Road To Expo: Networking

Networking used to be the realm of hard-core hub and router geeks. But now everybody knows something about networking, even if it's just that they use it to check their mail or surf the Web. As you might expect, there's a lot going on in the networking world -- especially in advance of Macworld Expo.

Client Craze

So many Internet applications are developed by shareware programmers that there may not be a huge Internet presence at the Expo. For example, Australian developer Stairways Shareware released Anarchie 3.7 this month, transforming this Internet file-transfer utility into a general-purpose network troubleshooter. From Anarchie 3.7's Watch menu, you can find the IP address that corresponds to an Internet domain name (for example, is really; find the name that belongs to an IP address; "ping" another machine on the Net to make sure it's up and running; and even run a "traceroute," which gives you in-depth information about the path your Mac uses when it's sending information to some other computer on the Net.

Also not scheduled for Expo is major e-mail player Qualcomm , which recently announced Eudora 4.3, the latest version of its popular e-mail program. Eudora 4.3 lets anyone use the full program--including enhanced filtering, message searching, an in-line spelling checker, the ability to create messages with styled text, support for the IMAP server format, support for multiple e-mail accounts, and more--without paying a cent. The catch? The free version will include a small (roughly 150-by-150 pixel) advertising tile that must be in view the entire time you're using Eudora. (Paying users won't see the ad tile, and those who don't want to pay or see the ad can choose a feature-limited mode that's much like the old Eudora Light. As a result, this new ad-sponsored mode is an addition to the two existing versions of Eudora, not a replacement.)

However, Microsoft will be at the Expo in force, showing off Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. At the last Expo in New York, Microsoft Mac czar Ben Waldman showed off an early version of Internet Explorer 5.0, and we've heard nothing of that product since. Might we here more about IE 5.0 in San Francisco? It's possible.

Regardless of the status of the company's Web browser, Microsoft is sure to promote the recently-released Outlook Express 5.0 e-mail client, which adds powerful message cross-linking features to an already robust application.

Linux Abounds

There is a lot of curiosity around Linux right now -- and not only by the geek set. Linux is attractive as a stable, low-cost server. And by adding the open source Netatalk, many users are turning Linux machines into AppleShare servers. Still, one drawback that has deterred many potential users from exploring Linux is the mind-numbing setup process.

Two Macworld Expo vendors have now tackled this problem. Both LinuxPPC and Terra Soft will be showing off their improved Linux installers. LinuxPPC 1999Q4, the latest release by LinuxPPC, will include a more user friendly and less complicated installer. Terra Soft's Yellow Dog Linux installer is based on a new windowing system. Both Mac Linux developers also have been working on booting straight into Linux without requiring the Mac OS, but neither company has made any official announcements on this front.

A development that won't be ready for Macworld Expo but is still stirring excitement comes from IBM, which is planning on supplying a PowerPC-based motherboards that won't run the Mac OS but will run several versions of Linux.

Servers Away!

Web servers are also getting easier to use. At Macworld Expo, Tenon Systems will display their WebTen 3.0 web server for Mac OS, which is easier to install and use than earlier versions. They will also be showing their iTools 5.0 toolbox that turbocharges Mac OS X Server's built-in Apache Web server.

StarNine will be present to demonstrate its WebStar 4.1, which began shipping in early December. The newest version includes a new search engine and a light version of the FunnelWeb log-analysis tool, which tracks users through a web site. StarNine is also looking to the future. StarNine's product manager Eric Zelenka also says his company has make extensive efforts to prepare for Mac OS X's Carbon application space, meaning that WebStar should be Mac OS X savvy without too much trouble.

Another hot topic in the industry right now is wireless technology. After much delay, Apple has finally begun shipping its AirPort hub, providing classrooms, offices and homes with a wireless connection to the Internet or a network.

At Macworld Expo, Farallon will be showing its SkyLine family of wireless cards, which interoperate with AirPort. What's better, Ken Haas of Farallon predicts that in a few years, wireless products will be exponentially faster than they are now.

Despite the noise Bluetooth, a new wireless standard that doesn't require devices to face each other directly, made at Comdex this Fall, don't expect news on the Mac market any time soon. Farallon says it has no plans to begin development on Bluetooth products. Ken Haas says Bluetooth makes sense for peripherals like printers in the Windows PC market, but expects Macintosh products that sport wireless connectivity to continue connecting through the Ethernet-networkable 802.11 standard that Apple's AirPort and Farallon's SkyLine products are based upon.

Go to: Macworld Expo Central
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