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Commentary for: 11 November 1997

An end to the Acer saga!
Hooray, hooray - I have a REAL computer back at last.

Last week I picked up a brand new Pentium 200 from Compulink and it runs just fine and dandy. Windows NT installed without a hiccup and despite the fact that it has a 200MHZ MMX processor, this box appears to run even faster than the 180MHz Pentium-Pro in the Acer. It has a temperature sensitive fan, very nice Viewsonic monitor and 24 speed CDROM. Best of all, it comes with a 2 year warranty that (based on past experience) is honoured on a same-day basis.

Always keen to relate "good news" to my readers and give credit where it's due I've got to say that Compulink had the machine ready same-day and at a very good price. In fact I paid the same price as anyone else would so there's no backscratching or "advertorial" going on here - just the facts.

And the Acer? Well Acer support did ring again last week to tell me that they were very keen to sort out my problems. Funny - that's what they said a week before - but then reneged, saying that they couldn't do anything in a reasonable timeframe - talk is cheap guys but the market bases its opinions on action and that's where Acer falls flat on their face I'm afraid. I'd hate to think of what state a business would be in if this was their fileserver or some other mission-critical part of their computing resources.

They'll get the machine back - and if the managing director has a boat then I can suggest a good use for it; although based on past experience the damned thing would probably float!

From Yellow to White
As if the Telecom Yellow Pages web site wasn't good enough - now Telecom Directories have launched their White Pages, an online directory to all the telephone subscribers in New Zealand (excepting those with unlisted numbers of course).

I've got to say that the best feature of this online directory is that unlike the operator assisted directory service, the Net version is completely free! (apart from your ISP charges of course). Mind you, having said that, I doubt many of us will fire up our PCs, modems and browsers just to look up a phone number on the Net. Odds are that we'll still pay the per-use charge about to be levied on the 018 service.

As you'd expect - this is a great site, certainly a far cry from the clunky old offering that was previously available. The new site has great graphics and a very simple, yet effective, user interface.

In fact - it's sheer simplicity means that there's really not much to say. You enter the name, or part thereof, and optional region then click GO! and back comes a list of matches - or near matches.

That last bit is important - "near matches". People's surnames are not always spelt as they sound and if the directory relied on you getting the spelling exactly right it would be a bit of a pain. The "sounds similar" algorithm used seems to work fairly well at producing lists of near misses - however it sometimes places the "near miss" ahead of an exact match, something I find a bit strange. For instance if you search the Auckland area for the name Smythe, it actually brings up several entries for Smith ahead of the first real Smythe. There's room for improvement here!

Another area that could do with attention is the way it handles businesses with links to Web pages. For example, if we do a search for 2Day and find 2Day Internet, the URL is given, but not used as a link. That's a small thing but it would save a lot of re-keying or cutting and pasting.

Be sure and check out today's Aardvark Exclusive story about the attempted theft of the White Pages directory information across the Net!

Number please..

IE or Aaayee!
So, what about IE4?
Okay, so I've got no excuse now for not reviewing IE 4.0 right?

Well maybe I do. First-up, I've been busy reinstalling the software that was running on the Acer so time has been at a premium - but perhaps more important than that is the raft of horror-stories that seem to be circulating about IE4.

It seems that not only are there security issues to deal with but depending upon your system's configuration, IE 4 can really screw things up badly - to the point where re-installing the operating system is all you can do to get back some level of sanity.

First-up, IE4 will fill your registry with a whole heap of stuff and as we all know, if you're using Windows 95, a big registry usually means a slow computer.

Secondly, if you install the Active Desktop on a Windows 95 machine which is already "borderline" for memory and CPU power - which means anything less than a P133 with 24MB RAM, you're going to notice a significant performance hit - everything will run slower.

A number of other publications are also reporting that IE4 has more than a reasonable number of bugs for a release version (but we have come to expect this from both Netscape and Microsoft haven't we?). For more info on some of the reported problems (and fixes) that IE4 can create on your system, this article on CNet will make interesting reading. You may find it strange that CNet recommend IE4 over Netscape - and then publish a long list of all the things that are wrong and how to work-around them. Guess who has the bigger advertising budget, Netscape or Microsoft?

Perhaps all this explains why IE4 doesn't feature prominently in any of the logs from the many sites I run. I'd say that although a surprising number of IE3 users have upgraded (maybe 40-50%), few if any Netscape users have "defected" to the opposition camp. Currently the stats still run at around 62% Netscape, 30% IE with the balance broken up between a raft of others.

Now what I will be following with great interest is the number of Unix users who start using IE4 now that Microsoft has released a version for Sun/Unix. Early reports are that this version is pretty solid and early reviewers are very positive about the product. It will be interesting to see how much effect the Sun vs Microsoft politics will have over the uptake of this browser.

So far there's only one piece of advice I'd offer with regards to the IE4/NS4 situation. If you are just using your home computer to surf the net and there's no sensitive data on it - and you can afford to re-install Windows if it blows your system to bits then by all means give IE4 a go (do a good backup first though). If however, your computers are used in a commercial environment and it is possible that there may be some sensitive data accessible from your computer (either on the local disk or across the network) then stay well away for the time being. There are still too many security issues with regards to IE4 and the way it so tightly integrates with Win'95 and NT.

But... I WILL be reviewing IE 4 very shortly and sorting out the rumour from the fact.

And speaking of reviews
Yeah.. okay, I confess, the reviews section of Aardvark has become an orphan child for lack of attention of late.

However - sitting on my desk I have (of course) the copy of IE4 that Microsoft sent me and a copy of JBuilder Professional supplied by Sealcorp.

I will be testing both of these products shortly and publishing the reviews here. However, those who read my review of JBuilder in Bits and Bytes recently will be pleased to know that the release version comes with a lot more built-in components and runs a little faster to boot.

Is it a realistic replacement for Delphi or Visual Basic? Well you'll just have to wait and see ;-)

Review time!

TV Chat

I Can't Believe It's True!

Cellphones are great things - if you get lost you can always call for help! Unfortunately it may not pay to use a BellSouth phone for this purpose. Not only are Telecom keen to point out that their Network covers more of the country - but it seems that BellSouth can't even offer us an accurate map on which to show their coverage.

Sorry guys, Shelly Beach is on the OTHER side of the Kaipara Harbour

If you don't believe me - get a map and check - BellSouth obviously didn't.

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