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From Sreenath Sreenivasan
Columbia University journalism professor
Tech Guru" on Thursday mornings in NYC area
[Tech Guru archives at
Now with Real Video archives] *

March 2002:

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Manhattan, March 31 -- Welcome to the latest issue of the "Sree Tips" newsletter. As always, I look forward to YOUR tips, feedback and suggestions: This month's tipsters include: Benjamin Arnoldy, Warren Bass, Jonathan Dube, Ravi Kumar, Betty Medsger, Robin Phillips, Bob Romano, Karen Shugart, James Taranto, Al Tompkins, Hans Wind.

This newsletter started as an offshoot of the "Smarter Surfing: Better Use of Your Web Time" workshops I teach around the U.S. and abroad. If you are interested in having me do a session for your organization, civic group, school or hamlet (I do most of them pro bono), please visit

Why wait a month for the next newsletter? Visit the constantly updated "Smarter Surfing" links at
Also see new "Web Tips" published every Tuesday on

Reminder: Your friends can add themselves to this once-a-month list by e-mailing

Two events en route:
1. COMPUTERS 101: On Sunday, April 14, at 11 a.m., I will be hosting a half-hour "Tech Guru" special on WABC-TV in the New York area. Among the topics we'll cover: upgrading your PC, buying a new computer, smarter Web surfing, keeping your kids safe online, telling your RAM from your ROM & your megahertz from your megabytes, getting rid of pop-up ads and things I hate about technology. With cameo appearances by Halle Barry, Regis & Kelly and Susan Lucci. No heavy tech stuff, we promise. Just 30 minutes of useful, friendly, fun information. There will be an accompanying in-depth Web site with all the info at Please let your friends in the area know.

2. NEW MEDIA TRAINING: On April 20-21, the Columbia Journalism School is offering a subsidized weekend new media workshop print and broadcast journalists who want to learn how to build Web sites. No Web skills required. We still have a couple of seats left:

{Cheers, Sree}

(sites I find useful in some way)

Understanding Terrorism: With so much information -- and misinformation -- coming at you about terrorism these days, here are two sites to help you sort through it all -- with an American perspective. -- from the Council on Foreign Relations
"Terrorism: Questions & Answers" is run by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, publishers of Foreign Affairs magazine. Here's what the site says: "If youíre bewildered by anthrax, Afghanistan, and a lot else thatís happened since September 11, join the crowd. Our aim is to help sort it all out for you -- in a question-and-answer format thatís authoritative, easily understandable, and nonpartisan. Weíll tell you what we know and what we donít know." Think of it as an online encyclopedia about terrorism. It's a work in progress that is a good starting point to learn more about the subject.

Perspectives on Terrorism: Defining the Line -- from the Christian Science Monitor
This site from the Christian Science Monitor deals with the thorny issue of defining the word "terrorism." A multimedia site that uses text, photos and audio, it is a special project that draws on the extensive reportage of the Monitor and the expertise of Brian Jenkins, author of "International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict." Using five case studies, readers can try to define each situation and decide whether they think it is terrorism or not. Powerful, thought-provoking material.

DCViews -- resources for digital photography
Got a digital camera or planning to get one soon? You can turn to this site for reviews, news, tips, and tutorials. It's based in the Netherlands (I am always pleased when I can highlight a non-U.S.-based site). More digital camera resources at

Keeping Kids Safe Online -- tips for computer safety
I recently gave a talk about computer use for parents in the Roslyn, Long Island, school district and this is the tip sheet from the presentation. It offers some thoughts on keeping children safe as well as links to online safety guides, filtering software and kids browsers.


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(proof "fun" is a subjective word)

Flags' Letter Grades -- rating the flags of various nations
Josh Parsons, a student of philosophy at Scotland's University of St. Andrews, has rated the national flags of the world on the basis of his (very subjective) design standards and given them letter grades, from A+ to F. The highest rating goes to Gambia ("great design and colour choice") and the lowest to the Northern Mariana Islands ("truly awful"). His rules include: "Do not write on your flag," "Do not put a map of your country on your flag," "Do not put a picture of anything on your flag." His ratings are sure to upset all kinds of partisans (I disagreed with his B- for India, which he says is "too busy") but are fun nevertheless.

Star Links -- connect actors with each other

You know a site called the "Oracle of Bacon" (Kevin Bacon, that is) is going to have some unusual material. Based on the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" game (trying to link a Hollywood actor to Bacon in the shortest number of movies), the Star Links game allows you to connect any two actors or actresses to each other. For example, I tried to connect Clint Eastwood (one of my favorite Hollywood action hero) with Amitabh Bachchan (Indian cinema's biggest star). They were connected in two steps: Bachchan was in Lagaan (2001) with David Gant. Gant was in Firefox (1982) with Eastwood. The game uses the Internet Movie DataBase and its information on 500,000 movie folks:


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(A SreeTips reader shares a tip)
Have a tip you would like to share? Send it to

BETTY MEDSGER, the distinguished NY-based freelance journalist and journalism education consultant, suggests visiting, a site in English and Portuguese that allows you to search news archives in different countries. "Looks like a great research tool," she says. "When you get to the opening page, I recommend you click on English Reference" The site:
Read Betty's recent article on how modern warfare and government policy put journalists in peril:
And here's a terrific essay she wrote soon after the Sept. 11 attacks:
Betty's e-mail:
Have a tip you would like to share? Send it to

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(my starting points for various things; may change monthly)

Search Engine:
The best search engine out there. 'Nuff said. But here's Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal on Google: "...simply the best search site I've ever used." If you know Walt's work -- and you should be following it religiously at -- you know that he doesn't hand out such praise often. Be sure to download the free Google toolbar; it will change the way you search: (no Mac version right now)

Reference Site:
Excellent reference site. Don't just take my word for it. The New York Times quoted U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell saying this is his favorite Web site. Run by Bob Drudge, Matt's dad (though Refdesk doesn't run rumors).

The Encyclopedia Britannica on the Web -- basic info free of charge (the full-access version, which used to be free, now costs $7.95 a month, or $50 a year). I also use, to a lesser extent, from Microsoft (many free articles, pay for others).

In offices, dictionaries grow legs and walk. Hence an online dictionary is a must. This one addresses a major problem I have had with traditional dictionaries: You need to know how to spell a word before you look it up. Not here. Just punch in an approximation, and it will give you a suggested list. And nice etymology. Also see the new button for your browser; once you download it, you don't need to go to the site itself in order to lookup a word. You can do it right from whatever site you are in.

National Geographic's Map Machine
Leave it to National Geographic to make the best online atlas with these dynamic maps that will take you to any spot you choose and allow you to change what kind of map you see, on the fly. I had no idea there are three towns named Santa Claus in the U.S. or that my grandfather's village in India is an easy find.

Driving Directions:
For U.S. driving directions, MapQuest remains the best site. But I also like the new "straight-line" maps from MapBlast <>

World Time:

The best set of world clocks and calendars. I like the personal world clock, which allows you to set and track time in up to 16 cities at one glance.

Software Downloads:
No need to hit the store to buy software. Almost everything you need is online and has free trials.

Media Goings-on:
Jim Romenesko's Media News
Hosted by, this is news-junkie heaven. I read it more often and more closely than any other site.

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Must-Sree TV
My "Tech Guru" segments on WABC-7 in the New York City area run every Thursday morning on channel 7 at 6:45 (yes, that's the a.m.). This is a link to archived Web versions of my segments -- now includes Real Video versions for the newer segments. Coming Sunday, April 14, 11 am: Half-hour special on understanding technology.

"Smarter Surfing" Workshops
Smarter surfing for people of all skill levels. Interested in scheduling a class for you and your colleagues? Learn more.

"Smarter Surfing" Links: Better Use of Your Web Time
Links for various categories of sites, annotated for your surfing pleasure.

Sree Tips -- the Web page
Links to my tips and thoughts on various items, including laptops, digital cameras, freelance writing, Web production and more. Web Tips

Every Tuesday, I write a short Web tip for; MSNBC technology editor Jonathan Dube writes one every Friday.
If you're in the news biz, you may want to subscribe to Jon's terrific monthly newsletter - "tips & talk for the wired world." Drop an e-mail to

Sree Talks
List of forthcoming talks and presentations in various cities.

Info Overload & Moi
An essay for on handling information overload (yes, I am a major info polluter).

Content is Still King: Lessons from the Online Journalism Awards
A keynote speech I gave at the "Computers & Writing" conference in May 2001 at Ball State University.

[Reprint requests:]

That's it for now.

Remember, you can track my "Smarter Surfing" links at

See you (your inbox, actually) next month.

Cheers, Sree

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See text archives of my Tech Guru appearances on Channel 7 -- Thursday mornings at 6:45 in NYC area