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Disney, Nick offer opportunities to have fun, learn online


As a parent of a 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son, I find myself playing censor frequently when the kids want to spend time watching TV.

Fortunately, my kids seem to stick to kids' programming found on kids' networks: primarily Disney and Nickelodeon cable channels.

I've found that kids' cable channels also provide some pretty neat Web page content for the same audience -- only its better, because it offers your kids a chance to interact, to do something besides turn into youthful couch potatoes. And if they aren't careful, they may learn some computer skills, too!

TOON DISNEY. The top dog among kids' Web sites -- according to my crew -- is www.toondisney.com.

Since ToonDisney.com is the Web partner of the cable channel, expect to find the same characters you've come to expect on TV.

As is the case with all Disney sites, ToonDisney.com is fun to navigate and simple to use.

The designers even offer Web surfers plenty of choices.

You can surf the site to the sound of the familiar drums that play during Toon Disney TV spots, or you can have different cool "cartoonish" sounds play each time you move your mouse over a Toon Disney menu button.

ToonDisney.com features lots for kids to see and do. An interactive cartoon is a fun way to get your youngest Web surfers accustomed to navigating with a mouse.

Online games are a big part of ToonDisney.com, and player's high scores are displayed each week during the Toon Disney Friday night movie.

Three games were available at the ToonDisney Game-Athalon. My only suggestion to to make sure to tell your kids that the site can be slow to load at times. ToonDisney.com relies on Macromedia Web browser plug-ins, or small programs to play it's coolest animations and sounds.

In addition to games, users can draw and color their own Disney artwork, answer Disney trivia questions, take part in a Web site poll, download neat Disney screensavers (free of charge!).

Zoog Disney is yet another content area on the massive Disney site, and it appears aimed at the young teen audience. For example, one of the Zoog Disney polls asked visitors to describe their "most outrageous outfit."

Again, the content is matched with programming found on the Disney Channel, and expertly created.

There's no shortage of actives on Zoog Disney -- games, crossword puzzles, chat, e-mail -- even a section that shows young visitors how their hobby or favorite pastime can fit into an occupation in their future.

Visit Zoog Disney at www.zoogdisney.com.

One thing you'll need to do to use visit most anything on the Disney Web sites is register -- a free and easy process. Once registered, you'll also have a chance to use free e-mail via Disney's Go Network at www.go.com.

NICK.COM. Before my cable TV company put the Disney channel in it's "basic" channels lineup, my kids favorite TV spot was Nickelodeon.

Nick is still popular with them, make no mistake about it. Nick is the home for the ultra-popular Rugrats, as well as the place to find a wide array of kid TV favorites new and old, including "Hey Arnold," "Rocko's Modern Life," and my Friday-night favorite, "KABLAM!"

You'll find all the Nickelodeon fun at www.nick.com.

Another Nickelodeon site is called Nickelodeon GAS -- Games and Sports for kids. Here you'll find content aimed at the hottest in youth sports.

There's cool online sports games to play, and for kids involved in team sports, an online stats calculator that can keep track of personal information throughout the season.

My 3-year-old son immediately recognizes the familiar logo at the Nickelodeon Nick Jr. Web site.

Nick Jr. TV programming is aimed at pre-schoolers, and the Web site mirrors the TV fare, which includes "Blues Clues," "Gullah Gullah Island," and "The Busy World of Richard Scarry."

You can download sounds and pictures from some of your favorite shows, print out and play a different Blue's Clues online educational game each week that you can also download and keep.

The best part of all of the sites I've mentioned is they're free to use. And more importantly, it gives your kids a chance to be interactive - and thinking -- when viewing and making content choices.

YAHOO! LEADS. The Yahoo! search engine remains the most popular search site on the Web for Internet users, according to a recent study.

Yahoo accounted for 43.55 percent of all search engine referrals as of the end of August. AltaVista was a distant second, with 10.49 percent.

The study, conducted by StatMarket.com, indicated that Yahoo!'s lead had slipped only by a couple of percentage points since the last survey in March 1999.

The Excite search engine saw a dramatic drop in users in the time between March and August, losing 60 percent of its share of the market. StatMarket analysts say the drop is likely due to AOL switching from Excite's Netfind to Inktomi for its search engine of choice.

AVAST MATEY. If you've been thinking of buying software in an online auction Web site, you might want to think again, according to the Software & Information Industry Association.

More than half of the software being offered in Web auctions is pirated, the group says.

After examining auctions at three popular sites, the SIAA found that graphics software by Macromedia, Adobe seemed to be illegally copied most often.

This was the SIIA's first look at Internet auction sites. A spokesman for the group said it plans to ask auction sites to remove illegal software from its sites.

Penalties for selling pirated software include jail time and substantial fines.

MICROSOFT NEWS. If you use a PC in your workplace, chances are pretty good that you have one version of Microsoft Office installed on it.

Microsoft Office -- now called Office 2000 -- is the most popular business software package on the market.

Office is what used to referred to as a "bundle" -- an all-in-one software package that incorporates business-related software applications.

With Office you get a word processor (Word), spreadsheet for financial calculations and projections (Excel), software for presentations (PowerPoint) and much more.

In an interview published in London's Financial Times, the company's president, Steve Ballmer, said Microsoft has big plans for the future of Office.

This includes giving users the ability to access and run Microsoft Office applications via the Web free of charge.

Ballmer offered no details of a timetable, but since 40 percent of the company's revenues were generated by Office, I wouldn't hold my breath.

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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