Of the new programs I saw, MAXA’s Alert shows the most promise if it lives up to all of their promises. Apparently the main developer did a lot of the work on Norton Utilities for Macintosh, and although his contract forbids him from working in the same areas as Norton Utilities, he decided to create a program that could work in much the same way, actually fixing problems rather than just reporting them. Since disk problems were out, he created Alert, which will scan your disk for conflicts and problems and fix them for you. OK, I was skeptical too at this point, so I pushed for some details.
Alert essentially goes through your disk and looks for things that it knows are wrong. So, if you have a program that requires a minimum memory partition of 1024K and for some reason you (or someone) has set it to 666K, you’re probably going have problems (potentially of more than one sort). Alert will discover that problem, and can fix it by increasing the memory partition, without you doing anything. It can also do things like determine that certain programs aren’t 32-bit clean and that you are running in 32-bit mode even though you don’t have more than 8 MB of RAM and you aren’t using lots of virtual memory. As a fix, Alert turns off 32-bit addressing, and using a database which MAXA promises will be the most extensive in the industry (more comprehensive than the one that comes with Help! from Teknosys), Alert will provide you with the phone numbers for the vendors of the offending programs so you can find out how to upgrade. The database will be either free or cheap for two years after purchase, unlike Help’s quarterly subscription deal.
To make Alert more useful to consultants, MAXA designed it to work not only over an AppleTalk network, but also over a modem. So if you’re an independent consultant and a client calls with a problem, you can run Alert over a modem connection to determine and automatically fix the problem on their machine.
My basic impression of Alert is that if it works and has a great deal of depth (and those are big IFs) it will become an important tool for all of us who are in some way responsible for keeping less-knowledgeable users’ Macs running (Hi Mom!). Unfortunately, it’s the sort of program that will require extensive testing on many Macs before I’ll be able to make that judgement, and since it’s not shipping yet, it will be a while before I can start the testing process. If it turns out that Alert never tells you anything you didn’t already know, or if it isn’t complete in its reports about what it has done while you weren’t looking, it will quickly wither away.
MAXA — 800/788-6292 (US and Canada)