ISSUE 412: THE HIGH-TECH OFFICE--Alan
Inexpensive PeakJet software
cuts Internet waiting time - Sept 16 1997
The speed of the Internet is something
everybody complains about. Many a frustrated Web surfer has been left
wondering what to call it -- World Wide Web or World Wide Wait.
One (more or less) local company, Peak Technologies,
has an interesting software product that cuts down on
the waiting time.
The $40 product, PeakJet (formerly sold as Net.Jet)
can't make your 28.8-baud modem perform like a $1,000-a-month T1
dedicated Internet connection, but, through a couple of clever tricks,
it does manage to make any sort of Web connection noticeably less
Your modem doesn't really work faster; instead,
PeakJet makes it work smarter.
While you're browsing the World Wide Web, your Web
browser caches pages you've visited, meaning it saves copies of them on
your hard drive so that when you come back to a page, it loads the
saved version instead of having to download it again.
PeakJet replaces that caching with its own intelligent
agents. The designers realized that when most of us browse the Web, our
modems are only working about 10 - 15 per cent of the time. That's
because our modem sits idle while we read a page we just downloaded.
But if you're using PeakJet, your modem keeps working
while you're reading. It follows the links on the page, and preloads
the text on those pages into its cache.
So, most of the time, when you click on a link to go
to the next page, it's already downloaded and in the cache, ready for
viewing. PeakJet also learns from your browsing behaviour. It keeps
track of what links you actually follow up, so next time you go back to
the same page, it's ready for you. And it's smart enough to keep
favourite sites in the cache longer, and to automatically update them.
(All this activity behind the scenes can be
disconcerting at first. With this product, be prepared for almost
constant modem and hard drive activity instead of the
on-again/off-again bursts that you get now.)
The result is that regardless of how you connect to
the Net, your browsing feels faster. And the longer you use the
product, the better it works. And best of all, it's entirely automatic.
There's a minimalist user interface: a toolbar with a
few options for those of us who have the need to be eternally fiddling,
and an option to peek at a map of the links it's following.
Peak claims that PeakJet was the first shipping
commercial application to have been completely developed in the popular
Java language. The software works with Windows 95 and NT machines using
Netscape Navigator versions 2.0 or later, and Microsoft Internet
Explorer 3.0 or later. A Mac version was promised, but development has
been halted because of limitations in that platform's multitasking and
Java implementation. (This is even true with the new Mac OS/8. Apple's
promise: wait for next year's Rhapsody.) Similar limitations prevent a
development of a Windows 3.1 version. A 30-day free trial version is
available on the Net (www.peak-media.com).
I described Peak as a (more or less) local company.
They originally called West Vancouver home, and most of their software
developers still live in the Lower Mainland. But Peak recently moved
its head office to Bellingham to better serve the U.S. market.
* * *
Victoria reader David Reilley passed
on the following bit of anonymous Internet trivia:
Windows 95 (Noun) -- 32 bit
extensions and a graphical shell for a 16 bit patch to an 8 bit
operating system originally coded for a 4 bit microprocessor, written
by a 2 bit company that can't stand 1 bit of competition.
(Any resemblance to real products and real companies
is entirely coincidental.)
And while we're getting silly information from the Net
(more quickly, no doubt, using PeakJet), reader David Anderson
let us know that Netscape Navigator users pressing the Ctrl, Alt, and F
keys simultaneously will be magically whisked to a Netscape page with a
view of the company fish-tank, updated every 15 seconds. Aren't you
glad you learned this?*