E-mail, online encyclopaedias and DVDs

E-mail for travellers
Those just getting started on the Net may not yet be aware of a free service that can prove handy for anyone travelling. Dozens of Internet “portals” (gateway websites) such as Lycos.com, Yahoo.com, Canada.com offer free e-mail services that let you send and receive e-mail from a web browser anywhere in the world. The services are free because you have to look at some advertising while you send and receive mail.

Anyone who has tried to use their standard e-mail address while out of town knows how much work is involved. First, you have to find out if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) offers local dial-up service in the area you’re visiting. Then, you have to find the number, and re-configure the computer you’re using to dial in to your ISP.

That’s a lot of work just to get your e-mail, but there is an easier way. Sign up with one of the many free e-mail services that’ll give you a new address to use while on the road. This has absolutely no effect on your permanent e-mail, but gives you a new mailbox for use anywhere in the world.

Once you’ve obtained a free e-mail address, simply visit the website using the Netscape or Explor browser and “log-in” with your new user name and password. Your mail will be waiting on the site, and you can send mail just as you would at home. With this system, you can use anyone’s computer (a friend’s, a hotel’s) to send and receive your e-mail.

Seeking knowledge
The people at Encyclopedia Britannica have seen the light, placing the entire contents of its encyclopedia online. Best of all, access is free to everyone.

The company says that advertising on the site (www.britannica.com) will provide more revenue than recent sales of either its hard cover books or its CD counterparts. And it’s a tremendous resource, as long as you don’t mind seeing some ads along with the information on the subject you’re researching. A keyword search not only gives you the encyclopedia entry, but a raft of related websites and information sources.

DVD or CD?
Buying a computer means choosing from a confusing array of products, often requiring quite a bit of technical know-how. The latest dilemma is whether to splurge on a DVD (Digital Video Disc) drive or a CD-RW (Compact Disc, Rewritable) drive for your PC.

DVD is a great new format that offers super high capacity and lets you watch movies on your PC — but that’s where its usefulness ends. Most consumers would rather put their money into a CD drive capable of reading and writing discs while offering a multitude of possibilities that DVDs simply can’t match.

With a CD “burner”, you can make compilation CDs with all your favourite music in the order you choose. You can scan family photos, to create photo CD albums you can share with anyone who has a regular CD drive on their computer. And, copying files onto a CD can make the transfer of large files between computers fast and easy. A CD is also a great way to back up important computer files for easy retrieval, eliminating the need to buy a separate “zip” drive for file protection.

So, unless you’re determined to watch movies on your personal computer, a CD burner is probably the way to go on your next machine. That is, until the electronics manufacturers come out with the next new format — remember the eight-track?