October 23, 2005

Mousetrap - 24

Fwd? Del.
Snopes.com
Named for a family of characters that appear in the writing of William Faulkner (and I’m not well-read enough to figure out why), Snopes.com is the rumour-checking resource of choice for anyone who pretends even half-knowledge of the ways of the web. Their focus is urban legends, those widely circulated – nowadays mainly via email – tales which the people who pass them on earnestly believe are true. The “Bill Gates will give you $100 for forwarding this mail” message is an example. The couple behind the site painstakingly research these urban legends, their provenance, the various versions and deliver a true or false verdict. Their judgements are highly respected and frequently quoted as the final authority. Oh yes. That mail from Bill? False.

A. Nonny Mous
BugMeNot
Many sites on the web insist on long registration procedures before they’ll let you view some parts of their content. They ask for your name and your occupation and almost everything barring bowel regularity. Due to either privacy paranoia, sheer cussedness or a combination of both, a large section of people fill in completely false details. This site works by using these dummy registrations: it asks people to enter log-in details for the fake accounts they create on these selfish sites. Then, when you reach a site that demands registration, instead of ploughing through the process, go to BugMeNot instead and check if there’s an ID available for the site you want. If there is, you’re given a password and User ID, which you can use. If not, hey, consider doing unto others first – create a user ID for the site in question and feed it to BugMeNot so that others may benefit.

If you can’t come, call
Country Calling Codes
Cool little site that helps you find international dialling information. Let’s say you have a visiting card that lists a phone number in Colombia, but you haven’t a clue what you should dial before that number. Tell CCC the country, and it will spit out country code, and even the city code. Now you can get through to your drug dealer in Bogota. (It doesn’t seem to account for cellular phone numbers, though.) As an added convenience, it also lets you know local time in the dialling and dialled countries. It also has a reverse lookup (you know the country code, but not the country) and a quick reference guide.

Hunt and click
WWF Wildfinder
Nope, this isn’t those chaps in tights throwing each other around wrestling rings in rehearsed and choreographed sequences. It’s a neat little utility from the World Wildlife Fund, the original WWF, who won their acronym name back in court a few years ago. The Wildfinder is a database of more than 26,000 animal species. Yes, yes, database, shmatabase, boring. Hang on, this one’s different. It uses a map interface to let you search for species, to find where they exist, or by area, to discover what lives in a particlualr location. Get the brats on to this, and homework will get done much faster.

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Blog of the week

WHO did you say was blogging?
The Boy Who Heard Music
Pete Townshend, of the legendary The Who, is releasing his novella totally free, a new chapter every Saturday, until the end of February. This blog has it in text format, and you can get the PDF versions via his online diary on his site. [Thank you, Priyanka Joseph]

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 23rd October, 2005.

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