Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Miscellaneous Animals - articles by Samantha David

 

Puss and the Computers

 

Don't turn the page! Don't groan and say "Oh no! Not computers! How BORING!"

Oh all right, I admit it! They are boring. Now will you read on? Cars are boring, too. But getting into a car and driving off to the seaside for the day isn't boring and nor is it boring to drive to the vet with a sick Kitty. And you can bet your sweet flicking tail that your vet uses a computer.

And apart from analysing Tibby's blood, and printing out prescriptions, computers nowadays can do almost everything for you and your cat except snuggle up on the sofa.

For example, just imagine that you had a problem with er, puddles behind the sofa... Well, imagine that neither you nor your vet could solve it, what would you do? (Remember, by this time you are at your wits' end and the sofa is rapidly floating across the living room floor on a tide of whoopsie.)

Well, if you could bring yourself to approach a computer, you could "get on line", "surf the web", ask the advice of thousands of other cat lovers, and within days you could have helpful suggestions pouring in from all over the world.

That's worth something, isn't it?

I mean, you don't even have to have a computer in your own house. Most libraries these days are equipped with computers, and I bet there's a cyber café near you - which is probably the easiest option because the staff will do everything for you.

Stay with me. Listen, this is easy stuff... I mean if teenagers can do it, so can cats. "Getting on line" only means "dialling a phone number" - and it's not even you that has to pick up the phone. The computer dials the number and automatically links up with another computer over the phone, that's all.

And remember, computers are like cars. They won't go anywhere or do anything unless there is a human being behind the wheel. There's nothing spooky about computers. Unplug a computer and it's a plastic box. Plug it in, turn it on, press the right buttons and a computer is a powerful communications tool.

It's not difficult. Once a computer is turned on, you see a little arrow on the screen, which you can move around by jiggling a little mouse. (Told you cats would enjoy this!) Try clicking on anything called "internet" or "web"... and before long the computer will get the message and start making phone calls. Once the computer has established a telephone link with a huge, enormous computer on the other end of the phone line (ie an ISP or "Internet Service Provider") you can start "surfing"...

Calm down. There's no water involved. No exercise, no strange clothes and definitely no waves. All this means is that you can look at pages of information (a bit like this one) on your computer screen. The pages are collected into "sites", just like this page is part of a magazine... and a lot of sites have "links".

No, not golf. I told you, this is not physical and you will not be required to start swinging a great big stick about! Remember snakes and ladders? Land on certain squares and you instantly shoot up or down the board? A "link" is the same idea. It is simply a little logo on the screen. Click on it and you will instantly find yourself in a new website. Don't like the new website and either you can go back to the site you "surfed" from by clicking "back", or you can find another link and "surf" on into more sites. So surfing simply means "flicking through"...

Okay, so you're convinced. You're sitting in front of a computer. You're on-line. You're ready to surf. Now what? Now you need a website address to start you off. And do I have one for you...

But before I get onto that, let me just describe one more thing. A "web ring". Nope, not jewellery. A ring of sites. This means that if you surf from one site to the next one in the "ring", you'll eventually get back to the beginning again. In the centre of the ring is a "host site", which oversees and controls all the sites in the ring. You can surf to this site from anywhere on the ring to see a list of all the sites, for example, or to suggest including a new site, or to make comments or even complaints!

An extremely easy way to start surfing indeed. Now, type in the following address:-

http://www.xmission.com/~emailbox/catring.html

You are now in a ring of over a thousand web sites: and all of them devoted to cats.

But that isn't all. There are even more cat sites on the web, outside this ring. A Feline Agony Aunt (tongue firmly in the whiskers) is available at www.deartabby.com and The Meditative Cat (http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/CatAnna/postcard.html) is a particular favourite of mine, offering sweet pictures of cats, free virtual postcards and lots of links to other sites. And there's the pet cemetery (http://www.mycemetery.com) which has touching epitaphs and there's Precious the Cat Presents (http://www.hot1.net/cat/index/html) which is packed full of fascinating feline facts and figures. Whiskas has an informative site with free wallpaper and screen savers "to amuse your cat" (www.whiskas.com).

And of course there's the Cat World website. Apart from a good bookshop and some great articles, you'll also find a great chat forum where you can pick up lots of interesting bits of advice and cat-lore. I sometimes even wander about in there myself.

Happy Surfing, Cats...


PS: Here's my tip about the puddles. If you put Tibby's food bowl on a damp patch, he will look at you as if you are utterly insane. He will probably refuse to eat. But continue: he will eventually eat his dinner but he will never ever use that spot for puddles again. Promise.

 

 

 

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