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Cybernaut

Settler of bets

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Ever hear the one about figure skater and black belt Elvis Stojko kicking Eric Lindros’s ass in a bar brawl? How about an embarrassing story about a certain Hollywood Buddhist with a gerbil up his wazoo? What about the tale of Mikey from those old LIFE cereal commercials, whose stomach exploded after eating a lethal combination pop rocks and soda?

All lies and urban legends, my friends. What some might call Grade ‘A’ bull-plop.

Whenever a story appears too crazy to be true, it probably is. You might even want to put a few bucks on it.

If it’s a bet regarding sports or Hollywood figures, the first place I’d visit is Snopes at www.snopes.com . Snopes is an open source community committed to confirming, clarifying or debunking urban legends and rumours. It’s also a good place to go to kill time with a wide range of off-beat stories of interest arranged and cross-referenced into dozens of categories.

The Guinness Book of Worlds Records, www.guinnessworldrecords.com, was originally created to help settle bar-room discussions, while providing people with interesting topics of discussion. Over the decades the book has grown into an institution, a testimony to human achievement, human endurance, and all things measurable, quantifiable or qualifiable.

Not all records are available through the website, but there’s a lot of good stuff there to settle bets.

Whenever a bet is movie related (my friends and I had a long-standing bet lasting 15 years about whether a prostitute in My Tutor or the stripper in The Wild Life had bigger breasts: it turned out to be the same woman) I turn to the Internet Movie Database at www.imdb.com . Whether you search by actor, by film, or by director, the IMDB can settle almost any Hollywood bet, or reveal any name that’s at the tip of your tongue.

FunTrivia.com, www.funtrivia.com , may not look like much but there are literally thousands upon thousands of trivia facts, links to online trivia tournaments and games, daily trivia games, and a lot more.

Women like colours, men like horizontal

As if web designers didn’t have enough to worry about with new languages, new browsers and new security issues to address, a new study has determined that men and women have very different ideas about what a website should look like.

Conducted by the Glamorgan University Business School in Wales, test subjects rated 60 different websites in terms of usability and aesthetics. The verdict? Men and women have far different tastes when it comes to the Web.

Women liked the pages with more colour in the interface and text, and also seemed to prefer the sites that were made by other women.

Men liked sites designed by men that used dark colours and horizontal designs. They also preferred the 3D look and interactive components that move or change colour when activated.

The study may have implications for how sites are designed and by whom – women designing sites for women, and men designing sites for men. For sites looking to appeal to both sexes, web design may have to be more collaborative, or at least sensitive to the preferences of the other sex.

Firefox reaching burnout?

When the open source browser Firefox was first released more than a year ago it was heralded as a safe, speedy, capable and intuitive alternative to Microsoft Explorer.

Tired of security updates and other glitches, people rushed to download the Mozilla Firefox browser, and Internet Explorer’s near dominance of the browser market slipped from about 95 per cent of marketshare.

Then reality set it, and Firefox users received the first flurry of critical security alerts.

As it stands now, according to Net Applications, Firefox is starting to lose some of the ground it gained on Microsoft in the past year – 8.07 per cent of Internet users in July compared to 8.71 per cent in June. Internet Explorer saw its slice of the pie increase from 86.56 per cent to 87.2 per cent in the same period. Apple’s Safari browser gained a few tenths of a per cent to a new high of 2.13 per cent.

While Microsoft might have won this round, word has it that another version of Firefox is on the way, while AOL is preparing to release Netscape 8 – although the release was delayed to repair a series of bugs, some critics believe it performs well enough technically to give Internet Explorer some competition.

Further compounding the issue is the fact that some enterprising hackers found a way to run Apple’s OSX system on PC’s by circumnavigating Apple’s security features. Word has it that people are rushing to download this hacked OS, called OSx86, to create computers that combine the security and solidness of the Apple operating system with the price and computing power of PC’s. Whether the hack achieves enough popularity to enhance Safari’s share of the browser market has yet to be seen.

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