.familytree.com>, just enter the first and last names of a family member and you'll be presented with links to associated sources of information.

Family Tree also has a comprehensive list of sites dealing with family and genealogical links, such as Ancestry.com which gives you access to 600 million records, has free membership and features a surname community.

  Music Magazines Online  

Trying to keep up with what your favourite group is doing? Want to know where they'll be playing? Or, perhaps, you're into the more technical side of music?

You'll find plenty of magazines online and the main attraction might be that you can browse some that aren't available in Australia for news, previews and reviews that you'd otherwise miss. CNet Music has recently reviewed an extensive list of magazine sites with a handy description of what each magazine offers.

To start with, try Billboard-online where there's daily music news, charts, tours, columns and "this day in music" to stir your knowledge of the history of music.

For the technically minded who want to create music and find out where to get the latest sequencers and other plug-ins for PC or Mac music software, take a look at the UK magazine, Computer Music. This magazine site also has available many MIDI samples for free download on a monthly basis.

  Make Music  

There's now a deluxe version of PCDJ - not only can you mix, but you can record anything, including any mixes you make. PCDJ Deluxe is not free but it may have features you consider worth paying for (less than $US30). There's a professional MP3 ripper and any mixes you make using its dual-player can be saved.

Another audio tool you might want to experiment with is Pro Tools. This application is a music sequencer enabling you to edit and mix. It can handle 8 channel audio, as well as having a MIDI sequencer and graphic MIDI editor. With all the necessary functions to create music and being free, Pro Tools is worth considering if you're looking at moving into the area of music composition. Before downloading, though, check the system requirements; because Pro Tools works in real-time, your computer needs be highly specced.

If you want to further investigate audio tools, then the following are well-known to professionals: Steinberg's Wavelab 3, Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge, Cool Edit Pro, Cubase, Logic Audio and Cakewalk Professional.

  Completely Different  

An ISP is working with the US Government to trial an early warning system for severe weather conditions. Early warning for typhoons and so on in the US is currently done via TV - a red popup box and tone are transmitted as necessary. You can try out the Internet version at the participating ISP's site.

webDotWiz has found the ultimate printer. Feed it a 3D CAD file of some design or other and the Z402 3D printer transforms it into a working model. At the manufacturer's web site, you can see some amazing examples of what is "printed". Now, how many years would it take to pay it off at $1/week for 150,000 weeks?

  webDotWiz Surprises  

Napster for the Mac is now available from Napster's site. As a guide to using Napster on your Mac, see CNet's Music section for step-by-step instructions.

Chess players have probably learnt some new plays after visiting the Grandmaster site. If you'd like to develop more tactical play, download Chess Geek's screensaver to watch great games from the past. The Chess Geek site also has news and reviews, puzzles and software.

While mentioning screensavers, you might like to download the latest Harry Potter screensaver.

You might like to look at the new MSN Explorer, the interface that aims to help you and your family handle all your Web tasks: browsing, email, chat and calendar from one place. Although designed for subscribers to MSN in the USA, Explorer can also be used with other ISPs. Just reading the review might give you a few ideas and see how our Web experience could be made easier from our desktop.

 
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