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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 19  
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Apple Computer today posted on their Web site the 8.1 upgrade for the Macintosh Operating System. Current MacOS8 customers can now download this upgrade free of charge.

8.1 is largely a bug fix that adds few new features, but it does deliver the long awaited HFS+ file system. The current HFS is limited to 65,536 allocation blocks. With HFS+ there is support for more than 4.25 billion allocation blocks. The big benefit, minimum file sizes will shrink from 64K to 4K. You must reformat your hard drives to take advantage of HFS+, but it may be well worth it in terms of disk space recovery. You do not have to update to HFS+ during the MacOS 8.1 upgrade process.

Other features found in the upgrade are modifications to virtual memory enabling faster launching of applications like Photoshop, File Maker, Word, Excel, and Internet Explorer; version 1.3 of Apple's Open Transport networking that supports multiple IP addresses on a single computer; and the MacOS Runtime for Java 2.0 which fully implements Sun Microsystems standard Java specification. Expect performance benefits in Internet Explorer from the new MRJ 2.0, but Netscape uses it's own Java implementation.

My personal home page, Internet Brothers, that I do for fun with my brother(not that this isn't fun), was selected today as a Geocities Featured Page in the Research Triangle neighborhood. This is quite an honor in the online community of Geocities. I suspect it will bring a bit more traffic to that Web site. If you are a homesteader at Geocities, you can learn more about the Featured Page Program in the members section of their site.

Work I have done recently with adding 1998 on the Web to overseas search engines and indexes is bearing fruit. In the last few days there have been visitors here from Australia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Japan, France, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. I welcome all visitors and encourage you to spread the word about 1998 on the Web.

Thought for the day: "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." - Thomas Jefferson

 

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Tuesday, January 20  
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Search engines are great for finding areas of interest on the Web. The problem is once you have surfed away from the search results, you have to migrate back to where you started to select the next choice. Along comes Alexa, a desktop utility that bolts on to your Internet browser, to give you a dynamically updated panel of sites similar to the one you are browsing. Alexa, named after the library in the ancient city of Alexandria, is taking the World Wide Web by storm.

The desktop software is absolutely free and can be downloaded from Alexa Internet's Web site www.alexa.com. There is presently only a Windows 95 version, but releases for Macintosh, Unix, and Windows 3.1 are expected soon. Once installed, the software adds a toolbar to your browser(either Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer) that tells you where you are and where to go next. If you don't see a site that strikes your fancy about your topic of interest, you can go to the desktop reference, a direct link to Encyclopedia Brittanica or Merriam-Webster's dictionary, with pages open to your topic.

Tired of getting HTML 404 errors when a Web page is no longer around? Alexa has spent the last 9 months spidering the Web and archiving old Web pages. If you click on a link and the site no longer exists, Alexa will go to their server archives to search, and if found display it in your browser. Alexa tracks more than 8 terabytes of data each day, encompassing close to 1 million Web sites and nearly 200 million pages.

Thought for the day: "Any man who is under 30 and is not a liberal, has no heart, and any man who is over 30 and is not a conservative, has no brains." - Winston Churchill

 

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Wednesday, January 21  
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Bandwidth, the boon of all Internet fans stuck on analog modems(myself included). 1998 may finally be the year for some relief for the download weary. Cable modem(see report from this diary on Jan. 3rd) and Digital Subscriber Line(DSL) technologies will break through this year. Particularly DSL, with some recent headlines, should begin to make strides into mainstream soon. If DSL is not familiar to you, learn more from the ADSL Forum.

Digital Subscriber Lines use plain old telephone system copper into your home to transfer data at speeds approaching 8 megabits pre second downstream and 660K upstream. The problem has been that the phone company must install a device in your home to split the data from the voice signal. So far, this has been prohibitively expensive for the average household. This week Lucent Technologies and Aware Inc. announced DSL chips that do not require the splitter. While they only transfer at 1.5 megabits per second rather than DSL's full capability, that's still light speed beyond analog modems.

The second piece of good news concerns the joining of Compaq, Intel, and Microsoft with 4 of the 5 Baby Bells to set a standard for DSL technologies. The lone holdout is Bell Atlantic(that figures, they are mine). This alliance will be announced next week at ComNet, a telecommunications conference. The modems envisioned by the companies would run at all times and allow users to receive phone calls while they're connected to the Internet.

If you viewed the 1998 on the Web entry page today, you noticed the addition of The Bronze Award from Neilsen Web Sites. Eric Neilsen also offers Silver and Gold Awards, so I have some work to do to improve. The Bronze Award is still a nice complement and I will display it proudly.

Thought for the day: "Grove giveth and Gates taketh away." - Bob Metcalfe

 

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Thursday, January 22  
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And so it came to pass. Netscape Communications announced today that it's Navigator browser will be free as predicted by this author on December 30, 1997. In addition, beginning with release 5.0, source code will be made available for the Communicator product suite. In my opinion this was an absolute must for Netscape to continue to remain competitive with Microsoft in the browser wars.

One of the shrewdest design and marketing decisions Microsoft made with it's more recent browser versions was to break it up into objects with Application Programming Interfaces(API) that could be accessed by program developers. That way if Quicken or Eudora or Oracle need to access the Web, they simply call the Internet Explorer objects to do that rather than having to develop their own browser. By making the Communicator source code available, Netscape now makes a belated entry into this market. Rest assured, application developers are jumping for joy today. What do you think?

Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice reached an agreement today that will end DOJ's contempt of injunction suit related to Microsoft's removal of Internet Explorer 3.0 from Windows 95. Microsoft will provide to Original Equipment Manufacturers(OEM) the latest version of Windows 95 with the Internet Explorer icon disabled. This is a step back from DOJs original demand that the IE3 code be completely removed from Windows 95. All this means is that Internet Explorer will merely be "hidden". Most OEMs still prefer to ship their machines with IE enabled. As I have indicated before, I don't know of many PC users who don't want free software. I personally think the DOJ is barking up the wrong tree, how about you?

There are immediate winners today based on these two pieces of news. The first is you, the consumer. You now have more options available with the purchase of a new PC, and developers will use browser integration to additional benefit. Second, the PC manufacturers can now pit Microsoft and Netscape against each other for prominence on the desktop computers they supply. Things should be quiet in the courts now for awhile as the original Department of Justice anti-trust issues resume center stage. An Appeals court will hear in mid-April Microsoft's request to have Judge Thomas Jackson's injunction from December dismissed.

Thought for the day: "If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?" - Abraham Lincoln

 

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Friday, January 23  
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Hot on the heels of Internet Explorer 4.0 for the Macintosh OS, Microsoft this week published IE4 for Windows 3.1 and Windows NT 3.51. Now those of you die hards still running these older versions of the Windows operating system can take advantage of the most current Web browser technologies like Dynamic HTML, Outlook Express, and channels. You can download Internet Explorer from the Microsoft Web site.

If you have an extra $5/month to spend on improving your World Wide Web throughput, you may want to check out Intel's new Quick Web technology. Intel's latest effort to improve the World Wide Wait, Quick Web is a cooperation with Internet Service Providers to compress graphic images as they are transmitted across the Internet. Intel claims the technology will present the average Web page in about half the time. Largest savings are derived from highly graphic intensive pages with no difference expected downloading text pages. Image quality is not quite as good as non-compressed format, but the time saved in transmission will improve quantity.

Now let's step back a little bit here and analyze events coming out of Hillsboro(Intel's home). Intel is in the business of selling chips, and in particular Pentium II MMX chips, and what do MMX chips do best? They display CPU intensive graphics. Remember not long ago the marketing strategy Intel reached with Internet content providers to develop rich graphic Web sites with tools such as VRML? The thought was the consumer would buy the powerful MMX processors to enrich these huge data streams. And remember last month when Intel invested in The Fantastic Corporation, a Swiss start-up? Fantastic develops broadband software for sending and viewing large multimedia data streams.

Far be it from me to be a cynic, but doesn't it seem like on the one hand Intel wants to encourage pollution of the already desperately bandwidth poor Internet, and then on the other hand ride in like a knight in shining armor and rescue the world with MMX and Quick Web? What's your opinion?

Now for the thought for today. The one I have chosen is especially timely considering events coming out of the Oral, excuse me, Oval Office in Washington, D.C.

Thought for the day: "In America anyone can be President; that's one of the risks you take." - Adlai Stevenson

 

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Saturday, January 24  
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You will find a New entry on the 1998 on the Web Tips and Tools page. I prepared a demonstration of Dynamic HTML effects with button objects for the Internet Explorer 4.0 browser. You can view buttons dynamically changing size, color, and text and see the JavaScript and HTML source code used to present the samples. Let me know if this tip is helpful to you.

As advertised, the new HFS+ file system contained with the Macintosh Operating System 8.1 upgrade is a tremendous space saver. I have a friend who upgraded his Mac earlier this week, and converted from HFS to HFS+ today. He indicated he recovered 200 megabytes of hard disk space on a 2 gigabyte drive. Quite a free benefit. Thanks for the heads up Dave.

One of the cool features of the Lunar Prospector Project Web site from NASA is the real-time instrumentation data visualization. Lunar Prospector, NASA's first venture to the Moon in 25 years, is conducting electronic geology experiments using neutron, alpha particle, gamma ray, and electron reflecting spectrometers. Searching for ice at the poles, and mapping terrain are among the day to day activities for Lunar Prospector's project scientists. You can follow right along with them.

Thought for the day: "The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." - Tom Clancy

 

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Sunday, January 25  
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Congratulations to the Denver Broncos, winners of Super Bowl XXXII. Breaking the NFC's 13 year dominance in Super Bowls, the Broncos defeated the defending champion Green Bay Packers 31-24 in perhaps one of the best games in Super Bowl history.

A yearly feature of the Super Bowl that fans look forward to are the dazzling, expensive new TV commercials. My personal favorite for this year goes to Tabasco Sauce, for the exploding mosquito.

1998 on the Web had it's first visitor from Germany today. That brings the international total to 6 European countries, 4 Asian, 1 Middle Eastern, and 2 South American. This global reach is one of the reasons the Internet fascinates me. Global networks have no boundaries. I can remember in 1992 when I consolidated a VM/CMS mainframe in Toronto, Canada with another here in West Virginia, USA. In the actual data migration process, I carried one set of magnetic tapes with me on the airplane flight, and sent a backup copy via one of the overnight courier services. I spent a couple of hours in both Canadian and American customs, explaining to the officers how I wasn't stealing government secrets. But in the months leading up to the actual migration, I had downloaded the entire system across the international border many times through the corporate network. Do you have any stories like this to share?

Thought for the day: "If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles to a gallon, and explode once a year killing everyone inside."

 

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