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Tour de France fans can follow the action

The Spokesman-Review

With a broadband connection and some time on your hands, why not keep track of the Tour de France using the Web? Dozens of sites show the various stages and profile the race progress.

One highly visual option is using Google Earth with a custom plug-in that shows you a detailed satellite view of every stage of the race. It was developed by a geeky Dutchman, who goes by the name of TimeTXU. This Web mashup shows off cool tech tools — animated maps and layered data — to explain a complex event involving time and distance.

First you need to install Google Earth, available at www.earth.google.com. Your computer must have a decent graphics card and at least 512 megabytes of memory, along with a broadband connection.

Then if you want to get the mapped, step-by-step plug-in that offers the detailed tour route, go to

http://services.google.com/earth/ kmz/letour2006_us.kml and download it. Double-click the kml file and it will load into Google Earth. You’ll find it displayed in the left-side frame under the Places group.

Other sites worth bookmarking if you plan to follow the tour:

www.nytimes.com/pages/sports. This is the New York Times page featuring detailed and interactive charts and maps of the tour.

www.letour.com. This is the official Tour de France site. It’s in English so you don’t have to know French.

www.bicycling.com. This is Bicycling Magazine’s site, which covers the tour big-time.

Swaptree.com

Your money’s no good here is the business slogan of SwapTree.com, a Web trading site developed by two entrepreneurs in the Boston area.

The site, still working through a beta phase, is all about swapping books, movies, music and videogames. Unlike sites that choose one or two areas, this one tries to cover the waterfront.

The innovation is the ability to swap across groups; any item you offer for trade is measured against the other items offered by Swaptree members. Some algorithm calculates what you could get for that double-CD of Todd Rundgren, measured in either books, movies or other CDs.

Swaptree for now costs nothing to join; the only costs you face are for shipping.

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