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June 2001, Week 4 -- The Front Page and all That

 

 

 FrontPage 2002

   The new "FrontPage 2002" has drawn mixed reviews, you might say. It makes web sites, but the picture isn't as clear as it used to be.

   Microsoft's FrontPage has 40 percent of the web site market. Macromedia's "DreamWeaver" also has 40 percent. Among small business users, FrontPage is more dominant, with an estimated 70 percent of that market. Other web site programs -- a dozen or more, divide up the table scraps.

   We've tried nearly all of them. We've tried web programs that don't even exist anymore, and when we finally did our own web site: www.oncomp.com, we settled on FrontPage. It had a built-in search function and the best technical support we had ever encountered, which was free. The only thing they'll talk about for free now is how to install the program. All other questions are $35 a pop. On the plus side, you can now set up a store with FrontPage and the program tracks visitors.

 

   Much of the current criticism on FrontPage 2002 comes from developers and focuses on the bloated code the program generates. Bloated computer code has become a fact of life, and unless you are a developer it's a minor annoyance. Many programmers have adopted the view that all users have fast central processors, at least 10 gigabytes of hard drive space, and 128 megabytes of memory. Under those conditions, what does it matter if the software code is unwieldy, because the system is so large and fast it's going to handle it anyway. Sloppiness seems to be the new watchword.

 

   The remaining criticism is related. The complaint is that bloated code makes FrontPage unsuitable for large business web sites. I think this is wrong. Our own web site is enormous. It contains 2,269 pages and 1,960 pictures, numbers that increase every week. Very few sites we have browsed are anywhere near that large and yet FrontPage handles the site with ease. Even though we don't use it for business -- we don't accept ads or fees -- FrontPage has to be considered first class for creating business sites.

 

   FrontPage is still the easiest way we've found to create a professional looking web site. If you want jazzy graphics and music, this isn't the way to go. On the other hand you should think carefully about those special effects, because it increases the loading time for the user and makes the site more awkward to navigate. For me, if a web site takes more than 15-20 seconds to load, I'm out of there.

 

   Speed is a big issue when working with your web site and the new FrontPage 2002 really shines here. When making changes, it used to take a dozen seconds to call up new pages, but now they come up in two or three seconds. You think that's not a big difference? Believe me, when you're working with 2,000 pages, waiting an extra 10 seconds per page seems like forever.

 

   All in all, we're miffed about the loss of free tech support but pleased with the program. If you want a nice business web site, you'll get it here. FrontPage 2002 is $169, for Windows 98 and up; upgrades are $90. (A 30-day trial version on CD is available for $10.) Microsoft phone: 800-642-7676; web: www.microsoft.com/frontpage.

 

Internuts



-- www.sciencedaily.com New science stories and summaries of published research every day. Recent story: A Swedish study found that running a gasoline lawn mower for one hour produces as much pollution as driving a car 100 miles.

-- www.howstuffworks.com  An excellent site for kids or adults. Examples: How CDs work; how night vision works; how fuel gauges work, etc. You might also want to look at www.waythingswork.com, a site from book publisher Houghton Mifflin. Not as good as the first site and kind of a nuisance to use, but worthwhile.

 

-- www.scorecard.com and www.pollutionwatch.com  Scorecard lists the main polluters in U.S. neighborhoods, providing company names, addresses and the pollutants they are generating. Pollutionwatch is a sister site that provides similar information for Canada. (Editor's Note: These sites are no longer there. We suspect foul play.)

 

-- www.pdom.com Get an e-mail address or register a web site that is simply your own name with a dot com ending. There is a charge of course, but their prices are much less than Network Solutions, the company first authorized to provide Internet destination names.

 

-- http://shadow.ieor.berkeley.edu/humor  A joke site from the University of California at Berkeley. You rate about a dozen jokes from very funny to not funny and then they supply more.

 

Games people play

 Half Life

 

 

   "Half-Life: Blue Shift," $30 for Windows 95 and up, from Sierra. This is the latest additional adventure for Half-Life, which PC Gamer magazine in 1999 called "the best PC game ever made." About 50 other game reviewers also gave it their top rating. This incarnation includes the earlier "Half-Life: Opposing Force" and a weapons expansion pack.

   In brief, something has gone wrong at a government biotech laboratory called "Black Mesa" and it's up to you to find out what. Keep your weapons ready because nothing good is about to happen. Up to 14 players can be involved at the same time online.

NOTE: Readers can search more than four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com  or bobschwab@aol.com.

 

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