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Software can help ferret out the information you seek


There's no shortage of information on the World Wide Web, and certainly no shortage of ways to search through all of it.

If you've used the Internet for any length of time, you've likely seen how a search engine -- Yahoo!, Excite, AltaVista and the like -- operates.

You go online, find the search engine, type in the name or words and click the button to start your search.

But there are so many different search engines -- each with its own style or method of searching and indexing -- that no two will provide identical search results.

One software company hopes to assist Web surfers in their quest for information by introducing a new line of software aimed solely at ferreting out information.

WebFerret and WebFerretPro are two of the products I've tried by FerretSoft, an Ohio software company that designs a wide range of products for information retrieval.

Other search products include InfoFerretPro,EmailFerret, FileFerret, IRCFerret, PhoneFerret and NewsFerret.

WebFerretPro is a small software program that runs on your home computer, and is a deceptively simple thing to use.

Simply type in the terms or name in the window, select your search parameters (if any) and click the "Find Now" button.

The software simultaneously sends out your search to other search engines around the Internet. The last time I visited FerretSoft's Web site (www.ferretsoft.com), they employed more than 20 different search engines for WebFerretPro's searches.

WebFerretPro is thorough -- to the extreme.

In fact, it looks at first glance like a case of information overload.

However, WebFerretPro also rates the relevance of each Web page it shows as a "hit," which helps you immediately know which ones are more likely to have something useful in their content.

But WebFerretPro works.

I tried a random search recently, using my own ham radio callsign as the search phrase.

I was amazed to find that WebFerretPro quickly found three "hits" where my unique, FCC-assigned call letters could be found.

Two of the "hits" were related to a reprint of an article I wrote 10 years ago about newsletter publishing. The third was a mention of my callsign in a ham radio e-mail list I joined some years ago.

Needless to say, WebFerretPro impressed me.

You can try it for free by downloading it from the FerretSoft Web site.

It comes in two flavors: WebFerretPro, the high-powered search tool they sell for $26.95, and the freeware WebFerret that's available for download at absolutely no charge.

FerretSoft is planning to release updated versions of many of its software products later this month. I hope to try more of their products then, but for more information now, visit their Web site at www.ferretsoft.com.

LEGAL LIMIT. Ever since their release, the "56k modem" claim applied to most faster-than-33.6k modems today is a bit of marketing sleight of hand.

The FCC's own regulations effectively limit the fastest data transfer speeds over telephone lines to 53k.

But the FCC announced last Wednesday that it was going to reconsider its cyber speed limit later this year.

Removing the 20-year-old restriction won't give you a great deal of extra speed, but at least modem makers will no longer have to bother with fine-print disclaimers on all modems that claim "56k."

Getting the maximum speeds out of your 56k modem will still depend on a host of other factors, including telephone line quality both inside and outside your home.

AOL STILL TOPS. America Online, the world's largest Internet provider, expects to sign up half of all the newcomers to the Internet over the next two years, the company reported last week.

This is no small number, considering that the estimated market of about 7 million users per year.

About 15 million of the total 23 million U.S. households on the Internet receive their online service through AOL. He said more than half of all AOL sessions were now conducted on the 4.0 service and that technical support costs on this version were down 75 percent from those on AOL 3.0.

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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