Adam: Although the World Wide Web is the best place for aimless wandering, it's currently pretty much useless if you want to find information on a given topic. I expect that will change, but as it stands, you have to know how to find something on the Web, or at least stumble across it once while exploring. In order to find out what information is available on some general topic, I usually turn to WAIS databases and Gopherspace.
Bill: What about Archie?
Adam: Archie is also a good tool for answering a nagging curiosity, although Archie's information generally seems to be less useful to me than what I find via WAIS and Gopher, mostly because all that Archie finds is files, and then you must transfer them to your computer before you can find out whether there's anything useful inside. Anyway, let's start with penguins.
Bill: Penguins? You're going to use the most powerful information tool in history to search for flightless waterfowl?
Adam: Smile when you say that. Just to placate you, I'll start with an Archie search via WS Archie. It finds a good number of files (see figure 5.13) with the word "penguin" in the title, although there are a number of duplicates, and most of the rest appear to be graphics files, including a scan of the cover from Berke Breathed's Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things.
Figure 5.13: Penguin files on the Internet.
Bill: What's that one that lives in a "lyrics" folder?
Adam: I suspect it's the lyrics to a song done by a group called The Penguins. Let's retrieve the file and take a look. Whee -- it seems to be the lyrics to "Earth Angel." We'll spare you.
Bill: Kate Bush it's not.
Adam: Enough of these files, and I'm not sure that I want to delve any further in that group's lyrics. Next up is a swing through Gopherspace, using Gopher and searching via Veronica. Although it often makes a difference how you search for things in Veronica, in this case I think "penguin" will probably find most everything we could want. The range of penguin items in Gopherspace is much broader than the range of files that merely have the word "penguin" in their names (see figure 5.14).
Figure 5.14: Penguins in Gopherspace.
Adam: Look at all those books written for penguins. You never realized that penguins were such literary birds, did you Bill?
Bill: Those are books from the publishing house called Penguin Books.
Adam: Oh. Are you sure?
Bill: Positive. But what's that bit about penguin events at Cornell?
Adam: A friend told me about that a while back. It's some thoroughly obscure physics thing where the Feynman diagram of it looks vaguely like a penguin.
Bill: Oh, come now. You're making that up.
Adam: No I'm not. Take a look at figure 5.15.
Figure 5.15: Penguins infiltrate high-energy physics.
Bill: Say, what have we got out there on movies? I need some information for my Lambada film festival.
Adam: First, Bill, that's a terrible idea. Second, you should save it for later, when we find specific things. Third, umm, what's a Lambada?
Bill: True, that's a bit more specific than we want right now. The Lambada is a type of dance, Brazilian I believe, in which the partners get extraordinarily close. It makes for terrible movies. How about just general movie information?
Adam: That, we've got (see figure 5.16).
Figure 5.16: The electronic Siskel and Ebert.
Bill: Well, I think that's an adequate warm-up. We've browsed and searched on general topics just to see if they're out there -- I think now it's time we work on something a bit more practical.
Adam: Yes. Lest our readers begin to think that the Internet is useful only to browsing bookworms with time on their hands, let's see if it can answer some specific questions for us. Will we be able to find what we're looking for? Will any good information exist? Will our editor tell us we're blathering too much? Is there any other way I can create some suspense?
Bill: Only way to find out is to try it. Let's go dig for some answers.