By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers
Your connection to the World Wide Web is never fast enough.
Anyone who has graduated from 14.4 kbps modems to 28.8 kbps models (and to ones with still higher speeds) knows the problem: Once you get used to a faster connection, it no longer seems fast enough. Speed is not just very important. Speed is everything.
You can speed up the flow of data by buying a faster modem (which you obviously might want to do if you're using a 14.4 modem) and by choosing the best times to log onto the Web (by avoiding the prime-time crunch, for example). But nothing works as well as not being on the Web at all when you're sloshing through page after page of pictures, sounds and texts.
In other words, the fastest way to surf is by cruising through pages stored on your own hard drive. Your Web browser does not care if the pages it displays are stored in Oshkosh or in a folder inside your computer; all it does is call them up on the screen.
If you want to, you can duplicate an entire Web site by putting everything stored at the site into a folder on your hard drive. Browsing the pages from that site turns out to be a joy. If you have a fast computer, they fly onto the screen. Even with a slow PC or Mac, the pages almost snap open.
But manually downloading entire Web directories is pointless. Unless you know how to get into Web sites through an ftp program, and unless you know exactly where everything is stored so that you can automate an ftp transfer, you're out of luck. Manually grabbing all the pages, sounds and images from a Web site with a browser would take hours of work.
That's why you need a bot to do it for you. It's an Internet robot that gathers up pages while you sleep or while you're away at work. The best bots can be told exactly what to pick up—just the texts of certain pages, for example.
I've tried a half-dozen bots lately. Two that stand out are from the same company, Tympani Development. They are NetAttache Light and NetAttache Pro, for Windows 95 and Windows NT. (A version of NetAttache Light for Windows 3.1 and 3.11 is also available.) The Light version, which always displays advertising messages in a window, is free, and the Pro version costs $40. You can download both versions from http://www.tympani.com/.
Tympani won't like what I am going to tell you. Skip the Pro version. It's better than the Light version in a couple of minor ways, but it's not as good in a very important way.
That way has to do with how each version of NetAttache stores things that are downloaded off the Web. The Pro version stores everything in a single file. This makes NetAttache Pro fast at displaying things—nearly twice as fast as Net Attache Light in many operations—but it keeps you from easily saving any of the texts, sounds and images you find in a Web page brought back by NetAttache Pro.
Tympani has a free utility that lets you save any of these components of pages, but it does not go far enough. Tympani cautions that its utility will not duplicate the exact structure of a site.
And what's what NetAttache Light does exceptionally well. Within a folder on your hard drive, the Light version can recreate part of a Web site or an entire site. That means you don't need NetAttache Light running to browse that locally reproduced site. You open the index page in your browser and start clicking.
Of course, you can also browse pages that are taken off the Web through NetAttache Light's menu system (it's easier that way, for one thing). You definitely need to run NetAttache Light to set up what it calls "briefs," which tell it which sites to copy and how much you want from each site.
Both versions come with some briefs already set up, so you can see how they work right away. Adding sites to existing briefs and creating new briefs is simple. Both versions can import Netscape Bookmarks and Internet Explorer Favorites, too.