GETTING ONLINE WITH JEEVES

It is actually meta-engine, because it uses
other engines, but its smart contribution is that it takes plain English and makes sense of it.
At that the brain veers, observing that we wuz once taught plain English, and how to make sense of it.
Then came “Tomorrow’s Schools”, title that revealed their suicide-gene. For tomorrow never comes. Nor, nowadays, does good knowledge of English, grammar, punctuation, spelling, clarity, reading, writing and all those other useless things that give one human the ability to communicate with another. But we have the technology, and the pictures are nice.
That cynical-literal aside aside, the Jeeves engine is very good place for Netfolk to start. neighbour is helpful thumbnail case-study in point.
I arrived home one day to note (“please call me”), from woman up the street. It was cry for technological help. She had bought new, top-end computer system for herself and her varsity-attending daughter, but she could not get it out of “sleep mode” — monitor on but no picture.
Nor could I, till I double-checked the cabling and found that the manufacturers had very cleverly disguised the power inlet by covering it with sticker, and the dealer had left it there. My cursory initial glance, with head jammed against the wall, and eyes at an oblique angle, had not allowed for the possibility that the manufacturer might overspend its allowance of cunning in that way (and my machine drives both monitor and processor with one power cable).
Her computer is one of these new-fangled ones with an “Internet” button on the keyboard, which permits the salesman to say that getting online is as simple as pressing that button.
True, but you also must do this, that, and some other thing. I guided her through the non-obvious this, the concealed that, and the daunting some-other-thing. With modicum of accidental practice she became very skilled at them.
But she was soon signed up with the ISP the machine defaults to. Guess who? No wonder Telecom has so many Net customers. You press “Internet” and what you get is Xtra.
Then comes that frisson of panic. You are confronted with your very first web page. Yay! But how do you navigate, browse, and find things? Jeeves, I suggested, showing her the site, and adding it to her newly-hatched hot-list. (www.ask.com or www.aj.com)
She wanted Japanese word processor, clever enough to accept, say, “ka” and you get the icon for that sound. “Where can I find Japanese word-processing program?” we asked Jeeves. Two that looked promising were in Zip format (compressed so as to take the shortest time to download). Most downloadable software is zipped, but decompression software had not been pre-installed on her machine, strange omission for one sold as internet-ready.
Winzip is popular unzipper. “Where,” we keyed into Jeeves, “can I find Winzip?” We were soon to the site and had downloaded it.
Then she wanted to read Japanese newspaper, in Japanese. “Where can I read Japanese newspaper?” we keyed. Along the way to telling us, Jeeves mentioned translating services, maps, tourism, and other useful things.
But the newspaper page did not display in Japanese. Instead there was gobbledegook, neither the fish of English nor the fowl of Japanese, because the right software must be running to merge and iconise the umpty pairs of characters used to display all the Japanese icons.
So back to Jeeves. “Where can I find software to display Japanese characters?” click or two later and we had the site, and had begun to download demo. It was long download. Three hours. They obviously want to discourage people from downloading their demo every time it expires, so they do not zip it.
Jeeves. very useful site. Well worth making your home page.

Oxygen again
The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, is director of the World Wide Web Consortium. He also occupies the 3Com Founder Chair at the MIT Technology Laboratory for Computer Science, where Project Oxygen is being hatched (see this column November, 1999) — the coming quantum-jump in international networking.
Archimedes put it well: “Give me place to stand and I will move the earth.”

Nobilangelo Ceramalus is writer, desktop publisher, graphics designer, webmaster and image processor.

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