Stories by Harry McCracken

Ask.com's cool new local search service

Ask.com--the search engine formerly known as Ask Jeeves--has had local search and mapping features for awhile, but they've been also-rans in comparison to Google Maps and Yahoo's tandem offerings, Yahoo Maps and Yahoo Local. No longer. Ask has launched a new local information service, AskCity, and judging from the time I've spent using it to investigate my city, San Francisco, it's a contender. And rather than being a me-too clone of its rivals, it's an original.

What next after Windows Vista?

It all starts with vague rumblings of a cryptically code-named operating system upgrade. Next come multiple beta versions, accompanied by repeated delays, mysterious disappearing features, and other indications of altered plans. Eventually, there's a real, boxed product that folks can buy.

Eudora goes open source

Is there a widely-used Internet tool that's been around longer than Eudora? If so, it's not springing to mind. I've never been a regular user myself, but there are PC Worlders who swear by this venerable (est. 1988) e-mail program to this day, and we have a history of saying nice things about it (in 2003, we named it as the best e-mail program, period). It's had a low profile for a good long while, but on Wednesday, Qualcomm, which has owned the product for 15 years, made it the subject of a major announcement: Eudora is going open source.

Google-YouTube: Questions, Questions

Funny thing about rumors: Sometimes they turn out to be true. Last week, the buzz was that Google was in talks to buy YouTube for about $1.6 billion. Even some savvy observers scoffed. Yesterday it happened.

First look: A new Google Groups

Quick, what's Google's oldest service? In a very real sense, it's not the Google search engine--it's <a href="http://groups.google.com" target="_blank">Google Groups</a>, which began life back in 1995 as an independent service called Deja News, which provided a Web-based gateway to the array of conversations that went on in Usenet newsgroups.

DEMO - Retrevo's gadget search

The second day of demos at DEMO has commenced, and I'm watching a presentation by Retrevo, a startup with a new search engine focused on helping focus with consumer electronics products. The <a href="http://www.retrevo.com/" target="_blank">site</a> went live Wednesday with a public beta.

Windows Vista pricing: Not so comparable

With recent news from Microsoft about Vista's pricing, we know for sure how much Windows Vista will cost when it shows up next year. And with five versions of the OS--Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate--there are ten prices involved: Five full-version prices and five upgrade ones.

Adobe's story retold

In 1982, an ambitious start-up set out to build high-end publishing computers. The hardware never happened, but the startup-- Adobe Systems Inc. --morphed into a software company that has made its mark with design and graphics products. This week, the founders and current chief executive recalled their journey--and peered into the future.

Compaq unveils PCs that accept credit cards

Your local supermarket probably lets you pay for purchases by swiping your credit card through a reader. Why not give home PCs the same capability? That's the idea behind Compaq's new Smart Credit Card Internet Keyboard, announced here this week at PC Expo/TechX NY.

A Peek at Office Upgrade

Microsoft Corp. may have won the suite wars by market share, but the feature fights continue.

Online Storage: The Next Generation

So help me, I like floppy disks. Technologically, they're primordial. But they're also cheap, intuitive, and almost universally compatible. And puny though their 1.44MB capacity may be these days, they can hold more than a few spreadsheets, text files, or even digital photos. That's

Web Shopper Points

I've never been a coupon clipper. I forget to send in rebate coupons. But when the stakes are high enough, I'm not completely immune to the lure of the freebie. Come to think of it, I keep closer tabs on my frequent flier statements than on my checking account.

Browsing and Shopping Go 3D

For years, Web developers have been coming up with ways to display three-dimensional content on the Internet. And for just as long, most users have shown no enthusiasm for the proposition. Some possible reasons: 3D rarely looked very good on a typical PC with a dial-up Net connection; or the lack of compelling applications for multidimensional Web graphics.

NEC's MobilePro 780: Slim and Portable

Once again, I'm squeezed into a coach seat on a cross-country flight. But while fellow business travelers grapple with huge, battery-draining notebooks, I type quietly away on NEC Corp.'s MobilePro 780, a Windows CE-based device that's more portable than my nearby copy of GQ. I'm happy, I'm productive, and the MobilePro's 8-hour battery life gives me enough juice to compute from coast to coast.