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Published 15-Mar-2001
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All this week's Wiz!

  Technical Support  

The type of support a home user or small business owner is looking for will be quite different than the system administrator of a large network. However help is available, whether it be to get more value out of a software package or operating system by making better use of features, or to solve some type of problem.

A great deal of support for the home user is free. For example, if you're an MS Office user, the Office site has many templates as free downloads to make your work easier. Or there are a whole range of articles describing how to get more out of Windows or help you solve problems.

For anybody involved in development work - programming, building networks, web development and so on - there are two huge resources: the MS TechNet program and the Microsoft Developer Network Online Library.

The TechNet program is a subscription service available at different levels of need; anybody running BackOffice, for example, should be a subscriber to this service. The MSDN Library consists of over 250,000 pages in all areas and if you're a developer, you're probably already referring to the .NET framework section. But even if you're at home and just want to know more about writing web pages, you'll find lots here or at the MSDN Workshop.

  MIDI on Your Site  

Music is a welcome enhancement to your web site to add atmosphere. MIDI music files are small in size and download quickly compared to other music file formats, so they are quite practical to use.

However, if you want MIDI music on your site, respect your visitors' musical tastes. For one thing, don't let a music title loop forever. It's possible if you're aiming your site at Internet Explorer visitors to provide a stop button when you're using the bgsound element to control your MIDI music.

Another way of letting your visitors control the music is to use the Windows Media Player. You can catch up on how to use it in web pages at MSDN's interactive media section. webWiz has a very simple sample for you to try where he's using a playlist and you can use WMP's stop, pause and play buttons for control.

Microsoft promoted their Interactive Music Control until a couple of years ago. The IMC enabled a webmaster to provide an extensive music experience by being able to have the music react to such events as a user clicking a link. As an example, an online game could be enhanced by different music titles playing at different stages of the game or a music piece's rhythm changed to enhance the current mood of the gameplay. Read more about the (former) Interactive Music Control by clicking here.

  MP3 Downloads  

It's probably a good time to review sites that offer legal MP3 music titles for free download or at a cost. The best place to begin is at Listen.com. Here you can search for your favourite title, artist or group across all genres. From the list that's provided as a result of your search, you can look for free titles. Not only will MP3s be included, but music in other formats as well.

If you're looking for free downloads, you may have to choose titles from alternative artists that Listen.com suggests. Once you've made your choice, you'll be pointed to the particular download site. Often when you first download, you'll be asked to register by giving an email address. This is a good opportunity to use an address such as yourname@webdotwiz.zzn.com to receive the download site's newsletters without cluttering up your normal mail.

A cautionary note if you're using one of the many file-swapping services (peer-to-peer networking, to use the jargon). Realise that you're opening up your hard drive to everybody else using the service and a malicious user could gain access to other areas of data on your drive. So you should take precautions by using a software firewall such as Zone Alarm to prevent damage.

Note that webMusic has been updated with more MP3 download sites. Included are sites catering for all genres as well as specialist sites in jazz, reggae, classical and folk.

  Amateur Scientists  

We all have a favourite screensaver decorating our desktop. But why not use some of those computer cycles to take part in all sorts of experiments with little or no work on your part?

In most cases you only need to download some software which churns through some data in the background. The program then uploads this data next time you're online.

You can choose from a whole range of activities, from looking for extraterrestrial life to building virtual robots to aiding the design of new genomes.

  Game Fudges  

webWiz is always trying to keep you gamers happy. The Free Games Portal at www.ingava.com is always worth visiting from time to time because of so many free games. If you've passed 10,000 points in Windows Solitaire, for example, it might be time to try PySol which offers 298 different versions of solitaire.

Perhaps PC Play will be the site you've been wanting to know about to help you solve that game which has had you on the computer far longer than is good for your own well-being! Yes, there are plenty of tricks, hints and tips! Oh, but life isn't that easy - PC Play is in German!

  webSnippets  

A couple of weeks ago, ABC Four Corners dealt with Australia's use of water. Four Corners online complements this program with a transcript and the opportunity for further interactive research into the subject.

A reminder that you can access newsgroups in your web browser by visiting the Usenet Newsgroups site at http://groups.google.com, formerly known as www.deja.com. This may be a more convenient method than using a dedicated newsreader such as Outlook Express or give you access to groups which your ISP doesn't provide.

 
 
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