HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
May 28, 2007, Herald Journal

Here’s how it all works

By MARK OLLIG

Do you need to learn how to download music to your new MP3 player?

Have you ever wondered how Internet search engines work?

Would you like to understand the inner workings of a car engine?

Have you ever been interested in knowing how “Carbon-14” dating works?

Learn what is causing the mysterious “missing gravity” phenomenon in Canada.

3.1 million people visit this website each month to find the answers to these and other pondering questions.

Let’s take a look at what all the excitement is about.

The website is called “How Stuff Works” (HSW) located at: www.howstuffworks.com.

I hope you will bookmark this for when you need (or you’re just curious) about understanding how something works.

Here is the HSW mission statement: “De-mystify the world and do it in a simple, clear-cut way that anybody can understand.”

Thousands of topics are covered, which include: computers, science, home, health, travel, money and much more.

One of the things I like about this website is the easy-to-understand methods used when explaining how something works. There were abundant descriptions, photos, diagrams and videos on each subject that I researched.

Have you wondered what it takes to set up that home computer network? You will find helpful information to get you started.

HSW provides in-depth explanations, stunning photos and helpful graphics, along with clear and concise video explanations on many topics.

HSW has a fantastic description on Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and provides interesting examples on how it works.

Using the built-in HSW search engine, I quickly found not only what I wanted to learn more about, but how it actually works.

“Today on How Stuff Works,” shows the highlighted topics of the day on HSW.

A few of those highlights presented for us included: “How Self-Inflating Tires Work,” “How Scanners Work,” and “How a Concierge Works.”

If you are in the market for that new computer, check out HSW “Computer Channel,” which goes over the hardware, peripherals and software. The information provided will make you better prepared before you start your great computer shopping adventure.

Who is the person responsible for starting the How Stuff Works website?

It must have been someone with a very smart brain.

How about a Professor?

A Professor Brain, perhaps?

Yes . . .indeed it was.

North Carolina State University Professor Marshall Brain founded the HSW website in 1998.

Professor Brain also has his own blog that you can visit at: http://marshallbrain.blogspot.com. Here the professor provides many of his personal favorite “How Stuff Works” articles and opinions.

Did I mention that HSW has won the prestigious 2007 Webby Award?

Yes, the “famous” Webby Awards was started in 1996 – during the infancy of the World Wide Web portion of the Internet.

The Webby Award itself is a statue, which resembles springs inscribed with a binary code of 1s and 0s. You can visit their website at: http://www.webbyawards.com.

As we all are (painfully) aware, gas prices having been rising through the roof, and if it is of any comfort, we can learn some basic information about this on the website. Just use the HSW search engine and type in “How Gas Prices Work.”

Here is the link: http://money.howstuffworks.com/gas-price.htm.

The article mentions that the US Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) as of April 10, 2006 had stored about 686 million barrels of oil in the underground salt caverns along the Gulf of Mexico. This in-depth article included an aerial photo of the SPR, provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The article breaks down in percentages where the money goes when you fill up your car with gas.

HSW says 59 percent goes to the world’s oil-exporting nations –mostly to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries or OPEC.

The refining of the crude oil takes another 10 percent.

The distribution and transportation costs to get it to the gas stations accounts for 11 percent.

And of course . . .taxes, which takes 20 percent.

This article was cross-referenced with other related subjects concerning cars, gasoline, refineries, and more “How Stuff Works” articles.

The HSW “Video Stuff” section has over 380 featured “how to” videos and hundreds of original videos. They even have a seven-part series video on how to build a computer.

I viewed one of the “how to” videos that showed me how to set up my laptop computer to run with two monitors, or in “dual-monitor mode.” A few months ago, I purchased a 19-inch flat panel monitor.

I found that installing a second monitor on the laptop improved my over all productivity as I was able to view and work on two software programs at the same time. With the mouse, I could go from the flat panel monitor to the laptop monitor with ease. It works great and I recommend trying out dual monitors with your computer.

I hope you will take some time and visit HSW website at: http://www.howstuffworks.com and see “how it all works.”