Critic's Poll: Tech

Best Applesauce From Rotten Apples

Power Computing They've "lost their license for speeding." After just two years as leader of the Mac clone market, the sassy firm that out-marketed and out-innovated Apple Computer itself has sold its core products back to the California computer maker. Refusing to become a victim of Apple's seesawing business strategies, the company that once led the charge to "Fight back for the Mac" is now staking its future on the crowded Wintel laptop market. Can they survive without their fans, or is this just a PowerTrip? Only time will tell.

Best Support for CyberLiberties

EFF-Austin It was easy enough to keep the Internet free and open when a relative handful of engineers and academics were its only users, but its explosive growth and especially its evolution as a consumer marketplace has attracted the attention of national and global regulators who are completely weirded out by the online world's anarchic character. Though the Internet is the greatest tool ever devised for education and information sharing, it's been portrayed as a red light district and a haven for mad bombers, and clamped with oppressive legislation like the Communications Decency Act in the U.S. and Singapore's national proxy filter. A small band of Net activists have opposed constraints on the Internet, prominent among them our own EFF-Austin, formed five years ago as a possible alpha chapter for the national EFF. That relationship never happened, so EFF-Austin became an independent entity and established its own identity, its voice as strong today as that of its namesake. EFF-Austin most recently co-sponsored Cyber Rights '97 and has been involved in planning for the 1998 Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy, which will be held in Austin this February.

Best Austinite to Shake Up Hollywood

Harry J. Knowles One day, he was a little kid our editor Louis Black used to see running around collectors' conventions ("with better comics than the adults"), then he suddenly has Quentin Tarantino calling him "the Wolf Blitzer of the Internet." Who is Harry J. Knowles and how does he get directors like Joel Schumacher so pissed? Just go to and check out his filmland gossip and news site yourself. And just think, Jodie Foster might be perusing it at the same time you are....

Best Austinite to Shake up Hollywood
Harry Knowles

photograph by Bruce Dye

Best Doorway to Fringe Culture

FringeWare, Inc. One of the first virtual corporations, FringeWare, Inc., has always been, as Bob Rossney once said, "at the cutting edge of the cutting edge." FringeWare has cultivated affinities along the technocultural borders of consensus reality, creating a true "temporary autonomous zone" and a great party online and off. The FringeWare bookstore supplanted the late great Europa Books as coolest source of human code, and the FringeWare website is chock full o' fringe goodies. 2716 Guadalupe, 494-9273,

Best Way to Check on Your Potential Internet Pal or Sweetie

DejaNews It's an Ether out there! Anybody could be anybody. How do you ethically research a mysterious new pen-pal you found on How do you know that he or she is not a regular troll on Thank the Net for DejaNews. This local firm has cornered a slice of the Internet idea pie by providing an ongoing archive of all Unenet posts. And their service doesn't end there. The user-friendliness of their search engine is so inviting, and their path to way too much information is so logical, you'll be checking up on yourself! 5407 Clay,451-0433,

Best Ink Jet Recharge

ALBAAT (A Little Bit at a Time) The fine folks at ALBAAT work with you to get the most out of that expensive computer printer ink cartridge. Ink cartridges can be recycled five to seven times at about half the cost of a new cartridge. Each cartridge is tested, and if it cannot be recharged, the cartridge and ink left in it will be disposed of properly. 12129 N. Hwy.620, #540, 219-9800,

Best Online Community

Sandy Stone's Advanced Communications Technology Lab (ACTLab) Allucquere Rosanne Stone, aka Sandy, has participated in online communities since her days on Communitree, one of the earliest, so it was natural that her unconventional multimedia lab at the UT School of Communications would develop as its backbone a strong sense of virtual community spirit. Sandy herself represents a postmodern, poststructural media vision past the McLuhanesque edge, where every representation of identity is acknowledged as a performance piece, and multiple personalilty is not a syndrome but a way of life. The ACTLab itself is a creative hotbed within Austin's multimedia gulch; the best and brightest of UT's students clamor to participate. The current rumor that Sandy has been denied tenure is reminiscent of John Silber's treatment in the late Sixties; Austinites and others concerned over UT's commitment to the cutting edges of technology should protest.

Best Cybercultural Rave-up

Honoria en Ciberspazio Cyber meets high culture in this cyberopera. Mail artist Honoria got wired a few years ago and found herself on various MUDs, MOOs, and e-mail lists, seeing the realization of potent themes worthy of opera threaded with gonzo wackiness and great humor. As a member of Sandy Stone's ACTLab community, she joined forces with local UT students and global denizens of the Net to create online the libretto for a highly eroticized opera about online relationships. The libretto's almost finalized and the music is a work in progress by composer George Oldziey. Look for a spring '98 performance and webcast. And note this: The snake lady in Blade Runner was an opera singer in Philip Dick's original novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Best Fortunes on the Net

SuperController's Thot4ThDay We aren't talking about those obnoxious FIND YOUR FORTUNE!!!!! I MADE $50,000,000 ON THE WEB!!! bits of spam all over the Web. No, SuperController is a mythical super computer (and free e-mail list) which exists in the ether and generates bits and bytes of tacky ponderances for the modern world and drops them in your e-mail if you so desire. Regular serial features include selections from the Self-Help Bookshelf, the Oracular Determinator: the Amazing Electromechanical Advice-Giver and Seer, twisted fortune cookie fortunes, and little bits of wisdom, like this one: "Good looks will only get you so far in life. Disingenuousness and treachery will have to carry you the rest of the way." What a grand way to start the day! To subscribe:

Best Idea Whose Time Has Come

Texas Internet Service Providers' Association (TISPA) Internet Service Providers have a rough business. They're in a market so new that nobody knows how it's supposed to work. Internet legislation is being proposed at state and federal levels. Way-deregulated telcos heap gobs of drool on the market as the tiny ISPs try to gain a foothold. The SPA wants ISPs to patrol for copyright infringement. An ISP is busted for Usenet porn, others face potential lawsuits over contents of their members' Web pages. Texas ISPs saw the handwriting on the wall and created the first-ever ISP trade association, based in Austin. TISPA has already been effective in influencing legislation that affects ISPs by clarifying for legislators what an ISP is all about.

Best Internet Tool

iChat This Austin software company has been getting great press for its product, a tool for realtime interactive group or individual communication on the Internet. iChat is the platform of choice for chat rooms on Yahoo, Pathfinder, Village, Sony, and other high-end websites. A new iChat gadget, the pager, allows individuals to find each other and chat online without popping into chat rooms.

Best Linux Users Group

Austin Linux Group For many people, Linux, an inexpensive PC-based implementation of the multi-user, multi-tasking, industrial strength UNIX operating system, is becoming the OS of choice. The Austin Linux Group takes an informal, hands-on, seminar-like approach to Linux which appeals equally to beginners and old system administrators. Lab sessions focus on installing Linux and resolving hardware conflicts, while lecture sessions focus on programming, software, networking and theoretical issues. Almost all meetings feature communal pizzas seasoned with liberal amounts of Bill Gates-bashing. Huston-Tillotson College, 900 Chicon, 259-2900, Thursday nights, 7pm

Best Little Screen in Town

InterneTV Rob Campanell's dream to produce an online soap opera was finally realized recently through InterneTV, which he operates with Austin multimediaist Jay Ashcraft. Both have been talking about the Internet's multimedia potential for years now, and with InterneTV they're pushing the envelope. I gotta warn you, it's a rather small envelope... like two inches wide and an inch and a half tall, the dimensions of InterneTV's screen-within-a-screen. Only a matter of time, though, until Internet pipes are fat enough for all to support big video, big sound. Meanwhile, that soap opera, Austin,is into its eighth episode, "Karen gets into trouble."

Best Local Food Website

Boggy Creek Farm Visiting Larry Butler & Carol Ann Sayle down on the virtual farm is our new favorite recreational activity. We can catch up on what's available at the Wednesday and Saturday markets, order Tubby Totes or farm T-shirts by mail, download some delicious recipes for cooking with fresh, local organic produce, and read up on the history of the 150-year-old farmhouse and surrounding acreage. The Boggy Creek farmers have become masters at promoting their five-acre "market garden" in East Austin.

Best Usenet Watchdog & Helpful Guy

Chip Rosenthal Most users of Internet e-mail have to spend at least a few minutes each day shoveling unsolicited messages spam, in the parlance out of their inboxes. Software developer Chip Rosenthal argues that spam costs not only time, but money, and he's been doing something about it. An active participant in Austin's Usenet scene from its early days, Rosenthal has written posting guidelines for local newsgroups. He actively patrols for and cancels posts that come from unscrupulous Net abusers. Still, his presence makes him a regular target of complaints. To avoid the perception that he works capriciously, Rosenthal keeps a public record of the posts he cancels on his website. Until the courts give us more protection from junk e-mail, we're glad Chip's around: In these info-glutted times, spam-free living is worth the fight. 304 E. Fifth, 442-9503,

Best Community Networking Activists

Sue Beckwith & Gene Crick
Sue Beckwith's been working long and hard to create and sustain community networking projects throughout Austin: a project to put 74 computers in Austin's Public Libraries, an East Austin Media Lab to teach East Austin youth job-grabbin' multimedia skills, a project to use Internet connectivity to reduce juvenile crime, and more. Sue's incredible energy electrifies these projects and ensures their vibrancy. Sue and Free-Net are one half of Austin's one-two punch for proliferation of Internet access, the other half being Gene Crick and the Metropolitan Austin Interactive Network (MAIN). &

Best Place for Major Purchase Perusal Major appliances. Major headache. Not necessarily so on A transaction begins when one person posts to the group advertising a gently used widget for sale. In most cases you may e-mail for further info. With little effort, it is easy to determine whether or not this deal is for you. Simple. Within the past nine months we have advertised yardsales, acquired a cool roommate, a cheap and totally functional microwave, an exercycle, two chairs, a decent computer, some bookshelves, a file cabinet, and a yak. Amazingly, they're all still working... even the roommate. Okay, just kidding about the yak. Usenet:

Best "New Media" Biz

Monsterbit Media Monsterbit Media designs and builds websites, but anybody who knows Monsterbit knows that's not the whole story. Several Austin bands and musicians call Monsterbit home; it's the best source of multimedia nuggets from quirky local bands, and the home of King Coffey's 24/7 RealAudio jam.

Best Technophiliac History:

The Dead Media Project Austin's resident cyberpunk archivist Bruce Sterling and author Richard Kadrey, perceiving the romance of technological acceleration with planned obsolescence, realized that new media was burying old so fast and so deep that a historical index was needed, pronto. Sterling ran with it, but he wisely shared the responsibility for the archive with, well, anybody who crossed his virtual path. The Dead Media e-mail list and archive rocks on; no doubt an encyclopedic hardcopy version will ultimately emerge. There are several Web pages mentioning the Dead Media Project. One of the better pages is at:

Best E-Cards From the Edge

TEXAS® Oh empire wide and glorious! The Great State of Texas is calling you. And if you'd like to lure a loved one here or just send a general "Wish You Were Here," consider this website. From the same folks who bring us the "Texas It's Like a Whole Other Country" tourism campaign and the beefy Texas State Travel Guide (Texas Department of Transportation, Commerce, and Parks & Wildlife) comes this easy and eco-friendly way to send a postcard... or e-mail card. If you're familiar with the lush photography of Texas Highways magazine, you have an idea of the quality of images offered here. You can choose from photo galleries arranged by region or theme and personalize it with your own greeting. Did we mention that it is completely free? 800/888-8TEX,

Best Virtual Storefront

Buy-a-Dell Online Store We gotta admit: Underneath that slick corporate veneer, there's real juice. At Dell's online store, you can build n' buy your own computer and pick up the requisite peripheral warez or buy one of Dell's packages, zippo-bang, just like that. The word on the street is that the service is great, and Dell's raking it in, yet again.