What's Up, Doc?
Net surfing on your PC is only slightly faster than watching grass grow, you'll want to pick up Net.Medic. A bloodhound with smarts, the program sniffs out the source of slow Internet connections in seconds. It doesn't matter where the gremlin is hiding--your PC, modem, ISP, the Internet backbone or the server you're trying to access. Net.Medic will diagnose the problem for you and either make an automatic fix or suggest how to make things right. Bonus: Net.Medic also travels light, requiring only 2MB hard-drive space.
Street price: $30
Requires: Windows 95/98/NT, 16MB RAM, 2MB hard-drive space, Netscape Communicator 3.x or better or Microsoft Explorer 3.x or better
J.W. Dysart (firstname.lastname@example.org), a software analyst and Internet business consultant, has written for more than 40 publications, including The New York Times.
Over The Hump
You haven't retreated to a desert compound ringed with gun turrets just yet. But you're still concerned about Y2K. Norton 2000 Retail Edition quashes those fears by cross-referencing known Y2K problems with your PC's software. I especially appreciate the live-update feature, which enables you to continually update Norton 2000 from the software-maker's Web site. Another bonus: The package's Fix Assistant automatically repairs some of the most tedious Y2K snafus. Yes: Get Norton 2000. No: Decide if you want to be a one- or two-camel family.
Norton 2000 Retail Edition
Street Price: $50
Requires: Windows 95/98/NT, 16MB RAM, 25MB hard-drive space
Nice And Easy
Someday I'll take up brain surgery. But in the meantime, I'm enjoying pursuits with a slightly less-taxing learning curve. Designing a Web site with FrontPage 2000 is one. Sporting more wizards than a convention of alchemists, FrontPage holds your hand through every step of the site-creation process. Especially comforting: a number of pre-designed Web site themes that can be highly customized. You can probably find a Web-authoring program that's more powerful. But you'd be hard-pressed to find one that's easier.
Street Price: $149
Requires: Windows 95/98/NT, 24MB RAM, 167MB hard-drive space
Granted, Adobe doesn't promise Hollywood producers will be parachuting onto your lawn once you buy its software. But if you're looking for a professional video-editing package to help create stunning Web sites, CD-ROMs and other multimedia promotional material, Premiere 5.1 is your ticket. Coolest tools in the package include three-point editing, slip-and-slide effects, high-end audio/video filters and full MPEG 1 encoding--which you'll need to pull off audio and video streaming for your Web site. Bonus: In place of an agonizingly dull training manual, an especially engaging Total Premiere training video gets you jump-started. That's a wrap.
Street price: $599
Requires: Windows 95/98/NT, 32MB RAM, 60MB hard-drive space
San Jose, California
While it's not quite the doomed love affair, there does come a time when every PC owner pines for the good old days. The days when the PC wasn't quite so moody, quite so slow, or quite so unresponsive to the on/off switch. Drive Image 2.0 brings back those halcyon days by making a mirror image of your hard drive when things are brand spanking new--and flawlessly storing everything to a Zip drive or similar storage media. Getting back to wonderful is as simple as reloading and starting anew. Only downside: There's still no Drive Image for significant others.
Drive Image 2.0
Street Price: $59
Requires: Windows 3.x/95/98/NT/DOS, 8MB RAM, 5MB hard-drive space
Pick Up The Pace
Save for a few bored shut-ins, most people don't enjoy frittering away time with a door-to-door salesperson. Browser Spinach neutralizes the Internet equivalent--slow-loading advertising graphics--by transforming the images into quickly digested text links. Other performance-enhancing tricks include its ability to pre-fetch favorite Web sites and store Web images and documents much more effectively than conventional browsers. Perfect for those days when you prefer to bypass all the bells and whistles and go for just the facts.
Street price: $20
Requires: Windows 95/98/NT, 16MB RAM, 15MB hard-drive space