Bits & Bytes
WINDOWS OPEN AT LAST FOR MAC USERS
MAC LOVERS WHO ARE TIRED of feeling shortchanged by all the software available for Windows-based PCs may get just the answer they are looking for from Umax Data Systems Inc. By yearend, Umax plans to have an add-in card that computer makers could use to make machines capable of running either Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh operating software or Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT. The card is being designed to house either a Pentium chip from Intel Corp., one of the PowerPC chips at the heart of today's Macs, or both.
The market for such an add-in card: graphic artists who rely on Apple technology but also want to use common Windows titles. Taiwan's Umax, which makes PCs as well as Mac clones through its Umax Computer Corp. subsidiary in Fremont, Calif., has yet to decide whether it will sell the product under its own label. It may opt to sell just the board, dubbed PowerPen, to other computer makers. Analysts say the device will be priced at approximately $120.By Peter Burrows EDITED BY IRA SAGERReturn to top
WEB SURFING THAT'LL GIVE YOU WHIPLASH
WEB SURFING IS ABOUT TO HIT hyperdrive. On Mar. 20, Adaptec Inc. in Milpitas, Calif., introduced a line of PC add-in cards that will permit Web surfing at speeds up to 30 megabits per second--more than 100 times as fast as the current PC modems. The cards, ABA-1010 and ABA-1020, use the same technology as Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) settop boxes, which allow TVs to receive digital satellite services (DSS) such as DirecTV Inc. Since DBS setups beam signals down in digital code, it's easy to deliver Web pages, in addition to TV programming, to the 18-inch satellite dish on a consumer's roof.
The idea is that DSS providers, such as DirecTV and EchoStar Communications Corp., would work with Internet service providers to tap only the most popular Web sites. These sites would then be linked to a DBS "uplink" station that would blast the signal to an orbiting DBS bird.
In turn, the satellite would broadcast the signal back down to a consumer's home. What's more, a single transponder on the DBS can continuously transmit more than 5,000 Web sites per day. That way, with an Adaptec card and software, users could "program" their PCs to be on the lookout for certain sites or topics--CNN's home page for news on Bosnia, say --and have that recorded on their hard drive for later viewing. DSS providers also are working on putting Web technology into TV programs: Imagine a financial news channel, for example, with each stock symbol linked to that company's Web page. The Adaptec $395 DBS cards are available to PC makers for testing.By Paul M. Eng EDITED BY IRA SAGERReturn to top
GLITCHES GALORE: THAT'S EDUTAINMENT
CONSUMERS HAVE LEARNED TO LIVE WITH OCCASIONAL faults in software. But a company that tests software says bugs in edutainment programs have become an epidemic. Turning Point Software tested the 10 most popular titles and found enough bugs to make even the most experienced user squirm--more than 300 in all, including 80 that caused crashes or wiped out data.
Turning Point won't name names for fear of turning off potential clients. But the top 10 titles of 1996 include Walt Disney Co.'s Toy Story Animated Storybook and CUC Software's Math Blaster, according to PC Data. "Perfection in this business is probably not attainable," says Steve Fields, general manager of Disney Software. Still, Fields and other software executives called the survey inconclusive and self-serving.
One-third of the bugs cropped up during installation. "Developers have to cut corners somewhere, and quality assurance is the easiest place," says Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research Inc. The testers also uncovered a special method for keeping customers: Six of the 10 products had no mechanism to remove the program automatically once it has been installed.By Paul Judge EDITED BY IRA SAGERReturn to top