TECHNOFILE: BEFORE AND AFTER FREUD

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The Independent Culture
KOSOVA IN WAITING, ON LINE

Kosovo is the first Internet-ready Balkan conflict. As with the first war of the Yugoslav succession, between Croatia and Serbia, the existence of a diaspora is a key factor. Like the Croats, Albanians around the world are able to provide resources of various kinds, as well as maintaining political organisations far from the home-lands. Whereas the earlier Yugoslav conflicts erupted when the Internet as a public medium was still embryonic, the networks for Kosovar Albanians are in place and well developed. A couple of hours after the Contact Group issued a statement in London on 8 March, for example, the Pristina office of the Kosova Information Center had posted a communique on its website. The names and addresses speak for themselves: albanian.com, alb-net, www. albaniannews.com, www.kosova.com ("Kosova", with an "a", is the Albanian spelling).

For a state in waiting like Kosova, the Net offers the possibility of building a modern virtual infrastructure in anticipation of polit- ical progress. Within the country itself, Albanians have pursued a strategy of withdrawing from Yugoslav institutions and setting up a parallel state, which gives a degree of credibility to the legend on a contacts page for the KIC: "The Kosova Information Center is an information agency of the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Kosova."

Like the war reports from Bosnia that Croatian Radio used to post on line, messages relayed by the newspaper Koha Ditore from sources on the ground have a rawness and a grain of detail that sets them apart from the dispatches of international correspondents. They are not concerned with the bigger picture, but with names, individuals, families and what has happened to them. This is the work of people gripped with shock and outrage, preoccupied above all with kin. To impart some of that shock to the world, there's a Web page carrying close-up photos of corpses. One, a female figure with a great clot of gore where her face should be, is captioned "Rukie Nebihu (pregnant, mother of two, killed together with her husband in their room)."

Over at www.yugoslavia.com, wordy tracts elliptically blame the Albanian strategy of withdrawal for the deterioration in health standards. Against Koha Ditore and its graphics files, they don't stand a chance.

WORLD ON A BEERMAT

The World Book 1998 Multimedia Edition (IBM, Windows, pounds 39.99) is aimed at the region of the CD-ROM encyclopaedia market where Encarta holds sway. Both World Book and the basic Encarta edition come on two discs; World Book has under 20,000 articles to Encarta's 30,000, but 13 million words to Encarta's 10.5 million; World Book has an undistinguished interface and Encarta has an outstanding one; the two seem to be pitched at a comparable intellectual level; World Book is about pounds 10 cheaper.

TECHNOTIP

EMAP's A2bTravel.com makes dazzling use of its own resources and those of other sites to provide comprehensive travel cover. Features include a "live" currency conversion facility, responding to changes in exchange rates as they happen, clickable international weather maps courtesy of Weather Underground, travel information from RAC Roadwatch (updated twice an hour), flight arrivals boards for eight UK airports, and underground route planning around the world, courtesy of a dedicated Metro enthusiast in France.

Ever wondered what to do when you wake up from a scary dream? Ever thought of getting a rabbinical take on the problem? Look no further than the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine, which has a whole battery of articles with Jewish religious and historical perspectives on dreaming. The site also provides utilities such as a Jewish calendar, and free Judaica clip art (shown above and below) to download (PC or Mac, Liberal or Orthodox).

INDEX.SHTETL

All the actual shtetls are gone from Eastern Europe, and observers have been predicting the demise of Yiddish for decades, but there's a Virtual Shtetl among a number of Yiddish settlements on the Web, while efforts to root Yiddish in modern technology are pursued on the Understanding Yiddish Information Processing e-mail list. There's a link to the list on The Yiddish Voice, a site derived from a Yiddish radio programme in Boston and featuring audio clips, including one of a Hanukkah address from the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, considered divine among his followers. And digital Yiddish has a toehold in Poland, thanks to the Sitarz family and their homely home page. No historical shadows here: Yiddish proverbs such as "You can throw a cat however you want, it always lands on its feet" are as profound as it gets.

WHY, ER, WHY?

Ralph L Rose's father was an ummer, and like father, um, like son. As part of his effort to understand these pebbles in the conversational stream, Rose has set up the Filled Pause Research Center Home Page, a guide to what people fill the gaps in speech with, and why. One reason is to keep hold of one's turn in the con- versation. Or as that inveterate pause-filler and chat show host Larry Sanders puts it, "No flipping."

OBJECT LESSON

OREGON SCIENTIFIC ELECTRONIC BAROMETER BA-888

Forget the seaweed and the old wives' tales; for pounds 99.99 your weather predictions can rival those of Michael Fish. Or better. Oregon Scientific's neat and compact electronic barometer, just 18cm (7in) high, will show you the indoor temperature, the indoor relative humidity and barometric pressure. Plus, there's a bar graph which displays the barometric pressure changes over the past 24 hours, so you can try to spot a trend. The instructions hint that an upward trend is good, downward not. But it can't be as simple as that, can it Michael? As if that weren't enough, there are clock, calendar and alarm clock functions. You can choose to read the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit, but - just like professional weathermen - the barometer only promises a 75 per cent accuracy level. Available from Argos and Innovations. David Phelan

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