- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 26, 2005

ach week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Fox in the Pod

Podcast opportunities routinely permeate the Web, and media giant Fox has taken advantage of the technology by offering its own lineup of audio content that can be enjoyed immediately or downloaded onto an MP3 player.

The Foxcasts (www.fox.com/foxcast) deliver more than 100 files from all of the network’s shows, such as “Arrested Development,” “Bones” and “Stacked,” and give visitors a chance to hear about their favorites.

Unfortunately, the majority of the files are simply audio recaps of previously aired episodes. That does not mean the actual show is repeated, with dialogue and music. Instead, Michael Krogmann, host of the online series “Late Night Fox Show” (www.fox.com/lnfs), reads a synopsis of the show’s plot — and sounds drier than the Sahara.

Listening experiences can get much better, however, if one selects files with the word “extra” next to them. These offer interviews and a more original format than just boring story regurgitations.

The best of the extra files highlight the hilarious “Family Guy.” One features a discussion with series creator Seth MacFarlane, and another pair present audio round tables with some of the production staff and crew that will remind listeners of commentary tracks heard on DVDs.

Also, visitors should check out the Fox All Access list, which includes interview segments with celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon and Pamela Anderson along with the music groups Green Day, Nickelback and Pussycat Dolls.

The Nautical Net

A free real-world science lesson arrives on middle-schoolers’ computer screens through Windward (www.ciconline.org/windward), a sailing game that gives players the chance to outsmart the weather.

Actually, any inquisitive visitor with a broadband Internet connection and the Macromedia Flash 7.0 plug-in will appreciate the high-seas adventure developed by Cable in the Classroom with help from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Discovery Education and the Weather Channel.

The game tests decision-making skills as the player virtually navigates a sailboat around the globe while trying to beat the world record of 71 days, achieved on May 3 by Dame Ellen MacArthur from Great Britain.

Players begin in Newport, R.I., and travel to Cape Town, South Africa; Sydney, Australia; and Rio de Janeiro while using a variety of resources to select an appropriate course through each leg of the race.

In the sailor’s cabin are online reference books on weather and sailing, a world map highlighting the course, and a laptop loaded with information and tips from marine navigator Bill Biewenga, who also helps narrate the adventure.

The action basically comes down to answering multiple-choice questions on how to proceed at the quickest and safest pace. A little boat on an animated map mimics the answers along the determined path.

The player may encounter a variety of sailing conditions, revealed through wind patterns, water temperature or pressure symbols on the map, or may need to decide quickly how to handle problems associated with an ominous cumulonimbus cloud, icebergs or tropical depressions.

The game is information-packed and meticulously explains phenomena such as squalls, waterspouts, microbursts, waves and doldrums through text, video clips, color photographs and animated simulations.

Additionally, players can answer questions on weather and will find fact boxes, disguised as life preservers, scattered along the course.

A Perfect Kameo

Microsoft’s next-generation entertainment console, the Xbox 360, has made it to stores, and two of the system’s compatible games, Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero, give hard-core fans the graphics to help them bring each’s game’s heroine to their own Web sites.

A visit to Kameo’s community cyber-stop (https://kameo.com/royalfun/fansitesupport) or Perfect’s fan cyber-stop (https://perfectdarkzero.com/fansites) leads amateur designers to massive zipped downloads (105 megabytes for Kameo, 229 megabytes for Perfect) that when uncompressed present a wide variety of art elements that can be incorporated into Web pages.

These include character renderings, background textures, button icons, menu icons and logos along with items to share with visitors, such as wallpaper and concept art.

Designers still will need Web space and software to create and post the site to their server, but they have a great package of official art from the game makers with which to start.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com).

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