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Published 24-May-2001
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All this week's Wiz!


As soon as you join a mailing list or read posts in a Usenet newsgroup, you come across posts containing all sorts of abbreviations. One type of abbreviation is known as the "smilie", first used in about 1980 by Scott Fahlman; those were the days when plain, simple text was all that could be displayed on a screen.

If you're wondering what all those smilies mean, then, visit the Unofficial Smiley Dictionary site. The basic smiley is written as :-). To "view" it, tip your head to the left and imagine the colon as the person's eyes, the hyphen as nose and the curly bracket represents a smile. So sad is written as :( and happy is :).

There are also a number of acronymns you'll see in posts and they're recognised officially, so to speak: AFAIK (as far as I know), BTW (by the way), IMHO (in my humble opinion; more discreet than IMO), TIA (thanks in advance), <g> funny (little grin), <G> very funny (large grin).

Cheer up!        Ohhhh

  Have a Debate  

Someimes there's nothing like a good, rational debate to sharpen one's thoughts. Visit The Fence to join in one of many current debates or start your own if none of those interest you.

Perhaps you just want to express an opinion. Well, there are plenty of sites described as "web loggers" where your thoughts are instantly published on the Web, one being Blogger. Metafilter is a similar type of site where it's community members discuss items of interest they find on the Web.

  Your Business on the Web  

Reading between the lines of some writers' comments on the dotcom busts on the stock exchanges, webWiz got the impression that these writers were hoping this "internet-thing" would soon be finished, e-commerce would be history and traditional business could then cheerfully carry on as if nothing had happened. Of course, those of you already using the Internet know only too well how important the 'Net has become for business, in particular small business.

Now webWiz is not advising you to go out and spend lots of money to build a web site to support your business. In fact, just the opposite because there are plenty of free resources on the Web to enable you to build your site - your only cost will be some time for the initial setup.

At the outset, don't worry about incorporating payments at your site (this service costs you money!) but concentrate on how you'll present your content. This is where you'll find lots of freedom to clearly explain your business and go into detail with regard to the goods and/or services you offer. Remember that potential customers will be looking for contact details (your physical address, phone number, email address), your policy on return goods and a privacy policy.

There's plenty of reading for you in this week's sites and a list of sample sites worth visiting. Finally, next time you're online, do a search on the goods/services your business sells to see what others are doing! If you haven't any competitors online, be there first!

  Music Converter  

Every now and then webWiz is pleased with himself when he finds some good, free utilities on the Web. The first that he's discovered since the last column is a music converter program called dBpowerAMP ( which converts WAV files to MP3s.

In other words, if you've got sounds or music in WAV format, you can compress them to MP3 (recall that the MP3 format gives sizes about one-tenth the original). dMC comes with an audio CD input plugin and has a number of other plugins, too, for download. Good information, dealing with codecs, using the program and the audio CD input plugin, is part of the installation. Online, Spoon's audio guide is a good reference for those of you working with audio files and CDs.

  Web Tools  

One tool webWiz has finally come across is a simple graphic button-maker, this one being called xButton (a free download from GreenMojo). Although the current version lacks any help, those of you who have used a graphics program will find your way around.

Using layers for background, bevel, text and image means various properties of each can be set independently. The background layer can consist of an image and images can be added to the button in the image layer. The bevel layer enables your buttons to have a 3D look. Various special effects, such as shadow or gradient colouring, are available to enhance your text. Both images and text can be positioned to your needs. Once you've created your button, save it as an xButton file then export it in JPEG image format for use on your web site.

Image formats, either as background or to be inserted as part of the button, are currently restricted to JPEG. One limitation in the current version, though, is the lack of a full range of colours for text and background. Overall, xButton is a worthwhile tool for webmasters.


Of course, webWiz realises he has been negligent in not featuring the important sports of lawn bowls and netball. Now you can add these sports' sites to your favourites list. Sports fans may want to catch up on this year's Goodwill Games to be held in Brisbane in August-September.

Keen gamers should visit the review of the 2001 E3 expo to whet the appetite for new releases, the latest in console games and what the Xbox will offer.

Completely Free Software offers a comprehensive list of applications in all major areas (including games) and might be where you'll find a program for your particular needs.

Somewhat bored by all the neat, well-designed sites you visit? Why not try what it's author calls the Worst of All Sites to break the monotony?

Get a Start at Halpin's InitDotSys
Jazz in the Whroo Forest - click for more info
Click to donate to the world's hungry
It's just a click to help kids with AIDS
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