Quit clowning around with all the MIME types

Which of these is greatest thing about the Internet?

A. You can spend hours and hours, even days and weeks

sifting through site after site, finding everything

you ever wanted to know about anything.

B. You can hate

clowns and actually be welcomed to a Web site.

Of course, the answer is B, but only because there's

a link on the home page to play everyone's favorite

game, Slap

a mime. I figure since mimes can't talk, they must

spend most of their time writing email, or possibly

developing a type of sign language that only other mimes

will understand.

Now, let's turn our attention to MIME, which is neither

a speechless human nor a wannabe clown who can't escape

the invisible box. I'm talking about Multipurpose Interenet

Mail Extensions, which help your Web browser determine

how to handle a file. The browser doesn't need help

with the basic files -- ones that have extensions like

.htm and .asp (types of pages), .jpg, and .gif (images).

But what happens when the browser sees a .pdf or a .swf

file? Unfortunately, a browser isn't equipped to throw

a pie in your face, although that would be pretty sweet.

Some files need plugins to help your browser understand

particular files. For instance, Acrobat

Reader is a plugin that enables your browser to

read Portable Document Format, or PDF. This format is

nice in that it produces a graphically enhanced page

that will not change according to browser. In fact,

nine out of 10 clowns use PDFs for brochure production.

Another popular plugin is the Macromedia

Flash Player, which allows your browser to read

and play Flash files. A perfect example of this is Clown

Pong, where you are matched against an evil clown

to save the universe. At least, if winning a game of

pong is considered saving the universe. Without the

Flash player, you cannot play, thus leaving the earth

to be ruled by fellows who can make animals out of balloons.

You may have seen a message popup from your browser

asking you if you wanted to download the Flash player.

Most developers add a small program -- called a sniffer

-- to prompt your browser if you do not have the appropriate

plugin.

There are plenty of other useful plugins -- RealPlayer

(used for watching and listening to live files), Shockwave

(used mostly for video games), the list goes on. If

you are having trouble finding the proper plugin for

a page, visit Google's

plugin directory to view even more plugins.

Plugins are not limited to Internet browsing. Many

computer programs have various add-ons to enhance the

program's functionality. Adobe

Photoshop is a prime example, as there are plenty

of extra

features, some that are free and others that can

be used for a price. So if you find yourself limited

by not being able to draw an imaginary box for your

pet mime, there might be a Photoshop filter that will

allow you to do this very thing. It's crucial to remember,

though, that clowns are smarter than mimes and can find

ways out of the box.

Here are two other plugin pages, just in case you can't

find the ones you need: The

plugin site and Plugins.com.

After checking all of these sites, if you aren't plugged

in, I don't know what to tell you. I just hope you don't

get stuck on the outside of the car during the Chinese

fire drill. Only nine out of 10 clowns can fit inside

the vehicle.