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Newsletter No. 5

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                              Free Pint
          Helping you find quality information on the Web

ISSN 1460-7239                                      8 January 1998 #5
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       Happy New Year and Welcome to Free Pint Number Five!

As usual we have packed in lots of practical advice and hints. The
Tips and Techniques section this issue is a compilation of the top
sites of 1997 as listed by a variety of information professionals.
The Feature Article is written by a top IT consultant who
describes how and where to find the best IT and Telecoms based
resources on the Web.

We now have a new area on the Web site called the "Free Pint Forum".
This has been developed to allow subscribers to Free Pint to post
questions, feedback, and comments about the newsletter and other
useful resources on the Web.  If you have something you would like
to say or want answered then please do visit the Forum at:


You will also find the archive of past issues on the site, and this
is now fully searchable.

Keep spreading the word about Free Pint.  We now have over 2300
subscribers and the newsletter is proving to be very popular.
Please do remember to contact our sponsors though (and tell them
where you saw their advert).  With support from our subscribers
and sponsors we can ensure that Free Pint continues to go 
from strength to strength.

Therefore, please read on and enjoy.

William Hann

PS: If you do not already receive Free Pint automatically, then
register to receive your free fortnightly copy at:


You may find it easier to read and use if you print it out first.

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                           IN THIS ISSUE

                        TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
                 "Top Five Web Resources of 1997"
                       by William Hann et al.

                          FEATURE ARTICLE
                      "Finding IT on the WWW"
                          by Martin White


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TFPL, the premier training organisation in business information,
presents the following courses: 
   Introduction to the Internet               13 January 
   Internet for Business Information          15 January
   Internet for Legal Information             22 January
   Internet for Environmental Information     29 January
For further details please contact or visit
our website or telephone 0171 251 5522

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                        TIPS AND TECHNIQUES

                 "Top Five Web Resources of 1997"
                       by William Hann et al.

How would you like to know the top five resources of 1997 as voted
for by a variety of information professionals?  Well, so would I.
Therefore, since we have recently waved goodbye to 1997, I thought
I would ask five prominent information professionals to list their
top five most useful and most used Web resources of last year.

The information professionals come from a wide spectrum across the

- a university lecturer & researcher in information retrieval
- an information consultant
- the head of an information centre
- a university academic services manager
- a Web resource developer & entrepreneur

Therefore, please find here their personal top five Web resources 
of 1997. This will then be followed by a summary (using the
favourites listed) of the "Top Five Web Resources of 1997".

Dr Anne Barker. Lecturer and researcher in information retrieval
(focusing on online and Internet searching) in the Department of
Information and Library Studies at the University of
Wales Aberystwyth.

1) AltaVista

   Still one of the top four Internet search engines and as good a
   place as any to start searching.

2a) British Library OPAC97

    Comprehensive catalogue of the British Library's collections,
    mainly from 1975- or 1980-.

... joint second place with ...

2b) Consortium of University Research Libraries OPAC

    Single, integrated catalogue of some of the largest UK research
    university catalogues; 10 at present including Oxford, Cambridge
    and London, 12 more to be added.

3) Business Researcher's Interests

   Links to contemporary business, management and technology issues

4) New Scientist

   A treat for scientists, especially the "Physics of Star Trek"

5) Search engine watch

   Quick guide to how search engines work and latest developments.

Karen Blakeman, Information Consultant, RBA Information Services

1) Yahoo!

   Good starting point for searches on the web, particularly company
   home pages, with UK sites listed first.

2) Internet Resources Newsletter

   Excellent monthly current awareness services on Internet sources
   of information.

3) Hotbot

   My favourite search engine, despite the dayglo colours.

4) Search Engine Watch

   Invaluable source of information, search tips and up-to-date news
   on what's going on in the search engine world.

5) Business Information on the Net

   Sorry to include one of my own pages, but I do use this myself as
   a regular jumping-off point for business information when I don't
   have access to my bookmarks.

Marc Arenstein, Head, Information Centre
Chamber of Commerce and Industry - Haifa and Northern Israel

1) Profusion

   "The Best Results from the Best Search Engines", which is set as
   the default homepage in my browser.

2) Kompass

   You won't find search engine links elsewhere to the 1.5 million
   directory listings here, some of which contain substantial
   international company information.

3) The (almost) Complete Guide to WWW in Israel
   Sometimes it's just as hard finding local information.

4) Kapitol International Telephone Directory

   Contains links to some of the best national business directories.


   Verify international fax number coverage and continue on to send.

Alison McNab, Academic Services Manager, Pilkington Library,
Loughborough University

1) NISS Information Gateway
   A "one stop shop" for UK higher education - links to essential
   resources to support teaching, learning and research.

2) Internet Resources Newsletter
   Monthly current awareness service for UK academics and students.

3) Argus Clearinghouse
   A central collection of topical subject guides which identify and
   describe Internet resources.

4) Universities Worldwide
   A searchable database of university websites covering 89
   countries, and over 3,000 institutions.

5) BUBL Information Service
   Complements the NISS Information Gateway - the BUBL UK section is
   particularly useful for reference enquiries.

Tim Dunton, CEO Global Gold Internet Services and InterlinkUK
Called "Britain's Answer to Bill Gates" by The Guardian and The Times

1) Yahoo

   Not just the search engine but massive weather information, the
   amazing Free My Yahoo, Stock Quotes and Company Profiles.

2) Netcraft

   Useful for analysing other sites and domain naming status.

3) MacCentral

   Up-to-date information about the Macintosh Community.

4) Infoseek

   Excellent search engine which allows you to do a search and then
   search through those results many times.

5) News

   Information about the entire Computer Market updated every hour.

"Top Five Web Resources of 1997"

Well, here they are, the Top Five Web Resources of 1997 ...

... OK, I'll come clean. I can't tell you which are the best
resources of 1997.  That depends on your personal interests, current
projects and so on.  Only you know which sites suit your needs best,
and which ones you use regularly.

However, I hope that by finding out what sites are preferred by the
professionals then we may have given you some new ideas. We may
even have confirmed that the sites you have been using are the ones
which information professionals rely on every day.

William Hann

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William Hann is the founder of the Internet consultancy "Willco".
The company provides Internet training, consultancy and Web site
services. Full details can be found at

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sector professionals at all levels.  Plus ad hoc services to answer
information market needs in a fast and flexible way'.

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                          FEATURE ARTICLE

                      "Finding IT on the WWW"
                          by Martin White

Historically finding information on the computer industry was a
nightmare. The best industry information was compiled by major
research companies such as International Data Corporation and
Dataquest and distributed in annual subscription services. Books were
out of date before they were published, and much of the computer
press was (and indeed still is) driven by the need to generate income
from advertising, not from subscriptions. 

The good news is that the WWW has changed all that. The bad news is
that finding information on the WWW can take a great deal of time
just because of the volume of information. In the last year AltaVista
added over 800,000 records to its files that contained references to
PCs or personal computers. In a short article such as this it is not
possible to cover every nuance of IT information retrieval, so I will
concentrate on three topics.

*   meta sites
*   getting the best out of search sites
*   a few interesting/useful sites, including some specialising in
    Year2000 information.

Meta sites

In my view the best meta site without doubt is the Telecoms Virtual
Library compiled by Analysys Ltd at
(Note the spelling of the company name carefully) . This site has
around 30 main categories, from Associations to Videoconferencing
including a colossal manufacturers listing. Each site has a brief
two line description. Don't be put off by the 'telecoms' term, as we
are in the age of the networked computer, which means that most
computer vendors are listed. The site is especially good for locating
trade, industry and research associations, and the up-dating is
pretty good. Especially good are the trade associations such as the
Frame Relay Forum or the ADSL Forum, which have excellent white
papers and lists of hyperlinked members.  

The Analysys site also lists other virtual libraries, but probably
the only one that comes close for the computer industry is the
Virtual Computer Library, set up by the University of Texas at Although not in the same class
as the Analysys site, it still contains a very useful collection of
links to other sites, and seems to be cared for quite lovingly. 

Search sites

If you don't find it in these two sites, then a search  site may be
called for. I find that the AltaVista/Yahoo combination is as good as
any. Yahoo makes quite a good attempt with its Computer and Internet
heading, which has about 40 subheadings, including a very useful list
of over 200 magazine sites, and a very large section on operating

The LookSmart option in AltaVista complements the Yahoo indices. Some
of the headings are more useful, but I find a higher level of
less-than-useful sites. In the UK the options you get under LookSmart
are World and UK. Frankly you won't find much under UK. Stick to the
World unless you really want to find local UK resources, and even
then there are probably better ways such as the UK computer magazines
and Yellow Pages!

If this doesn't work then going for a text search needs very careful
preparation. The IT industry is fraught with acronyms, some of which
mean two totally different things. For example

    ATM = asynchronous transfer mode or automated teller machine
    FM = frequency modulation or facilities management
    PC = personal computer or politically correct!

There is also some significant differences between US and UK/European
practice. A 2Mbit/sec leased line in the USA is called a T1 circuit,
but in Europe is known as a E1 circuit. The GSM mobile telephony
standard is not used in the USA, so information on the US mobile
telephone market has to be found under CDMA or TDMA, which are the US
standards.  As a consequence you will almost always need to use quite
a complex search strategy, and even then be prepared for a high
percentage of irrelevant hits. Given the amount of US information on
the WWW it is essential that you ensure that you are using current US
terminology. Many of the irrelevant hits will come from glossaries
and other lists, and it is worth making a note of some of these so
that time is not wasted working through them. At least have a look
through some periodicals from both sides of the Atlantic before


If you do want to check out the meaning of technical terms the most
comprehensive list is to be found on the Sun site at  The ETHOS project of the
European Commission has also published a Handbook of Telematics Terms
( )which gives quite
detailed descriptions of about 300 terms, including how the
technology can be applied, and often links are provided to useful
sites. I know it's good because I designed the concept and checked
each term though the research was carried out under contract to TFPL
by Tagish Ltd., of which more later.

Site warnings

Just a couple of words of caution about IT sites. The first is that
most are built and managed by the US offices of IT companies, and it
can be quite a challenge to find any information on them about
European subsidiaries. The second is that they can change very
radically overnight, literally. If you find something interesting,
such as a paper explaining some piece of technology, file it in print
or digitally, because the chances of a) finding it in the same place
or b) ever finding it again, are remote.

Some recommendations.

Here are a few sites that I use on a regular basis.

Http:// is the site of McGraw-Hill's Data Communications
magazine, which has excellent international coverage and publishes
very good articles on all aspects of data communications

Http:// contains the column written by Glyn
Moody each week, in which he comments on new or revised WWW sites in
a column entitled Siteseeing. It's well worth getting Computer Weekly
just for this column. For some reason the archive of the Siteseeing
articles is not currently available. I think someone forgot the

Http:// is the site of the European Telematics
Horizontal Observatory Service. This site contains a news database on
a wide range of IT and communications topics, and Technical Briefings
which outline the basic operation and applications of many current
technologies. Each briefing includes a list of WWW sites. is where most IT companies publish their
press releases. You have to register for the site, but there is no
charge. You can select the topics or companies you want to monitor, and
the latest press releases are listed out for you when you log on. It
is an excellent way of tracking down PR companies and departments.

Http:// is the master URL for the Ziff Davis site, which
is probably the best for PC-related information, and also internet
information. In particular look at for
the latest information on all aspects of the PC industry and
technology. Incidentally the content of the US magazine is very
different from the UK version you can get from your local newsagent!

The Year 2000 problem

Finally a list of the best of the sites providing advice on the Y2K
problem, as it is often referred to. All are good, and offer useful
links to other, specialised, sites.

Http:// 2000

Martin White

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Martin White is a Principal Consultant with TFPL Ltd., where he
advises electronic information publishers on product and marketing
strategy. Before joining TFPL in 1995 he had spent the previous
decade providing market planning services to the IT industry whilst
working at International Data Corporation, Logica and Romtec. At TFPL
he has been closely involved with the ETHOS project referred to
above. Martin can be contacted at and
information about TFPL Ltd. can be found at

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               Link To Us And Win Free Advertising!
      Follow the link on the homepage to enter our competition

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                     RBA Information Services

For publications and training on how to use the Internet more
effectively, contact us at RBA. Topics that we regularly cover in
our workshops and seminars include Internet search tools, using the
Internet for business information, beginners guide to the Net,
choosing the right software, how to avoid and get rid of junk mail.
Tel: 0118 947 2256, E-mail:

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Once again we have had some wonderful letters of support from our
readers. We have published a letter this issue which points to a 
very well written and useful review of AltaVista software.

As mentioned at the beginning, we have developed the "Free
Pint Forum" which is a discussion/feedback area on the Web site where
you can post your questions and comments and interact with other
subscribers.  Why not visit now at

If you would like to send a letter instead, then please write
to Please note that we will not publish
your letter if you do not want us to.  Any that we do publish may
be edited for content or length and we cannot guarantee a reply.

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Dear William,

In the third issue of Free Pint I was struck with the following in
the letter by reader Ran Hock, where he wrote:

   "Your short article on capitalization was great. I also liked your
   article very much. As I know very well from the seminars I do on
   Web searching, the need for understanding more about the
   intricacies of search engines is just beginning to be realized."

I couldn't agree more on this. A while ago there was a discussion on
the Web4Lib discussion list on the poor information that
Search Engines are providing. This summer I evaluated a copy of
AltaVista' s free "personal" indexing software. Building on some of
the things I noticed when I evaluated this software, I wrote an
article which is online at my homepage at:


I'd be very glad if you'd do me the honour of reading the article as
I'm sure you would find it interesting.

Yours sincerely,
Dirk van Eylen

Student in Library and Information Sciences
Editor of the Dutch literary magazine *De Brakke Hond*
Founder/co-editor of "Letters" - Dutch literature email newsletter
Documentalist at IWT
   (Flemish Institution for the Promotion of Research in Science
   and Industry)

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         Promotional gifts supplied by Riverside Promotions
                Tel: 01784 454785  Fax: 01784 466157

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Well, we hope you have enjoyed this issue of Free Pint. There are
going to be more subject-specific Feature Articles coming
soon, including medical resources, engineering and current awareness.
If you know someone who would want to read these, then why not forward
them this email?  Don't worry if you're not interested in these
subjects because Free Pint will always also contain the Tips and
Techniques section, along with all the other useful information.

Remember to visit us at the Forum, we would like to hear from you.

                           Kind regards,

                       William Hann, Editor

(c) Willco 1997
ISSN: 1460-7239

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Free Pint (ISSN 1460-7239) is a free email newsletter for anyone who
uses the Internet to get information for their work in any business
or organisation. The newsletter is written by professionals who share 
how they find quality and reliable information on the Internet.

More details about subscribing, contributing or advertising can be
found on the Web at

Please note: The newsletter is published by the information
consultancy Willco (, and the publishers
will NEVER make the subscriber list available to any other company
or organisation.

The opinions, advice, products and services offered herein are the
sole responsibility of the contributors. Whilst all reasonable care
has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the publication, the
publishers cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions.

This publication may be freely copied and/or distributed in its
entirety. However, individual sections MAY NOT be copied and/or
distributed without the prior written agreement of the publishers.
All rights reserved.

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