Internet FastFind Review
by Fred Kagel
Symantecs Internet FastFind is an 8-in-1 collection of Internet utilities launched from a single console. The main component, WebFind, does a multiple search of the Web, ranks the results, and removes duplicate sites it finds. NetFileFind and EasyFTP find files on the Internet at FTP sites. PatchConnect checks out your system hardware and software and then sets up Internet connections at vendor sites where you can download the latest drivers. Notify monitors changes at FTP and Web sites and permits you to manually or automatically retrieve changed items to a folder on your local drive. WebLaunch opens pages directly from a menu based on bookmarks or favorites. EasyZip compresses and extracts files. LiveUpdate automatically links to Symantecs web site and updates to the most current version of Symantecs products.
The entire group of applets installed quickly and compactly in 5 MB. The octet not only established itself in the usual Programs group, but also as short-cuts on the desktop, on the system tray (area to the right of the Taskbar), and as short-cut menu items associated with the right mouse click.
Originally, I was looking for a program of this type to see if it could read selected Yahoo message boards off-line. However, in fairness, that is not what this program was designed to do. So, instead, to evaluate the program, I decided to compare a search for a single word vs. a search for a phrase vs. a search for midi files.
My first attempt to use the program was not smooth at all. I wanted to search for "BCUG." WebFind sent off seven simultaneous searches to the popular search engines and came back with no matches. Webcrawler, one of the search engines, failed to initiate a connection with WebFind.
Also, the program did not run in the background on auto pilot, but required user intervention of pending "cookies." A rerun of my "BCUG" query caused an "illegal operation." I then decided it was time to run LiveUpdate to insure that I had the latest version of the program. Once the updated patch was downloaded, I had to disconnect and reboot Windows. Upon rebooting, Internet FastFind found a conflict and recommended that multithreading be disabled. Now, here was a program I thought I would like one that finds a problem and corrects it itself, a Norton/Symantec tradition to which I was accustomed.
After a proper reinstallation, WebFind found and ranked highest three unique hits under Infoseek, but none of these proved to be valid links. One of WebFinds options was to discard invalid links. I reran the search with this option turned on and voila "Invalid links were discarded" score three points for Internet FastFind, but still no can find "BCUG." A separate search at www.infoseek.com found 34 hits with our club listed eighth.
Two other program options permitted an increase in the search time and an increase in the maximum number of hits from any one search engine. Neither of these options worked properly. Whats more, the invalid links redisplayed when these options were tried. I thought at first that my cache was being polled, but after emptying the cache, the bogus results remained. So much for consistency! take away three points.
WebFind found two other links. One was from Yahoo, which was a link to our club, and the other was from HotBot, which happened to be another club with the same acronym. Webcrawler still failed to initiate any search at all. I could not find any options to add, modify, or delete the search engines. One of the FAQs at Symantecs website confirmed my observation.
My second attempt was to search for the phrase "Andrea Bocelli review." Again, the program failed to remove invalid and identical links, but did find the site with Bocellis latest update. The program refused to use its full allotted time just like a sophomore in high school, a minimal, break even effort.
My last test was an attempt to see if WebFind was able to search Yahoo message boards for a stock ticker symbol such as "LU" for Lucent Technologies. Not unexpectedly, WebFind was unable to do that and I have yet to find an Internet tool capable of off-line reading of I-message boards. Even Yahoo itself does not have such a tool to read its own message boards off-line.
Another component, NetFileFind was a big zero. It used antiquated Archie sites and failed to connect as a result of a Winsock error on my system.
The next applet, EasyFTP, worked nicely as an extension of the Windows Explorer format. Many hardware and software vendor FTP sites were already listed and others could be added. I was under the impression, however, that EasyFTP worked in conjunction with NetFileFind and should have permitted global searches; but since NetFileFind was a bust, global searches were not possible. So looking for all midi files at every FTP listed site was not doable .
Final Score: Although initially encouraged by LiveUpdates patch to remedy program problems, Internet FastFind release 1.0a is just not ready for prime time. It simply doesnt compare favorably to other commercial and shareware programs of this type. Symantec has done better and can do better sorry.
For further information, go to www.symantec.com, and for a second opinion, go to www.cnet.com/Content/Reviews/Hands/102196/iff.html. Street price is $50.