GATEWAY GOES SIMPLE

Gateway yesterday announced its new Astro home computer, the first "legacy-free PC" to hit the market in the United States. "Legacy-free" means that the computer lacks the traditional, confusing array of plugs (serial, printer, PS/2, joystick, etc.) scarring its backside. Instead, the $799 Astro comes with just four universal serial bus ports, one of which is taken up by a connector for the keyboard and mouse. Inside the white, one-piece case (in photos, it looks a bit like those TVs people buy to put in their kitchens), Gateway includes a 15-inch monitor, 400-MHz Intel Celeron processor, 64 megabytes of memory, 4.3-gigabyte hard drive, 40x CD-ROM drive and 56-kbps modem. It all sounds very much like the iMac, but there is a floppy drive. And Windows.

We plan to review this model for our guide to home computers in November. Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for news of simplified computers from other brand-name manufacturers; Dell, for instance, plans its own legacy-free machine.

ADSL ACCELERATION

Getting a high-speed ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) Internet connection at home has been a slow, halting process, as both FFWD reviewers and readers have found out. By the end of this month, however, Bell Atlantic's Bell Atlantic.net subsidiary plans to start selling DSL "Home Connection Kits" in some area CompUSA and Staples stores that should allow users to reduce their hold time. The $229 package includes an all-in-one PCI card from 3Com to plug into a Windows-compatible computer, a CD-ROM of installation software and five "filters" that plug into existing phone jacks to cancel out interference from the DSL connection. The CD-ROM allows customers to order DSL service online, then set up everything on their own.

Bell Atlantic.net will waive its usual $99 setup fee; after 60 days of service, customers will get a $130 refund on the purchase price of the kit. Neither this connection kit nor the rebate offers apply to Bell Atlantic ADSL customers who wish to use another Internet provider. Also, note that this connection kit won't magically accelerate the process of getting the DSL connection from the nearest "central office" to one's house, nor is it the "G.Lite" version of DSL, a long-promised, still-unavailable technology standard that should further cut the start-up costs of these connections.

STORY UPDATE

Thanks for the Memory!

Apple Computer Inc. has begun FedExing out 32 megabytes of additional memory to iBook reviewers (well, at least at this newspaper). The spin: "You'll see how easy it is to increase iBook's RAM." The reality: Sixty-four megabytes of memory is the minimum either the Mac OS or Windows 98 needs to clear its throat these days. The question: Instead of giving this extra just to reviewers, how about customers as well? -- compiled by Rob Pegoraro

Top Ten selling programs at Beyond.com:

1. Encarta 2000

2. Travel the World With Timmy

3. Command and Conquer:

Tiberian Sun

4. VirusScan 4.0

5. Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear

6. Y2K Test & Fix 1.14

7. Norton AntiVirus 2000

8. Print Artist Platinum 4.0

9. Sierra Complete Home

10. Quicken Deluxe 2000

Source: Beyond.com

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