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After Dark Adds News To Its Views

Bits & Bytes


UPSTARTS SUCH AS POINTCAST Inc. have taken screen savers to a new level, using them to broadcast customized news and information directly to individual PC screens. It's only logical, then, that Berkeley Systems Inc., the creator of those whimsical flying toasters screen savers, is getting into the act.

After Dark Online, a broadcast version of the company's popular screen saver, will let users choose among five free "channels," including USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and ZDNet. The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition is also offered--but after a two-week trial, users will have to pay a subscription fee. After Dark Online displays each channel on its own screen saver, but users can set up the system to rotate among them. You can download the program for free from http:// as well as from any of the sites operated by the content "channels." A $30 retail version of the software will have extra screen-saver capabilities and is scheduled to be available in stores in October.

While PointCast is used mainly by business users with high-speed Net connections, After Dark Online is designed to work over the 14.4- and 28.8-baud modems found in most home PCs.EDITED BY AMY CORTESEReturn to top

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WANT TO STAND OUT FROM the crowd? You might take a look at the latest version of OS/2 from IBM, called OS/2 Warp 4. It's not Windows, but it does have some nifty new features you won't find in the Microsoft Corp. operating system.

For one, the new Warp will have built-in speech recognition, so you can tell your computer where you want to go today rather than typing in the information or clicking with a mouse. Using simple phrases, such as "Go to the McGraw-Hill home page," you'll be able to navigate the Web hands-free. The same technology allows you to dictate memos, documents, and E-mail.

Warp 4 is also designed to make it easier to surf the Net. It has a built-in Web browser and will let you keep icons of favorite Web sites right on the desktop screen, where, with the touch of a mouse, you can get to the site. IBM has even built in support for Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java. You'll be able to run Java applets, whether you are using a Web browser or not. The operating system will be available on Sept. 25 for $249.EDITED BY AMY CORTESEReturn to top


CORPORATE WEBS, A.K.A. intranets, are hot. But with all the different Web pages, authoring tools, programming languages, file formats, and servers involved, building and maintaining complex applications--such as an employee-benefits signup system--can be a big hassle. There's often no central point of control for the entire project. Just updating one Web page can send side effects rippling throughout a system--say, by changing the CD rate in the page used for planning 401(k) contributions. Plus, Web projects usually involve teams of people working on incompatible computers.

Enter Wallop Software Inc. in Foster City, Calif., with a program that maintains detailed directories of each page in a Web site, listing its links to other pages, the various elements in it, and where each is physically stored on the intranet. The program, called Wallop, also remembers what program was used to create each element--Adobe Photoshop for a photo, for instance--and makes sure that the same tool gets used for updates. The program, which runs on Windows 95 and Windows NT operating systems, is being tested at several companies, including communications-equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc., prior to its general release in November.EDITED BY AMY CORTESE By John W. VerityReturn to top

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