Tips & Tweaks: Useful Web Sites

This week I've got some great Web sites for you, including a new service that lets you back up huge amounts of data--for free. I also point you to a terrific natural-language search engine, plus a few search sites that I'm finding pretty useful.

Oh, and lest you think I'm all work and no fun, I used those sites to dig up a whole bunch of funny videos. Dig in!

Free Online Backups

I just backed up almost 2GB of photos and files to an online server. It didn't cost me a nickel--and from now on, any new files will back up automatically.

You can do it too, with a free service from Berkeley Data Systems. Mozy is limited to 1GB of storage (2GB if you take an innocuous 1-minute survey), and you're allowed four restores per month. The files are encrypted before they're sent across the Internet, using 128-bit SSL, a 448-bit symmetric key, or your own private key.

The catch? You need to accept e-mail advertising. How much, you ask? I don't know yet. But if it gets to be too much, you can delete your Mozy account to stop the spam.

BTW, Mozy is still in beta; I wouldn't rely on it for critical backups until all the bugs are worked out.

For more options, read "Online Backup Services Come of Age."

Quick Aside: My standard response to most surveys is that I have 18 children and a junior-high-school education; I earn $5000 yearly; I'm unemployed; and I was born on 1/1/1900. I don't get in many marketing databases.

Natural-Language Searches

It seems like every week I discover another way to do an Internet search. For instance, I just ran across Lexxe, an ask-a-question site. It would have made a great addition to a short piece I did for our November issue, "Search Sites Try to Give Instant Answers."

Lexxe did well on the same questions I used in the article. I tried it just now, typing "Where is Antarctica," and it provided specific links as well as a list of topic clusters. The only problem? The site's ponderously slow.

My Current Favorites

Here are three other search sites I use often. Give them a whirl and tell me what you think.

  • Jux2 searches on Google, Yahoo, and AskJeeves. You can find out what Google missed, found, and if you're hooked on them, Google-only results (the same goes for AskJeeves and Yahoo).
  • Gahoo!Yoogle splits a browser screen in two and shows search results from both Google and Yahoo.
  • The Free Dictionary includes nine dictionaries, including medical, computing, legal, and financial, as well as idioms and acronyms (it found BFD, so it's okay in my book).

Want more? For more Web sites and services than you can shake a stick at, read "30 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do on the Internet."

Dig This: The Motley Fool is using haiku instead of typical 404 "file not found" error messages. I find them rather soothing. Here's one I got the other day:

Which sound is louder
A solitary hand clapping
Or a file not found?

Online Entertainment

This security video captures an unexpected visitor to an Alaskan hospital.

If you're a biker, or just enjoy marvelous animations, spend 6 minutes watching Hans Spilliaert's "500 Miles Is Not Enough."

Have you seen the vaudeville act with the small guy on the trunk? It'd be fun to watch at halftime.

Curious about how Ctrl-Alt-Delete came into existence? Watch this short video, and don't miss Bill's reaction.

I just love the commercials at the Best Ads on TV site. My favorite is a strange spot from Guinness called "Good Things Come to Those Who Wait."

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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