The New Web Challengers

Tools for Business

Investing Online Resource Center: Online investing is as tempting as visiting one of the Internet's many gambling sites, and yet lots safer. Or maybe not. If you're thinking of trying your hand at the stock market or otherwise tinkering with your savings, check out the nonprofit Investing Online Resource Center. You'll find plenty of valuable advice and information, such as when your buy and sell orders are really placed. The site's Flash-based Investing Simulator Center is a real eye-opener, letting you preview just how badly a poor financial choice could hurt (see FIGURE 6

Figure 6: Give your investment strategy a test drive at the Investing Online Resource Center.
).

Keyhole: Just a few minutes on Keyhole, and I felt like I was riding on a flying carpet, zooming in from space to anywhere in the world--down to as close as 15 meters or less in some swoops. Pop your street address into the text box at the bottom of the screen to get a bird's-eye view of your home. Sure, the service will set you back $30 (lowered from $80 when Google acquired Keyhole last November), but its 3D satellite views of streets in most major cities--not to mention the far reaches of the globe--are ideal if you're a real estate pro, a salesperson, or even just a hiker who wants to plot your next trek in the Himalayas. Browse here for the service's seven-day trial.

Clipping Services: I want to hear about anyone mentioning my book, PC Annoyances, so I set Google Alerts to check both Google's News and the Web automatically each day and then give me a report. But Google isn't the only free clipping service on the Web, and some Google Alerts competitors are just as cool. For example, RSICopyright's Clip&Copy service (free with registration) allows complex searches, such as "steve and bass not guitar". I can also limit my searches to any combination of roughly 200 periodicals, such as Adweek and AP Custom News. And if I want to know when a specific word or phrase was spoken on TV, TVEyes will send me an e-mail alert for free.

Consumer Demand Index: Shopping.com's Consumer Demand Index ranks the top 20 shopping searches, the top gainers of the week, and the most popular products in various categories. One click gives you details on over 100 product groups.

AskNow: What's the average life expectancy of a California black oak tree? Which section of the federal penal code deals with online spam? For answers to these and other obscurities, browse over to AskNow, a live, interactive service that's sponsored by reference librarians throughout California. Enter your question (along with your name and city), and click Connect to open a chat session with one of the volunteer librarians. You don't have to be a resident of the state, but you'll need to provide a California city and zip code (try Beverly Hills, 90210). Just be prepared to wait: Linking up with one of the librarians can take several minutes.

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