What: Mac/Windows phone line home-networking kit. Details: This is home networking at its worst -- all the inscrutability of an office network, but without the help desk down the hall to bail you out. Trouble starts once you've installed the included PCI cards inside your computers (you can use this with two Macs, a Mac and a Windows box, or two Windows machines; I opted to test the cross-platform, Mac/Windows option). While the Mac installer software auto-configures your computer to share an Internet connection, it does no such favors with the file-sharing settings in the AppleTalk and File Sharing control panels. It's of little help that the manual lists what you need to tweak by hand; the installer should handle all of this nonsense. Meanwhile, the Windows software is sandbagged by onscreen prompts that make zero mention of networking to a Mac. After prolonged fiddling and cursing, I did manage to get a Win 98 PC and a Power Mac to split an Internet connection, but setting up file sharing took another dictionary's worth of expletives -- the software for that, a time-limited trial version, is a separate install. Afterward, HomeLine basically worked as designed: I could log on to my Internet provider with a Mac, then surf the Web on the PC; likewise, I could browse through the Mac's folders on the PC and play back MP3 files without any stuttering. File transfers between the two computers clicked through my apartment's phone wiring at more than 800,000 bits per second, not too much below the advertised one million bits per second. Bottom line: Wait for the inevitable version 2.0, which we're told will also work with iMacs and other PCI-slot-deprived Apple hardware.
Win 95-98/Power Mac, $100
-- Rob Pegoraro
ALPHA 3, Capcom
What: Newest entry in the Street Fighter franchise. Details: Feel free to roll your eyes at hearing about what must be the millionth or so fighting game for the PlayStation, but do take a look at Capcom's latest offering. Street Fighter Alpha 3 is one of the best translations of an arcade fighting game around. Thirty-one characters both old and new from the Street Fighter universe return in this sequel, including Blanka, the weird monster from the Amazon forest, M. Bison, ringleader of the Shadaloo crime syndicate and E. Honda, the sumo wrestler. The game has enough challenges to keep even the experts hooked and features a creative combination-move system that lets players choose a specific style of combo execution at the start of each match. For instance, selecting the "X-ism" option allows you one ultra-powerful super combo move, while "V-ism" brings you an enhanced version of the custom-combo system featured in Street Fighter Alpha 3's predecessor. As with all Street Fighter games, control is tight and refined; the game plays brilliantly, and sometimes blindingly, fast. Bottom line: A game with punch.
-- Tom Ham
CAPTION: Street Fighter Alpha: road rage.