Looking for advice that's both quick and reliable concerning an upcoming purchase? Click on ConsumerSearch.com, a Web site that will save you loads of time in research. The still-growing site employs a staff of 50 writers and editors who compile reviews and opinions from various experts and publications. They analyze the information and weed out those that read like advertisements or promotional pitches, then distill the information and assign their own ranking for individual products.
The categories run the gamut: electronics, computers, major appliances, automotive, lawn and garden, personal finance, and so on. Under the Family category, for example, there are recommendations for the best homework help sites, strollers, electric razors, toothpaste, shampoo, cat food, home pregnancy tests, and more.
Ratings are presented three ways for each product: Best Reviews, with links to the experts or organizations that wrote the reviews along with a summary of what they said; Fast Answers, which gives succinct descriptions of the top-ranked products, and Full Story, which gives ConsumerSearch's analysis of the reviews and their reasoning for ranking them as they did.
Morse's remorseful end
Fans of Inspector Morse, the Oxford detective made famous on the long-running British TV series and on PBS's Mystery series, are no doubt wearing black armbands as a symbol of mourning for the relentless and arrogant police investigator, who has breathed his last. After 14 years and 33 episodes, the series came to an end on British TV earlier this week, and a Web site devoted to the final episode pays proper tribute to the popular series.
Inspector Morse was based on the detective novels of Colin Dexter, who decided to retire the series by killing off Endeavour Morse, played from the start by actor John Thaw, with Kevin Whately as his dogged legman, Lewis. Morse's swan song, “The Remorseful Day,” which is due to be aired on PBS in a two-hour episode on Feb. 22, 2001, shows Morse solving his last murder before joining Sherlock Holmes in detective heaven.
To the addicted fans here and abroad who followed every episode, this is a great loss, but certainly not because Morse was such a beloved character. Dexter describes him as quite the opposite - a man who was “melancholy, sensitive, vulnerable, independent, ungracious, and mean-pocketed” - as well as an investigator with an intuitive genius for rooting out the truth. It was these contradictory traits, combined with the almost laughably high-handed way in which he treated poor Lewis, that helped make the show irresistible.
The site offers farewell interviews with Thaw, Whately, and the 70-year-old Dexter who, in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock, made fleeting cameo appearances in most of the TV episodes. There are also Real Player video clips (in various languages, showing the global presence of the show); a page on which to “leave your condolences for Endeavour Morse” by e-mail, and links to other Morse sites, including the Morse Appreciation Society, a sub-section of the Sherlock Holmes Railway Society site.
The title of the last episode was taken from a poem by A.E. Houseman, Dexter's favorite poet, and the words will surely a strike a melancholy chord among Morse's diehard followers: “Past touch and sight and sound/Not further to be found/How hopeless under ground/Falls the remorseful day. “
Inveterate shoppers will be happy to know there's an Internet site that specializes in helping people locate the hundreds of outlet stores and malls that dot the landscape.
Outletbound.com offers shoppers four ways to find outlet centers: By location, store name, brand name, and product category such as fashion apparel, home decor, childrenswear, and athletic footwear. Searching by state brings up a grid of malls and freestanding stores within each state. The site gives outlet addresses, a radius of shops within a given area and their distance in miles, and a column letting shoppers order free brochures from stores that offer them.
The only nearby Ohio store listed is the Libbey Glass outlet at the Erie Street Market. Michigan, on the other hand, has a proliferation of outlet centers within driving distance, from the 35-store Horizon complex in Monroe to the sprawling 143-store Prime Outlets at Birch Run.
Here's an amazing fact: There may be as many as 2 billion sites on the World Wide Web, but more than 90 per cent of the Web audience visits the top 10 sites. That's the contention of 100hot.com, which calls itself the Web's leading ranked directory. Its mission is to let people know about other less familiar but no less interesting sites - much like this column's own reason for being - based on the habits of 100,000 Web denizens each month.
The site lists the 100 most visited places on the Web, along with top sites in 14 categories, from art and culture to sports and recreation. After you get past the top 10 - Yahoo, Microsoft, America Online, Go, and other highly recognizable names - there are less well-known sites to explore, among them NASA.com, MTV.com, About.com, and Webshots.com.
Several other sites in the Top 100, however, raise questions how they happened to land on the list. Could the 52nd-ranked Uproar.com, for example, a site promoting banner ads on Web sites, really be that popular among Web surfers? Is the 95th-ranked Homepage.com, run by an application service provider that hosts “customer-facing platforms,” really such a hot site? And what's with the 97th-rated Golden-click.net? Not only does it require a user ID and password, it's written in an indecipherable foreign language.
If you have a Web site to recommend, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.