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Vol. 14  No. 6  Supporting PC Platforms Newsletter:..Nov-Dec 1998

Proliferation of CPUs

What's coming?

Uncle Sam vs Microsoft Corp

Final Bytes


New search engine debuts
by Bob Wallace

Internet users are well aware of the search engines available for their use when looking for specific information on the World Wide Web. A handful of such entities already exist for our use, so it may come as a surprise that yet another has been launched within the past few weeks.

This latest entry on the Internet began with some interesting ads on television and radio in late October. If you saw or heard them, you're not likely to forget that the name of this new search engine is Lycos, named for a spider that leaves its web to hunt. Interesting choice.

Lycos Inc. is based in Waltham, Mass., just a few miles outside Boston on the Highway 128 route that is home to many of the computer-related businesses in Silicon Valley East, and came up with some $25 million for their start-up as the latest entry in the search of the World Wide Web for computer users, and places them in a extremely competitive marketplace with Excite, HotBot, Infoseek, Snap and Yahoo search engines.

"Lycos, go get it," is the phrase used in the promotions on radio and television, with a black Labrador retriever dashing off over the horizon to fetch what is asked for, returning with it almost instantly. The idea here is that Lycos is one very quick way to access the information on the Internet that computer users are looking for.

On the next visit with your Internet Service Provider, you might want to check out Lycos to see just how quickly your request can be taken care of. If the ads are any indication, going for what interests you will not take long at all.

(Some of the details here come from the article published by The Boston Globe, "Lycos unleashes $25 million ad campaign," and came via an Internet connect made on November 2, 1998.  -Ed.)

Proliferation of CPUs
by Bob Wallace

Microsoft Corp. versus the rest of computerdom is into its fourth week in court by the time you read this, the November elections have come and gone, Astronaut-turned-politician-turned-astronaut John Glenn is riding high overhead in his first orbit with companions (and his first ride in 36 years!), and the computer world may be looking at far more processors in the next few months than we've had available to choose from in a long time.

We've had Intel's CPU chips running our DOS computers almost singlehandedly since the demise of CP/M's 8080 and Zilog's Z80, processors which ran the computers many of us began with in the early 1980s with our Kaypro "portable boat anchors," as they later came to be known, along with the Eagle, Morrow and Osborne systems, among others.

Despite their on-going longevity in the computer industry, Intel is gaining competition almost at the moment it appears likely that Microsoft is about to shed some of its competition - again. If only Intel could get a lock on their competitors as has Microsoft, who knows where the computer world might be.

With several other CPUs currently available, and the potential for another few to show up in 1999, Intel faces as much competition in the coming year as it's faced throughout its history as a chip maker.

What's available currently, and what's coming along over the next few calendar quarters? The latest from Intel includes their Pentium II/300, as most of us would be aware, given their ad campaigns. Let's look at the Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) K6-2/300; the Cyrix MII/300; and the newcomer to this fray, Integrated Device Technology's (IDT) WinChip 2. Each of these should be out and about currently.

AMD's K6-2/300 is rated very close to an Intel Pentium II/300 processor, Cyrix's MII/300 falls about ten percent short of the Pentium II/300, and IDT's chip was not yet out at the time PC Magazine ran their tests of these most recent chips for their September 22, 1998 issue. For further information on results of their testing, check your own library for a copy, or check with the local library or the PCMag Internet site.

As if the current list of CPUs isn't sufficient, PC Magazine's story went on to detail chips still in the development pipeline, but not out until sometime in the coming year. Intel has their own chip coming out early in the new year, the Katmai, due in the first quarter of 1999. Intel's Merced has been set back until mid-2000, according to the PC Magazine chart.

Not to be left behind, certainly not for long, are AMD, Cyrix and IDT, each with their own chip releases coming up in the next calendar year. While AMD has the K6-3 coming along in the fourth quarter of 1998, they have yet another in the works, due out in the second quarter of 1999, named K7. Cyrix will ship their Mxi in the first quarter, and IDT has the WinChip 2+ due in the fourth quarter of 1998, their WinChip 3 coming along in the second quarter of 1999.

Comparisons of chips already available to hardware vendors can be found usually several times each year in publications such as PC Magazine, noting which of the processors works the fastest on several tests, each of these being updated by the editors at PC Magazine as new processors come along. Of some interest to your editor was their mention of how games processed and displayed faster on the AMD K6-2/300 with 3D Now!, but slowed down with "traditional" business software when compared with the Intel Pentium II/300.

As a general proposition, one might expect vendors to put out faster processors for business use first, allowing game players to derive whatever benefits they might from the new chips when included with systems available through retailers around the country. Going over the PC Magazine article, one gets the impression that games were almost a major consideration in the production of this latest round of processors, not the benefits to be gained by those using computers in business settings.

What's coming?
Having four players already in the field would seem to be more than enough to satisfy the demand by hardware makers and computer users. Not the case, apparently, as the PC Magazine story went on to detail how several new entries will be joining the industry in the next few months.

One of these was expected to jump into the processor wars with an announcement at a trade industry meeting in October. Rise Technologies has been around for a while, and is looking at the x86 chip as a way to get into the processor game. Rise is expected to go after the low-cost PC market.

Coming along after the new year gets off the ground will be several new entries. First of these is expected to be STMicroelectronics, formerly named SGS-Thomson, and purchaser of Metaflow Technology in 1997. STMicro- electronics  is said to have a "high-performance" x86 CPU.

Then comes Transmeta, noted as a "secretive start-up," and working for some two years on a CPU for PCs which is said to have its own internal instruction set, but using a "fast software translator" to work with x86 instructions.

Within the past two weekends, October 25 and November 1, one of the local retailers has included sales fliers in local Sunday papers that proved of interest from the perspective of which processors are now being included within computers from several makers. Let's take a look at some of  the goods.

An IBM computer with AMD's K6-2/333 with 3D Now!, 48MB SyncDRAM memory, 6.0GB hard drive, 32x max CD-ROM drive, v.90 high-speed modem, 15-inch monitor and HP printer.

This first must have been the typical loss leader item. On the inside, two more computers, Compaq and IBM, each with AMD's K6-2/350 chip, but neither including the monitor, but including more RAM (64MB) and larger hard drive (8.0GB) over the system above.

Laptops were included as well, from CTX and NEC, each of three including the AMD K6 with MMX processor running at 300 MHz. Only difference noted between the two CTX laptops was the display and hard drive capacities being only 12.1 inches and 2.0GB on one CTX model, but 13.3 inches on the other CTX and the NEC, and 3.0GB for CTX versus 4.0GB for NEC.

Just a week later, same local retail outlet features a Cyrix MII/300 system with 32MB RAM, 3.2GB hard drive, 32x CD-ROM, v.90 modem, but the monitor sold separately. As with the previous week's flier, what's on the front is less expensive than what's found inside.

In addition to a "design your own computer," two Pentium II computers, one running at 350 MHz, the other at 450 MHz, each having its own list of add-ons: 64MB SyncDRAM, 4.0GB hard drive, v.90 modem, 15-inch monitor; versus 128MB SyncDRAM, 8.0GB hard drive, v.90 modem and 15-inch monitor.

Below that, yet another system with the Cyrix MII/300 with 64MG SyncDRAM, 4.0GB hard drive, v.90 modem and 15-inch monitor, plus printer. Next to it a pair of laptops, Compaq and Toshiba, nearly identical in RAM, memory, v.90 modem and CD-ROM drive, but $600 difference in price between them given the AMD K6/266 in the Compaq, versus the Pentium II/266 in Toshiba's. And for a change, the less expensive laptop included mention of its being Year 2000 compliant.

What it boils down to is having several ways of upgrading from your present computer to a new and faster system, but you may need to know what it is you're looking at in the store, know what the various abbreviations mean, and understand what's included in a unit you might choose for yourself before writing your personal check or handing your credit card to the salesman.

Another consideration when upgrading to a new system is what software is installed on the computer, and whether manuals are included for your benefit.

Uncle Sam vs Microsoft Corp.
by Bob Wallace

By the time this reaches your hands, Microsoft will be into the third week of its trial with the U.S. government and 20 states, being accused of anti-trust violations by the federal government, along with Netscape and several other software vendors.

One of the interesting sidelights to this huge trial is one of the lawyers in the middle of it for the U.S.  In what must be viewed as being an ironic twist to this story, the defender of IBM against the federal government for a number of years is now on the side of government in going after Microsoft.

David Boies, 57, is the former defense lawyer for IBM in its 13-year battle with the U.S. Justice Department. He now leads the team of lawyers in pursuit of Microsoft for illegally defending and extending its Windows monopoly for personal computer operating systems.

This lawyer has an outstanding track record. Anyone who can recall the lawsuit against CBS Corp. by General William Westmoreland, seeking $120 million in damages against the Network for libeling him with a documentary that said the U.S. military deliberately distorted enemy strength during the Vietnam War, was dropped before it went to a jury.

Clearly, this will be a trial watched by people all across the nation, whether computer user or not. Prior to its beginning the last week of October, most experts figured this trial to run for about eight weeks. Its outcome will be watched closely by everyone, and for all sorts of reasons.

 Final Bytes
by Bob Wallace

This last newsletter of 1998 is getting to you somewhat earlier than it otherwise might, for two reasons. First, Lois and I will be on our way to Portland, Oregon, for her AIFD Board Meeting on Sunday morning, so we'll take the opportunity to visit friends in Salem during the day, then enjoy dinner with the AIFD group in the evening. On Sunday morning, they'll hold their last meeting of the year. We should be home by Sunday evening.

Second, your editor had his ring finger smashed on October 13 by a 5-inch concrete hose while at work in San Francisco, and has had it wrapped up every day since that accident. Given this circumstance, typing is at a far slower pace than otherwise would be the case, so an early start for the Nov-Dec issue made total sense. You may read your copy of the newsletter at whatever reading speed suits your eyes.

On to other things. Several new upgrades of programs have come up within the last month or so. Netscape is out with yet another upgrade of their Internet browser, Navigator and Communicator, both now up to version 4.5 and counting. Your editor downloaded the archive several weeks ago and installed it on Lois's computer. 

The only change noted in this upgrade was Communicator asking about making Netscape the default browser, to which the answer was yes. Turns out this also brought up a minor problem, given that Netscape modified the setup for where the Internet connect would come up for us when we call Slip.Net. Rather than arriving at our usual destination of Slip.Net with each connect, all of a sudden we were jumping to Netscape's home page. A quick check within Communicator located the spot for changing that default so that subsequent connects have put us on the Slip.Net location first, allowing us to go elsewhere when we choose to.

Should you find yourself in a similar situation with Netscape, start the program (if you have not yet done so), choose Edit, then Preferences to get the setup screen including the Home Page site you want. Make the change in that Home Page field, click on the Okay button, and you're back to the location you want as your default Home Page.

Another upgrade available now is Intuit's Quicken 99, in at least two variations, and in two mediums: CD-ROM or 3.5-inch diskettes. Upgrades come in several 'flavors:' Quicken Basic 99 on CD-ROM, Quicken Deluxe 99 on CD-ROM or disks, Quicken Suite 99 on CD-ROM, or Quicken Home and Business 99 on CD-ROM. Each of these options is for Windows systems.

The one potentially major change for this software is with the Internet browser used to connect over the phone line for banking, for instance. In the current version of Quicken in use here, we've been using Netscape. This upgrade comes with the suggestion that users may have to change default browsers with this upgrade, going from Navigator to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. 

The one situation in which this change is not shown as being an option is when installing from the 3.5-inch diskettes. If you go with this installation in place of the CD-ROM upgrade, the Intuit flier suggests the need for 37 Megabytes of free hard drive space for Quicken, plus another 36.2 Megabytes to install Microsoft's Internet Explorer v4.0.

One of the situations noted here with the recent upgrade to Netscape's Communicator v4.5 is that you need lots of hard drive storage space to install this program, despite the fact the installation program is going to overwrite some or all of the files already on your hard drive. 

After unpacking all the files from the CC32E45.EXE file, an error message popped up saying that the unpack had failed. In fact, it had not failed. All that happens, apparently, is that the executable unpacks all the files in that 14.6-meg file, then asks the computer if enough memory is available to install the files. At that point, the computer hung. I jumped to the MS-DOS prompt and checked the file area where those files had been unpacked and found that the SETUP program was there. Despite the error message, Setup started when asked, and installed the program successfully. The only problem noted after that was that all the files used by Setup were left in that subdirectory. If you're sure you won't need to change your installation at some future date, you can delete both the CC32E45.EXE file and the several Setup files. Doing so will save a substantial number of bytes on your hard drive. If you do remove these files then want to change your installation, you'll need to download that huge Netscape self-extracting archive again.

One of the programs many of us used on our DOS-based systems was Xtree or Xtree Gold. That program has now been recoded by another group named Ztree. If you're interested, a demo copy can be picked up from their Internet site located at for use under Windows 95/98/NT, or OS/2.

PC Magazine's September 22 issue featured their top 100 computer companies. If you missed that issue, you may have missed the fact that 47 of the top 100 are Bay area computer companies. No other area of the U.S. came close to this number.


November 12: Video Edit (Tentative as of 11/5/98)

December 10: Hank Skawinski discussing COMDEX and Win98

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