Although the number of exhibitors at Macworld Expo New York might have been lower than some previous years, there was still a lot to see, and a few products jumped out as being worthy of mention.
EyeTV -- El Gato Software, the folks behind Roxio's Toast, had the hit of the show with their new EyeTV, a hardware and software combination that enables your Mac to act like digital video recorders TiVo and ReplayTV. It records shows directly to your hard disk (taking up 650 MB of disk space per hour), provides an interface for watching recorded shows, can pause live TV, and can record and play simultaneously. Upsides include a capability to use Toast to save shows to CD-R, control over how much disk space is used, and a low cost ($200) without additional service fees. On the downside, though, EyeTV uses relatively low quality MPEG-1 by default, and if you use its higher quality setting, you can't save shows to CD-R. Plus, resolution is only 320 by 240 pixels, it doesn't appear from the specifications as though EyeTV works with digital cable or satellite dishes, and of course, your Mac must live within cable distance of your television. [ACE]
MyTV2GO -- Not far from El Gato was Eskape Labs, showing a variety of hardware and software products that put TV shows into a window on your Mac's screen. Starting at just $80 for MyTV2GO's video capture and TV tuner capabilities, Eskape's product line offers a low-cost option for those who just want to watch TV on their Macs. An FM tuner model of the MyTV products are also available. Other entries in Eskape's product line include a USB video mirroring device for showing your laptop's screen on a TV (or recording it), and straightforward video capture and video conferencing devices. [MHA]
Now Software Returns & Goes Cross Platform -- Old-timers will remember Now Software, makers of the popular Now Utilities (an idea just revived by Aladdin Systems with their Ten For X utility collection) and the powerful Now Up-to-Date & Contact calendar and contact manager. Now Software floundered, was bought by Qualcomm for confused reasons, and the software sat dormant until Power On Software rescued it. Power On has just revived the Now Software name and moved Now Up-to-Date & Contact into the Now Software division. More interesting, though, was Now Software's announcement of a nearly identical Windows version of Now Up-to-Date & Contact, complete with full cross-platform sharing of calendar events and contacts on local networks and over the Internet. The final Windows versions aren't due for a while, unfortunately (hopefully before the fourth quarter of 2002 for Now Up-to-Date and second quarter of 2003 for Now Contact), but given the large number of Mac users who need to share calendars and contacts with Windows users, I expect the software will be eagerly awaited. [ACE]
Six Degrees -- People who rely heavily on email for project collaboration will be intrigued by Creo's Six Degrees. It watches what you do in email, tracking files you send and receive, the people with whom you're sharing these files, and any surrounding email discussions. Then it gives you a clean interface for finding files or email threads related to a given project no matter where those files or messages might have been filed or how they might have been named. What I appreciated most about Six Degrees is the way it adapts to what you're already doing, rather than shoehorning you into some arbitrary organizational scheme - too few products offer such functionality. Six Degrees isn't perfect, though, and in fact I won't be using it now for two reasons: it works only with Microsoft Entourage (plus Microsoft Outlook on Windows), and much of what I do is ongoing communication with random individuals or TidBITS staff, not discrete projects involving sharing files with a set group of people. Nevertheless, Six Degrees shows a lot of promise, and I'm looking forward to it adding support for professional email programs like Eudora, Mailsmith, PowerMail, and QuickMail. It costs $100 and there's a 30-day evaluation copy. [ACE]
4D Mail & WebSTAR 5.2 -- When 4D brought WebSTAR to Mac OS X, there was a gaping hole from the Mac OS 9 version of the product suite - no mail server. It wasn't even that WebSTAR's mail server was particularly good - it wasn't - but if you were using it, the lack of a mail server made upgrading to Mac OS X more expensive and difficult, with the main options being Tenon's Post.Office ($300 for 100 mailboxes) and Stalker Software's Communigate Pro ($500 for 50 mailboxes), neither of which has a Macintosh administration application. At Macworld Expo, though, 4D announced 4D Mail, a high-performance Mac OS X-native POP/IMAP/SMTP/WebMail server with solid spam blocking capabilities and filtering of Mac and Windows viruses via Virex, plus a Mac OS X application for administering the server. 4D Mail will be bundled as part of WebSTAR 5.2 and sold separately.
When 4D Mail ships in early September, the pricing will be competitive with existing Mac OS X mail server products, with a $150 version for small offices that supports 10 mailboxes, a $250 version for 100 mailboxes with 100-mailbox expansion packs for $150 each, and an unlimited mailbox version for $1,500. The news is even better for owners of WebSTAR - if you have registered WebSTAR V by 31-Aug-02, the upgrade to WebSTAR 5.2 with 4D Mail is free and includes an unlimited mailbox license (after August, you get only a 100-mailbox license). Similarly, if you upgrade from WebSTAR 4.x ($200) before 31-Oct-02, you also get WebSTAR 5.2 with an unlimited mailbox license. For those looking for canned solutions, 4D also released the $500 4D Business Kit 1.2 for making online stores in Mac OS X, and the free 4D Portal 1.5 for Mac OS X (with source code) for making custom portal sites with weblogs, discussion forums, auctions, and more. [ACE]
Move2Mac -- Apple has been pushing the new Switchers ad campaign in which real people talk about why they switched from Windows to the Mac. Steve Jobs even said in the Macworld Expo keynote that 60 percent of the 1.7 million visitors to the Switchers Web site are using Windows machines. But how will all those Windows users who buy a Mac move their documents, email address books, and so on over to their new Mac? Move2Mac, a $60 product due out in a few months from Detto Technologies, should reduce the manual hassle of moving data across. It's a combination of software that helps the user select data to move and a USB cable for the physical connection. [ACE]
JBL Creature Speakers -- Harman Multimedia has set the standard for innovative industrial designs for speakers, and the new $130 JBL Creature speakers spring directly from that heritage. The self-powered satellite speakers and subwoofer come in three colors (metallic blue, metallic silver, and white) and have a droopy shape that resembles Darth Vader's helmet. The large subwoofer has knobs for adjusting bass and treble, and one of the two small satellite speakers has a pair of touch-sensitive volume control buttons (touch both at the same time to mute). The satellite speakers also sport LEDs underneath for an unearthly glow in low light rooms. Obviously, there was no way to evaluate how good these speakers sounded in the cacophony of the Macworld Expo show floor, but as with some of the silent movie stars, sometimes it's not about how good you sound, it's how good you look. [ACE]
Remote Computing from Microsoft -- The surprise announcement from Microsoft was a free program with the ungainly, if accurate, moniker of Remote Desktop Connection Client (RDC). Put simply, it lets you open a window to a Windows 2000 or Windows XP machine running either Terminal Services or Remote Desktop Services. Then, you can run Windows applications, copy files back and forth, and even move text via the clipboard. RDC doesn't work like screen sharing programs like Netopia's Timbuktu, the free VNC, or even Apple's Remote Desktop. Those programs transfer the image of the remote screen to your Mac, whereas RDC is responding to instructions from the remote computer and doing the drawing locally. I haven't had a chance to test it yet, but RDC should be notably more responsive than screen sharing programs. If you have a PC running an appropriate Windows operating system that you need to use occasionally, RDC could be the perfect solution. It's a 610K download and runs only in Mac OS X. [ACE]
Spamfire Stops Spam at Your Mailbox -- We've talked a lot about unsolicited commercial email over the years, and recently the focus has been on the undesirable effects of server-side, content-based email filtering, especially when the user has no control over it. Spamfire Pro from Matterform Media puts control in the user's hands, where it belongs. Spamfire (available as a downloadable demo version, plus inexpensive Lite and Pro versions) filters out the spam in your POP3 or IMAP mailbox, based on highly configurable rules and filters, before triggering your email client to retrieve what's left. The $20 Lite version can check one mailbox; the $30 Pro version checks multiple mailboxes and includes a year of automatic filter updates from the company. [MHA]