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Rocky Mountain Forest

1998 on the Web
Daily Technology Diary

Rocky Mountain Forest
  January 1998  

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Monday, January 12  
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I received a gift of the Adobe PhotoDeluxe 2.0 program from a friend today. This diary entry will be a little short because I have become immediately fascinated by this program and have run out of time to do justice to the diary. I have always heard and read from others that the full-featured Adobe PhotoShop product is a must have for artists and designers. I can see why now. You can look forward to seeing some of my output from PhotoDeluxe in the graphics section of the Tips and Tools page.

Tomorrow is court day for Microsoft. A review is being made of whether they should be held in contempt for their response to Judge Thomas Jackson's order to remove Internet Explorer 3.0 from new versions of Windows 95. Microsoft's original response to the Judge's ruling did not satisfy the Department of Justice lawyers who are suing Microsoft for violation of a 1995 anti-trust agreement. Microsoft's response basically crippled Windows 95, and that's their whole point. They say Internet Explorer is part of the operating system, not an add-on. Results of this review may give us an early indication of how successful the DOJ full case will be. Since I'm in the predicting business, I'm going out on a limb. I believe Microsoft will prevail against the contempt charge in this phase, but will ultimately provide a method for removal of IE3 from Windows 95. Stay tuned.

Thought for the day: "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made". - Daniel Schorr

 

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Tuesday, January 13  
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If you have kids in college, or are a student yourself, you may want to seriously consider a career in Information Technology. A major new study estimates there are presently 350,000 vacant programming jobs in IT shops of 100 or more employees. This represents 10% of all IT jobs available in the United States.

U. S. Vice President Al Gore and the Departments of Labor and Education have introduced a number of federal initiatives, including up to $9 million in federal education and training grants, designed to improve the pool of qualified IT personnel. With issues such as Year 2000, Internet, intranet, extranet, and client/server creating a tremendous demand for IT talent, salaries in excess of $60,000/year are not uncommon. Unlike some of the other technical professions like medicine, engineering, or law, it doesn't cost the first 10 years of your career in student loans to get a solid start in Information Technology.

The awards keep rolling in. As you may have noticed on the entry page, 1998 on the Web was selected today as Dr. Webster's Web Site of the Day. This one appears to have some clout. It has already brought additional traffic here today. There have been 22 unique visitors to this Web site, with 17 of them coming directly from Dr. Webster's. This may just be a one day anomaly because of the award, but 1998 on the Web will remain on their winner's list for all to see. You can learn more about Web site promotion and tracking on the Tips and Tools page.

For a complete wrapup of today's court testimony in Microsoft's appeal of Federal Judge Thomas Jackson's injunction requiring removal of Internet Explorer 3.0 from Windows 95, visit c|net's news.com site. Testimony continues tomorrow. What's your opinion?

Now that the excitement of last week's MacWorld Expo is leaving our immediate consciousness, I have to ask "what happened?". There is no new CEO, the product announcements were minor at best, what about Rhapsody? The only temporary enlightening was the small quarterly profit. But when all is said and done, Apple still has big problems. They desperately require a new business plan, and until naming a CEO starts that process, Apple will merely be sauce.

Thought for the day: "Never ask the barber if you need a haircut".

 

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Wednesday, January 14  
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The World Wide Web is a treasure trove of utilities for making a developer's job easier. Such is the case with a couple of online utilities I discovered today. Zygraphics from Zyris plc dynamically generates 2D and 3D Web graphics, and Greenpac from Software Solutions, Ltd. examines all objects in your Web site searching for broken links and other errors.

With Zygraphics you can choose from 2D, 3D, or rotating animated text graphics in multiple styles, colors, and fonts. Provide your own text and within a matter of moments the requested graphic appears in your browser. I put some samples from Zygraphics on the entry page to 1998 on the Web today. Tell me what you think.

If you've been a daily visitor to my diary, you have noticed I provide links to a lot of other technology sites. One of the risks I run in doing that is broken links brought on by time and change. With Greenpac, a site administrator can robotically test all the links in the site to insure they are still valid. Since my site is relatively small, I was able to use Greenpac's free sample utility. They also provide services to larger commercial sites at a reasonable price.

While Netscape and Microsoft garner most of the headlines in the browser wars with Navigator and Internet Explorer, there are other browsers on the market. If you have a small or older PC, Opera Software may have what you are looking for. Opera is a user-friendly, versatile, and fast Internet/intranet browser that also offers a newsreader and an email program. The keyboard plays a more integral role in surfing with this browser, which can make moving around the Web easy and fast. You can run multiple windows, even at start-up, and special features are included for users with disabilities.

Thought for the day: "Once you've tried to change the world you find it's a whole lot easier to change your mind".

 

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Thursday, January 15  
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As detailed in Web Promotion and Tracking on the Tips and Tools page, I have been using the Freestats service to measure traffic to 1998 on the Web. However, I believe the service has become so successful, so fast, the activity has put a burden on their servers, causing a lot of timeouts during hit recording. I sent an e-mail to their Sales department over the weekend explaining my concerns. To their credit, I got a response on Monday indicating they were aware of the problem, and they were in the process of upgrading their servers, and that was supposedly done earlier this week. I will continue to monitor the situation.

In the meantime, I set up 1998 on the Web on another statistics collection service named SuperStats. Similar to Freestats this is a free service that provides hit tracking information like time of day, unique visitors, browser preference, and referring pages. You will notice the new banner at the bottom of the pages. I am going to compare the performance of the two for the next week or so, and then decide which one to use. Have you had experience with Freestats or SuperStats? Please tell me about it.

If you look at today's thought for the day below, Bill Gates could have been lamenting the future of Microsoft's $1 million per day fines sought by the U.S. Department of Justice in their anti-trust suit against the software giant. Of course, in 1981 he was talking about the DOS executable region on personal computers. Industry pundits seem to believe Microsoft had a miserable performance in district court before Federal Judge Thomas Jackson this week. Trying to explain dynamic load libraries, macros, and stubs to a guy who says his clerk removed Internet Explorer from Windows 95 in 3 minutes is like trying to explain the combustible engine to me. Remember famous wordsmith Yogi Berra though: "It ain't over til it's over".

Thought for the day: "640K ought to be enough for anybody". - Bill Gates 1981

 

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Friday, January 16  
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Since the Internet is a shared experience, perhaps some Macintosh experts out there can help me with a problem. If you have a PowerMac running MacOS8 and recently downloaded the brand new Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 browser for Mac, you may be able to help diagnose a problem. MSIE4 for Mac enabled Dynamic HTML much like the Windows counterpart. DHTML seems to run real slow for friends having the Mac configuration described above. DHTML Web pages that load in 60 seconds or less using Windows 95 with IE4 take up to 6 times as long on the Mac. Performance reports I have read on c|net about Mac IE4 indicate that it is actually faster than Windows with static HTML pages. So I was wondering if there might be some feature of MacOS8 that is not installed on my friends' machines. It may be related to JavaScript, or browser security settings. If you have any ideas, please use the comments page or send e-mail to me.

If you enjoy traveling as I do, the Internet is an excellent resource for interactive maps and directions to your destination. One such service is MapQuest from the folks at Geosystems Global. You can start with a full global, continent view and drill down by region, country, state or province, etc. Eventually you get right down to street level. Or you can simply enter your points of departure and destination and MapQuest will chart a route for you. You can construct your own maps including points of interest to send to friends or family who may be coming to see you. Like most Internet services, MapQuest is totally free.

The Lunar Prospector moon expedition has attained it's final intended mapping orbit. All positioning actions by NASA were successful this week, and all science experiments are set to begin. Some of the early projects will be study of lunar gravity and search for ice at the polar caps. You can learn more at NASA's Lunar Prospector Web site including use of a wonderful mapping animation.

Thought for the day: "The glass is neither half full nor half empty. It is twice as large as it needs to be." - Brian Leonard

 

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Saturday, January 17  
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The Web Site Garage is a one stop shop for servicing your site. With a series of free diagnostic tools you can check page load time at various modem speeds, check for dead or broken links, check for spelling errors, and scan for HTML design and syntax errors. See how your site ranks on the popular search engines, and if you need help, robotically enter your URL to them. Reduce your image size and load time with the GIF lube. Automatically generate META tags to improve search engine indexing and submit your site to multiple award programs. When the folks at AtWeb, Inc. say one stop shop, they mean it.

On January 7th Lucent Technologies introduced a digital signal processor (DSP) chip for digital cordless phones, answering machines and Internet appliances that is three times faster than competing DSPs in the same price range. As a result, the company said, the new chip can perform several functions simultaneously that used to require two separate DSPs. For example, a single chip can simultaneously drive a caller ID display, a speakerphone and a digital answering machine, thus reducing by nearly 50 percent the cost of electronics in some multi-function devices. The chip, called the DSP1609, operates at 100 million instructions per second (MIPS) and is priced at $4.95 in quantities of 10,000. Lucent said it is the only DSP manufacturer charging less than a nickel per MIPS.

DSPs are specialized semiconductor chips that perform speech compression, modem data transmission, and other functions in communications devices. They are the "brains" behind today's digital cordless phones, digital answering machines, and Internet appliances (such as telephones with screens to access the Internet and TV set-top boxes), and account for a significant percentage of the overall system costs. Lucent, the company that invented the first single-chip DSP 18 years ago, ranks first in the world in sales of DSPs for digital answering machines, and is a leading manufacturer of DSPs for modems and cellular phones.

Thought for the day: "Not everybody knows everything, so use everything you know."

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Sunday, January 18  
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Thanks to Jan Petterson of JP's WebGuide for selecting 1998 on the Web for the "Nice Site Award". You will find many free features on JP's WebGuide including a news ticker, technical tips, this award, digital postcards, and a search engine. You can view the award from JP's WebGuide on the entry page to 1998 on the Web.

The Internet is a compendium of mechanisms for online access of information. If you have so far limited yourself to the World Wide Web, you have missed some of the most dynamic give and take the Net has to offer. Usenet news groups are a tool for Net explorers to exchange discovery, curiousity, and research. News groups are archives of discussions on topics from A to Z, there are probably more than 30,000 such forums. To learn more about Usenet News groups and where to begin, visit Infinite Ink's getting started pages and FAQ.

Navigate the Web smarter, faster, easier. So say the producers of Alexa, a free Web navigation utility and service that blazes a new trail toward solving searching ambiguities that arise on the Internet. I will be describing Alexa in more detail in the days ahead. For now, a summary of features include: background information on every site you visit, targeted suggestions of where to go next, retrieval of archived pages for no longer existant sites, and desktop reference.

Alexa is a desktop browser bolt-on that interfaces with both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer on Windows 95 systems. A Macintosh version is coming soon. The desktop software communicates with your browser and the Alexa Internet servers to display data about Web sites. Don't miss this one.

Thought for the day: "If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm." - Vince Lombardi

 

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