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Updated regularly, Short Takes gives you the latest bites on the coolest technology, financial happenings, and Web sites that are actually useful.

The Customer Support Consortium will announce a new standard that will let technology companies more easily share customer support strategies and solutions. The Consortium, which counts Microsoft, IBM, and 63 other high-tech companies in its ranks, has established a common format for data exchange among its members and will formally unveil it next week.

Sun Microsystems is set to offer a two-for-one stock split. The split is subject to shareholder approval, which will be determined at the company's annual meeting on November 13. If the board approves, the split will start on November 18 and shareholders will receive stock certificates on December 10.

Hauppauge Digital, which manufactures digital video boards that implement Intel's Intercast technology, reports strong initial demand from major U.S. computer retailers and some reorders since it began shipping its WinCast/TV board in July. Intercast, a combination of the words Internet and broadcast, uses part of the TV signal designated for captions to send Web pages to a PC. The newly public company also raised additional capital last month and reported a quarterly profit of $78,476 on revenues of $3.3 million.

Hewlett-Packard is expected to introduce a high-end workstation based on Intel's Pentium Pro at the end of the month. Another division of HP continues to market its Unix-based workstations. Rival Compaq Computer announced earlier that it would create a new division to deliver Intel-based servers and workstations in the fourth quarter.

NetObjects has filed 15 patent applications on features of its Fusion software tools to build Web sites. The Fusion product was introduced July 29. The company's patent attorney said the applications signal that NetObjects will act aggressively to protect its intellectual property.

ClariNet Communications' 1.5 million subscribers can now read news on Usenet using Netscape Communications browsers. ClariNet's e.News calls itself the first formatted news on Usenet. By year's end, the service will link to other news stories, relevant Internet resources and other reference material. e.News provides 2,000 stories daily from UPI, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times Entertainment News Syndicate, SportsTicker, Commerce Business Daily, Newsbytes, the New York Times Syndicate, United Media, Universal Press Syndicate, and online material from smaller sources.

Miami's SuperNet Online is offering free Internet access and email for up to two and a half hours a day to Miami area residents. The advertising-funded service hopes to expand the service to the rest of Florida. (email to oasis@supernet.win.net)

VeriFone, which sells technology to merchants and banks to handle credit card transactions, has teamed with a national credit card processing firm to move merchants to ISDN service for electronic transactions. VeriFone and Vital Processing Services are offering a bundled ISDN service, called Digital Xpress, to retail to merchants, merchant banks, and transaction processors. The goal: faster response times, fewer interruptions, and greater reliability than analog modem lines. The turnkey ISDN service combines installation costs and support requirements into a single offering. Vital is a joint venture between an affiliate of Visa U.S.A. and Total System Services, an affiliate of Synovus Financial.

NewStar Collaborative Technologies plans to conduct a direct public offering of its stock via the Internet during the fourth quarter. NewStar is offering 1 million shares and plans to raise between $3,750,000 and $5 million. The company expects to be traded on the Pacific Stock Exchange listed on Nasdaq. NewStar created Sound Ideas, a program that allows users to transfer files, view images, share documents, and communicate simultaneously over a telephone line.

Sagem will be introducing a program at Macworld in Boston that allows Power Macintosh users with ISDN lines to add to videoconferencing systems without extra hardware. Meet-Me Light, at $299, allows people already using standard videoconferencing room systems to extend the use of videoconferencing within the company without buying additional hardware--a dedicated H.320 hardware codec (compression/decompression) board for each computer, according to Sagem. Meet-Me Light also changes the way a user makes telephone calls. "Application features include correspondent management, dialing, tracking of incoming calls while the user is away from the desk, and returning a phone call with a single mouse click," the company states.

@Home, which proposes to offer high-speed access to the Internet via cable television systems, has chosen Silicon Graphics "WebForce Challenge" server to deliver its service. SGI's former president, Tom Jermoluk, last week joined @Home as its CEO, replacing Will Hearst, who will become vice-chairman.

The American Medical Association this week launched a new service on its Web site called AMA Physician Select, a database of more than 650,000 physicians licensed to practice medicine in the United States.

Netscape Communications this week launched a new customizable start page, PowerStart, that allows Web surfers to create a personal front door to the Net, including links to news services, sports sites, shopping services, and other Web sites.

Everyware announced the immediate availability of Bolero, its Web demographics analysis and reporting system for Macintosh. The product comes in three versions: Bronze for $995, Silver for $1,795, and Gold, for $4,995.

Netscape Navigator 3.0 for the Mac will include Aladdin System's StuffIt Expander 4.0 file expansion software, thanks to a deal struck between the two companies today.

Network Appliance introduced today the NetApp MultiProtocol Filer, a data-access server that simultaneously supports both Windows and Unix, allowing Windows 95, Windows NT, and Unix clients to use the same network file server for data storage. Shipments will begin in October.

Claris announced today that it will demonstrate Claris Organizer 2.0 for Macintosh at the Macworld Expo in Boston this week. The personal information manager, featuring new email and Web links, allows users to launch their browser or email client from within Claris Organizer. The product will ship later this month.

Adobe Systems today posted a beta version of its PageMill 2.0 Web authoring tool for Macintosh on the Net. The new version supports tables and frames, as well as multimedia capabilities such as placement of video, audio, and Shockwave movies in Web pages. A beta version of the software for Windows will be available in September.

Hewlett-Packard announced the appointment of Ira Goldstein to the newly created position of Internet technology officer and chief technology officer for HP's Computer System Organization. Goldstein previously was executive vice-president of Open Group Research Institute.

Kinetix, the multimedia arm of Autodesk, announced it is boosting its nearly 4-month-old program, 3D Studio Max, with several releases. It will be releasing a Microsoft Windows version of its product, previously available only for Windows NT Workstations. Kinetix also reported it's releasing a free upgrade of the product, 3D Studio Max 1.1, capitalizing on what it calls "vigorous early demand" for the program. Kinetix is also shipping its 3D Studio Max Software Developers Kit. 3D Studio Max is the company's latest version of its 3D Studio. Since Kinetix began shipping 3D Studio Max April 18, it has delivered more than 10,000 programs and upgrades.

Silicon Graphics Incorporated released APIs (application programming interfaces) for its virtual reality Web browser, Cosmo Player. Cosmo, which supports the VRML 2.0 protocol and lets viewers navigate through three-dimensional spaces, also comes as a plug-in for Netscape Communications' Navigator browser. Black Sun Interactive is the first to extend Cosmo's capabilities with its VRML 2.0 Multiuser Plug-in. SGI and Seybold Seminars of Foster City, California, also announced the inaugural VRML 2.0 developers conference December 3-4 in San Francisco during Seybold's annual publishing conference.

PenOp has released a new plug-in for Adobe Acrobat Exchange that allows users to sign Acrobat documents using PenOp's paperless handwritten signature software. PenOp binds handwritten signatures to documents so they cannot be altered. The plug-in allows document authors to specify where signature are to appear, the names of the signatories, and the reason for signing. The software creates documents in Adobe's Portable Document Format and can be viewed across all major PC platforms. The plug-in is priced at $100 for unlimited signatures and currently supports Acrobat version 2.1 for Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and NT.

Thunder & Lightning is offering its Web Factory Pro Image development and editing software tool for a free 30-day trial. Web Factory Pro Image uses a word-processor approach to create, update, and maintain a Web site. Users enter the text they want on their Web page, and the HTML is automatically generated. The product also allows users to import and convert image files, implement tables and support for frames, and preview Web pages by using Netscape's Navigator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer without having to leave the developing environment. Web Factory Pro Image supports Windows 95 and NT and is now available for downloading. At the end of the trial period, users can license the product for $229.

Cisco has decided to buy privately held Nashoba Networks and its Token Ring switching technologies. Cisco will add Nashoba's LAN switching products to its own lineup of switches and routers through a stock swap worth $100 million. The companies expect the merger to be completed by mid-September.

Tierra says it has raised $1 million in private financing to help create the next generation of offline browsers. The first in a series of planned products monitors Web sites and downloads information when relevant changes (as defined by the user) occur on the site, and then highlights those changes. A beta version of Tierra Highlights is currently available for Navigator and Internet Explorer for Windows 95.