Newton Rumored Dead and Gone -- Information from a reliable source indicates most of the engineers working on the Newton are gone, other than those fitting a PowerPC chip into the eMate shell in place of the existing StrongARM processor. With the addition of a color screen and a stripped-down version of Mac OS reportedly under development, you end up with an inexpensive Mac OS-based network computer (combined with Rhapsody servers for a complete solution) that can potentially work off the network with decent battery life. The practical upshot is that the MessagePad 2100 will be the final Newton, and inventory is expected to run dry in the next few months. What makes this situation so confusing is that Apple only recently reabsorbed Newton, Inc. If all Apple wanted was the eMate plastics and some engineers, why not let the Newton group continue on its own or at least release the important Newton source code to the large and active Newton development community? [ACE]
ITU Delivers 56K Modem Accord -- After months of watching manufacturers fight for dominance in the 56K modem arena, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has established a standard for 56K modem technologies. (See "Speed Jockeys on the Internet: Flying at 56K" in NetBITS-008 for a discussion of how 56K modems work.) Designated V.90, the standard incorporates aspects of the two principal 56K technologies (K56Flex and X2), and will hopefully reduce confusion surrounding 56K technology. Most major modem manufacturers will offer V.90 upgrades for current 56K modems; check out the 56K.com Web site for specific information. [JLC]
Microsoft Expresses Explorer 4.0a -- Microsoft has quietly released Internet Explorer 4.0a, which will also be available on the Microsoft Office 98 CD-ROM (currently in manufacturing). If you already use Explorer 4.0 there's no need to rush off to download this release, because the only changes are for compatibility with Office 98 and new installers which include Outlook Express 4.0c. If you plan to use Office 98, you'll probably find it more efficient to install Explorer 4.0a from CD-ROM than to download anywhere from 4 MB (minimum 68K install) to 24 MB (full fat binary install) via the Internet. The 128-bit security patch for Internet Explorer 4.0 works with Explorer 4.0a.
Conversely, Outlook Express 4.0c is an important update correcting a serious problem whereby email addresses stored in the address book without an associated first or last name would be cc'd on any email message. If you use Outlook Express, it's probably faster to download version 4.0c (3.3 MB) separately, rather than as part of a larger package containing Explorer 4.0a. [GD]
Netscape Increments Browsers -- Netscape Communications has released version 4.04.1 of both Netscape Communicator and the stand-alone version of Netscape Navigator, both of which are now available for free (see "Free Netscape" in TidBITS-414). The release eliminates a possible crash when loading preferences, does a better job of retaining MIME handlers between sessions, fixes a problem with Communicator's spelling checker truncating messages, and includes other cosmetic improvements and bug fixes. Versions with strong (128-bit) encryption are available to users in the U.S. and Canada. [GD]