antivirus products--the Internet offers regular tune-ups for your
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #359 September 10, 1996 High Tech Office
business has spawned more than its fair share of unattainable promises:
ideas like the "paperless office" that always seem to lie just one
more hardware and software upgrade away. Similarly, the idea of
direct to customers via the Internet is still bumping down the runway,
even though a few retailers are pulling off this trick.
software? On the surface, it would seem an ideal product: after all,
software is just bits of information, and there's no reason it can't
be distributed digitally. In fact, there's already an entire
channel known as shareware that allows software developers to market
their product without the need for packaging, warehouses, or
of interest from the big, commercial software companies, digital
of major software products isn't here yet: like many limitations with
the Internet, it comes down to bandwidth--how fast those digits can
be stuffed through the pipe.
product like Microsoft Office, which contains about 130 megs
of code. If you're connecting to the Net by modem, like most users,
a good connection might let you download no more than about a meg
every five minutes or so.
don't want to download your main business software, getting upgrades
and bug fixes this way is much more practical. In fact, most software
and hardware companies are encouraging that route now, and make bug
fixes and minor software upgrades available for free download at an
Internet site bearing their name (try www.microsoft.comwww.apple.com,
though these downloads
can fix problems or add features, users have had to know how and when
to seek them out, but this is changing as a wide range of companies
work on ways to make this upgrade process automatic.
models of IBM's Aptiva line of computers, for example, can
in with IBM and upgrade their own basic software. Similarly, the newest
version of Symantec's utility products for Windows 95 includes
a feature called "Live Update": a single menu click will cause it
to check in over the Internet with Symantec and automatically download
bug fixes and updates if new versions have been released. This is
especially useful for its antivirus product: Symantec updates its
virus definitions on a monthly basis, but this is of no use if the
consumer doesn't regularly get hold of it. A similar update feature is
already included in Cyberjack, an Internet-connection package from
Symantec's Toronto-based Delrina subsidiary.
are aiming to make these sorts of capabilities more general. Tuneup.comwww.tuneup.com)
has set up a partnership with Symantec and Hewlett-Packard.
Subscribers paying about $5 per month can log in and have their
tuned up over the Net, checking for viruses and defragmenting hard
drives. At the same time, the latest versions of HP printer-drivers
will be installed, if required. (
Santa Monica's Cybermedia (www. cybermedia.com), tries
to do even more. First, the software creates a profile of your system,
listing installed hardware and software. Then it connects to
Internet site and checks whether newer versions of the hardware drivers
or software products have been made available. The company is trying
to keep a frequently updated database of this information, and if
it finds newer versions listed, it will inform the user of what's
available, what features are added, and what bugs are fixed. The user
then decides whether to bother upgrading, and if the answer is yes,
the Oil Change software will automatically download the fix and install
it, backing up the old version in case the cure turns out to be worse
than the problem. Look for an autumn release, for about $75.
3.1 or Win95 users can try out a free beta (pre-release) version,
and make use of Cybermedia's current database of about 75 companies.
A Web site
(www.versions.com) keeps track of upgrades of over 40,000
and its service will send you e-mail alerting you to new additions:
it claims 13,000 subscribers. Not automated like Oil Change, but free.