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Give your Web connection a health check-up


You've been online for an hour or so surfing around. You click on a link and you wait. And wait. And wait.

Finally, a dialog box pops up on your screen that says, "File not found" or "There was no response. The server could be down or is not responding."

It's frustrating and irritating, especially when you're working on something productive online.

My normal procedure used to be a quick check to confirm that my computer was still connected to the Internet. And if all else failed, reboot and start all over.

But now, thanks to talk show host Bob Sokoler and the 84Online radio program on WHAS radio (online at 84online.com), I have a software program that has helped me enormously in times of trouble.

The program is Net Medic, and as the name implies, it is a helper program that lets you know the "health" of your Internet connection.

Net Medic works with your Web browser, and it gives you detailed information about just what is happening with your modem and its communications over the Internet.

Fortunately, you don't have to be really technically minded for Net Medic to be a useful tool. It's easy to use, and easy to learn.

Net Medic opens up as a small window with icons and graphics illustrating the path between your computer and the Web server from which you are receiving pages.

Those Web pages are shown in the Net Medic window as sheets of paper flying through the air from the Web server to your computer; other color-coded graphical icons give you a quick visual indication of what's happening.

Color codes highlight any delay in the process of downloading Web pages to your browser.

Yellow means that one communication link -- the Web page server, the Internet backbone or ISP servers -- are causing delays. A red highlight means the corresponding part isn't responding at all.

The program lets you see where any problems lie in the communication chain. For example, we've all had times when Web pages seemed to take forever to load on your computer screen. If you've ever wondered what was causing things to bog down, Net Medic is the tool you've needed.

Net Medic measures all aspects of your Internet connection; it's like a dashboard for your Web surfing, and after using it for several weeks, I wouldn't be caught online without it.

The program comes with extensive help files that are well written and make all that technical gobbledy-gook sound pretty easy to understand.

And even if you don't care to understand the techie stuff, in the end, you'll be able to determine if your computer is bogging down or if the problem lies out on the Internet somewhere. With that type of knowledge, you can better understand what can be done (if anything) to remedy the situation.

Macintosh users take note: Sorry, but Net Medic is a Windows 95/98/NT product only.

Take a trip to the INSoft Web site for more on Net Medic at www.vitalsigns.com.

INTERNET EXPLORER 5. It hasn't been talked about much recently, but Bill Gates and Microsoft have prepared their next-generation Web browser, Internet Explorer 5.0, for public consumption.

IE5 will bring with it a host of new features and the fine-tuning of some existing ones.

The new "Search Assistant" is a built-in search engine interface that lets the user determine specify the type of information that is being sought.

The new Web browser will give better access to the history list -- the list of where on the Web you've already been lately.

The browser's "Favorites" bookmark listing is improved and can be setup and organized as the user sees fit. It even has the capability of storing the last-viewed version of any page you visited available to you on your computer's own hard drive.

Something new that Microsoft is adding are customizable Explorer bars. These bars are can be created by Web sites as floating navigation bars and content-access points a site.

Microsoft has a test Explorer bars you can demo on their Web site from the New York Times.

I'm not sure how many Web sites will adopt these Explorer bars, but they could be one of the next big "new" online tools.

One feature I'll certainly be anxious to use is the new import and export bookmark feature. IE5 can import your bookmark list from Netscape Navigator, and just as easily, export your Internet Explorer list back out for Navigator to use.

Overall, IE 5 claims to offer improved performance for loading and displaying Web pages.

Internet Explorer 5 will be officially released on March 18, and you can even sign up now to be in line for your copy of the new IE5 CD!

For only $6.95, you can be one of the first to receive the full version of the new browser. Plus you'll get the complete Internet Tools and 90 days of free telephone tech support.

Visit Microsoft's Web site at www.microsoft.com for more information.

DA BOMB. Every generation that rises brings with it their own unique uses of the English language.

While some of the clothing styles of the 1970s have returned, little of the 70s-style slang has (thankfully) survived.

But 1990s-style slang can be darned difficult to comprehend, especially if you don't have a teen-ager at home or access to MTV.

But fortunately, a college professor and her students have come to your rescue with The College Slang Research Project and their body of work, Da Bomb - The College Slang Page.

Da Bomb offers extensive definitions of what's what in the world of college slang, along with links to other slang dictionary sources.

So all you slang seekers, be prepared to be dig this killer Web project. It's truly da bomb.

Visit the Da Bomb, the College Slang Page at http://www.intranet.csupomona.edu/(tilde)jasanders/slang/.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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