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-- by Jim Forbes
NewsCatcher proves that wireless data transfer can be more than just a pipe dream. This new peripheral from Global Village Communication links to the Internet and displays headline newsfeeds, stock quotes, weather and other information.
A pyramid-shaped device with a 16-inch-square footprint, the NewsCatcher sits beside your Windows 95 PC. It connects to your computer via a serial cable. NewsCatcher's wireless receiver picks up information broadcast over Ex Machina's Air Media Live Internet Broadcast network. You plug the device into your computer, spend 10 minutes installing the software and then register your unit with Air Media Live.
Activate NewsCatcher by typing in an ID code. Before connecting, make sure you have an available serial port with no conflicts, and that the device can receive radio transmissions in the location where you want it set up.
You customize your newsfeeds by selecting the type of news you want to receive and how filtered you want it to be. You can sort news by category or view it chronologically. Click on an icon to see the latest catches currently stored on your computer.
The Remote Control software component has icons that represent all categories of news received (called Views by Category). The other portion of this device lists all "viewers" that are currently open.
The NewsCatcher broadcasts include URLs to news subjects' home pages, so you can click on a URL, launch your browser and hit the Web for more information. I tried this feature using Netscape Navigator 3.0 and Internet Explorer 3.0; both worked without a hitch. However, if you're using dial-up Internet access-as most of us are-you have to wait while your computer boots the browser, launches a dial-up TCP/IP session and connects to the site. This delay really diminishes the usefulness of the device. You'll also need a minimum of 30MB of available disk space to house NewsCatcher, which could strain an older system with a small-capacity hard drive.
The NewsCatcher is a well-designed product, with an extremely friendly user interface. A toolbar controls the information received over the Air Media Live Internet Broadcast network, displaying icons for the news categories you've selected. You can choose to set a sound alert for the most vital news, a feature that was quite valuable to me.
The first year's basic subscription is included in the unit's price; the cost for subsequent years will depend on the services you choose. Prices are very reasonable, overcoming wireless newsfeeds' traditionally astronomical costs.
Global Village's tech support for this product is phenomenal. It's available on the Web, by 800 fax or by phone; the services are quick and incredibly sophisticated.
The NewsCatcher is the only peripheral that has visibly affected the way I use my PC since I bought my first printer. This product is on my personal list of must-haves.
Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.