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Rocky Mountain Forest

1998 on the Web
Daily Technology Diary

Rocky Mountain Forest
  February 1998  

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Monday, February 9  
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Free-For-All link (FFA) pages are a unique way to generate Web site traffic. The only problems with them are: it takes a long time to post to enough of them to make the traffic increase meaningful. While each Free-For-All page may only generate 1-3 hits per week, if you can post to enough of them, it adds up to serious traffic. Your posting to a Free-For-All page only works for about a week. The newer postings push you down in the list until you fall off the end and the link completely stops working for you. For these two reasons, FFAs have always been a marginal way to build traffic. Just too much work and the results are short lived.

But now there is a way to make it work for you. The service is called Link-O-Matic. Link-O-Matic has developed a bot to post to 500 different FFAs automatically. Just visit the submission area, enter the URL and title of the site and push Submit. That's it. 15 seconds to post to 500 FFAs. As soon as the Link-O-Matic bot is finished with your submissions, it sends you a very complete report listing every FFA that accepted your listing.

Do you want to get your site reviewed and criticized by other, experienced webmasters? There are a several free review places, where people will examine and rate your page. I have tried a few of them, and they have been extremely helpful. Some of the more full-featured review exchanges include Critique, a creation of Prescient Code Solutions, Webreview from Audette Media, and Web Doctor from Creativision Publishing Corporation. I call these review exchanges because you have to participate too. Once you have reviewed a site yourself, your site is then scheduled for review, a fair exchange. Try one or more out and let me know what you think.

Thought for the day: "A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well."

 

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Tuesday, February 10  
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I discovered another free Web site statistics tracking service today. Known as Extreme Tracking, this service from Extreme Digital in The Netherlands offers features required to picture the visitors to your site. I have placed their JavaScript capture software on my other Web site, Internet Brothers, and will let you know in a few days how it works out. Extreme Tracking features include real-time reporting, a wide range of specifications, extensive referrer tracking, JavaScript optimization, no traffic limitations, and best of all, it's free. One thing I already like about this one is the 41x38 pixel icon that is so much more unobtrusive than the full 468x60 banners displayed by Freestats and Superstats, two other services I am using.

Microsoft Corporation has halted it's practice of requiring PC manufacturers to bundle it's Internet Explorer browser with Windows 95, but no PC manufacturers are taking advantage of the opportunity to add Netscape Communications Navigator in place of IE. Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., and Micron Technologies, Inc. all have said they will continue shipping their PCs with IE 4.0. IBM Corporation, however, ships both browsers. It's PC unit has shipped the Aptiva line with both IE and Navigator for years. Gateway 2000 still has yet to make up their mind. The issue also doesn't appear to be affecting PC buyers. Many large firms are getting closely wedded to IE because it came free with the operating system and is integrated with the Microsoft Office desktop.

America OnLine(AOL) became the first of the major Internet Service Providers to increase the long-standing monthly fee of $19.95 by two dollars. IBM had previously eliminated unlimited access for $19.95. Many of the other ISPs were expected to follow AOL's lead as margins have become shorter because netizens are staying connected longer than before requiring more infrastructure support. But in a surprise move Prodigy Internet announced today that it is sticking with its current fee schedule. AT&T and EarthLink said they had no plans to change their rates. MindSpring and Bell Atlantic said they had no immediate plans to do so, but noted that pricing was subject to change.

Thought for the day: "An educational system isn't worth much if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn't teach them how to make a life."

 

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Wednesday, February 11  
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The World Wide Web Consortium(W3C) released the Extensible Markup Language(XML) 1.0 specification as a W3C recommendation this week. XML 1.0 is a system for defining, validating, and sharing document formats on the Web. The XML language is used to describe information about information. It is expected to make Web searches more effective by improving the way in which data is organized. The standard allows more programming tags than HTML and can describe information more accurately.

XML is an extension of the Standard Generalized Markup Language(SGML), an international text-processing standard ratified by the ISO. It incorporates many of that standard's features, including vendor independence, user extensibility, complex structures, validation, and human readability. The new standard was created by the XML Working Group which includes industry leaders Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Netscape, and Sun Microsystems. Many vendors including Adobe Systems, Microsoft, and Netscape have already released or announced products that will read XML.

Another award for 1998 on the Web arrived last night. The NGI Cool Site Award can be seen on the awards page. NGI-WI offers a top 10% of the Web award, but unfortunately I didn't achieve that yet. That just means I have more work to do to improve this Web site and I look forward to the challenge. The NGI Cool Site Award is very attractive and a nice consolation prize. Thanks to Eric Nielsen for reviewing 1998 on the Web.

As you notice from my URL, Earthlink Network is my Internet Service Provider. I received an e-mail from the chairman of Earthlink, Sky Dayton, today indicating they are aligning their services with Sprint International, one of the five largest telecommunications companies in the world. Sprint is purchasing 30% of the public shares of Earthlink stock, and is offering the availability of additional local dial-up points-of presence(POPs), bringing the total to 1200 across the United States. More than 500 of these are 56K POPs that support both x2 and k56flex, the only ISP in the country that can say that. As an already pleased client of the Earthlink Network, this is more welcome news.

Thought for the day: "Ask yourself if what you are doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow."

 

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Thursday, February 12  
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Back in December, before 1998 on the Web went live on January 1st, I made several predictions for the computer industry in 1998. These included items about Apple Computer, Netscape Communications, Microsoft vs. DOJ, a newcomer on the scene, the Inferno operating system from Lucent Technologies, and of course, Java from Sun Microsystems. In particular, I commented about application developer frustration and apathy with the Java programming language and it's lack of performance.

Martin Heller, in an article for Windows Internet Magazine, earlier this month shared some opinions very similar to mine. The following is quoted from Mr. Heller: "A more radical solution -- frankly, the most popular one -- is to forget trying to do anything significant with Java until it matures. Right now, Java's write once, run anywhere claim is about as believable as "The check is in the mail." Many programmers are looking at Java, but few are actually using it. According to one recent survey, about 7 percent of programmers, or about 160,000 developers, have used Java in the past six months. Only 6 percent of this group, or about 10,000, use Java as their primary development language. That's less than half of 1 percent of developers. There are still far more Cobol programmers than that! I know this will make a lot of you furious. I got plenty of mail when I said last August that Java is a lousy language for beginners. I still believe that, despite hearing from several programmers who started with Java and from a university that uses Java in its introductory computer science courses. So before you flame me: I like Java, and I want to use it more. So far, I've been frustrated by Java's immaturity. If you want to use Java, more power to you, but I certainly wouldn't bet my company on a Java product right now."

Anecdotal reports peg Java applications at from two to 40 times slower than equivalent programs written in C++. The drag comes because Java isn't compiled -- that is, converted before run time directly from source code into machine code. Instead, Java is translated into an intermediate form -- called byte codes -- which then must be interpreted before execution on a target microprocessor. You have experienced this with the sometimes interminable wait for the Java applet "gray box" to initialize in your browser. I am amazed as long as Java has been out now that Sun Microsystems' effort in improving these performance issues has not been more significant. In my mind, Sun needs to spend less time worrying about what other companies are doing with Java, and more time improving the product, or developers are going to continue to lose interest even before Java hits it's stride. What do you think?

Thought for the day: "What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?" - George Eliot

 

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Friday, February 13  
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Earlier this week I mentioned I was testing the Web page statistics tracking software from eXTReMe Tracking on my other site, Internet Brothers. I have been so pleased with the results of this testing and the presentation of the statistics that I have now moved eXTReMe here, to 1998 on the Web. At the bottom of each page you will notice the eXTReMe electric globe logo. By clicking on that icon, you can view the tracking statistics for this site. Let me know your impressions of eXTReMe Tracking. I'd like to take this time to thank the tracking services I have been using to this point. Freestats and Superstats both provide a nice, free service.

From Apple Computer News: "What About Steve? Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has invited Bill Gates (Microsoft), Scott McNealy (Sun Microsystems), and Jim Barksdale (Netscape Communications) to testify before the committee on March 3! Since McNealy and Barksdale are characterized in this Reuters dispatch as being "bitter rivals" of Microsoft, not to mention Sun's current suit against Microsoft and Netscape's involvement in the Justice Department action against Microsoft, this should be very interesting. Senator Hatch is quoted saying it will be good for the committee to hear about "the Internet and the promise of new software for the computer industry," and that it would be "instructive" for them to hear from "the industry players who are themselves driving these developments." [Didn't most of the Internet (IBM, Netscape, Oracle, Silicon Graphics, Sun, and the International Organization for Standardization) adopt Apple's QuickTime file format for multimedia just the other day? Shouldn't Steve Jobs be included in this roster of CEOs? -- Ed.]" Thanks Dave.

Speaking of Apple Computer, all of Silicon Valley is wondering when they are going to hold their annual meeting. Originally scheduled for February 3rd, the company now says it is looking at a date in mid-April. This delay has caused rampant speculation about big news in the works in Cupertino. Of course tops among the theories is that Apple is finally close to ending the seven month search for a CEO. Other possibilities include spinning off the Filemaker business following on the heels of dismantling Claris; elimination of the Newton product line; and possibly a manufacturing deal with UMAX Technologies, the sole remaining Macintosh clone maker. Apple has so far found it difficult to compete in the sub $1000 PC market because of a shortage of manufacturing facilities. A deal with UMAX could assist with economies of scale.

Thought for the day: "The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas."

 

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Saturday, February 14  
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Sour earnings, decreasing browser market share, employee layoffs, suitors at the gate. Netscape Communications of Mountain View, Ca. has problems, and another may be on the horizon, one that could have additional negative effect on the company's revenue. Contracts with the big four search engines, Yahoo, Infoseek, Excite, and Lycos are all due to expire on April 30, 1998. As Netscape's browser share has dwindled and as the "engines'' have built up their brands, they rely less on Netscape to woo visitors to their sites. Because the search sites are doing so much better of their own accord than a year ago, the need for Netscape's droving is diminishing. Contract renewals could produce tens of millions of dollars less for Netscape this year.

Are you ready to hang your PC monitor or television on the wall like a picture frame? Cambridge Display Technology will unveil the first plastic TV on Monday, a product called light-emitting polymer. The company hopes that this thin, flexible technology will lead to the production of flat-panel display screens for use in cellular phones, laptop computers, consumer electronics, and ultimately as an alternative to the desktop cathode ray tube.

International Business Machines Friday signed an $85 million contract to build the world's fastest supercomputer. The computer giant won the contract from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory located in Livermore, Calif. U.S. Secretary of Energy Federico Pena announced the contract Thursday in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington. The IBM RS/6000 SP, the technology behind Deep Blue's successful challenge of chess grand master Garry Kasparov, will be capable of 10 trillion calculations per second upon its installation at Livermore in the year 2000. The computer, when complete, will be capable of calculating in a single second what would take 10 million years using a hand-held calculator.

Thought for the day: "Shoveling the walk before it stops snowing is like cleaning your house while the kids are still growing." - Phyllis Diller

 

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Sunday, February 15  
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I have a friend who is a long time Macintosh user. He recently upgraded his MacOS 8.0 system to 8.1 and implemented the HFS+ disk file system. He was kind enough to share his experiences and now I pass them along to you. This is a rather lengthy report, so I will post the conclusion in tomorrow's diary.

The Mac OS 8.1 updater is 15.9 megabytes in size, bigger if you download the BinHex version which some users need to do if they don't have the MacBinary decoder, so it takes a couple of hours to download at my connection speed, currently 31.2 kbps.

After downloading the updater, I copied my system folder to a Jazz disk just in case I didn't like the update. I ran the update installer which worked well and took five or 10 minutes. After installation, I read the instruction files that came with the update. I was most interested in the new file system hfs+ (called Mac OS Extended by Apple) available to OS 8.1 users. It sounds great, but requires reformatting your hard disk in order to use it. (You probably already know that hfs+ / Mac OS Extended file format saves disk space by allowing a smaller minimum file size than does the previous Standard format.)

Apple recommends that you NOT format your hard disk in the Mac OS Extended format unless you have a bootable Mac OS 8.1 CD which they will provide for a $20 handling fee to owners of Mac OS 8.0. The reason for this is that Mac OS Extended (hfs+) disks cannot be read by computers running systems earlier than Mac OS 8.1. Essentially they warn you that you may have considerable trouble recovering your data should the system on your internal hard disk become corrupted. No doubt they're concerned about extensive technical support time when all those users call them with problems. Apple also suggests that there's no significant saving of disk space on volumes smaller than one gigibyte and therefore no need to switch file formats on such disks. Good suggestion!

I ignored Apple's warning since I have a two gigabyte drive and a one-gigabyte Jazz drive on which I could backup all of my data and the system files on a bootable "Standard Mac OS" volume. Such a bootable backup could be made a number of different ways including use of any second hard drive or even the popular Zip drive. A Zip drive might prove difficult to use for this purpose because a typical fully loaded system folder these days is larger than the 94 megabyte capacity of a Zip cartridge. One should not ignore Apple's warning about NOT storing your ONLY system folder on an hfs+ / Mac OS Extended volume!

I used the "get info" command from the file menu to check the total number of files on my hard disk, wrote the number down and proceeded to backup the entire internal hard disk to a Jazz disk. Fortunately I have collected only about 900 megabytes of data so it would all fit on one disk. I used "get info" again to check the number of files on the backup disk. I then backed up what I consider to be my most important irreplaceable data to a different Jazz disk just to be sure nothing would happen to it. Then I reformatted my internal hard disk, a process which was remarkably simple. You choose the "erase disk" command from the Special menu where you have a choice of using Standard format or Mac OS Extended format. The process takes only a few seconds (unlike formatting with a hard disk utility such as Hard Disk Toolkit which can take nearly a half-hour).

To be continued tomorrow . . . Thanks Dave.

Congratulations to Dale Earnhardt, winner of NASCAR's 50th anniversary Daytona 500 today. The Intimidator finally added "The Great American Race" to his list of unparalled accomplishments after 20 years of trying.

Thought for the day: "There are a billion people in China. It's not easy to be an individual in a crowd of more than a billion people. Think of it. More than a BILLION people. That means even if you're a one-in-a-million guy, there are still a thousand others just like you."

 

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