Date:         Wed, 8 Mar 2000 04:15:33 +0000
Sender:       The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 07 Mar 2000 - Finding Answers
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             TOURBUS Volume 5, Number 73 -- 07 March 2000
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           TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: Finding Answers
One of the "benefits" of being a very visible person in the online
world is that some people assume I know everything about everything.
People send me all kinds of questions...  How do I edit my Windows 95
system registry?  Can I plug a coffee maker into a Macintosh? Will you
send me the names and phone numbers of all medical school admissions
departments in North America?
Even if I did know all the answers, I don't have time to respond to
all the questions.  In today's TOURBUS, I'll point you to some
excellent resources that may help you find the answers on your own.
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If you've ever followed a Q&A type of mailing list or Usenet group for
any length of time, you've seen the problem arise where newbies ask
questions that have already been answered a hundred times.
For this reason, people have developed FAQs or "Frequently Asked
Questions" files in the futile hope that newbies will look there first
and find answers before asking for the 101st time in the discussion
group.  FAQs exist for many Usenet groups, and now that they're
available on the Web, it's a lot easier to find and read them.
Here's where to look: 
You'll find a variety of ways to search for FAQs (by Author, Category,
Newsgroup, or Keyword) and you can of course read the FAQs as well.
For example, typing "coffee" in the search box will yield a file
called caffeine-faq which contains "Coffee and Caffeine's Frequently
Asked Questions", and is the distilled wisdom of the people who
frequent the newsgroups alt.drugs.caffeine,,, and
At you can do one very powerful search with a single
click. Enter your keywords, press the Find button, and you'll get
references from:
  - the ENTIRE contents of the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica
  - articles from major magazines (Newsweek, Discover, and 70 more)
  - the Books in Print database (over two million titles)
  - the Britannica Internet Guide (reviews of the Web's best sites)  
Need to look up a word in the dictionary or thesaurus?  Having Webster
online is a good thing for me, since my girls are always hiding the
paper versions in odd corners of the house.  You can find the Merriam-
Webster Online site at this unlikely address:  
Travlang's Translating Dictionaries site provides multilingual on-line
dictionaries including German, French, Spanish, English, Portuguese,
Dutch, Italian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and more.  Use this site
to translate a single word from one language to another.  
If you need to translate entire sentences, AltaVista's Babelfish is a
robotic translater that produces reasonable results in many cases, but
it doesn't support as many languages as Travlang.  You can have a lot
of fun translating phrases from one language to another, and back
Ever wonder what SNAFU or TANSTAAFL means?  How about ROTFL, ADSL, or
RTFM? AcronymFinder is a searchable database of over 100,000 acronyms,
abbreviations and their meanings.  There is coverage of many subjects,
with a focus on computers, technology, telecommunications, and the
In a library, if you don't know where to look for a reference book,
you go to the Reference Librarian.  On the Internet, if you don't know
where to look for answers, you go to  At first glance,
the sheer amount of useful links on the Refdesk home page can be
overwhelming.  But it's really quite well organized and useful.  Bob
Drudge, creator of Refdesk, gives a few pointers on how to use the
"'s database in on three levels: quick, studied and deep.
For thumbnail snapshots: FastFacts 1999, Quick Reference / Research,
and My Facts Page.  For a more studied approach: My Virtual Newspaper,
My Search Engines, Internet Help, and Writing Web Documents.  For an
in-depth exploration: My Virtual Encyclopedia with fifty volumes of
indexed subjects."  
That's all for now, see you next time!  --Bob Rankin
The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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