September 2, 2003 - to go back to the Index Page

September 2, 2003 - to go back to the Index Page
STOP ATTACKS ON YOUR
INSTANT MESSENGER
Memory for Your
Mobile Devices
EASY WAYS TO START
YOUR WEB BLOG
Voodoo’s
Screaming
Gamer
Notebook
www.pcmag.com
T H E I N D E P E N D E N T G U I D E TO T EC H N O LO GY
SEPTEMBER 2, 2003
Picture
Perfect
• 21 Compact & High-End
Digital Cameras Tested
• Photo-Editing Software
• Reader Satisfaction
Survey
MICHAEL J. MILLER
Forward Thinking
N E W WAY S TO C O M M U N I C AT E
THE INDUSTRY CONFERENCES I attend have
always attracted early technology adopters laden
with PDAs, cell phones, notebooks, and e-mail gadgets way before they became mainstream. The recent Supernova 2003 conference in Washington,
D.C., was no exception. I found myself interested not
only in the content of the conference but also in the
technology that the attendees were using.
At the conference, former FCC chairman Reed
Hundt argued that the current policy of requiring the
existing phone and cable companies to install highspeed connections is not sufficient to deliver highspeed lines (10 Mbps or faster) everywhere. He argued
that the government should subsidize universal highspeed connections to every home in the U.S., serviced
by multiple ISPs. This, he said, would be a better investment for the economy than the current requirement that all TV sets accept broadcast HDTV signals.
I have serious doubts that Hundt’s idea will come
to fruition, given the current economic and political
situations. But the idea is certainly interesting.
Other speakers discussed the difficulties in replacing the analog twisted-pair connections that run from
the street into our homes, the “stupid” network (in
which the intelligence is in the devices at the network’s core and edge), and the role of the FCC in set-
ting telecommunications policy. All these issues
sparked thoughtful debates on the future shape of the
Internet and on the impact of government regulations.
I was equally intrigued by how the conference was
run. Although it took place in the basement of a hotel
where cell phone signals couldn’t reach, all the participants were connected using their laptops and a
Wi-Fi access point. The conference had not only an
official Web site but also an official wiki—a shared
online space where attendees could post comments.
At least half a dozen people were commenting on the
proceedings on their blogs, or Web logs. Attendees
were discussing the conference over Internet Relay
Chat (IRC). And needless to say, almost everyone was
communicating via instant messaging.
The software people were using was not the stuff
of corporate networks. Most of it came from small
companies or individuals operating on the fringe of
the computer industry. The wiki was created using
software from Socialtext. Some of the blogs were
built with Blogger, and some people were using
Six Apart’s Moveable Type. Jabber was the instantmessaging client of choice, and the debates about RSS
and Echo as methods of sharing thoughts and headlines were heated. These tools still have some rough
edges, but they are changing the way we work.
Blogging
will become
even more
popular when
AOL Journals
arrives in
AOL 9.0.
BLOGS FOR EVERYONE
PEOPLE HAVE BEEN blogging for some time, but
now it’s going mainstream. What started out as a
bunch of high-tech geeks, and later political pundits,
has now reached critical mass. One acquaintance of
mine keeps a blog of life in the town where we live.
This is particularly useful since he can update it
more frequently than the local newspaper is delivered or the paper’s Web site is updated.
Google’s recent purchase of Pyra Labs, maker of
the popular Blogger software, has helped introduce
more people to blogging. Suddenly, easy blogging
tools are everywhere. In our After Hours section this
issue (page 154), we evaluate several online tools that
can help you get started.
Blogging will become even more popular now that
America Online has announced that AOL 9.0 will include AOL Journals. Blogging is a fascinating trend
that will only get bigger over the next few years.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
7
Forward Thinking
MICHAEL J. MILLER
WEB SERVICES BUILD MOMENTUM
THE NEXT BIG wave of IT investment will go toward integrating new and existing applications using Web services
protocols. Software companies have been promoting this
idea for a while, but I’m just now beginning to see a lot more progress.
Every business I talk to runs old applications, wants new applications, and
has an ever-tighter budget. Most
though not all of the legacy application
developers are creating tools to expose
data via XML -based Web services.
Even popular sites such as Amazon,
eBay, and Google are now exposing
their information via Web services.
Getting applications to work together is more than just supporting
XML (eXtensible Markup Language).
Other standards are involved in basic
Web services, including SOAP (Simple
Object Access Protocol), WSDL (Web Services Description Language), and UDDI (Universal Description,
Discovery, and Integration). But even those aren’t
enough. What really matters is the degree to which
application functions can be exposed in a standardscompliant way. So different industries are now creating
different flavors of XML to improve the quality of data
links. They’re in the process of deciding industry-specific
data exchange formats—a vital link for expanding Web
services to external partners.
Over the next few years, companies will experiment
with Web services to tie together their applications. I expect to see some tension between the individuals and
small companies that have done some of the original work
on the Web and the big organizations
like IBM , Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems that envision a more structured, potentially proprietary approach
to Web services.
Several recent developments are
helping to move integration along.
SalesForce.com recently launched
sforce, an online application builder
designed to let developers pull together new applications built on existing
ones. And I’ve seen some neat ways of
combining Web components, such as
Above All Software’s AppBrowser.
But to move Web services forward,
lots of work is needed on standards,
industry-specific data structures, pilot programs, and
new tools. Like every other integration method hyped
over the past two decades, Web services isn’t a panacea.
But it could make creating, managing, and maintaining
applications much easier. And that would be a big win
for everyone.
Starting on page 122 is the second of our three-part series on Web services. Here, we evaluate the application
servers that are the core of the new platforms from all of
the big IT development companies. Next month, we’ll look
at the different methods for integrating applications.
T H E L AT E S T I N D I G I TA L P H OTO G R A P H Y
ONE OF MY favorite
things to do in the
summer is to visit outdoor art shows. One
trend I’ve noticed in recent years is the effect
of digital photography
on art. My favorite
photographs are taken
with large-format film
cameras. But more and
more, I’m seeing quite
interesting work photographers are doing
Kodak EasyShare DX6340
with digital cameras.
At a recent show, I saw great photos taken with top-ofthe-line digital SLRs and conventional digital cameras.
Some of them were shot with film cameras but made excellent use of digital editing tools for extreme close-ups
and color work. The photo-editing tools available today are
nothing short of amazing.
8
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
To help you select the right camera and the best
software package to make your photos look better than
ever, check out our roundups of
digital cameras (page 84)
and photo-editing softPentax Optio 550
ware (page 111). You’ll
be surprised at the
quality that the latest compact digital
cameras deliver
today. And don’t
miss the results of
our reader satisfaction survey on digital
cameras (page 94) to
find out which manufacturers make the grade.
MORE ON THE WEB: Join us online and make your voice heard.
Talk back to Michael J. Miller in our opinions section,
www.pcmag.com/miller.
䊛
Contents.1
SEP TEMBER 2, 2003 VOL. 22 NO. 1 5
www.pcmag.com/current_issue
In 1991, the first fully digital camera—the Dycam Model 1—shipped, shooting at 376-by-240 resolution.
C OV E R STO RY
First Looks
84
34
ACT! 6.0 for 2004
35
Salesforce
36
Salesnet
36
Upshot
38
VoodooPC Envy M460 Gamebook
38
Acer TravelMate C110TCi
40
Microsoft Money Premium 2004
42
Apple iSight
42
Mapopolis GPS for the Handspring Treo
44
Nero 6 Ultra Edition
44
Kodak DCS Pro 14n
46
Canvas 9 Professional Edition
46
Sony DSC-U60 Cyber-shot U
47
Minolta-QMS magicolor 2350 EN
47
HP Color LaserJet 1500L
48
QuarkXPress 6
49
EDGE DiskGO! USB Watch Flash Drive
50
Iomega NAS P800m
50
Toshiba PCX5000 Wireless Cable
Modem Gateway
56
Mathematica 5.0
56
Kid Defender
L
34
Snap
•••
•••
•••
Happy
When it comes to digital cameras, image quality
always counts more than style. But with so many
great-looking models out there, you might as well
consider the coolness factor, too. We’ve focused
this roundup on 15 compact cameras, the most
stylish group of products we’ve seen in years. We
also look at 3 popular prosumer models and a
handful of surprisingly affordable SLRs.
ON THE COVER
Stop Attacks on Your
Instant Messenger
page 74
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE
59 Feedback
158 Backspace
Picture Perfect
page 84
Voodoo’s Screaming
Gamer Notebook page 38
Photo-Editing
Software page 111
Memory for Your Mobile
Devices page 70
Reader Satisfaction
Survey page 94
Easy Ways to Start
Your Web Blog page 154
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
15
Contents.2
SEP TEMBER 2, 2003
27 Pipeline
Sony brings static objects to life.
27
College students: They’ve got game.
27
Where is it unacceptable to use a cell phone?
28
Digital cameras—set to outsell traditional ones.
28
Your vibrating cell phone just got smarter.
28
Microsoft’s spam woes.
30
COMING ATTRACTIONS: 17-inch Toshiba Satellite, Samsung ML-2152W wireless
IMAGE EDITING
D E V E LO P M E N T TO O L S
111 Clean Up Your
Image
122 Brave New Apps:
The Application
Servers
In our continuing
series on building and
deploying Web
services, we compare
six leading application servers, the backbones for the latest
enterprise Web apps. We also weigh in on
J2EE versus .NET and examine caching
technologies.
70 Solutions
74
Flash Memory: Pick a Card. You
finally have a digital camera, MP3
player, or PDA, but which flash
memory format is right for you? We
make sense of the confusing array of
media and standards.
Security Watch: Instant messaging
opens several holes in your system
and leaves you open to attack. Stay
vigilant to stay safe.
76
Enterprise: Blade computing scores
big at the NHL’s annual draft event.
78
Internet Professional: Cookies aren’t
just about invading people’s privacy.
Follow this recipe to put them to
work on your Web site.
80
User to User: Our experts show you
how to force a Win XP crash, how to
interpret scanner bit-depth ratings,
and more.
16
Our redesigned Printer Product Guide
features an updated Buying Guide, with
everything you need to know about
buying a printer. It also tells you what the
best, newest, and best-selling printers are!
(www.pcmag.com/printers)
FIRST LOOKS
printer, AMD Athlon 64, InBoxer mail filter, Kensington WiFi Finder, Eudora 6.0.
70
www.pcmag.com
PRODUCT GUIDE
27
Telephone lines
and red eyes
won’t ruin your
vacation photos
again. The
latest wave of
midrange
image-editing software can help you
touch up your photos before you
print them. They’re easy to use and
inexpensive.
Online
Opinions
7
61
63
65
67
Michael J. Miller: Forward
Thinking
Bill Machrone: ExtremeTech
John C. Dvorak
John C. Dvorak’s Inside Track
Bill Howard: On Technology
Personal Technology
154 After Hours
Blog On: We evaluate four online
tools that help you create, design, and
organize your personal online
journal—also known as a blog.
New reviews every week!
Coming soon:
• Hitachi G1000 PDA
• Olympus E-1
Digital SLR
• PhotoVista
Panorama 3.0
(www.pcmag.com/firstlooks)
N E W S A N D A N A LY S I S
The latest technology trends:
• Next-generation blogging
• Spam in the crosshairs
• The DVD standards war
(www.pcmag.com/news)
TO O L S YO U C A N U S E
• Downloads: We’ve built these utilities
just for you. Check out our indexed list
of utilities from A to Z.
(www.pcmag.com/utilities)
• Discussions: Log on and participate!
(http://discuss.pcmag.com/pcmag)
EXCLUSIVE COLUMNS
DVORAK ONLINE
K Each Monday, John C.
Dvorak gives you his
take on what’s
happening in high tech
today. Visit www.pcmag.com/dvorak.
ULANOFF ONLINE
K And each Wednesday,
Lance Ulanoff puts his
own unique spin on
technology. Visit
www.pcmag.com/ulanoff.
156 Gear & Games
Microsoft’s Rise of Nations; the
Gyration Ultra GT Cordless Optical
Mouse; the Skullcandy LINK; and a
mini-review of four expansion packs
for your favorite games.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Coming up:
• Content management secrets
• Notebook 3-D graphics shootout
(www.extremetech.com)
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /p i p e l i n e
T E C H N O L O G Y T R E N D S & N E W S A N A LY S I S
TODAY PORN, TOMORROW...
Bring Me to Life
Sony seeks to animate ordinary objects.
For the Love
Of the Game
ARE YOU SHELLING OUT MONEY
I
ILLUSTRATION BY JOYCE HESSELBERTH; PHOTOGRAPH BY ROY MCMAHON/CORBIS
[
[
magine a framed portrait
movie trailer or get the nearest
that comes to life and tells
theater and showtimes.” Or in
a person’s story when you
an art gallery, you could find
point a camera at it. Or picture
out more about a painting.
a virtual billboard visible only
Sony is also working on ways
to people who want to see the
for video and audio to play
ad. That’s the concept behind
within the actual area bounded
the Sony Entertainment Vision by the sending transceivers—
Sensor, an imaging
rather than on, say, a
chip prototype that
camera. In this scemay be built into
nario, a picture
This is
future digital
could come to life
no ordinary within its frame. In
cameras, camera
phones, and perthat same scenario,
imaging
sonal communicayou could tilt the
sensor.
tions gadgets.
EVS camera, and
Developed by
the image within
researchers at the
the frame would
Tokyo-based Sony-Kihara
take on the same slant.
Research Center, the chip is a
The EVS could be part of a
CMOS sensor, currently a 320virtual business card, or it
by 240-pixel array measuring 5
could be used to glean informaby 7 mm, with an adjacent
tion while walking past booths
memory array. But this is no
at trade shows. There’s no reaordinary imaging sensor.
son there has to be a physical
Point an EVS camera at an
image bounded by the sensors,
object surrounded by four
which makes virtual highway
infrared transceivers sending
billboards possible. For now,
out invisible pulsed signals,
the Entertainment Vision Senand it receives information.
sor remains a research project.
For instance, when you pass a
But Sony has announced plans
movie billboard that is EVSto build its own CMOS-sensor
enabled, according to Shinichi
foundry, and that could make
Yoshimura, senior manager at
real products possible in the
Sony-Kihara, “You can see the
next two years.—Bill Howard
for somebody’s college education? If so, you may be interested
in some new findings from the
Pew Research Center, which suggest that college students have
good game. The study reports
that computer, video, and online
games “are woven into the fabric
of everyday life for college students,” and are much more intertwined with students’ social lives
than previously suspected.
Some 70 percent of college
students reported playing video,
computer, or online games at
least once in a while, and 65 percent reported playing games regularly or occasionally. One of five
said that gaming helped them
make new friends and improve
existing friendships.
In a move that could have
ripple effects in the streamingmedia arena, Acacia Media
Technologies claims that it
has five far-reaching patents
on the transmission of audio
and video “employing digitalsignal processing to achieve
high rates of data compression.” The company is
currently involved in legal
disputes with pornography
site operators over alleged
infringement of the patents.
The disputes may lead to
confrontations with bigger
streaming-media players.
ALWAYS-ON COMPUTERS
IBM and Motorola are devel-
oping a potentially revolutionary memory technology
designed for always-on
computers and cell phones,
which will reduce data loss,
shorten time for data to load,
and improve battery life.
Called MRAM (magnetoresistive random access memory),
it will use magnetic rather
than electrical charges to
store data. So when you shut
off your computer, you won’t
lose the data that’s in memory. Performance and reliability
could benefit from that.
OPEN WINDOW
Gaming is encroaching on
academics, though. Nearly half
of the respondents admitted that
games keep them from studying
“some” or “a lot.” As gaming proliferates, look for that trend to
grow.—Sebastian Rupley
Microsoft has warned of a
critical security flaw affecting
each version of Windows that
the company supports. The
flaw lets hackers attack
Windows machines. To download a free patch, visit
www.microsoft.com and
search for Microsoft Security
Bulletin MS03-023.
Mobile Manners
Americans increasingly believe that talking on a cell phone
is unacceptable in a car, but nearly one-third of them think it’s fine in a restaurant. What
about in a movie theater? Take it outside, say the vast majority.
Locations where Americans think it is
acceptable to use a cell phone
M
2000
2002
In a supermarket
In the bathroom
In the car
60%
39%
76%
53%
47%
46%
On public transportation
In a restaurant
At the movies or a theater
52%
31%
11%
45%
28%
6%
Source: Wirthlin Worldwide for LetsTalk.com, September 2002.
Based on a survey of 1,001 U.S. cell-phone owners aged 18 and over.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
27
PIPELINE
Digital-Camera
Milestone
Feel Your Phone
ard times may persist,
but not for all things
digital. The past two
years have been the most challenging period for the photography industry in a decade, say
analysts at the Photo Marketing
Association (PMA), but the rise
of digital cameras stands in
stark contrast. In fact, this year
marks a milestone year in the
making: PMA researchers expect sales of digital cameras to
surpass sales of traditional
cameras for the first time ever
(see the graphic).
generating distinct vibrations for different callers,
simulating the sensation
of a giggle to accompany
an on-screen LOL!, or
creating the feel of a golf
club whacking a ball in a
cell-phone game. That’s
all poised to become
possible with a new
breed of cell phones that
will use haptics.
Haptics technology provides
tactile feedback for virtual simulations and environments—as
found in vibrating joysticks for
computer games, in which the
vibrations vary with game
scenarios. Immersion Corp. has
been the longtime leader in
haptics, and the company has
developed haptic interfaces for
everything from BMWs to medical-training tools. Recently, the
company has come up with
vibrotactile motors for cell
phones, which could have a
number of applications.
The increasing complexity of
cell phones and the popularity of
games for them—not to mention
the increasing distraction they
pose in public places—have
H
U.S. Camera Sales
Millions of cameras sold
(nonprofessional market)
Digital
Traditional
25
20
15
10
5
*
**
03
20
01
02
20
00
20
99
20
19
97
98
19
19
19
96
0
ILLUSTRATION BY JOYCE HESSELBERTH; PHOTOGRAPH BY BILLY HUSTACE/GETTY IMAGES
* Estimated. ** Projected.
Source: PMA Marketing Research.
28
Overall U.S. camera sales are
expected to rise from 23.7 million units in 2002 to 24.9 million
units this year—nothing to
write home about—but digitalcamera sales are expected to
soar from 9.4 million last year to
nearly 13 million this year. Part
of the reason digital cameras
are on such a tear is that better
technology has ironed out
photo quality differences
between film and digital cameras. The PMA also says that
digital cameras are becoming a
cultural phenomenon—especially around the holidays.
Mike Worswick of Wolfe’s
Cameras, Camcorders & Computers in Kansas attributes the
health of his business over the
past year to sales of digital cameras as holiday gifts. “Although
film sales will not recover,” concludes the PMA’s 2003 forecast,
“digital cameras will continue
to be a growth product.” For
reviews of digital cameras, see
“Snap Happy” (page 84).—SR
Two-Fisted
Privacy
S
IMAGINE YOUR CELL PHONE
created an ideal time for cellphone manufacturers to put haptics into handsets, says Immersion’s CTO and VP of technology
adoption, Dean Chang.
Cell phones and pagers already
include very simple vibrotactile
motors, but Immersion’s motors
will provide a range of responses,
especially for games. “In a golf
game, you would be able to feel
the difference between a 300foot drive where you hit it off the
sweet spot of the club, versus a
shank,” says Chang.
The company is not ready to
make partner announcements,
but Chang predicts that haptics
cell phones will show up by next
spring’s Consumer Electronics
Show.—Lance Ulanoff
ometimes a state law can
extend far beyond that
state. California has a
tough new privacy law which
makes it the first U.S. state to
require businesses and government offices to notify people
when any database that lists
personal information experiences a security breach.
According to the California
Breach Law (SB 1386), businesses must disclose “any breach of
the security of data to any resident of California whose unencrypted personal information
was or is reasonably believed to
have been acquired by an unauthorized person.” The bill is
intended to curb identity theft,
but businesses outside California aren’t paying attention, says
Adam Rak of Symantec Corp.
“The law applies not only
to California companies but
to companies that have customers in California,” he says.
Noncompliance could bring
lawsuits or FTC fines of up to
$25,000 per day or both for as
long as the security breach and
lack of disclosure persist. Lock
down that data.—SR
Microsoft’s Dual Spam Duty
No good spam-fighting deed goes
unpunished, or that’s how it seems
when you’re Microsoft. After initiating
high-profile spam lawsuits and pleading with Congress for tougher regulations, Microsoft itself is taking antispam criticism. Much unsolicited
e-mail appears to come from the
company’s own e-mail services,
including Hotmail, and critics
charge that spammers have exploited Microsoft’s WebDAV tool.
WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning) is an
open set of HTTP extensions that lets
people edit files collaboratively on a remote
Web server. “It allows us to deliver a richer Webbased e-mail service,” says Larry Grothaus, an
MSN product manager.
Unfortunately, WebDAV also allows spammers
to send more messages. Normally, a user has to
fill out a Web-based form manually to create an
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
e-mail, but WebDAV lets junk
e-mailers run automated scripts for
often anonymous mass mailings.
Critics want Microsoft to prevent
spammers from exploiting WebDAV
on Hotmail and MSN servers.
Microsoft says that it has already instituted spam-fighting changes in Hotmail.
“We have measures in place to address
using WebDAV as an exploitative tool,”
says Grothaus. Such measures include
limiting the daily messages a
free Hotmail user can send.
The trouble, say analysts such
as John Levine of the Coalition
Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, is that
you can still “sign up for lots of MSN and Hotmail
accounts, then run spamware that pumps out
spam via WebDAV using those accounts.”
Microsoft is considering new approaches to fighting spam. In the meantime, users will keep pressing the Delete button.—John R. Quain
PIPELINE
That’s
Entertainment
Toshiba is introducing a new
desktop replacement notebook, the
Toshiba Satellite P25-S507, which
features a 17-inch wide-screen
display à la the Apple PowerBook
17-inch. The 1,440-by-900 display
will make the Satellite ideal for
watching DVD movies and
playing games in dorm rooms
or on the road. High-end
features also include a
built-in DVD-RW drive,
802.11a/b wireless
support, and the
nVidia GeForce FX
Go5200 graphics chip.
There will also be a Windows Media Center Edition model.
—Jamie M. Bsales
64-Bit on the Desktop
AMD has set a launch date—September
23—for its Athlon 64 family of desktop
and notebook processors. Athlon 64
processors will be fully compatible
with current and future 32-bit Windows
applications and will offer an upgrade
path for high-end apps that may
migrate to a 64-bit platform.—JMB
Price: Not yet set. Advanced Micro Devices
Inc., www.amd.com.
$2,100 street. Toshiba America
Information Systems Inc.,
www.csd.toshiba.com.
Print Without Wires
As wireless networks become ubiquitous, look for more peripheral devices
to come with wireless receivers built in.
One of the first will be the Samsung
ML-2152W. This 21-ppm monochrome
laser printer has an integrated 802.11b
NIC that lets users on a wireless network send it print jobs—no cables
required. It also features a duplexer and
a 500-sheet paper tray.—JMB
$650 street. Samsung Electronics America,
www.samsungusa.com/printer.
Is It Hot?
Public wireless hot spots are cropping up
all over the place. But how do you know if
you’re in range without booting up your
laptop and searching for a signal? Try the
pocket-size Kensington WiFi Finder. Just
press a button and the device instantly lets
you know if your location is wired for 802.11b or
802.11g. Three LEDs indicate signal strength, and
the device is smart enough to filter out other
wireless signals, including those of cordless
phones and Bluetooth networks.—JMB
30
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Spam Squelcher
Instead of relying on rules or lists,
Audiotrieve’s InBoxer will use language-analysis techniques to identify
spam messages and separate them from
your legitimate correspondence.—JMB
$29.95 direct. Audiotrieve LLC, www
.inboxer.com.
Squelch
Spam, Too
$25 street. Kensington
Technology Group,
www.kensington.com.
Qualcomm’s
Eudora 6.0
e-mail program
will feature new
spam-filtering capabilities and a “content
concentrator” to help you
get to the heart of a rambling e-mail thread
quickly.—JMB
$49.95 direct.
Qualcomm Inc.,
www.eudora.com.
HANDS-ON TESTING OF NEW PRODUCTS
46 Canvas 9 Professional Edition
46 Sony DSC-U60
Cyber-shot U
47 Minolta-QMS
magicolor 2350 EN
42 Apple iSight
42 Mapopolis GPS for the
Handspring Treo
44 Nero 6 Ultra Edition
44 Kodak DCS Pro 14n
Unwire Your Sales Force
THE MAGAZINE
WORLD’S LARGEST
COMPUTER-TESTING
FACILITY
BY CAROL ELLISON
Salespeople cannot be effective in today’s competitive environment if they lack up-to-date information on their customers, accounts, and pending deals. New functions and features from
sales-force automation heavyweights ACT! 6.0, Salesforce,
Salesnet, and UpShot enhance that effectiveness with better off-
line and wireless capabilities, tighter integration with Microsoft Outlook and
back-office applications, and improved security for users on the road.
Since mobile sales teams tend to
spend more time off-line than in
the office or connected to the Internet, we looked at each product with special attention to its
off-line behavior. Web-based
customer-relationship management (CRM) packages—Salesforce, Salesnet, and UpShot—
have off-line versions to ensure
that sales teams can still access
their data after they disconnect.
ACT!, a traditional Windows
application designed to manage
sales accounts off-line, has improved Web-based access and
now allows data to be shared
across a network.
grate and synchronize data with
MAS 90/ MAS 200, Peachtree,
and QuickBooks accounting
systems, Outlook, and the Palm
OS and Pocket PC.
For 2004, ACT! 6.0 delivers
some noteworthy updates, including an all-new e-mail client
with HTML templates and the
ability to create graphically rich
HTML e-mail. There’s also enhanced integration with Outlook and support for Eudora,
ACT! 6.0 for 2004
ACT! was one of the first sales-
force automation tools, before
that term even existed. It started out as a simple but effective
contact manager and has continued to grow from there. The
program now serves as a basic
CRM tool for small to midsize
businesses that do not require
enterprise-class solutions. ACT!
6.0 covers most business situations with versions that inte34
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Lotus Notes, and other SMTP/
POP3 e-mail accounts. You can
now attach Microsoft Office
documents and PDF, JPG, and
BMP files to contact records
and view them from within
ACT! Activity look-ups let you
view histories of customer contacts, and a built-in browser lets
you view and attach Web pages
to contacts.
The optional ACT! for Web
add-in tackles the needs of
the mobile salesperson. The edition installs to a Web server, providing a networked ACT! database to those in the office while
giving remote users real-time
access to the data via the Internet (or via a direct connection
into the company network).
ACT! for Web calendars can be
configured to include private
and public activities and, depending on access, users can
view and edit appointments, activities, and contact notes, as
well as sales histories.
Best of all, clients do not require any other ACT! product to
run ACT! for Web. It runs as an
off-line application, so the data is
still there when they disconnect.
All users are required to enter a
user name and password to access the database, and administrators can set group and individual rights and even field-level
security to control who sees
what. (The company is finishing
up an SSL security component.)
Feature for feature, ACT! for
Web cannot compete with the
The add-in ACT! 6.0 for Web
lets you share contact records
across a corporate network
or the Internet.
Web-based enterprise CRM systems reviewed here. But it provides a robust toolset for smaller businesses on a budget. It
remains one of the best out-ofthe-box sales-force automation
solutions a small business could
ask for.
ACT! 6.0 for 2004
$229.95 direct; upgrade, $129.95; ACT!
for Web, $249 per user. Best Software
Inc., 888-855-5222, www.act.com.
lllmm
PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOM O’CONNOR
38 VoodooPC Envy M460
Gamebook
38 Acer TravelMate C110TCi
40 Microsoft Money
Premium 2004
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /f i r s t l o o k s
47 HP Color LaserJet 1500L
48 QuarkXPress 6
49 EDGE DiskGO! USB Watch
Flash Drive
50 Iomega NAS P800m
Salesforce
Salesforce.com’s offline edition is a subset
of its Web-based version. Salesforce uses
the metaphor of a briefcase to indicate the sales records
you take with you on the road.
The briefcase holds up to 500 accounts, 4,000 contacts, 4,000 opportunities, 6,000 tasks, and 6,000
events. You can display events
and tasks from two months prior
to two years ahead of the time
you synchronize.
Off-line installation is fast and
easy. You simply log onto Salesforce.com and click an install
button. (This took less than 2
minutes on our broadband connection.) Then from a dropdown menu, you choose whether
to take all of your accounts with
you, manually select the ones
you want, or take sets of records
linked to opportunities or activities. Salesforce resolves conflicts
between Web-based and off-line
files by presenting you with readonly versions to review before
you select one to keep.
Accounts, contacts, opportu-
50 Toshiba PCX5000 Wireless
Cable Modem Gateway
56 Mathematica 5.0
56 Kid Defender
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nities, calendar, and task lists are
exchanged. Other information
in Salesforce (such as campaigns, leads, forecasts, customer inquiries, team solution
strategies, the document library,
and reports), deemed more
appropriate for activity in the
office, is available only when
you’re connected to the server.
All data transfers take place
over a secure SSL connection,
and users are authenticated
stance, ask to see all deals closing this month that are greater
than $1 million. You can also install a small client on the device
to store queries for future use.
manage multiple sales teams,
workflow, and business processes. It can also automatically trigger opportunity alerts to be sent
when a deal closes or certain
Salesforce’s powerful new S3
(Smarter, Stronger, Simpler) edition gives IT departments a
client-server application platform called sforce, which lets
them integrate Salesforce with
back-office applications (see
the sidebar “Customize Salesforce”). S3 also provides a
shared document library, richmedia HTML e-mail templates,
an Outlook edition, and tools to
business conditions are met.
S3 delivers a total of 100 new
features, including the Personal
Edition S3 with basic CRM functions and Outlook integration.
Salesforce.com offers Personal
Edition free to individual professionals who don’t already use
Salesforce.
In its default configuration,
Salesforce is easy to learn and
use while still delivering the
Salesforce’s off-line edition
possesses the same easy-touse, uncluttered interface as
its Web-based version.
each time they log on. Sales
records are stored in XML files,
but the actual sales data is stored
as machine-readable code to
make it invisible to any intruder
who attempts to read the file.
For an end-to-end CRM solution, wireless editions are available for both browser-based and
e-mail–based devices. Both let
you enter real-time queries to
retrieve the exact data you need
while roaming. You can, for in-
Customize Salesforce
T
WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN
he simple but effective sforce
developer tools, available for both
Microsoft .NET and generic Java
platforms, use today’s Web services
standards to let your IT department build
custom software that works with Salesforce’s Web-based CRM application. To
understand how these sforce toolkits
work is arguably to understand the future
of service-oriented software.
Using function calls built on Web services, sforce developers can log in and
invoke functionality on the standard
Salesforce.com-hosted CRM solution in
custom applications. The sforce APIs
themselves are remarkably simple, with
just a handful of basic actions like executing queries, updates, and insert and delete
operations.
Within Salesforce.com’s hosted ASP
solution resides a database for keeping
track of about 30 entities needed for
effective CRM. In the .NET toolkit, the
sforce add-in browser tool allows .NET
programmers to browse core
Salesforce.com entities (such as users,
products, and price books) and entities
that model the sales process itself (such
as leads and opportunities). Because the
business logic here for each entity is lowlevel (querying, updating, deleting, and
inserting records only), it will be up to your
developers to build higher-level business
logic on top of these basic database
operations. The good news is we found
that it’s easy to get started on this, at least
with the Visual Studio add-in tools.
— Richard V. Dragan
sforce SDK for Visual Studio .NET 1.0.
Price: For development, free download; for
deployed applications, $50 per user per month.
Salesforce.com Inc., 800-667-6389,
www.sforce.com/us. llllm
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
35
FIRST LOOKS
Salesnet lets off-line users
subscribe to contacts, accounts, and deals. These are
updated with all the accompanying appointments and tasks
when the users go online.
however, a bit too much is left to
the individual user’s discretion to
make it ideal for small businesses whose sales teams require
ready-to-go functionality.
Salesnet
$65 per user per month. Salesnet,
www.salesnet.com. lllmm
functions you need on the road.
Its new S3 version contains integration and customization tools
that provide powerful enhancements without compromising
its simplicity. Add its wireless
and Outlook integration editions and you have a combination that’s hard to beat.
Salesforce
Personal Edition, free for one year;
Team Edition, $995 per 5 users per
year; Professional Edition, $65 per
user per month; Enterprise Edition,
$125 per user per month.
SalesForce.com Inc., 800-667-6389,
www.salesforce.com. llllm
Salesnet
Salesnet tackles enterprise CRM
with a solution built on Microsoft’s .NET framework. It installs
as an application on off-line
users’ hard drives and stores
data in a secure SQL database. It
places no limitations on the
number of records used off-line.
Performance does not degrade
as you add records, and its password-protected database offers
superior security.
Installation took less than 10
minutes, since wizards make
setup a snap. Salesnet uses 128bit SSL security (if the admin so
chooses) and three-tiered authentication, requiring users to
enter their company name, user
name, and a password every time
they transfer data between the
Web-based and off-line versions.
Users can subscribe to either
a full data set or to individual
records that they will take offline. The .NET framework lets
administrators customize fields,
36
business processes, report filters, and templates that update
automatically whenever users
log back on. Users may do a full
refresh of all the records or synchronize only the changes.
You can set Salesnet to have
data that was entered via the
Web-based version override the
database-resident record, or vice
versa. It also reports the number
of records that have changed
since the last refresh and how
conflicts were resolved.
Web-based and off-line interfaces are similar except for the
home screens. You may customize a graphical dashboard
displaying sales charts as your
Web-based home screen. The
UpShot
UpShot combines the power of
an SQL database with the .NET
framework to manage sales records and communicate business
processes and best practices to
Web-based and off-line users.
An administrator can create
multiple views of sales data for
different groups and individuals.
UpShot is easy to install.
Since data for the off-line edition
is stored and displayed in an
Excel spreadsheet, the download is basically the templates
and macros you will use. The
download took less than 2 minutes across our broadband connection. The spreadsheet can
scale to any size but becomes
more cumbersome as it grows.
Once data has been downloaded, the off-line edition displays it as accounts, to dos, appointments, events, contacts,
deals, and partners. Any business processes and report filters
that have been linked to the data
will come along, too.
The powerful SQL engine that
manages UpShot’s Web-based
database does not follow you offline. But the familiar off-line
Excel spreadsheet looks and operates surprisingly like the Webbased version and should require no additional training.
UpShot opens new sheets
in a multisheet spreadsheet
as managers drill down
through the data off-line.
graphs make a nice display, but
the tools to create them are
primitive, and positioning the
graphs is challenging.
At this writing, Salesnet had
announced but not yet shipped
a Wireless/Instant Messaging
edition designed to provide a
roaming solution that salespeople can use from a car, cab, or
train. Salesnet’s impressive scalability, outstanding off-line security, and host of customizable
features make it a good choice
for large organizations with IT
staffs to configure its many options and enforce corporate IT
policies. In its default mode,
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Managers can create and
automate new sales processes
and workflows, route new leads
to the appropriate teams and
salespeople, launch follow-up
procedures, and configure UpShot to send out executive alerts
automatically when certain conditions are met in a deal.
Salespeople can also use UpShot’s drag-and-drop tools to
customize their own views of the
data. UpShot provides a number
of useful tools in separate spreadsheets, including a user-configurable dashboard for sales managers and a sample price-quote
generator that can be adapted
to your individual business.
That said, the Excel component suffers from the problems
you’d expect to encounter when
you send a spreadsheet to do a
database’s job. Performance
slows as the number of records
grows and, unless your IT team
creates and distributes passwordprotected worksheets to your
sales team in advance, it’s up to
your users to password-protect
the worksheets themselves using
Excel’s internal security controls.
UpShot
$65 per user per month, plus $25 per
month for off-line and MS Outlook
integration editions. UpShot Corp.,
888-700-8774, www.upshot.com.
lllmm
FIRST LOOKS
The Envy of Mobile Gamers
BY KONSTANTINOS
KARAGIANNIS
he ability to take PC
gaming on the go is not
recent, but it’s only recently that such gaming got
good. Now VoodooPC is trying
to make it near
T
great. As with the vendor’s desktop systems, the VoodooPC Envy
M460 Gamebook is both coollooking—eight exotic colors are
available—and pricey at $3,299.
Despite the flashy colors, this
is far more than a vanity box. Inside are two new mobile milestones: The ATI Radeon MobiliThe paint job screams, and so
does the performance.
ty 9600 GPU and a desktoplike
7,200-rpm 60GB hard drive.
The screen is a bright,
crisp, 15-inch SXGA+ unit
(1 ,400–by-1 ,050).
Games and video
both look stellar,
making
this
panel a perfect
companion for
the new Radeon,
with its 64MB of 333-MHz
DDR SDRAM. MPEG blockiness
is nicely controlled by the chip,
and 3-D performance is aided by
the 12 pixel-shader operations
per cycle.
And the Envy proved the
Radeon’s worth. While it didn’t
perform like a desktop on our
benchmark tests, it far outclassed most other notebooks.
On 3DMark2001 SE, it hit 9,303
(with anti-aliasing disabled),
while most high-end notebooks
barely pass half that. Consider
our results on 3D WinMark 2003
(2,656), Jedi Knight II (87 fps),
and Unreal Tournament (22 fps),
all run at 1,024–by-768.
Performance on standard applications was greatly helped by
the combination of a fast hard
drive, a 2.6-GHz Pentium 4M,
and 512MB of 333-MHz DDR
SDRAM. With a Business Winstone 2002 score of 32.2 and a
Multimedia Content Creation
Winstone 2003 score of 42.5, the
Envy is one of the fastest notebooks we’ve ever tested.
For some, the most amazing
trick that VoodooPC has pulled
off is in the realm of size and
weight. Approximately 1.1 inches
thick and 5.5 pounds light, the
Envy is pleasantly unlike the
10-pound monsters with similar
screens. But the 1-hour 52minute BatteryMark score didn’t
exactly set the unit apart from
said competition. The sleek
form factor doesn’t preclude an
optical drive—a DVD/CD-RW
combo is inside—or built-in
802.11a/b wireless. The tight
design does put out some heat,
though, barely staying within
the limits of lap comfort.
With a three-year warranty
and upgradable design—the
video card can be removed and
replaced with a future ATI part
—enthusiasts will have plenty of
time to appreciate this machine’s colorful performance.
VoodooPC Envy
M460 Gamebook
With 2.6-GHz Pentium 4M, 512MB
333-MHz DDR SDRAM, ATI Radeon
Mobility 9600 graphics, 60GB 7,200rpm hard drive, DVD-ROM/CD-RW
drive, wired and 802.11a/b wireless
Ethernet, $3,299 direct. VoodooPC,
888-708-6636, www.voodoopc.com.
OVERALL llllm M lllmm
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Centrino Goes Convertible
BY KONSTANTINOS
KARAGIANNIS
cer may not have
changed much in the
outward design of its
Tablet PC offering, but the new
TravelMate C110TCi ($2,199 direct)
does bring the Centrino combination of Pentium M power and
Intel 802.11b wireless to the convertible. At 1.0 by 10.1 by 8.5 inches (HWD), it’s still a tiny device.
It has a 10.4-inch XGA screen,
weighs just 3.2 pounds, and is
just a lot peppier than the original PIII-M powered version.
The C110TCi achieved a Business Winstone 2002 score of 21.3
and a Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2003 score of
26.6, making it the fastest Tablet
PC we’ve seen so far. By way of
comparison, the Motion Computing M1300—our previous
performance leader—scored
19.0 on Business Winstone and
22.5 on Content Creation. The
A
38
larger slate M1300 did deliver
about an hour more of battery
life than the C110TCi, which gave
us only 2 hours 22 minutes on
our Business Winstone 2002
BatteryMark test. At least the
battery’s rapid-charge technology worked, enabling us to
revive the unit in about
90 minutes.
In some ways,
the C110TCi is
limited by its
design—most
notably the tiny
keyboard, which has a
spacebar that’s difficult to hit
consistently when you’re touch
typing. In slate mode, you have a
choice of using a mini stylus that
fits in the screen or a full-size
stylus that needs to be carried
separately. Go with the larger
one, except for emergencies,
and you’ll have much better
handwriting recognition.
For switching between slate
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
This Acer TravelMate converts
from a laptop to a slate.
and laptop modes, it’s too bad
that Acer didn’t rethink the
two side push-button latches
that require two hands to operate. The screen is a notebook
LCD with the same limitation
we’ve seen in other Tablet PCs:
one poor viewing angle in portrait mode.
For use as a main computer,
the C110TCi is probably best ordered with the optional Acer
EasyPort docking station ($124),
but we like that a FireWire
external DVD-ROM/CD-RW
combo drive is included in this
package. Consider adding a better burning package than the
included NTI CD Maker.
Overall, the Acer TravelMate
C110TCi is a solid performer
thanks to the Pentium M, but it
could use a few more perceptible hardware tweaks before its
next incarnation.
Acer TravelMate C110TCi
With 900-MHz Pentium M, 512MB
DDR SDRAM, 40GB hard drive,
FireWire DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo,
10.4-inch XGA screen, wired and
wireless Ethernet, $2,199 direct. Acer
America Corp., 800-733-2237,
www.acer.com. lllmm
FIRST LOOKS
Microsoft Money 2004:
Premium Personal-Finance
Package Gets Even Better
BY KATHY YAKAL
n this iffy economy, it’s more
important than ever to know
where you stand financially
and where you’re headed.
Microsoft Money, our Editors’
Choice among personal-finance
packages last year (First Looks,
September 17, 2002), is back
with a raft of new and enhanced
features and added services.
Money 2004 doesn’t break new
ground as notably as in some
years past, but new and returning users will find a lot to like.
The changes in Microsoft
Money Premium 2004 ($80 street,
not including a $20 mail-in rebate) build on an already exceptional finance manager, adding
power primarily in two areas:
taxes and bill paying. Microsoft
also includes online bill paying,
online tax prep, and other services to sweeten the pot.
The Deluxe version ($60
before $20 rebate) shares most
of the same features, with a
subset of the extended services
delivered by Premium. If you
use just the core personalfinance components and won’t
miss links to outside services,
Microsoft still offers the Standard edition ($30 before $10
rebate). One disappointment:
Current users have to pay full
price to move to Money 2004;
there is no special (lower) pricing if you’re upgrading.
Money 2004 is an easily navigable, exceptionally competent
tool for keeping track of your
money. A comprehensive, customizable home page pulls
together data from all of the program’s major elements, and you
can toggle over to the related
task page at any time. Alternate
views focus primarily on content areas (accounts and bills,
investing, tax, and planning).
A new customizable pulldown task list lets you jump
quickly to specific activities.
I
40
Also new on the program’s main
page is breaking news from
CNBC, Kiplinger’s, and Reuters.
Where appropriate, Money
2004 shifts you over to the MSN
Money Web site seamlessly,
providing additional integration,
information, and tools.
Money 2004 covers all the
personal-financial bases. You
can set up accounts and pay
bills manually or electronically,
and create and track detailed,
customizable portfolios. The
enhanced Alerts Center delivers breaking news and other
user-defined financial information to your e-mail, cell phone,
or desktop. You can also synchronize accounts and investment data with the MSN Money
Web site.
The product provides additional tools to analyze and maximize your investments, like a
capital gains estimator and
401(k) manager. A comprehensive planning module helps you
create a lifetime financial plan,
and you can manage smaller
elements with tools like a debtreduction planner and newpurchase wizard.
Your income tax information
also has a home in Money 2004,
which includes a tax estimator
and a deduction finder. You can
create numerous flexible reports and get assistance from an
exceptional help system. The
Advisor FYI feature sprinkles
personalized advice through the
program and lets you set alerts
for specific events and changes,
such as an account balance getting too high or low, or when
spending hits specified limits.
Another nice touch: Both the
Premium and Deluxe versions
offer Credit Center, a centralized guide to your debt accounts
and credit management. A minidebt-reduction planner and a
table of your debt accounts are
displayed, along with additional
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Money 2004’s Credit Center helps you mange debt and keep
tabs on your credit rating.
You can have Money 2004 alert you about price moves, news,
or ratings shifts on the stocks in your portfolio.
resources for handling your outstanding debt.
Beyond the program itself,
the free services Microsoft has
included with the Premium and
Deluxe versions might win
over fence-sitters wondering
whether or not to upgrade.
Add-ons include bill paying
through MSN Bill Pay, online
tax filing through H&R Block,
credit report monitoring from
Experian, and consulting advice from an American Express
financial planner.
If you opt for Premium, you
get 24 months of MSN Bill Pay
(versus 12 moths for Deluxe),
and a one-year subscription (125
transactions) to GainsKeeper
(www.gainskeeper.com), the
highly respected portfoliomanagement site that provides
analysis tools to help you optimize after-tax returns. Simply
import your portfolio into
GainsKeeper and it provides
you with an actual Schedule D.
We’ll have to wait to see the
next version of Intuit’s Quicken
family to judge whether current
Quicken users should switch to
Money, or vice-versa. But if
you’re a current Money user
confident you’ll stay in the fold,
Money 2004 is compelling—especially if you’ll use the extra
services to help offset the purchase price.
Microsoft Money Premium 2004
Street price: $80. Requires: 32MB
RAM (64MB recommended); 75MB
hard drive space; Microsoft Windows
98, 2000, Me, or XP; Microsoft
Internet Explorer 6.0 or later. Microsoft Corp., 888-218-5617, www
.microsoft.com. lllll
FIRST LOOKS
Apple iSight: Halfway There
BY SASCHA SEGAN
he new Apple iSight Web
camera is positively gorgeous. But as with any
Webcam, the hardware is just
half the story, and iSight lacks
the basic software commonly included with cameras that cost
much less than the iSight’s hefty
$150 street price.
At the very least, the iSight
should collect a few design
awards. The black-and-white box
splits in half, revealing a dun
metal, cylindrical camera nestled among an assortment of
clear stands and white cables.
The stands are meant to mount
on or adhere to various Mac displays (both CRTs and LCDs), so
you can look at the iSight face-on
while you’re teleconferencing.
The iSight uses a quarter-inch
CCD to capture 640- by 480pixel images in 24-bit color. A
dual-element, noise-canceling
microphone filtered out the
sound of a TV in the background
while keeping voices sharp, and
an auto-focus system—unusual
on Webcams—brought images
into sharp focus from a range of
about 3 inches to 15 feet. Focusing takes a few seconds, however, and sometimes we had to
wave a hand in front of the camera to activate the auto-focus.
Plug the iSight’s FireWire
cable into a Mac and it’s ready to
go, with no drivers or configuration needed. In fact, there’s not
even a CD in the box—but that’s
not necessarily a good thing, as
we’ll discuss below. But first, the
iSight does have some strengths.
First and foremost, the camera is designed to work with
Apple’s iChat AV. Now in beta
(and downloadable free of
charge from Apple’s Web site),
iChat AV is a multimedia IM
application for Mac users. The
final version will be included
with Apple’s upcoming Panther
(OS X 10.3) operating system.
With a cuddly, icon-based interface, iChat AV acts as a competent IM client and allows
videoconferencing in a 352-by-
T
42
288 window with other iChat AV
users. The iChat software and
iSight hardware are tightly tied
together: Close the iSight’s iris
and your conference is paused.
Throughout a dozen videoconferences, we were able to get
an acceptable 15 to 20 frames
per second using an 800-MHz
iMac G4 on a broadband connection, with noticeable compression artifacts but generally
clear images. The color balance
tended a little towards green,
but not annoyingly. Oddly, images from our iSight were
mirror-flipped, rendering
text unreadable. We had no
trouble hearing any of our correspondents.
iChat AV can’t talk to any
other videoconferencing system, though, and Apple bundles
none of the usual Webcam software with the iSight. You can’t
manually adjust the brightness,
the color balance, the white balance, or the contrast. You can’t
snap still pictures with the
iSight, use it as a video camera,
or feed video to the Web. You
also can’t use the iSight as a surveillance camera out of the box.
And despite Apple’s recent push
The design of the Apple iSight is the best we’ve seen in a Webcam.
But the software bundle is weak (nonexistent, actually).
for integration, iSight doesn’t
feed into iMovie.
There is third-party software
for all of these functions, and the
iSight worked well with half a
dozen Webcam applications
we tried. The iSight even plugs
into PCs, where we used it with
Yahoo! Messenger and NetMeeting. But on a PC, the microphone doesn’t work because it
lacks a Windows driver (Apple
says third parties are welcome
to write such a driver).
If all your friends and col-
leagues sign up for iChat AV, the
$150 admission price for an
iSight might be fine with you.
But given that the iSight costs
more than any competing wired
Webcam, we had hoped buyers
wouldn’t need to spend even
more on third-party utilities to
get full functionality.
Apple iSight
Street price: $150. Requires: 600-MHz
G3 or better, Mac OS X 10.2.5 or later,
broadband Internet connection. Apple
Computer Corp., 800-692-7753,
www.apple.com. lllmm
Find Your Way with a Treo
BY BRUCE BROWN
our PDA becomes a valuable navigation aid with Mapopolis.com’s GPS
add-ons for most popular makes of
Palm OS and PocketPC handhelds. We tested
the Mapopolis GPS for the Handspring Treo ($180
street). The bundle includes a National Marine Electronics Association–compatible (and
waterproof) GPS module, a Mapopolis v.5.16
PDA mapping application, and downloadable
street maps for the U.S. (excluding Alaska) and
major Canadian cities.
The GPS add-on measures 2.5 by 1.9 by 0.9inches (HWD) and weighs 6.6 ounces. A 9-foot
power adapter (for boat or car) is included,
though there’s no special means of attaching
the GPS to a dashboard. With the software’s
icon-based navigation tools, it’s easy to view,
zoom, scroll, and search Mapopolis maps,
which you can customize with street colors
Y
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
and street, town, and landmark names.
The turn-by-turn directions feature lets you
display directions as a text list or on the corresponding map. With the latter option, the GPS
displays your current position on the PDA map
as you navigate. The bundle worked fine on
our tests with a Handspring Treo 270. The
PDA application plus the Hartford, Connecticut, county map required 1,751K of PDA storage, which is noteworthy because Treos lack
expansion to store map segments. But all in all,
the Mapopolis GPS for the Handspring Treo is
a compact accessory for road trips in unfamiliar territory.
Mapopolis GPS for the Handspring Treo
Street price: $180. Requires: Host PC running Microsoft
Windows 98, Me, 2000, or XP; Handspring Treo PDA
running Palm OS 3.0 or later with 1MB free storage
(8MB free storage recommended). Mapopolis.com Inc.,
216-371-1791, www.mapopolis.com. lllmm
FIRST LOOKS
Nero 6 Moves Ahead of the Disc-Creation Pack
Nero 6 Ultra Edition’s array of new applications make it far
more than a mere disc-burning program.
BY DON LABRIOLA
ower users have sworn by
past versions of Ahead
Software’s CD-creation
utility. Nero 6 Ultra Edition complements the richly featured
Nero disc-mastering program
with a suite of applications that
turn it into a full-blown contentcreation environment. The result is a surprisingly powerful
and cost-effective solution for
anyone who wants to produce
virtually any type of CD or DVD.
Despite its expanded scope,
nearly all of Nero 6’s core discmastering functionality remains
in its Nero Burning ROM module.
As before, Burning ROM supports a broad array of disc formats and content types. It also
still uses straightforward Windows Explorer–style drag-anddrop procedures and includes
handy wizards that help new
users set up projects and perform
common disc creation chores.
Nero 6 also retains several
auxiliary modules. These include the Nero Wave Editor (a
program for editing sound files)
and Nero Cover Designer (which
lets you create many types of inserts, covers, and booklets for
jewel cases and DVD boxes). The
suite also contains Nero Express,
a newbie-friendly version of
Burning ROM that features a simpler interface.
P
44
Nero 6’s new modules introduce a fistful of major enhancements that include DVD authoring, video capture, system
backup, and multitrack audio
production. During our handson testing, we found most of the
new programs to be at least adequate—and at best very good—
for modest content-creation,
authoring, and mastering tasks.
In that latter group is the new
Nero SoundTrax multitrack
recording program, which provides an integrated audio production environment packed
with advanced sound-editing
tools. Nero BackItUp is also a
gem, providing wizard-based
system backup capabilities. It
can perform tasks such as multiple simultaneous backups and
unattended network backups on
any type of Nero-supported
media, and it lets you customize
jobs with a good selection of filtering, prioritization, and scheduling options. Passable modules
include media player and jukebox programs and an improved
slide show application with basic
photo-editing capabilities.
All of this functionality is
packed behind an intelligent
task-oriented front end that
boasts a seemingly endless array
of customization options, a Favorites section, and the ability to
notify you automatically when
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
The program’s endlessly customizable StartSmart interface
provides logical, task-oriented access to its huge feature set.
Ahead updates any module. (As
with previous releases of Nero,
all updates can be downloaded
free of charge for the life of the
Nero 6 product.) If all this isn’t
enough, Ahead even throws in a
Neato disc label applicator and
a handful of blank labels.
Nero 6’s biggest drawback is
its very basic video-editing
capabilities, which don’t even
let you split a movie file into
two clips. Its NeroVision Express 2 DVD/VCD-authoring
module does a good job of creating animated menus, titles,
and transitions, but its contentediting functions are limited to
trimming the length of clips
and dragging them around a
timeline. If you edit video more
than rarely, you’ll want a dedicated package such as Pinnacle
Studio 8.
We were also disappointed
with the woefully deficient documentation provided for some
modules, and by the fact that the
program ships with only trial
versions of its MP3 and MP3Pro
encoders. You have to purchase
full versions of these utilities
separately if you want to create
MP3 files.
Much of the motivation for
Nero 6’s increased scope was
the pressure exerted when its
biggest competitor, Roxio’s Easy
CD & DVD Creator 6 (First
Looks, March 25), added its own
DVD-authoring, video-editing,
sound-editing, and image-editing capabilities. We found that
Creator still has a small edge in
a few areas, namely image management and video editing.
But in most ways, Nero 6
beats Creator at its own game,
providing a broader selection of
content creation modules and
deeper feature sets within many
of the applications. For example,
Nero 6 offers much greater
sound-editing functionality,
more flexible backup options,
across-the-board MPEG-4 support, and superior music and
movie playback options. The
Nero front end is far more sophisticated than Creator’s relatively simple menu system and
does a better job of integrating
and providing logical access to
the suite’s many features.
Those who consider the
Roxio program’s added capabilities to be bloatware will be less
impressed with Nero 6’s even
larger feature set. But if you’re
looking for an all-in-one toolkit
that can create and burn content
onto nearly any type of DVD or
CD, then Nero 6 Ultra Edition is
tough to beat at the price.
Nero 6 Ultra Edition
$99.99 direct ($69.99 download).
Ahead Software Inc., www.nero.com.
llllm
FIRST LOOKS
Kodak Camera Delivers
14 Megapixels
BY LES FREED
he 14-megapixel Kodak
T
Professional DCS Pro 14n
digital SLR camera
($5,000 street) isn’t for everyone. But for professionals who
need extremely high-resolution
digital images, it’s a relative bargain. For the rest of us, the Pro
14n offers a peek into the next
generation of digital cameras.
The Pro 14n is based on
Nikon’s N80 midrange 35-mm
SLR camera. But the star attraction is the full-frame, 14megapixel CMOS image
sensor (by FillFactory).
While that megapixel
rating is what probably caught your attention, pros will get excited by the “fullframe” descriptor.
That’s because most
digital SLRs have sensors
smaller than a standard 35-mm
film frame. For example, the
Nikon D100’s image sensor is
about two-thirds the size of a 35mm film frame. Hence lenses attached to the D100 have an effective focal length of 1.5 times the
lens’s actual focal length. In practical terms, this means that an ultrawide 20-mm lens becomes a
much more sedate 30 mm when
mounted on the D100. This is a
boon for users of telephoto lenses but a bust for landscape, nature, and architectural photographers who rely on wide-angle
lenses for much of their work.
On the outside, the Pro 14n
looks bulky and bottom-heavy
because of the way Kodak has
added the electronics and battery pack to the bottom of the
Nikon body. The base of the
camera also serves as a second
grip (with its own shutter release button) when you’re holding the camera vertically.
Despite the bulked-up look,
the Pro 14n is relatively light and
easy to hold (although the vertical grip is a tight fit for larger
hands). The controls (on the top
and front sides of the camera)
are inherited from the N80 body
and will be instantly recognizable to Nikon users.
Other Kodak controls surround the 2-inch color LCD
screen on the rear of the camera.
An additional monochrome LCD
screen (located below the main
screen) shows the camera’s status while you’re shooting and offers helpful information while
you’re navigating the camera’s
menu system on the main screen.
A hinged door next to the status
screen covers slots for CompactFlash (Type I or II) and SD/
MMC memory cards. Power is
provided by a compact,
lightweight lithium ion battery pack that slides into
the base of the camera.
We were surprised to
discover that the Pro 14n
takes about 4 seconds to
start up. Most digital SLRs
are ready to go as soon as
you flip the power switch, but
the Kodak recalibrates itself after
every power-up and every ISO
speed change. This is a major annoyance (and possibly a deal
breaker) for news, sports, and
nature photographers who need
to be ready to shoot instantly.
The viewfinder image is large
and bright. Like the Nikon N80,
the Pro 14n has an on-demand
gridline feature that displays a
grid overlay in the viewfinder.
The lines help avoid tilted horizons and leaning buildings by
giving you horizontal and vertical reference lines.
The image quality from the
Pro 14n is among the best we’ve
seen from any digital camera, as
the additional pixels translate
Built on a Nikon SLR body,
the Kodak DCS Pro 14n
adds a 14-megapixel
full-frame image sensor.
The rear of the camera
features a bright
2-inch LCD screen as
well as a monochrome
status screen.
directly into increased resolution. We were pleasantly surprised with the Pro 14n’s excellent dynamic range, which helps
keep small details in shadow
and highlight areas from being
lost. We got the best results
shooting at ISO speeds of 80 and
100; at ISO speeds of 200 and
above, the image sensor’s noise
level increases noticeably.
We first saw the Pro 14n as a
prototype at the Photokina 2002
show nearly a year ago. That was
the same show at which Canon
announced its 11-megapixel EOS1Ds (“Canon Delivers Unsurpassed Pro Digital SLR,”
First Looks, March 25).
Although the two cameras look similar
on paper—both have
ultra-high resolution,
full-frame image sensors, and access to a
large array of lenses—
they are very different
in the flesh.
The EOS-1Ds has a
faster and more sophisticated auto-focus, better environmental sealing, and a much higher
shooting speed (3 frames per
second for the Canon versus 1.7
fps for the Kodak). That has
made it a hit with nature, sports,
and magazine photographers—
that is, those who can afford its
$8,000 price.
On the plus side of the ledger
for the Kodak unit, the Pro 14n
is smaller and weighs 1.3
pounds less than the Canon
model. And since it offers
similar image quality (and
Nikon lens compatibility)
at a much lower price, the
Kodak DCS Pro 14n might
be the better choice for industrial, studio, portrait,
and wedding photographers
who won’t miss the instant-on
and fast-shooting capabilities.
The rest of us will just have to
wait for the price of full-frame
sensors to come down from the
stratosphere.
Kodak DCS Pro 14n
$5,000 street. Eastman Kodak Co.,
800-235-6325, www.kodak.com.
llllm
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
45
FIRST LOOKS
Canvas 9 Eases Workflow
BY SALLY WIENER GROTTA
n a segment dominated by
Adobe Illustrator, Canvas
(originally developed by
Deneba but now owned by ACD
Systems) carved out a loyal following among technical illustrators, design professionals, and
business communicators. Canvas
9 Professional Edition ($399.95
direct) offers extensive workflow
enhancements, interface improvements, and even greater
precision than previous versions.
Canvas 9’s interface redesign
is welcome. Tool properties no
longer appear in an intrusive
floating palette but abide in a
context-sensitive Properties Bar,
which offers more options than
any competitor. The Text Properties Bar, for instance, provides
immediate access to all formatting and typesetting controls,
with nothing hidden in menus.
The Properties Bar also changes
dynamically, depending upon
what type of object is selected.
Camera Withstands Sand
and Surf
tion with imaging tools. But the
new floating-point coordinate
BY SALLY WIENER GROTTA
system (as seen in CAD proaving fun and taking
grams) has replaced the underpictures at the beach
lying DTP-style code, providing
even greater precision and conis as American as aptrol over data. Scaling can be as
ple pie, but you sure can
large as a whopping 2,000 by
ruin your day if you drop
2,000 miles, with a zoom ratio of
your camera into the
102,400 percent. Measurements
sand or water. The
Sony DSC - U 60 Cybermay be as small as angstroms or
microns. Every point and
line of a drawing or
The Sony DSC-U60 Cyberphoto is mathematically
shot U is a 2-megapixel digital
controllable, with concamera that is waterproof to a
straints, units of meadepth of 5 feet, making it ideal
surement, and pixelfor poolside shooting.
level spatial coordinates
all definable.
shot U ($250 street) is a
Despite all of its precision,
devilishly clever digital
Canvas 9 has a comparatively
camera ideal for easy and
easy learning curve. That said,
safe outdoor shooting—
experienced users of programs
even underwater.
such as CorelDraw and IllusThe cool-looking DSC-U60
trator will find that they first
is designed to be held vertically
have to unlearn established
in the right hand. The controls
methods and procedures if they
(five buttons and a mode
move to Canvas.
switch) are easy to use. Images
are saved to a Sony Memory
Stick. The battery and memory
card compartment are sealed
with a replaceable O ring, which
Sony says makes the camera
waterproof to a depth of 5 feet.
The DSC-U60 is a 2-megapixel camera with only two resolutions (1,632-by-1,224 or 640-by480) and a single compression
level. Its fixed-focal-length,
semi-wide-angle lens (which
acts as a normal lens underwater) can be set to auto or
Canvas 9’s interface redesign brings more of its power to the
manual focus. Its four-mode
surface, with greater configuration options and flexibility.
flash illuminates to 6 feet. The
DSC-U60 can capture up to 15
seconds of video, but it doesn’t
Canvas 9 also consolidates
All in all, Canvas 9 is a powerhave audio-recording capability
options intelligently; its new ful tool for precision illustration
or a video-out port.
Presets Palette puts all colors, and layout. Technical illustraDesigned for point-andpen strokes, lines, and arrows tors in particular will find it
shooters, the camera has no
into one tabbed dialog. Your suits their needs better than the
manual exposure settings, but
most frequently accessed attrib- artist-centric competition.
you can select from a variety of
utes and tools are automatically
Canvas 9 Professional Edition
preset shooting modes: underplaced closer to the top.
Direct price: $399.95. Requires:
water, skin tones, outdoor activUtilizing a desktop publish- Pentium III or Mac G3 or better;
ity, twilight, night scene, or vivid
ing page-layout metaphor, Can- 128MB RAM; 100MB free hard drive
nature (enhanced color). You
vas has long used object-based space; Microsoft Windows 2000 or
XP, or Mac OS X 10.2 or later. ACD
can also apply black and white,
editing to combine technical Systems of America Inc., 305-596sepia, solarization, and negative
drawing and creative illustra- 5644, www.canvas9.com. llllm
I
46
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
H
special effects.
Shooting the DSC-U60 is pure
fun. It boots up in less than a
second, recycles in 2.5 seconds,
and fires five frames in 3 seconds in burst mode. Shooting
underwater (we tested it in a
swimming pool) was even more
fun, though its small 1-inch
screen meant that we had to
check our settings above water
before submerging.
Image quality out of the
water is very good: sharp, colorful, and well exposed. Shooting
in bright sunlight, however, can
cause flare and streaking, because the DSC-U60 has no lens
shade. Underwater shots are
less clear and colorful but have
a funky, fun look to them
nonetheless.
The DSC-U60 is perfect for
the seashore, lake, or back
yard—anywhere you’d want a
small, easy-to-use point-andshoot camera that can stand up
to the elements.
Sony DSC-U60 Cyber-shot U
Street price: $250. Requires: USB port;
Microsoft Windows 98 SE, 2000, Me,
or XP. Sony Electronics Inc., 888-2227669, www.sonystyle.com. lllmm
FIRST LOOKS
Near-Photo Quality from a Laser
BY M. DAVID STONE
s a group, color laser
printers have two serious
disadvantages compared
with ink jets: higher prices and
lower-quality photo output. Price
will likely always favor the ink
jets, but the Minolta-QMS magicolor 2350 EN ($1,100 street) may
change perceptions about inferior quality: It boasts photo output
that puts many ink jets to shame.
Setup couldn’t be easier, as
the printer comes preloaded
with its consumables. All you
have to do is attach the paper
tray extension and plug everything in. Connection options include USB 1.1, parallel port, and
Ethernet. Running the CD installs the drivers and provides
fully automated network setup,
so you don’t have to know very
much about networks to get the
printer up and running.
In most ways, the 2350 EN is a
typical four-pass color laser, with
one notable difference. It can
A
print each of its 4 colors at 16 different levels, which gives it a
range of 4,096 possible colors for
each printer dot instead of the
usual 8 (cyan, yellow, magenta,
red, green, blue, black, and
white). And being able to print
more colors per dot lets the
printer use fewer dots to create
other colors, so gradients change
gradually and more smoothly.
The photo output (on goodquality laser paper and laser
glossy paper) qualifies as nearphoto quality. It trails the best
photo output from a dedicated
photo ink jet but should prove
more than sufficient for brochures and the like. Text and
graphics output was also very
good, with text easily readable
at sizes as small as 4 points in
several of the fonts we test with.
Speed, however, was a mixed
bag. The printer managed close
to its claimed speeds, printing a
100-page monochrome Word
file at 15.6 pages per minute and
HP’s Personal Color Laser
BY M. DAVID STONE
he list of color laser
printers that can be considered personal printers
is exceedingly short. With the HP
Color LaserJet 1500L ($800
street), the list has just grown by
one. The price alone is enough
to make the 1500L interesting;
that it also offers reasonable output quality and speed is icing.
The personal nature of the
1500L goes beyond the price.
USB is the only connection choice, and its
paper tray holds 125
sheets—enough
for no more than
light-duty printing.
You can add a 250sheet paper tray (or
buy the LaserJet 1500
model, which includes
the 250-sheet tray but is
otherwise essentially identical
to the 1500L).
T
The 1500 series is physically
similar to the LaserJet 2500 that
we reviewed last year (First
Looks, December 3, 2002), and
the printers also share the same
engine. The biggest difference
is that instead of rasterizing images in the printer as with the
2500, the 1500 models use your
printing a 30-page
file with color at 3.9
ppm. It also did reasonably well on our
Excel test files,
printing a singlepage color graph in
39 seconds and
two pages with
three graphs in
49 seconds.
It was relatively slow for
The engine in the Minolta-QMS magicolor 2350 EN can create 4,096 colors
per dot, versus 8 for other color lasers.
a laser on our 8-by-10 photos,
however, taking from 2 minutes
to 3 minutes, depending on the
photo. But that’s still reasonable,
considering that the quality is
worth waiting the extra minute
for. So if you want the combination of text and graphics speed,
text quality that comes only
computer to process the image.
This can make your system unresponsive while printing, but
we noticed a delay just once
during our tests.
Setting up the 1500 is straightforward, if a bit tedious. For each
of the four toner cartridges, you
have to open and close the printer cover and push a button to
rotate a carousel. Output quality
runs the gamut from fair to
excellent.
Text as small as 4 points is
easily readable in many of the
fonts we tested with. Colors
in graphics are appropriately saturated, and photo
quality is typical for a
color laser (which is to
say, no match for a dediA true personal color
laser printer, the HP Color
LaserJet 1500L delivers
reasonable output at an
affordable price.
with lasers printers,
and the near-photo
quality that most laser printers can’t offer, the magicolor 2350 EN may well be your
printer of choice.
Minolta-QMS magicolor 2350 EN
Street price: $1,100. Requires: Microsoft Windows 95 or later, or Linux, or
Mac OS 9.x or later. Minolta-QMS Inc.,
800-523-2696, www.minolta-qms
.com. llllm
cated photo ink jet). Some lines
in the graphics were uneven,
however, and in other graphics
we saw posterization.
On our tests (using a system
equipped with 1.4-GHz Pentium
4 CPU), the 1500L delivered 15.5
pages per minute when producing our 100-page monochrome
Microsoft Word text document.
For a 30-page color document,
speed dropped to 3.9 ppm. Results for our 8-by-10 test photos
ranged from 45 to 58 seconds,
depending on the photo.
Ultimately, the Color LaserJet
1500L is a good package. But be
aware that the Minolta-QMS
magicolor 2300DL (also reviewed in First Looks, December 3, 2002) offers a bit more—
including a network card—for
the same price.
HP Color LaserJet 1500L
Street price: $800. Requires: Microsoft Windows 98, 98 SE, Me, 2000, or
XP; or Mac OS 9.x or later; USB port.
Hewlett-Packard Co., 800-752-0900,
www.hp.com. lllmm
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
47
FIRST LOOKS
Quark Comes to OS X
BY LUISA SIMONE
he big news about
QuarkXPress 6 is its longanticipated support of
Mac OS X. Indeed, this release of
QuarkXPress has the potential to
speed up adoption of OS X within the desktop publishing community. Windows users may feel
that this aspect doesn’t concern
them. After all, QuarkXPress has
run on both Windows 2000 and
XP since Version 5. But the adoption of QuarkXPress 6 on the
Mac side is key to maintaining
Quark’s dominance in the DTP
marketplace.
Not to mention, the new features in QuarkXPress 6 for both
platforms are significant in their
own right. There is increased efficiency in all of the major areas
of the program, including file
management, print output, and
Web page production.
This release improves workflow with a new organizational
structure. A new entity called a
QuarkXPress Project lets you
collect multiple publication files
(referred to as Layout Spaces) in
one central location. The layouts
can differ wildly from one another. For example, a corporate
identity package could contain
Layout Spaces for a business
card, a letterhead, a brochure,
and a Web site.
Tabs along the bottom of the
workspace simplify switching
between the various Layout
Spaces. A Project can have as
many as 25 Layout Spaces, each
containing up to 2,000 pages;
this arrangement lets you organize small and large projects
alike. Individual Layout Spaces
within a project can share resources, such as style sheets, colors, and hyphenation settings.
Unfortunately, a number of
QuarkXPress functions—such
as indexes, find/change, and
drag-and-drop copy—are not
supported across Layout Spaces.
One new feature that is designed to work across Layout
Spaces is text synchronization.
Synchronized text is stored in a
T
48
special palette that works much
like other palettes in the program. You can click an icon (or
drag) to insert text into multiple
documents. Once synchronized,
updating the content (but not
the formatting) of the text block
automatically propagates the
change to all instances.
There are some shortcomings. During testing we discovered that you must synchronize
the entire contents of a text box,
making it necessary to structure
your layouts with lots of small
pieces of information. Synchronization is also limited to text;
images are not supported. Still,
In QuarkXPress 6, tabs along the bottom of the workspace let
you switch between the various documents that comprise a
project. Note the new palette for synchronized text, which lists
text blocks by name.
You can now generate PDF files directly within QuarkXPress 6.
Basic configuration options include the ability to generate
smaller files by downsampling hi-res images.
this is a powerful tool that lets
you use the same text in totally
different layouts (such as print
and Web documents) with the
confidence that the information
will be identical in all locations.
A few key enhancements to
the workspace improve efficiency. For example, QuarkXPress finally has a multiple Undo command that can reverse up to the
last 30 actions. And when you
register the product, you receive
an Xtension to display imported
images at full resolution (rather
than as a low-res preview).
The prepress industry is
moving away from using native
files for output and toward
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Adobe PDF as the standard.
QuarkXPress 6 adds direct PDF
output as an option. A huge convenience, this lets you prepare
files for a service bureau or generate soft proofs for clients. Best
of all, it saves money, because
you don’t need third-party software (such as Adobe Acrobat).
However, the distiller in
QuarkXPress offers only basic
configuration options, such
as font embedding and downsampling. It can’t save PDF styles
for reuse or protect documents
with security features. QuarkXPress 6 now also supports composite color output and in-RIP
separations, thanks to the addi-
tion of DeviceN and As Is color
output options.
Several features introduced in
Version 5 have been beefed up in
this release. For example, the
QuarkXPress Web authoring
tools now include cascading
menus, disjointed (or two-position) rollovers, and the ability
to specify font families for cascading style sheets. And you can
create more flexible table layouts, because you can now link
the text cells in a table to one
another (or indeed to any text
box). QuarkXPress 6 also improves XML functionality, primarily by licensing the Xerces
engine to parse XML.
But be warned, there are still
intrinsic limitations to these
tools. For example, without the
ability to generate table headers
automatically or to import formatted Excel tables, QuarkXPress is still underpowered for
large-scale tabular design work.
And while designers may find
the integrated HTML tools convenient for simple site design,
QuarkXPress cannot compete
with power of a dedicated
HTML editor like Macromedia’s
Dreamweaver.
Ultimately,
of
course,
QuarkXPress doesn’t compete
with DreamWeaver; it competes
with Adobe InDesign. In a feature-by-feature comparison,
FIRST LOOKS
QuarkXPress is clearly lacking
the technologically advanced
tools found in InDesign, such as
robust support for OpenType
(the multiline composer) and
true object transparency.
In addition, Adobe’s complimentary product line
makes it easy to streamline
the production workflow. For
example, InDesign can import
native Photoshop files, but you
still need a third-party Xtension
to bring PSD files into QuarkXPress 6. And though the price
differential isn’t so significant when you amortize it
over the life of the product,
at $1,045 QuarkXPress 6 is
significantly more expensive
than InDesign ($699).
Inertia—and the large pool
of Quark-proficient publishing pros—may be Quark’s ace
in the hole. The word in the industry is that many users did
not upgrade from Version 4 to 5.
Upgrading now for a few hun-
dred dollars will deliver major
benefits, including editable layers, HTML authoring tools, XML
support, and a table editor.
Furthermore, though Quark
has added significant new fea-
tures, the interface is remarkably unchanged. In other words,
QuarkXPress 6 presents a very
comfortable upgrade path to
users familiar with Versions 4
and 5. In a production environment, the incremental improvements offered by QuarkXPress
6 may be preferable to the dra-
matic change needed to move to
InDesign.
QuarkXPress 6
List price: $1,045 (upgrade from 5.0,
$199; upgrade from 4.0, $299).
Requires: 128MB RAM; Microsoft
Windows 2000 or XP, or Mac OS X
10.1. Quark Inc., 800-676-4575,
www.quark.com/products/xpress.
lllmm
Storage on Hand (Well, Wrist)
So you think you’re cool with your USB keychain memory device? We’ve got you beat.
The new EDGE DiskGO! USB Watch Flash Drive has 128MB or 256MB of built-in flash memory, with the USB connector cleverly concealed in the rubber wristband. It’s comfortable on the wrist, and a red LED at the 9:00 position signals drive activity when loading
or unloading files. At a recent trade show our test unit got lots of use, moving presentations and miscellaneous files from machine to machine, and we never had to fish in our
pockets or briefcase for it. The DiskGO! comes with a USB extension cable so that you can keep
it right on your wrist when in use.
For all that memory within, the analog watch does nothing but tell time. We’d love to see
some alarm, timer, or PDA functions in a future version.—Bill Machrone
EDGE DiskGO! USB Watch Flash Drive
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trademarks are properties of their respective owners.
FIRST LOOKS
Midrange NAS Device Delivers Speed
BY S. JAE YANG
ast year we reviewed a
new crop of network-attached storage (NAS) devices targeted at small businesses (“Storage Made Simple,”
December 3, 2002). If your business needs something a little
more robust, consider the
Iomega NAS P800m ($12,499 list)
we recently tested. The price
makes it reasonable for midsize
businesses, and the speed and
feature set are enterprise-class.
The model we tested came
with dual 2.4-GHz Intel Xeon
CPUs, 1GB of ECC DDR SDRAM,
and eight 120GB Ultra ATA-100
hard drives (adding up to almost
a terabyte of storage) in a 2U
chassis. The eight hot-swappable drives come configured in
RAID Level 5 for a good balance
of performance and reliability,
but they can also support RAID 0
or RAID 1.
The P800m runs on Windows
Server with SAK (Server Appliance Kit), hence it’s instantly
scalable. With Microsoft’s DFS,
multiple Windows NAS arrays
can be bound into one logical
drive. Because the OS is installed
on the hard drive, the P800m is
less appliance-like than NASs
that run an embedded Linux OS.
In order to compensate for this,
the P800m keeps a redundant
copy of the OS.
Many of the management
and administrative tools are presented through the Terminal
Services client running within
the Internet Explorer browser
via the ActiveX control. (This
means the management interface cannot be fully accessed
using a Netscape browser.) An
administrator versed in Windows Server could manage the
NAS through the Remote Desktop interface as if it were just another Windows server.
The P 800m’s top cover is
hinged at the middle, which
makes it possible to access the
hot-swappable power supplies
without pulling the unit completely out of the rack. Setup
L
50
was easy. Once the P800m was
connected, the Iomega NAS
Discovery Utility identified its
IP address. If your network
does not have a DHCP server,
the utility lets you assign a static IP address.
On our NetBench 7.0.3 test,
the P800m served up files at 250
Mbps (megabits per second)
through its dual Gigabit network
interfaces without breaking a
sweat. The throughput peaked at
24 clients and only gradually
rolled off to 200 Mbps at 56
clients. (Since NetBench is a
stress test that continuously
bombards the file server being
tested, the load imposed by the
test clients equates to a load pro-
duced by several times more
clients in a real-world
setting.) By comparison, the best
performer in the
entry-level NAS
The Iomega NAS
P800m features dual Xeon
CPUs and eight 120GB
hard drives in a 2U chassis.
roundup peaked at 200 Mbps at
12 clients. Even more impressive
was the P800m’s response time,
which was at worst 5 ms, even at
the maximum load of 60 clients.
The entry-level NASs averaged
close to 25 ms at 60 clients.
So if your business needs an
easy-to-configure yet robust
NAS, the P800m is worth a look.
Iomega NAS P800m
List price: $12,499. Iomega Corp., 801332-1000, www.iomega.com.
llllm
Toshiba’s Home Networking Play
BY BRUCE BROWN
hen Toshiba told us
it was releasing a
home wireless gateway, we rolled our eyes. Dell and
HP had also entered a field
already crowded with the likes
of D-Link, Linksys, Netgear, and
half a dozen others. But after
testing the Toshiba PCX5000
W
Wireless Cable Modem Gateway
($200 street, or $149 direct after
instant rebate), we welcome
them to the party. Toshiba’s fullfeatured product and helpful
installation wizard make for
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
an impressive one-piece smallnetwork solution.
Residential gateways typically come packed with a DHCP
router, firewall, 10/100 Ethernet
switch, and (nowadays) an integrated wireless access point.
Toshiba has upped the ante by
including a DOCSIS-certified
cable modem, as well as SofaWare’s stateful packet inspection. The only thing missing is
high-speed wireless (namely,
the new 802.11g).
Toshiba’s JumpMaster Home
Networking Wizard is a gem. It
The Toshiba
PCX5000 Wireless
Cable Modem Gateway
combines an 802.11b wireless
access point with a cable modem.
walks you through configuring
each PC on your network and setting up the shared connection
with your cable provider. In no
time our wired and wireless PCs
were connected.
File transfers speeds among
wired and wireless PCs were
right in line with what we’ve
seen from other products, as
was the range. For users who
need greater range, a frontmounted jack accepts an optional external antenna.
If you already have a cable
modem, there’s no compelling
reason to buy the PCX5000 over
a modem-less residential gateway except to conserve desk
space—unless you can save a
monthly modem rental fee from
your cable provider. But the
PCX 5000 delivers on its
promise of easy installation and
a full feature set, so if you’re
about to sign up for cable Internet access and want to connect
both wired and wireless computers, the Toshiba PCX5000
has a good story to tell.
Toshiba PCX5000 Wireless
Cable Modem Gateway
Street price: $200. Toshiba America
Information Systems Inc., 800-3160920, www.toshiba.com. llllm
FIRST LOOKS
Mathematica 5.0 Adds Up
BY BARRY SIMON
xactly 15 years after Mathematica’s initial release,
Wolfram Research has released Mathematica 5.0 ($1,880
direct). The new version of this
high-end mathematical package
has one major focus: an overhaul of the engine for numerical
computation. There are also
changes in some symbolic elements and enhancements of
Mathematica’s ability to communicate with other programs.
From its start, Mathematica
has been a multifaceted powerhouse with symbolic and numeric calculation abilities, superb graphics, and the capability
to produce technical documents. But its core has always
been its symbolic engine, with
arbitrary-precision real arithmetic, exact rational arithmetic,
and computer algebra.
E
That core requires overhead,
however, and this led to Mathematica’s excelling at symbolic
calculation but being only good,
not great, at numeric calculation. MatLab, specifically, has always occupied the top position
for number-crunching excellence. Wolfram Research clearly
intends this new version of
Mathematica to compete with
MatLab in that area.
In our testing, we found Version 5.0 dramatically faster at
numeric computing than its predecessors. One calculation that
took us 5 minutes in Mathematica 4.2 took only 15 seconds in
this new release.
The program gets its speed
boost from identifying numerical calculations early to minimize symbolic overhead, from
more efficient use of memory
and CPU , and from vastly im-
proved algorithms
such as the numeric
differential equation
solver. Version 5 adds
special handling for
sparse matrix problems—long a hallmark of MatLab’s intelligence. There are
also improved Reduce and RS olve
algorithms.
Mathematica’s numerics are now comparable to MatLab’s,
but they’re not betMathematica still features superb
ter. Given the differgraphics abilities and a top-notch
ence in languages,
symbolic engine. Version 5.0 adds a
long-term MatLab
competitive numeric engine as well.
users won’t be
tempted to switch,
but Mathematica users who re- users will want to upgrade.
luctantly shifted to MatLab for
Mathematica 5.0
numerical calculations will find
that they can stay in Mathematica now. And the numeric improvements are so spectacular
that most current Mathematica
Keep Tabs on Kids with Real-Time Monitor
BY JAY MUNRO
nowing what your kids
are up to online is crucial. Actiontec’s Kid Defender ($39.95 per year) offers a
unique live view of your child’s
Web activities unavailable in
other monitoring and filtering
products we’ve seen.
Along with the standard URL
blocking for offensive Web sites,
newsgroups, chats, and file
downloads, Kid Defender’s foremost claim to fame is its realtime remote monitoring. Parents can sit by their child’s side
virtually, at the office or home,
seeing whatever the child sees
on the screen.
The product installs in two
parts: a client (for the child) and
a console (for the parent) that
provides configuration options
and a view of the child’s IM,
chat, or Web-surfing activity.
The parent viewer can monitor
multiple machines for wellconnected families, and both
parents can monitor simultane-
K
56
ously. To keep screen clutter
down you can configure URLs,
chat, and IM screen names as
trusted, so you don’t have to
monitor chats with grandma or
visits to Disney.com.
Once you’ve registered, Kid
Defender signals the Actiontec
server when your child goes
online. Parents open the client
and watch their child’s online
activities. If the parent client is
minimized, a small message
pops up from the tool tray. If
parents prefer not to monitor in
real time, they can save usage
logs to view later.
In our testing, we found that
Kid Defender tracked everything the child client did. By default, Web sites are listed only by
URL as the kids surf, but you can
display the current site live. We
had live display turned on, but
Actiontec’s Kid Defender lets you remotely monitor a child’s
Web surfing, file downloading, and IM activities in real time.
You can block access to sites and newsgroups.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Direct price: $1,880; upgrade, $375.
Requires: 64MB RAM, 345MB disk
space, Microsoft Windows 98 or later.
Wolfram Research Inc., 800-9653726, www.wolfram.com. llllm
irritating pop-ups generated
on the sites visited by the child
machine were mirrored on the
parent machine, so we turned
off that feature.
Parents can enter a list of offensive URLs and words to
block. Unlike the closed proprietary lists many filtering products use, we liked Kid Defender’s open text list, which can be
edited or appended easily. Although the list covers many
sites, we found lots of inappropriate material left unblocked.
If a parent sees something the
kids shouldn’t, the parent can
immediately block the URL. Parents can also control access to
newsgroups and file-sharing
programs.
Though its filtering capabilities could be improved, Kid
Defender is ideal for parents
who want to be involved in what
their kids are viewing, even
when out of the house.
Kid Defender
Direct price: With two console and
two client licenses, $39.95 per year.
Actiontec Electronics Inc., 866-7768322, www.kiddefender.com. llllm
“I’d rather pay BMG
for shipping and handling on free CDs
than pay a monthly fee for nothing.”
R EG I ST E R I N G D I S P L E A S U R E
WHAT PLANET ARE these music services from that
they’d think most of us would be interested in paying
outrageous sums for streaming rights—in other words,
just listening to music online (After Hours, August 5,
page 138)? I can do that for free at Yahoo! As for downloading burnable tracks, I’d rather spend my money on
mail-order music clubs and swap CDs with my friends. If these services want my business, they are going to have to lower their prices
and increase their song quantities. I want no monthly subscription fee
and a small fee (less than $1) to download burnable tracks. I’d rather
pay BMG for shipping and handling on free CDs than pay a monthly
fee for nothing. Registration should require nothing more than a valid
e-mail address, and we should be charged only for downloads.
CASS CHASE
work with anything other than Windows 98. A private
individual wrote an interface program that lets the
printer work on most Windows XP machines, but why
can’t Canon’s team of engineers do the same?
JAY E. MORRIS
C A N ’ T H AV E I T B OT H WAYS
JOHN C. DVORAK COMPLAINS about a lack of consolidation among
standards, but he’s always going on about Microsoft and how it
dominates the market, squashes competition, and suppresses new
technology. Microsoft, for bad or good, is an overwhelmingly accepted standard.
JOSH BROOKS
GAMES ON THE FRINGE
I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW how happy I am to see indie
DERIDING IRIDER
SO JOHN C. DVORAK LOVES the iRider browser, huh? He says it has
“so many new features” (Inside Track, July, page 63). Okay, there’s a
real-estate–eating bar on the left that lets you browse Web pages
you’ve already visited. And you can download Web pages in the background. I’m still waiting for the earth-shattering innovations. I mean,
I can download multiple pages using tabs in Safari and Camino for
Mac OS X or Mozilla for Linux, Mac OS, and Windows. They can load
in the background while I finish the content on the page I’m viewing,
and I can click back and forth to compare products on different pages.
Granted, I have to tell the browser to do this, but then again, I’m not
stuck with hundreds of thumbnails for pages that I don’t want indexed
but still have to clean up later. So where’s the innovation? Ah, here it
is: iRider is Windows-only, uses Internet Explorer as its rendering engine, and uses the same bookmarks folder that IE does. Looks like
iRider is just IE with some extra bloat on top. Dvorak wouldn’t know
an innovation if it came up and bit him in an original way.
JOSEPH PRISCO
D R I V E R S WA N T E D
JOHN C. DVORAK NAILED IT on driver updates (“Promises, Promises,” July, page 61). I have a Canon BJC-5000 that’s less than 5 years
old. It’s in excellent working order, yet Canon can’t or won’t make it
How to Contact Us
We welcome your comments and suggestions.
When sending e-mail to Letters, please state in the subject line of
your message which article or column prompted your response.
E-MAIL [email protected]
MAIL Letters, PC Magazine, 28 East 28th Street, New York, NY 10016-7930.
All letters become the property of PC Magazine and are subject to editing.
We regret that we cannot answer letters individually.
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /fe e d b a c k
games reviewed in Quick Clips (After Hours, July, page 165). More
and more people are turning to games from independent developers as a break from big-business titles, and it’s nice to see major publications take notice.
GREGORY MICEK
DVO R A K B L A STS LO O S E L I P S
I WANT TO THANK JOHN C. DVORAK for his recent online column
“Dangerous Phone Calls” (June 30, www.pcmag.com/dvorak) Computers, phones, laptops, and PDAs have brought us to the point
where we communicate more often and more openly, but ethics and
etiquette have gone out the window .
People tend to forget that they sign confidentiality agreements with
their employers, and they’re expected to be discreet with information
about partners, vendors, services providers, and so on. One overheard
statement in the wrong hands could lead to the termination of an important contract, huge lawsuits for breach of confidentiality, and of
course the loss of a job. It’s time we all got back to business—the way
business should be done, with discretion and etiquette.
SUZETTE Y. GAUVIN
Corrections and Amplifications
n In our review of Kidsnet (“Parental Guidance Suggested,” July, page 163), we wrote
that Kidsnet blocks all but 125,000 sites, which have been reviewed by the company’s
staff. In fact, Kidsnet has reviewed 125,000 top-level domains, each of which can include
dozens or hundreds of individual Web sites.
n In our roundup of PDF creation tools (August 5, page 95), we mention an incorrect
price for Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Professional. The correct price is $449. In the "Which Tool Is
Right for You?" sidebar in that story, we mention Adobe Acrobat Essentials. The correct
name of the product is Adobe Acrobat Elements, and the correct price for Elements is
$28 per user.
n BurnItFirst, an online music service reviewed in “Music Services: Paying the Piper”
(After Hours, August 5), discontinued service on July 1, after the issue had gone to press.
We regret any confusion this may have caused.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
59
w w w. ex t re m e te c h . c o m •
BILL MACHRONE
ExtremeTech
How Good Is Your Sound Card?
W
hatever you do, don’t believe the
manufacturer’s specs; they’re
meaningless. We’ve been testing
audio performance at PC Magazine for as long as PCs have been
multimedia-capable, and our results have typically
shown that the published numbers are the theoretical specifications of the sound chip and do not
reflect real-world performance.
The actual numbers are usually far worse, for a
variety of reasons. One is the huge amount of electrical noise inside a PC: Millions of transistors switch on
and off at incredible speeds, each one creating tiny
power spikes and electromagnetic emanations that
add up to background hiss. Motherboards and expansion cards are encrusted with bypass capacitors to
suppress the racket, but that’s not always enough.
Cost is another factor. Some manufacturers use
crummy, low-performing audio parts simply to save
money. Motherboard-based solutions usually use
some of your CPU power to act as a soft DSP, but the
downside is that your PC may actually slow down
during audio tasks, or the audio may be glitchy. Why
waste high-quality audio, vendors figure, on a pair of
$1 speakers in blow-molded plastic cases? That
approach may make sense for a machine that will
never play anything but error beeps and e-mail
alerts, but it runs counter to the burgeoning trend of
putting your music collection on your desktop or
laptop. Good speakers can’t make up for poor audio
coming from the line-out or headphone jack.
You won’t know what you’re missing, however, until
you hear the unbelievable quality of the sound that
emanates from high-end cards such as those made by
Echo Audio or M-Audio. They make a significant difference in the audio experience. I’ve run my own
sweep and noise floor tests (www.extremetech
.com/htyl and www.pcmag.com/htyl), as well as critical-listening tests, and the difference between stock
audio components and the add-ons is striking.
You don’t need a pile of test equipment or golden
ears, as the hi-fi purists call them, to determine the
quality of your audio. That just got a whole lot easier, thanks to the efforts of RightMark Gathering, an
open-source group led by a couple of Russian programmers. They’ve created and continually
enhanced the RightMark Audio Analyzer (RMAA),
which lets you test your sound card with nothing
more than a male-to-male mini stereo cable. You use
this cable as a loopback device from your sound
card’s outputs to its inputs. RMAA then tests the
sound card’s frequency response, signal-to-noise
ratio, dynamic range, harmonic distortion, and intermodulation distortion, and presents the results
numerically and graphically. RMAA is freeware, yet
it replaces $1,000-plus lab equipment that gives you
the same conclusions.
ExtremeTech senior analyst Dave Salvator recently
put a bunch of new motherboard audio chips
through their paces with RMAA and some other tools
(“The State of Motherboard Audio,” July 1, www
.extremetech.com/motheraudio) and found that some
of the new DSP-based chips represent a dramatic improvement. Some of the better chips rival the audio
performance of good sound cards and have little
drain on the CPU. This is progress, but as you will
see from Dave’s article, there will always be room for
premium sound cards.
The latest version of RMAA can even be used for
speaker testing. It supports the Microphone Data
File (MDF) format, which lets the software correct
for the actual frequency response of a calibrated
microphone. A calibrated mic might set you back
$150 to $300, and calibrating an existing mic costs
nearly as much. But if you don’t care about absolute
frequency response, you can use an uncalibrated mic
to make relative measurements. I’ve gotten loads of
good information about speaker systems and amplifiers from uncalibrated mics. And once you’ve characterized a sound card’s performance, you can intersperse almost any audio equipment into the loop
between the output and input.
RightMark has just published another handy tool,
RightMark 3D. It tests your system for hardware and
software support of DirectSound, using nothing
more than your ears. It also performs a CPU usage
test, so you can compare the loads that different
sound cards put on your system. The old SoundBlaster Live on my desktop system is kind of an
embarrassment. Time to upgrade!
Good speakers
can’t make
up for poor
audio coming
from the lineout or headphone jack.
Bill Machrone is VP of editorial development for Ziff Davis
Media. Visit his digs at www.extremetech.com. You can
also reach him at [email protected]
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
61
John C. Dvorak
The Agony of Unresolved Standards
T
ake 802.11b (please!). Just as it was becoming universal, the standards gods
moved on to 802.11a and 802.11g, because
they offer more speed. This is just fine,
but if the past is any indication of the future, then the entire wireless-networking industry
will be in flux until things settle down. Think of Ethernet 15 years ago.
Those of us who have experienced the growth
patterns of computers, operating systems, modems,
and networking gear know the agony of change. It’s
made worse by the sudden speeding up of change
for change’s sake.
The most satisfied users of wireless networking
have two things in common: a Macintosh and AirPort, an ersatz proprietary version of 802.11b. This
reminds me of the satisfied users of SCSI technology: also Mac users, for mostly the same reason. Although AirPort isn’t quite as unusual as Apple’s
early implementations of SCSI, it carries the same
sub-rosa message: If you want to be sure that your
802.11a/b/g network runs flawlessly, then make sure
all the components are from the same vendor. And
make sure they were built around the same time,
too. You can draw your own conclusions as to what
this statement says about Wi-Fi testing and compatibility claims. I guess everyone has his own definition of compatible.
On a recent trip to Seattle, I was unable to get on
the Wayport network at the Sea-Tac airport with my
Toshiba Portégé 4000, which has numerous annoying 802.11 idiosyncrasies. It was also unable to connect at a pricey hotel in Switzerland recently, because its encryption setup didn’t match the one on
the 802.11 router. Once, I couldn’t even get a signal in
a hot spot. I turned the laptop over to a techie running the network, who said, “Oh, of course it won’t
work. You have to set this. Then this. Then this. Then
this. There, now it works.” Hey, great!
Meanwhile, we’re already hearing about how mixed
networks (802.11b/g) break down left and right. And
this will always be the case, especially when things get
even more complicated with 802.11i—the new, secure
Wi-Fi—and its lesser version (just to confuse you
more), WPA, or Wi-Fi Protected Access. I guess you
could group these into a new, more meaningful category of substandards. (Pun intended.)
Today’s technologists have lost appreciation for
the concept of standing still long enough for users to
get their bearings. They need to remember that manufacturers and users can work around problems.
When a popular software or hardware design is on
the market longer than six months, creative workarounds begin to appear.
These have always been less likely to create new
problems, because they have to be written cautiously
and tend to be outside the main code or design. They
usually don’t fix one thing while messing up something else. But nobody will even consider developing
a workaround when the code base is changing every
few weeks, only to be discarded for a totally new code
base that has more lines of code, weirder bugs, and
security holes.
I am convinced this is a result of the dot-com era,
which was inaugurated largely by the Microsoft/
Netscape wars and the emergence of the fast-paced
mediocre upgrade cycle. Internet time was the culprit, you might say. In fact, there was never any such
thing as Internet time. As a result, we’re seeing simple lunacy and poorly-thought-out panic upgrades.
Microsoft is still on this ridiculous treadmill. Instead of feeding us all these miserable Win XP upgrades (have you looked at your Add/Remove Software list recently?) while designing some new
gosh-awful OS, the company should do a complete
recompile of Win XP, give us each a copy, and let us
live with it for a while. Microsoft recently bailed out
of the stock options merry-go-round, so it doesn’t
need to be growing like mad just to pump up the
stock. How about giving us something stable, so we
don’t have to listen to the constant carping of those
arrogant Mac users?
People used to say that the problem with standards is that there are too many of them. I’d argue
that the problem with standards is that they wiggle
too much, and right now most of the wiggling is taking place in the wireless arena.
I see nothing changing, but I think people need to
know that they’re on shaky ground. It’s wiggling
right now!
Instead of
feeding us all
those miserable upgrades,
Microsoft
should do a
complete
recompile of
Win XP, give
us each a
copy, and let
us live with it
for a while.
MORE ON THE WEB: Read John C. Dvorak’s column every
Monday at www.pcmag.com/dvorak. You can reach him
directly at [email protected]
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
63
Inside
Track
JOHN C. DVORAK
A
re we finally about to see
chips without clocks? This
has been a goal of some advanced designers, and now at
least two companies hope to
bring some working products to market.
I hope the timing is right!
The two names to look out for are Fulcrum Microsystems, of Pasadena, California, and fund-seeking, London-based
Self-Timed Solutions. Fulcrum is doing
a RISC chip, and Self-Timed Solutions is
coming out with a clockless version of
the ARM chip. Every chip company is
looking at this idea, since it offers new
design strategies. Theorists, many from
Caltech, believe that reliance on a central clock to time all the signals within a
chip becomes too cumbersome as performance demands increase. A clockless
architecture would surely end chipmarketing wars based on timing speeds.
The Big Scare Dept.: A new development in the open-source movement
needs comment. It’s called viral opensource, among other terms. Apparently, it
has CEOs of more than a few software
companies spooked. Personally, I think
it’s a comeuppance for the ludicrous licensing overhead that we’ve been saddled with since the early days.
The situation is kind of hard to follow,
but essentially, some general public
licenses (GPLs) say that if any code generated by a compiler gets into any commercial product, then the commercial
product falls into the public domain, or
into open-source, or whatever. A lawyer
friend of mine described the possibilities,
and they are very interesting. If you have
a rogue programmer who moves some
GPL code into your product, then your
product may suddenly become subject to
the GPL—or worse, depending on the
original license.
Let me take it to an extreme. Let’s say
I design a compiler. In the license agreement, I clearly state that any product that
uses anything created by my compiler
must become public-domain. Some programmer working for you then uses my
compiler, and your product has one line
of my code in it. Your product is now
public-domain by law, since such licenses are legal and binding. Go sue the
coder—if you can find him. In a state that
passes the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA), you may
not even be able to litigate. You are just
out of luck. Interesting, eh?
Finding That File Dept.: Windows XP
users soon realize that the OS’s search
function has been changed to include only
registered file types. That’s why you can’t
find those old WordStar files any more.
According to Microsoft, this change is
meant to improve performance. To me, it
makes the search function useless.
There is a Registry fix that makes Win
XP look at all the files, the way Windows
2000 and Windows 98 do. But why bother, when you can buy a tool that is much
more powerful and versatile, such as FileLocator Pro, from Mythicsoft (www
.mythicsoft.com)? A single-user license is
extremely cheap, at $12.99.
FileLocator Pro digs through even ZIP
and CAB files. For you old-timers who are
trying to find that WordStar document
you lost years ago, the newest version of
FileLocater Pro flips the WordStar highorder bit, so the preview window shows
the text properly. The preview window is
very important when you’re looking for
lost files, and Win XP search without a
window can be agonizing. My advice: Get
FileLocator Pro. This product is a gem.
Highly recommended.
While We’re on the Subject of Microsoft
Dept.: Can anyone out there even imagine
the sheer number of Win XP error messages sent to Microsoft every day? The
company must have collected billions by
now. Sometimes my machine sends two or
three a day. It must be a nightmare.
And since I’m complaining, let me
openly ask Microsoft about something
that makes no sense to me. The other day,
A clockless
architecture
would surely
end chipmarketing
wars based on
timing speeds.
I made a three-picture panorama. Microsoft Photo Editor choked on it and
showed this error message: “The Image
is too large (too many bytes).” The picture was merely 2.4MB. I could open it in
Adobe Photoshop, PixWizard, and half a
dozen other products but not Microsoft
Photo Editor. Microsoft is promoting itself as the center of the multimedia universe, but the Microsoft default image editor can’t open even a relatively small
image. Does this remind anyone of the
concept that 640K ought to be enough
memory for anyone? Just baffling.
Genuinely Interesting Hardware Dept.:
While playing around with wireless
802.11b gear for my column, I was seriously impressed by the D-Link AirPlus
DWL-900AP+ wireless access point. I
ended up installing it. What struck me
was not so much its low price ($99 list)
but that it can be programmed as an access point, a bridge, a repeater, or a client.
It can also be used as a DHCP server.
The DWL-900AP+ can run at an enhanced 22 Mbps. It has a lone RJ-45 connector and a little OS you can use to tell
the thing what you want it to be. If you
replace it with an access point, for example, you can program it to serve as
something else. It also incorporates 256bit encryption.
This, to me, is the epitome of modern
gear. Geez, why buy anything else?
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
65
B I L L H OWA R D
On Technology
Driving the Future
L
ess is more, in the eyes of the Bauhaus
movement. But all too often, to the PC
movement, less is less. Consider when
you’re struggling to find your computer’s
mute key (say the boss just walked in and
the music’s too loud) but your minimalist keyboard
requires you to use—what was it?—Fn-End. In cases
like that, you’d really prefer a dedicated mute key or
a giant volume knob, even if it made the keyboard
too cluttered to the designer’s eye.
Score one for the forces of moderation in one of
the finest computing devices ever to roll off a production line. And roll it does: the new Audi A8 L, the
latest in the top-this-if-you-can class of megacars that
are moving platforms for convergence technology,
with 90-plus on-board microprocessors. Audi’s breakthrough is a joysticklike control knob dubbed the
MMI (Multi Media Interface), which simplifies the
driver’s life and removes clutter from the cockpit.
Dashboards became complex in the 1990s when
cars added navigation, radio/satellite-TV entertainment, his-and-hers climate controls, and adjustable
suspensions. A high-end car might have 100 knobs,
buttons, and indicators. In-dash LCD panels were the
first step toward simplicity, with one postcard-size
space to control the audio system, the climate, and
possibly a navigation system.
The defining moment for hard-core minimalists
was the BMW 7 Series of 2001, with its haptic iDrive
Controller. This force-feedback controller’s innards
were engineered by Immersion Corp. (the brains
behind many PC joysticks) and linked to a 9-inch
LCD panel powered by Windows CE. It swept away
half the controls on the dashboard, leaving you with
a beautiful expanse of ash veneer. But to access features that were once a button press away, you had to
slide, twirl, and press the iDrive Controller. And
Microsoft’s early effort at adapting Windows to a
new platform had stability issues.
Audi has a better idea. The MMI controller is a big
knob in the middle of the console that you turn, then
press to select, just like the iDrive Controller. But this
one doesn’t vibrate or slide. And the MMI has a supporting cast of buttons near the controller. Think of
them as you would multimedia PC buttons that take
you directly to e-mail, the Web, or a media player.
On the A8 L, an outer layer of buttons takes you to
eight key functions arrayed in groups of two: Radio
and CD/TV, Net (OnStar but not e-mail or the Web)
and Telephone, Navigation and Info, and Car and
Setup. Press one and the appropriate information pops
up on the 7-inch LCD panel. Buttons arranged twoand-two on either side of the controller let you finetune your selections; their changing functions are
shown on the edges of the LCD panel. Just below the
controller are Forward and Reverse buttons (especially useful for music) and a Return button, which
works like a PC’s Esc key. Audi understands that users
sometimes make mistakes and need to back up.
Windows CE (now called Windows Automotive)
lost out to QNX Neutrino, a real-time operating
system from a company with two decades of experience in life-support systems and nuclear power
plants—and few plans to run Audi’s life in the future.
With Microsoft, confided one Audi manager, “You
were always thinking they had plans to control more
than your dashboard.” (Microsoft automotive business unit general manager Bob McKenzie says that
Microsoft would like to partner with automakers on
more extensive projects in the future.)
Other controls make use of the LCD on an asneeded basis. When you start to turn the passengerside thermostat knob, a big temperature display
comes up on-screen; tap it when you’re done and the
previous display returns.
Part of the reason you need a controller in a highend car is complexity. This Audi, all 4,500 pounds
and $74,000 of it, has an air suspension, vent fans in
the seats, parking-distance sonar, and even a
powered rear sunshade. For simplicity’s sake, some
of the less used controls are moved to the MMI.
The A8 L still has room for improvement. For
example, Japanese automakers make better navigation systems. On BMWs, the parking sonar comes
with an iconic bird’s-eye view showing the car and
the nearest object. And although the A8 L’s audio
system has a mute button adjacent to the MMI, you
can’t easily mute the navigation system voice when
it gets on your nerves. Still, this car is closer to your
house than Bauhaus.
The Audi
A8 L is one
of the finest
computing
devices ever
to roll off a
production
line.
MORE ON THE WEB: You can contact Bill Howard directly
at [email protected] For more On Technology
columns, go to www.pcmag.com/howard.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
67
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /s o l u t i o n s
But once cameras surpassed 1 megapixel,
the need for smaller, high-capacity, removable memory became clear.
Flash Memory:
Pick a Card
Memory cards are increasingly handy and ubiquitous, but
which one is right for you? BY BILL HOWARD
Most digital cameras, music players, and PDAs use flash memory cards to
store data. These small media cards hold anywhere from 8MB to 1GB of data,
and they are remarkably inexpensive—currently about 50 cents per
megabyte. At such prices, flash memory is spreading fast and even nibbling
at the small-hard-drive market.
With more than half a dozen types of
flash memory cards available (plus USB
memory keys and tiny hard drives), however, you should choose carefully. Here’s
an overview of the various flash memory
cards, including their underlying technologies, their uses, and their prospects
for the future. If you have an interest in
photography, portable audio, and file
transfer, you may want to simplify your
hardware shopping by focusing on no
more than one or two formats, to ensure
smooth transfers among your devices.
WHAT IS FLASH?
Apply an electrical charge to a cell in a
memory chip and you change its state
from 0 to 1—or 1 to 0. Remove power
from a typical memory chip and it forgets
the 0s and 1s. Not so with flash memory:
It maintains the state of each cell when
the chip powers down. There are two
downsides: Flash memory cards cost
more, and they are slower than traditional hard drives. Generally speaking, the
transfer rate of flash memory is about 1
MBps. New technologies and interfaces
can double or triple that rate, but you will
pay extra for the convenience. Either way,
the slowest, cheapest DRAM chip used in
your PC is vastly quicker than the fastest
flash memory chip available. That’s why
small hard drives live on.
The market for flash memory cards
evolved with the advent of digital cameras
in the mid-1990s. At the time, Sony Mavica cameras, which have floppy disk drives
in their back panels, were vastly preferred
over those with proprietary serial cables.
SmartMedia (SM). The first standardsbased memory cards to appear, SmartMedia units are about as thick as playing
cards. But the deck is stacked against the
SmartMedia card, because it has the biggest footprint (about 2.7 square inches,
compared with Secure Digital’s 1.2 square
inches), and its flexibility makes it vulnerable to damage. It has no controller to
let your PC treat it as a standard hard
drive, so you must pay extra for a PC Card
adapter (about $25). Also, some devices
won’t work with cards larger than about
16MB or 32MB.
SmartMedia’s design limits it to 128MB.
Fuji and Olympus used to be the biggest
backers of SmartMedia, but now they are
making the transition to their own format
called xD-Picture Card. Expect to see few
if any new devices using SmartMedia.
SmartMedia card dimensions: 1.8 by 1.5 by 0.06
inches (HWD). Maximum capacity: 128MB.
MultiMediaCard (MMC). Along with SmartMedia, MMC was the other early memory
Flash Memory Format Support
If you own multiple devices, try to standardize on one flash memory type. Memory Stick (MS) and Secure Digital (SD)
are your best bets—with CompactFlash as a secondary option. MMC technology is being phased out, but its media fit in
SD slots. MS Duo and miniSD media require an adapter to fit into devices that accept their full-size counterparts. Here
we’ve listed support among major vendors.
DIGITAL CAMERAS
NOTEBOOKS
PDAs
MUSIC PLAYERS
CAR STEREOS
CompactFlash
Canon*, HP, Kodak*,
Nikon
IBM
Dell,
HP/Compaq,
Toshiba
Frontier Labs
Blaupunkt
Memory Stick
Konica, Sony
Samsung,
Sharp, Sony
Sony
Sony
Alpine, Pioneer,
Sony
Secure Digital
Casio, Contax ,
HP/Compaq, Kodak,
Konica, Kyocera, Minolta,
Panasonic, Pentax,
Samsung, Toshiba
IBM,
Panasonic,
Toshiba
Dell,
HP/Compaq,
Palm, Toshiba
Panasonic,
RCA
Panasonic
Fuji*, Olympus*,
Samsung
N/A
N/A
Digitalway,
Rio, Samsung
N/A
Fuji, Olympus
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
SmartMedia
xD-Picture Card
* The company is phasing out this media type, or support is available only in older products.
N/A—Not applicable: No products in this group support the media type.
SOLUTIONS
How Thin Clients Avoid
74 Security Watch: IM
vulnerabilities.
To keep the NHL draft running smoothly
all the processing happening behind the
clients on each team table, two blades r
Should one blade fail the others pick up
76 Enterprise: Hockey’s
new blade servers.
<?php
setcookie
("been_here",
"yes",
time() + 604800);
?>
78 Internet Professional:
Make some cookies.
79 User to User:
Tips and tricks.
M A K I N G T E C H N O L O G Y W O R K F O R YO U
Flash Forecast
Projected sales in 2007: 315 million cards
According to research firm
IDC, flash memory card
sales will increase from
about 100 million units this
year to 315 million annually
in 2007. Secure Digital and
miniSD cards will own more
than half the market in
2007, followed by the
Memory Stick formats.
CompactFlash, the leader at
the turn of the decade, will
slide in sales, and SmartMedia will virtually
disappear.
Source: IDC, June 2003.
standard. It’s less damage-prone because
of its rigid plastic shell. It has the same
footprint and pin-out as its successor, the
Secure Digital (SD) card. MMCs fit in SD
devices but not the other way around (because SD cards are thicker). SD music
players typically won’t play audio from an
MMC, because SD players require encrypted music. Most companies are currently
phasing out MMC devices. MMC loyalists
are backing a format called RS MMC,
which is essentially miniSD (see below)
but half as thick; its fate is uncertain.
MMC dimensions: 1.2 by 0.9 by 0.05 inches. RS MMC
dimensions: 0.7 by 0.9 by 0.05 inches. Current
maximum capacity: 128MB. Projected capacity by 4Q
2004: MMC, 256MB; RS MMC, 512MB.
CompactFlash (CF). CF is the aging but far-
from-dead flash memory champion. More
devices currently use CF than any other
media type. Its future likely lies in professional digital cameras that need massive
capacity—4GB CF cards are becoming
available—and whose users don’t mind the
size of CF cards (roughly half of a PC
Card). Makers of consumer and advanced
amateur cameras—led by Kodak—are
moving to smaller SD cards, but pros will
stick with CF. Most CF cards are Type II,
which are as thick as PC Cards.
CompactFlash card dimensions: 1.4 by 1.7 by 0.2
inches. Current maximum capacity: 4GB. Projected
capacity by 4Q 2004: 8GB to 16GB.
PC Card memory. Type II (standardthickness) PC Cards had some popularity
among users who wanted more capacity
miniSD
48%
Memory Stick Duo
29%
Secure Digital
8%
Memory Stick Pro
6%
CompactFlash
4%
MultiMediaCard
(MMC)
2%
xD-Picture Card
2%
Smart Media
Others
0.01%
1%
than CF cards supply. But these cards were
never used in cameras or audio devices,
and now that CF and USB keys have adequate capacity, there’s not much call for PC
Card flash memory outside of specialized
markets. The highest available capacity is
2GB (for $1,000 to $2,000); CF cards are already there and headed for 4GB.
PC Card dimensions: 3.4 by 2.1 by 0.2 inches. Current
maximum capacity: 2GB. Projected capacity by 4Q
2004: 4GB.
Memory Stick. Sony created and supports
Sony offers a bank-switched Memory Stick
with Memory Select, two banks of 128MB
you access by flipping a switch. To reach
beyond 128MB of contiguous memory,
Sony offers Memory Stick Pro—now at
1GB—but it’s generally not backward-compatible, even though it physically fits in the
Memory Stick slots of older devices. (Every
kind of Memory Stick works in a Memory
Stick Pro slot, directly or with an adapter.)
If you live in an all-Sony world, the convenience is outstanding: You can off-load
video clips and stills from a Sony DV camcorder and show them on a Sony TV or
carry them on a Sony Clié handheld.
Memory Stick (original, Select, and Pro) dimensions:
2.0 by 0.8 by 0.1 inches. Memory Stick Duo dimensions: 1.2 by 0.8 by 0.06 inches. Maximum capacity:
original, Duo, 128MB; Select, 256MB; Pro, 1GB.
Projected capacity by 4Q 2004: Duo, 512MB; Pro, 2GB.
Secure Digital (SD). Secure Digital has the
broadest support and brightest future.
The cards are very small, however, so
they’re easy to lose. For audio buffs, the
biggest drawback is that SD players, like
Memory Stick players, require you to
check out music from your PC, and the
conversion process can be slow.
SD is second only to CF in capacity,
with projections of 16GB by the end of
2005. A number of notebooks have added
dedicated SD slots as well. An even smaller miniSD card is also available, primarily for use in cell phones, with cameras
and music players coming later. Stick it in
an adapter and it fits in any SD slot.
the Memory Stick format across its vast
product line, and several other vendors
offer Memory Stick products as well.
Memory Stick was introduced in 1999 and
quickly grew to constitute about a quarter
of the flash memory market. The standard
has resulted in a confusing array of devices
all called Memory Stick.
First, there is Memory
Stick, which is limited to
128MB. It comes in regular
and OpenMG (Magic Gate)
versions; only the latter can
handle audio files. A tinier
version, Memory Stick Duo, is
currently used in cell phones,
and there are plans to include
compatibility with digital
cameras and music players.
The Memory Stick Duo is
TOP ROW: PC Card hard drive (left), USB memory key.
only a bit smaller than an SD
BOTTOM ROW (left to right): IBM Microdrive, Compactcard.
Flash card, Memory Stick, Secure Digital card, miniSD
To address the limited card, Memory Stick Duo, SmartMedia card.
capacity of Memory Stick,
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
71
SOLUTIONS
Secure Digital dimensions: 1.2 by 0.9 by 0.07 inches.
miniSD: 0.8 by 0.8 by 0.05 inches. Maximum capacity:
512MB; miniSD, 256MB. Projected capacity by 4Q
2004: 2GB; miniSD, 512MB.
xD-Picture Card. Camera makers Fuji and
Olympus have gone from the bulkiest
memory card standard, SmartMedia, to
the smallest, xD. xD-Picture Cards do not
have controllers, which adds to the cost
of a PC Card adapter, but they offer faster
read and write times. xD is unlikely to
surpass SD sales or to have the broad
cross-device support of SD or Memory
Stick, but Olympus is a major player in
digital photography. If your interests lie
only with digital photography, there’s no
downside to xD other than capacities
currently lower than CF and SD.
xD-Picture Card dimensions: 1.0 by 0.8 by 0.06
inches. Maximum capacity: 512MB. Projected capacity by 4Q 2004: 1GB.
ALTERNATIVE MEMORY
Sometimes the storage device you want
isn’t a flash memory card. Here are a few
other options.
USB memory keys. The likeliest replacement for a floppy disk drive is not a
writable CD drive but rather a USB memory key. Such devices range from 8MB to
512MB and cost as little as 25 cents a
megabyte during a sale; 40 to 50 cents a
megabyte is more typical. This is the preferred way to take work home from the office or to move a PowerPoint presentation.
Some USB keys are bootable (great for IT
staff), if the PC allows it. USB keys should
reach 2GB to 4GB by the end of 2004.
Mini hard drives. The IBM Microdrive, a
1GB hard drive, is the same size as a CF
card, and it has revolutionized the professional photography market. It can be
used in most cameras with CF slots and
costs about $300. The drive is faster than
flash memory, but it’s more delicate and
draws more power. A 4GB version is
expected from Hitachi, which bought the
technology from IBM. With the included
Microdrive–to–PC Card adapter, you have
1GB of fast, removable notebook storage.
For about the same price, you can buy a
removable PC Card hard drive (not flashbased) from Toshiba or Hitachi that holds
5GB or 2GB, respectively. Such devices
make sense for road warriors who need
to back up lots of data.
Digital camera off-load units. If you fill up
your digital camera on the road, the easiest solution is to off-load the media card
to your laptop. Barring that option, a
handful of somewhat expensive devices
72
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
BUYING AND USING FLASH CARDS
• The easiest way to transfer data from a portable device to a PC is to stick a flash
memory card into your computer. A USB reader that accepts media of every major
format costs less than $50. Also, many new notebooks come with built-in memory card
slots. All Sony models accept Memory Stick media, and many Toshiba laptops take SD
cards. But just because a device has a Memory Stick or SD reader doesn’t mean it can
write copy-protected digital music files to the card. Check the specs on each unit first.
• SD cards are small and easily misplaced. Invest in a small card wallet; some are as
simple as sheets of stiff antistatic plastic with slots.
• If you’re shopping for a TV or DVD player, look for ones with a flash memory slot—PC
Card (the most versatile), SD, or Memory Stick.
• Some digital cameras (notably Kodak models) have 8MB to 32MB of embedded memory, so if you forget your memory card, you can still take a dozen pictures or so.
• You’ll get the best value buying memory cards about one or two levels down from the
current maximum capacity of your chosen media type—say, 128MB USB keys or 256MB
to 512MB CF cards.
• Most but not all USB keys are recognized by current PCs, Macs, and notebooks as
small hard drives. A few USB keys require you to install a driver beforehand, which limits
their use as data-transfer devices.
• USB keys are getting fatter (wider), and it’s a squeeze to fit one next to another USB
device. You can get around that with a short USB extension cord ($5 to $10). By 2004,
PCs will have USB ports with wider spacing.
• If you opt for SD for new devices but you have an old CF camera, you can buy CF adapters
that fit SD cards inside. One example is the Minolta SD-CF1 ($70 street); it’s small enough to
close the door on the card chamber. In some cases, if you store secure audio on an SD card,
you can’t also store photos. CF and Memory Stick do not have this limitation.
• New, high-capacity memory cards tend to have faster read and write times than
older cards. When you’re using USB-based card readers, the fastest cards will benefit
some from USB 2.0 connections; otherwise, use a PC Card or internal slot for the
fastest transfers possible.
• The more costly CF cards, marked as high-speed (2X or 4X, relative to a standard 150KBps transfer rate), are beneficial for high-end cameras that capture big images (typically 4 megapixels and up). For consumer cameras, you don’t need the extra speed.
• Think twice about buying a music player with embedded memory (and no memory
slot) unless it’s dirt-cheap. If 128MB seems small today, it will be woefully little in 18
months. Some of the midlevel to high-end devices are heading toward cheap hard drives
of 1GB to 2GB instead of flash memory, and a 10GB jukebox will soon cost less than $200.
• Computer and office supply stores typically promote flash memory cards in weekly specials to drive traffic. Memory that normally sells for 50 cents a megabyte will be 25 cents
after rebate, and sometimes a whole card may be just $10. Keep an eye out for sales.—BH
let you off-load flash memory cards to a
specialty portable hard drive. Some double as media players, such as the Archos
AV320 ($570 street, www.archos.com) or
the SmartDisk FlashTrax ($500 list,
www.smartdisk.com).
If you need more memory while traveling, most copy shops, instant photo
printers, and small computer stores
should be able to copy your memory
cards to a writable CD. Even if they don’t
advertise the service, they should have
the ability to do this. A fair price is about
$10. Ask to browse the CD to make sure
all your pictures are there before wiping
your memory card clean.
Based on our experience with memory
cards as well as what makers have revealed privately about the future, we believe there are clear choices. Memory
Stick and Secure Digital (along with their
smaller siblings) will have the longest,
fullest lives. CompactFlash is solid now,
but future non-Sony consumer devices
will likely go to SD.
Bill Howard is a contributing editor of
PC Magazine.
SOLUTIONS
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /s e c u r i ty wa tc h
T H E LO O KO U T
IM Security:
Don’t Get Fooled
Instant-messaging clients leave your PC open to attacks. Here’s
how to close the holes. By Brett Glass
U
sing an instant messenger (IM) comprehensive update of IE to fix the bug.
program seems like a harmless
Other IM systems haven’t proved
way to have a conversation. Un- immune, either. In 2002, Internet securifortunately, IM can be exploited to damage, ty site CERT warned of buffer overcommandeer, or infect your machine.
flow exploits in ICQ (www.cert.org/
Attacks on IM programs (such as MSN advisories/CA-2002-02.html) and Yahoo!
Messenger, AIM, ICQ, and so on) fall into Messenger (www.cert.org/advisories/
the same categories as other network at- CA-2002-16.html).
The best you can do to avoid exploits
tacks. Some attacks take advantage of
bugs or weaknesses in the software; oth- is to watch for advisories and keep your
ers exploit human foibles. Here’s how to software (including browsers and e-mail
defend yourself against IM security programs) up to date. You should also
breaches.
be very skeptical of messages that ask
Most IM systems were not designed you to visit a URL, accept a file, or run a
with security in mind. For example, a program.
recently discovered buffer overflow bug
All of the popular IM systems have
in AIM left users’ computers vulnerable built-in mechanisms to let users
to a remote takeover attack. AOL was exchange and share files, and these fealucky: It was able to close the hole by tures can be dangerous. If configured
blocking exploit attempts as they passed incorrectly, a file-sharing mechanism can
through its servers. (For more details on share far more than you intend. What’s
this bug, see the bulletin at http://www more, once a worm or virus has control of
.w00w00.org/advisories/aim.html.)
your machine, it can use file-sharing and
Microsoft, howtransmission feaever, was unable to
tures to send your
block a worm that
personal informaspread widely in
tion to a malicious
2002 via its instantthird party or to
messaging programs
propagate itself.
AIM, .NET Messenger,
(Windows Messenger,
MSN Messenger, and .NET
and others let you disable
Messenger) as well as Infile transfers from the Prefternet Explorer (The bug
erences or Options menus;
was actually in IE, but the
it’s a good idea to do this. If
worm relied on the IM
you receive an AIM notice
AIM WARNS YOU when a
programs to propagate.)
that someone wants to
file transfer is requested.
Victims received instant
send you an image or file,
messages, seemingly sent
use a mechanism other
by people they know, telling them to visit than IM (such as phone or e-mail) to veria particular Web page. When they did, the fy that the request is legitimate.
IMers often fall victim to social engiWeb page used a bug in IE to take over
their machines, scanning the victims’ ad- neering attacks, in which a message condress books for IM contacts and sending vinces a user to run a malicious program,
all of the contacts the same message. For- reveal a password, or otherwise expose
tunately, the worm did not carry a mali- his system. CERT has some good advice
cious payload, but it could have. Infected for avoiding such tricks at www.cert
users had to download and install a large, .org/incident_notes/IN-2002-03.html.
74
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
SOBIG IS BACK
Yet another variant of the persistent and
malleable Sobig worm is on the loose. This
version, dubbed Sobig.E, hides inside
zipped file attachments. Otherwise, the
worm is virtually identical to the other
Sobig viruses that have been marauding
across the Internet for several months.
Despite its familiar infection method
and repeated warnings from antivirus
companies, Sobig.E is having a field day
so far. The worm was discovered on
June 25, and e-mail security provider
MessageLabs stopped more than 27,000
copies of Sobig.E in the first 24 hours.
The worm arrives in an e-mail message with one of several subject lines,
including Re: application, and Re: movie.
The body text reads, Please see the
attached zip file for details. The attachment is named your_details.zip. The
zipped file contains an infected PIF file.
Sobig.E also spoofs the From address
on the messages it sends out from infected machines, disguising which PCs have
been hit and making cleanup more difficult. The worm is also capable of spreading itself through open network shares.
Sobig first appeared in January, and four
variants have since popped up, each with a
slight tweak to the code.—Dennis Fisher
In addition, IM users don’t realize that
messages are sent as plain text. This
means that snoopers can read every
exchange. People often fail to use caution when IM ing with strangers. Did
your teenager just let your vacation
plans slip to a local hoodlum? Did an
employee reveal key details of your next
product to a competitor posing as an
admiring customer?
This most human of security holes can
only be solved via monitoring. Vendors
such as Akonix Systems and IM logic
offer software that lets businesses watch
their employees’ IM traffic, and CypherGuard makes software that encrypts IM
messages. Snoopware programs such as
SpectorSoft’s Spector Pro let parents
scan their childrens’ IM traffic.
In general, the same rules that apply to
all computer security apply to IM : Be
skeptical, be cautious, and perform regular upgrades and maintenance.
Brett Glass is a freelance consultant, author,
and programmer.
SOLUTIONS
CASE STUDY
National Hockey League
By distributing the
computing load
across all resources,
blade architecture
keeps organizations like the NHL
in the game.
Hockey’s New Blades
Blade computing scores big at the NHL’s annual draft event.
By Alan Cohen
PHOTOGRAPH BY GARY HERSHORN/GETTY IMAGES
Y
76
ou wouldn’t think a sport that’s
played with wooden sticks would
make a good high-tech showcase.
But in June’s NHL Entry Draft—an annual
event where the 30 teams of the National
Hockey League pick their next squads of
players—the NHL used blade computing,
an innovative new technology that promises to boost the efficiency and availability of corporate networks while decreasing
administrative chores.
Now in its 40th year, the Entry Draft is
familiar to any hockey fan with cable television: 30 tables set in a circle around a
large room, with general managers, scouts,
and owners sitting at the tables, filling out
their future rosters through nine rounds of
draft picks spread over two days.
For years, the process was decidedly
low-tech: Nervous kids carried slips of
paper to a podium to register the teams’
picks. It got a little more advanced with
the advent of the PC. But each PC had to
be configured individually, and if one
went down during the draft, all business
would stop until the IT squad could configure a new unit. This was a less-thanoptimal scenario for an event that is
broadcast live on television.
The NHL’s blade system offers an entirely new architecture: A single chassis—
a Sun Fire B1600 Blade Platform—holds
eight Sun Fire B100s Blade Servers, which
run all the applications the teams need and
display them back to the Sun Ray 150 thinclient terminals on the 30 team tables. Four
of the eight blades run the Sun Ray terminals; two blades run Lotus Domino Server
to support the Lotus Notes–based applications used for the draft; two other blades
serve as hot-swappable backups.
That is a cautious setup—and probably
overkill. Even if a blade should fail and no
backup is available, the blade architecture—like the structural support of a
building—is designed to distribute the
load across the remaining resources. In
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
other words, it picks up the slack and
keeps business running smoothly. Manufacturers like Sun Microsystems have
pitched this as a key benefit of blade
computing: Pooled resources allow for
greater efficiency. Instead of having one
piece of equipment overburdened and
another largely idle, the workload is
spread over all available machines. It’s an
effective system, and that’s particularly
important for an event like the NHL draft.
“Outside of the Stanley Cup, these are
probably the most important two days of
the year for our member clubs,” says Ken
Chin, the NHL’s vice president of events
and entertainment. “They’re deciding
their future, and they don’t need any distractions from technology.”
The thin-client desktops also minimize
glitches and delays. The draft requires
some complicated business-process
management—accessing information
on players, keeping track of which team
has picked which player, routing choices
to approval groups, and feeding real-time
data out to the league’s Web site. But
since all this takes place in one central
location—on the blade servers—replac-
ing or adding a new desktop is simply a
matter of plugging in a new Sun Ray 150.
“If a thin client goes out, you plug in a
new one and see your whole environment on the new client without having to
do anything on the server,” says Brian
Foley, an advanced development systems
engineer at Sun. “The administrative ease
and the scalability are the key to the system.” While the NHL’s blade servers use
Sun SPARC processors running Solaris 8,
Sun’s chassis allows for a mix of operating systems (Solaris and Linux) and
processors (SPARC and Intel x86).
This year’s draft in Nashville, Tennessee, finished 90 minutes earlier each
day than the year before—without any
technical glitches. Foley doesn’t give all
the credit to the blades, but he does boast
that the system “went absolutely smooth
as silk.” For the NHL, a penalty-free draft
is one goal that benefits all the teams.
“This is helping us run our business more
smoothly,” says Susan Rosenfeld, director
of corporate markets for the NHL.
Time will tell whether the first-round
picks live up to their potential. But the
blades, it seems, have already scored.
How Thin Clients Avoid Thin Ice
To keep the NHL draft running smoothly, the 30 NHL teams use zero-administration thin clients at their tables, with
all the processing happening behind the scenes on the blade platform. There, four blades run the Sun Ray thin
clients on each team table, two blades run Lotus Domino Server to power the NHL’s apps, and two blades are spares.
Should one blade fail, the others pick up the slack. The blade architecture keeps costs and delays down.
SUN FIRE BLADE
PLATFORM
Eight Sun Fire B100s Blade
Servers running Solaris 8
DRAFT
NHL staff
Sun Ray 150
thin clients
30 team tables
Network connection to
blade platform
Sun Ray
Server
software in
loadbalance/
fail-over
mode
Blade
servers
running
Lotus
Domino
Spare
blades
SOLUTIONS
domain for each user, so don’t waste
them. And cookies are not secure, so you
shouldn’t store any sensitive data within
them, such as credit card numbers.
The second part of the PHP script is in
Despite their bad press, cookies are a good way to personalize
the middle of the <BODY> tag, and it is a
simple if statement. The first line reads
a visitor’s experience at your site. We show you how to start
in the cookie, automatically making it a
using them. By Warren Ernst
PHP variable because of the $ in front of
been_here. The == means equal to in PHP.
ontrary to popular belief, cook- argument sets the name of the cookie The third argument is what the if stateies were not created to invade variable to "been_here" (as in “Has this ment should look for.
users’ privacy. These small text visitor been here already?”). The second
The lines of text that appear within
files are used to overcome the “stateless- argument sets the value of the cookie to the curly brackets before and after the
ness” of HTTP transactions, and they are store, which in this example is "yes". The else statement are the lines that will or
a powerful tool for Webmasters, because third argument sets the length of time (in will not appear in the Web pages based
they allow a site to remember things seconds) that the cookie will be stored on the if statement. If the page has been
about its visitors. Your site, for example, before it is automatically deleted. In this loaded before, the first Thanks line will
be displayed; otherwise the second one
might want to determine whether a visi<?php
will appear.
tor has been there before and display a
setcookie
("been_here",
"yes",
Instead of just these simple text lines,
different block of text or banner ad for
time() + 604800);
you could have entire blocks of HTML
repeat visitors. Cookies are fairly easy to
?>
code here, such as tables, forms, Javacreate and use. The “recipe” that follows
<html>
Script, or more PHP code. The options
will get you started.
<head>
HTML can’t read and write cookies, but
are practically limitless.
<title>Cookies Test</title>
nearly all the Web page scripting lanWeb sites typically store only one
</head>
guages do. Here, we’ll use PHP, which is
cookie with a single unique variable, such
<body>
an ideal choice, because it has several
as a user number, and then they cross<h1>This is my website. </h1>
built-in cookie management commands
reference that number with an on-site acthat are easy to use and understand. Note
count information database. For example,
<?php
if ($been_here == "yes")
that your Web server will need PHP inthe cookie could store "user_number" and
{
"123456" and then look up user 123456 in
stalled (most hosting services already
print "Thanks for returning to
the internal database to retrieve the
have PHP, and installing it on your own
the site again.<p>";
}
server is easy), and your Index.htm file
name, credit card number, and e-mail adelse
will need to be saved with a PHP extendress. Tying cookies to a database gives
{
print "Thanks for checking us
sion (as Index.php). But you don’t need to
you a lot more flexibility and security.
out for the first time.<p>";
know PHP to use the sample file, and you
Other sites do not have access to this
}
can copy and paste the important bits
database, so even if other programs or
?>
directly into your own files.
people read the cookie, there’s no per</body>
Take a look at the simple Index.php file
sonal information there to be read or
</html>
in the figure on the right. There are only
shared. (The vast majority
a few key sections that relate to cookies.
of cookies store nothing
THIS INDEX.PHP FILE lets you
create a cookie that will tell you
The first section is at the top of the file, case, the length is
more than serial numbers.
whether a visitor has already
where the cookie is created. The second 604,800 seconds,
You can check this out youraccessed your site.
section is within the <BODY> tags, where which is one
self, using Notepad to open
we check to see whether our cookie ex- week. The cookie
cookie files in your Tempoisted when the page first loaded. If so, the is written immediately after the page is rary Internet Files folder.) Additionally,
file displays a certain line of text; if not, downloaded and displayed.
you can store as many fields as you want
then a different line appears.
You can change any of these argu- in your own database, so you don’t need
To create the cookie, we use the PHP ments as needed. Most likely, you’ll to worry about the 20-cookie limit.
function setcookie, as shown in line 1. change the length of time to something
Despite common fears, cookies have no
Cookies must be sent before any other suitable to your site, and if you have other intrinsic power to violate privacy. Used
headers are sent, which means you must variables you’d like to set, you can simply carefully, they provide enormous conveput the call to the function before any change "been_here" and "yes" to what nience for both Webmasters and users.
<html> or <head> tags, or that function will
you need, such as "bought_something",
fail. The setcookie function can accept "has_account", or "under_18". PHP, how- Warren Ernst is a computer consultant,
several arguments. In our case, the first ever, lets you store only 20 cookies per author, and journalist in southern California.
Making Cookies
C
78
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
SOLUTIONS
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /u s e r to u s e r
PC MAGAZINE’S COMMUNITY OF
EXPERTS AND READERS
Forcing Windows to Crash
on all my users installing this fix. I want to
bring this to the attention of computer
users. As users develop program tasks
that require filename sorts, they need to
be aware of this unpublicized Microsoft
change that will directly impact their
desired end results.
FRED GOULD
You can force Windows 2000 and
XP to display the blue screen of
death. Hopefully, the only reason
to do this is that you’ll never see
it otherwise! In the Registry key
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\
CurrentControlSet\Services\
i8042prt\Parameters, find or
create a DWORD value named
CrashOnCtrlScroll. Double-click
on the value and set its data to 1. Restart
your computer. Now you can cause a crash
by holding the right-hand Ctrl key and
pressing the Scroll Lock key twice.
DIRK A. D. SMITH
Actually, a valid reason to crash your computer deliberately is to test your recovery
options. Windows 2000 and XP can be
configured so that in the rare event of a
crash, a memory dump will be saved for
debugging purposes and your system will
restart automatically. If your system needs
maximum uptime, it behooves you to verify
how well it recovers from a crash.
First, make sure the recovery configuration is correct. Right-click on My Computer
and choose Properties, then click on the
Advanced tab. If you are running Windows
XP, click on the Settings button in the Startup
and Recovery pane. If you’re running Win
2000, click on the button titled Startup and
Recovery. In the System Failure pane you’ll
generally want all three of the following
options checked: Write an event to the
system log, Send an administrative alert,
and Automatically restart.
If you choose the 64KB Small Memory
Dump, each occurrence is written separately
to the folder specified. The Kernel Memory
Dump is larger, and a Complete Memory
Dump requires that you have a paging file
large enough to hold all physical RAM plus
1MB; this is the largest option. By default, the
two larger options are written to the file
Memory.dmp in the Windows folder, with
each occurrence overwriting the previous.
Once you get the settings as you want them,
close any open programs and use the special
keystroke to crash the system. You can
verify that the desired memory dump is
FIGURE 1: You can modify the Registry to
force Windows to crash.
FIGURE 2: You may never see this Windows XP memory-dump screen unless
you invoke it deliberately.
written and check how long it takes to
restart after a crash.—Neil J. Rubenking
Windows XP Changes
Filename Sorting
Microsoft changed the filename sort
algorithm in Windows XP, making it different from all previous versions. The only
reference I’ve found is the Microsoft
Knowledge Base Article Q318872 that
addresses an incorrect sort order in Windows XP. This article in turn refers to a
new Windows API function called
StrCmpLogicalW, which implements the
new sort algorithm.
I have almost 5,000 filenames that were
constructed so that Windows Explorer
would sort the filenames chronologically
(using the old character-by-character sort
algorithm). These files have been distributed across the United States. I now have
the task of renaming all these files so that
Windows XP will sort them chronologically
and still have them sort correctly in previous Windows versions.
There is a small Registry fix that will
restore the old sort order, but I can’t rely
There are actually two distinct points here.
First, Windows XP has a new sorting algorithm for filenames. Second, this algorithm
may break down when filenames contain ten
or more consecutive digits. The
problem with long strings of digits
has been fixed in the latest Windows
XP service pack, but the change to
the sort algorithm remains.
In previous versions of Windows,
filenames are sorted text-wise,
character by character. File1.txt, File10.txt,
and File100.txt are all placed before File2.txt,
because the digit 1 comes before the digit 2.
Most users have grown accustomed to zeropadding sequential numbers in filenames—
File010.txt correctly comes after File002.txt.
Under Windows XP, though, each block of
consecutive digits is treated as a number
and sorted as such. Even without zeropadding, File10.txt comes after File2.txt.
For most users, this will be a benefit, not a
problem. If you’re one of the few who have
developed solutions that rely on the old order,
you can make the Registry tweak mentioned
above. Launch REGEDIT from the Start menu’s
Run dialog and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_
MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\
Currentversion\Policies\Explorer. In the
right-hand pane, find or create a DWORD value
named NoStrCmpLogical. Double-click it and
set its data to 1 (no matter whether it’s hex or
decimal). Now Win XP will sort filenames the
old way.—NJR
Truth in Scanning
I recently purchased an HP ScanJet 3570c
scanner. The box indicates that this model
scans at 48 bits, but it actually seems
to be limited to 24-bit color. Are consumers being misled or have I just misunderstood?
JEFF SMITH
You can force Windows 2000 or XP to display
the blue screen of death.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
79
A higher bit-depth means that a scanner can retain
more color information.
Scanner technology can be very confusing.
When a manufacturer labels its product as
48-bit, it means that the analog-to-digital
converter, which translates analog color
information from the sensor into digital-pixel
values, can output 16 bits from each of the
three color channels (red, green, and blue).
A higher bit depth means that a scanner can
retain more color information in each pixel
with greater precision, leading to a higher
dynamic range and more-accurate colors.
Dynamic range is a measure of image
density, showing how well a scanner can
reproduce pure white and pure black. For
scanners, dynamic range is measured on a
0 to 4 scale, with 0 being pure white and 4
being very (but not pure) black. A scanner
with good dynamic range can map input
shades correctly to output shades, making
images look brighter, with more visible detail
in bright and shadow areas. Generally, the
number of bits determines the maximum
dynamic range of a scanner, but other factors—such as having a high-quality, low-noise
CCD and electronics—also play a big part.
A scanner with a 48-bit internal depth (16
bits per pixel), however, may have an external depth of only 24-bits (8 bits per pixel).
The image is scanned and processed at 48
bits, but your PC gets back a 24-bit image.
The quality of the scanned image is not as
good as the original, but since the 24-bit
image was derived from a source with more
color information, it will look markedly better
than one that was scanned and processed at
24 bits to begin with.
The reason for the discrepancy between
internal and external color depths is that no
PC hardware—and virtually no software—
can handle more than 24 bits. Some scanners
can capture and return the same bit depth,
as much as 36, 42, or 48 bits, but the host
application has to be able to handle an image
of that size. Adobe Photoshop, for example,
can handle up to 48 bits, though with limited
functionality (most filters won’t work).
HOW TO CONTACT US
E-MAIL K [email protected]
FAX K 212-503-5799
MAIL K User to User, PC Magazine, 28 East
28 Street, New York, NY 10016-7930
If we print your tip, you’ll receive a PC
Magazine T-shirt. We regret that we
cannot answer letters individually.
80
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
batch file lines longer than the command
Unfortunately, once you have an image
processor accepts. The following batch file
higher than 24-bits in Photoshop, you can’t
launches your three URLs in such a way that
do much with it. The standard Windows
graphics API is only 8-bits per channel; no
each takes about one vertical third of a
graphics card will display more than 8 bits
1,024-by-768 screen, with a bit left over at
per channel on your monitor and no printer
the bottom for the taskbar:
can output more than 24-bit color.
There is no easy way to tell
whether a scanner can deliver
greater than 24-bit data to the
software unless the vendor tells
you on the box, in its literature, or
on its Web site. Look for a rating
that describes both internal and
external color. Otherwise, if a
vendor indicates only 48-bit color,
assume the rating is just internal
and that the scanner delivers only
24-bit color externally.
For more information on scanner technology and products,
check out our feature story
FIGURE 3: You can launch multiple URLs and get
“Scantastic!” (www.pcmag.com/
them to tile vertically with a batch file.
article2/0,4149,367272,00.asp).
And take a look at “How Scanners
Work” at ExtremeTech (www
start iexplore.exe javascript:
resizeTo(1024,240);moveTo(0,0);
.extremetech.com/article2/
document.location.href=”http://yahoo
0,3973,395111,00.asp).—Richard Fisco
Launch Multiple URLs
Can you show me how to create a shortcut
to open more than one Web site simultaneously? I created the following batch file
to do this:
START http://yahoo.com
START http://www.pcmag.com
START http://weather.com
When I ran it, however, only the last site
appeared. Also, I’d like all three sites to line
up vertically. The first site should use the
top third of the screen, the second should
use the middle third, and the last site
should take the bottom third. Will the trick
suggested in the tip “Control IE’s Initial
Size” (www.pcmag.com/article2/
0,4149,562363,00.asp) help?
PANCHANATH BOONMA
In order to have all three sites appear, you
need to change a setting in IE. Select Internet
Options from the Tools menu, click the
Advanced tab, and uncheck the box titled
Reuse windows for launching shortcuts. As
for using the JavaScript trick from the previous tip, you definitely can do so as long as
the URLs you want to open don’t make the
.com”
start iexplore.exe javascript:
resizeTo(1024,240);moveTo(0,240);
document.location.href=”http://www
.pcmag.com”
start iexplore.exe javascript:
resizeTo(1024,240);moveTo(0,480);
document.location.href=”http://
weather.com”
These three batch file lines wrap dreadfully
when formatted for publication, so keep in
mind that each begins with start and ends
with a URL in quotes.
We discovered an odd problem with this
technique on an older Windows 98 system,
however. Every time the batch file sent the
three commands in rapid succession, IE’s
Content Advisor kicked in, even though it
was clearly turned off. To solve this problem,
we introduced a delay of a few seconds
between the commands using an old batch
file trick: The CHOICE command presents an
optional prompt and waits for the user to
press one of a specified set of keys. It can
optionally return a default value after a
specified time-out. To get a batch file delay
of 5 seconds, insert a line like CHOICE /c:x
/t:x,5 between each line that launches a
URL. With this addition, the Content Advisor
problem disappeared.—NJR
SOLUTIONS
Like many of the features in Outlook, the trick is
knowing where to look for the option you need.
Make Shift Turn Off Caps Lock
I find it a lot more convenient to have the
Shift key release the Caps Lock function, as
typewriters do. Windows 2000 offers this
option during installation, but most people
never notice it. With Windows XP, the
feature is available from the Control Panel,
but only when you install another keyboard
layout during installation. I have tracked
down a way to control this setting after the
fact by manipulating the Registry.
In the Registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\
Keyboard Layout, create a DWORD value
named Attributes, if it isn’t already
present. Double-click on it, then choose
Hexadecimal, and set its value to
00010000. Now, when you press and
release the Shift key while the Caps
Lock is active, Caps Lock will turn off.
BILL RUGGIRELLO
This tip applies to both Windows 2000 and
XP. But it won’t take effect until you restart
the computer. After you make this change,
the Caps Lock key always turns Caps Lock
on; you can no longer use it to turn Caps
Lock off. You must turn Caps Lock off by
tapping either Shift key. This tip reduces the
chances of looking up at your screen only to
find that you’ve typed a whole paragraph in
uppercase.—NJR
Setting the TaskPad View
I like to use Microsoft Outlook 2002 with
the Calendar folder open, showing the
daily calendar page and the TaskPad with
a list of tasks. Outlook insists on listing
all tasks, however, even those that aren’t
due for months. I’d rather have Outlook
show the tasks in the same way it shows
appointments: namely, to display only
those tasks that are due on the currently
selected day. This seems to be an odd
oversight. Is there a setting I’ve missed?
STEVEN GOLDBERG
Like many of the options in Outlook, the issue
is not that the option is missing, but that you
have to know where to look. In this case, you
can change what Outlook shows on the
TaskPad by choosing View |TaskPad View and
picking from the list of options. (You’ll only
see the View |TaskPad View selection when
the Calendar is open.)
You can show All Tasks, which is what
you describe seeing; Today’s Tasks, which
FIGURE 4: Here’s a formula to sort multiple rows individually.
shows you all the unfinished tasks with a
start date of the current day or before, no
matter what day you have selected in the
calendar; or any of several other choices,
including Active Tasks For Selected Days,
which is the setting you seem to be looking
for. This setting shows you all the tasks
with a start date of the currently selected
days or before (based on the selection
showing in the monthly calendar above the
TaskPad).—M. David Stone
Sort Thousands of Rows
Individually
My lotto spreadsheet has about 1,500
rows, each containing numbers from a
drawing. Each row has five columns with a
number in each cell, but the numbers for
each row are unsorted. How can I sort
from lowest to highest in each row?
BOB Z.
You can do that using Microsoft Excel’s
Sort feature, but the tedium might kill you
before you reach the last of those 1,500
rows. Here is what you have to do. Highlight
the first row and choose Sort from the Data
menu. Excel asks whether you want to
expand the selection. You don’t want to do
that, as it would sort the entire block of
data based on the selected row. Instead,
select Continue with the current selection
and click on the Sort button. Now, in the
Sort dialog, you must click on the Options
button, select Sort left to right, click on OK,
and click on OK again. That’s one row down,
1,499 to go.
To save your sanity, you can create a new
set of columns that contain your numbers in
sorted order. Suppose your numbers start in
cell A1 and occupy rows A through E. In cell
G1, enter the formula =SMALL($A1:$E1,1).
Copy that formula across into cells H1
through K1. Edit each to change the second
argument to 2, 3, 4, and 5.
For example, cell K1 would contain
=SMALL($A1:$E1,5). The formulas return
the smallest number, the second smallest,
and so on up to the fifth smallest. In other
words, they display the five numbers from
the first row in sorted order. Select G1
through K1 and press Ctrl-C. Select the rest
of columns G through K, all the way to the
bottom, and press Ctrl-V. Those columns
now contain your lotto numbers with each
row sorted from lowest to highest.—NJR
Switching Identities in
Outlook Express
My husband and I share a computer, and
we both use Microsoft Outlook Express
under Windows XP as our e-mail client. We
use the program’s Identity feature to keep
our mail separate. But sometimes when
we select Switch Identity, OE disappears
and never comes back.
LINDA FELLEN
Microsoft acknowledges this bug in Knowledge Base article 311399, but knowing
about it and fixing it are not the same. Until
Microsoft corrects the problem, you must
go into the Task Manager (press Ctrl-AltDel), choose the Processes tab, and end the
Msimn.exe process. Then relaunch Outlook
Express and you should be able to switch
between identities freely. Keep these instructions handy, because each time you
reboot, you’ll have to go through them all
over again.—Ben Z. Gottesman
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
81
R E V I E W E D
I N
T H I S
S T O R Y
94 Panasonic Lumix DMC-F1S lllmm 95 Pentax Optio 550
lllll 96 Polaroid Photomax PDC 3350 lmmmm
102 Samsung Digimax V4 lllmm 102 Sony Cyber-shot
DSC-P8 llllm 102 Toshiba PDR-T30 lllmm 87
Editors’ Choice 88 Digital SLRs 92 Phone In Your
Photos 94 Reader Survey 96 Summary of
Features 97 Price/Performance Index
98 Performance Tests 100
Prosumer Cameras
[
[
86 Canon PowerShot S400 Digital
Elph llllm 86 Casio Exilim EX-Z3
llllm 87 Fujifilm FinePix F410 lllmm 87 HP
Photosmart 935 llllm 90 Kodak EasyShare
DX6340 llllm 90 Konica Digital Revio KD-500Z
lllmm 90 Minolta DiMage F300 lllmm 92 Nikon
Coolpix 3100 lllmm 93 Olympus Stylus 400 Digital llmmm
COVER STORY
Snap
•••
•••
•••
Happy
BY SALLY WIENER GROTTA AND DANIEL GROTTA
Sunday at New York City’s Bronx Zoo: A lowland gorilla
nurses her newborn as the youngsters horse around and
Papa naps contentedly in the branches of a nearby tree.
You reach for your camera, adjust the aperture and focus,
account for ambient lighting—and miss the moment.
Now picture this: You slip a compact digital camera out
of your shirt pocket, snap a shot, and check the LCD to
make sure the littlest one didn’t blink. This one makes the
great-ape family album for sure.
Previous generations of compact cameras were all about
compromises—smaller image sensors, lower resolutions,
and limited zoom capabilities. Sure, they were fun toys, but
that was all. Today’s compact digital cameras have done
away with most compromises and really pack some punch.
What’s so great about the latest model? For starters,
image quality is no longer an issue. Most digital cameras
can produce stunning, high-quality pictures that are virtually indistinguishable from film-based photos. Although we may see a new generation of 6-megapixel
models next year, consumers have embraced 3-, 4-, and 5megapixel digital cameras for amateur electronic photography. Such models are
good enough for gorgeous
8-by-10, 8.5-by-11, or 11-by-14
color prints.
Digital cameras are also
easier to use than ever. Most
models work fine in “just
push the button, dummy”
mode, and USB connections,
camera docks, better software, and inexpensive card
readers make the potentially
tough job of transferring im-
ages to your computer a breeze. What’s more, they shoot
faster, the batteries last longer, and inexpensive, high-capacity memory cards mean you’ll never run out of storage.
Best of all, there’s an enormous selection of brands and
models, from simple point-and-shooters to everythingbut-the-kitchen-sink cameras. And today’s prices were unthinkable just a couple years ago, perhaps explaining the
vast jump in sales: For the first time ever, digital camera
sales are expected to outpace sales of film-based cameras
this year, according to the Photo Marketing Association.
What do you sacrifice for all this impressive miniaturization? Not much, actually. Most compromises are economic
and ergonomic, not technical. Lenses, sensors, and circuitry
are so good now that compact models’ image quality and
speed can be every bit as good as those of full-size consumer
digital cameras. And there’s no technical reason why camera
manufacturers can’t load compacts up with all the exotic features found on their larger consumer counterparts.
Two limitations stand out: You’ll get fewer shots, because
the batteries are physically smaller and therefore more limited. And the time needed between shots (the recycle time)
is longer, because manufacturers reduce buffer memory
in an effort to keep production costs down. Small may
also mean inconvenient in
the hands of kids and older
folks, for whom pressing tiny
buttons or peering at a small
screen may be difficult. And
Style, simplicity, and
smashing picture quality
put the fun into digital
photography as never
before. Think compact and
you can’t go wrong.
••• PHOTOGRAPHY BY
••• MICHAEL SCOTT KENNEY
••• AND THOM O’CONNOR
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
85
the light weight of these models makes them tougher to hold steady.
So how do you decide which of the newest compact digital cameras to buy? In a word,
style. Unlike early digital cameras, which looked like cheap, plastic computer peripherals with lenses stuck on the front—or worse, ugly, utilitarian film-camera imitations,
today’s models could fill a page from the Sharper Image catalog. They’re slim, sleek, and
shiny, and they’re small enough to fit into a shirt pocket. Consumers have gone for these
supercool, hot-selling compacts like no other class of digital camera.
The 15 cameras we tested have much in common. Each of them has some sort of
lens protector that opens automatically when you turn the camera on, and all have optical zoom lenses, LCD viewfinders, and removable memory cards. You can also record
brief videos, although the Nikon and Olympus models can’t record sound. In general,
these attractive models are of fairly high quality, rating 3 or 4 stars.
Beyond our extensive testing and expert
analysis, it’s always helpful to go back to our
readers and find out how the cameras
ON THE
they’ve been using over the past year have
fared. And that’s exactly what we did in our
second annual reader survey on digital camFor reviews and camera news, go
to www.pcmag.com/cameras.
eras. So go out and take your best shot. The
gorillas are waiting.
MORE
WEB
Canon PowerShot S400
Digital Elph
4.0 megapixels, $599 list. 800-652-2666,
www.usa.canon.com. OVERALL RATING: l l l l m
More than any other compact digital camera, the gorgeous Canon PowerShot S400
Digital Elph has the look and feel of a fine
precision instrument. Shaped like a pack
of cards, this surprisingly heavy camera
(7.9 oz.) offers point-and-shoot simplicity,
crisp images, and an intelligent though
limited assortment of modes. The S400
will delight die-hard gadgeteers, though
serious photographers won’t find manual
control over f-stop and shutter speed.
THE SNAZZY Canon PowerShot
S400 Digital Elph, a popular model.
•••
•••
•••
86
Everything is well marked with either
words or icons, making controls easy to
find. The movie and panorama modes are
even activated by analog controls, although youngsters and those with arthritic
hands may find the buttons hard to press.
The 1.5-inch LCD viewfinder is sharp,
bright, and responsive, but the optical
viewfinder has no focusable diopter (a dial
to correct the viewfinder for astigmatism,
near- or farsightedness, and so on). The
S400’s memory and battery compartments
are convenient and accessible; the zoom
lever is well placed in front of the shutter
button, and a simple slider toggles between shoot and playback modes.
Shooting with the S400 is an acquired
skill. Although you can easily shoot onehanded, the controls are positioned so that
you’ll need both hands to operate the select buttons and mode dial. What’s more,
settings must be chosen from two different menus, invoked by pressing two separate buttons, and deciphering the icons
on the LCD can be confusing. The S400
has faster-than-average boot and recycle
times, so it’s responsive; plus, an autofocus light assists focusing in low light.
Picture quality is very good. Our simulated daylight test image exhibited very
good colors, excellent detail, and the
sharpest edges we saw, but it was slightly
Our contributors: Les Freed and Sally Wiener Grotta are contributing editors of PC
Magazine. Daniel Grotta is president of DigitalBenchmarks. Carol Levin is an executive
editor. Associate editor Jeremy A. Kaplan, staff editor Laarni Almendrala Ragaza, and PC
Magazine Labs project leader Glenn Menin were in charge of this story.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
underexposed, with a minimal shift toward cyan. Our test flash picture was evenly illuminated and very sharp, but it had a
significant yellow cast and was about 1
f-stop overexposed. (1 f-stop in either
direction is noticeable; 2 is significant; 3 is
too dark or light.) The S400 is pricey for a
4-megapixel compact, but its design, construction, performance, and image quality
make it an excellent choice for those who
love well-built precision cameras but don’t
want to go through the hassle of manual
adjustment.—SWG and DG
Casio Exilim EX-Z3
3.2 megapixels, $399.99 list. 800-836-8580,
www.exilim.casio.com. l l l l m
The smallest, lightest, and thinnest compact in our lineup, the Casio Exilim EXZ3 ($399.99 list) is the camera you’ll take
with you everywhere. The 3.2-megapixel
EX-Z3 is equipped with a few impressive
big-camera features, but because of its
diminutive size (2.2 by 3.4 by 0.9 inches),
Casio had to make some compromises. So
although the EX-Z3 is simple to operate, its
image quality is disappointing.
Turned off, the EX-Z3 is the size and
shape of a deck of playing cards, but when
switched on, its 3X Pentax zoom lens is
longer than the camera is wide. Casio has
opted for a minimalist approach, so the
only controls are a pair of menu and display buttons, a record/playback switch,
and a jog dial. The most noteworthy feature is a bright 2-inch LCD, the largest
available in a compact camera. The screen
displays large, sharp type—entire words
and phrases rather than abbreviations and
icons—which makes reading menus much
easier than on other cameras. But the LCD
is a power hog, so you won’t get as many
shots per battery charge.
THE EXILIM’S zoom lens is
longer than the camera is wide.
D I G I TA L C A M E R A S
Photo enthusiast: Pentax Optio 550
Point-and-shoot: Kodak EasyShare DX6340
When we set out to cover the compact digital camera landscape, we knew
there would be some stylish cameras out there. But we were hardly prepared
for such a good-looking and highly capable bunch. The gleaming metallic
bodies, great image quality, and pocket-size convenience of most of the
cameras we looked at for this roundup should push thoughts of forthcoming PDA or LCD monitor purchases far from your mind as well.
And while we wouldn’t mind owning almost any of the 15 compact cameras we put through their paces for our annual digital camera roundup, our
Editors’ Choice for the photo-enthusiast crowd goes, hands down, to the
Pentax Optio 550. Though pricey at $600 (street), it packs a ton of features into a
tiny, attractive package. The competition in the less expensive point-and-shoot
class was closer, but our nod goes to the Kodak EasyShare DX6340. Kodak’s family
of EasyShare cameras has won our consistent applause for ease of use and the
amazing EasyShare software; this new entry doesn’t disappoint. And the new
Kodak EasyShare printer dock 6000 is yet another of Kodak’s clever inventions.
But you can save only 4 from the series.
Unlike most digital cameras, the F410
doesn’t offer separate quality (compression) settings; it offers only various resolutions, with hardware interpolation up to 6
megapixels. But our tests indicated that
there’s virtually no image quality difference
between the 3-megapixel and 6-megapixel
modes. Our simulated daylight shots were
slightly underexposed, with attractive colors but only average sharpness. Our flash
shots exhibited excellent dynamic range,
good illumination, and accurate color, but
again with only average sharpness.
Sheer simplicity and quick handling
make the F410 a worthy competitor, but
good looks alone aren’t enough to make
this a great camera.—SWG and DG
HP Photosmart 935
5.3 megapixels, $450 street. 888-999-4747,
www.hp.com. l l l l m
The EX-Z3 does not offer manual exposure control, though it has image-enhancing tools, including a real-time histogram,
manual white balance, manual focus, and
exceptionally easy-to-use program modes.
Boot and recycle times are average, but the
EX-Z3 excels in playback. You can program
slide shows, create folders with your
favorite shots, and trim, resize, copy, or rotate images. With all these great capabilities, we question the absence of a videoout port, which a few cameras have.
Image quality with the default settings
is only fair. Our daylight test image was
muddy and significantly underexposed,
though it had good detail. Our flash test
image was overexposed by 1.5 f-stops, but
it had very good color and illumination.
If you’re willing to forgo some image
quality for style, the EX-Z3 is an excellent
value, especially since its two-button
dock is included rather than sold as a
costly option.—SWG and DG
Fujifilm FinePix F410
3.1 megapixels, $499.95 list. 800-800-3854,
www.fujifilm.com. l l l m m
Though light on features, the small,
square Fujifilm FinePix F410 is easy, fast,
and fun to operate, making it a good
choice for the family. The F410’s gently
sculpted shape is comfortable and convenient to hold—even one-handed—and its
few buttons and controls are strategically
placed. A slider selects still shots, video
recording, or playback modes. Unfortunately, the F410 is one of only two cameras
we tested that don’t have separate selftimer buttons. Instead, the timer is activated only from a menu. Images are saved
to the new postage stamp–size xD-Picture
Cards. Inexplicably, Fujifilm has put a
cheap plastic tripod screw socket into its
otherwise excellent all-metal body.
The F410 is a basic point-and-shoot
camera, even in the so-called manual
THE HP PHOTOSMART 935
has marvelous image clarity.
mode. Manual mode simply means that
you can select the ISO equivalency and
white balance from a list of presets. The
only other available settings are normal or
enhanced color and black-and-white. Boot
and recycling times are faster than average, and with few modes or parameters to
set, overall throughput is relatively fast.
Also, the two burst modes (called top 4
and bottom 4) let you shoot anything from
4 to 25 frames at the rate of 3 per second.
HP takes over CCD-size bragging rights
with the 5.3-megapixel HP Photosmart 935.
Feature-laden as it is, the 935 has its sights
set on the point-and-shoot consumer who
wants something extra. The camera’s ease
of use is exemplified in the legible and detailed help screens on the big LCD. The onscreen menu is functionally designed, and
scroll buttons enhance the usability. The
935’s boxy design won’t win any style
awards, but it fits well in your hand, and a
molded contour on the camera face makes
single-handed use (for “righties”) easy.
The 935 is certainly no slouch in terms
of features. For starters, it has a 3X Pentax
optical zoom and includes common exposure settings for action, landscape, and
portrait, as well as aperture priority, metering, white balance (for sun, shade, tungsten, fluorescent, and manual), and various
ISO speeds for more sophisticated shooters. The on-screen help can assist the
uninitiated in taking pictures without resorting to the manual. Finally, HP’s Instant
Share button automates printing and
e-mailing, and the company thoughtfully
supplies an additional USB printer cable.
The 935 has multiple resolution and
JPEG compression choices and can shoot
and review up to 120 seconds of MPEG
video with its internal microphone and
speaker. HP’s software is simple and intuitive, allowing for easy transferring to a
PC, organizing, printing, and e-mailing, as
well as some rudimentary editing.
The 935 garnered an impressive 1,400
lines per inch (average) on our resolution
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
87
Digital SLRs: Lower Prices at the High End
Professional features at consumer prices: Digital SLR cameras now start at just $1,400. Wow!
W
hen it comes to image quality, a single-lens reflex
camera (SLR) is clearly a breed apart. Look through
the viewfinder of an SLR and you’ll see the actual
image in the lens. That makes photo composition accurate and
easy. By comparison, the cameras we tested for our main story
and for “Three Big Shots” (page 100) have small viewfinders
mounted near the lenses and show an imperfect view at best.
An SLR also offers interchangeable lenses, from ultrawide and
fish-eye lenses to monster telephotos that often weigh (and
cost) much more than the camera body itself.
Most important, a digital SLR uses an image sensor that is
much larger than that found in a point-and-shoot model. The
larger sensor delivers improved image quality, less noise, and
a higher dynamic range—the ability to resolve bright and
dark areas simultaneously. SLRs may be large, complex, and
pricey, but they also offer flexibility, accuracy, and image
quality that point-and-shoot models just can’t equal, making
SLRs popular with serious amateurs and pros alike.
First-generation digital SLRs were designed for pros, with
price tags to match. Then in 2000 came the 3.3-megapixel
Canon EOS D30, the first consumer digital SLR. It was a bargain
at $3,500; similar models carried price tags of $6,000 and up.
Today you can buy a digital SLR for as little as $1,400.
We tested two of the latest and most innovative consumer
SLRs: the Canon EOS 10D and the Sigma SD9. We also previewed the new Olympus E-1, announced shortly before we
went to press. The EOS 10D uses a Canon-developed CMOS
chip, the SD9 uses the innovative Foveon X3 CMOS sensor,
and the E-1 uses a Kodak-developed CCD.
C O N S U M E R
CANON EOS 10D
The Canon EOS 10D ($1,500 street) is the company’s thirdgeneration consumer digital SLR, and it shows, offering an
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P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
unbeatable combination of image quality, ergonomics, and
value. Canon has addressed the few complaints we had with
previous models (sluggish auto-focus, erratic flash exposure,
and the lack of a focus indicator in the viewfinder). The result
is a smooth, elegant camera that isn’t much more difficult to
use than a point-and-shoot model.
The EOS 10D’s magnesium alloy exterior has nonslip rubber
on the handgrip. The control layout is logical, and frequently
changed settings like ISO speed, auto-focus mode, and white
balance are controlled by dedicated buttons on the top. The
rear of the camera has a bright 1.8-inch LCD for image playback and menu display. A smaller LCD on the top of the camera shows exposure information, shooting mode, and frames
remaining. The included lithium ion battery pack provides
enough power for several hundred images and takes about 90
minutes to recharge with the included external charger.
As with other consumer digital SLRs, the EOS 10D uses an
image sensor that’s about two-thirds the size of a 35-mm
film frame, so the effective focal length of the lens is multiplied by a factor of 1.6. This means that a 50-mm lens, when
used with the EOS 10D, performs like an 80-mm lens on a 35mm film camera. Canon supplied its pricey 16- to 35-mm
f-2.8 lens ($1,400) with our test camera, but many EOS 10D
buyers opt for the 24- to 85-mm ($310) or the 28- to 135mm ($400) version as a starter lens.
You can select from a variety of exposure modes, from fully
automatic to completely manual. As on many Canon cameras,
the EOS 10D’s shutter-mode dial has six preset modes, including portrait, action, night shot, and scenery. These modes are
handy for newcomers to SLR cameras, but more experienced
photographers will appreciate the manual-control option.
The Canon EOS 10D is a pleasure to use, producing terrific
images with excellent clarity, color, and sharpness. We are
especially impressed by its lack of image noise, even at very
D I G I TA L C A M E R A S
Though it looks very much like the Olympus E-10 and E-20N
noninterchangeable-lens SLRs, the E-1 is a new design inside
and out. But the control layout is very similar to those cameras, so E-Series fans will feel right at home with the E-1. Olympus has announced five lenses for the E-1, from 11 to 300 mm
SIGMA SD9
(equivalent to 22 to 600 mm in 35-mm focal lengths).
The Sigma SD9 ($1,400 street) is the only camera to use the
The E-1 is the first camera built to conform to the Four
innovative new Foveon X3 chip, the first chip that is sensitive Thirds open standard created by Fuji, Kodak, and Olympus,
to all three primary colors. Conventional CMOS and CCD image which specifies a standard image sensor size (4/3 inches)
sensors are monochromatic, so they use a mask of colored
and lens mount, as well as other optical, electronic, and
dots (called a Bayer mask) overlaid on the sensor. Electronics mechanical standards. The basic premise behind Four
in the camera read information from the sensor at the instant Thirds is that existing 35-mm bodies and lenses are unnecof exposure and generate a three-color RGB value for each
essarily large for digital cameras. The Four Thirds partners
pixel using a process called
hope to establish a
interpolation. The X3 sensor PERFORMANCE TESTS: DIGITAL SLRs
standard for smaller,
produces an RGB value for
lighter, less expensive
High scores are best.
each pixel on the chip,
cameras and lenses.
Resolution (lines per inch)
Color
Incandescent
Fluorescent
Flash
eliminating the need for the Bold type denotes first place. Horizontal Vertical
In theory, any Four
Canon EOS 10D
1,800
1,800
Excellent
Excellent
Excellent
mask and the interpolation. Sigma SD9
Thirds
lens will work with
>2,000* >2,000*
Good
Very good
Excellent
While the SD9 isn’t as
any Four Thirds camera.
* The standard ISO 1223 chart reports resolutions only as high as 2,000 lines per inch.
aesthetically refined as the
Kodak provides the CCD
image sensor for the E-1; so far, the company’s archrival, Fuji,
Canon EOS 10D, the camera’s image quality speaks for itself.
The 3.5-megapixel Foveon chip produces at least as much
has been mum about its future plans. Canon and Nikon,
detail and resolution as a conventional 6-megapixel sensor.
which have huge investments in existing lens designs, are
You’ll have to endure a few quirks to get those excellent
unlikely to rush to build Four Thirds cameras anytime soon.
images, though. The SD9 uses Sigma’s own lens mount, so
At $2,199 list, the 5-megapixel E-1 is more expensive than
you’re locked into that lens system. The company doesn’t
a 6-megapixel consumer SLR like the Canon EOS 10D or Nikon
D100. Olympus is emphatic that the E-1 is a professionalprovide a rechargeable battery, and the camera requires two
level camera, comparable to 4- and 5-megapixel pro SLRs like
types of power. The digital electronics use four double-A or
two lithium cells. The analog electronics (including the shutter the Canon EOS 1D and the Nikon D1x (each $4,000). A consumer variant of the E-1 is planned for 2004. Though Olymand light meter) take a pair of lithium batteries.
pus won’t comment on the price, that unit will probably cost
Quirks aside, the SD9 is the first consumer digital SLR to
include a dust shield as part of the lens mount. Its unique
less than $1,200.
viewfinder has a translucent mask, letting you see just outside
Olympus sent us a preproduction E-1 with a 14- to 54-mm
of the camera’s field of view. And it is also the first sub-$2,000 lens. Final production units should be identical to our camera,
camera with both USB and FireWire connections.
although the firmware will probably change before final reMost high-end digital cameras store images in JPEG, RAW, lease. The E-1 is the first Olympus camera to let users install
or TIFF format, but the SD9 saves all images in Foveon’s own firmware updates. It goes one step beyond the Sigma SD9 by
X3F RAW format. Sigma’s excellent Photo Pro software prooffering high-speed USB 2.0 in addition to FireWire. Unlike
vides after-the-fact color and exposure correction for X3F
many newer Olympus cameras, it uses CompactFlash.
files, and it can save files as JPEGs or TIFFs. But if you just
The E-1 is noticeably smaller and lighter (by nearly a pound)
want a JPEG file in a hurry, this isn’t the camera for you.
than most digital SLRs, and the 14- to 54-mm lens provides a
The Sigma SD9’s relatively slow auto-focus and 2-fps
very useful range of focal lengths, equivalent to 28 to 108 mm
shooting rate rule it out for sports and action photography.
on a 35-mm camera. It can focus on objects as close as 8
But its excellent image quality, accurate color rendering, and inches. The E-1’s quality is top-notch, with extensive weather
low price tag will appeal to advanced amateurs and budget- sealing around the lens mount, doors, and controls to keep
minded professional photographers. (631-585-1144, www
dust and moisture out. Its innovative self-cleaner uses ultra.sigmaphoto.com. llllm )
sonic vibration to shake dust off the image sensor each time
the camera powers up.
P R O F E S S I O N A L
Despite its preproduction status, our test camera performed
OLYMPUS E-1
flawlessly. The photographs we took were sharp and clear,
When it ships in October, the Olympus E-1 ($2,199 list) will
with accurate, vibrant color and virtually no noise, even at high
mark a radical departure in digital SLR cameras. Unlike other ISO settings. With the E-1, Olympus has a winner on its hands.
digital SLRs, which are based on 35-mm camera designs, the (800-645-8160, www.olympusamerica.com. No rating—
E-1 is designed from the start to be a digital camera.
preproduction unit.)—Les Freed
high (400 and 800) ISO speeds. The EOS 10D also turned in
eye-catching results on our performance tests, with very high
scores for color accuracy and image resolution. (800-8284040, www.usa.canon.com. lllll )
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
89
D I G I TA L C A M E R A S
tests, and that resolving power really came
into play on our jury tests, earning the 935
excellent ratings for focus. Image clarity
was marvelous, and the 935 achieved very
good ratings for color and dynamic range.
The test score for boot-up time was average, but the recycle time was good.
HP provides a 32MB SD card and a USB
interface with a cable for file transfer, but
you need the optional HP Photosmart
8886 camera dock ($80 street) for TV connectivity and battery recharging. The 935
is an extremely user-friendly and powerful camera.—Glenn Menin
THE KODAK DX6340 IS an
exceptionally easy-to-use camera.
Kodak EasyShare DX6340
3.1 megapixels, $329 list. 800-235-6325,
www.kodak.com. l l l l m
Consider the Kodak EasyShare
DX6340 the camera for anyone
intimidated by the word digital.
The newest EasyShare delivers
not only exceptional ease of use
but also good performance for its class. No
wonder it’s an Editors’ Choice camera.
This 3.1-megapixel camera has a 4X optical zoom and comes with 16MB of builtin memory. At 9.4 ounces, it is the heaviest in our roundup, but its heft makes it
solid and stable in your hand.
The well-labeled and accessible controls are larger than most—a plus for some
people. And the 1.8-inch LCD showcases a
well-designed menu. A round control dial
with a center toggle switch accesses the
video, auto, sport, portrait, night, landscape, and close-up modes as well as
Kodak’s PAS menu. For more experienced
photographers, this menu accesses aperture and shutter priority modes. Other
custom settings include exposure compensation and white balance.
The DX6340 records video with audio in
QuickTime (at a fixed focal length) and
works with the included EasyShare software. EasyShare’s installation is painless,
and its simple interface lets you transfer,
e-mail, print, organize, and edit photos or
order prints online. (But don’t throw out
your copy of Adobe Photoshop.)
Our test results were mostly favorable.
Our jury liked both flash and nonflash still
images, although it ranked the DX6340 last
in pixel transition, which could affect
image sharpness. The three quality settings are limited to JPEG files; the camera
doesn’t offer an uncompressed file format.
Optional but worthwhile accessories:
The EasyShare camera dock 6000 gives
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P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
you one-touch picture transfers and
quick charging, while the truly portable
EasyShare printer dock 6000 outputs
sparkling 4- by 6-inch borderless images
on special photo paper. Unlike some
products here, the Kodak camera does
not include rechargeable batteries or a
charger. Also keep in mind that on our
reader survey (page 94), satisfaction with
Kodak cameras trails other manufacturers’
scores. Nevertheless, the ease of use,
image quality, and affordability make the
DX6340 an excellent choice.—GM
Konica Digital Revio KD-500Z
5.0 megapixels, $599.95 list. 800-285-6422,
www.konica.com. l l l m m
A solid fast-shooter that captures highquality images, the Konica Digital Revio
KD-500Z is certain to appeal to anyone
who wants big-picture capability in a small
package. It’s the smallest and slimmest of
the 5-megapixel cameras we tested.
When you slide open the lens cover on
the KD-500Z, you’re greeted by flashing
aquamarine LEDs and musical chords. But
the KD-500Z offers few features, so don’t
look for manual exposure settings or
selectable ISO equivalencies. The only
changeable parameters are four whitebalance presets. And the optical viewfinder does not have a focusable diopter.
The bottom compartment doesn’t have
a catch to keep the battery from accidentally falling out. And the tripod screw
socket is plastic, not metal. The KD-500Z is
unique among the cameras we reviewed in
its support for Memory Stick and SD—but
not both at once. Oddly, it has just 2MB of
built-in memory, enough for only about 17
VGA images. The buttons are placed and
labeled well, but navigation (especially exiting) and menus are confusing and frustrating. The 1.5-inch LCD viewfinder is detailed, and although it displays a white
crosshair in the center, current settings are
small and sometimes impossible to read
against bright backgrounds.
The KD-500Z is a quick shooter. It had
the fastest boot time of the cameras we
tested and a very respectable recycle time.
It offers various playback options, including fast pan and zoom, play back, resize,
move, and add audio commentary.
Its visual resolution, the highest of the
models we tested, translates into good but
not excellent images. Our simulated daylight test shot had correct colors and excellent detail but low contrast and no snap.
The flash test image had average sharpness and good color but was slightly
underexposed. The stylish KD-500Z may
not have all the features of the other
5-megapixel compact units we reviewed,
but its size, speed, and looks make it a
worthwhile choice.—SWG and DG
Minolta DiMage F300
5.0 megapixels, $600 street. 201-825-4000,
www.minoltausa.com. l l l m m
KONICA offers big-picture
capability in a small package.
You’ll either love or hate the Minolta DiMage F300’s long, square, utilitarian-looking body. But underneath its all-metal skin
is a camera whose sophistication ranges
from “auto-everything” point-and-shoot
capability to full manual exposure control.
And at $600, you pay a premium for it.
You can operate the F300 easily with
one hand, since it’s the only camera in our
roundup with a sculpted nonslip grip on
the back. The buttons are small and easy
to press, but some are poorly marked with
unfamiliar icons. A large, easy-to-set select
dial surrounds the shutter button. Unlike
most compacts, the F300 has a control
panel on top that obviates using the
power-hungry LCD to show the camera’s
status. That’s good, because the F300 is
powered by only two double-A batteries,
which are easily accessible from the side.
The F300 offers extensive manual control, including aperture and shutter priority, adjustable exposure bracketing, and
manual focus and focus area selection, as
well as sharpness, contrast, saturation,
and flash adjustments. It’s one of only a
handful of digital cameras that have a
bulb setting for time exposures. The parameters menu is extensive but straightforward, yet reading the small type on the
LCD and using the right combination of
analog controls can be frustrating.
For all its power, the F300 is slow, with
pokey boot and recycle times. Burst mode
(continuous advance), however, is reason-
ably fast. The F300 earned top honors for
the best pixel transition among the cameras we tested. Though our daylight test
shot was slightly underexposed, it contained lots of detail and excellent color. But
the flash test shot was unevenly illuminated, somewhat blurry, and significantly
overexposed, although colors were good.
The F300 is capable of capturing very
good pictures with either a minimum of
fuss or a high degree of precision. It’s a
fine choice for photo-savvy shutterbugs
with less technically adept spouses or
families.—SWG and DG
Nikon Coolpix 3100
3.2 megapixels, $349.95 list. 800-645-6689,
www.nikonusa.com. l l l m m
There’s no mistaking the Nikon Coolpix
3100 for anything but a high-quality cam-
Phone In Your Photos
I
f you think your cell phone delivers instant gratification
now, just wait. With the latest wireless services and
phones, you can snap photos and transmit them to another cell phone, an e-mail account, or the Web. Some models
are so jam-packed with applications that they seem to double as tiny multimedia production studios, offering fullmotion video-recording capability. Camera phones may be
novelties now, but not for long.
But don’t get your hopes too high just yet. First, the
interfaces on most are not as intuitive as they need to be,
which is especially important when a phone offers multiple
applications accessible only via a cramped keypad. Second,
the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) for phone-tophone photo sharing does not yet work across networks.
Finally, since wireless networks don’t yet support simultaneous voice and data, you can’t transmit a photo until your
call is over. Simultaneous voice and data capabilities
are expected in upcoming wireless standards
like WCDMA.
Most of all, don’t think of a cell-phone
camera as a replacement for a full-fledged
digital camera. It’s not. At resolutions ranging
from 352 by 288 pixels (that’s just one-tenth of
a megapixel) to 640-by-480, photos are nowhere
near the quality of those from even a cheap digital
camera. Rather, such photos are meant for viewing
on a cell phone or in a small window on a computer
display. In other words, they’re perfect for impulsive
picture taking.
Despite the rough edges, cell-phone cameras represent an indisputably fun way to take photos, and consumers are snapping up them up at an explosive rate—
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
and effects in the Coolpix 3100.
era at the right price. Conventional in appearance and comfortable to use, with lots
of assistance to make shooting easy and
fun, the Coolpix 3100 offers basic pointand-shoot simplicity to anyone who finds
most digital cameras ergonomically challenged. Image quality, however, doesn’t
live up to Nikon’s usual high standards.
around 50 million worldwide expected this year (mostly in
Japan), says Tony Henning, senior analyst at The Future
Image WIRE. He expects that camera phones will outsell
digital and film cameras combined in 2003. The main drivers
of their popularity, says Neil Strothers, a senior analyst at InStat/MDR, are simply that they’re fun and the prices are low.
AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless, Sprint PCS, T-Mobile, and
Verizon Wireless each offer phones with built-in cameras.
Before you dive in, though, study the pricing plans. If you
think cell-phone pricing is convoluted now, the photo services
add yet another layer of complexity. You can buy cell phones
with detachable cameras as extra-cost options, but we reviewed models with built-in cameras—less stuff to lose.
We had low expectations for these phones: They’d be
hard to use, and we’d have to break out the manual. But the
Sanyo SCP 8100 ($199 before rebate) with
the Sprint PCS Vision Pictures Pack (an
extra $15 per month with any service
plan) changed our minds. It is
surprisingly easy to use. We
powered it on and easily
snapped a photo of a
coworker using the
camera key on the
keypad.
[ NOKIA 3650 ]
92
YOU’LL FIND innovative modes
[ LG VX6000 ]
D I G I TA L C A M E R A S
Although the Coolpix 3100’s silver body
is plastic, not metal, a rounded battery
compartment makes the camera easy to
grip and operate one-handed. Most of the
buttons on the back, as well as the mode
dial, can be quickly accessed, although not
all are easily identifiable. The viewfinder
is bright and very readable but slow to
turn on, and it dims when you press the
shutter halfway. The memory card door is
flimsy, and the compartment on the bottom has no safety catch to keep the batteries from accidentally falling out.
The Coolpix 3100 has virtually no controls, though it offers innovative modes
and effects. It can macro-focus as close as
1.6 inches (without the flash blowing out!),
and it takes large 640-by-480 videos, even
in black-and-white or sepia tones. It has a
best-shot selector and provides 14 easy-to-
follow scene modes for shooting portraits,
fireworks, and so on. Better yet, four common modes—sports, landscape, portrait,
and night portrait—are accessible via the
mode-select dial and come with visual
cues for novices. In playback, you can enhance, crop, copy, or create a slide show.
The Coolpix 3100 had decent boot and
recycle times, and overall image quality is
good. Our daylight test image was underexposed by 1 f-stop, with accurate color
and good detail but not great sharpness.
The flash test shot, though crisp, had uneven exposure. But for a 3.2-megapixel
compact, the Coolpix 3100 is a fun camera
at an attractive price.—SWG and DG
Olympus Stylus 400 Digital
4.1 megapixels, $500 street. 800-201-7766,
www.olympusamerica.com. l l m m m
THE OLYMPUS is curvaceous,
intuitive, and weatherproof.
Responding to on-screen prompts, we saved the shot,
typed in an e-mail address (painstaking but doable), added a
10-second voice memo, and sent it on its way. The interface
stepped us through the process without overloading us with
options. Conveniently, the SCP 8100 uploads photos to the
Sprint PCS Pictures Web site automatically. What could
have been a real headache took just a few minutes—no
manual required.
Sprint scores big points for ease of use, and you can’t beat
the price. On the downside, phone-to-phone photo sharing is
limited to other PCS Vision handsets, the photos are small
(352 by 288 pixels), and editing is limited to changing the
color tone to sepia, black and white, or negative. And the SCP
8100 has just 512K of memory. For straightforward, no-frills
picture taking, however, this combo unit won’t disappoint.
Though late to the game, Verizon Wireless introduced its PIX
service ($2.99 per month for unlimited photos) and the LG
VX6000 Camera Phone ($199 before rebate) in July. The wait
was worthwhile. The simple, exquisite interface has clear icons
and labels, excellent integration with the contact list, and
automatic photo uploads to its secure Web site. The camera
has three levels of zoom, three resolution settings (up to 640by-480), basic photo-editing options, and fun extras like boilerplate captions and a self-timer. Best of all, the $2.99 monthly
service price is unbeatable. There’s just one downside: merely
90K of memory for pictures.
Perfect for gadgeteers, the Nokia 3650 (about $250 before
rebate; pricing varies by location) from Cingular Wireless
(also available from AT&T and T-Mobile) isn’t as intuitive as
the Sanyo device, but it’s so packed with applications that
voice calling seems like an afterthought. The camera shoots
photos at 640-by-480 resolution and has a zoom feature.
The Nokia 3650 is excellent for video postcards; it records
15-second video clips to its generous 20MB of memory. The
The curvaceous Olympus Stylus 400 Digital is an exceptionally handsome allmetal camera that combines art, simplicity, and weatherproofing. But although it’s
included RealOne Mobile Player supports 3GP videos (the
format in which movies are created under the new 3GPP
wireless data standard). The memory card is full of Javabased photo-editing applications, including FotoFunPack,
which lets you create and edit images of your subjects as
bodybuilders and turn them into sliding-tile puzzles and other
diversions. You can also add borders and frames.
Cingular does not currently support MMS, but you can send
photos via e-mail, Bluetooth, or infrared. You can also upload
photos to Ofoto to share with family and friends. The pricing
plan is based on kilobytes used, which is hardly the simplest
approach; a photo at medium resolution can range from 18K
to 40K, depending on the message size and network coverage. That’s about 54 cents per picture, depending on your
wireless Internet plan. For quick videos and loads of photo
options—at a price—this is the model to get.
The Samsung SGH-v205 ($349 before rebate), available
with T-Mobile’s t-zones service ($2.99 per month for about 40
photos), is a no-frills camera phone that gets the job done. It
has 2MB of memory, resolution is skimpy (352 by 288), and it
doesn’t offer any editing tools, frames, or borders, but it does
have captions. The phone book is well integrated with the
e-mail application, but it does display unfortunate error messages like “Your picture was delivered as text only.” Though
the phone is priced on the high end, monthly service pricing is
much less expensive than plans from competitors.
The Panasonic GU87 ($399 before rebate), available
from AT&T Wireless (40 cents per photo transmission), has
four resolution settings (from 80 by 60 pixels to 640 by
480 pixels), zoom, a self-timer, a self-portrait feature
(a tiny mirror on the faceplate), and 1MB of memory. The
interface is laden with cryptic icons that are difficult to
decipher, though we did manage to change photos to sepia
and put frames around them.—Carol Levin
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
93
THE LUMIX is a small,
beautifully finished camera.
easy to use, it offers limited options and
controls, and image quality is uneven.
Besides having its lens protected by a
gold anodized sliding cover, the Stylus 400
is weatherproofed (but not waterproofed,
so don’t try dunking it!) with rubber seals
over its ports and compartments. Once the
cover is off, however, the lens is unprotected. The Stylus 400’s limited controls
are nicely placed on the back, but because
of the weatherproofing, the memory card
compartment on the side is hard to pry
open. And it doesn’t have a speaker or
microphone, so movies are silent.
The Stylus 400 has an intuitive menu
for its sparse features. You can choose resolution (but not compression level), set
white balance and exposure compensation, and select panoramas or one of five
program modes, but that’s about all. Instead of pressing a playback button to view
your photos, you close the lens cover.
Boot and recycle times were faster than
average, but image quality was uneven and
our test flash shot disappointing. The flash
shots were simply unacceptable at distances under 5 feet. On the other hand,
daylight shots had good color and detail, a
slight cyan cast notwithstanding.
Style, convenience, and weatherproofing define the Olympus Stylus 400 Digital, but it’s pricey for a 4-megapixel compact, and its overpowered flash limits
indoor photography.—SWG and DG
Panasonic Lumix DMC-F1S
3.2 megapixels, $399.95 list. 800-211-7262,
www.panasonic.com. l l l m m
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-F1S is a small,
beautifully finished camera that sets itself
Reader Survey: Digital Cameras
Y
ou get what you pay for. That’s the obvious conclusion
from nearly 10,000 responses to our annual Service and
Reliability Survey on digital cameras. Readers’ favorite
cameras tend to be the most advanced, most expensive ones.
Last year (in our August issue), Canon, Fuji, Minolta, Nikon,
Olympus, and Sony received A’s, indicating superior scores for
overall satisfaction, satisfaction with reliability, the number of
units needing repair in the past year, and the likelihood of buying
from the same company again. This year, Minolta falls to a C.
In 2002, only Sony had a significantly better-than-average
percentage of units needing repair. This year, Canon and
Olympus also do. These two companies also surpass Sony
TOP REASONS SPECIFIED FOR
CONTACTING TECH SUPPORT
and Kodak in terms of the total number of responses this
time, pushing them to third and fourth place.
Canon climbs to the top for cameras a year old or less,
with 40 percent more responses than the closest competitor.
Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Sony receive A’s in this age bracket.
Fujifilm falls to a C. Minolta gets a D and is the only company
with a significantly worse-than-average percentage of recently
purchased units needing repairs.
Getting off on the right foot is key, and in the context of
first-year cameras, the companies with E’s (HP and Toshiba) or
D’s (Kodak and Minolta) clearly have had difficulty; 12 and 18
percent of their units have had problems out of the box, versus
MARKET SHARE
2002 survey
2003 survey
Megapixels
Camera not operating to its specifications
Canon
9.4%
15.7%
Casio
2.1%
1.3%
Epson
1.8%
0.8%
Canon
Fujifilm
6.5%
7.4%
Fujifilm
HP
7.3%
5.9%
18.5%
14.4%
Minolta
1.7%
3.0%
Nikon
7.9%
10.1%
17.5%
18.2%
Panasonic
1.9%
0.9%
Kodak
Polaroid
2.6%
1.4%
Nikon
21.4%
19.1%
1.4%
1.7%
Battery/power-related problems
Difficulty connecting camera to PC
Pictures don’t look as expected
Kodak
HP
Kodak
Olympus
Minolta
Nikon
Olympus
Sony
Toshiba
Sony
Percent K
94
FIRST-YEAR SATISFACTION
BY RESOLUTION
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
Percentages may not total 100 because of rounding. Based on all survey responses, including those for sub-2-megapixel cameras, which are not otherwise included in the survey results.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Overall satisfaction*
2 to <3 (1,309 responses) 8.1
3 to <4 (1,567)
8.5
4 to <5 (1,006)
8.8
≥ 5 (749)
9.0
* On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is best.
TOP REASONS SPECIFIED FOR
NEEDING REPAIRS
Broken part
Would not turn on
Photo quality problems
Difficulty connecting camera to PC
Canon
Olympus
Sony
Percent K
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
D I G I TA L C A M E R A S
pressed. The few buttons and controls on
the back are conveniently placed and
clearly marked. The 1.5-inch LCD has excellent color, contrast, and resolution.
The DMC-F1S is a glorified point-andshooter with confusing menus. You can’t
specify f-stops or shutter speeds, though
these settings are displayed on-screen
prior to recording. Among the handful of
notable settings are exposure bracketing,
spot metering, continuous auto-focus,
audio annotation, and adjustable color saturation and color effects. Instead of resolutions, auto mode lets you choose among
Enlarge, 4-by-6, and Internet settings.
Although its boot and recycle times are
average for a 3-megapixel unit, the DMC-
quality is only average. Our daylight test
shot was slightly underexposed but exhibited good color and acceptable sharpness.
Our flash shot was evenly illuminated but
contrasty, increasing the perception of
sharpness; the colors, while not accurate,
were appealing. The DMC-F1S doesn’t have
lots of extras, but it’s one of the few digital
cameras with the look and feel of a fine
film camera.—SWG and DG
Pentax Optio 550
5.0 megapixels, $600 street. 800-8770155, www.pentaxdigital.com. l l l l l
The Pentax Optio 550 is a powerhouse that delivers almost every digital
To learn more about how we surveyed, go to our Web site:
www.pcmag.com/sr/methodology.—Ben Z. Gottesman
A Significantly better than average
C Average
SURVEY RESULTS:
DIGITAL CAMERAS
th
Un
i
thets ne
pa edin
st
12 g re
mo pai
nth r in
Wo
s
uld
br
an buy
d a th
ga is
in
B Significantly worse
than average
fac
ll s
ati
s
or
Ov
era
C Average
Re
a
gr ders
ad ’ R
e
ep
A Significantly better
than average
Sa
t
rel isfac
iab tio
ilit n w
y
i
tC
tio
n
ard
B Significantly worse than average
OVERALL
POINT-AND-SHOOT
Camera
Canon PowerShot A40 (102 responses)
Re
s
(m olut
eg ion
ap
ixe
ls)
n
FIRST-YEAR SATISFACTION
BY MODEL
tio
no more than 9 percent for higher-rated companies.
Overall, few readers have needed technical support (10
percent), and even fewer have needed repairs (6 percent). In
fact, so few have reported support and repair issues that we
don’t see statistically significant differences on these measures among the camera makers.
F1S gives a tactile sense of precision. Image
Ov
e
sa rall
tis
fac
apart with a superb 3X zoom lens designed
by famed optical manufacturer Leica. It
has some noteworthy settings, but its feature set is limited, the menus are confusing, and the documentation is poorly written. Even so, the DMC-F1S will appeal to
those accustomed to precision mechanics
but not interested in top-quality images.
Rectangular, with a dramatic flat front
and a sliding disk that protects the lens, the
all-metal camera can easily be operated
one-handed. The small mode dial on top
has a beautifully knurled ring around the
outside for easier turning and a tiny OK
button in the middle that’s difficult to activate. The power switch next to the shutter
button is exposed and can accidentally be
A
2.0
Canon PowerShot A70 (59)
C
3.2
Canon PowerShot S200 (59)
C
2.0
Canon PowerShot S230 (69)
C
3.2
Canon PowerShot S400 (65)
A
4.0
Fujifilm FinePix 2650 Zoom (50)
C
2.0
Canon (1,742 responses)
A
A
A
A
A
Kodak EasyShare CX4230 Zoom (58)
B
2.1
Casio (110)
D
C
C
C
B
Kodak EasyShare DX4330 Zoom (71)
C
3.1
Epson (55)
C
C
C
C
C
Kodak EasyShare LS443 Zoom (79)
A
4.0
Fujifilm (677)
A
A
A
C
A
Nikon Coolpix 2500 (77)
B
2.1
HP (430)
E
B
B
C
B
Olympus Camedia D-550 Zoom (94)
C
3.0
Kodak (1,201)
E
B
B
C
B
AVERAGE
8.6*
Minolta (343)
C
C
C
C
C
PROSUMER AND DIGITAL SLRs
Nikon (1,196)
A
A
A
C
A
Canon PowerShot G2 (118 responses)
C
4.0
Olympus (1,719)
A
A
A
A
A
Canon PowerShot G3 (113)
C
4.0
Pentax (51)
C
C
C
C
C
Canon PowerShot S30 (62)
C
3.0
Sony (1,461)
A
A
A
A
A
Canon PowerShot S40 (56)
C
4.0
Toshiba (172)
E
B
B
C
B
Canon PowerShot S45 (67)
C
4.0
8.2*
8.7*
6.8%
8.1*
Fujifilm FinePix S602 Zoom (68)
C
3.3
Fujifilm FinePix 3800 (81)
C
3.2
AVERAGE
FIRST YEAR
Canon (1,057 responses)
A
A
A
A
A
Nikon Coolpix 4500 (70)
B
4.0
Fujifilm (383)
C
C
C
C
C
Nikon Coolpix 5700 (99)
C
5.0
HP (207)
E
B
B
C
B
Olympus Camedia C-720 Ultra Zoom (62)
B
3.0
Kodak (454)
D
C
C
C
B
Olympus Camedia C-4000 Zoom (109)
C
4.0
Minolta (213)
D
C
C
B
C
Olympus Camedia C-5050 Zoom (82)
A
5.0
Nikon (532)
A
A
A
C
A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F717 (75)
A
6.0
Olympus (756)
A
A
A
A
A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S85 (55)
C
4.1
Sony (668)
A
A
A
C
A
Canon EOS 10D** (58)
A
6.3
Toshiba (66)
E
B
B
C
B
Nikon D100** (65)
A
6.0
8.4*
8.8*
4.4%
8.5*
AVERAGE
AVERAGE
GREEN text denotes Readers’ Choice. All of the charted measures contribute to the Readers’ Report Card
grade. A dash indicates that we do not have enough survey data to give the company a score.
* On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is best.
8.8*
* On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is best.
** The Canon EOS 10D and the Nikon D100 are the only digital SLRs with enough responses for inclusion.
We are comparing the results against prosumer cameras but not factoring them into the category average.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
95
camera feature, mode, and parameter
imaginable. Despite its complexity, this
cleverly designed, all-metal 5-megapixel
compact is easy to operate and should appeal to both savvy shooters and neophytes.
It earns an Editors’ Choice nod for photo
enthusiasts.
The brushed-metal front, along with the
optical and auto-focus viewfinders, gives
the Optio 550 the look of a high-quality 35mm rangefinder film camera. Its buttons,
controls, and dials are well marked, and
most are easy to reach, even one-handed.
The LCD is bright and highly readable but
sometimes appears cluttered and confusing because of all the status numbers and
icons. Though extensive, the menus are
logically organized. Our only criticisms of
the otherwise excellent construction concern the plastic compartment doors and
the plastic tripod screw socket.
The Optio 550 stands out on several
fronts: The only compact with a 5X optical
zoom, it’s also the only one with a focusable diopter in its optical viewfinder; and
it alone offers time-lapse photography,
macro focusing under 1 inch, 3-D shooting,
double exposures, and fast-forward in
movie playback. It has a variety of manual
controls for exposure, white balance,
sharpness, saturation, contrast bracketing,
and more. For less sophisticated photographers, the Optio 550 offers nine program
modes, a panorama assist, and mode defaults that remember your settings.
The Optio 550 was slow to boot, though
its recycle time was above average. Image
quality is good to excellent. Our simulated
daylight image was significantly underexposed but sharp, with good color. Our flash
shot was beautiful, with even illumination,
wide dynamic range, and excellent colors.—SWG and DG
Polaroid Photomax PDC 3350
3.3 megapixels, $299 list. 800-777-5331, www
.spectraintl.com. l m m m m
The Polaroid Photomax PDC 3350 ($299
list) is the largest and least expensive
product in this roundup. But it has the
look and feel of a cheap camera, with subpar performance, only a handful of features, and ho-hum image quality.
The all-plastic silver body is roughly
the size of a conventional 35-mm film
camera, but its slim width lets you just
barely slip it into a shirt pocket. The PDC
3350 has a handy nonslip pad on the front,
but its few buttons are small and hard to
press. On top, the plastic mode dial’s
color-coded icons are crowded and difficult to see. The viewfinder is bright and
responsive but freezes for 2 seconds
when the shutter is pressed halfway.
In auto mode, the only menu options
S U M M A RY O F F E AT U R E S
y YES o NO
Canon PowerShot S400
Digital Elph
Casio Exilim
EX-Z3
Fujifilm FinePix
F410
HP Photosmart
935
Price
$599 list
$399.99 list
$499.95 list
$450 street
Weight (with batteries and memory card)
7.9 oz.
5.2 oz.
6.9 oz.
9.1 oz.
Dimensions (HWD, in inches)
Effective megapixels
Maximum resolution (dpi)
3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1
4.0
2,272 x 1,704
2.2 x 3.4 x 0.9
3.2
2,048 x 1,536
2.7 x 3.3 x 1.1
3.1
2,816 x 2,120
2.6 x 3.8 x 1.8
5.3
2,608 x 1,952
Included batteries
Battery charger/AC adapter
1 lithium ion
yo
1 lithium ion
yy
1 lithium ion
yy
2 AA alkaline
oo
Toll-free technical support
800-652-2666
800-435-7732
800-800-3854
800-474-6836
Technical-support hours (eastern time)
3:00a–midnight
M–F, noon–8:00
Sat.
8:00a–10:00p
9:00–8:00 M–F
M–F; 9:00a–
10:00p Sat., Sun.
24/7
Interface
USB 1.1
USB 1.1
LCD size (inches)
1.5
Optional dock,
USB 1.1
2.0
1.5
Optional dock, USB
2.0 (full speed)
1.5
Included memory*
32MB CF
10MB internal
16MB xD
32MB SD
Picture/video file formats
JPEG / AVI
yy
o
JPEG / AVI
yo
o
JPEG / AVI
yo
o
JPEG / MPEG
Slide show/panorama framing mode
Time-lapse photography
USB Mass Storage Class
o
y
y
y
Print Image Matching
EXIF 2.2–compatible
OPTICAL SPECIFICATIONS
o
y
y
y
y
y
o
y
35-mm equivalent (mm)
ISO equivalencies
36–108
35–105
50, 100, 200, 400 50, 100, 200
38–114
200, 400, 800
37–111
100, 200, 400
Aperture range
Shutter speed range (seconds)
f-2.8–4.9
f-2.6–4.3
f-2.8–11.6
f-2.6–9.0
15–1/2,000
o
o
1–1/2,000
o
o
1/4–1/2,000
15–1/2,000
o
o
Closest macro (inches)
Optical/digital zoom
Flash modes
4.0
3X / 3.6X
Auto, night
scene, on, red
eye
2.4
3X / 4X
Auto, off, on,
red eye
4.0
3X / 4.4X
Auto, off, on, red
eye, slow sync
5.5
3X / 7X
Auto, auto with red
eye, night, night
with red eye, on
Remote shutter release
Tripod mount
o
Metal
o
Metal
o
Plastic
o
Plastic
DIGITAL SPECIFICATIONS
Continuous-shooting mode
Auto-exposure bracketing
COMPLEX BUT USEABLE,
the Optio is a real powerhouse.
RED denotes Editors’ Choice.
96
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
are image resolution and quality, but in
manual mode you can adjust resolution,
compression, exposure compensation,
white balance, ISO setting, and slow shutter. The camera doesn’t offer any special
features, program modes, or other manual
settings. Both the f-stop and shutter speed
are displayed on the viewfinder, but you
can’t change them. While the PDC 3350 has
a last-shot review button, you must hit it a
second time when you’re ready to shoot,
because pressing the shutter doesn’t instantly return you to shooting mode.
Boot and recycle times were the slowest
of the cameras we tested. Our daylight test
shot was somewhat underexposed, with
significant clipping in the highlights and
inaccurate but acceptable colors. Our flash
shot was significantly overexposed and
unevenly illuminated, with washed-out
colors and reduced sharpness.
y
o
* CF—CompactFlash, MS—Memory Stick, SD—Secure Digital, xD—xD-Picture Card.
y** o
o
D I G I TA L C A M E R A S
Despite its low price, the PDC 3350’s
poor to barely average image quality and
slow performance prevent us from recommending it.—SWG and DG
Samsung Digimax V4
4.0 megapixels, $450 street. 201-902-0347,
www.samsungcamerausa.com. l l l m m
There’s nothing unique or exceptional
about the Samsung Digimax V4. But it’s a
good-looking, well-designed, reasonably
priced 4.0-megapixel compact camera.
The Digimax V4’s muted-gray plastic
body has a curved ridge in front and raised
bumps on the back for a sure grip. The
camera can be used one-handed, but with
some buttons placed to the left of the LCD,
you’ll need both hands to adjust all the settings. It doesn’t have a focusable diopter in
the optical viewfinder; the power switch
on top of the camera can easily be pressed
quality is very good, though. Our daylight
test shot had excellent exposure and very
good color, though depth of field was limited. Our flash shot was sharp and nicely illuminated, with accurate colors.
If you eschew flashy technology in favor
of solid dependability at a fair price, you’ll
like this camera.—SWG and DG
by accident, and you must hit the review
button to return to shooting mode instead
of pressing the shutter halfway. Although
this probably won’t matter to most people,
the Digimax V4 can operate on nine different battery types, and the menus can be
displayed in 15 languages.
The Digimax V4 works equally well as a
point-and-shoot camera or in full manual,
aperture, or shutter priority mode. The
only program modes are portrait and night
scene, however. A built-in illuminator
helps focus, and the wireless remote is
convenient for shooting self-portraits.
Navigating menus is simple and straightforward, aided by the color-coded tabs for
Program, Setup, and MyCAM. MyCAM lets
you save three groups of settings.
Performance was not the Digimax V4’s
strong suit; its boot and recycle times were
slow for a 4-megapixel camera. Image
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P8
3.2 megapixels, $399.95 direct. 888-449-7669,
www.sony.com. l l l l m
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P8 is the most
stylish camera we tested. Weighing 7.0
ounces, it feels solid and stable in the hand,
and all the control dials and buttons are
truly responsive. And when we opened the
access panel to remove the Memory Stick,
the battery remained securely in place.
Anyone who has fumbled on the floor for
lost components can appreciate this.
Download this table at www.pcmag.com.
Kodak
EasyShare
DX6340
Konica Digital
Revio KDMinolta
500Z
DiMage F300
Nikon
Coolpix
3100
Olympus
Stylus 400
Digital
Panasonic
Lumix
DMC-F1S
Pentax Optio
550
Polaroid
Photomax
PDC 3350
Samsung
Digimax V4
Sony Cybershot DSC-P8
Toshiba
PDR-T30
$329 list
$599.95 list
$600 street
$349.95 list
$500 street
$399.95 list
$600 street
$299 list
$450 street
$399.95 direct
$399.99 list
9.4 oz.
7.8 oz.
7.8 oz.
7.1 oz.
7.0 oz.
6.3 oz.
8.8 oz.
7.3 oz.
7.3 oz.
7.0 oz.
7.2 oz.
4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5
3.1
2,032 x 1,524
2.3 x 3.8 x 1.7
5.0
2,592 x 1,944
2.1 x 4.4 x 1.3
5.0
2,560 x 1,920
2.5 x 3.5 x 1.5 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.3
3.2
4.1
2,048 x 1,536 2,272 x 1,704
2.0 x 4.1 x 1.3
3.2
2,048 x 1,536
3.9 x 2.3 x 1.6
5.0
2,592 x 1,944
2.5 x 4.2 x 1.5
3.3
2,048 x 1,536
2.1 x 4.1 x 1.5
4.0
2.0 x 4.3 x 1.4
3.2
2.1 x 4.3 x 1.1
3.2
2,272 x 1,704
2,048 x 1,536
2,048 x 1,536
1 lithium
oo
1 lithium ion
yo
1 lithium
oo
1 lithium
oo
1 lithium ion
yy
1 lithium ion
yo
2 AA alkaline
oo
1 lithium
oo
1 InfoLithium
yy
1 lithium ion
oy
800-235-6325
888-756-6422
9:00–6:00 M–F
877-462-4464
9:00–8:00 M–F
800-645-6689 800-622-6372
24/7
9:00a–10:00p
M–F
800-272-7033
9:00–9:00 M–F;
10:00–7:00
Sat., Sun.
800-877-0155
9:00–6:30 M–F
888-235-0808
10:00–7:00
M–F, 10:00–
4:00 Sat.
866-344-4629
9:00–8:00 M–F,
9:00–5:00 Sat.
888-449-7669
8:00a–9:00p
daily
800-829-8318
9:00–9:00
M–F
AV, optional
dock, USB 1.1
1.8
USB 1.1
USB 1.1
USB 1.1
USB 1.1
AV out, USB 1.1
USB 1.1
USB 1.1
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.5
USB 2.0 (full
speed)
1.5
USB 1.1
1.5
AV out, USB
1.1
1.5
16MB internal
32MB SD
16MB CF
16MB xD
16MB SD
16MB SD
16MB internal 32MB SD
16MB MS
16MB SD
JPEG / MOV
yo
o
2MB internal,
16MB SD
JPEG / AVI
yo
o
JPEG,TIFF / MOV
yo
o
JPEG / MOV
oo
o
JPEG / MOV
yy
o
JPEG / AVI
yo
y
JPEG, TIFF / MOV JPEG / AVI
yy
yo
y
o
JPEG, TIFF / AVI JPEG / MPEG
yo
yo
o
o
JPEG / AVI
yy
o
o
y
y
y
y
o
y
y
y
o
y
o
y
o
y
y
y
o
y
y
y
y
o
y
y
y
o
o
y
o
o
y
y
36–114
100, 200, 400
39–117
100
38–114
64, 100, 200, 400
38–115
50, 100, 200,
400, 800
35–105
80, 125, 160,
200, 320
35–105
50, 100, 200,
400
38–188
64, 100, 200, 400
35–105
100, 200, 400
38–114
100, 200, 400
39–117
100, 200, 400
38–76
100, 200, 400
f-2.2–13.0
f-2.8–8.2
f-2.8–4.7
f-2.8–4.9
f-3.1–5.2
f-2.8–4.9
f-2.8–7.9
f-2.7–4.9
f-2.7–4.9
f-2.8–5.6
f-2.8–4.0
4–1/2,000
y
y
1–1/2,000
o
y
15–1/1,000
y
y
4–1/3,000
y
o
4–1/1,000
y
o
8–1/2,000
y
y
8–1/4,000
y
y
1–1/2,000
o
o
15–1/2,000
y
y
2–1/2,000
y
y
4–1/1,000
o
o
3.9
4X / 3.5X
Auto, fill, off,
red eye
2.3
3X / 3X
Auto, off, on,
red eye
5.7
3X / 4X
Auto, auto with
red eye, fill, fill
with red eye, off
1.6
3X / 4X
8.0
3X / 4X
3.9
3X / 3X
0.8
5X / 4X
4.0
3X / 2X
2.4
3X / 4X
3.9
3X / 3.2X
3.9
2X / 4X
Auto, auto
with red eye,
off, on, slow
sync with red
eye
Auto, auto with
red eye, off, on,
on with red eye
Auto, off, on,
red eye
Auto, auto with Auto, off with
red eye, fill, off, slow sync, on,
slow sync
red eye
Auto, off, on,
red eye
o
Metal
o
Plastic
y
Metal
o
Metal
y
Plastic
o
Metal
y
Metal
o
None
9:00–8:00 M–F
1 lithium ion
yo
Auto, off, on, Auto, fill, firstred eye, slow curtain slow
sync
sync, first curtain with red
eye, off, red
eye, slow sync
o
y
Plastic
Metal
o
Metal
1.5
** The HP Photosmart 935 supports slide show mode via an optional camera dock.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
97
PERFORMANCE TESTS
Photos, Finished: Performance and Quality Tests
The latest digital cameras deliver more bang for
the buck than ever: They are laden with features,
offer up to 5-megapixel resolution, and include
special features like video and audio recording
and real-time histograms. For the discriminating
consumer or hobbyist, however, the purchase
decision should still come down to performance and quality.
So we tested and measured the cameras’ optics and processing abilities by analyzing image resolution and sharpness.
Quantifiable performance results tell one story, but the
human eye often tells another. So we supplemented our test
results with our jury’s subjective image analysis.
In our performance testing, we measured each camera’s
boot time (the time between turning on the camera and taking
a shot) and the recycle time (the time required between
pictures). We collaborated with DigitalBenchmarks (www
.digitalbenchmarks.com), an independent digital camera
testing facility run by Daniel Grotta, to perform precise industry-standard performance timings.
PIXEL TRANSITION: NOT JUST BLACK AND WHITE
We used a standardized ISO test page (we refer to it as the
target), which includes a pixel transition pattern for measuring a camera’s ability to deal with both horizontal and vertical transitions. This pattern consists of a black plane at a 5degree angle against a white background. We photographed
the image and imported it into Adobe Photoshop, where we
analyzed the black and white edges pixel by pixel. We counted the number of “gray” transition pixels between the black
and white edges. These give a sense of the level of sharpness
captured by each camera; the fewer transition pixels the
sharper the image.
RESOLUTION: WHAT’S MY LINE (WIDTH)?
Resolution should not be determined simply by the sheer
number of photo sensor cells on a camera’s CCD, because
each camera’s optics and processing ability affect performance. Using the standardized ISO test page (we refer to it
as the target) and pixel-level analysis in Photoshop, we
counted the number of discernable lines per inch as a measure of resolution. This target includes image sections with
both horizontal and vertical parabolic converging lines.
Using a mechanical stand and lighting conditions that
eliminate the need for a flash, we laid the target flat and
stabilized it with a vacuum. We then set each camera on a
timer and configured it for maximum optical resolution. We
saved the resulting images in the file format with the least
compression offered by each device and, when possible, set
the f-stop at the smallest aperture setting and lowest ISO
speed to avoid electronic noise.
PERFORMANCE TESTS: AND THE BEEP GOES ON
When capturing those spontaneous, once-in-a-lifetime
moments, digital cameras that take a long time to boot up or
prepare to shoot again can be infuriating. A camera’s configuration settings can affect these timings. For our performance tests, we measured speed two ways: For the first test
runs, we turned on each camera’s LCD and flash; then, whenever possible, we turned these power drains off and retested
(some digital cameras don’t allow this).
To measure the boot time, we set each camera on a stand
in front of a monitor that displayed a counter program. We
started the program at the same moment we switched the
camera on. The images each camera captured reflect the
amount of time it needed to warm up and take a first shot.
PERFORMANCE TESTS: COMPACT CAMERAS
Boot time with
LCD and flash
Recycle time with
LCD and flash
Vertical L
Center average L
(seconds) M
(seconds) M
1,350
1,050
1,200
1,200
1,450
1,100
1,550
1,500
1,150
1,300
1,200
1,400
950
1,200
1,150
1,050
1,325
1,050
1,175
1,200
1,400
1,100
1,550
1,525
1,175
1,300
1,200
1,400
1,000
1,175
1,150
1,050
3.8
2.8
2.8
2.7
4.4
4.7
2.1
5.9
3.9
3.6
3.7
6.5
5.6
6.3
2.9
7.3
3.8
4.7
3.9
3.9
2.3
1.6
2.6
3.4
4.3
5.5
2.9
2.6
5.2
5.2
4.2
4.1
L High scores are best.
Pixel
transition M
Resolution (lines per inch)
Bold type denotes first place.
Maximum
resolution
Horizontal L
Canon PowerShot S400 Digital Elph
Casio Exilim EX-Z3
Fujifilm FinePix F410 (3-megapixel mode)
Fujifilm FinePix F410 (6-megapixel mode)
HP Photosmart 935
Kodak EasyShare DX6340
Konica Digital Revio KD-500Z
Minolta DiMage F300
Nikon Coolpix 3100
Olympus Stylus 400 Digital
Panasonic Lumix DMC-F1S
Pentax Optio 550
Polaroid Photomax PDC 3350
Samsung Digimax V4
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P8
Toshiba PDR-T30
2,272 x 1,704
2,048 x 1,536
2,048 x 1,536
2,816 x 2,120
2,608 x 1,952
2,032 x 1,354
2,592 x 1,944
2,560 x 1,920
2,048 x 1,536
2,272 x 1,704
2,048 x 1,536
2,592 x 1,944
2,048 x 1,536
2,272 x 1,704
2,048 x 1,536
2,048 x 1,536
2%
4%
4%
3%
3%
5%
2%
2%
3%
3%
3%
3%
4%
2%
3%
4%
1,300
1,050
1,150
1,200
1,350
1,100
1,550
1,550
1,200
1,300
1,200
1,400
1,050
1,150
1,150
1,050
M Low scores are best.
RED denotes Editors’ Choice.
98
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
D I G I TA L C A M E R A S
The recycle time is the time a camera takes to prepare for
the next shot. The repeatability of such a test relies heavily
on an individual person’s response time, but the attending
DigitalBenchmarks technician who performed the tests
moonlights as a drummer. You can’t beat that.
Fujifilm FinePix F410 and the Nikon Coolpix 3100 were excellent, at 1,175. At just 1,000, the Polaroid Photomax PDC 3350
had the poorest resolving power among the 3-megapixel
models—though still acceptable performance for this group.
The 4-megapixel cameras also delivered reasonable results;
the Canon PowerShot S400 Digital Elph led the pack with an
IMAGE QUALITY TESTING: WE’LL BE THE JUDGE OF THAT
impressive score of 1,325 discernable lines. The 5-megapixel
Performance measurements notwithstanding, the human eye Konica Digital Revio KD-500Z topped all competitors with an
is best for judging photo quality. We captured still images
excellent score of 1,550.
with and without the flash (we simulated daylight with fullThe Konica impressed us not just with its 5-megapixel
spectrum, nonflicker fluorescent lighting), and our jury
resolution; its 2.1-second boot time and 2.6-second recycle
ranked their quality. We then displayed these images on two
time added up to be the best in the roundup. In view of the
21-inch Sony Multiscan GDM-F520 monitors (high-end Triniaverage recycle time of 4.6 seconds, the Kodak was quick
tron CRTs), which were identically optimized with an X-Rite
to the punch, at 1.6 seconds. The Samsung Digimax V4 and
DTP92 Colorimeter, using MonacoView 3.0.0 software
the Polaroid Photomax PDC 3350 trailed the pack on our
(www.monacosys.com).
timed tests. Recycle times do not reflect performance of
For optimum stability and sharpness, we turned on each
cameras with burst-shooting modes. This mode is usually
camera’s self-timer and configured it using the default setlimited, however, in terms of flash ability, quality settings,
tings. We saved all images as
and so on.—Analysis written by
JPEGs and ranked all shots
Glenn Menin
IMAGE QUALITY: JURY TEST RESULTS
according to scorecards cusHigh scores are best (on a scale of 1 to 10).
J Performance measurements can retomized for each scenario. We
With flash
No flash
Bold type denotes first place.
veal optics quality and chip efficiency, but
scored each image on expoCONSUMER CAMERAS
ultimately a camera’s output must still
sure, illumination, color, clarity, Canon PowerShot S400 Digital Elph
6
9
please the eye. No PC Magazine digital
Casio Exilim EX-Z3
6
7
and dynamic range.
camera roundup would be complete without
WHAT THE NUMBERS MEAN
The average pixel transition
score for all cameras was an
acceptable 3 percent. The
Canon, Konica, Minolta, and
Samsung units tied for the top
spot, at 2 percent. The Kodak
ranked worst at 5 percent.
Resolution results were all
within the expected ranges and
consistent with each camera’s
megapixel rating. In the 3-megapixel range, center average
resolution scores for both the
Fujifilm FinePix F410 (3-megapixel mode)
Fujifilm FinePix F410 (6-megapixel mode)
7
7
6
7
HP Photosmart 935
Kodak EasyShare DX6340
7
6
7
8
Konica Digital Revio KD-500Z
Minolta DiMage F300
Nikon Coolpix 3100
Olympus Stylus 400 Digital
Panasonic Lumix DMC-F1S
8
6
6
5
5
7
9
7
8
6
Pentax Optio 550
7
6
Polaroid Photomax PDC 3350
4
5
Samsung Digimax V4
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P8
Toshiba PDR-T30
6
7
6
7
5
5
PROSUMER CAMERAS
Minolta DiMage 7Hi
6
9
Olympus E-20N
6
7
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F717
5
6
a jury ranking based on human observation.
We performed two types of jury tests: flash
capture tests to determine how well the
cameras can illuminate a scene and nonflash
tests to evaluate their abilities to capture
daylight.
Our jury liked the Canon PowerShot S400
Digital Elph best overall in the simulateddaylight tests. This camera garnered perfect
jury scores in clarity and dynamic range for
its crisp images and evenly illuminated
scenes, which indicated sufficient flash
power. Less impressive were both the
Toshiba PDR-T30 and Sony Cyber-shot DSCP8; both of these cameras produced images
that were somewhat dim, lacking detail in
the dark shadowy areas with these autoexposure/focus/flash settings.
These three images illustrate the effects of auto-flash illumination on a scene. As you can see, the image from the Konica Digital Revio KD-500Z (A) shows
well-balanced illumination; details are clearly evident in the highlights and shadows (note the teddy bear’s shirt and white nap). The Olympus Stylus 400 Digital’s autoflash oversaturated this scene (B), giving the image a blown-out appearance. On the other hand, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-F1S did not cast enough light on this subject (C), and the image is too dark. In these last two cases, the cameras would have benefited from having the exposure compensation set manually.
M
A
B
C
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
99
D I G I TA L C A M E R A S
[ SONY
[ OLYMPUS Camedia ]
Cyber-Shot ]
Three Big Shots
Consumer cameras on steroids, prosumer
models offer more robust bodies, faster
shooting performance, higher-quality lenses,
and superior image quality—for a price.
T
here are two types of people: those who take pictures
and those who take photographs. If your enthusiasm
for photos goes no farther than family trips and birthday parties, the cameras in our main story are ideal. But if
you can appreciate a well-framed shot, you’ll want to step up
to a prosumer model. Between consumer digital cameras and
professional single-lens reflex (SLR) models sit prosumer cameras, which are considerably larger and heavier, offer faster
performance, and cost up to twice as much as consumer
devices with the same resolution. They also take higher-quality
images, though usually not in default mode; that’s what all the
exposure options and controls are for and why a mastery of
basic photographic techniques is important. Unlike SLRs,
prosumer cameras do not have interchangeable lenses.
MINOLTA DIMAGE 7HI
The all-black Minolta DiMage 7Hi ($1,200 street) is a complicated-looking camera with controls that are scattered but
accessible and clearly marked. You can set all the important
parameters via these analog controls instead of navigating
menus—handy for quick shooting. But the heart and soul of
the 7Hi are in its outstanding 7X optical zoom, the only true
apochromatic lens on a digital camera. Apochromatic means it
corrects for all three primary colors (all others correct for only
two), producing more accurate color and less color aliasing.
You zoom manually by turning the collar and can use macro
mode only when the lens is extended to full telephoto. The
nifty electronic viewfinder swivels 90 degrees for waist-level
viewing, and you can select it full-time via a switch or automatically toggle it on and off simply by putting your eye to the
viewfinder. Though not the fastest camera, the 7Hi has a 64MB
buffer that lets you shoot unimpeded while writing images to
memory. It saves JPEGs, TIFFs, and RAW files, but RAW files open
only on computers with Minolta’s driver installed.
The 7Hi’s Achilles’ heel is its power system. The compartment underneath the LCD accommodates four double-A nickel
hydride batteries but is difficult to close. Also, the camera’s
high power drain translates into limited battery life. Other than
that, the DiMage 7Hi offers excellent handling and shooting.
(201-825-4000, www.minoltausa.com. llllm )
OLYMPUS
[ MINOLTA
CAMEDIA E-20N
Dimage 7HI ]
Because of its size and weight, operating
the Olympus Camedia E-20N ($1,000 street) for
any length of time can be tiring, especially with the optional
vertical-grip battery pack. It’s the only prosumer model with
support for an external matched through-the-lens strobe for
better flash shots and actual color temperature settings rather
than presets. But the E-20N’s analog controls are inconveniently placed almost at random and seem at odds with the menu
settings. On the upside, the camera has two dials for quick and
easy access, an illuminated control panel, and an articulated
LCD that swings out 90 degrees. The beautiful Olympus 4X
zoom lens is one of the few designed from the ground up for
use with a digital camera. When the included lens hood is
attached, however, you can’t use the pop-up flash at wide
angles because the hood will occlude some of the illumination.
The E-20N saves in JPEG, TIFF, and RAW formats and supports
CompactFlash and SmartMedia. Boot time is slow, but recycling is fast. Writing to memory is slowed by the camera’s
buffer size. The E-20N offers true optical through-the-lens
viewing, but it uses a beam splitter that makes the viewfinder
extremely difficult to see clearly in low light. A beam splitter
sends 90 percent of the light to the CCD and 10 percent to the
viewfinder; most SLRs use a swinging mirror. Despite these
frustrations, this well-built camera is an excellent workhorse.
(800-201-7766, www.olympusamerica.com. llllm )
SONY CYBER-SHOT DSC-F717
The Carl Zeiss 5X zoom lens on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F717
($700 street) is almost as large and heavy as the camera itself,
but viewing from almost any angle is easy, because the lens
swivels 120 degrees. Zoom is electronically controlled, and you
can vary the zooming speed by pressing the lever harder or
lighter. The unit has an electronic, eye-level viewfinder and a
1.8-inch LCD; while its analog controls are haphazardly placed
on the body and lens, most settings can be selected via easyto-follow menus. The InfoLithium rechargeable battery provides hours of operation and even displays a minute-by-minute
countdown. You can shoot images in either 4:3 or 3:2 aspect
ratios and save pictures as JPEGs or TIFFs to the Memory Stick.
Boot and recycle times were relatively fast. Two exclusive
Sony features are NightFrame and
NightShot—the ability to see and
PERFORMANCE TESTS: PROSUMER CAMERAS
shoot in total darkness—useful for
Boot time Recycle time
surveillance and nature photography.
L High scores are best.
Pixel
Resolution (lines per inch)
with LCD
with LCD
Maximum
M Low scores are best.
transition Horizontal Vertical Center
and flash
and flash
But the maximum shutter speed is
resolution
Bold type denotes first place.
average L
(seconds) M
(seconds) M
L
L
M
only 0.001 seconds. Still, the DSCMinolta DiMage 7Hi
2,560 x 1,920
2%
1, 400
1,450
1,425
3.3
2.0
F717 is an excellent, all-around camOlympus E-20N
2,560 x 1,920
3%
1,400
1,350
1,375
N/A
2.0
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F717
2,560 x 1,712
3%
1,450
1,450 1,450
3.0
2.1
era. (888-449-7669, www.sony.com.
N/A—Not applicable: The camera cannot boot with the LCD and flash turned on.
llllm )—SWG and DG
100
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
D I G I TA L C A M E R A S
PRICE/PERFORMANCE INDEX
As usual, the costliest cameras tend to get
the most points. The Editors’ Choice–
winning Pentax Optio 550 has the highest
score but also costs $600 street. Features
like time-lapse photography, a 0.8-inch
macro mode, and 5X optical zoom, combined with very
good test results and jury scores, reflect its top quality.
Those looking for a better balance of price and
performance should consider our other Editors’ Choice,
the Kodak EasyShare DX6340. At just $329 list, it still
offers slide show mode, 4X optical zoom, and decent
performance test results and jury scores.
THE DATA POINTS: To determine each camera’s performance/
features score, we include its features, its performance test
scores, and our jury ratings. Features account for about 70
percent of the score. The tests account for nearly 20 percent,
and the jury ratings account for the rest.
THE DSC-P8 packs a whole
lot of features into a small body.
The menu system on the 1.8-inch LCD is
sophisticated, with clever but small icons.
The DSC-P8 packs a full feature set, including a viewable histogram—a nice
touch. There are multiple configurations
for white balance (adjusting only to flash
is convenient), meterings, and exposure,
which enthusiasts require.
Other notable features include abundant auto settings, multiple video settings (with audio), and the ability to
shoot video in macro mode. Sony’s 3X
optical zoom lens has a 35-mm equivalent of 39 to 117 mm. But the placement of
the zoom control feels awkward when
you’re peering through the viewfinder
with your left eye.
The DSC-P8 scored about average on
our pixel transition test, which measures
perceived sharpness. Resolution results for
this 3.2-megapixel camera were below average for the group, though acceptable for
a camera of its class. Performance timings
102
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
PERFORMANCE/
FEATURES
60
70
80
MOST
BANG
FOR
THE
BUCK
90
Polaroid
$300
Kodak
$350
Nikon
Toshiba
Panasonic
Casio
$400
Sony
HP
Fujifilm
Samsung
$450
Olympus
$500
$550
RED denotes Editors’ Choice.
were average for boot-up and very good
for recycle time. Our jury particularly liked
the sample image with the flash.
Like HP, Sony claims that its camera is
USB 2.0–compatible. But we found no difference in transfer time using USB 1.1 or
2.0 connections, indicating that the DSCP8 is limited to USB 2.0 full-speed transfers, not high-speed. The Memory Stick
itself may be the bottleneck, but conversations with Sony were inconclusive at
best.
The DSC-P8 comes with Sony’s proprietary 16MB Memory Stick and NP-FC11 InfoLithium rechargeable battery, along
with an AC adapter for in-camera
recharging; we’d like all cameras to include such an item. This sleek and stylish
product is sure to please a novice or enthusiast photographer.—GM
Toshiba PDR-T30
3.2 megapixels, $399.99 list. 800-288-1354,
www.dsc.toshiba.com. l l l l m
The Toshiba PDR-T30 is a 3.2-megapixel
digital camera with a unique touch screen
that lets you draw directly onto images
and select settings. Although it’s a beautifully finished camera that produces very
good flash pictures, you may find the
touch screen too small and frustrating.
The all-metal PDR-T30 is rounded on
one side and square on the other, so it can
stand vertically as well as horizontally.
Activating the camera requires an inconvenient two-step process of sliding a mirrored flap to expose the lens and using a
separate power switch on top. The built-
Minolta
Canon
Konica
Pentax PRICE
in flash automatically pops up and stays
up whether you’re using it or not.
The PDR-T30 does not have a tripod
socket screw, audio capability, or a video
output, and the USB port is on the flat side
of the camera, so it cannot be attached
while the camera is standing vertically.
Apart from the touch screen—which doubles as the LCD viewfinder—the PDR-T30
does not have an optical viewfinder.
There’s a review button plus a tiny fourway rocker/wide-angle/telephoto switch,
but it’s oversensitive and difficult to use.
Although the PDR-T30 is a point-andshoot camera with few manual adjustments or features, it has five program
modes as well as movie and multishot capability. The touch screen works equally
well with the strap-attached stylus or your
fingernail. The screen is quite legible, but
some of the icons are unfamiliar, and the
menu sequences are not intuitive. Drawing on captured images is fun, but the
screen’s small size makes neatness and
precision difficult.
Performance was slow, especially with
the two-step power-on, and quality ranged
from fair to very good. Our daylight test
shot was significantly underexposed, with
acceptable sharpness but drab colors. Our
flash test shot exhibited even illumination,
excellent color, and good detail.
If the PDR-T30 were larger and better
implemented, it would be a really cool
camera for kids and doodlers. And it’s the
only choice for real-estate or insurance
agents, for whom touch-screen annotation
is a crucial factor.—SWG and DG E
IMAGE EDITING
Clean
Up
Your
Image
photographs captured with a $300 camera; hence the demand for
midlevel image-editing programs. Though these products differ
from one another, all offer powerful correction features, creative
filter effects, and flexible photo composition tools. But unlike
Photoshop, they’re cheap.
As you might expect, each program provides automated tools
that are easy to use. For example, they all can automatically remove red eye. They all offer tools for advanced image-editing
Digital cameras are hot. But the truth is, no matter how
functions, such as interactive histograms that report on
capable the hardware is, you still need software
the distribution of tonal values in a picture and
to perfect your pictures. Sometimes low-cost
lets users modify the shadow, midtone, and
cameras introduce lens distortions; somehighlight values independently.
times inappropriate lighting results in
In evaluating the products here, we
underexposed or overexposed images,
focus on practical issues. For instance,
and sometimes the photographer
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 earns
B Y LU I S A S I M O N E
frames the subjects poorly.
extra points for ease of use, because
REVIEWED IN THIS STORY
You can correct all of these probit includes automated output oplems—and many more—with
tions and a streamlined but flexible
113 Adobe Photoshop
image-editing software. Of course,
user interface.
Elements 2.0 llllm
Adobe Photoshop is still the gold
We have broadened our criteria
113 Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8 llllm
standard for image correction and enfor advanced correction tools to in118 Microsoft Digital Image
hancement. But it is difficult to justify
clude nondestructive editing tools.
Suite 9 lllmm
buying a $600 software package to edit
For
example, both Photoshop Elements
118 Ulead PhotoImpact 8 llllm
[
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAULINE CUTLER/GETTYIMAGES
Once you get a digital camera, it won’t
be long before you realize you need an
image-editing program to polish your
photos before printing them.
[
112 Editors’ Choice
116 Scorecard
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
111
and Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8 offer adjustment layers, which apply dynamic-range
and color corrections to image data lower
in the layer stack. The effects layers preserve the original image data, and they
can be modified or removed at any time.
Likewise, layer-blending modes—something that at first seems totally artsy—
are actually quite useful for intensifying
washed-out colors or blending details
back into an image that has been softened
by filter effects.
There is a natural synergy between
digital images and the Web. Though all of
these programs offer some level of Web
output, the hands-down winner in this
area is Ulead PhotoImpact 8, which can
do everything from generating automated Web galleries to producing custom
HTML pages.
Finally, we look at each program’s
ability to perform mundane tasks, such
as finding, organizing, and archiving the
hundreds or thousands of image files
that digital photography creates. In this
market niche, most of the image-editing
programs concentrate on visual browsing tools.
Only Microsoft Digital Image Library
(part of Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9)
delivers easy-to-use archival functions.
The other programs here, however, have
complementary image management
programs: Adobe Photoshop Album,
Paint Shop Photo Album, and Ulead
Photo Explorer (which is bundled with
Ulead PhotoImpact 8). For a roundup of
these and other products, see our online
story “Pictures, Pictures Everywhere” at
w w w . p c m a g . c o m /a r t i c l e 2 /
0,4149,887373,00.asp.
If each program in this roundup seems
to have very particular strengths, appearances are not deceiving. But this is good
news. No program can or should be all
things to all users. The differentiating factors among these extremely capable programs mean that you can find the exact
product to meet your specific digitalimaging needs.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0
The midlevel image-editing market has matured in the past
couple of years. But despite some stiff competition, Adobe
Photoshop Elements 2.0 remains on top.
Every one of the image-editing apps we review brings something
valuable to the table, which is why you won’t see any low scores on
our scorecard. But Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 presents the best
overall balance of features, power, and ease of use.
Of course, Elements’ relationship to Adobe Photoshop doesn’t hurt;
the hand-me-down technology makes the less expensive Elements
seem surprisingly sophisticated and capable. But unlike Photoshop,
Elements has new users in mind, with several kinds of in-program
support, including tips, step-by-step help, one-touch fixes, and readyto-use effects.
Ulead PhotoImpact 8 deserves an honorable mention for its extraordinary range of features, from image editing and enhancement with
vector tools and special effects to Web publishing. Its output options,
particularly its Web capabilities, are the most advanced here.
Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8 rivals even Photoshop in capabilities, though
its ease of use suffers in favor of features. Paint Shop Pro also has
filters designed specifically to handle the photo problems that lowend cameras pose.
Although the other programs here offer tools to help users keep track
of their cartloads of image files, only Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9’s
Digital Image Library handles them like a pro. It has archival functions
and can catalog the images you keep on removable media—a real
bonus for those who have as many gigabytes of photos as they have
hard drive space.
Our contributors: Luisa Simone
is a contributing editor of PC Magazine. Associate editor Matthew
P. Graven and PC Magazine Labs
project leader Jonathan Roubini
were in charge of this story.
112
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS borrows technology from the professional Adobe Photoshop.
IMAGE EDITING
ALL REVIEWS BY LUISA SIMONE
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0
$99 direct. Adobe Systems Inc., www.adobe.com/
products/photoshopel. OVERALL RATING: llllm
As its name implies, Adobe Photoshop
Elements 2.0 is based on Adobe’s flagship
product, Photoshop. Thanks to this relationship, Elements offers an impressive
amount of state-of-the-art graphics technology while striking an excellent balance of power and ease of use.
Elements uses a similar toolbar and
many of the same floating palettes as
Photoshop. And the program employs
the same technology to perform essential
operations, such as gamma correction
and hue/saturation adjustments. But
Elements presents such high-end func-
same cloning, retouching, and painting
tools found in Photoshop.
Elements provides a full complement
of special-effects filters, vector shapes,
and editable text. You can embellish
images with Layer Effects such as
bevels, glows, and drop shadows. Layer
Effects are more powerful than simple
filters, because they remain editable.
You can change an effect at any time
by editing parameters, such as the
angle of a drop shadow or the size of a
beveled edge.
To be sure, Elements doesn’t provide all
the capabilities of Photoshop. Instead,
Adobe has deliberately streamlined and
simplified Photoshop in creating Elements. Outputting to the Web, for example, does not include the options of slicing
and text styles. And mistakes are no big
deal, thanks to a History palette that lets
you roll back edits.
For basic image management, Elements offers an integrated File Browser,
which displays thumbnails of the current
folder sorted by predefined criteria such
as date, size, and filename. The File
Browser also supports batch file functions to rename, rotate, move, or copy
multiple files.
During our testing, Elements accessed
the images from a digital camera via USB
without a hitch, and it even displayed
EXIF data in the browser. The browser
doesn’t offer archival functions, however,
such as keyword searches or catalogs of
removable media. For advanced photo
management tools, you can buy Adobe
Photoshop Album ($49.99 direct).
Elements has a remarkable balance of
usability and features. It’s a very good
choice for users with varying levels of
experience.
Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8
Download, $99 direct; CD, $109. Jasc Software Inc.,
www.jasc.com. llllm
PAINT SHOP PRO offers sophisticated tools, including Adjustment Layers.
tions in a simple interface that is more
comfortable for novices. For example,
there are automated tools that can easily
fix red eye, eradicate color casts, sharpen blurry images, and more. We especially like the Fill Flash and Adjust Backlighting commands, which use familiar
photographic terms to perform tonal
corrections.
Although Elements provides a lot of
hand-holding for novices, it doesn’t handcuff more experienced users. The Levels
dialog box, for example, is still available
for users who want complete control
over tonal values. Elements also includes
versatile layer technology, which supports blending modes and nondestructive adjustment layers. You can use the
images, generating JavaScript mouseovers, and designing HTML pages from
scratch. Instead, an automated mechanism generates a Web-ready photo gallery
from a list of images.
Other output options also emphasize
convenience. When you attach photos to
an e-mail message, Elements can resize
the file. You can print multiple copies of
an image on a single sheet of paper or log
on to Shutterfly (http://adobe.shutterfly
.com) to order prints, calendars, or greeting cards. We’re particularly fond of its
ability to generate a PDF slide show.
The Help feature includes hints about
the currently selected tool, step-by-step
recipes for common tasks, and a host of
ready-to-use effects, such as photo frames
Among the programs reviewed here, Jasc
Paint Shop Pro 8 offers the most professional set of features, closely matching
those of Adobe Photoshop 7.0 (but not
Photoshop Elements). This means that
Paint Shop Pro delivers an amazing
amount of power at a very low price. But
it also means that the program takes a
while to learn.
Paint Shop Pro has a revamped user interface, making this version easier to
learn and use than previous releases. For
example, the toolbar has been reorganized with flyouts that logically group
similar tools, and the Learning Center
contains detailed instructions for many
common tasks.
Meanwhile, automated tools, such as
One Step Photo Fix, auto-sharpen, and
red-eye removal, let even novices be productive immediately. Paint Shop Pro also
MORE
ON THE
WEB:
Read more about digital
imaging at www.pcmag.com /
digitalimaging. And for tips
on using your image-editing program,
visit www.pcmag.com/imageediting.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
113
IMAGE EDITING
SCORECARD
ol
s
to
ut
tp
Ou
Ef
fe
c
ts
ed
Ad
va
nc
Ea
se
of
us
e
llll
using file attributes and keywords.
All the products do fairly well at automated correction, which includes one-click red-eye removal, image
straightening, and color balancing. Advanced tools
include a product’s manual controls for elements like
color, contrast, hue, and saturation.
Ulead PhotoImpact 8 outstrips the other programs
in effects (plug-ins and special effects) and in output,
which involves everything from the number of export
formats to support for Web output, photo albums, and
novelty items.
Au
to
co ma
rr te
ec d
tio
n
–EXCELLENT
–VERY GOOD
l l l –GOOD
l l –FAIR
l –POOR
lllll
Im
ag
m ec
an a
ag ptu
em re
en an
t d
The four image-editing tools in this roundup
are all quite capable. The overall ratings are
close, but each application finds a balance
between ease of use and power, and that’s
where the differences show.
Ease of use, always a problem for the more powerful
programs, is where Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0
shines. The image capture and management rating
involves both the process of acquiring images from a
camera or other device (or a CD) and the ability to
organize and catalog image thumbnails intuitively,
OVERALL
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0
lllll
lll
llll
llll
llll
llll
llll
Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8
Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9
lll
lll
lll
lllll
llll
lll
llll
llll
lllll
lll
lll
lll
lll
lll
Ulead PhotoImpact 8
lll
llll
llll
llll
lllll
lllll
llll
RED denotes Editors’ Choice.
has several tools that address the shortcomings of low-end cameras. New lens
filters, for example, can correct barrel,
fish-eye, and pincushion distortions.
Nonetheless, Paint Shop Pro is really
aimed at power users. The program
offers a wealth of correction mechanisms,
including black-and-white points, a channel mixer, histogram adjustments, and
tone cures.
We are very impressed with the extensive support for nondestructive editing.
You can create complex compositions
using Paint Shop Pro’s powerful layer
technology. Blending modes, transparency
settings, layer masks, and the ability to
create discrete layer groups give you total
control over how layers interact. Adjustment Layers, for example, let you edit or
reverse color, contrast, and tonal adjustments. Likewise, Mask Layers let you
hide portions of an image or create varying levels of transparency while preserving the original image.
Paint Shop Pro has rudimentary support for CMYK separations. The program
does not let you edit composite CMYK
images, but it does split RGB color data
into individual files for the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black channels necessary
for four-color printing.
Paint Shop Pro supports editable text
and vector shapes. Version 8.01 fixes a
bug with the text engine that prevented
some edits from appearing in composi116
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
tions. The program ships with an excellent collection of special-effects filters,
including texture effects, lighting
controls, and artistic media. Our one
criticism is that object-level effects, such
as drop shadows and bevels, are applied
as static filters, which cannot be subsequently modified.
The template-based approach lets you
lay out multiple images to be printed on
a single page. And a deal with Shutterfly
( www.jasc.shutterfly.com) lets you easily
order prints as well as specialty items like
calendars and greeting cards.
Paint Shop Pro’s integrated browser
includes modest file management functions, including the ability to sort thumbnails and search the current directory for
a filename. The browser worked flawlessly with our USB-connected digital camera,
but it does have a few weaknesses. The
sort order is not dynamic; you have to resort each time you add new images. And
you must open files in Paint Shop Pro before you can retrieve the camera settings
stored as EXIF data. The companion pro-
MICROSOFT DIGITAL IMAGE LIBRARY lets you manage images, even when they’re stored on CD.
gram Paint Shop Photo Album ($49) delivers true archival functions.
If you prefer quick fixes, Paint Shop
Pro is not for you. But if you enjoy the
technology behind digital image editing,
you’ll be happy with its vast toolset.
Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9
$130 street. Microsoft Corp., www.microsoft.com/
imaging. lllmm
Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9 comprises
two programs, Microsoft Digital Image
Pro 9 and Microsoft Digital Image Library
9. The suite’s look and feel are reminiscent
of the entry-level Microsoft Picture It! line.
The big news in this release is Digital
Image Library, which delivers powerful
yet easy-to-use archival functions. Digital Image Library imports images from
external sources (CDs, digital cameras,
scanners) and archives images to
removable media. It also lets you catalog
images without having to copy them to
your hard drive—a great way to keep a
permanent, searchable record of removable media. Digital Image Library can
sort thumbnails using several criteria,
including date, size, and file type. More
important, it can sort based on user-defined keywords and ratings.
The interface is elegant, with contextsensitive menus and icon-driven commands making the program’s functions
nearly self-explanatory. And you can
perform batch file operations—copy, rotate, and so on—from within Digital
Image Library.
Digital Image Pro is the suite’s core
program for correcting and manipulating
images. Like other Picture It! products,
Digital Image Pro eschews traditional
toolbars and palettes, opting instead
for a simplified interface built around the
task pane. The interface also has two
dockable palettes for files and for
the Stack, which is Microsoft’s take
on layers.
For absolute neophytes, the task pane
is a blessing, presenting only the information needed for a current job. For example, the Colorize Brush task pane
walks you through selecting brush sizes,
choosing colors, and painting on a canvas.
But experienced users will be frustrated:
You can’t bypass the hand-holding.
Digital Image Pro has lots of automated
correction tools to eliminate common
problems, such as red eye, crooked
images, and poor exposures. And a numSEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
117
IMAGE EDITING
ber of retouching tools help inexperi- image-editing functions while retaining
Photo Impact has a number of autoenced users clean up their photographs. an entry-level interface. But if you’re look- matic functions to correct common
For example, the new Smart Erase func- ing for an easy-to-use, powerful image- photographic problems, such as out-oftion removes a selected area while intelli- archiving tool, Digital Image Library alone focus images, color casts, poor expogently filling in the space with sampled may justify the suite’s high price.
sures, and red eye. Rather than making
pixels from the background.
you hunt through various commands, the
Digital Image Pro has some very useful Ulead PhotoImpact 8
Post-Processing wizard provides a cenmanual correction tools. The Adjust Lev- Download, $79.95 direct; CD, $89.95; upgrade, $44.95
tral location and lots of detailed instrucels pane, for example, has a histogram of download or $49.95 on CD. Ulead Systems Inc., www
tions for all of the automated correction
.ulead.com/pi. llllm
gray values, as well as separate controls
tools. Like other products in this
for shadows, midtones, and highlights. Calling Ulead PhotoImpact 8 just another roundup, PhotoImpact uses photographAnd the new Unsharp Mask filter lets image-editing program is a little insulting, ic techniques in filter form to apply nonyou improve picture quality by increasing because it contains robust vector tools linear tonal corrections. Fill Flash and
the contrast only along the edges of and amazing Web publishing capabilities, Enhance Shadow can correct underas well as a full complement of image cor- exposures and overexposures.
details in a photograph.
The program also provides several rection and enhancement features.
Expert users who want total control
Mastering all of the tools within over image correction will prefer to use
handy output options, including templates for printing multiple pictures on a PhotoImpact requires some time and the program’s advanced functions,
single sheet and the ability to save images effort. There are two main reasons for including the Levels dialog box, tone
at appropriate resolutions for e-mail at- this. First, the menu structure is idiosyn- maps, and color adjustments. A feature
tachments or handheld devices. You can cratic; both the Dynamic Range Exten- called Dynamic Range Extension boralso connect to MSN Photos to order sion filter and the Enhance Lighting filter rows an idea from traditional darkroom
prints, photo T-shirts,
techniques by letting
and greeting cards.
you combine two
The program further
photos of the same
distinguishes itself
image, taken with diffrom the competition
ferent exposures, to
by including a number
maintain detail in
of ready-made proboth highlight and
jects, such as broshadow areas.
chures and calendars.
Several handy tools
Our favorite output
can help you create
option—Photo Story
seamless, complex
Lite—is available from
compositions. The
within Digital Image
Layers palette lets
Library. A Photo Story
you specify layer
is a narrated slide
transparency
and
show that can be
blending
modes.
saved to Windows
PhotoImpact falls just
Media Video (WMV)
short of Photoshop
format or to a video
Elements and Paint
CD. This function is
Shop Pro, however,
available only to Winbecause it does not
PHOTOIMPACT goes beyond traditional image editing, offering a variety of Web tools.
dows XP users.
support Adjustment
Our testing revealed that Digital Image are image correction tools, but the for- Layers. But the program is full of other
Pro suffers from several intrinsic limita- mer is found on the Format menu (along terrific tools. We especially like the
tions. For example, the Stack lets you with other image correction tools) and Match Background command, which
adjust transparency and change the the latter is in the Effects menu. This blends the background of a floating
stacking order in a photo montage, but kind of inconsistency makes the program object into the underlying image.
you can’t assign different blending modes more difficult to learn.
PhotoImpact includes a host of
(like multiply or overlay) as you can in
Second, the program offers different special-effects filters, from the utilitarthe other programs here. Likewise, Digi- functions for different types of data. For ian (like Unsharp Mask) to the artistic
tal Image Pro’s brush-based tools come in example, automated drop shadows can be (like Watercolor). Beyond these static
only seven predefined sizes. And with the an attribute of a vector object (such as an effects, PhotoImpact offers several
exception of GIF animations, Digital ellipse) but not a raster object (such as a effects that can be animated and saved
Image Pro doesn’t output sophisticated cutout of a photographic figure). Photo- directly to a GIF file. This is a handy way
Web graphics, like Web galleries or shop Elements, by contrast, can apply the to add down-and-dirty animated
JavaScript mouse-overs.
same drop-shadow layer effect to either elements to a Web site. For example,
Particle can generate falling snow, and
Digital Image Pro adds advanced raster or vector objects.
118
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Type can make text glow.
PhotoImpact puts a special emphasis
on vector-based text and shapes. You can
create complex outlines with Bezier
drawing tools. And you can even add
realistic depth effects to both text and
shapes with specialized attributes that are
reminiscent of 3-D modeling programs,
such as chiseled edges, reflection maps,
and multiple light sources.
PhotoImpact offers remarkable Web
features. It lets you build custom Web
pages complete with pictures, banners,
buttons, and HTML. The integrated Component Designer lets you generate complex objects (like mouse-over buttons)
simply by selecting options in a dialog
box. For automated Web output, try Web
Albums and Web Galleries.
We are big fans of PhotoImpact’s
JavaScript Slide Show functions, which
lets you assign behaviors to the individual pieces of a sliced image. Thus, you
can add playback commands (like next or
previous) to selected slices for controlling
the presentation in other slices. Other
nifty output options include printing
multiple copies of a picture on a single
sheet of paper and saving a slide show to
a video CD.
Our one complaint about the product
is that there is actually too much in the
box. For example, a bundled standalone
program called Album lets you organize
your images into collections of thumbnails. But you can’t automatically load a
selected image into PhotoImpact for editing; this, coupled with a complex, database-driven approach to keywords,
makes Album a cumbersome product
with limited usefulness. You can safely
ignore Album, though, because PhotoImpact ships with another program,
Photo Explorer, which offers many more
conveniences.
Photo Explorer is a browser, not a true
archival program. But it can launch
PhotoImpact for editing images, display
EXIF camera stats, and connect to Ulead’s
photo-sharing Web site, iMira (www
.imira.com).
PhotoImpact doesn’t quite match
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, but it
does provide an impressive breadth of
features. If you want a single solution
that offers more than just traditional
image-editing features—especially Webrelated tools—then you should consider
PhotoImpact. E
SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
119
lights
100% additive-free
natural tobacco
For a sample CARTON call:
1-800-872-6460 ext. 33001
No additives in our tobacco
does NOT mean a safer cigarette.
SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Cigarette
Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide.
SMOKING “LIGHT” FILTERED CIGARETTES DOES NOT ELIMINATE THE HEALTH RISKS OF SMOKING. Actual levels of tar and nicotine experienced by the smoker
may vary widely depending on how you smoke. For more information, see www.nascigs.com
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Offer restricted to smokers 21 years of age or older. Offer good only in the USA. Offer void where restricted or prohibited
by law or by SFNTC policy. Limit one sample carton per person per year (12 months).
© SFNTC 3
B Y R I C H A R D V. D R A G A N
This second feature in our
series on building and
deploying Web services
explores the software that
runs your business code
and weighs in on the J2EEversus-.NET dilemma.
S
R
E
V
R
E
S
N
O
I
T
A
C
I
L
E
H
REVIEWED IN THIS STORY
T
124 BEA WebLogic Server 8.1
lllll
126 JBoss 3.2 lllll
128 Microsoft Windows Server
2003 lllll
129 Oracle9i Application Server
lllll
131 Sun ONE Application
Server 7 lllll
133 WebSphere Application
Server 5 lllll
P
P
A
125 The Big Decision: J2EE
or .NET?
125 Editors’ Choice
126 Caching In on Performance
127 Scorecard
128 Page Scripting: The
Simpler App Servers
130 Performance Tests
132 Summary of Features
or GERS Retail Systems, application servers and
Web services aren’t just buzzwords: They’re
business necessities. The 250-employee San
Diego–based company develops point-of-sale
software for over 300 retailers, including Black
& Decker, Nextel, and Z Gallerie—a national upscale home furnishings chain. Management realized back in 2000 that it would have to update its infrastructure with an application
server to keep the company ahead of the competition.
The goal was to let businesses offer their customers multiple ways to buy goods: from retail stores, the Web, online catalogs, kiosks, mobile phones, and PDAs. The company also
wanted to keep up with customers that were moving their
servers to Linux to reduce licensing costs—a growing trend in
corporate America.
GERS needed a way to adapt the system it had built up over 29
years. “We have a pretty significant legacy system that now integrates into our applications, and we didn’t want to have to
rebuild them from the ground up,” says Andy George, VP of
development. So the company turned to Web services running
F
D U E L I N G
P L A T F O R M S
Here we compare the two competing architectures that underpin application servers.
.NET
PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES/HULTON ARCHIVE
J2EE
Standard supported through the JCP
(Java Community Process)
TYPE OF TECHNOLOGY
Proprietary
Many
MIDDLEWARE VENDORS
Microsoft
Java Virtual Machine (JVM) 1.3, 1.4
VIRTUAL MACHINE
Common Language Runtime (CLR) 1.1
JavaServer Pages (JSP)
SERVER-SIDE SCRIPTING
ASP (Active Server Pages) .NET
Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) built with entitymodeling tools in Java.
MIDDLE-TIER LOGIC
Custom-built .NET Managed Components
in multiple .NET languages.
JDBC
DATABASE ACCESS
ADO.NET
Java Message Service (JMS)
RELIABLE MESSAGING
MSMQ
Java Transaction Service (JTS)
TRANSACTIONS
Microsoft Transaction Services
No
BUILT-IN WEB SERVICES
Yes
Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME)
MOBILE
.NET Compact Framework
on application server software to extend its existing business
logic. This way, GERS could serve customers that wanted to use
multiple retail channels and satisfy customers moving to Linux.
From early 2001, GERS engineers pursued development on
BEA WebLogic Server and JBoss, while another group of its
programmers worked with the Microsoft .NET beta. When it
came to putting a system into production, the availability of
J2EE for Linux was critical.
The decision in mid-2002 to choose WebSphere instead of
WebLogic, JBoss, or .NET as a Web services delivery platform
came down to three requirements: support for a variety of
infrastructures running at customers’ locations, strong administration features, and keeping GERS’s own developers happy.
Only WebSphere delivered on all three.
The result? Z Gallerie is running GERS software on 50 Linux
servers, and its sales managers can now open a Web browser at
home to see details about any orders transacted at their stores’
point-of-sale devices that day. The $5 million project is already
seeing a return on investment.
GERS’s experience illustrates how Web services, Linux, and .NET
are major considerations in choosing an application server, the
nerve center that runs an enterprise’s mission-critical code.
Reducing costs by integrating different systems has become a
primary business goal for IT organizations choosing app servers.
Further cutting costs, the price of app servers themselves has
plummeted—from as much as $50,000 two years ago to a more
comfortable four-figure range now.
Web services are well positioned to make cost-reducing integration work. In the previous article in this series on the new
application paradigm (“Brave New Apps: The Development
Tools,” August 5, page 114), we evaluated tools you use to develop the apps. This time, we compare six leading application
servers that can run the code built in those development tools.
To test the software, we deployed an application called Nile
2.0, which simulates an online bookstore. We produced an EJB
2.0 version to test the J2EE application servers and a functionally equivalent .NET version to test Microsoft’s offering. We
evaluated how easily we could deploy and manage the application in each product, checking for over 100 specific features.
Each product offers a Web services strategy—essential for the
dawning era of service-oriented architectures (SOAs). In GERS’s case,
a SOA made point-of-sale systems available across different servers
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
123
and devices. In the past, developers used CORBA and DCOM to connect applications over a network, but those produced tightly coupled connections. Now,
developers are wiring together discrete pieces of application logic using Web
service standards like SOAP and WSDL, which result in loosely coupled systems—
that is, they’re adaptable to future needs. Connecting existing code bases is also
less programmer-intensive. Gone are the days when developer productivity was
measured in lines of code.
Today, the leading players in the application server market rely on Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.3—a rich model for building business and database components (Enterprise JavaBeans, or EJBs), messaging (JMS), transactions (JTS), and
Web-based user interfaces (JavaServer Pages, or JSP). In a twist of timing and history, the current standard—J2EE 1.3—does not specifically include Web service
support. J2EE 1.4 (now in beta) will specify Web services when it arrives in late
2003. The software makers currently offer proprietary solutions to handle Web
service issues, but their levels of support for emerging standards, such as those
for workflow (like Web Service Inspection Language and security), can vary.
THE CHALLENGER: .NET
Into the Web services fray comes the Microsoft .NET Framework, now in Version 1.1
and included with Windows Server 2003. Microsoft has implemented Web services
in .NET by hiding many of the underlying plumbing details. While J2EE developers
need wizards and tools to build Web services, in .NET these aren’t necessary.
It’s easy to forget that an app server performs many of the same functions as an
OS. In Windows, messaging is provided by MSMQ (Microsoft Message Queuing),
transactions by MTS (Microsoft Transaction Services), and Web serving by IIS 6.0,
all backed up with a new set of APIs that rival Java for developer productivity. In fact,
.NET developers can use an eclectic collection of languages for development,
including C#, Visual Basic .NET, and even a .NET version of Java called Visual J#.
On the downside, choosing Microsoft means giving up cross-vendor compatibility, and you’ll have to forget about running servers on Linux. Clearly, Redmond
has confidence in .NET’s performance: Microsoft was the only company that
agreed to let PC Magazine Labs run throughput tests on its software. (See the
performance tests on page 130.)
Although J2EE is firmly entrenched in many businesses—especially in the
banking, insurance, and automotive industries—Microsoft clearly sees a chance
to leap-frog the rest of the app server market by pointing to .NET’s easy, built-in
Web services support.
ENTICING PRICING
As the GERS experience suggests, IT departments want easy access to different
J2EE application servers early in the course of a project. The infrastructure companies clearly see the benefit of hooking developers early, and several have
recently begun to offer low-cost or even no-cost developer licenses. In fact, both
BEA and Sun offer free versions for developers, and JBoss is free open-source. And
new, lower-price versions of app server software in the $1,000 ballpark are available from most of the companies.
Still, price isn’t the only consideration. When deciding on an app server, you
should evaluate each platform’s administrative capabilities. These can be very
minimal—as in JBoss—or fully scalable, caching-capable, and cluster-aware, as
in BEA, Oracle, and IBM’s offerings. Companies running on one or two servers will
choose differently from those running hundreds.
Application servers are now mature products that can bring legacy systems
together using Web services. The success of GERS shows that whether you’re
building from scratch or trying to get old code to work with new platforms, the
current software is ready for the challenge.
Our contributors: Richard V. Dragan is a contributing editor, and Matthew D. Sarrel is a technical director at PC Magazine Labs. Timothy Dyck is a freelance technical writer. Associate editor
Michael W. Muchmore and Labs project leader Sahil Gambhir were in charge of this story.
124
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
BEA WebLogic Server 8.1
$10,000 direct per CPU. BEA Systems Inc., 800-8174232, www.bea.com. OVERALL RATING: l l l l l
BEA WebLogic Server 8.1 is a top con-
tender for any organization running Javabased software. Its impressive potential
for scalability, JVM performance, and
new emphasis on making J2EE and Web
services easier for developers are noteworthy. This is a very deep application
server that’s easy to run and easy to manage, especially on multiple clusters.
WebLogic’s configuration wizard let
us set up several default domains effortlessly. Like the other J2EE app servers we
reviewed, WebLogic runs on Windows,
Linux, and many versions of Unix. We
tested it on Windows 2000 Server and XP
and found setup among the easiest. BEA
is unique in that its Java Virtual Machine
(JVM), JRockit 1.3, is optimized for serverside Java running on Intel Xeon and Itanium processors.
WebLogic’s Web-based console offers
robust tools for managing J2EE applications. The interface ranks in the forefront
of products we reviewed in both ease of
use and depth. It makes deploying J2EE
EAR (enterprise application archive) and
WAR (Web application archive) files a
cinch through a browser and lets you
safely update them on a running server.
Clustering support—clearly not an
afterthought—is available at every level
of your deployment. A standout feature:
WebLogic’s clustering can use a twophase commit when you make changes to
clustered servers. Before a change takes
effect, every server casts a vote to indicate whether there are any errors. You
can cancel an update if a problem occurs.
WebLogic’s capabilities for monitoring
the performance of EJBs and other J2EE
resources are excellent, with statistics
and log messages available for most resources and services.
BEA has succeeded in making the building of Web services and EJBs easy. The
new WebLogic Workshop 8.1, a visual developer tool, gives you a set of framework
classes to speed up the creation of EJBs
and Web services tailored to easy deployment on Version 8.1 of the app server. For
example, these classes let developers
build asynchronous Web services and
Web services that use JMS (Java Message
Service) for guaranteed delivery. These
messaging smarts equal those that IBM’s
A P P L I C AT I O N S E R V E R S
The Big Decision:
J2EE or .NET
B
PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES/HULTON ARCHIVE
oth J2EE and .NET provide an environment for executing
business logic (server- or client-side), and they both
contain specifications and APIs for accessing data,
directory services, and remote applications. Once you dig deeper, however, the differences surface.
One major difference is the basic philosophy toward programming
and deployment. .NET is inextricably tied to Windows operating systems, so you don’t need to install separate application server software. Java is mostly cross-platform, though J2EE application server
vendors have added proprietary extensions in an attempt to distinguish themselves from competitors.
Java programs are compiled into platform-independent byte code
and then interpreted and executed by a Java Virtual Machine running
on almost any operating system. This means that programmers
wanting to deploy J2EE have just one language choice: Java.
Meanwhile, .NET’s Common Language Runtime (CLR) executes a
language-independent intermediate language (IL). A developer can
compile any of a multitude of languages that support the CLR’s core
component model into IL, which is then just-in-time–compiled into
native Windows code. Alternatively, the whole application can be precompiled into a Windows EXE or DLL.
Another major difference between the platforms: Microsoft .NET
lacks a complete and fully documented component model. This
means that .NET really isn’t comparable to J2EE, which boasts an established EJB specification—already in Version 2.
While it is easier to field a .NET solution quickly, the rigidity of the
EJB specification ensures that large-scale development projects can
WebSphere offers. BEA also brands a
WebLogic version of Borland JBuilder for
developers who want to do traditional
low-level Java coding.
Although BEA has considerable clout,
with over 1,000 customers, the platform
still plays well with others. Its Java Management Extensions (JMX) enable it to
work with management tools like those
from HP and Tivoli Systems. And its security APIs, which provide integrated authentication and encryption, work with
numerous network hardware and security software products.
Like Oracle and Sun, BEA offers lowcost and no-cost versions of WebLogic,
including a subscription-based service
for developers (at $495 per seat for quarterly CDs that include all BEA software).
A 20-user version of the Workgroup Edition ($3,000 per CPU) makes WebLogic
enforce best coding practices
and design rules. But this stringency comes at the cost of more
difficulty for the average developer to master.
.NET makes development and
deployment very easy, yet it requires extensive customization
if you want to build a missioncritical environment in which reliability, transaction integrity, and
message queue management are essential. By contrast, J2EE projects
require extensive customization to begin with.
At this time, Microsoft has an edge in Web service support, with
transparent server-side XML parsing and SOAP implementation.
The J2EE community needs to play catch-up and release updated
versions of related APIs while developers are still in the early
stages of adopting Web services.
The flexibility of each technology enters the equation at a different
point of the cycle: J2EE relies on a fixed language for development yet
is platform-independent for deployment. By contrast, .NET is languageindependent for development yet platform-dependent for deployment.
If you have extensive Java programming knowledge and want to
deploy your application to many devices, then J2EE is what you need.
If your programming knowledge or existing code base is in a variety
of languages and you will never have to deploy your application to
anything but a Windows environment, .NET may be the answer.
J2EE application servers range from free to $20,000 per CPU, but
Microsoft includes the .NET Framework in Windows Server 2003. This
simplifies licensing and support, because you only have to deal with a
single vendor. But if your company chooses to develop mission-critical
applications in .NET, you’ll find yourself at Microsoft’s mercy regarding
upgrades, licenses, and support.—Matthew D. Sarrel
BEA WebLogic Server 8.1
The best interface, excellent clustering and high-availability features, leading
development tools for Web services built from standard Enterprise
JavaBeans, and trouble-free implementation catapult BEA WebLogic Server 8.1 above
the competition. In fact, it’s the only product with an excellent rating on every one of
our Scorecard categories: setup, deployment, scalability and availability, administration, interoperability, and documentation.
This application server uses the only Java Virtual Machine that’s optimized for serverside Java: JRockit 1.3. WebLogic’s management console gives you the best depth and ease
in controlling clustered servers and monitoring J2EE apps. Finally, support for both asynchronous and guaranteed-delivery Web services outstrips that found in the other tools.
Honorable mention goes to IBM’s WebSphere Application Server 5, which matches
WebLogic in management interfaces and clustering. We applaud IBM for dropping
the proprietary configuration scheme that used its DB2 database in favor of standard
XML configuration. For companies that already have an investment in IBM technologies or that need to update IBM legacy systems such as CICS via Web services, WebSphere is the top choice.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
125
Caching
In on
Performance
N
o one likes to put up with sluggish Web applications—a condition that developers can minimize by caching at the
application server. Caching stores frequently accessed data in
memory, letting Web applications bypass time-consuming
processing and accesses to back-end resources. This enables
fast, reliable delivery of both static and dynamic content.
Caching can also save developers from costly hardware expenditures. As our tests confirmed (page 130), caching delivers significant performance improvements.
Application server companies offer myriad caching options, but the
most common are page-level caching, object caching, and data
caching. Page-level caching works by simply storing Web pages in
memory. Object caching is trickier to implement, because it requires
you to maintain a balance of system resources. Data caching consists
of caching the results of queries to the data source.
An application server must deal with the nuances of when to put
new content into the cache or flush earlier cached content. Managing cache coherency in a clustered environment entails yet another
level of complexity, because multiple instances of the application
server can have their own caching policies.
A variety of solutions are available to unburden application servers
from this complexity, enabling them to achieve performance improvements under heavy loads.
CHUTNEY APPTIMIZER
Chutney Apptimizer ($50,000 and up) comes in editions for vanilla
J2EE, BEA WebLogic, and Microsoft IIS. It offers an engine that can
store the results of previously invoked function calls, presentationlayer data like HTML and XML, session objects, and even SOAP calls.
A major performance issue with caching in J2EE is the need to collect and recycle unused cached objects from memory, a process
known as garbage collection. This is considered expensive because
it requires intense CPU usage, and it can lead to system bottlenecks.
Because Apptimizer for J2EE can store code objects, it reduces the
need for garbage collection by comparing incoming requests for an
object against objects stored in its own cache. It then delivers the
data to the user straight from the Apptimizer engine.
Apptimizer versions support caching geared specifically toward
IIS and BEA WebLogic Server. Apptimizer runs on AIX, Linux, Solaris,
and Windows 2000. (Chutney Technologies Inc., 404-995-6711,
www.chutneytech.com.)
SPIDERCACHE ENTERPRISE
Although geared toward small to midsize businesses, SpiderCache
Enterprise ($4,000 and up) has enterprise-class features, notably request queuing—a method of synchronizing cached data across a
SpiderCache cluster—and security privilege features for managing
cache states. Administrators can manage the cache environment
centrally using a Windows, Web, or command line interface.
Besides offering object caching, SpiderCache can automatically manage caches based on Web events, user events, time-tolive settings, schedules, database events, and source code
changes. SpiderCache runs on Linux, Solaris, and Windows NT or
2000. (WARP Solutions Inc., 212-962-9277, www.warpsolutions
.com.)—Sahil Gambhir
affordable on the production side.
Any organization that chooses WebLogic will get an app server that has been
battle-tested at very large installations.
WebLogic doesn’t skimp on either ease-ofuse or the scalability that comes from advanced clustering technology. And its enhancements for Java developers make an
already solid platform even better. As a result, WebLogic earns our Editors’ Choice.
126
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
JBoss 3.2
Free download. The JBoss Group LLC, www.jboss.org.
lllmm
JBoss has built up a dedicated following
thanks to its license-fee-free, no-frills approach and transactional features on a
par with some application servers you’d
have to pay for. Although it’s a solid and
scalable J2EE application server, we’d like
to see enhanced support for Web ser-
vices, a simpler administration console,
and wizards for easy deployment and
configuration.
Offered under the LGPL open-source license, JBoss has the flexibility of running
in any environment that supports JDK 1.3.
It comes in three editions: one with
JBoss’s own Jetty JSP/servlet engine, one
that substitutes Tomcat for Jetty, and one
with neither.
PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES/HULTON ARCHIVE
XCACHE 2.2
Sites that use content delivery networks (CDNs)—providers of
edge-of-network content—will find XCache 2.2 ($4,500 direct)
particularly useful. XCache is designed to integrate easily into such
environments while empowering CDNs with distribution and synchronization of dynamic content. Other appealing features include
granular administration features over what gets cached, and Gzip,
which compresses white spaces in pages for greater performance
over low bandwidths. XCache works with Windows NT and Windows 2000 Server with IIS. (XCache Technologies, 877-709-8894,
www.xcache.com.)
A P P L I C AT I O N S E R V E R S
To get up and running with JBoss, you
simply download and unzip the code. Its
requirements of only 40MB of hard drive
space and 128MB of RAM are advantages
for developers who need to run the application server on laptops or desktops. Since
JBoss doesn’t have its own Java Virtual
Machine (JVM), it uses Sun Microsystems’
Hotspot, which is fairly easy to set up.
Earlier versions of JBoss did not include
clustering, replication, or fail-over, but the
latest version fills these gaps. It replicates
information in each node, and a process
automatically detects failed nodes and
redirects requests to the remaining nodes.
Vertical clustering is simple: You just add
a couple of JAR and XML config files and
JBOSS 3.2
copy the default server directory.
Unlike other servers in this roundup,
JBoss is not part of an integrated platform,
so there’s no integrated development environment, database, integration server,
or portal matched to it. Instead, JBoss relies on third-party tools.
The JBoss .NET
BEA WEBLOGIC SERVER 8.1
extensions and
the open-source
The adminisApache
Axis
trative conframework let desole of BEA
velopers expose
WebLogic
Java components
Server 8.1
places comas Web services
mon tasks
for .NET and J2EE,
within easy
respectively. But
reach on its
this approach does
welcome
screen.
not come close to
the level of support found in BEA WebLogic Server tions for EJBs and data sources in the conor WebSphere.
sole. For any of these tasks, you have to
What it lacks in components, JBoss go to the command line. Performance and
makes up for in support for Java stan- application monitoring are rudimentary,
dards. JBoss makes which made tuning our test app a laboriextensive use of ous and iterative process.
JMX
, a technology
For open-source software, the docuJBoss 3.2 gives
that modularizes mentation is surprisingly lucid, though we
you a crosssection view of
components for would like to see information on upgrade
core services,
management and paths. If you need advanced server help
including an
monitoring. And it with clustering, JMX, or CMP (containerEJB’s status
takes JMX further managed persistence) beans, you have to
and properties.
But to make
than other J2EE pony up a fee for documentation from the
any changes
vendors, turning JBoss Group. Otherwise, you can seek adyou have to go
all of JBoss’s ser- vice from newsgroups.
to the comvices
into little
On the horizon JBoss 4.0, currently in
mand line.
modular pieces Developer Release 1, will introduce a new
called Mbeans. You can add, drop, or re- programming architecture called Aspectconfigure these with a high degree of Oriented Programming, which adds object persistence, caching, replication,
ease and flexibility.
The administration console offers a transactions, security, and new mechaclear view of running EJBs, but we are dis- nisms for pooling objects.
appointed by the absence of manageThough it doesn’t offer the level of inment, configuration, and deployment op- tegrated support found in other J2EE ap-
SCORECARD
The setup rating indicates the ease and
flexibility of the application server’s installation and setup process. Deployment
reflects the steps involved in getting an
application running inside the application server container, along with options such as hot deployments.
For scalability and availability, we take into account features like load balancing, clustering, failover, and
–EXCELLENT
–VERY GOOD
l l l –GOOD
l l –FAIR
l –POOR
caching mechanisms.
Under administration we examine the management
interface, control over deployed objects, and monitoring of system resources. Interoperability refers to the
application server’s interaction with foreign systems,
including support for Web services and business connectors; we also consider cross-platform support.
Documentation includes online integrated help.
cu
m
en
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In
t
er
op
er
ab
ili
ta
tio
n
ty
n
ra
tio
ist
in
m
Ad
oy
m
en
pl
De
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llll
Sc
al
av abi
ai lity
la
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y
lllll
OVERALL
BEA WebLogic Server
lllll
lllll
lllll
lllll
lllll
lllll
lllll
JBoss
Microsoft Windows Server 2003
lll
lll
lll
ll
ll
ll
lll
llll
llll
llll
llll
lll
lllll
llll
Oracle9i Application Server
Sun ONE Application Server
WebSphere Application Server
llll
llll
lllll
lll
llll
ll
llll
lllll
llll
ll
llll
lll
lllll
lll
lllll
lllll
llll
llll
lllll
llll
llll
RED denotes Editors’ Choice.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
127
W
eb page–scripting languages offer a simpler, less costly
way to build Web applications than the full-scale J2EE or
Microsoft .NET models, which the products in our main
reviews use. Processes running directly on a Web server mean that
programmers can add scripting code right into an HTML page. A
scripting language makes the most sense for straightforward Web
applications that don’t need to share code with other corporate
applications and don’t require vast scalability or simply don’t justify
hiring high-end programmers.
JAVASERVER PAGES (JSP)
JavaServer Pages is the Web-scripting component of the J2EE standard. There is a lot of choice in JSP servers: Every high-end J2EE
application server supports JSP, and there are also a number of lowcost and no-cost options. The Apache Software Foundation’s JSP server Tomcat is free (http://jakarta.apache.org/tomcat).
Like ASP, JSP provides one programming model for both Web application and component development. Companies using Java on
their applications or database servers will find JSP a natural choice.
JSP is also similar to ASP in that its use of a high-end programming
language (in this case Java) means that high-end developer skills are
required than with PHP or Macromedia ColdFusion.
There are more choices and more variety among JSP development
tools than for any other Web-scripting languages. BEA, Borland, IBM,
Macromedia, and Sun all provide options at a variety of price levels.
MACROMEDIA COLDFUSION
ColdFusion has been around since 1995, and it continues to offer a
compelling combination: the easiest scripting language to learn,
along with one of the best HTML and Web development tools
around—Macromedia Studio MX. Like PHP, ColdFusion uses its own
language, designed just for Web development. But the ColdFusion
language is consistent and simple to understand, and because it
uses HTML-style tags, it’s easy for HTML designers to pick up. Nonprofessional developers will find ColdFusion programming far easier on their blood pressure than either ASP or JSP.
plication servers, JBoss does deliver a
highly extensible and customizable installation for developers willing to put in
the time. And did we mention it’s free?
Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Enterprise Edition with Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1
and 25 client licenses, $3,999 direct. Microsoft Corp.,
425-882-8080, www.microsoft.com. l l l l m
As the only non-J2EE offering in this
roundup, Microsoft Windows Server
128
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
The current release of
ColdFusion MX runs on
Linux, Solaris, Windows, and
HP-UX. It can run on its own
or as an add-on for a Java
app server; pricing starts at
$1,299. (Macromedia Inc.,
www.macromedia.com.)
MICROSOFT
ASP .NET
Building on the huge Visual Basic programmer base and Microsoft’s
excellent development tools, Microsoft ASP .NET is a strong choice
for those using Microsoft’s Web server, Internet Information Services
(IIS). ASP .NET (www.asp.net) is a major advance over classic Active
Server Pages. It now supports the many .NET languages.
ASP .NET provides some compelling Web-project scalability features. Visual Studio .NET provides drag-and-drop graphical page and
Web form design and automatically generates code for very common Web application tasks, such as checking the validity of incoming parameters and enforcing access security on pages. In addition,
ASP .NET makes accessible the large .NET class library, and it includes
a rich set of prebuilt HTML controls, including data grids and controls
for mobile devices. Wrapping your head around the .NET Framework
is a complex task but can reward you with more productive development. (Microsoft Corp., www.microsoft.com.)
PHP
The free, open-source PHP (Personal Home Page) hitched its star to
Linux and to The Apache Software Foundation’s HTTP Server Project
early on and has never looked back. PHP stands out for its cross-platform support (it can run on almost any OS and Web server) as well
as its massive function library, which does everything from creating Adobe PDF files on the fly to accessing data in databases and
calling external Microsoft COM or Java objects. But PHP offers much
less opportunity for code and skills reuse than ASP or JSP does, and
native PHP IDEs are less rich than options like Microsoft Visual Studio or Macromedia Studio MX, which does have basic PHP support.
PHP 5.0 beta 1, which should be available by the time you read this,
will add structured exception handling—a feature the other big three
scripting languages have—and much stronger object-oriented programming. (The PHP Group, www.php.net.)—Timothy Dyck
2003 Enterprise Edition ($3,999) offers
the most proprietary technology—and
some of the most powerful. Along with
the new Microsoft .NET Framework, this
OS is up to the task of running enterprise
applications and deploying Web services.
Windows Server 2003 rivals J2EE competitors in depth of features: It includes a
Web server called Internet Information
Services 6.0, a UDDI server that’s part of
the operating system, reliable messaging
using Microsoft Message Queue (MSMQ)
services, and transactions through
Microsoft Transaction Services (MTS).
Although these enterprise services run in
Windows itself, not .NET, developers can
program with them using the .NET APIs.
A notable enhancement here is the
ability to reach hardware with multiple
CPUs and ever larger memory spaces.
The Enterprise Edition we reviewed can
reach eight CPUs, plus 32GB memory
PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES/HULTON ARCHIVE
Page Scripting: The
Simpler App Servers
A P P L I C AT I O N S E R V E R S
address spaces. A separately available 64bit edition goes to 32 CPUs and 512GB of
RAM. The newest release not only makes
managing clusters with fail-over easier
but also supports the largest range of
hardware we’ve seen for Windows, including support for Itanium CPUs.
The coding and testing of Nile, our
e-commerce Web application, revealed
strengths as well as a few weak points in
the .NET Framework. Microsoft’s own developers recoded a version of Nile that
yielded impressive performance thanks to
improved caching options, including fragment-level caching. Only Oracle offers
fragment-level caching for J2EE. (See our
performance test results on page 130.)
or configuring .NET components with
permissions requires a remote log-on or
Terminal Services—an awkward arrangement. To be fair, Terminal Services is enhanced in this version, and new command
line tools for administration can extend
your management options.
Since the .NET Framework is hardwired to support standards such as SOAP
and WSDL, it does a much better job than
J2EE app servers at hiding the complexity
of Web services. Even BEA WebLogic
Workshop, which hides many of the details of Web services, cannot approach the
simplicity of exposing code as Web methods in .NET. Doing this requires only a single line of code, which generates all the
underlying XML
MICROSOFT WINDOWS SERVER 2003
automatically—
You administer
a truly whizbang
Web applicafeature. But untions in Milike solutions
crosoft Windows Server
from BEA and
2003 with
IBM, this doesn’t
Performance
offer the reliabilMonitor and the
ity and security
management
needed for enconsole, along
with new wizterprise Web serards for .NET
vice deployment
Framework
M i c ro s o f t ’s
components.
implementation
The .NET path offers fewer options in of current Web service standards can
building business logic and database com- jump-start any IT organization’s efforts. If
ponents. Microsoft has no official blue- you don’t mind committing to a single
print for business objects comparable to technology provider, the strengths of
Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB), though it rec- .NET and Windows Server are hard to
ommends best practices on the Web (www beat. The platform makes a convincing
.microsoft.com/resources/practices). The case for an operating system acting as an
.NET developers have to devise their own application server, both in overall cost
component models based on these prac- and in the wealth of services for .NET
tices, while a J2EE developer just needs to enterprise applications.—RVD
run a wizard to get EJB.
With .NET, Microsoft offers the advan- Oracle9i Application Server
tage of giving developers a choice of lan- Java Edition, $5,000 direct per CPU; Enterprise
guages. Microsoft’s stellar tool Visual Stu- Edition, $20,000 per CPU. Oracle Corp., 800-672dio .NET includes C#, Visual Basic .NET, 2531, www.oracle.com. l l l l m
JScript .NET, and a special .NET version of
The industrial-strength reputation—and
Java called J#. All components can inter- price tag—of Oracle’s database business
operate at runtime seamlessly. J2EE de- precedes its entry into application servers.
velopers can code only in Java.
With built-in robust clustering, security,
Windows Server does not offer a single and business intelligence, Oracle9i Appliconsole to perform all administrative cation Server Enterprise Edition is a
tasks—a feature that J2EE app servers do powerful platform that harnesses Oracle’s
provide. In Windows, you need to use database technology to deliver enterprise
separate Microsoft Management Console portals and wireless applications.
(MMC) windows to manage IIS and .NET
The new, lighter-weight Java Edition
Framework components, and you use Per- ($5,000 per CPU) will please developers
formance Monitor to check resource who just want a certified J2EE app serusage. Adding users to Active Directory ver. Its atypical use of an Oracle data-
base instead of XML for configuration
could spell vendor lock-in, and documentation is weak.
Oracle9iAS runs on a good selection of
operating systems, including Linux and
several Unix flavors. We installed it on
Windows 2000 using the Oracle Universal Installer. For the Enterprise Edition,
the number of services and tools you can
install is truly massive (well over 250), requiring two passes with the installer—
one for an Oracle Infrastructure and
another to install the Web server and J2EE
components. Portal, wireless, and business intelligence are also options.
The installation process for Oracle9iAS
is the most resource-intensive of the products we reviewed, because you must
install a complete Oracle database along
with all supporting management tools
first. You also need to create a management repository in the database—a different approach from the XML-based configuration profiles all the other tested J2EE
products use. The Java Edition’s installation is more streamlined.
While the Enterprise Edition bundles
the app server tools around a core of the
Oracle database, the Java Edition concentrates on J2EE. It combines the Oracle9iAS
Containers for J2EE (OC4J)—implementations of Web, EJB, and Web service containers—with two developer tools: JDeveloper for Java software development and
TopLink for entity modeling.
The biggest change in this version for
experienced Oracle users turning toward
J2EE is a new administration tool called the
Enterprise Manager Web Site (EMWS).
You must still use the standalone console
version of Enterprise Manager to configure databases and users, among other
tasks, but this new tool lets you manage
the application server features of the platform just as the other app servers’ administration consoles do.
We used EMWS successfully to install
new Web applications, including EJBbased apps, and to set up data sources.
EMWS also handles configuring Oracle’s
Web server and a Web-caching server.
Besides the nuts and bolts of running J2EE,
EMWS excels at presenting performance
MORE ON THE WEB
For more analysis and reviews
of enterprise software, log on to
www.pcmag.com.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
129
PERFORMANCE TESTS
Application Servers
Benchmark-testing enterprise software has
become an open process in which both the software companies and the testing organizations
participate. We proposed such a test strategy for
comparing J2EE and .NET application servers.
After months of development and discussion
with vendors—and several methodology plans—we arrived at
what we considered a fair way to measure the products’
throughput when running our test Web application, an
online bookstore called Nile 2.0.
We delivered the source code to the leading J2EE and .NET
platform providers and gave them the opportunity to optimize the code for their application servers. We coded Nile in
both J2EE EJB 2.0 and .NET versions; the latter functionally
paralleled the J2EE version while observing .NET programming practices. We required the optimized applications to
generate the same HTML as our reference version and to
follow other run rules.
Unfortunately, after initially agreeing to participate in our
tests, all of the commercial J2EE leaders—BEA, IBM, Oracle, and
Sun—declined for various reasons. Some said they did not have
the resources to send experts to PC Magazine Labs to assist us;
others disagreed with our testing methodology. Collectively,
their responses are an indication of the high stakes and intense
competition in the application server market.
As a result, we worked only with downloadable versions of
the J2EE products (which limited the number of users) and
were not able to compare J2EE and .NET performance. Microsoft, however, did agree to participate. We revised our testing
strategy to show how optimization and caching can improve
the performance of .NET applications.
and resource usage with simple, understandable graphics. We used this visual
feedback to tune the Web cache for our
bookstore app. Support for clustered
machines comes standard with Oracle9iAS, and Oracle’s considerable experience
THE LOAD GENERATION TOOL
To simulate thousands of users visiting our e-commerce site, we
used e-TEST suite, a load/stress tool from Empirix. Assisted by
Empirix engineers, we designed load scenarios to mimic typical
user interactions: logging on and off, searching, browsing, and
purchasing. We designated a percentage of agents for each
scenario, based on traffic patterns at actual e-commerce sites.
Because each Empirix load agent requires only 0.3MB of
space (and we had 30 desktop computers with 512MB each),
we were able to create over 25,000 virtual users. We ramped
up the test load by 250 virtual users every 3 minutes, inserting
a think time of 5 seconds per page, and ran each test until a
peak user rate (100 percent CPU utilization) was achieved and
application server throughput leveled off.
WHAT THE NUMBERS MEAN
Both our original version of Nile and the Microsoft-optimized
version are written in C# using the .NET Framework and are
functionally equivalent; yet we saw considerable performance
differences. The first graph compares the throughput of the two
versions. The optimized one, coded by Microsoft’s experts,
exploits such enhancements as using business objects and parameterized SQL; with a heavy user load, it was able to transmit
nearly twice as many pages per second.
The second graph shows how caching can dramatically
improve performance. With caching turned on in the optimized version of Nile, the app server was able to bypass timeconsuming reads from the database, instead caching both data
and code objects in memory. We then went a step farther by
storing additional objects as session variables and used fragment- and page-level caching of Web pages on the optimized
version of Nile. This is a way to cache entire dynamic ASPX
pages, avoiding the need for the server to rebuild HTML pages.
This setup (represented by a solid line in the second graph)
in large-database installations shows.
Core J2EE features include a souped-up
Web server based on Apache and a separate Web-caching server—a significant
enhancement. As in Microsoft’s caching
solution, you can manage Oracle JSPs in a
ORACLE9i APPLICATION SERVER
The new Web-based
Oracle Enterprise
Manager provides
good visual feedback about resource
usage in Oracle9iAS,
plus status info for
all configured components within this
powerful J2EE application server.
130
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
cache by placing special custom tags in
code. This means very little extra work
for developers for potentially significant
performance gains.
Oracle has simplified EJB creation in
the included JDeveloper IDE with custom
framework classes—Business Components for Java. At press time, Oracle had
just announced a new initiative called Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF), a set of productivity classes
based on Web services and well-known
J2EE design patterns.
Even with the move toward Web-based
administration, the process of installing
and running J2EE applications in Oracle9iAS is still more complex than in the
competition. It makes you run more tools,
A P P L I C AT I O N S E R V E R S
.NET NILE TEST: Optimized vs. Unoptimized
PPS
600
Optimized application
Peak: 535 pages per second,
2,039 virtual users
500
400
300
utilities, and services. This is no doubt a
residue of Oracle’s history with enterprise solutions. The company has produced a somewhat more streamlined
J2EE package, but you’ll need Oracle database expertise—and an Oracle budget—
if you plan to run with this application
server.—RVD
Sun ONE Application Server 7
$2,000 direct per CPU. Sun Microsystems Inc., 800555-9786, www.sun.com. l l l m m
Sun Microsystems’ application server
offerings have undergone numerous
shifts in branding and strategic focus over
the past few years. Released in late 2002,
Version 7 of Sun ONE Application Server
(SOAS) represents a complete break with
200
Unoptimized application
Peak: 276 pages per second,
1,859 virtual users
100
0
0
400
Virtual users
800
1,200
1,600
.NET NILE TEST: The Caching Advantage
2,000
PPS
4,000
Optimized application with
object and page caching
Peak: 3,867 pages per second,
17,530 virtual users
3,500
3,000
2,500
2,000
Optimized application with
object caching
Peak: 2,387 pages per second,
15,054 virtual users
BETTER
THE TEST-BED
To simulate an actual production site, we used rack-mounted HP
Netserver LT 6000r servers running Microsoft Windows Server
2003, Enterprise Edition: Our tested application server software
ran on two six-CPU servers, each equipped with 900-MHz Xeon
processors and 4GB of addressable memory. For the database tier,
we used a six-CPU server equipped with a 700-MHz Intel Xeon
CPU and 2GB of addressable memory, running Oracle9i, Release
2. The database server was equipped with mirrored primary and
log drives—20 9GB swappable disk drives configured with RAID
5, a multidisk specification that optimizes read and write speeds.
To minimize the variables in our tests, we set up the database with Oracle’s Transaction Type preselection choice and
kept tweaks to a minimum. We held the database table entries
to thousands of records, instead of millions, because we wanted
to tax the application server rather than the database.
We networked the Empirix agents to two Extreme Summit
48 switches with single gigabit uplink ports, which allowed a
practical bandwidth of about 800 Mbps. With the help of F5
Networks engineers, we set up an F5 Big-IP 5000 IP Application
Switch and connected the database server and the two servers
running the app server software we were testing. The F5 switch
allowed us to funnel the load from the Extreme switches to this
software. It distributed the incoming requests between the two
servers using a round-robin load-balancing algorithm and
sticky session persistence to maintain data integrity.—Analysis
written by Sahil Gambhir
BETTER
delivered a 62 percent increase in peak performance over the
test run without page caching—and a staggering increase over
our original version of Nile, with more than 14 times the
throughput. But this approach adds the overhead of keeping
objects in memory, and the administrator has to maintain a
cache–flushing policy in the face of changing HTML designs.
1,500
1,000
500
0
Virtual users
4,000
8,000
12,000
0
16,000
The charts above show tested throughput in pages per second (pps)
with Microsoft Windows Server 2003. The top chart shows the difference
between an unoptimized version of our Nile 2.0 online bookstore application
and a functionally equivalent version that Microsoft coded with optimizations. For the bottom chart, we used caching with the optimized version:
first object caching alone, then adding dynamic page caching.
the past. Sun has reengineered SOAS’s
code base from the ground up, added
more integration with the operating system Solaris, and slashed the price.
The app server comes in three flavors.
Surpassing BEA’s developer licensing
scheme in thrift, the Platform Edition is a
free download and can be used to develop and even deploy app servers for free
(with remote administration disabled).
We tested the Standard Edition, which
permits remote administration, installing
it on Windows 2000 Advanced Server
and XP. SOAS Standard Edition comes
with Solaris 8 and 9, and Sun certifies a
version for Red Hat Linux 7.2.
The company says an Enterprise Edition of SOAS is slated for release in the
third quarter of 2003. This edition will
offer high-availability features like failover and load balancing. Currently, these
features are available only through thirdparty software or hardware.
We were up and running fast with the
provided installation program. Previous
Sun app servers required multiple components (like a directory and Web server) to be configured together, which
was a hassle. The streamlined installation brings Sun in line with its competitors. A plus here is that Sun’s app server
runs with Version 1.4 of its Java Virtual
Machine, HotSpot. The other app servers are still using Version 1.3. Sun’s proprietary HTTP server is included and
offers good control over tuning things
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
131
S U M M A RY O F F E AT U R E S
Download this table at
Application Servers
BEA WebLogic
Server 8.1
y YES o NO
www.pcmag.com.
JBoss 3.2
Microsoft Windows Oracle9i
Server 2003
Application Server
Cost per CPU
Express, $495;
Enterprise, $10,000
None (open-source)
Standard Edition:
$999; Enterprise
Edition, $3,999
Java Edition, $5,999;
Enterprise Edition,
$20,000
Operating systems supported
Linux, NSK, Unix,
Windows (server
versions)
AS/400, Linux, Unix,
Windows Server 2003 Linux, Unix, Windows
VMS, Windows (server
(server versions)
versions)
Load-balancing types
Dynamic, random,
round-robin, weighted
Fixed, random, roundrobin, user-definable
Dynamic, random,
round-robin,
weighted
Fail-over/In-memory session replication
yy
yy
Component clustering
Hot backup
y
y
y
o
Rolling upgrades
DEPLOYMENT
y
WAP/WML support
Multi-application server (virtual hosting)
Hot deployment of JSPs
WebSphere
Sun ONE Application Application
Server 7
Server 5
Platform Edition, free;
Standard Edition,
$2,000; Enterprise
Edition, $10,000
Linux, Solaris,
Windows (server
versions)
$10,000; Enterprise
Edition, $23,750;
Express, $2,000
Random, round-robin
None
Dynamic, random,
round-robin,
weighted
yy
yy
oo
yy
y
o
y
o
o
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
yy
y
y
oo
y
y
yy
y
N/A
yy
y
y
yy
y
y
yy
y
y
Hot deployment of component objects
Version tracking
y
o
y
o
y
y
y
o
y
o
y
o
Audit of deployments
Native rollback features
y
y
y
y
o
y
y
y
y
o
o
y
Security protocols supported
Digital certificates,
SSL
SSL
SSL, TLS
SSL, 3DES
FIPS-140, PKCS#11,
SSL, TLS, X509 certificates
Native database drivers
WYSIWYG tool for front-end design
O/R mapping
Connection pooling
DEVELOPMENT
y
o
y
y
o
CertPath, GSKiT,
JCE, JSSE, PKCS,
Web Seal, XML
Digital Signature,
zOS System SSL
y
y
y
y
o
y
y
y
o
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
On-line source archives
y
y
y
y
y
y
Export application as a JAR/WAR
Message queue adapters included
Can publish component in a UDDI
Browser-based administration console
JDBC driver types
PERFORMANCE
yy
3
y
y
oo
0
y
y
N/A N/A
2
y
o
yy
4
y
y
yy
1
y
y
yy
1
y
y
2, 4
2, 3
N/A
2, 4
2, 4
2, 4
Caching coherency in clusters
Thread pooling
Caching of full/fragmentary pages
Query results caching
y
y
y
o
o
y
y
y
o
y
y
y
yo
y
y
yo
o
y
yy
y
y
yy
y
y
yo
y
o
yo
y
y
Linux, OS400, Unix,
Windows (server
versions), zOS
SCALABILITY
Updatable database cache
Supports lazy loads
y
y
y
y
y
o
Includes native Java Virtual Machine
ADMINISTRATION
y
o
N/A
y
y
y
Supports plug-ins to an SNMP agent
Central domain management
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
Deploy/undeploy via GUI
Garbage collection via logs/console
STANDARDS SUPPORTED
yy
yy
oo
oo
yy
yy
yy
oo
yy
yo
yy
yo
Compliant with J2EE versions
1.3
1.3
N/A
1.3
1.2, 1.3
1.3
J2EE-certified/licensed
Servlet
yy
2.3
oo
2.3
N/A N/A
N/A
yy
2.3
yy
2.3
yy
2.3
JSP
1.2
1.2
N/A
1.2
1.2
1.2
EJB
JMS
2.0
1.02
2.0
1.0.2b
N/A
N/A
2.0
1.0
2.0
1.0.2
2.0
1.0.2
JNDI
1.2
1.1
N/A
1.2
1.2
1.2
JMX
1.1
1.1
N/A
None
1.0
1.0
ActiveX
COM+
CORBA
o
y
y
o
o
y
y
y
o
o
y
y
o
o
y
y
y
y
yy
yo
y y
yy
yo
yy
LDAP/Active Directory
RED denotes Editors’ Choice.
132
N/A—Not applicable: Microsoft Windows Server 2003 does not support J2EE.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
A P P L I C AT I O N S E R V E R S
like file caching and thread pools.
While all the other Java products we
reviewed—except Oracle9iAS—rely on a
Web-only administrator console, Sun
delivers a standalone Java application.
The two are functionally equivalent, and
we relied on the Web version to configure a test server domain. The tool facilitates uploading standard EAR, WAR, and
JAR files and lets you verify them before
deployment. The Standard Edition lets
you deploy JAR files to multiple nodes,
but getting a real cluster going requires
ning Solaris: an appealing, low-cost solution that’s likely to remain relevant as J2EE
evolves, given Sun’s commitment to the
language and platform.—RVD
WebSphere Application Server 5
$10,000 per CPU direct; Enterprise Edition, $23,750
direct; Express Edition, $2,000. IBM Corp., 888-7467426, www.ibm.com. l l l l m
in making the administration console approachable, even for first-time users. The
resulting tool is at the front of the pack in
administration features. With JMX support, WebSphere can also be managed and
monitored by enterprise tools like Tivoli
for even greater reliability.
IBM’s experience with enterprise transactions shines through. Its compensating
transactions feature intelligently cleans up
if a business process fails midway, and
asynchronous Beans facilitate reliable
messaging between disparate systems.
The Enterprise Edition offers a welldesigned blueprint for wiring together
all kinds of systems. A CICS gateway to
access mainframe data is a built-in option.
Modeling workflow between different
systems is a strength, using the companion
WebSphere Studio Application Developer,
Integration Edition ($6,000), which facilitates business integration by connecting
Web services. Leading-edge support for
XML-based workflow is standard, too. A
more modestly priced version of WebSphere Application Server, called Express
Edition, is available for $2,000, for smallerfootprint dynamic Web applications.
Underneath the hood, IBM’s own Java
Virtual Machine powers WebSphere. The
company has optimized its Web services
stack, including support for using SOAP
over Java RMI (remote method invocation)
for improved performance. Like BEA, IBM
generally builds its own J2EE features
rather than relying on open-source efforts,
and it has made a considerable investment
in proprietary implementations of Web
service standards to speed things along.
Delivering leading-edge support for
Web services, WebSphere is a safe
choice for any business with the budget
to tackle large Web services projects.
The product offers IBM’s tried-and-true
experience with enterprise integration
along with excellent administration
within a robust J2EE platform.—RVD E
With robust clustering, effective administration, and business workflow that uses
Web services, IBM’s WebSphere Application Server 5 is ready to tackle even the
largest projects.
SUN ONE APPLICATION SERVER 7
For all the enterprise
features, though,
Sun ONE
you’ll pay enterApplication
prise prices.
Server’s
WebSphere
administration
console earns
runs on Winpoints with a
dows, Linux,
cleanly deUnix, OS 400,
signed interand zOS. IBM
face and a
JDBC wizard.
has worked at
simplifying the
using a separate load balancer until the installation process: Version 5 drops an
earlier dependence on the DB2 database
Enterprise Edition arrives.
Sun’s cleanly designed console gives for storing configuration information,
you good control over various J2EE instead using XML , as BEA WebLogic
resources. Managing database sources Server and Sun ONE Application Server
and connection pools is simple: A wizard do. All configuration is now stored in
walks you through the settings required the standard J2EE Server.xml files.
You administer WebSphere using a very
for popular JDBC and database platforms,
including DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, and effective Web-based interface that rivals
Oracle. (The PointBase database is in- Sun’s for a streamlined appearance. The
cluded as a freebie.)
more you use it, the more you’ll be imFor Web services, Sun promises easier pressed by its depth. Highlights include a
upgrades to evolving standards. In place quick status screen for spotting configuraof numerous updates and acronym-laden tion problems and a summary of recent
downloads (JAXP, JAXM, JAX-RPC), message activity, including errors.
a single Web Services Developer Pack
For many tasks in the console, a stepsimplifies the process. Sun hopes this by-step wizard guides you, and help text
approach will enable its app server to is placed by each option. After you comgrow with changing Web services as new plete each screen, you are then reminded
releases become available.
of your changes’ possible effects before
Although Sun brought Java into the you save them. We used this wizardry to
world, the completely redesigned SOAS 7 create multiple
WEBSPHERE APPLICATION SERVER 5
is a newcomer compared with BEA instances of app
WebLogic Server and IBM’s WebSphere. servers and deWebSphere
The largest enterprises will want to wait ployed Web apApplication
and see whether its reliability and scala- plications very
Server’s
bility are acceptable. And they may want easily.
administration
to wait for the Enterprise Edition. In any
Although help
console procase, Sun’s aggressive pricing scheme prompts can ocvides step-bystep help as
marks a welcome shift.
casionally look a
you perform
In its present form, Sun ONE Applica- bit cryptic, IBM
common J2EE
tion Server has some catching up to do. has generally
tasks.
But it’s a natural fit for any enterprise run- done a fine job
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
133
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BY TROY DREIER
T
ony Pierce says he does it for the chicks. “I can’t
play guitar, I can’t sing,” he says. But he can type.
Writing a blog (or Weblog, an online journal)
might not seem like the best way to score dates,
but the creator of tonypierce.com says he’s gotten
dates, gifts, and even cash from readers.
Blogs have been around since the Web was created. Some
function as diaries, letting the hosts detail their lives, while others link to sites or stories of interest. You can find them by
searching for blog directories online. Early blogs were coded
and uploaded by hand, but in the past few years easy-to-use
tools have removed the hassle and made blogging accessible
to everyone. As the number of blogs has exploded, so has their
presence in the cultural landscape. There are now specialized
blogs for every occupation and hobby. At LawMeme.com, a
group blog, Yale law students weigh in on topics from the
news. And at VentureBlog (www.ventureblog.com), venture
capitalists ponder dot-coms.
“It’s extremely difficult to measure Weblog numbers,” says
Michael Gartenberg, a research director with Jupiter Research.
The number of blogs could be anywhere from “several hundred
thousand to several million,” he says, although a Jupiter study
shows that 4 percent of online users regularly read blogs and 2
percent maintain or contribute to them. “They give people with
strong opinions a way to express those opinions,” says Garten-
Blogger
Blogger is by far the biggest name in
online blogging tools and probably has
the most members, with 1.5 million registered users (though far fewer are actively
blogging). Google recently acquired
Blogger, raising its profile even further.
The free version
WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN
of Blogger is simple
lllll EXCELLENT
to use but is (underllllm VERY GOOD
standably) light on
lllmm GOOD
llmmm FAIR
features. You can
lmmmm POOR
select from seven
154
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Lycos Blog Builder
berg. He compares the current blog revolution with the desktop publishing revolution of the late 1980s.
In this roundup, we evaluate four popular online blogging
tools. All can be used by beginners with no HTML knowledge,
and two have free versions. The best tools are simple to use,
allow full customization of the blog’s pages, and offer photo
storage, community forum features, and RSS links (either Rich
Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, an XML method
of providing a content feed from one site to another). Of the
four tools in the story, only Lycos Blog Builder requires you
to use a specific host. The other three provide methods for
getting your blog content onto your own site.
Pierce hopes that people can get over their qualms about
imperfect writing. “Just do it every day and you’ll get better,”
he says. “Maybe in three lines, you could write something
really heartbreaking.”
simple templates
and format their
entries with bold or
italic text or with
links, which are
bare minimum
capabilities. It
doesn’t host pictures or have community
features. Because it’s text-only, Blogger
doesn’t have a storage limit.
We would have liked to review Blogger
Pro, the paid version of Blogger, but it was
in the middle of an overhaul and wasn’t
Blogger
accepting new members. For current
members, Blogger Pro allows photo posting, RSS links, and e-mail posting—a great
feature, not included in the other three
tools we reviewed, that lets you e-mail a
blog entry and have it appear on the site.
AFTER HOURS
the changes, then reload a
page from the site to view
the change.
Blogs can be updated
online, but LiveJournal also
offers links to a number of
third-party desktop tools for
posting new content, including apps that work with
Palm- and Windows-based
handhelds as well as cell
phones. You can set your
Live Journal
blog to accept user comments, but you can’t upload
By default, Blogger accounts are hosted
pictures to your entries.
Basic version, free; paid version, $25 per year.
on BlogSpot (www.blogspot.com), a storLiveJournal, www.livejournal.com. llmmm
age site owned by Blogger. Free accounts
have ads on their pages. Upgraded acLycos Blog Builder
counts cost $5 or $10 per month for 25MB
or 100MB of storage space and are ad-free.
Terra Lycos added a blog-buildWe would prefer to have seen a unified
ing tool to its Tripod and Ansign-up sheet that combines Blogger and
gelfire site-creation services in
BlogSpot.
February and gave it an upgrade
Although Blogger may regain the crown with photo-upload features and more
soon, it’s not currently a versatile or powtemplates in June. It doesn’t have a free
erful tool. If the new version of Blogger
version, but Blog Builder delivers an
Pro isn’t finished by the time you read
excellent, easy-to-use toolset.
this, consider Lycos Blog Builder.
Start by registering for an account with
Basic, free. Pyra Labs, www.blogger.com.
Tripod or Angelfire. Basic site hosting is
lllmm
free, but creating a blog requires signing
up for a paid account ($4.95 to $19.95 per
LiveJournal
month, plus a $10 to $15 setup fee). The
LiveJournal is a simple, elegant service
lowest-priced account comes with 25MB
of storage and 5GB of monthly bandwidth.
that’s perfect for those on a budget who
Paid subscribers can
want to create a no-frills blog. The service
isn’t loaded with features, but it is possible create a standalone blog
Weblogger
or one with a personal
to participate without a monthly fee.
home page. Though
Accounts are free only if you can get an
Blog Builder doesn’t
account code from an existing member.
offer as much fine
The owners say this keeps the online
control over the look of
community tight and prevents abusive
the template as Blogger
posters from signing up. If you don’t
Pro or Weblogger does
receive an invitation from a member,
(you can’t make HTML
you’ll need to purchase a membership.
changes), it’s the easiest
LiveJournal encourages even free memoption for newbies.
bers to kick some money in and help pay
During setup, you can
for the site. Paying gets you a few extra
choose to make a multiperks, such as an e-mail account, a shorter
URL, multiple user pictures, and the ability
authored blog, add a
to customize the site template with HTML.
buddy page, get an RSS
link, get listed in an
LiveJournal offers 13 themes. Though
online blog directory,
some are jarring to the eye, you can cusallow comments, and
tomize all the
get e-mail notification
colors. But making
whenever someone
selections isn’t
MORE ON posts a comment. You
easy, since the
can also choose from 24 attractive temsite’s Journal Modi- T HE WE B
www.pcmag.com/
plates and customize colors and fonts.
fication page
personaltech
The interface for adding a new entry is
doesn’t offer temVisit our site for
clean and simple, with fields for entering a
plate or color
more Quick Clips
title and main text as well as buttons for
previews. You need
and Gear & Games
adding pictures and links.
to pick a theme or
reviews.
Every step of the way, we found Lycos
color, click to save
Blog Builder a pleasure and easy to use. If
you’re just starting out and want a simple,
good-looking blog, this is the way to go.
$4.95 to $19.95 per month. Lycos Inc.,
http://blog.tripod.lycos.com. llllm
Weblogger
The one tool in this roundup that means
business, Weblogger is designed for
business teams that need a collaborative
space online.
You can register for a free 30-day trial,
but after that, Weblogger’s blog hosting
plan costs $9.95 per month or $79.95 per
year. The site offers 37 professional-looking themes and helpful tutorials for newbies. Powered by Manila, a strong and
flexible content management system,
Weblogger isn’t as simple to use as the
other services we reviewed, but it offers a
superb level of template control for business professionals. You can stick with one
of the themes or customize all the elements on the page—altering the HTML
template of every page within a site,
editing the XML tags for the site navigation, and adding Cascading Style Sheets. A
site administrator can set up an entire
staff for a site, specifying the role, permissions, and password for each member.
Although Weblogger offers less server
space than Lycos Blog Builder (10MB of
storage and 512MB of monthly bandwidth),
that shouldn’t be a problem, since it’s
ONLINE
meant for use by closed groups.
For creating private blogs for a limited
set of people, Weblogger is a powerful
tool with a hard-to-beat set of capabilities.
30-day free trial; basic hosting, $9.95 per
month or $79.95 per year. Weblogger.com,
www.weblogger.com. lllmm
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
155
AFTER HOURS
Link Your Sounds
Mousing in Air
Feeling tied down to your office chair?
Stand up and mouse with the Gyration
Ultra GT Cordless Optical Mouse. Thanks
to a built-in dual-axis gyroscope, moving
the on-screen cursor is as simple as waving your hand. For example, if you raise
your hand while holding the mouse, the
pointer moves towards the top of your
monitor. On-screen movements are crisp
and precise, which makes this the best 3-D
mouse we’ve ever seen. And with its long
battery life, you can mouse around in bliss
all day long.—Robyn Peterson
$79.95 list; with keyboard, $99. Gyration Inc.,
www.gyration.com. llllm
Do you carry a mobile phone and a music player?
The Skullcandy LINK eliminates the clumsiness of swapping out headsets when the
phone rings: It attaches to both. Calls are
automatically answered, and the remote
lets you adjust your music volume
and—depending on the kind of
phone you have—voice-dial, mute,
or disconnect calls. Models are
available for virtually any kind of
cell phone.—Carol A. Mangis
$24.95 direct; with backphones or
earbuds, $29.95. Device
Development Corp.,
www.skullcandy.com.
llllm
Radio Mouse
The MouseCaster is a PS/2
scroll-wheel mouse based
on rollerball technology
with a unique quality: It
includes an FM stereo tuner
that plays through your computer’s speakers. The mouse connects to
the line-in port on your sound card and
comes equipped with an external antenna for
improved reception. An on-screen display controls up
to 28 preprogrammed channels, and you can record
radio content in a variety of formats. But to record to
MP3, you have to find an open-source MP3 encoder.
And setup is not intuitive.—Craig Ellison
$29.95 direct. www.mousecaster.com.
llmmm
Digital Drumming
Learning to play the drums is easy and inexpensive with the
realistic Pacific Digital DrumXtreme DX-100 USB Digital
Drum Kit. Putting together the drum set can take a couple of
hours, but folding it for transport or storage is quick and simple. Plug the master controller into a PC’s USB port and use the
training videos, play a drum game, and practice with music
tracks. Plug headphones into your PC’s audio-out jack so you
won’t bug your neighbors as you wail away.—Bruce Brown
$300 street. Pacific Digital Corp., www.pacificdigital.com.
lllmm
156
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
AFTER HOURS
Game Expansion Packs
QUICK CLIPS
Rise of
Nations
By Tricia Harris
A game once had a clear life cycle: It was released, played, and then replaced by the
next great game. But now, publishers can extend the life of a game by releasing expansion packs for successful titles. The goal is to add more of what players want—maps,
characters, game play, and story—and improve technical and graphical features.
We review four current packages here. Later this year, we’ll also see expansions for
Neverwinter Nights (Shadows of Undrentide) and Anarchy Online (Shadowlands).
EverQuest:
The Legacy of Ykesha
Battlefield 1942:
The Road to Rome
In this package, you get to play two new
sides of the World War II conflict: the Free
French Forces and the Italian Army. The
array of vehicles and weapons that go with
those two groups adds realism. Although
the maps aren’t spectacular, they are useful
additions to the Battlefield 1942 experience. You won’t find a lot of new game
play, but there are loads of new weapons
and vehicles. Fans looking for more of the
same should check out The Road to Rome.
EverQuest launched in 1999—and the
gaming world has never been the same
since. Sony has cranked out five expansion packs for this online series, and this
is the latest. The
game boasts a new
race (the Frogloks),
new zones, updated
models, and assorted
other goodies. Best
are the various
technology improvements, which balance the game. Still,
you get the feeling
that Sony is ready to
move on to its next adventure, EverQuest
II, expected in late 2003.
$21.99 direct. Sony Online Entertainment Inc.,
http://soe.sony.com. llllm
$29.95 direct. Electronic Arts Inc.,
www.eagames.com. lllmm
Dark Age of Camelot:
Shrouded Isles
New races, new areas to conquer, and
better quests give this EverQuest challenger more
longevity. One
important aspect
of the game is
player housing,
and Mythic does
an admirable job
of giving the game
a much needed
community feel
and a more social
setting. For example, you can fix up your abode to show off
allegiances and personal style. This title is
a nice addition to a mostly player-versusplayer environment.
$19.99 list. Mythic Entertainment Inc.,
www.mythicentertainment.com. llllm
When you
combine the
designer of
Civilization II
with the publisher of Age
of Empires, you
get a pretty
cool game. Rise of Nations combines all
the best parts of turn-based, empirebuilding games with the excitement of
real-time strategy. You can guide 18
nations from the Ancient Age to the
Information Age. The best part of this
game is the lack of micromanagement,
which can often bog down real-time
strategy games. Here, smart “citizens”
deal with the details and let you handle
larger issues.—Daniel S. Evans
$54.95 list. Microsoft Game Studios, www.
microsoft.com/games/riseofnations
llllm
X2: Wolverine’s Revenge
This game chronicles the origin of the
X-Men’s Wolverine. He escapes from
his creators and eventually returns to
confront them at the infamous Weapon
X facility. Wolverine has some killer
moves and heightened
senses that let him
detect enemies with a
button press. X-Men
fans will enjoy the storyline, but the graphics
could use a little work.
—Cisco Cheng
$30 street. Activision Inc.,
www.wolverinesrevenge .com. lllmm
Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc
Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne
This title takes you back to Azeroth
months after the final conflict in last
year’s captivating Warcraft III: Reign of
Chaos. Frozen Throne has four new hero
races and five neutral races that you can
recruit to your cause. That’s not a bad
idea, especially if your tactical ability is
more akin to Custer’s than Napoleon’s.
The tweaks to game play as well as
additional maps and other items provide
more of the intense real-time strategy
that made Warcraft III a standout.
$34.95 direct. Blizzard Entertainment, www.
blizzard.com. llllm
This PC version of the popular console
game drops you into a cartoonish fantasy land, where your goal is to restore
peace and order to the land by playing
through wonderfully rendered 3-D levels. What separates Rayman 3 from the
slew of other games in this genre is its
comedic style, flair, and excellent voice
acting. Drawbacks are poor camera
angles and slight
difficulty playing
without a game
pad.—Ari Vernon
$19.99 list. Ubi Soft
Entertainment,
www.rayman3.com.
lllmm
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
157
SEARCHING FOR SIGNS OF BLUETOOTH DECAY
Edited by Don Willmott
L They
arrive at your door wearing surgical masks.
(Fujitsu site)
L Duh,
we thought we were a jean-yus!
(ViperNet online IQ test)
L
He looks pretty darned happy for a person
whose call isn’t going through.
(TDS Metrocom flyer)
L Dialog
boxes that say “Trust us” always make us
just a little nervous.
(Eudora)
L Backspace
on the Road:
Austin, Texas.
J The
article and the ad
collide, and this time
it’s deadly!
(SFGate)
w w w. p c m a g .c o m / b a c k s p a c e
If your entry is used, we’ll send you a PC Magazine T-shirt. Submit your entries via e-mail to [email protected]
(attachments are welcome) or to Backspace, PC Magazine, 28 E. 28th St., New York, NY 10016-7930.
Ziff Davis Media Inc. shall own all property rights in the entries.
Winners this issue: William Boyce, Beth Cohen, Carl Francis, Kevin Miller, Roy Rumohr, and Jacob Vanus.
PC Magazine, ISSN 0888-8507, is published semi-monthly except 3 issues in October and monthly in January and July at $39.97 for one year. Ziff Davis Media Inc, 28 E. 28th St., New York, NY 10016-7930. Periodicals postage
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158
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 www.pcmag.com
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