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6 October 1997

Now You Can Listen Via RealAudio®
Warning, International IP Charges May Apply

MSIE 4.0 already causing trouble
Yes, last week saw Microsoft officially release their latest and greatest browser, Internet Explorer version 4.0.

In this week's Aardvark I'm going to offer a somewhat subjective view of the product, the company and the effect that MSIE 4 might have on the industry.

Next week I'll be including a completely objective "Aardvark Review" of MSIE 4.0. Early reports indicate that it's a pretty solid piece of software that offers some nice features and I won't be afraid to report the good news - if that's what I find.

But.. already the new version of Internet Explorer has had a negative impact on the Net. Reports indicate that nearly 2 million copies of the browser have been downloaded across the Net since its launch. At 25MB a pop, that's a huge 50,000,000,000,000 bytes of data that have clogged up the Netwaves.

Almost any attempt to contact Microsoft's US Web site last week resulted in failure due to overloading and some parts of the Net had slowed to a real crawl and thousands of surfers all competed for bandwidth in an attempt to get their hands on "the latest and greatest" from Microsoft.

Closer to home
Even here in New Zealand, the combination of school holidays and "something new to download" caused at least one major ISP's systems to grind to a virtual halt on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.

I think Netscape has good reason to be worried about the effect that this new offering from Microsoft will have on their market-share.

Let's face it, once Windows 98 is released with MSIE 4 built-in as the standard browser and even part of the desktop, what can Netscape do to convince users that they should spend time, effort and money downloading Navigator or Communicator - a product which essentially duplicates the functionality they already have.

Then there's the effect of those content-providers who have signed to MSIE's push channels. As we all know, on the Internet, "content is king". The Net itself is just a conduit that connects consumer to content. If Microsoft tie up the content into its push channels then nobody will want to use a browser that won't give them access to that content.

I suspect Netscape may resort to some kind of legal action under the US anti-trust laws once they start to see their market-share being significantly eroded. At the moment, Netscape is showing a very brave face - but I suspect they're having to shampoo the sweat out of the boardroom carpet at the end of each day.

Clogging the Net pipes

The knives are out already
First security scare for IE4
Given Microsoft's unenviable history in respect to the security of their Web browser, I was contemplating placing a permanent headline on the top of the Aardvark page which would read:

"Another Security Problem Found in IE 4.0"

And... guess what - just a handful of days after the launch, the first reports of potential security problems are trickling through.

Now... it has to be said that there will be a lot of people out there "gunning" for Microsoft. They're not at all enthusiastic about Microsoft extending their defacto monopoly from the desktop to the Internet and will "spin" anything they can into "bad news" stories which are designed to hit back at Microsoft and IE 4.0.

It appears that IE4's "push channel" configuration files offer the ability to automatically (some would say "covertly) upload information about the user's push-history to a nominated site. I've not had time to closely investigate the ramifications of this "feature" but at first glance it doesn't appear to compromise the security of other data on your computer - although it may allow other sites to track some of your "push channel" activities.

I'm not going to say any more until I've had a chance to investigate further and I'm sure there'll be plenty of reports in the media over the coming week. Check Aardvark Daily every day for the latest updates on this story.

Ad Nauseum (follow-up)
The nice guys from Black Albatross (creators of the Toyota site featured last week) dropped me a "Right of Reply" this week and in accordance with my "open door" policy, it's online and accessible through the Right of Reply link towards the bottom of the page.

It seems that Spike Wireless just loves those wannabe video clips doesn't he. As I pointed out last week, he's (over) used them on the Toyota Australia site and now it seems that the TV3 Web site is about to be equally burdened by another one which is nearly quarter of a meg long - for just SIX seconds of jerky non-video without sound .

Hey guys... If you have to use video, use a streaming video system. A the risk of turning this week's column into an ad for the "Real" people I'll point out that the RealVideo® encoders and servers are available for FREE you know and offer a much more rewarding experience for the viewer - at a significantly lower cost in terms of bandwidth.

Clayton's video is lame!

TV Chat
Free up your eyes - use your ears!
RealAudio® - real interesting!
Thanks to those who send me email regarding the use of RealAudio® for Aardvark Weekly.

It seems that one of the benefits associated with Net-audio that I'd never thought about is the ability to get on with other things while you assimilate the info. In the case of last week's Aardvark, listeners to the RealAudio® broadcast were able to walk through the Toyota site as I described my findings.

Maybe I don't have the rich Scottish Brogue of Paul Reynolds as exhibited during his fortnightly stint on NatRad but, I try ;-). Someone suggested I sound a little like David Lange. Bah! Humbug!

About 20% of Aardvark Weekly readers tried out the audio, that's more than I expected. I suspect that the true measure of its worth will become apparent this week - now that the novelty has worn off.

Just a "dijaknow" here. The encoders and servers are available free of charge from the RealAudio® web site. Even if you don't plan to add audio to your Web site - the encoder and player will allow you to create really small audio-attachments for inclusion in email.

There is one "expert" out there in Net-land who insists on sending me what he calls "voice mail" in the form of .wav. These files are usually over 1MB in size for just a few seconds of speech and represent a huge waste of bandwidth. For interest's sake I encoded one of these .wav files using the RealAudio® encoder and it dropped to just 5% of its original size. So... if you want to send people "voice mail", don't use .wav files - use RealAudio®!

And speaking of attachments...
Don't ya just hate it when people think it's clever to send emails or press releases by attaching a Microsoft Word .doc file to an empty email body?

I wish these people would just send their message as plain text. Why?

Well for a start there are now a number of "incompatible" versions of Microsoft Word around. If someone sends you a document composed and saved as a World '97 .doc file then you're probably not going to be able to make any sense of it with your copy of Word '95. This will probably only get worse as Microsoft continue to release new versions which default to a file format that isn't backwards compatible.

Even if you do have the right version of word you are well advised to scan ALL .doc files for macro-viruses before you load them into your word-processor. There are well over a thousand macro viruses now in existence and any one of them has the potential to wreak havoc on your system.

Email was meant to be a fast, safe, efficient method of communications. As soon as you start sending MS Word files this way, a lot of those benefits are lost. Unless the person you're communicating with asks for it - don't send your message as a .doc file. One thing's for sure, if you send a .doc file - I'll just ask you to resend it as plain text.

Don't .doc me man!
I Can't Believe It's True!

Most ISPs now offer some home-page space to their subscribers and Demon Internet UK are no different. What *IS* different is their somewhat draconian attitude to controlling traffic from those pages.

An assessment costs HOW MUCH????

Makes IHUG's Diamond account personal Web pages look like mana from heaven doesn't it?

Right of Reply.

Black Albatross has their say.

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