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Actually Useful Websites Volume 1

ith at least 8 billion web pages out there, it becomes difficult to separate the good from the bad. Periodically, I will share some sites that I feel are actually useful and weed through the ones that aren’t.

The Baby Name Wizard is interesting even if you aren’t looking for a name for a child. Located at http://www.babynamewizard.com, it contains a section called the Name Voyager. By entering any name into the Voyager, you will see a real-time graph showing the popularity of the name going back to the 1900's through to present day. I found this very interesting and in many cases, somewhat surprising. With certain names you can see when they peaked in popularity and this might help you make a decision or at the very least, is quite entertaining.

I have talked about Google previously but I feel it’s important to draw your attention to a new section of the site. Google Maps, http://maps.google.com, has now incorporated satellite imagery. Have you ever wondered what your house looks like from above? Just enter your address and click on "Satellite". You can also enter larger areas like "Brantford, ON" for a view of the city. If you haven’t seen the Grand River from this perspective, it is well worth the effort. I also find it interesting that if you attempt to look at the White House you will find that the image is either blurry or modified. I’ll let you use Google to find out the address so you can look for yourself.

Tying a tie is still a mystery to many people. If you visit http://www.tie-a-tie.net you will not only discover several different styles but find easy to follow diagrams. The site goes well beyond what you might expect to include how to untie a tie (apparently just ripping it off is unacceptable), tie accessories and even some information about dressing for a job interview. Now that is useful.

If you are planning a trip south of the border, you are probably wondering how the currency exchange is going to affect you. Since there has been so much fluctuation in the past couple of years it is probably more important than ever to keep up to date. The Universal Currency Conversion website located at http://www.xe.net/ucc will help you out. At 180 supported currencies, it can convert to and from the trading system in almost every country in the world. The data is constantly kept up to date and from my own personal experience is quite accurate.

Speaking of money, http://www.canadamortgage.com has some great free tools that help if you are thinking about renewing or obtaining a mortgage. It even has calculators for owning versus renting and because it’s Canadian, it will give you all of the correct calculations. In addition to all the tools and calculators, this site has a wealth of information about obtaining a mortgage, reverse mortgages, and so on.

Do you have a curious side? If you are the type of person who likes to take things apart to discover how they work, or even if you are the more cerebral type with an appetite for knowledge then you need to visit http://www.howstuffworks.com. This site contains information on the inner workings of almost everything, explained in plain English with diagrams. From the common (how toasters work) to the obscure (how EVP works), HowStuffWorks.com is not only entertaining but can be very useful in diagnosing problems. The "Stuffo" subsection of the site will even attempt to explain the Amityville Horror phenomenon that has recently resurfaced with Hollywood’s latest big budget title.

If you are thinking about upgrading the hardware in your computer or are even curious about some of the new technology out there, Tom’s Hardware Guide (http://www.tomshardware.com) is a must. This site not only reviews hardware choices but offers some great tutorials as well. The articles, the pictures and the layout are all well done and easy for all to understand. If you tend to get lost in the endless world of computer acronyms, this site will definitely attempt to ease your pain.

The web has become a big place. I hope these recommendations will help you find your way to information that is useful to you, but remember there is nothing wrong with getting lost along the way sometimes.

Article Copyright ©2005 by Syd Bolton. Original publication date: 4/23/2005.
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