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Is There A Doctor On The Web?

Bits & Bytes


ON MAY superscript21, ORBIS BROADCAST Group, a Chicago-based producer of health-related television programs, plans to launch America's HouseCall Network (AHCN) on the Internet's World Wide Web. In association with the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Health Council, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, and other health-care organizations, AHCN ( will be a clearinghouse of medical information for both health-care professionals and consumers.

Not only will the free Web site have more than 30,000 pages of medical information, such as the latest news about breast cancer, it will also contain a national directory of physicians that one can use to find a local doctor. Message boards and forums moderated by doctors will also be offered as the Web site develops. What's more, for households without Net access, Orbis says it is working on making the information available over a Touch-Tone phone.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top


ONE OF THE TRENDIER COMPUTER APPLICATIONS MAKING THE corporate rounds today is data mining. Using "massively parallel" computers, companies dig through volumes of data to discover patterns about their customers and products. For example, grocery chains have found that when men go to a supermarket to buy diapers, they sometimes walk out with a six-pack of beer as well. Using that information, it's possible to lay out a store so that these items are closer together.

Digging for that kind of data is expensive, since appropriate systems can range from $350,000 to a few million dollars. That's why IBM is planning a new data-mining service: Just send the records you want analyzed to IBM and let them do the work. The computer giant hopes the outsourcing option will be popular with small and midsize companies that don't have the sophisticated computer resources.

Here's how the system, now a prototype, would work: A customer ships computer tapes of the data it wants processed to IBM. Big Blue cleans them up--removing duplicate entries, say--and massages the data. Using a Netscape-based Web browser and other software supplied by IBM, customers access the filtered results via the Internet. The software will cost approximately $40,000, but service fees for customers haven't been determined yet. IBM says the setup could be available next year.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG By Ira SagerReturn to top


THE BATTLE OF THE World Wide Web search engines--public, ad-supported directories of the Web's vast contents--continues. The newest entry: a system called HotBot, made available by HotWired, an online site ( operated by Wired magazine.

As with competing search engines, such as Yahoo! and InfoSeek, HotWired plans to sell advertisers the ability to direct their pitches at selected classes of visitors. Advertisers will be able to target their messages not only according to the keywords that Net surfers type in but also by the visitors' location, type of computer, and other criteria.

Developed with help from Inktomi Corp., a technology-development company based in Berkeley, Calif., HotBot represents the commercialization of a research project at the University of California's Berkeley campus. Called Networks of Workstations (NOW), the project focuses on harnessing multiple high-performance computers to attack difficult problems in parallel. At its launch, the HotBot engine, using a collection of seven computers, will have indexed 50 million World Wide Web pages--twice as many, HotWired officials claim, as any competitor can offer. And, they say, the NOW technology will make it easy to add more computers so that the index can grow with the Web itself.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG By John VerityReturn to top

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