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 painful.

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 (

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?*

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