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 February 2, 2001      TIPS to search 1billion Web pages fast!

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Anita Bora

This article is inspired by a postcard I received from a friend who is on a honeymoon in Switzerland. As I looked at the postcard, a little enviously, the first thought that crossed my mind was: 'I wish I was there'. The second thought that flashed almost immediately was: 'I can't afford it'.

I don't know about you folks, but every time I see beautiful pictures of far away exotic places, I wonder what I'm doing cooped up in an office for ten hours, with no idea as to how time passes by and how one day turns into the next. Thankfully, the Internet comes to my rescue once again.

Till I can save up enough time and money to go on a trip to Europe (which has been in the pipeline for three years now), I do the next best thing: pretend I'm actually there by watching live pictures that are web cast from the location of my choice. Web cams (cameras that take digital pictures that are immediately uploaded to a web site, where you can view them live) have been a revolution online. I can, for example, fix a web cam on my machine, and have a live web cast of my pictures while at work at my computer through the day. However, surfers may fall asleep, waiting for something to happen.

My first stopover on this virtual journey was Camcity. The site offers thousands of views from live and semi-live locations, and is as good as things get on the Web.

It lets you choose from Web cams located around the world, and what I picked were beaches, pubs, mountains, stadiums, and zoos. For my first stop, I chose beaches and was transported to Illawara in Australia. From there, I explored some more beaches in Durban, New Zealand and Belgium. Over coffee at the Alt Espresso in Sydney and the San Francisco Yacht Club, I took some time to admire one of the best water views., before moving on to the Longhis Restaurant in Lahaina, Maui.

Time for a train ride, and I hopped on to the Metz in France and then got a view of Munich city through the Munich cams mounted on a train. From there, it was a dash to the Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, Sweden and, after a brief stopover in Haines, Alaska, I headed for the SeaTac Airport in Seattle.

Feeling the need to lose some money, I dropped in at the Monaco Casino in Monte Carlo. After a quick turn at the roulette, I grabbed a quick drink at the tallest bar - located in the World Trade Centre, Manhattan, New York.

Next on my agenda was the Fly on the Wall -- a new and dynamic Web cam and streaming video internet portal, which aims to enable you to see anything, from anywhere in the world. They claim to have the whole world covered! And with their Global Cams streaming in live images of everything from the Sydney Harbour to weddings in Vegas, this kept me busy for a while. Only for members however, and free for a limited time only.

If you're looking to cover the world during your lunch break, Around the World in 80 Clicks keeps to its promise. What it does is show you what your world looks like at any given point in time, serving up slices of visual life from over 80 places across the globe. I was taken on a virtual tour of cities in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America, Canada, Alaska and even the Antarctica.

Time for some adventure, I thought, and logged on to Africam where visitors can watch wild animals in the reserve through Safari cams and waterhole cams.

The site is a virtual game reserve with live images captured every 30 seconds from cameras at water holes in African game reserves. Excellent for those who love a bit of wildlife while on holiday. Another site where I caught live images of rhinos, sharks, tigers, elephants, lobsters and even mole rats from all over the world is the Wildlife Website.

Discovery Online is another great site that took me on a virtual tour of the universe without leaving the comfort and convenience of my desktop. I watched sharks swimming, a couple getting wedded in Las Vegas and an aerial view of the beautiful Sydney Harbour Bridge. Needless to say, there are a number of other categories you can choose from too.

If, like me, the world is not enough for you, there's always outer space. Ambit Web provides live cams and mission displays, so you can actually take a trip to outer space. Visible Earth, is a searchable directory where I found some amazing images, visualizations and animations of the earth.

Of course, my whole journey lasted just a few hours. But, apart from giving me a much needed visual break, it had other advantages: It was cheap, convenient and fast, with no visas, no airport transfers, no bags and, basically, no hassles. So what did I love best? The fact that I could also send e-postcards to my friend, while passing through Hawaii!

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