bruceb news archives 09/01/97 - 06/30/99previousnext


June 30Windows 98 Service Pack 1 can be downloaded now or the entire Service Pack can be ordered on CD for $5.00. Since Microsoft made a commitment to have it available online, all the pieces are available for free download - but be warned, it's a bit confusing and it's a lot to download over a modem. Click on Start / Windows Update (or click here), and you'll see a number of different components described as part of Service Pack 1, plus lots more bug fixes and Y2K fixes.  Roughly, the Service Pack is everything listed under Critical Updates, Picks of the Month, and Recommended Updates. Order the CD, download the patches, or call me for help - but one way or the other, everyone should fix up their copies of Windows 98!
June 30When I reinstalled RealJukebox recently, it automatically upgraded to a new build, - and the worst bugs are gone! I heartily recommend RealJukebox now that it's behaving itself. Here's where you can download it. My original comments about it are down here.
June 18Not really news, just an interesting fact that took me by surprise. Go get a piece of paper and write down your guess: how much has Bill Gates given to charity so far? Ready? Okay, click here for the answer.
June 16Good news for consumers! DIVX, the evil attempt to extract extra money from our pockets for watching movies at home, is officially dead. Here's an article about Circuit City's decision to tank the format.
June 16Since RealJukebox has some beta bugs and some limitations, a competitor is trying to get ahead. MusicMatch Jukebox 4.0 is available for free download, and it's worth checking out. Features:
  • Plays all digital audio files - .MP3, audio CD, and RealAudio.
  • Records .MP3 and RealAudio files from audio CDs and .WAV files.
  • Easy access to .MP3 files on the Internet.
  • Manages playlists

Like RealJukebox, MusicMatch Jukebox records .MP3s at 96Kps, considered "near-CD quality." For $29.99, you can upgrade to record at 128Kps, true CD quality. RealJukebox does not yet offer this upgrade, although you can be sure it will in the next release.

June 10Windows 98 Second Edition is almost out the door. (1) The retail version selling for $80-90 replaces the original release of Windows 98. It's for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 users that are upgrading. If you're already running Windows 98, that's not what you want. (2) Existing Windows 98 users can buy a "Windows 98 SE Update" CD direct from Microsoft for $19.95 with all the new stuff. Click here for ordering information. (3) You can download Windows 98 Service Pack 1 for free - all the bug fixes and security updates, but not the new features. Click here to download the Service Pack (available in a day or two) or check Windows Update from your Start menu.
June 9Here's a cool trick. This page from MSN calculates and displays the speed of your current connection to the Net. I have no idea how they do it, but reportedly it's pretty accurate.
June 8Attention all lawyers: you can download a new version of West's CiteLink software for Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. Among other things, it makes creating a Table of Authorities as easy as it will ever be. I believe it is the same technology that shipped with WordPerfect's Legal Edition, but available from West at no charge. Read about it, view an online demo, and download it from here.
June 8If you do all your Internet browsing while living in a cave, it may be news to you that Microsoft Office 2000 and Corel WordPerfect Office 2000 are now shipping. Microsoft also plans to confuse consumers by releasing several different flavors of Windows 98 Second Edition on June 10.
May 28In addition to Microsoft BackOffice 4.5, Microsoft is now shipping the long-awaited Small Business Server 4.5, which brings all components of SBS to the current versions, along with increased control over Internet connections, more control over program installations, and enhanced wizards. It looks like an appealing package (and it's a free upgrade for existing SBS owners! Contact me if you're using SBS and you didn't know that!)
May 20Netscape Communicator version 4.6 is now available, fixing bugs in the prior release and trying to keep up in the features game. Click here for the download site (15.5Mb) or click here for additional information about the new features, the old bugs that were fixed, and the new bugs in this version.
May 20FTP Voyager has released version Click here to download it (2Mb) or click here for information. If you don't know what FTP is, you probably don't need this - but if you know the concept, then this is one of the best FTP clients for Windows now - more appealing than CuteFTP or WS_FTP. Check it out!
May 14NetMeeting is up to version 3.01 today is up to version 3.01 today (1.6Mb), fixing a few problems with the initial release of version 3.0.
May 14Since RealJukebox is broken, you might want to play your MP3s with the new release of WinAmp, now up to version 2.21 (580k).
May 14A word of caution: RealJukebox shows tremendous promise, but it's got some showstopper bugs in this first release. It seems to have a huge problem with leaking resources and failing to release memory, bringing my systems down with annoying regularity. I've uninstalled it for the moment.
May 7Way cool new program from the RealPlayer folks! They've decided to fully support the MP3 format, even though that will make the music industry terribly unhappy. So they released RealJukebox, which records and plays MP3 files as well as playing music CDs. It's loaded with cool features - record MP3s on the fly (and listen while you record), get CD information from the Internet, set up play lists, search for MP3s, and lots of other good stuff. You can download the beta here.   Download the full package of RealJukebox and RealPlayer G2 (5.5Mb) - that way you'll also get the updated version of RealPlayer. Install tips: do NOT turn on the security features, and do not set it to auto-record CDs.

If you're currently using RealPlayer G2 but you don't want to install RealJukebox, open RealPlayer and click on Help / Check for Upgrade. There's a big upgrade available.

May 7ICQ has a new build out - this time it's ICQ 99a v.2.20 Build 1800. I just saw ICQ described accurately as "either the most useful or the most irritating software in the world, frequently both at the same time."
May 7Windows NT Service Pack 5 is now available, with ominous sounding "Post SP4 Y2K fixes" and a host of other fixes. It is cumulative, so you don't need to apply previous service packs before installing SP5. If you're downloading on the NT system where the pack will be installed, there's an "active setup" routine that will only download the components you need; the full Service Pack is 34Mb. Click here to get to the download page.
April 22There's two new security fixes and updates for Internet Explorer 4 and 5. You can read about them here. Download both the MSHTML security update (1.2Mb) and the DHTML Edit Control security update (169K).
April 21A super-cool Internet trick: sign up with for a free account and you'll be issued a local telephone number to use as your fax number. (Click here for more information or to sign up.) When a fax is sent to that number, eFax's computers answer the phone, receive the fax, and immediately send it to you by e-mail. On your end, a simple viewer allows you to see the fax or print it out. Did I mention that it's free? What an interesting world, eh?
April 21For what it's worth: I investigated a few FTP clients recently and picked FTP Voyager as my favorite. You can download it or get more information here. Internet Explorer's support for files stored on FTP servers is vastly improved, but there are times when it's very helpful to have a dedicated program . . .
April 19Adobe Acrobat 4.0 is supposed to be faster and better integrated into your browser. You can download it here (5.2Mb).
April 18NetMeeting 3.0 is available in beta. You can download it here (2Mb). It's got a dramatically new interface, which has the folks on the newsgroups alternately cheering and screaming bloody murder. Microsoft claims it's much faster at some tasks, especially sharing applications, but no word yet on whether the perennially clogged name servers have been beefed up.
April 14Microsoft has rolled out a new format for Internet audio and video, Windows Media Technologies 4.0. It's worth checking out. It supports scalable streaming media - which means it looks and sounds better if you have a faster connection. (Darned impressive quality even on a 28.8 connection, by the way.) And apparently it's intended to compete with MP3 for highest quality sound. But unlike MP3, it can be set up to require licensing tunes before you can play them. The music industry is praying for something to unseat MP3 so it can get control of its copyright revenues again. Expect lots of noise about music standards over the next few months. In the meantime, click here and download a very small Media Player update (or click here and get the complete new Media Player v. 6.2) then check out some audio in the new format.
April 14There's a new ICQ release today, ICQ 99a v.2.15 Build #1701. No word on new features yet.
April 8I wrote some notes about viruses, Melissa and antivirus software, if you're interested.
April 8If you download Internet Explorer 5 today, you'll get a slightly newer build than the first couple of weeks. Here's a ZDNet article about the slipstream release and the bug fixes involved. If you've already downloaded it, don't worry about it - the fixes are minor, and the process to get the newer build on your system is complex. Also, here's some notes on the method I've been using to install IE5.
April 8The official release date for Microsoft Office 2000 is June 10, according to Microsoft.
March 31Jesse Berst wrote a summary of Corel's problems with WordPerfect and its graphics programs. He's a Microsoft basher from way back, so when he concludes that WordPerfect has huge problems in the market - possibly fatal problems - it's got the ring of truth to it. Corel announced a bundling deal for WordPerfect on new PCs yesterday, and its new suite will look appealing in the ads. But when you're choosing the program  that will be your primary business tool for the next decade, don't miss the big picture.
March has added auctions - similar to eBay, but to help people deal with paranoia, Amazon is adding a bit of a guarantee against fraud.
March 29MS Office 2000 is scheduled for release on April 29, according to
March 29There's a number of new features in MS IE5, but they're not obvious. Here's a Microsoft article describing ten changes in IE5 - including the radio toolbar, improved searching, and an improved ability to save web pages accurately on your hard drive. Most significant change? It's blindingly fast. IE5 aggressively tries to get text on the screen first, before it fills in any graphics. Your perception is that it's responded far more quickly than ever before. It's a trick, but it's a great trick.
March 24These comments from Stroud's CWSApps reflect the general buzz about MS IE5: "Even if you don't want Microsoft to dominate the Web browser market, Internet Explorer 5 is still tough to turn down considering its many advantages over Netscape Communicator -- IE is faster, much more reliable (even the beta release of IE 5 was more stable than Communicator v4.5), fully integrated with Windows 98, and far ahead of Communicator in its support for emerging Web technologies."
March 23After you've downloaded Internet Explorer 5, you should look through the IE5 web accessories - an interesting collection of addons. Includes a new version of Alexa, plus unsupported Microsoft tools for everything from zooming in on images to "PowerTweaks," the Internet equivalent of PowerToys.
March 23As you've all heard, Internet Explorer 5 can be downloaded now. Cool stuff, highly recommended. Several things to think about:
  • I finally got the right combination of files to make it possible to install IE5 from CD. If you'd like to avoid downloading the files, contact me!
  • Microsoft's servers are jammed. It's difficult to download it now from Windows Update or another Microsoft starting point.
  • If you start your download from ZDNet, CNet, or the like, though, you may get a "branded" version of IE5. Your home page will be set to that site's choice of page, favorites chosen by that site will be added to your favorites list, and the browser might be customized in many other ways - a new icon to replace the spinning E in the upper right, perhaps a different title bar, perhaps other changes. These changes are difficult to undo. Be careful!
March 23PC World has posted an extensive preview of WordPerfect Office 2000, currently promised for April. The article points out the suite's ease of use, compared to earlier versions and of course the much lower price tag than Microsoft's upcoming Office 2000. Corel hopes that WordPerfect 2000 will establish them as a major contender in the office world, because up to this point Microsoft has controlled the market. Corel claims almost perfect Microsoft Office compatibility, and will market WordPerfect 2000 as a leaner, cheaper version of Office.

Watch the reviews for information about conversions to and from .DOC format, because I think it's the key to the success of the suite and the future of WordPerfect.

February 19Quiet, isn't it? Final release of Internet Explorer 5 is right around the corner, final release of ICQ .99a is due in a day or two.
February 19Corel released its pricing for its new suite, pricing for its new suite, WordPerfect Office 2000. WordPerfect's basic suite will only be $109 - presumably $80 or so on the street. It would be great to see WordPerfect survive, but my, we have been burned over the years, haven't we? The cynic in me says that the new suite will either arrive on time and buggy, or - more likely - really late, and buggy.

Corel will suggest that WordPerfect is available at a rock bottom price to make it competitive with Microsoft Office. (Microsoft has gotten people peeved by hiking prices on MS Office 2000.) My guess is that the opposite is true - WordPerfect is positioning itself as a consumer product, and abandoning the corporate world. WordPerfect has lost the battle for corporate desktops, so it's actually going to compete with Microsoft Works for the home market. (Have you noticed that Microsoft Works 4.5 now includes Word 97 instead of a non-standard word processor?)

February 19I have a Voodoo II video card and a Gateway Vivitron 15" monitor for sale. Click here for the details.
February 19Thumbs Plus v.4 is now final and available for download. Be cautious, though - there are significant differences between the shareware and the registered versions, and the developer has had a lot of time to work on defeating the attempts to crack it. It has always struck me as being too expensive, frankly.
February 3There's new versions of two essential utilities: Quick View Plus v. 5.1 (8Mb) and ICQ .99a Build 1700 (4Mb). I've checked several sources and nobody seems very sure what is new about these releases. If you're not currently using these programs, click on these links for information about Quick View Plus and ICQ.
February 2I have an extra Voodoo II video card for sale. Click here for the details.
January 26Microsoft pulled the DirectX 6.1 core drivers off their web site. So far there's no word on why they were yanked . . .
January 17DirectX 6.1 is now final. You'll see it soon on the Windows 98 Updates page, but if you're in a hurry here's three links to Microsoft's ConXion servers for the DirectX 6.1 core (6Mb): Download DirectX 6.1 Core or Download DirectX 6.1 Core or  Download DirectX 6.1 Core.
January 12A quick followup on the likely death of  Micrografx Windows Draw Print Studio,, sold to Sierra Online (see below for my original post). Cendant Corp. was the corporate parent of Sierra Online, which fell on hard times after ruling the PC game industry during the 80s. Shortly after Sierra bought the rights to the Draw suite, Cendant announced that it was getting out of the software business, and Sierra was sold with several other software brands to a French media company. The sale closed today. Anything could happen, but the cynic in me says Draw will fall thru the cracks.
January 12If you've ever cursed at the Avery mailing label wizard that ships with Word 97, you might try getting the updated version 2.02 at Avery's web site. It seems to work a bit better . . .
January 12WinAmp, everybody's favorite .mp3 player, has released a few upgrades recently. Today it's up to version 2.09. Download it here (476Kb).
January 12If you got a CD-recorder for Christmas, there's a couple of programs that solved problems I was having.
  • CDRWin is far more powerful than the Adaptec software that's typically bundled with CD-recorders to handle the actual recording process. (485Kb; demo version available; $59 registration.)
  • After experimenting with various shareware and commercial programs I found CoolEdit 96 was my favorite program for editing .wav files and recording from LPs & cassettes. (2Mb; demo version available; $25/$50 registration.)
  • CDex is a perfectly nice free program that converts CD tracks and .wav files to .mp3 format.
December 29If you use Microsoft's Intellimouse (the one with the wheel), the drivers are up to version 2.2c. Grab them from here. The current driver offers Universal Scrolling, which causes the wheel to work in any Win98 application, not just the handful designed for the Intellipoint. Microsoft introduced that feature relatively recently - if you don't have it, definitely upgrade! (To check, go to Mouse in Control Panel, and click on the Wheel tab. The current driver has a check box for Universal Scrolling.)
December 29For reasons that aren't clear, there's a slightly newer version of RealPlayer G2. (The numbering schemes for software are out of hand, by the way - this is version There has to be a better way.)
December 29If you use McAfee VirusScan, click on the Update button and get version 4.0.2. If you haven't upgraded to v.4, it's vastly improved over McAfee's previous releases.
December 29There's several critical Windows 98 updates on the Windows 98 Updates page, including several security fixes, an updated Java virtual machine, and several bug fixes. I'm particularly curious about the "Microsoft Libraries Update," described this way: "an issue that can cause some third party software to behave unexpectedly after the installation of Microsoft® Works Suite 99, Encarta® Encyclopedia 99 (U.S. only), Encarta Virtual Globe 99, Studio Greetings 99, and/or other third party software." Hmm. . .
December 16No word on new features, but there's a new version of ICQ .99a available today.
December 14Alas! I just learned that Micrografx has sold my favorite graphics program, Windows Draw Print Studio. Micrografx is bailing out of the fiercely competitive consumer market. Windows Draw will now be marketed by Sierra Home, which has it on the market under the name "Complete Publisher" for a significantly higher price ($119). Maybe I'm jumping the gun, but I see signs that it might be immediately abandoned - Sierra hasn't even issued a press release about it, and they already market a big competitive product, Print Artist. Micrografx' press release is purposefully vague about whether Micrografx will continue to develop Windows Draw. Time will tell.
December 14If you want to get a head start, check out the preview of Go.Com - a joint venture between Disney and InfoSeek. It's yet another Web portal, with the usual portal features, but Disney plans to use its considerable advertising budget to promote it when it officially premieres early next year.
December 7Microsoft has posted several fixes for Windows 98, including a Year 2000 fix for minor issues. Visit the Windows Update page for details.
December 4Alexa 3.0 is now final. It's the little window that lives at the bottom of your browser and gives you information about the site you're visiting. It will be automatically installed if you visit this page. CAUTION: do not install with Internet Explorer 5.0 beta! Major grief!
December 3Corel WordPerfect 8 has yet another patch - Service Pack 5 (15Mb). Among other things, Corel promises "improved MS Word 97 conversions." (They'd almost have to be improved - it's hard to imagine that they could get worse.)
November 24Dept. of Things I Couldn't Have Said Better Myself    "With all this talking about AOL and Netscape merging, I had to make a comment myself. The world is coming to an end when a crash happy browser and a horrible ISP join hands. What is next...a browser that gives you busy signals, then crashes?" (Courtesy of BetaNews.Com)
November 24RealPlayer G2 is now final. I've seen a few web sites delivering RealAudio in G2 or version 5 flavors, which Microsoft's Media Player won't play. Microsoft and RealNetworks aren't friends anymore (Microsoft sold all its stock in RealPlayer's parent company a week or two ago). It's probably time to have both products on your system.
November 20If you use Quicken 99, the next time you go online it should alert you that a new service pack 2 can be automatically installed.
November 13There's a new release of ICQ, the essential instant messaging utility. ICQ is adorable in part because it's kind of a mess - as reflected by the name of the new release, ICQ Version 0.99a Build 1547. Under AOL's ownership, ICQ is adding features to make it more generally useful as an Internet tool - advanced search, white pages, important date reminders, home page-building tools and directories, and a greeting-card maker. Here's an article about the plans for ICQ's future.
November 9If you're thinking about buying a new computer, the editor of PC Magazine just posted a summary of the current environment for price and performance. Recommended for anybody considering a new system.
November 6Microsoft has posted a new DirectX 6 update. Visit Windows Update and grab some of the new goodies!
November 6Quick View Plus is an essential utility. You can download an evaluation copy of version 5.0, with improved viewers and better integration with Outlook 98 and Windows 98.
November 5Here's a screen shot of an application that somebody needs to develop real soon now . . . (Thanks to Todd Christ!)
November 4Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 beta 2 is available for download now. It is a beta, so don't install it if you're not in the mood to deal with beta problems. (My system crashes occasionally since I installed this release.) The browser is very fast. There are no major changes to the interface, but the small changes are all for the better.
October 30Microsoft Office 97 Service Release 2 is now available again. Service Release 1 must be installed before you install SR2, so Microsoft now supplies a small program that checks for SR1 and warns you if you need it.
October 22The long-awaited Windows NT Service Pack 4 is finally available (32Mb). You can get information about the features and fixes from this page, or follow this link straight to the download page.
October 22If you use a licensed copy of McAfee VirusScan, this would be a good time to update the program from the VirusScan console. You'll download a brand new version of the program - release 4.0 - with a very appealing interface, far better than the confusing screens McAfee has used in the past.
October 18There's updated DirectX components in the DirectX 6.0 Media Runtime (4.46Mb). According to Microsoft, it "includes updates to DirectShow™ and DirectAnimation®, and adds DirectX Transform. The ActiveMovie™ control has been replaced with the Microsoft Windows® Media Player control. The run time no longer takes over most multimedia file types by default. It leaves that additional capability and support to the Microsoft Windows Media Player redistributable packages."
October 14A number of people are quite fond of Alexa, which presents a small screen next to your Internet browser and displays information about the site you're visiting. Version 3.0 beta 1 offers a better screen display and some nice new features. Worth checking out!
October 7WinZip 7.0 is now final. You can try downloading from WinZip's home site, but I found it was too busy, so try downloading by clicking here.
October 5Microsoft finally released the "Importer Field Mapping Patch" for Outlook 98. It allows you to import data using the Import/Export feature of Outlook 98, and map the fields from your spreadsheet or database file into their equivalent fields in Outlook.
September 28Cool Internet site: How about 100 channels of music, with a great front end and no commercials. Visit and see what you think! (The underlying technology is RealAudio, so as always sound quality is markedly better if you have a fast connection. Keep in mind that Microsoft's Media Player will play the RealAudio stream just fine.)
September 28Microsoft yanked the Service Release 2 for Microsoft Office 97 after some people reported installation problems. A new and improved version will be out just any day now.
September 24Microsoft released Media Player 6.0, right on the heels of the 5.2 release. It's not obvious what's new, but perhaps it handles itself more gracefully on a system that also has RealPlayer software.
September 16Microsoft has released Service Release 2 for Microsoft Office 97 (a whopping 23Mb!), which affects Word, Excel, Outlook 98, and all the other programs in the suite. So far details are sketchy about what is changed/fixed/updated, and how stable the patch is. I'll be watching for more information and feedback; if it's worthwhile, I'll be able to install it for you if you don't want to download it yourself.
September 9If you're not familiar with Divx yet, here's a chance to get ahead of the curve. It's a video format that will be rolled out next month with the usual fanfare - advertising, articles, the usual. Do not be tempted! Divx is evil! It offers nothing for consumers. It is a naked attempt to grab more money from your pocket for watching movies, and it will likely die an early, deserved death. Here's one of many articles describing the technology and its problems.
September 2There's a lull in the software world, but there's fascinating new hardware being released. For some people (especially people that want to build their own systems), Intel's new line of Celeron processors are suddenly the best buy on the market. The new Celerons will quickly be the chip in the most appealing low-end, $1000 computers as well. Here's a comprehensive review of the Celeron 300A. Meanwhile, new graphics cards - 2D, 3D, and combo - are appearing at an unbelievable rate, 2-3 a week. Prices are dropping, performance is improving. I have no idea how to keep up. And there's finally some new features on the latest sound cards that might make an upgrade worthwhile. Here's a review of Diamond's new Monster Sound MX200 that will give you some idea of why you'll want four speakers around your desk someday.
August 31Apple's unveiling of the IMac was deceptive. It was compared to PCs on the market several months ago, even though the IMac didn't go on sale until August 15, and it won't be widely available until the Xmas shopping season. The New York Times compared the IMac to a significantly cheaper IBM Aptiva recently, and now it's easy to tell: the PC offers more for the money than the Apple in virtually every category, just like always. The NYTimes summary is wrong in one respect: it claims the IMac's Motorola G3 233 processor is superior to the Aptiva's AMD K6-2 300 processor. Not true. Apple used a phony benchmark for its tests. In the real world, the Pentium II outperforms the G3. Don't be fooled, folks.
August 27Here's an interesting article for lawyers about the word processing market and the choice between Word and WordPerfect. Basically, WordPerfect does a better job handling lawyers' formatting needs, but Word's market momentum is irresistible and converting documents from one format to another is a pain. A telling statistic: for the first time, more than 50% of the nation's big law firms are using Word.
August 18Iomega announced a price drop for blank zip disks - $9.95 each in quantities of ten or more, down from $12.95. (Thanks to Lisa Reed for the tip!)
August 18Several new things are available on the Windows 98 Windows Update page, including DirectX 6, Media Player 5.2, a Java security fix plus the Outlook Express security fix, and an update to Microsoft Chat.
August 14There is now a final patch for Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Outlook Express (4.8Mb) to fix the security issue that got so much press a couple of weeks ago. Getting the security patch is a perfectly nice thing to do - it's easy and it makes you feel warm and cozy. But, like many other "security holes" that the media has gotten excited about in the last few years, it fixes a problem that was identified in a laboratory and has never appeared in the real world.
August 3DirectX 6.0 was released today! If you're a gamer, or you're feeling brave, download DirectX 6 from this site. Windows 98 users are required to download the "core files" - 1.6Mb. In a few days, this will probably be available through the Win98 Windows Update feature.
August 3Alta Vista has released a successor to its quirky Personal Search program. You can download the 11Mb final release of Alta Vista Discovery. It's a fascinating utility. It indexes all of the files on your hard drive or your network, and puts a bar on your desktop that allows you to search quickly for items on your system or on the Internet. Here's some notes about what to expect.
July 29Corel WordPerfect 8 has some serious problems with Windows 98. At the least, observe these precautions:
  • Do not install WordPerfect 8 on a Windows 98 system until you've installed Windows Messaging from the Windows 98 CD! Contact me for details!
  • Once WPWin8 is installed, do not maximize the Open Files window, and do not use the tree view in Open Files. You're at serious risk of crashing your system if you do.
July 29WinZip 7.0 beta 2 is available. Interesting new feature for nerds: now WinZip supports Microsoft's .CAB format! [Microsoft Windows 98 Plus Pack includes a viewer for zip files that resembles a folder in Explorer. It's flexible - you can drag and drop, run programs, view files - but personally I found it slow and unappealing. WinZip is an old friend that can still run circles around this new-fangled stuff, by gum.]
July 29If you use VirusScan, McAfee VirusScan version 3.1.9 can be downloaded by launching VirusScan from the Start menu and clicking on File / Update VirusScan. (6Mb) Have you been using this feature? Quicken 98 can be updated by clicking on Online / Update Quicken 98. pcAnywhere 8.0 can be updated by clicking on Utilities / LiveUpdate. It's great when it works!
July 29Microsoft and RealNetworks are sniping at each other about Microsoft's new Media Player 5.2 and RealPlayer G2 beta 1.1. Each program wants to be responsible for playing Internet audio and video, so each program registers itself in Windows as the player for those files. Either the one installed most recently wins, or they break each other. It's a silly dispute. My advice: Media Player is more convenient for now, because of the large number of file types it supports. If you can't play a RealAudio stream because it demands RealPlayer 5.0, install RealPlayer 5.0. Eventually sites will begin using RealNetworks G2 format, but by that time the installation hassles should be resolved.
July 29Microsoft has released patches for Outlook 98 and Outlook Express to address the security issue that was breathlessly reported in the papers today. Another patch will appear in the next few days to deal with another aspect of the same problem. You should go ahead and apply the patches, but for goodness sakes, don't panic, people - in a reasonable world, this would not be front page news. (Much like Monica Lewinsky, but that's another discussion.)
July 13If you're using Microsoft Outlook as your calendar and to-do list, take a look at an add-on program named Actioneer. It gives you an icon in your task bar to add an appointment, task, or note with a single click, and it automatically links each item to a contact, so the journal for that contact reflects the entry. Outlook is a little clumsy to use as a contact manager, but this helps overcome that significantly. Well worth a look.
July 13Microsoft has released Media Player 5.2, the successor to NetShow and a significant upgrade to Media Player. It handles ASF, Real Video/Real Audio 4.0, MPEG 1, MPEG 2, WAV, AVI, MIDI, MOV, VOD, AU, MP3, and QuickTime files, all in one program Pretty impressive!
June 13The Economist published a comprehensive article on the background of Microsoft's problems with the Dept. of Justice - balanced, but critical of Microsoft. Today the magazine posted the reply by Bill Gates, which presents Microsoft's side of the case. It's all a bit more detailed and intelligent than most of the press coverage. Recommended reading.
June 10ICQ posted an open letter promising that America Online will be good and kind, and ICQ will be free forever. You'll have to pardon me if I'm just the teensiest bit skeptical. (My guess? They'll keep it free for a while - if they tried to charge right now, people would go ballistic in a very public sort of way. But there will be an "upgrade" soon that adds advertising. Wanna bet?)
June 9Corel is finally shipping the legal edition of WordPerfect 8 Suite. It includes Dragon Naturally Speaking, HotDocs® 4.1 (but not the Judicial Council forms that HotDocs sells separately), Corel® Amicus™ Attorney 2.8 (a customized and abbreviated version of Amicus), NexLaw™ 8 ("makes it easy to create, file, manage and print legal documents by supplementing Corel WordPerfect 8 menus and toolbars with legal-specific capabilities"), CiteLink™ 1.0 ("works seamlessly with Corel WordPerfect 8 to let you quickly find and mark legal citations, automatically generate Tables of Authorities and mark citations with hyperlinks to corresponding documents on the Web"), Lexicon from BLACK's Law Dictionary® ("make your documents error free by accessing this reference tool's 14,000+ legal terms, abbreviations and common cases").

According to the newsgroups, it also has these features: "WP8 Legal won't have CompareRite - it will have a new proprietary document compare feature which is really great. Immensely configurable and fast. It has a Pleading Expert that allows you to set up pleading formats for multiple courts and jurisdictions in which you practice, along with a Pleading Fill feature that allows you to select a particular pleading format you have previously created with Pleading Expert, then fill it with names of parties, case number, counsel, etc. etc. And finally, a new approach to automatic paragraph numbering that will provide the convenience and capabilities that attorneys have been asking for in WordPerfect ever since the WPDOS days."

Although that's an appealing package, Corel's track record for stable upgrades is not good. Pricing is steep - $229 for an upgrade, even if you already own WP8. I'll watch for reports on whether it works well.

June 9AOL's acquisition of ICQ is now final. So far, AOL is staying quiet about its plans for ICQ, but advertising and fees are likely to be part of ICQ's future. Here's the official announcement, and here's an article that summarizes the information and rumors about what to expect in ICQ's future..
June 1If you're using Windows Draw 6, you might want to get the patch for version 6.1 (1Mb). (You'll have to go through their signup procedure.) Don't worry about it too much - it fixes some bugs and makes the calendar wizard a bit friendlier, but frankly I never had any trouble with the original release.
May 21AOL to buy ICQ!  Israel's Business Arena is reporting that America Online  plans to purchase Mirabilis, creators of ICQ, for $300 million.
May 21Microsoft on Wednesday released Service Pack 1 for Internet Explorer 4.01. It fixes a number of bugs and security problems and brings IE4 into Year 2000 compliance. It does not contain new features. Reportedly Service Pack 1 is now only available as a full installation that replaces any existing Internet Explorer setup; Microsoft promises that a patch will soon be available to modify an already installed copy of IE 4.01.
May 20One article in the Los Angeles Times stood out as a balanced look at the conflict between Microsoft and the Dept. of Justice. I've posted the article by Charles Morris so you can take a look.
May 12Corel is now taking orders for a new version of the Corel WordPerfect 8 Suite, with Dragon Naturally Speaking integrated into WordPerfect. For $39.95, registered users of WP8 can get a CD with the latest revision of WP8 plus the voice recognition software. More information from Corel's web site.
May 2Pointcast Network has an update available. Download version 2.5 from here.
May 1Corel has made people crazy with all the different Service Packs and releases of WordPerfect 8. They released an Update Guide, a little utility that examines your copy of WordPerfect and identifies the patches that can be applied. I thought it was a bit confusing, but maybe better than nothing.
May 1Corel WordPerfect 8 has another big new update. Open your copy of WPWin8 and click on Help / About. If it says you have version or higher, then download Service Pack 4 (the file name is WP8SP4.EXE) (13Mb!) to get the latest bug fixes. If your copy has a different, lower number, then you have to get a new copy of the Suite from Corel - free or nearly free for registered users. Then all you have to do is uninstall your current copy, install the version from the new CD, then examine it to see if you have version or or or, and figure out what to do once you know that.. (You don't really wonder why Corel keeps losing market share, do you?)
April 8Microsoft Outlook 98 has one flaw worth noting: it is relatively difficult to import address lists. To successfully map fields from personal information manager files, text files, or other data sources, you must manually match the original fields to the internal name that Outlook uses for the fields. Microsoft didn't reach a deal with the company it had licensed field-mapping software from, and had to remove it from the shipping product. Here's the Knowledge Base article about the screwup.
April 8ICQ has released a couple of updates recently. I have no idea what has been changed. You can get the full version from here, or update your existing version from here. (Or ignore the updates, like I'm doing.)
March 25Microsoft OutlookMicrosoft Outlook 98 has been released! It can be downloaded through the same "Active Setup" process introduced with Internet Explorer 4.0. Download the setup utility, then the setup program will download between 15 and 32Mb of files. The download is free for anyone through June 30; after that, it will be free for registered Office 97 users.

Outlook 98 is the best e-mail client available, and it is capable of extraordinary tricks. It is, however, a complex change to your computer and your habits. Call me before you download it!

March 25If you use Paint Shop Pro, beta releases are being released frequently for the next version. Today's release is version 5, beta 2.7 (warning: 8Mb download!). Or keep up with the latest releases at JASC's Paint Shop Pro home page. (Here's a tip, though: Micrografx Windows Draw is a much better suite of graphics programs, for less than $50! Highly recommended!)
February 24ICQ has released an update of its instant messaging program designed specifically for use with Microsoft NetMeeting. You can read about it on the Mirabilis page, or download it here.
February 4Bill Gates posted an open letter to Microsoft employees and shareholders that summarizes Microsoft's view of the software industry and the Justice Department investigation. It's interesting reading.
February 2Microsoft released an updated set of Internet Explorer 4.0 Power Toys (similar in concept to the Windows 95 Power Toys). They offer some interesting, if not essential, features - zooming in on graphics, listing links on a page, and a few other goodies.
December 30AltaVista Personal Search 97 is a fascinating and frustrating program. Click here for some info and tips about how to use it.
December 30ICQ 98a is appearing in new beta versions every few days. The current release is version 1.07. (Check your version by clicking on Help / About.) Mirabilis doesn't provide much information about what's different in each release, but presumably they're fixing bugs. If you're not using ICQ yet, here's some info about everybody's favorite instant messaging program.
December 2Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 appeared today. There are upgrades for a number of components in IE4.0, so you can expect a large download. Many bugs are fixed and security leaks are patched, but very few changes or new features. Microsoft is being vague about whether to expect very much from this release. The update page makes it very easy to download and install the upgrades, so it wouldn't hurt to set it up before you go to bed some night.
December 2RealPlayer 5.0 is now final. Version 5 significantly improves voice quality, and adds support for streaming animation (using Macromedia Flash, from the Shockwave people). You can read about it here, or download it here.
November 21Incidentally, I'm not reporting on the updates of Netscape Navigator/Communicator or Eudora Pro. They're both rolling out new products right now - Eudora in particular is putting out new beta releases every few days as it works toward the release of v. 4.0. If you're interested, use Stroud's What's New page to keep up!
November 6Microsoft NetMeeting 2.1 is now final. You can download it by clicking here, or read about it on Microsoft's NetMeeting site.  The update is primarily to support new technology that will appear in Windows 98, but Microsoft also claims that this release works better with DirectX 5.   NetMeeting is so promising that its bugs have been frustrating, but I continue to hope that MS gets it right.  NetMeeting integrates extremely well with ICQ, by the way.
November 5Quarterdeck Cleansweep is the uninstaller program of choice for experienced Win95 users. A 15 day evaluation copy of the latest version, Cleansweep Deluxe, can be downloaded from Quarterdeck's web page.
October 24Here's some info and links concerning instant messaging, a cool Internet trick that is all the rage right now.
September 30Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 was released today. Here's some additional information, along with a pitch to let me install it for you.
September 29WinZip 6.3 was released in final form a few days ago. Today "Service Release 1" was released in its place.
September 29WinZip Internet browser support addon is a separate small download. After it's installed, you can choose to "Open" a zip file that you're downloading from the Internet. A copy of the zip file will be put in your download folder automatically, and WinZip will start up to unzip it. You don't need to save it to disk, then find it later and click on it manually to unzip it.