Mac Happens

Netscape 6 and Other Betas

April 25, 2000 - Evan Kleiman

It's always good to have the latest released version of programs. What's even better is getting the latest prerelease version of programs. Released versions of programs are called beta or alpha software. Currently, I am testing out three prerelease programs.

These three programs (AIM 4.0, Netscape 6.0, and Macster Preview 4) are all programs that are not available in stores; however they are the latest and greatest versions of well-known software. You can get them at their developer's web sites.

AIM, better known as AOL Instant Messenger, is the latest version of AOL's realtime messaging system. The newest version of this program adds a new, and very innovative feature: voice chat. With this feature, you can use your computer just like a phone and communicate with anyone else using AIM 4.0 or higher (people using the Windows version of AIM 3.5 or greater can also use this feature).

I tried out this feature with one of my friends, and, unfortunately, it is of less than satisfactory quality. He said he could hear me, however I could barely make out one word he was saying. Hopefully, AOL's programmers will fix this problem before a final version is released.

AIM's few flaws seem like nothing compared to the bugs and flaws inside Netscape's latest prerelease program. Netscape Navigator 6.0 has potential, but it has a very long way to go. Upon starting this program, 6 out of 10 times I was presented with a crash. However, on the four times it did actually work, I was treated to a nice program - for a while.

Netscape 6.0 adds many nice features, one of which is a nice interface enhancement. Now this new program looks similar to many other programs, rapped in Bondi-blue and translucent colors. But after seeing this new interface for a while, Netscape decided it didn't like it, so out of nowhere, the program turned into red and blue. I don't know if others experience this problem, but it, among others, is one Netscape should definitely check before releasing this program to the public.

The last prerelease program I'm using regularly right now is Macster PR 4. This program is used to download MP3 music files from the net. This Napster clone is able to surpass its competitors in both features and stability. Also, this program adds a nice speed boost, which definitely helps when downloading 5 MB files with a 56k modem.

Of all of the programs available right now for downloading MP3s, Macster PR 4 is definitely the best. It can download any type of MP3, like many others, but it is much faster than its competitors, and even faster than its Windows counterpart, Napster.

Beta testing software isn't for everyone. Many times the latest prerelease program may pretty much mess up your computer, so whenever you're trying out a prerelease program, always be careful and be sure to keep a backup of your vital data.

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