The story so far:
The time is the far future when Cyberspace has become a physical reality. People have invented a new sport called SearchDuelling where two people or two teams use their handheld computers to search the Net for a given word. The first person or group to find the word are winners while the losers are often ridiculed and bullied. A young boy who is being pursued by two bullies after losing a SearchDuel is rescued by an old man who promises to teach him how to be a SearchMaster if he will not abuse his powers. The boy agrees but become overconfident and leaves before his training is over. He is humiliated and comes back in search of his master but he is gone. Instead, he finds a new master who tries to tempt him to the darker side of the Search. The boy goes out on his own again and meets a friend who gives him a few pointers.
Last time on The Search:
John seemed to consider for a moment.
"That should get you started but practice is essential."
And now the exciting conclusion of ... The Search!
Cee looked at his friend speculatively.
"OK! So you mean that there is nothing else to it? I just have to follow the things that I've been taught by CyberChan, Nader and you and I should be able to do quick searches?"
John seemed to hesitate, as if unsure of how to reply.
"Come on, John! You can trust me!"
John nodded his head decisively as if he'd made up his mind and then he opened the coat he'd been wearing to show his belt - it was no ordinary belt. It was fitted with loops to hold software cartridges and every one of the loops on Little John's belt contained one - there must easily have been a couple of dozen software cartridges there. Cee just looked at John's belt in open-mouthed astonishment.
"Geez, John! Don't tell me all that software is for Net searching!"
"Not at all Cee" laughed John "But in olden times they used to say that you must have a second string to your bow and I agree with that sentiment entirely. So, to mix a metaphor, here is my quiverful of second strings!"
"I don't understand!"
"You know that the computers of today have become so standardized that everybody uses the same software, right?"
"But the truth of the matter is that what everybody uses isn't necessarily the best and there are still a few independant software developers who are holding out against the monopolistic tactics of Gill Bates. These guys have designed some amazing tools but the pity is that they don't get much publicity nor can they compete against a huge corporation."
"So what are these programs?"
"I thought you'd never ask - Cee Pee Yew, meet WebFerret!"
Little John grinned while pointing to a cartridge on his belt.
"This is WebFerret. It is a neat little utility which sends out a query to quite a few of the more popular search engines on the Net at one shot. So, you don't have to go to each site separately and type in your query - you just have to fire up WebFerret and ask it to sniff out the bit of information you want."
"But wouldn't I have to go to each site separately to see the hits?"
"Not at all! WebFerret receives the hits and shows them on its own and it even pops up a little box with a little extract from each web page when you move your mouse pointer over it."
"So how do you go to that web site? Do you have to write down the address and browse to it on your own?"
no mail : Don't bother!
"Come on now, you know better than that! You just double-click on the relevant link and WebFerret will automatically launch your favourite browser program and take you to the site you want."
"Wow! That really is neat! Where can I find this utility and how much will I have to pay for it?"
"You can get it by pointing your browser at http://www.vironix.com and as for the price ... it's free!"
"You are kidding, right?"
John looked amused.
"Why? Because I said it is free? It is the truth, I tell you! The writers of WebFerret hope to earn money by running advertisements on their program - it has a panel designed specifically for this."
"So what you mean is that I get a really useful utility for free and the only problem is that I've got to look at a couple of advertisements while I wait for my query results?"
"That's it in a nutshell."
"I think I can bear that - as long as I don't have to pay" grinned Cee.
Little John grinned back at him and was about to say something when Cee interrupted.
"Is WebFerret the only tool that helps you in your Net searches?"
"Actually, WebFerret is just one component in a suite of Internet search utilities known as NetFerret - the other components are: FileFerret - for locating files on the Internet, E-mailFerret - for locating people's e-mail addresses, IRCFerret - for locating people on IRC chat, NewsFerret - for finding just the articles you are interested in on usenet and PhoneFerret - for locating people who can be contacted on InternetPhone. Each one of these has come in very handy at one time or other in my life!"
"I can believe that! I have often wanted such functionality but never knew that it already existed. But John ..."
"The Internet is such a versatile place. I would have thought that somebody would have figured out how to provide the functionality of WebFerret on the Net by now ..."
John smiled like a computer which had managed to come up with the value of Pi to zillionth decimal place in just a couple of seconds.
"Actually, that was going to be my next bit of information to you but you had to go and jump the gun ... Actually, there are sites on the Net which take a query from you and send it off to several different search engines at once and gives the combined results to you. These search engines are known as 'meta search engines' and I won't bother to give you the locations because you know enough searching tactics by now to find it yourself!"
"So does that mean that I know all that there is to know about searching?"
Little John looked intently at Cee for a moment.
"You still are thinking of SearchDuelling, aren't you? Let me tell you my friend, SearchDuelling isn't all that it is said to be - many a person has been completely alienated from society because of it! Do you know Reuben Hood?"
"You mean the outlaw hacker?"
"Yes. He ended up being an outlaw after losing a SearchDuel and smashing his opponent's computer in anger and ... I am one of his men. So ..."
"You are an outlaw as well?"
"I am afraid so. So my friend, listen to me. Let your search for somebody to teach you SearchDuelling come to an end. That is best."
Cee Pee Yew looked thoughtful.
"I guess you are right, John. This has also been a search for meaning in my life and now I've found a new purpose - to help others by using my knowledge of search techniques!"
"That's the spirit! Farewell my friend!"
"Thanks, John! Take care and farewell!"
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