The Lab Guys look back at the past year

For each of us, having the opportunity to review the newest, fastest, and coolest products is what makes being a Lab Guy the best job ever. In comparing this year's Labsolutely favorites to last year's winners, we were struck by the ways our industry has grown and changed during the past year. Multiprocessor systems became truly affordable, which dramatically improved the price-to-performance ratio of Intel-based systems. Disk storage prices also dropped during 1998, helping to eliminate the constant need to delete files to recover much-needed disk space. Finally, products that deliver digital video to the Web continued to impress us. Fueled by faster Internet access speeds, Web-based realtime video and video clips are now common on many popular Web sites.

The dark side of technology continued to grow as well. We can't remember a time when system flaws that posed potential security risks made the news with such frequency. To reflect this trend, we've included a system security scanner among the ranks of our Labsolutely Awards this year.

No doubt you have your own favorite products, and many other products deserve recognition. Nevertheless, these products are Labsolutely our favorites for 1998, and we hope you enjoy them.


FAVORITE INTEL WORKSTATION
Picking my favorite Intel-based workstation from the stable of dual-processor, multiple hard disk megamachines that I tested in 1998 wasn't easy. Every dual-processor workstation I had in the Windows NT Magazine Lab held at least one benchmark record over the past year. Knowing the system under your fingertips is as good as it gets, even if only for a couple of days or weeks, can make it endearing. As a result, deciding which Intel-based workstation I would want to take home from a field that includes an HP Kayak XW, a Compaq WS 6000, an Intergraph TDZ 2000, an IBM IntelliStation, a Dell Precision WorkStation 410, and a Dell Precision WorkStation 610 was difficult. But if you twisted my arm, I'd have to choose the Dell Precision WorkStation 610. Aside from the tool-less case design, I picked this machine because it's the only Xeon system (two 400MHz processors with 512KB Level 2 cache) I've had. Choosing this workstation is similar to buying a car and having the salesperson ask you, "Would you like this sleek little convertible with a monster engine and great performance, or would you like this sleek little convertible with a supercharged monster engine and better performance?" Tempt me please.

REVIEWED: Lab Reports, December 1998, page 90
CONTACT: Dell Computer * 512-728-5882 or 888-560-8324
WEB: http://www.dell.com
PRICE: $9813


FAVORITE ALPHA WORKSTATION
Deciding which Alpha-based workstation was my A-1 favorite, out of about seven systems I tested, was a daunting task. The performance of the workstations and the range of peripherals (i.e., everything from Zip disks to LS-120 SuperDisks) that came with these systems varied widely. But after working with so many Alphas for so many months, I decided to base my choice on each vendor's support and technical expertise. After all, these factors make or break your experience. For this reason, I chose the MaxVision Symbion AXP164SX.

The MaxVision Symbion wasn't the fastest Alpha-based workstation I tested (not by a long shot). However, the MaxVision engineers were always quick to respond to any problems I had with this system, even to the point of writing new graphics drivers to fix one particular problem. A vendor this knowledgeable and easy to work with is priceless, and my experience with MaxVision is what sold me on this system. One final endearing note about the MaxVision Symbion is that it came with a great pair of Yamaha speakers--­a shameless, wonderful way to get to the hearts and ears of lab rats the world round.

REVIEWED: Lab Reports, April 1998, page 79
CONTACT: MaxVision * 805-533-5800
WEB: http://www.maxvision.com
PRICE: $4905

FAVORITE STORAGE PRODUCT
Admit it--­when you think of exciting, blow-your-socks-off cool products, storage devices don't come to mind. However, when the Artecon LynxStak 2000 showed up in the Windows NT Magazine Lab, the words cool, wow, and gotta have it streamed from the Lab Guys' mouths. Its 11.5" * 6.75" * 2.6" footprint is small enough to set on a desktop without raising eyebrows. The SCSI controller includes an LED front panel display and buttons to quickly configure various RAID configurations. Snap-together sleds contain a hot-swappable power supply and a hot-swappable hard disk or SCSI controller. You can configure the LynxStak to connect two SCSI controllers ina daisy chain, with each controller handling up to fourteen 9GB hard disks to provide a huge, flexible amount of storage. Whether you want to provide extra storage for the desktop, a mobile presentation, or a departmental server, the LynxStak 2000 is the cat's meow.

REVIEWED: Lab Reports, September 1998, page 100
CONTACT: Artecon * 760-931-5500 or 800-872-2783
WEB: http://www.artecon.com
PRICE: $11,785


FAVORITE THIN-CLIENT SERVER
Once again Data General has made me go to the store and buy a box of tissues to weep into. Last year, I cried about losing Data General's NT Cluster-in-a-Box system. This year, I'm weeping over losing Data General's TermServer-in-a-Box system. To me, TermServer-in-a-Box is the ultimate thin-client server. TermServer-in-a-Box provides a clustered back end for your BackOffice applications and a load-balanced front end for delivering desktop applications via Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition and Citrix MetaFrame. Best of all, TermServer-in-a-Box provides all this functionality in the confines of one cabinet.

You can size the TermServer-in-a-Box to handle various end-user loads. The system I reviewed can handle about 200 thin-client users.

I haven't seen a self-contained solution so complete, so powerful, and so multiple-user oriented since the golden days of midrange systems. But unlike the midrange systems of old, this modern beast of burden delivers Windows-based applications to the desktop.

REVIEWED: Lab Reports, December 1998, page 96
CONTACT: Data General * 508-898-5000 or 800-328-2436
WEB: http://www.dg.com
PRICE: $95,000 for tested configuration


FAVORITE SERVER
In the category of favorite server, this Lab Guy really likes the HP NetServer LH 3. For its compact size, the NetServer packs a lot of punch and the engineering is superb. I reviewed the dual Pentium II 450MHz model (Deschutes Slot 1 architecture). With eight PCI slots, room for twelve 1" disk drives, and an integrated RAID controller, the NetServer has a lot of expansion capacity. You can easily remove the case covers with one thumbscrew, and the NetServer gives you easy access to the card slots. You can even upgrade the NetServer to a quad Xeon system without removing any of the PCI expansion cards.

The NetServer comes with several systems management features. The Integrated Remote Assistant Board (a standard feature) lets you remotely administer the system using a serial connection. The optional TopTools Remote Control Card provides Web-based remote administration through a dedicated Ethernet interface. Altogether, the NetServer is a sweet box that fits easily into a small business office as well as an enterprise management structure.

REVIEWED: Lab Reports, December 1998, page 93
CONTACT: HP * 650-857-1501
WEB: http://www.hp.com/netserver
PRICE: $18,595

FAVORITE VIDEO PRODUCTS
After months of working with Windows NT-based video products, I've decided there is a lot to like about video and NT. Most of the video-related products I reviewed in 1998 do what they were designed to do and do it well. Still, some products stood out from the crowd. My two favorites were Vista Imaging's ViCAM digital video camera and Galacticomm's WebCast Pro Server 2.0 video broadcasting software. I like the ViCAM because its cable provides a pass-through parallel port connection for a printer, and it is the only PC-based video camera that supports assorted lenses for close-up and wide-angle viewing.

I chose the WebCast software because it lets you broadcast video and audio, and create and distribute on-demand presentations. It's powerful software with an acceptable price tag. Although WebCast isn't the easiest software to configure, the technical support exceeded my expectations.

REVIEWED: Lab Reports, September 1998, page 81
CONTACT: Vista Imaging * 650-802-9685
WEB: http://www.vistaimaging.com
PRICE: $199

CONTACT: Galacticomm * 954-583-5990
WEB: http://www.gcomm.com
PRICE: $2995 (includes 26 broadcast licenses)


FAVORITE SECURITY PRODUCTS
I've looked at loads of security software over the past year, and no matter what new innovations emerge, I always like the security scanner products the best. These tools act as a check and balance to ensure that you securely configure each aspect of a system. Security scanner vendors are quick to incorporate fixes into the latest versions of the scanners as new security risks come to the surface. As a result, you can rest a little easier knowing that if you miss an important adjustment, the scanner will probably catch your oversight.

So in the scanner product category, my hands-down favorite product is Internet Scanner 5.2 from Internet Security Systems (ISS). The tool goes a long way toward helping you keep systems secure. The product has lots of features, including the ability to generate some great reports right out of the box. One of the nicest benefits about using this scanner is that I trust ISS to stay on top of security concerns and to quickly incorporate any new security risks into its scanner for system security analysis.

REVIEWED: Lab Reports, October 1998, page 104
CONTACT: Internet Security Systems * 678-443-6000
WEB: http://www.iss.net
PRICE: $4995 for a Class C license


COOLEST HARDWARE TOY
Choosing the coolest hardware toy was easy. The CrystalEyes stereo vision eyewear from StereoGraphics was the coolest toy I played with in 1998. Having said that, I do realize the eyewear is not really a toy, but is meant for detailed analysis of everything from DNA molecular models to satellite images of Mars. However, using ERDAS's Imagine software and doing a virtual flyover of Palm Springs, California, and the San Bernadino National Forest, complete with 3-D effects, is a lot closer to fun than most anything I've been paid to do before.

REVIEWED: Lab Reports, August 1998, page 99
CONTACT: StereoGraphics * 415-459-4500 or 800-783-2660
WEB: http://www.stereographics.com
PRICE: $795 for the goggles; $200 for the emitter


COOLEST SOFTWARE TOY
"Hi, honey. Did you miss me?" Thanks to Seem Software's Truster 2.4 truth-verification software, you can now find out if your honey really did miss you. Truster detects truths, half-truths, and lies by analyzing microtremors in people's voices. To deploy this software, you need only a computer with audio input capability and a few MBs of free disk space. Truster works with a microphone or, to make life really interesting, you can connect the provided telephone adapter and use Truster over the telephone.

Truster is clearly not an enterprise tool (at least it's not in any enterprise I'd care to work in). However, the software is a lot of fun to play with--­as long as you're the one analyzing the conversation.

REVIEWED: Lab Reports, December 1998, page 98
CONTACT: Seem Software * 718-439-3917 or 888-279-3939
WEB: http://www.seemdirect.com
PRICE: $99


FAVORITE UTILITY
With so many companies marketing so many Windows NT-related utilities these days, finding a good, quality product you can rely on can be difficult. But of all the products I reviewed in 1998, the utility I liked best was Winternals Software's ERD Commander.

ERD Commander is a product that brings NT's command line to your boot-up process. After your system boots and displays the ERD Commander command prompt, you can perform various operations on your files. Since my review, Winternals Software has released a Professional Edition that supports password recovery, striped volumes, and chkdsk. If I could purchase only one utility for NT, I would buy ERD Commander.

REVIEWED: Lab Reports, Web exclusive at http://www.winntmag.com, December 1998
CONTACT: Winternals Software * 512-427-5873 or 800-408-8415
WEB: http://www.winternals.com
PRICE: $249 (or $324 for the new Professional Edition)