A New, Improved Internet Experience
Cleaned and Polished

This Month: A New, Improved Internet Experience – Cleaned and Polished

Welcome to all the Mac lovers out there. It’s just me again. In the past few months, I have grown a little disenchanted with this whole online experience – the huge files, the slow transfers, the multimedia-intensive Web pages that take forever to load, the applications that are total memory hogs and cause my computer to freeze and crash, etc.

But in the last month or so, my faith in the Internet has been renewed. I love being online, and I find it worthwhile, rewarding, and gosh-darn fun. The occasional system crash and busy signal aside, I can now live with the few inconveniences associated with the ‘net. The benefits are worth it.

So, what caused me to change my tune?

One Word – SPEED.
For the last two years, starting with my eWorld account, continuing with my short-lived AOL tenure, and up to my present ISP connection, I had done my surfing on a moped. I wasn’t on a bicycle, and I wasn’t walking (to all of you 9600 and 2400 baud rate users out there, my sympathies), but I wasn’t speeding along, either. My 14.4-speed moped ran quicker than a bike or my feet, but left a lot to be desired. I could have been driving a Mercedes, after all. Well, ‘m not quite up to the sports car level, yet, but I at least was able to upgrade my moped to an economy-sized car.

To everyone who understood that metaphor, give yourself a pat on the back. Let me say it another way, too, in plain English this time – I tossed my Hayes Accura 14.4 modem aside, and bought a SupraExpress 33.6e.

The SupraExpress is a nice modem. It has very few frills, but it gets the job done. My Hayes modem had about ten different lights on it, and very few of them ever meant anything to me. The Supra, however, has only four – an ON light, an “off-the-hook” light (OH), and lights which indicate when the modem is sending or receiving data (labeled SD and RD, respectively).

There are some modems which have voice mail and speakerphone capabilities. Not the Express. Some of its big brothers from Supra do, and many other companies make modems with these features. But not the SupraExpress.

Also, the SupraExpress is not FlashROM-upgradeable. In other words, you won’t be able to download a software patch to move your modem speed up to the proposed 55.6 speed when it becomes standardized and widely available.

I’ve told you all of the things that the SupraExpress is not and what it lacks, so now I’ll tell you what it is and what it does have. It’s a run-of-the-mill fax modem, and comes with FAXcilitate software for faxing and Microphone software for data connections. It has a small footprint on your desktop, it’s very quiet, and it works as advertised. Plus, it carries a very reasonable price – in between $100-$135 dollars. (I paid $125 for mine.)

One of the neatest features about the SupraExpress is its connection through your Mac’s ADB port. This means it turns on as soon as you start up your computer, and won’t turn off until you shut down. This is a small price to pay when you consider this eliminates the need for a bulky black box that needs to be plugged into a power outlet. If your Mac has only one ADB port, and the keyboard is currently using it, don’t despair. That’s the way my LC 575 is, and it wasn’t a problem. The modem comes with a cool adapter cable that allows you to plug both the modem and the keyboard into the same port.

Admittedly, I have had a few more busy signals and lost connections since I’ve switched modems, but that can be attributed to the fact that my ISP has been experiencing some growing pains as of late. I don’t consider it the modem’s fault. I also have nights when I don’t connect at a much faster rate than what I did with my 14.4 modem, but again, that’s not necessarily the fault of the modem. I’m sure everyone out there has met with the frustrations of busy Web sites, clogged pipelines, overworked servers, and things such as that. All of these have a very negative effect on access speeds. After all, I have experienced nights when I’m downloading at 2.5 K of data per second, and that’s when I really appreciate the new modem.

So, if you’re still chugging along on a moped or a bicycle, and don’t have the money to spring for a foreign sports car like an ISDN or T1 connection, I heartily suggest you take a look at a 33.6 modem. I’d seriously consider the SupraExpress. If its lack of features and upgradeability deters you, there are plenty of other modems around, although you may have to pay more to get the extras that you want. On the other hand, if you want a small, fast, reliable, no-frills modem that gets the job done and won’t give you sticker shock, the SupraExpress 33.6 may be just the modem you’ve been looking for. It certainly was for me. Bring on the Shockwave- and Java-enhanced Web pages!

Cleaning, Polishing, and Shining
If you’ve seen the latest MacMall catalog, you’ve probably seen their offer for the new program Aladdin Spring Cleaning 1.0 for $9.99 with any purchase. I’ll tell you now, there’s no catch, and it’s great deal. The program, while not outstanding, is worth the ten bucks.

Sping Cleaning is not the be-all and end-all of hard drive maintenance, but it does do a nice job of searching your hard drive and listing any suspicious files that are wasting disk space. Be warned, though, that the search isn’t foolproof – be careful not to delete something you need! (I’ve deleted my PPP preferences three times already!) It also can free up hard drive space by deleting unnecessary fat binary code, which is really nice for folks still using 680×0 Macs like me, who may have a lot of PowerPC native applications on their drive.

The interface works, but it’s not perfect. Neither are the searching and deleting options. Spring Cleaning is not a perfect program by any means. However, people who buy version 1.0 are entitled to a free upgrade to version 2.0, and I think that makes the purchase worth it. Spring Cleaning may not be worth the $45 asking price, but for ten bucks, it’s money well spent. If you can, be sure to take advantage of the MacMall offer.

If you’re really cheap, you have a freeware alternative. Spring Cleaning is very similar to Clean Sweep, a MacUser utility that is available at MacUser’s Software Central. You don’t get the option to delete fonts or fat code like you do with Spring Cleaning, but Clean Sweep does a nice job or searching out the unneeded preferences, documents, and folders. Check it out at http://www.zdnet.com/macuser/software.

So, do yourself a favor and use one of these two programs to help you out with your hard drive cleaning this year. They’ll save you time, and give you added convenience and ease-of-use. With any luck, you’ll also have a little more hard drive space to spare, which is great when you want to install the new Mac OS 7.6 upgrade! 🙂

See everyone back here next month! In the meantime, have a Happy Easter. (and Saint Patrick’s Day if you’re Irish! 🙂

Mike Wallinga (mlwall@mtcnet.net)

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