Bob and Joy
                                      
       By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                                     A syndicated newspaper column now in its 26th year.
    
                                                                        

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  February 2005, Week 1 Search Tracks
Author Tom Wolfe

   Go to www.AOL.com to sample the excellent capabilities of AOL's new search service. It's free, and you can access it with any browser.

   After you bring up the home page of AOL.com, type any words you want in the search space; you are then taken to AOL Search. You can find things like movie trailers, songs or taped interviews, lectures and speeches, which is really nice. We tried a search for author "Tom Wolfe," for example, and came up with a video of a three-hour interview and phone-in session.
   If you're a teacher you might type in "frog" for a search term that fits today's biology class. You would come up with a National Geographic special video on the life and development of frogs. The search also brought up a 1937 western starring Gene Autry and his sidekick "Frog." The class might not need that last one.
     AOL Search has categories off to the left, much like Clusty.com, one of our favorite search engines. The categories are always the same: Web, Images, Audio/Video, Shopping, News and In Your Area. Within those categories are sub-categories, but you'll find those on your own.
     The In Your Area category is an interesting one because it lets you search for any product or service and find out who provides that in your area. Sometimes it's a chancy thing: You get choices of "recommendations," "yellow pages" and some others. Believe us: Skip the recommendations and go right to the yellow pages.
     Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) was very good at finding local merchants and services; Google (www.google.com) was just as good, but you need to click "more" on its home page to get to "local." The Google service is in "beta" right now, meaning it's still being worked on.
     Summing up: Because of the audio/video capabilities, AOL Search was the most fun we've had with a new search engine. The audio/video search is powered by Singing Fish, a little-know search engine we wrote about last December. What's really neat about Singing Fish is that you can search by format -- MP3, Real Player, Windows Media Player and Quick Time -- and by category -- music, video, radio, TV, etc. -- and finally, by length.
  Free Antivirus
     You can download a free antivirus program from www.download.com or www.avast.com. It's the Avast! home edition 4.5; 2 million people have downloaded it already and it's been up for only two weeks. The approval rating is 86 percent from those who have tried it. If you are already infected, the Avast! Web site has a second free program, called Virus Cleaner, that removes viruses and worms.
  A Moving Experience
 

 Dog

   Animation Factory has 300,000 animations and 3D images available for download. A $30 fee lets you download anything you want for three months; $60 gets you a year's access. For $99 there's a Platinum membership that also includes templates to add new backgrounds and animations for PowerPoint presentations.
   We added one of these animations to our Web site (www.oncomp.com). You can see it by clicking on "Search." You can see lots of sample animations at the Animation Factory Web site (www.animationfactory.com). If you're a member, you can right-click any animation to save and edit it.
  Internuts
     Let's go museum hopping. Museums, arguably, are the world's treasure houses.

 

  www.mcn.edu: The "MCN" stands for Museum Computer Network. It's based in Ottawa, Canada, and intended as a resource for museum directors. But what we liked about it, and you will too, is that it has links to more than 1,700 museum Web sites and sites that have links to even more museum Web sites. Gotta go here.

Estonian doll

  www.museumstuff.com: "Dot com" means it's a commercial site, so the listings here aren't always logical, or even sensible. The list of museums of Italy, for example, includes the Victoria and Albert, which is an absolutely great museum, but it's in London, which is definitely not in Italy. If you ignore the slightly strange organization, however, this is a terrific site for searching for both famous and very obscure museums (like the Dick Tracy Museum in Woodstock, Ill.).

   Complaints aside, this is a very useful site, and here we pick up places like the Estonian National Museum (www.erm.ee) and the Dungarvan Museum (www.dungarvanmuseum.org) in Waterford, Ireland. There's even a museum devoted to oranges, in -- where else? -- Valencia, Spain; Qeb address: www.museonaranja.com.

 

  www.aam-us.org: Official site of the American Association of Museums, and the place to go if you're interested in a career working in museums.

     Notable: The Smithsonian Institution (www.si.edu), founded by a gift from James Smithson, an Englishman, is America's premier museum and its largest. It's so big it even issues its own credit card. Here you can learn about not only the exhibits, but trips, festivals, films and original recordings of jazz, blues and folk artists.
  Useful Books
PC Hacks    "PC Hacks" by Jim Aspinwall; $25 U.S., from O'Reilly Books (www.oreilly.com). Good stuff on how to choose the fastest hard drive, add and make memory faster and more efficient, partition hard disks and crank up the speed of your CPU. Some of these hacks let you protect your system against outside hackers as well as viruses and spyware.

NOTE: Readers can search six years of columns at the "On Computers" Web site: www.oncomp.com and can e-mail the Schwabachs at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.

  COPYRIGHT 2005 UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE