The Internet is excellent for keeping up with the latest and greatest safety, health and environmental news. Federal and state government agencies do a great job of providing key information on their Web sites. New standards and regulations, press releases, enforcement policies, compliance assistance and much more are available at a click of the mouse.
Regrettably, all the mouse clicks required to keep up with the large number of Web sites turns into a tiresome, time-consuming click-browse shuffle. Yes, the World Wide Web is a great information resource, but mining this information quickly becomes a drudge. Wouldn't it be nice if someone else reviewed each Web site and reported any changes? Enter Bullseye Pro.
Bullseye began life as a personal Internet meta-search engine, much like MetaCrawler, NorthernLight Search and other Web-based engines, except that Bullseye runs on your desktop computer and has a friendlier interface. Frankly, I never found Bullseye and similar products adding enough value beyond the Web search engines to justify a purchase. That is, until the release of Bullseye Pro with its Tracker module.
The Bullseye Tracker uses user-defined agents that periodically visit a list of Web sites, identify any changes to the sites since the last visit and report only the site changes: simple in concept; simply powerful in action.
As an example, let's look at the time Bullseye Tracker can save in keeping up with the latest news from OSHA and NIOSH. First, create a tracker agent to track OSHA's What's New (www.osha.gov/wutsnew.html), Hot Topics (www.osha.gov/hot-topics.html), and 1999 Federal Register (www.osha-slc.gov/FedReg_osha_toc/
FedReg_toc_1999.html) Web pages ,along with the NIOSH What"s New (www.cdc.gov/niosh/whatsnew.html), Press Releases (www.cdc.gov/niosh/pressrel.html) and Federal Register pages (www.cdc.gov/niosh/fedreg.html). Schedule the tracker to run every day, Monday through Friday, at 5 p.m., and tell the agent to send a report of any changes to your e-mail address.
Bullseye Tracker has replaced visits to six Web pages with a single e-mail. Opening the e-mail, I can immediately see the latest updates to the NIOSH and OSHA Web sites and access the new information with a click on the hyperlink. To be honest, I never used to visit these six Web pages daily, as it was too much of a hassle. Bullseye eliminates the hassle and keeps me better informed.
Sometimes you can't always get what you want with Bullseye Tracker, and must improvise. I set up an agent to track information on the U.S. EPA and my state EPA, but the U.S. EPA's Federal Register Web page design precluded me from using it to track its Federal Register announcements. I circumvented this by adding the URL for the Government Printing Office's daily Federal Register table of contents (www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/fr-cont.html) that I can scan quickly for noteworthy EPA information.
Bullseye Pro includes a comprehensive set of Internet searches based on Bullseye agent categories that help hone the search to specific datasets. The more I use these search agents, the more I appreciate their simple power. For example, a news search agent set to search for news stories with the word "OSHA" returned an interesting list of occupational safety and health news reports from ABC, CNN, U.S. News and World Report, and other news services. Searches on "industrial hygienist" and "environmental manager" using the Job Locator agent produced useful lists of job vacancies.
All searches can be scheduled using Bullseye Tracker to periodically run the search and report only the new hits since the previous search.
Bullseye Pro could be the top Internet utility of 1999. At $149, it is not cheap, but considering that one copy can be used to e-mail tracker reports to people throughout your organization, the price is very reasonable. A 30-day free trial copy of Bullseye Pro is available at www.IntelliSeek.com/ so you can try before you buy.
Locating Software on the Net
In my last column, I mentioned how happy I was with Sygate, a network utility that allows me to share my cable modem with other computers on my home network. I recently ran into a problem with Sygate - while my PC with the cable modem still could access the Internet, other computers on the network couldn't. After checking everything and assuring myself that it should work, I e-mailed Sygate customer support. It took four days for the company to identify the problem: I needed to add the MediaOne Domain Name Server IP address on the other computers.
Four days is a long time to have a network down, and I was not happy about the delay. After two days, I decided to look for other network gateway software. The Internet is a burgeoning marketplace for excellent freeware and shareware programs. One of the best places to shop is TuCows (www.tucows.com). I selected the Modem Sharing link in the Connectivity category and decided that WinGate, with its top rating of five cows and reasonable price, looked promising.
I downloaded a copy of WinGate, received my free 30-day trial registration by e-mail and installed it on each of my networked computers. The Internet once again was accessible to my networked computers.
TuCows is a great place to download try-before-you-buy software. The Searchbot link under the Browsers and Accessories category, for example, has several programs that compete with Bullseye (four cows), including the five-cow-rated Copernicus.
Other Web sites to visit while software shopping are Software.com (http://software.com), Download.com, and WinFiles.com (http://www.winfiles.com/).
Join the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence
The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been an ongoing project for more than a decade. Ignoring the question of whether I Love Lucy reruns are a sign of intelligent life, the SETI project analyzes radio frequency radiation from outer space in the hope of finding signs of communication signals from other star systems. The work requires extensive computer analysis of signals recorded by radio telescopes.
You can be a part of the search for ET with [email protected] [email protected] is a computer program and screen saver that is designed to have internetworked computers work on the radio signal analysis during idle time, increasing the computer resources applied to the problem and shortening the time it takes to find signs of intelligent life outside our solar system. [email protected] is easy to install and use. You can get a copy at http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/.
Contributing Editor Michael Blotzer, MS, CIH, CSP, is the author of Internet User's Guide for Safety and Health Professionals, is an occupational hygiene and safety professional, writer and computer enthusiast who brakes for animals on the information superhighway. He can be reached by mail addressed to Occupational Hazards, by fax at (216) 899-1581 or by e-mail at [email protected] You can visit Mike Blotzer's World Wide Web page at http://people.mw.mediaone.net/mblotzer to view his "Neat Picks for the Month" and to check out the links to other interesting stops on the World Wide Web.