Starfish Software offers a $20 grab bag of utilities for users

The $20 Internet Utilities 97 from Starfish Software is like a grab bag for geeks. It's
stuffed with utilities, some more impressive than others. Individually, most of the tools
don't match up to their commercial or freeware rivals. But the grab bag holds a couple of
winners and, as a whole, the collection is indubitably useful.


Utilities appear on a control panel-a crowded floating palette that reminded me of the
first time I sat right-seat in a cockpit. The palette is jammed with tabs, arrows, dials,
blinking icons and digital displays.


You can unplug the least-used utilities to reduce visual clutter. Reposition the
control panel anywhere on your screen or set it to slim view, with only tabs appearing. Or
snap off utilities and display them individually. Just about everything is customizable.


The jewel in the collection is the QuickMarks Utility, which integrates your desktop
and Internet bookmarks under user-definable tabs. QuickMarks gives one-click access to
programs, bookmarked sites and documents.


QuickMarks automatically imports your bookmarks from Microsoft Internet Explorer and
Netscape Navigator browsers. Click a bookmark and the package opens your browser and
connects you to the page.


The best feature is the notification function. You can set it to monitor sites for
changes at intervals you specify. It marks the page button if the page changes, or you can
configure it to sound an alarm.


I was disappointed that intervals are set globally. I prefer to check my news bookmarks
every hour and other sites daily.


Another good utility is Internet Clock, which synchronizes your system clock with one
of dozens of Internet time servers. In my experience, computer clocks are like automobile
clocks. No matter how much you pay for the car, the clock doesn't keep good time. But
Internet Clock automatically synchronizes your system clock at designated intervals or at
any time by clicking the Synchronize Now button.


You can have up to four Internet clocks displaying different time zones-handy when you
work with offices around the world.


Internet Clock also will schedule reminders and associate them with sound files. For
example, my computer laughs like a hyena at 5 p.m., although my colleague in the next
cubicle is not as enthusiastic about this particular sound effect as I am.


On the negative side, Internet Clock doesn't notify you if it fails to connect to a
time server, so your clock might be off and you wouldn't know. Starfish displays digital
clocks that show minute increments only.


InternetMeter tracks your communications via World Wide Web browsers or 32-bit
Telephony Application Programming Interface applications. This utility monitors time
online, call status, and modem information such as sent and received data.


This display would be only a curiosity if it weren't for the call and usage reports.
The online usage report summarizes activity with your service provider and includes last
access, number of calls, total time, average time per call and active usage per call.


The call details page gives statistics on date, time, duration and active usage of
specific calls.


If your voice phone is plugged into your modem, you can track incoming and outgoing
calls.


QuickZip is a PKZip-compatible program that compresses and decompresses files. It
supports drag-and-drop operations and can create self-extracting files. Though not as
feature-rich as standalone competitors, it does the job and is easy to use.


Stuffed inside the Internet Utilities 97 grab bag is a smaller bag of standard Internet
utilities. QuickFTP is a File Transfer Protocol client that sends and receives files.
There's nothing fancy about this Windows look-alike client, but on the other hand, not
much to confuse the user, either.


The Ping diagnostic tool sends an echo request to an Internet target and measures the
time to receive a reply. The graphical presentation looks like a sonar screen.


The Finger/WhoIs client reports information about a specific user on your network or
all logged-in users. The documentation clearly spells out how to use Finger/WhoIs.


No grab bag is complete without a decoder ring. Starfish's News Decoder, an Internet
newsgroup reader, downloads and automatically extracts messages.


But it lacks filters, thread watching and built-in e-mail clients-in fact, it can't do
anything but let you read newsgroup articles.


My personal favorite is QuickRoute, a tracing program that maps the connections your
data follows from your machine to the final destination. My only complaint is that the
route is overlaid on a meaningless decorative map.


If you could see the real route on a map, this would be a dynamite app.


Internet Utilities 97 comes with good printed and online documentation. Starfish offers
support through a dial-up bulletin board system, online services and voice calls. The
first call is free; additional calls are $2 per minute. You can request documents by fax,
but there's no Internet support yet.


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