The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 11, 1999 · Page 82
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The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania · Page 82

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Thursday, February 11, 1999
Page 82
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F2 THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER Thursday, February 11, 1999 kvoiites He Waitina far wtb DCOtS Casino game won't worry bus operators r m . i 1 i Stop Re com Golden Nugget is high on gambling detail, but low on gaming atmosphere. A trivia game is a hit, though. Does the column look different this week? Rather than the usual hunt and peck on , my computer keyboard, I'm penciling this week's ramblings onto the back of a discarded cheese steak wrapper. Why? It seems a recent trip to the casino has left me, shall we say, fiscally challenged. You see, I've been play ing Golden Nugget, a new game for Nintendo 64 from Electronic Arts. Golden Nugget offers up to four suckers er, players a realistic, if somewhat antiseptic, gambling experience. Gamers can test their mettle against the house or their friends in blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and video poker. There are also a money wheel, five-card draw, seven-card stud, Texas hold 'em and slots. Lots of slots, in fact, with six different varieties featured. Although gamers may enjoy learning how bets are placed in less well-known games such as roulette and baccarat (the rule book does a good job with this), Golden Nugget had the potential to be a far more immersive play. And while the casino's glamorous croupier could easily find work on the new Victoria's Secret Web site, I wondered why she was pulling double duty at the registration desk and the gaming tables. Isn't there some sort of union rule against this? In fact, the game's major concession to atmosphere seems to be an Dennis McCauley tech.lifeplay the actual Golden Nugget that displays the casino facade, the restaurant, and the bedroom of a high roller's suite. Tacky with a capital T. Casino bus operators might worry that their Atlantic City day trip business could roll snake eyes if this game catches on. That's not too likely, though, so keep the jitneys gassed up. Golden Nugget is high on gambling detail, but low on overall gaming atmosphere. Although a weak single player experience, Golden Nugget does hold some multiplayer possibilities as a casual party game. For a truly wild game gathering, though, you'll need to boot up your PC or Mac to check out You Don't Know Jack Volume 4: The Ride. Like the other games in the Jack series, The Ride is essentially a trivia game, albeit one with a large dollop of attitude. The game practically bursts onto your screen with a hip, fast-paced, wise-cracking .presentation. Oyer the top from start to finish, Jack's announcers skewer politicians, actresses, and telemarketers with equal glee. Up to three players can compete simultaneously in The Ride. The game demands both quick fingers and a quick mind. You play by buzzing in to answer trivia questions. Score is based on your ability to time your buzzer with dollar amounts that rotate across the screen. Answer correctly, and that amount is added to your tally. If you embarrassingly lame slide show of get it wrong, the money is subtract ed and you're heaped with verbal abuse from the game's excessively caffeinated emcee. Gamers with a sense of humor can't help but love The Ride's clever and challenging themes. "Built like a brick Milhouse" offers Richard Nixon trivia, for example. Repeating mini-games like Dis or Dat and Road Kill provide a welcome change of pace, which keeps The Ride from becoming bogged down in its often arcane content. As a bonus, The Ride comes with an audio CD packed with clever parodies from previous Jack series games. Parents should be aware that The Ride's questions are frequently adult-theme. Sexual innuendo is the rule rather than the exception, so children probably shouldn't get to know Jack or his game. Nevertheless, for grownups, The Ride is a great party activity. You can catch a ride of a different sort with Sierra Attractions' NASCAR Pinball. Hitched onto the current NASCAR popularity wave, the game uses accurately modeled ball physics and clever graphics to create an entertaining, if too short, pinball. experience. The game features three tables representing garage, speedway and pit stop. Players may choose among the colors of one of four NASCAR drivers, including Bill Elliott, the LaBonte brothers, and the great Dale Earnhardt. Once you've selected your driver, it's off to the garage table. Hitting certain gates here can upgrade your race car and add points to your eventual Speedway score. Once you've finished up in the garage, your car moves to the Speedway table for both the qualifying event and the actual race. Once again, accurate ball targeting adds to your chances of winning. Hitting drop targets to spell out NASCAR, for example gives you a chance to take the lead. The pit stop table, which can be accessed during yellow flags, offers a chance to fine- tune your, car's efficiency. Does NASCAR Pinball take the checkered flag? Not quite. While the game is fun, fast-paced and gus-sied up with gleaming 3-D graphics, the three-table limitation gets old faster than Earnhardt's No. 3 car on a straightaway. Golden Nugget is available for Nintendo 64 from Electronic Arts. http:www.nintendo.comn64 goldennugget index.html The game is rated E (all ages) and has an MSRP of $49.95. You Don't Know Jack, Vol. 4: The Ride is available for Windows 9598 and Macintosh from Sierra Attractions. http:www.sierra.comstore quicksheet?SKU 70584 The PC version requires a 48666 or better with 16 megabytes of RAM. The Mac version requires a 68040 CPU or Power PC, System 7.1 or later, and 16 megabytes of RAM. The game is rated T (13) and has an MSRP of $29.95. NASCAR Pinball is available for Windows 9598 from Sierra Attractions. A Pentium 166 with 32 megabytes of RAM is recommended. A Macintosh version is expected later this month. The game is rated E (all ages), and has an MSRP of $29.95. Dennis McCauley's e-mail address: Philadelphia Online Previous tech.lifeplay and games columns are available from Philadelphia Online, The Inquirer's site on the Internet: voltgames.asp What's Online Today 4 p.m. Norman Kolpas, cookbook author, on the Internet. Chat with author of more than 30 top-selling cookbooks. URL: chateventscalendar.html 7 p.m. Mario Andretti, professional race car driver, on America Online. Chat with four-time Indy car champion about his 36-year career. Location: AOL Live. Keyword: LIVE 7 p.m. Author Susan Oriean on the Internet. Chat about her book The Orchid Thief. URL: 8 p.m. Diane Farr, cohost of MTV's Love-' line, on the Internet. Chat about her relationship show. URL: chateventscalendar.html 8 p.m. Nootie and The Blowfish on America Online. Chat about their sound and newest album, Musical Chairs. Location: AOL Live. Keyword: LIVE 9:30 p.m. Ringo Starr, musician with the All Starr Band, on America Online. Here's your chance to ask a former Beatle what life was like as a rock-and-roll legend and how it affects his life today. Location: AOL Live. Keyword: LIVE Tomorrow 3 p.m. Michael Cusumano and David Yoffie, authors, on the Internet. Chat with Harvard and MIT professors about their book, Competing on Internet Time. URL: 8 p.m. X-Files creator Chris Carter on America Online. Chat about that show and his other creation, Millennium. Location: AOL Live. Keyword: LIVE Tuesday 7 p.m. Author Julie Garwood on the Internet. Chat about her book, Ransom. URL: http: 8 p.m. Actress Jeri Ryan on America Online. Chat with Seven of Nine of TVs Star Trek: Voyager. URL: http: chat. yahoo.comchateventscalendar.html 8 p.m. Steve Wariner, country-western star, on America Online. Chat about his latest CD, Burnm' the Roadhouse Down. URL: 9 p.m. Julianne Morris, actress, on the Internet. Chat about her TV soap, Days of Our Lives. URL: chateventscalendar.html Wednesday 7 p.m. Author Andre Dubus 3d on the Internet. Chat about his book House ol Sand and Fog. URL: 7 p.m. Tara Lipinski, Olympic gold medal winner, on America Online. Chat with. 15-year-old figure skating champ, Location: AOL Live. Keyword: LIVE 9 p.m. lake Cyllenhaal, actor, on America Online. Chat about his new film, October Sky. Location: AOL Live. Keyword: LIVE Other Highlights Talking Points on America Online every Tuesday at 8 p.m. Join the online political talk show. Guests include political consultants, journalists, politicians and others. Location: AOL Live. Keyword: LIVE Anytime Rock concerts and interviews with musicians on the Internet. For forthcoming Rock-tropolis events, visit the Web site at URL: The latest United Nations daily press briefing on the Internet. URL: hltp:www. internetbroadcast.comun.htm For the latest on forthcoming Hollywood movies, visit URL: http:www.hollywood .com thisweek index.html Get i short description of forthcoming movies at Mr. Showbiz at UHL: http: www. reviews moviereviews 'soon.html Pat Mike (a.k.a. the guys) on the Internet. Listen to a show about the sites, technologies and people on the Web. Saturdays at noon. URL: http: www. shows 'pat & mike Let's Talk Business Network on the Inter net. Listen for guidance and support for entrepreneurs and emerging growth companies. Saturdays at noon. URL: shows 'itbn,' American Stock Exchange on I he internet. Watch live video from the trading floor and &ct Bve market reports. Monday through Friday, 9:15 a.m. to 4:35 p.m. URL: h'fe ' www.internetbroadcast.A'm Web Winners By Reid Kanaley ' ith Valentine's Day coming, we take a look at matters of the heart. But, in this case, we check out only those matters having little or nothing to do with love. The Heart: An Online Exploration The Franklin Institute, home of a room-size walk-through model of x the human heart, presents this online version of its famous exhibit. A link - HTMLCV001 .html - walks the viewer through a dissection of a ' human ticker. Not for the faint of : ... heart. heart.html Netscape: The Heart: An Online Exploration location: H V 'p' ''w w'' ' "f i '.' d u j"'' 1-'' r'' f 1' ' The Heart: An Online Exploration From tbe moment it begins beating nnbl the moment it stops, toe human heart voikjs tirelessly. In en average lifetime, the heart beats more than tiro and a half billion times, vithoat ever pausing to rest. Like a pumping machine, the heart provides the pover needed for life. TMJ - Netscape: Heartlnfo -Heart Information Network Frqf Loatun ilta wv fiM ttf)to 09 , Af Ho art Information J ' aphysicia 4 Heart Information Network Don't wait for chest pains before you attempt to download the CPR instructions here -http:www.heartinfo.orgcprcpr.html In fact, there's a printable "pocket guide" to CPR that we immediately stuffed in our wallet. But that's just a small bit of what the site offers in daily updates and background on healthy living. Hearts Before it produced grunge, Seattle was home to the popular 70s and '80s band called Heart. The group isn't so active, judging by this . "unofficial home page." It hasn't been updated in ages. But what's , the diff? We're dealing with nostalgia here. http:www.imt.netscooter toc.html Netjcapc: He artlovemongerf WWW Home ("aye "7s""" f t ti J - If'Ttll 4 Heart of Darkness The 1899 novel by Joseph Conrad has been turned into hypertext for a new generation of readers. I http:www.acsu.buffalo.educsicseri Heart of the Apocalypse Conrad's novel was adapted into Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 movie about Vietnam, Apocalypse Now. This scholarly site explores the shared themes and images of the two works, and even has an audio clip or two from the film. mustangapocalypseheart 1 .htm 5 Nmra)e:Welcomf HGAer OF T446 AT?OCALYFS F - What's New Chsck Email Person ari; bo! Mail mail for lfe Click here -you could win $99.0001 Hste Park Your Domain Free San Jose (Mercury News lV NetZero has growing pains, but when it's in gear, the service can "2 be flawless. It claims 300,000 members in its first three months. NetZero ISP lives up to free billing; window for ads covers the tab! By Mike Langberg KNIGHT KIDDER NEWS SERVICE Here's a novel idea: "free" Internet service that's actually free. NetZero is a three-month-old Internet service provider, or ISP, that charges absolutely nothing for unlimited access through a network of 600 local-access phone numbers around the continental United States. What's the catch? First, you have to put up with a small window on your personal computer's screen that displays advertising. Second, NetZero is suffering through birth pains that present users with occasional busy signals and disconnections. But, after about a week surfing the World Wide Web through a Net-Zero account, I can report that I frequently got a flawless connection for extended periods and I didn't spend a dime. NetZero Inc., based in the Los Angeles suburb of Westlake Village, claims about 300,000 members and says it's on track to meet an internal goal of one million members by September. However, before recruiting those new members along with advertisers to pay the bills NetZero will have to live down an unsavory reputation clinging to the concept ,of free Internet service. A number of small, poorly funded ISPs have attempted free service in the last three years. In many cases, they weren't genuinely free subscribers were asked to pay a onetime fee up front for a lifetime of free service. And that lifetime often turned out to be the company's very short existence. Tritium Networks of Cincinnati signed up about 115,000 subscribers last year for a free, nationwide service, but then suspended operations apparently for lack of financing. A company executive now says Tritium will be back by summer. The lone survivor from this group appears to be FreeWWWeb LLC of Danbury, Conn. FreeWWWeb has spotty national access, with more phone numbers promised soon, and charges a one-time fee of $119 to sign up. NetZero stands out from its predecessors in two crucial ways: It doesn't charge any kind of fee, unlike FreeWWWeb; and it has significant financing, unlike Tritium. Ronald T. Burr, president of NetZero, told me the company has "double-digit millions" in backing from reputable investors, including a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm. Having a huge wad of cash, of course, is no guarantee of success. But it does give NetZero enough runway for a decent shot at reaching takeoff speed. Here's how NetZero works: You start by obtaining the Net-Zero software, available for Windows 95, 98 and NT. A Macintosh version is due this summer. The easiest way to get that software is by downloading a 3-mega-byte file from NetZero's Web site, a process that takes about half an hour with a 28.8 kilobits-per-second modem connection. If you don't already have an online connection, you can order the software on CD-ROM from NetZero by calling toll-free to 1-888-638-1376. There's a $6.95 shipping charge for the disc a reasonable price, in my view, that doesn't represent a hidden attempt to make subscribers pay in advance for a supposedly free service. Installation of the file takes only a few minutes. You're required to enter demographic information about yourself gender, age, income level, hobbies, etc. so that Net-Zero can deliver appropriate advertising. 1 didn't object to providing that personal data, which seems only fair in exchange for free Internet service. I was somewhat troubled, however, that NetZero asked for my home address and telephone number. That's not information I wanted to share, so I entered my work address and phone instead. The sign-on box for NetZero, where you enter your user name and password, prompts you to select a local-access phone number from a list that's stored in your it and automatically updated making NetZero a great option for anyone who travels widely with a laptop -computer. I skimmed through the --. long list and found it covered al-. most all the nation's major urban " ," and suburban areas. NetZero says all its access numbers support 56K a modems, the fastest speed for con-';:; ventional phone lines. After making a connection through your PC's modem to one of .v, the access numbers, NetZero .. launches your default Web browser either Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator and-then puts what the company calls . ; its "Advantage Window" on top of,!,'.,!! the browser. -,, , This window is a kind of animated .;! billboard with ads that change every 15 to 30 seconds. On a 17-inch . , j monitor set to 800x600 resolution, the window is VA inches high and 7V4 inches long; users can position the window anywhere they wish on -u the screen. I put the window in the upper right corner, covering some ) " browser buttons I don't regularly!, 0 use, and didn't find it bothersome. , There's even an option to remove - part of the window from view, re-:'" ducing its size slightly to 1 inch by 7 o n inches. v As you'd expect for a service that""''1 makes its money by exposing sub-" ; scriber eyeballs to advertising, this r billboard is always the top window on the screen, no matter what appli-cation you're running. You can close the window only by signing off. V' NetZero also provides electronic X mail, using the Internet's near-uni- versal P0P3 standard. You can use almost any P0P3 e-mail program to ; send and receive e-mail, including ; the mail programs built into Internet i Explorer and Netscape Navigator. ' ". You can also retrieve e-mail from ;: your accounts with other ISPs, as long as they follow the P0P3 stand- ' ard. And you can run America On-line through NetZero, by a process NetZero explains on its Web site. '' : But I'd recommend a strong dose vi of caution before relying on Net-Zero as your only Internet connec- tion. ,1 I often encountered busy signals when trying to connect with Net- ' Zero; at 10 p.m. on a Thursday, all - four access numbers that are a local',;, call from my house were tied up. I finally signed on by calling across the country from California to a NetZero access number in my home- town of Princeton, N.J. NetZero was also prone to crash-" ing; on several occasions, I got a message on the screen saying the browser had performed an illegal operation and would be shut down.', These crashes disabled enough of the operating system that I couldn't x get back onto NetZero without first restarting the computer. Fortunate- , ly, no further damage was done. " I also discovered two smaller an- - K noyances: A window pops onto the; screen every 30 minutes warning you'll be logged off unless you hit a :, "resume" button inside the window, ; and some of the animated ads emit "J an eye-blinding flicker. Burr, NetZero's president, said the , company was working on fixing the ad flicker and revising the 30-min- -ute-warning box. And he said Net-,! ;: Zero was beefing up its leased phone network, which should re-solve the busy signals. But he didn't know what might be causing my,,, NetZero software to crash. If you're interested in NetZero, . proceed slowly. Sign up for a free ., account, then use it for a few months before deciding whether to.'.'.'! dump your current ISP. And, just in case NetZero" doesn't survive, I wouldn't suggest using a NetZero e-' .. mail address. Instead, I'd go with :,', one of the many free e-mail services on the Web, such as HotMail or Yahoo ,', But I'm not going to look a gift ' horse in the mouth. Free Internet . access is a great deal for consumers,';; and I believe NetZero will work ' hard to fix its problems. After all,'1' NetZero makes more money when ' subscribers spend more time on- , line, so the company has a strong '. economic incentive to keep things running smoothly. Mike Langberg reviews computer : products for the San Jose Mercury News. His e-mail address: f i

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