Reflections of a ModemJunkie

by Leonard Grossman

A World Grown Smaller . . .

The Internet is changing the ways we think. Categories that once made sense are losing their meaning. Sometimes that is a gain and sometimes a loss. Thinking about the last six years on line, I remember the excitement of communicating with someone from Europe or visiting an online friend while on vacation in Washington, D.C. I remember a wonderful dinner in my home with friends from Brooklyn, Utah and the Midwest, all of whom met online.

Part of the excitement was learning about each other. Then the other day something happened. Regular readers know that I am always looking for new software that doesn't require new hardware -- applications that are conservative in their use of resources, so that end users with other places to put their money (like the mortgage or their children's educations) can continue to take full advantage of the expanding opportunities.

A week or so ago I spotted an announcement about a new HTML editor. I sent the author an e-mail and he sent me a copy of his latest beta. It was small, fast, opened like lightening, and left memory available to run other applications while it was open -- even on this old 386/40. The author mentioned in a note that at the moment he didn't have access to a web site and he wondered if I could put a link to his file on my home page. There was a good trade off -- he would have a way to distribute his file and I would get increased hits on my page from people wanting to download his file-- some of them might even glance at my page before clicking on the link.

I asked the author to send me a short paragraph about the file and another about himself. He did so and I made the necessary changes to my home page, including a reference to his place of birth and his current home -- both of which happen to be half way around the world, more or less.

Soon, I got another e-mail. The author said that he thought nationality was not relevant on the Internet and would I, please, remove the biographical information. I did as he asked. And I understand the point. Since a simple click takes me from Chicago to Tokyo and then another can jump me to Israel, what difference does it make where the author lives or comes from. I really do understand. But isn't something lost as well?

When Washington's birthday merged with Lincoln's and became President's Day, when Columbus Day was moved to Monday, I began to mourn the loss of meaningful distinctions -- each became just another three day weekend. Are we not about to lose more as we take away the wonder of just how marvelous the Internet really is? Or am I just hopelessly old fashioned?

By the way, the editor I am referring to, DiDa, is available on my home page , Try it out. The author keeps sending me updates and improvements.

. . . and Software Grown Bloated

One of the reasons I need a small HTML editor is that I frequently want to run it while Netscape is open and, sometimes, while I am online as well. If other applications were as conservative with resources it would not be a problem, but Netscape is growing so fat so fast it is frightening. When I first downloaded Netscape it was a little over a meg. By last winter Netscape 2.0 had grown to over 2 megs. Now the preview of Atlas, the latest Netscape beta is out. Its over 6 megabytes. _SIX_ !! Forgive me for shouting. Netscape is in a battle with Microsoft and others to maintain dominance in the browser wars, so they think they have to add every bell and whistle to every version. It should be called the Netscape Suite, by now. I understand the current version even has an HTML editor built in. When will they add a spell checker and a Diet Coke dispenser??

I understand: make a full featured application, but do it with options. One of the biggest jokes is Netscape's built in news reader. Click and my whole machine slows down as a giant news reading application sucks resources like a starving pig (sorry, Babe). And its not even a good news reader. The news groups related to browsers are full of questions as to how to do this or that under Netscape's new reader. The most common response is a recommendation to use another reader. This has been going on since last summer, but Netscape doesn't seem to be able to take the hint.

Like many others, I do use another news reader-- News Xpress. But the old simple, and generally inadequate news reader in Netscape versions 1.x did have some good features. It let you bookmark a particular news group and open that group directly with a single click. That was my favorite way of browsing. I clicked on News:comp.infosystems.www.announce and began my late night surfing seamlessly from there... Can't do that with Netscape 2.x And you need 2.x for all those new Netscape features-- frames, moving banners, coffee (oh, I mean Java).

Well, I thought, I'll just keep two copies of Netscape on my machine--1.x for surfing and 2.x just for sites (and there are more and more of them) that demand 2.x or better and even tell you so in strong language if you don't have it. But Netscape is particularly nasty about coexisting with earlier versions. It can be done but it is anything but seamless . . . and if you surf late at night one false click will destroy your preferences or your carefully acquired bookmarks. So for now, I'll skip the Java. See you later, I'm going down for another Diet Coke.

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