Joshua McGee's Best of the Web

Computing | Entertainment | News and Journalism | Online Tools | Politics and Thought | Reference | Science | Shopping


  • Downloads:

  • Software:

    • Araxis Merge: An extremely useful and well-designed program to assist in merging documents.  I recently upgraded to Araxis Merge 2000, which addressed my few complaints from the previous version and added even more powerful features.  Unfortunately, they increased the price even more; the cheapest license is now $124. See if you can get your employer to pay for it, so at least you will have it at work (this would be less justifiable if you are not an IT professional.)  Araxis offers an evaluation version for download.

    • Compuware DevPartner: Code development software to help locate errors, maximize performance, determine code coverage, etc.

    • FileZilla: A free Windows SFTP client.

    • Google / Blogger Toolbar: Perform Google searches, view site statistics, and post to Blogger via a toolbar in Internet Explorer.

    • Notepad++: A text editor halfway between Notepad and Wordpad.  In essence, what Notepad should have been to begin with.  More recent Windows releases (such as XP) include a version of Notepad with most of these capabilities.

    • PaintShop Pro: A powerful and (relatively) inexpensive graphics program, offering a fully-functional evaluation version.

    • PopUp Killer: The developer has stopped supporting this software due to incompatibility issues with some systems.  It works very well for me, however.  Since it is no longer available for download, I have cached a local copy; use the link at the head of this entry.

    • PuTTY: A free Windows SSH client.

    • WinZip: Are there any remaining Windows-equipped PCs without this software?

  • Other:

    • RegisterFREE: $20 for a domain registration, and an easy to use control panel.


  • Fictionwise: Download eBooks, by known and unknown authors, in a variety of formats.  Supports a futuristic "micropay" system by which you add funds to your account in $5 increments then debit from your account to purchase books.

  • memepool: I have found a startling number of cool links through memepool that otherwise I would never have found.  I have also found a startling number of really, really odd sites through them.  You have been warned.

  • Project Omni: "[ T ]he mostly ruthless destruction of the 1981 Dodge Omni" chronicles five guys' efforts to torture-test ... and then just plain torture ... a maroon Reagan-era Dodge. The incongruous mathematical and scientific references are particularly amusing.  [Note 25 March 2001: It seems the site is getting too popular for its own good. A recent mention on another website dramatically increased their web traffic; this has goons from my ex- (and now incredibly-over-priced-) webhosting company DreamHost chomping at the bit. If you get a kick out of the site, consider dropping some pennies into their server debt fund. I donated $3.45 which, semi-coincidentally, is the same sequence of numbers I used to microwave popcorn in my old microwave.]

  • Random TinyURL Link: See what other people are using TinyURL to link to.  Not for the faint of heart.

  • Random Yahoo Link: Not as consistent as memepool, but frequently just as odd.

  • The Smoking Gun: A website that uncovers incriminating and exclusive documents from government and law enforcement sources, FOIA requests, and court files.

  • User Friendly the Comic Strip: A very funny comic strip with much computer humor.

  • Where's George?: Have you ever wondered where the paper money in your pocket has been, or where it will go next?  A "Six Degrees of Separation" for the capitalist.  I do not stamp bills any longer due to concerns regarding the legality and appropriateness of marking currency, but it is still fascinating to watch what happens to the bills.

News and Journalism:

  • BBC News: The unparalleled international news source.  Online news from the Beeb.

  • Fresh Air: Terry Gross's NPR interview program, with new episodes Monday through Thursday of each week.  Listen to her skillful interviews with authors, musicians, politicians, activists, and others in Real Audio or streaming Windows Media format.

  • Google News: "Search and browse 4,500 news sources updated continuously."

  • The Guardian: A left-wing British daily with good international information.

  • I, Cringely: The Pulpit: Robert X. Cringely's weekly column on computers and technology.

  • National Public Radio: An American news source with a worldwide perspective and a distinctly liberal slant.  Among other features, you can listen to the most recent news update (about 5 minutes) in RealAudio.

  • The Sunday Herald: If you, for some reason, like to follow Scottish news, you could do a lot worse than the Sunday Herald.  Frequently highly opinionated, and offers a "Latest from the Sunday Herald" email newsletter.

  • Yahoo! News: A clearinghouse of wire reports.

Online Tools:

  • Google: When I first composed this list, Google was relatively unknown.  Now it is the de facto standard in web searching.

  • Google Groups has replaced Deja on this list by purchasing its Usenet archive. Make use of Usenet for free through a convenient web interface.

  • InfoMinder: Tell InfoMinder to watch a web page for changes.  When a change has been found, it sends you an email alert that contains the text of these changes.  The server will also provide a version of the page with all the changes highlighted.  This service is better than other such services I have tried; among the features, you can set restrictions on the minimum number of changes, or the content of the change, before you are notified.  Your different watches are assembled into composite emails that are sent to you at intervals you specify.

  • Megaproxy: The free version will proxy web page requests for you and server them over an encrypted connection.  What this means is that the site where you are surfing will not receive your IP address, and no one in between you and Megaproxy will be able to see what content you are viewing.  Most modern browsers will not cache encrypted content, so you will not leave a record of your goings on your computer, either.  Great for the privacy fanatic.  If you want not to be subject to a daily bandwidth restriction, and want cool features such as remote handling of cookies, subscribe to the pay version (less than $2 per month.)

  • QuickTopic [formerly TakeItOffline]: "Your free, preposterously easy instant discussion space." A fascinating concept that fills a specialized niche extremely well. Its elegance and ease of use are astounding. I currently have two discussions running: one for single malts and the other for the site in general.

  • SuperStats: Get advanced site statistics without needing server log access.

  • TinyURL: If you hate having to send long URLs in emails that inevitably end up broken into multiple lines, this service is for you.  Type in a long URL, and it will give you back a tiny one of the form

  • XName has replaced Granite Canyon as my free DNS provider recommendation, as the latter has been experiencing extensive but unacknowledged outages recently.

  • Yahoo! Mail has replaced Hotmail as my "free, web-based email" recommendations, as the goons at the latter have decided to add horrific Javascript "enhancements" to the site the open security holes and impede operation.

Politics and Thought:

  • This section was reflecting my personal positions rather than serving as a semi-objective website review.  Accordingly, this list has been moved to its own page.


  • ATM Locator: Will locate Visa/Plus ATMs in general or Bank of America ATMs specifically and display the nearest three on a local map.

  • An impressive collection of searchable online books, including the Columbia Encylcopedia, Oxford Shakespeare, Gray's Anatomy, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, and many others.

  • The Century Dictionary: Cool beyond words.  The twelve volumes of the classic Century Dictionary published between 1889 and 1909.  Ten thousand pages, half a million definitions, and a great navigation tool for it all called DjVu.

  • Crosswalk Bible Tools: Many different versions of online Bibles, commentaries, concordances, and lexicons, well presented and cross-referenced  Very useful for research (I use it for informed rebuttal; I'm sure Christians would find other uses.)

  • I am now recommending rather than Merriam-Webster OnLine for quick reference. I have, however, blatantly stolen their "Dictionary Button" and tweaked it to work with To use it, drag this link: [Dictionary] to your "Links" bar (at least in IE ... something like this might be possible in Netscape.)  This does not work within a frameset.

  • Research-It!: A selection of effective online research tools on one page.

  • Snopes: Thinking about sending on that cute, plaintive, or warning email message you just got, or passing on a gem of a story that happened to "your sister's friend"?  For the love of God, check the Urban Legends Reference Pages first, especially if you are planning on sending it to me.



  • For the details of the office-supply recommendation saga, look here.

  • BookFinder: Use a very powerful, very robust metasearch tool on the inventories of used, rare, and out-of-print book shops.

  • eBay: The Web's largest auction site.  And to make full use of it, use Bidnapper to bid at the last moment, automatically.

  • eCost: They are not always the cheapest -- check mySimon -- but when they are cheap, they are unbelievably cheap (as of this writing, for instance, a 6-in-1 USB Card Reader, capable of reading CompactFlash, Smart Media, Secure Digital, Memory Stick, MMC, and Microdrive media, is $7.99.)  Sign up for their Hotsheet to get email notifications of their bargains.

  • mySimon: Consistently the best shopping agent I have found.  I used to recommend Acses (which changed its name to DealPilot [which changed its name to {which became part of DealTime}]) for price comparisons for books, but mySimon usually does better on those, too.

    Acses-DealPilot-evenbetter-DealTime offers one significant advantage, namely that it can assemble an optimized multi-store order for a given collection of items.  If it changes its name one more time, however, I'm removing it from this list on principle.

  • ScotchFinder: My site, so its inclusion is probably biased.  Search for the best prices on single malt scotch whisky and premium blends, and find those rare bottles that you may be searching for.

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