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By: Bob Arnson

Abstract: Daily news summary for 13 October 1999. Edited by Bob Arnson.

Getting good help these days

I don't know about you, but when I find a good butler, I do what I can to keep him around. Good servants are so hard to find -- worse than any alleged IT staffing shortage. Jeeves, of Ask Jeeves, Inc. and the Ask.com question-answering Web site, is certainly keeping busy. The Ask Jeeves Corporate Question Answering Service lets you apply the Ask Jeeves natural-language technology to your own Web sites. Such natural language technology makes it possible, for example, for users to get automated customer service or technical support using a more natural question-and-answer format.

Two companies have recently announced the licensing of the Ask Jeeves technology for high-profile uses. The first is Microsoft, which uses Ask Jeeves Corporate Service for the "Ask a Question About Windows 98" feature on its Personal Online Support Web site. Questions are answered by organized lists of links to various support and Knowledge Base articles on Microsoft's Web sites. Microsoft even offers the "Take a peek at what customers are asking me right now!" in case you're concerned that your personal tech support problem isn't popular enough.

Ask Jeeves has also released its Shopping Advisor, which recommends products based on user preferences rather than product features. The first e-commerce site to take advantage of Shopping Advisor is etown.com, with its Shop with IDA service. As the holiday shopping season is destined to soon have gaudy Santa Clauses in every mall in the United States, take advantage of Ask Jeeves's expertise and shop online.

DeviceSSL helps build security into embedded systems

Spyrus has released DeviceSSL, a toolkit used to create secure systems applications for embedded platforms. Developers can use the product to build thin SSL clients and servers for a range of computing devices, including personal data assistants, mobile phones, set-top boxes and network routers.

DeviceSSL emerged in response to the demand for products that extend the Internet beyond the PC, says Spyrus. DeviceSSL provides a solution to the need for increased security that comes with these new device capabilities. The product is designed to conserve system resources such as the CPU, persistent storage and memory. It operates without the use of hard drives and traditional file systems.

"We have been working with our customers to develop DeviceSSL in response to their specific needs," said Sue Pontius, CEO of Spyrus. "As a result, we have been able to respond to the needs of the emerging device market and build a product that allows developers to easily include security features in their embedded system products."

DeviceSSL is available immediately. The developer kit is available for US$95. For more information, please visit www.spyrus.com.

New tool for accessing remote data

Developers who access remote data may be able to boost the performance of client/server applications, says DataPackage. The company's DataPackage XML Client/Server Edition, an XML-based optimization tool, makes it easy to cut the number of calls made to remote servers -- the most common cause of slow performance in a client/server application. The powerful in-memory database engine runs on any Windows client, accessing data speedily and presenting it in multiple ways.

DataPackage calls attention to several key features of the tool: its object model is similar to Microsoft ADO and DAO;  it reads and writes industry standard XML 1.0 files; it is a single-user database engine (no drivers, small footprint, runs on any 32 bit Windows workstation); it allows users to customize presentation of their data without physically altering the actual data or schema; all data types are supported, including binary data and disk-based files; and unlimited numbers of recordsets and other data can all be combined in a single file.

On-site training is available with this product, as well as on- or offsite consulting. A free evaluation copy of DataPackage XML can be downloaded from their Web site.

Ease from the get go with Gecko

Common Web development problems could become a thing of the past with Active Page Generator (APGen) from WebGecko Software LLC. Complementing Microsoft's Active Server Pages and Visual Studio, APGen lets developers generate Web content within any component or application using familiar tools such as VBScript, JScript and COM.

Use APGen to write a series of APG scripts; then use standard programming "encapsulation" and "reuse" to automate the construction and maintenance of your site. For better scaling, APGen helps by separating your content generation into two parts: the APG execution phase -- before the http request -- and the http request phase itself. Less work is performed by the http request, as some of the content is produced during the APG phase. This also results in a faster site.

APGen allows for COM to XML conversion.  It improves performance by avoiding repetitive content generation on the Web server. APGen can also generate static Web pages from COM accessible data. Static pages can then be viewed without a Web server, resulting in Web sites that can be published to a compact disc, a laptop, or download for demonstration purposes.

APGen can be downloaded for a 30-day free trial at www.webgecko.com.  It retails for US$595 per license.

CartSmarts

Now e-commerce companies have a new tool for analyzing their Web-based business. CartSmarts, developed by net.Genesis of Cambridge, MA., gives Web market analysts over 30 automated reports that supply information about online visitor patterns. CartSmarts, an enhancement module to net.Genesis's net.Analysis solution, identifies customer buying habits, promotional responses, prospective, repeat and first-time buyers. CartSmarts enables e-businesses to focus sales and marketing efforts more efficiently, helping to increase product and advertising revenues.

Haled as Best in Show at Internet World '99, net.Genesis was honored for its innovative use of technology and selected for product leadership in the Web site software category.  President and CEO of net.Genesis, Larry Bohn states "We will continue to innovate and enable online retailers to better understand, target and personalize their e-commerce programs. CartSmarts turns browsers into buyers and gives market leading companies a competitive advantage in the burgeoning e-commerce market."

Teaching the world to sync

If getting dressed in the morning starts with your unmentionables and ends with clipping and strapping on various electronic gadgets like a Palm organizer, a cell phone, and a pager, you might appreciate a new service to be offered in a few months by Puma Technology. Intellisync.com promises a free Internet-based synchronization service for all your portable and not-so-portable devices, from desktop PCs to notebook PCs to Palm organizers to capable cellular phones.

"We plan to license the highly scaleable synchronization technology and the universal device and database connectivity underlying Intellisync.com," said Bradley A. Rowe, president and CEO of Puma. Several other companies have announced support for Intellisync.com, including Critical Path, Send.com, TimeDance, Portera, and eCal Corp.

If you're interested in Intellisync.com's technology, you might want to head to Santa Clara, Cal. next Monday for Puma Technology Developer Conference '99.

Intellisync.com isn't yet available -- look for it in the first quarter of 2000 -- but you can sign up for the free service now.


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