Connectix was featuring <b>Surf Express

Connectix was featuring Surf Express


. Using its own FASTore cache technology, it works to speed up your web browser's loading of pages. But it does more. The cache becomes a database that you can search, via Surf Express's Find function, for any text. It can also be configured to pre-download (while you are busy doing something else) updates to your favorite pages so they are already cached when you go to them. I have a copy and will be taking a closer look at it later tonight. One thing I noted just in installing it: Surf Express may only work with one browser at a time. If you like to switch between Explorer and Navigator, for example, it appears that you cannot configure Surf Express to work simultaneously with both (there seems to be some confusion on this issue; the limitation may only affect Surf Express' search function; I will be investigating).

Connectix was also showing pre-release version of Virtual PC 2.0, although I did not get much chance to look at it today. Finally, it's official: an updated version of Speed Doubler 8 will be out later this month. The only enhancement: Mac OS 8.1 compatibility.

Speaking of Mac OS 8.1, Alsoft's PlusMaker/PlusMaximizer combo may turn out to be the hit utility of the show. It is shipping already. It's major feature is (as reported here the other day) it let's you move up to Mac OS 8.1's Extended Disk Format (HFS Plus) without having to reformat your disk. Even better, according to Alsoft, it optimizes the directory so that performance is better than if you had reformatted the disk instead. With PlusMaximizer, you can also set the minimum block size to be even smaller than what Apple's initialization process would do. By the way, the current version of Alsoft's DiskExpress Pro will not work with HFS Plus (expect an upgrade soon).

[Note: HFS Plus issues: In case you are not familiar with this, the biggest immediate advantage of HFS Plus is that it eliminates the problem, especially severe on larger drives, where a 1K file may take up much more than 1K of disk space. With HFS Plus, it will take up only 1K (or close to it). This is what is meant by the "minimum block size." However, one word of caution: as I understand it, once a disk is formatted with HFS Plus, it can only be read when running Mac OS 8.1 (on other systems, you will at best get access to a Read Me file, stored in an HFS "wrapper" on the disk, that will tell you that you need Mac OS 8.1 to further access the disk). This could raise a significant problem if you format your startup drive with HFS Plus: once HFS Plus is installed, you cannot downgrade your system software back to Mac OS 8.0 on that drive, or the Mac will not startup anymore. You also will not be able to access the disk if you startup with a Mac OS 8.0 (or older) CD-ROM or floppy disk.]

As predicted here last week, Iomega was showcasing its new Clik! drive. These new 2 x 2 inch disks hold 40Mb of data and fit into a small drive unit that is not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. Pretty amazing. In honor of this product, Iomega was giving away those little toy "clickers." Sounds cute. But it also sounds pretty darn annoying on the exhibit hall floor, as show-goers walk around clicking these things incessantly (for what reason I do not know).

Speaking of the exhibit hall, one depressing element was the unusually large amount of empty space on the floor. I don't know if the number of exhibitors is down all that much. But the average size of the booths must be down. On the other hand, while some people said that yesterday's crowds were fairly light, today the halls were packed. And the mood is certainly more upbeat overall, especially since Jobs' announcements yesterday, than last summer in Boston. Think Different ads are also plastered all over the downtown area near the Expo.

Iomega's ads were everywhere. They even paid the staff at nearby restaurants to wear Iomega t-shirts and buttons. MicroMat was also making a splash with its ads - directly attacking Norton Utilities (one ad featured the name Norton Utilities on a grave stone). They also had one of the stars of the forthcoming film "Great Expectations" at their booth for awhile. And of course, they were showing off TechTool Pro 2 at the booth (although its not shipping until February). It's not a product you can easily evaluate from just a demo, but it certainly looked like it has what it takes to give Norton a run for its money. And it will be HFS Plus compatible. Over at the Symantec booth, they told me that a new HFS Plus compatible version of Norton Utilities would be out "soon."

Although Riven was featured at the keynote address, my game kudos go first to Bungie's Myth (Macworld agrees with me, giving it the Eddy award for best game of the year). It has a strikingly realistic 3D engine that powers the game and people were lining up at the booth to play the multi-player version. More generally regarding games, except for the MacSoft booth nearby, game programs were almost completely gone from the Expo. I don't recall an Expo with as little game software on display as this one.

Less money to spend? The number of after-hours parties was also at all all-time low. And most of the Mac magazines were no longer giving away free copies of their current issue (MacWEEK being a major exception).

Steve Jobs said nothing about Rhapsody at his keynote and the OS was not evident anywhere in the Apple booth. However, there were a number of Rhapsody products on display at Developers' Central. I am not sure whether this absence is simply Apple not wanting to focus on an unreleased product or whether it says something more significant about how Rhapsody now figures in Apple's future.

Finally, in what is probably the number one highlight of the show, Microsoft has really come through with its Office 98 suite. I only had time to look closely at the Word component. They did their homework this time. It features an ability to save multiple versions of a document within one file, an ability to automatically format a document for online viewing (as opposed to formatting it for printed output), improved support for QuickTime, better HTML conversion and a host of other enhancements. And the interface has been improved to be truly Mac-centric, not just a Windows port. Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 was also evident. This too is a solid Mac product that is getting much initial praise (although I am also getting some problem reports).

More tomorrow, including news from the Claris booth.

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