With the huge Comdex computer show gearing up, there are all kinds of new products flooding the shelves. I've taken a peek at some, and here's the good and the not-so-good.
- Datastorm has released Procomm Plus 3.0, the successor to the wildly successful communications package for Windows. Procomm enjoys a huge market share of the communications business and the company's goal was to pack a lot of Internet connectivity into its flagship product.The result is a mixed bag. As a Procomm 2.11 user, I would not spend the $79 to upgrade. Much of the functionality I need I already have with the old version, and the added features are already available in other software. Do I need another Web browser or FTP client? The installation routine also installed another "winsock.dll" file, which basically disabled my existing Internet setup. No big deal, but for computer newcomers that would mean another call for technical support.
Procomm 3.0 is not a 32-bit application designed specifically for Windows 95, so that's not a great reason to upgrade, either.
My verdict is if you already have Procomm 2.0, then take advantage of the free software patches to bring your version up to 2.11 and stay put.
If you're looking to buy your first communications package, it's a toss-up between Procomm and Qmodem for Windows 95 from Mustang Software. Both will cost about $80.
- Intel has been promoting its "overdrive" processing chips for some time; the idea is you open your PC, remove the processor by flipping a lever and slide in a new, faster one.
I played with one of the new Pentium Overdrive chips with a Dell Pentium 60. The upgrade to a Pentium 120 costs about $320.
I did notice a 22 percent increase in overall speed with my upgrade, but your mileage may vary; most computers of other brands will show more improvement. That's mostly because Dell hasn't issued any instructions to upgrade its Dimension line of PCs and won't support the processor swap. If you ask any questions of Dell about how to move any jumper settings to accommodate the new processor, you get a brick wall.
Could it be Dell wants users to buy completely new Dell computers instead of upgrading the ones they have? Nah.
Before you consider an upgrade, visit Intel's Web site at "http://www.intel.com" and check whether your computer is on the compatibility list.
- Broderbund has released some nice educational software bundled as "Learning Adventure Libraries" that will retail from $50 to $75. So far there are four different libraries labeled by age and interest.
"Our goal in creating these libraries is to offer consumers one software purchase that gives them a comprehensive library of titles covering such critical subject areas as reading, math, creativity and geography," says Broderbund's Jan Gullett.
It also gives new life to older titles like "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego," but these titles aren't repackaged junk and are worth a look by parents, day care centers and schools.
They are available for both Windows and Mac platforms.
- CALL OF THE WEEK: Prices on Pentium computers should continue to drop like a proverbial stone all summer. This is a good shopping season as faster processors are introduced.
- NEWSGROUP PICK: "rec.video.satellite.dbs" for discussion of those 18-inch satellite dishes that offer digital television.
- WEEKLY WEB WONDER: "http://www.mapquest.com". A repeat, but this time try its "TripQuest" feature, which gives you directions for all your summer road trips.