Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    Upcoming seminars by software developers promise useful information for free

    by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #340 April 29, 1996   High Tech Office  column

    Everybody wants to sell you something. Nevertheless, as long as you keep that ultimate purpose in mind, valuable information can be gained at the free seminars given by technology companies. Here are two that might be worth taking a few hours out to attend.

    Novell is a company in the process of refocusing itself. After trying to be all things to all people, it has sold its Unix and Word Perfect divisions to focus on its core competencies, as the business school folks would say. Its basic product, Netware networking software, is installed on an estimated 60 per cent of the world's networks. Despite having the majority of actual market share, it has been losing mind-share to, on the one hand, Microsoft's Windows NT and, on the other, Unix-based intranets.

    Novell is coming to town the morning of May 14th with a seminar comparing Netware version 4.1 to Windows NT. Attendees will receive a free two-user copy of Netware 4.1, and "Reducing Cost of Ownership" analysis software. The seminar is free: call 1-800/892-2922 to register.

    Ascend Communications also wants a morning of your time. It's looking at the issue of connecting your business network and telecommuters to the Internet. Topics to be discussed include wide-area network services, equipment issues, Internet connection, network management and security issues, and (of course), how Ascend products can fit into your planning. It's in town on Thursday, May 9th: call 1-800/366-4058 to register.

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    PDA redux... Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), handheld computers like Apple's Newton, stirred up a lot of interest a couple of years ago, but didn't seem to live up to their promise. Problems with handwriting recognition led to a week's worth of jokes in Doonesbury but didn't do sales any appreciable good. Now U.S. Robotics, which probably sells more modems than anyone else, is entering the PDA market with a second-generation machine, the Pilot 5000. It's not available locally yet (I haven't seen one, either), but initial industry reaction sounds good. It's smaller and less powerful than the still-marketed Newton, but bigger and more of a "real computer" than the omnipresent Sharp Organizer, and it gets around the handwriting-recognition problem by allowing users to poke at an on-screen keyboard with the digital pen. (You can also print directly on the screen, and the accuracy is reportedly much improved over first-generation models.) Software lets it share appointment details and other data with Win 3.1 and Win 95 PCs, and run for a reasonably long time on a pair of AAA batteries. When it makes it to town, it should sell for $500 or so. Make sure you get the 512k RAM model. For more information, check out http://www.usr. com/palm on the 'Net.

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    Makin' it work... Here's another interesting product, one that's available right now. Quarterdeck is a PC utility-software company that was teetering on the brink a year or two ago when the market for its key products collapsed with the success of Windows. But instead of crumbling, it expanded its product line through both internal development and well-selected purchases. One of its new directions is (surprise!) the Internet: products include a low-cost, high-quality InternetSuite, and products for writing Web pages, setting up a low-level Web server, and more. Perhaps the best of the bunch is WebCompass (about $100), which aims to help with finding stuff on the Web. You might wonder why anyone would want to spend $100 when there are half a dozen or more free search engines right on the 'Net (such as the well-known LycosYahoo! sites). WebCompass starts with a CD-based library of Web sites, allowing you to start your search off-line. Inevitably, this off-line database will be incomplete and out of date. WebCompass, however, can continue its search on the Web itself, in the background, making use of a range of popular search sites. Afterwards, it creates a report on its findings which can be saved and used as the basis for future searches. or

    Finding what you really need on the 'Net is the key to turning it from a gee-whiz surfer-only environment to a useful source of business information. The range of free search sites makes this much more practical than a year or two ago: WebCompass takes it one step further. Recommended. Check http://www.

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan