"Christians and the Internet" newsletter CATI, Vol. 1, No. 12: March 24, 2000.
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. For permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact Barry Traver at email@example.com. Permission is hereby granted, however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1) no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety. To subscribe, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, including "Subscribe to CATI" in the Subject line and including in the body your real name and the email address to which you wish CATI sent. (To be removed from the emailing list, also write to email@example.com, but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.) _______________________________________________________________
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. FINDING INFORMATION IN CATI: USING OUR SEARCH ENGINE! 2. DOWNLOAD FREE AND INEXPENSIVE SOFTWARE FROM THE WEB 3. FINDING INFORMATION ON THE WEB: USING SEARCH ENGINES 4. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER _______________________________________________________________
1. FINDING INFORMATION IN CATI: USING OUR SEARCH ENGINE!
Looking for something specific in CATI? With twelve issues of CATI already published, it might be hard to find, but not if you use our new search engine (powered by Atomz.com)!
Yes, a search engine specifically to search CATI has been added to the CATI Archives. Check it out:
Searching tips: (1) When searching for a phrase, put it in quotes (e.g., "America Online"). (2) You can sometimes get more responses if you use all lower or all upper case rather than mixed case (e.g., "family-safe internet" rather than "Family-Safe Internet").
Finding something quickly is a two step process: Use the CATI search engine to find the issue you want, and when you get there, use "Find" on your Web browser (usually under "Edit" on the top menu bar) to find the right spot on the Web page. Enjoy!
--Barry Traver, Editor _______________________________________________________________
2. DOWNLOAD FREE AND INEXPENSIVE SOFTWARE FROM THE WEB
Buying software at a computer store can sometimes be a rather frustrating experience. The software is sealed up, so you ordinarily can't test drive it (and if you find when you get home that it's not what you wanted, you sometimes can't return it because you've opened the package!). In addition, such software is sometimes rather expensive.
The good news is that you can often find equally good (or, frequently, better) software online, and the software will usually be less expensive or may even be free! In addition, if it isn't free, you can usually test drive it for thirty days or so before you commit yourself to buying it.
Although you can at times download regular commercial software from the Web, I don't intend to talk about that option in this article. Rather, my focus is instead on the two categories of software popularly known as shareware and freeware.
Shareware is "try before you buy" software. As with a new car that you may be considering buying, you're allowed to take it out for a test drive. After the test drive is over, however, you cannot continue driving it unless you buy it. That's how shareware works. You are morally obligated to stop using it after the test drive unless you pay for it.
Freeware, on the other hand, is essentially free software. It doesn't cost any money. The software has not been placed into the public domain (it usually retains its copyright), but you have been given permission to use it at no charge. You are also allowed to make copies and pass them along to friends.
Shareware can also be shared, of course (that's why they call it shareware!), but shareware is not free (even if you can freely pass it around). (Is this getting confusing?) One point to keep in mind is that continuing to use shareware without paying for it after the test drive is over is really a form of stealing and thus something a Christian will not want to do.
Remember: There's absolutely no obligation for you to pay for shareware unless you try it and like it and want to continue using it. If you tried it out and decided that you don't like it, no problem. Simply remove the program from your computer. But if you try it and like it and want to continue using it, the right thing to do is pay for it. Then you can continue using it with a clear conscience.
Since there's so much shareware and freeware around, you may want to read reviews, check with friends, etc., before you take the time to try out a particular software program for yourself. Some of the Web sites where you can download such software will include a description of the program and often even give the program a rating (generally, one to five stars or doves or whatevers).
Here's my favorite place on the Web to get Internet-related shareware and freeware:
TUCOWS (The Ultimate Collection Of Winsock Software) http://www.tucows.com/
And here's another good place to get software related to the Internet:
Stroud's CWSApps (Consummate Winsock Applications) http://cws.internet.com/
As their names indicate ("Ultimate" and "Consummate"), neither site is modest about its offerings, and they are indeed the best places, IMHO ("In My Honest Opinion"), to get software related to the Internet (e.g., Web browsers, email programs, newsgroup readers, multimedia programs, anti-virus software, chat programs, etc.). If that's what you're after, you'll find it at those two sites (both of which have descriptions and ratings for the software).
I often check TUCOWS first and then look at the reviews at Stroud's as well. For TUCOWS, rather than bookmarking the starting TUCOWS site, you may want to begin there to find a TUCOWS site that is near you and then bookmark that page.
TUCOWS is Internet-specific, but a sister (or daughter?) site has a different focus:
TUKIDS ("the ultimate collection of children's educational software") http://epix.tukids.tucows.com/ "...the latest and greatest virus-free educational shareware and freeware with 1000's of program titles to choose from!"
And here are five other good sites (besides TUKIDS) where you can download shareware and freeware not necessarily related to the Internet:
DaveCentral Software Archive (mostly Internet stuff, however) http://davecentral.com/ DaveCentral Software Archive: Windows Software Area http://www.davecentral.com/windows.html In the software area, use menu on the left to gradually focus in on a specific piece of software.
Jumbo! ("Over 300,000 Shareware And Freeware Programs" of all kinds) http://www.jumbo.com/ Jumbo Guides http://www.jumbo.com/pages/jg/ "Here you'll find concise and informative guides to popular downloadable software, complete with ratings and brief comparative analyses."
Nonags http://nonags.com/ For Nonags, you will need to click on "Software - Free Access" and then choose a site based on your geographical location. "At NONAGS we...do the work of selecting what really works, what's really free, what really is worth your time and effort. So we have put together a large collection of 32-bit Windows software that has no disabled features, nags, time limits, or any other tricks. Everything in the original and huge Freeware section is really free... [but] we just started a shareware section.... We download, virus scan, install, test, rate and list.... You just enjoy the programs."
Shareware.com (CNET) http://shareware.cnet.com/ Download.com (also CNET) http://download.cnet.com/ These two CNET sites are interlinked, so in essence you have one site with downloads and helpful descriptions and reviews.
ZDNet Software Library http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/ This ZDNet collection includes descriptions, reviews, and ratings, plus lots of downloadable shareware and freeware. ZDNet Software Library: Easy Download Guide http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/easyguide/index.html Here's a tutorial presenting "Five simple steps to downloading files from the Internet." The tips apply not only to ZDNet, but also to other download sites on the Web.
(If you're interested in where to find specifically Christian software, check the end of this article.)
It should be noted that some shareware is "inexpensive" only when compared with commercial counterparts. For example, Paint Shop Pro (a shareware program) sells for $99, which is not "inexpensive" unless you compare it with the cost of (the commercial program) Adobe Photoshop. But at this point you may be asking, "Where do I find the software that is totally free?
There are lots of places to find free software, including the following sites:
CNET Download.com: 50 Fabulous Freebies http://www.download.com/pc/ed/review/0,357,0-1024-1,00.html?st.dl.redir.txt.review
Completely Free Software http://www.completelyfreesoftware.com/ A helpful site, even if the Webmaster, Graham Pockett, who is a professing Christian and a "reformed" software pirate, is not "Reformed" in his theology as well! (He argues that the idea of "freewill" is more Biblical than the "Calvanistic concept." CATI's editor -- who named his son "John Calvin" -- would of course disagree with Mr. Pockett on this point.) The software is described and rated (in "golden doves"!).
FreeBIT http://www.crosswinds.net/%7Efreebit/en/index.htm "FreeBIT is a directory of freeware, but not just that. Our goal is to help you to find what you need quickly and easily. More, here you can find articles about freeware, interviews with authors of freeware and other related information.... Also, we evaluate the quality and publish our comments. And, because we want you to participate, you can send your opinions too!"
Freeware Arena http://www.freewarearena.com/ "Freeware Arena has been listed as one of the top Windows Technology sites in the world by 100Hot ["the Web's Popularity Guide"]."
Freeware Posse http://www.angelfire.com/ok3/cloudninesoftware/index.html "Over 100 Editor's Choice and 5 Star Freeware Programs," but you may find the pop-up ads on each page annoying. I do.
Freeware Publishing Site http://www.katho.be/freeware/freeware.htm "THE FREEWARE PUBLISHING SITE offers a collection of the best freeware for WINDOWS 95/98."
FreewareHome.com http://www.freewarehome.com/ "There are thousands of great freeware titles available for Windows based computers and this site collects the best of them in an attractive and easily navigable interface."
Humpherlinks: Children's Freeware Site http://www.humph3.freeserve.co.uk/ Humpherlinks is a site "which is intended for children but hopefully will not be too difficult for adults."
Moon Software: Free Stuff http://www.moonsoftware.com/freeware.asp 10 free utilities from Moon Software, including a very nice Bookmark Wizard for users of Internet Explorer. I found Bookmark Wizard easy to download, easy to install, and easy to run.
PC Magazine Free Utilities http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/pcmutil.html
TheFreeSite.com: Free Software http://www.thefreesite.com/software.htm Yep, this site was featured in a previous issue of CATI, because it has lots of links to other free stuff in addition to software.
Tiger's Best Freeware http://jt52263.home.mindspring.com/ "Welcome to Tiger's Best Freeware where you will find nothing but the best hand-picked freeware available on the internet! All files marked with an asterisk (*) have been classified as "Pricelessware" (the BEST freeware available) by the members of alt.comp.freeware. Please understand that I have tried all the files on my site and I find them all very useful and good at what they do. Different users have different needs, so some of them may not meet yours...though I think most will. Enjoy!"
TUDOGS ("The Ultimate Directory Of Gratis Software") http://www.tudogs.com/begin.php3 "We have searched the Web to find the very best free software and services. Less than 5% of the software we test, and the sites we visit, make it to these pages."
Windows Magazine: Must-Haves: Freeware http://www.winmag.com/library/1997/1102/mh_fw1.htm
ZDNet: Free Downloads http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/specials/free.html
And here are a few good places to help you find other sites where you can get free software (but I suspect that I have already given you more than enough!):
Freeware Arena: Top 20 Freeware Sites http://www.freewarearena.com/top20.html
Freeware Guide http://freewareguide.freeservers.com/ Freeware Links: #, A-E http://freewareguide.freeservers.com/fw_a-e.htm Freeware Links: F http://freewareguide.freeservers.com/fw_f-f.htm Freeware Links: #, G-Q http://freewareguide.freeservers.com/fw_g-q.htm Freeware Links: #, R-Z http://freewareguide.freeservers.com/fw_r-z.htm
The Top Free Software Sites Index http://pages.hotbot.com/und/lynn_edwards/ (Click on buttons at top to navigate this site.)
Finally, here are some Web sites where you can download Christian software (shareware and freeware):
Best of the Christian Web: Software http://www.botcw.com/pages/Software/
Christian Freebies Software Gallery http://www.christianfreebies.com/software.shtml
Crosswalk.com Christian Shareware http://www.christianshareware.net/
Free Christian Downloads http://members.xoom.com/FreeChristianDownloads/
Free Christian Software http://www.crosswinds.net/~mcjemisc/ "These titles are mainly written for Microsoft Windows in Hyper-text format. More in HTML (web format) are being produced. The purpose was to produce easy-to-use software of texts from the past that set forward the great historical doctrines of the Reformation and Puritan era. It is hoped that this will assist Pastors and individual Christians in their study of the Scriptures."
JimmyD's Freeware Finds http://www.zyworld.com/FreewarePlace/HOME.htm JimmyD's Freeware Finds: Christian Freeware Page http://www.zyworld.com/FreewarePlace/CHRISTIAN.htm
Serious Developments http://www.seriousd.com/ Serious Developments: Free Christian Software Directory http://www.seriousd.com/freeware.htm
Caution: Just because software is "Christian" does not mean that it will necessarily match up with your own theological understanding or Christian convictions. For example, some Christian software may exhibit having been written from a "dispensational" or "pre-trib, pre-mill" perspective with which most Reformed Christians would have some serious disagreement. Use appropriate discretion.
I have no recommendations at this time of specific Christian software -- shareware or freeware -- but I hope to have some specific suggestions in future issues. In the meantime, if you have comments, positive or negative, that you are willing to share about Christian shareware or freeware with which you have had personal experience, please send your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
3. FINDING INFORMATION ON THE WEB: USING SEARCH ENGINES
Picture the following scene. You are in the largest library in the world, larger than you can really successfully imagine. It is in many ways an untypical library. No librarian selected the books: they were all donated by whoever wanted to donate them (and, to tell the truth, most of them are just plain junk or worse). They are placed on the library shelves in haphazard fashion (no Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress categories in this library!), and there is no card catalog (or any reasonable equivalent) containing information about all the books in the library. Yes, there are indeed "great books," useful books, enjoyable books, even stately treasure tomes, in this seemingly inexhaustible library, but how can you ever hope to find them?
I think you've figured out by now that I'm not really talking about a library containing books: I'm talking about the World Wide Web and its collection of Web sites and Web pages, which can be just as useful or useless, enjoyable or unenjoyable, as any pages in a book in a "regular" library. In this irregular library there is no "Reference Librarian" to ask for help in finding what you're after, ... or is there?
Actually, there have been two major approaches to bringing some order out of the chaos that is the Internet: directories and search engines. Directories are human attempts to categorize and organize at least some of the worthwhile sites on the World Wide Web. The best-known directory is Yahoo!:
Here's how it works. Suppose you're looking for Web pages that deal with the topic "creation vs. evolution." At Yahoo!, you can start with the category of "Science," you can then go to the sub-category "Religion and Science," and then you can go to the sub-sub-category of seventy or so sites that deal with "Creation vs. Evolution." (Yahoo! also has a search engine, but the search engine doesn't search Web sites: it only searches the Yahoo! directory. We hope to say more about directories at another time.)
In order to understand what a search engine does, let's change our illustration. Picture the World Wide Web not as a library, but as a very disorganized textbook. If you're looking for something specific, how do you find it? That's easy: you use the index to find out what pages to check. Well, a Web search engine works in a similar way, except that it suggests to you Web pages rather than pages in a book.
There is no search engine that includes all pages on the Web, but some include hundreds of millions of Web pages. When you use a Web search engine, in essence you are asking the search engine (a sort of robotic Reference Librarian) to tell you what Web pages contain a certain word, phrase, or group of words. It's sort of like using the index of a book, but in this case it's a very large, very disorganized book, and the index doesn't really include all the pages.
Let's start off with one of my favorite traditional search engines:
Suppose you want to find information on cats. You put "cats" in the box, you click on "Search," and you're told that there are 1,411,985 pages found that mention "cats"! That doesn't seem like the situation has improved much! Yes, now you've found material on "cats," but you certainly don't want to look at a million or so sites. Are there ways to narrow down the list?
Yes, there are techniques that you can learn that will greatly help you put a traditional search engine such as AltaVista to good use. Let's stay specifically with AltaVista. You'll find some excellent "Advanced Search Techniques" (that don't even require you to use the "Advanced Web Search" button at AltaVista) in Bob Rankin's fine article on the subject in the following newsletter, which you can look at online:
Bob Rankin, "Advanced Search Techniques," Internet TOURBUS: January 26, 2000 http://listserv.aol.com/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0001D&L=tourbus&P=R2&m=101
Here are the tips he discusses in that article:
"ADVANCED SEARCHING WITH ALTA VISTA.... 1) Use the '+' and '-' operators.... 2) Use quotes for phrases.... 3) Use capital letters when appropriate.... 4) Use the 'host' and 'domain' keywords.... 5) Use the 'title' keyword.... 6) Use the 'image', 'audio; and 'media' keywords.... 7) Use the 'link' and 'url' keywords..."
I'll just discuss the first two (the two most important tips); consult Rankin's article for further details on the others. Maybe you'll decide that you want to subscribe to the Internet TOURBUS, which is a newsletter I've found to be very helpful, and it's free! Here's their home page:
Internet TOOLBUS http://www.tourbus.com/
Anyway, here's how the first tip works: "Prefix your search words with '+' to indicate that they MUST occur in a page to be considered a hit, and use '-' to exclude pages."
Suppose I'm looking up material on "Christians and the Internet." If I simply put "Christians Internet" in the box, AltaVista will tell me Web pages that contain the word "Christians" or contain the word "Internet" BUT NOT NECESSARILY BOTH! I would get a lot of hits that were really not relevant to my specific topic. I can instead put "+Christians +Internet" in the search box, and the result will be that Alta Vista will tell me only of Web pages that contain both words.
Or suppose I want to do research on "pirates," the kind that sail the sea, and NOT the Pittsburgh baseball team. In order to accomplish that, I can put "+pirates -Pittsburgh" in the Alta Vista search box.
Here's how the second tip works: If you're looking for a specific phrase, enclose it in quotes in the search box.
Suppose I want to do research on "John Newton." If I put "John Newton" (without quotes) in the box, I'll get Web pages that mention "John" and Web pages that mention "Newton," but the Web pages may not necessarily contain both words. I'm slightly better off if I put "+John +Newton" in the box, but I could still end up with a Web page by "John" Doe which discusses the life of Isaac "Newton." If, however, I enclose "John Newton" in quotes in the box, Alta Vista only gives me Web pages that contain that specific phrase.
Those two tips alone should increase your ability to find what you want on the Web with AltaVista. (Bob Rankin's excellent discussion will show you how to put to use his other five tips.)
Second-generation search engines put more likely Web sites at the top of the list, based on how many other sites link to them. That is, if lots of sites link to a particular Web page, that Web page (so the argument goes) is more likely to be helpful to you than some obscure Web page to which other Web sites rarely or never link. That reasoning has some faults, but in general it leads to greatly improved results.
One modern search engine that takes this approach is Google!, which is my own favorite Web search engine at the moment, the one to which I ordinarily turn first:
PC Magazine's Breck Witte describes how Google! works:
"The site's...PageRank function indicates how many Web pages point to a particular document. Google! uses PageRank to decide which documents in the result set you might want to see first. For example, when searching for the National Institutes of Health, we entered the acronym NIH, and the NIH home page appeared at the top of our list. Google! is so confident that it includes an 'I'm feeling lucky' button that retrieves Google!'s top pick for your search." http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/features/websearch98/rev4.html
Another reason why I like this search engine is that, as PC Magazine also observes, "Google!'s large collection of cached pages is equally useful." If a Web page has disappeared for some reason, it may be possible to access a cached version of it at the Google! site.
Example: last week I needed to access the "C.S. Lewis: 20th Century Christian Knight" site, but for some reason it was unavailable (in this case, only temporarily, but that's not always the case). I was able to search for "C.S. Lewis" using Google! and then pull up their cached copy of the page that was not available directly on the Web at that time.
An article by Joyce Kasman Valenza in the Philadelphia Inquirer (a local newspaper) last month had some very helpful comments about directories and search engines, including this modern search engine:
"Oingo, one of my favorites, sorts meanings by using a lexicon described as 'a rich database of words, meanings, and relationships.' My search on cats would have been overwhelming in a normal search engine. But Oingo's pull-down menu prompted me to select among a variety of possible meanings - domestic cats, Cats the musical, or Computer Aided Translation Software."
The entire article (misleadingly titled "Directories can eclipse search engines"), which appeared in the February 24th issue, is worth reading, but no longer freely available on the Web.
Here are two other search engines that also divide the search results into meaningful categories:
Inference Find http://www.infind.com/
Northern Light http://www.northernlight.com/
Each search engine has a collection of sites that includes some Web pages not indexed in some other search engines, so it is often useful to try more than one search engine. In fact, there are search engines which provide results based on their using a combination of other search engines!
Here are two examples of such a meta-search engine:
And here are Bob Rankin's comments on a new meta-search engine from an article in the most recent (March 23, 2000) Internet TOOLBUS:
"Just a few days ago, a new meta-search engine called Baldey was introduced. This new search tool works by using the best findings from several other search engines and combining them in a unique way. Depending on the position of a result found ...and the number of times a search result is returned by multiple search engines..., the results are combined into an optimal weighted result. Because of this advanced ranking system, the best links are more likely to appear at the top of Baldey's results. By default, Baldey bounces your keyword(s) against seven search engines, but you can select any or all of the ten engines listed at the site." http://listserv.aol.com/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0003D&L=tourbus&P=R186&m=101
Here's where you'll find Baldey:
In writing articles for the Internet TOOLBUS, Bob Rankin alternates with Patrick Douglas Crispen (remember "Crispen's Six Antivirus Rules"? -- yep, that's the same one!). We'll close this article on search engines with a suggested Web site for further information and a comment by Crispen:
Search Engine Watch http://www.searchenginewatch.com/
"The best place to learn EVERYTHING you need to know about search engines." http://listserv.aol.com/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0002B&L=tourbus&P=R1&m=101
There are lots of search engines to choose from. My advice is to select one or two and learn how to use them effectively. Life is too short for us to waste a lot of time looking at Web sites that are not relevant to what we are looking for. A good search engine can help us save time and find quickly exactly what we want. Enjoy!
P.S. If you're looking for Christian content, there are a number of Christian search engines available, although most are, strictly speaking, directories rather than real search engines. Here are some typical Christian "search engines":
711.Net: Christian Internet Directory http://www.711.net/
Crosswalk.com: Christian Search http://www.christcom.net/
GOSHEN: Christian Search Engine and Directory http://www.goshen.net/
Net/SEARCH Directory of Christian Resources http://www.christianityonline.com/search/
For a more extensive list, check here:
Note well: Although the title of the page is "Top Christian Directories and search engines..." (see the title bar of your Web browser), what shows up on the page itself is simply "Christian Directories."
I used the "search engine" at Crosswalk.com to search the Web for material on "John Newton" in quotes, and the response was this:
No web sites found matching ""John Newton""
I tried it again without the quotes, and I got 20 responses, but most of them related to Olivia Newton-John! When I used Google! to search for "John Newton" (in quotes), I got about 5,550 responses, some of which I used in a previous issue of CATI. Even when looking for Christian content, you also may find the general search engines to be more helpful. ________________________________________________________________
4. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER
This is the twelfth issue of a free newsletter devoted to "Christians And The Internet" ("CATI," pronounced "Katy," but spelled with a "C" and an "I" for "Christians" and the "Internet").
Past issues: you'll find archives of past issues of CATI available online at http://traver.org/cati/ . ("It's not a pretty site," but hopefully it may be a useful one.) ________________________________________________________________
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. For permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact Barry Traver at email@example.com. Permission is hereby granted, however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1) no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety. To subscribe, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, including "Subscribe to CATI" in the Subject line and including in the body your real name and the email address to which you wish CATI sent. (To be removed from the emailing list, also write to email@example.com, but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)