Network Magic Helps Manage Home Networks, Computers
Consumer-oriented tool troubleshoots, solves problems
by Daniel P. Dern (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vendor: Pure Networks, Inc. Product Name: Network Magic 4.0 Price (MSRP): $29.99 for 3PC (free version also available) Availability: Version 3.3 now, Version 4 soon Product URL: http://networkmagic.com/
Tech Requirements: Windows (98 SE or later ); MSIE 5.5 or later
Home networks -- wireless, printers, shared files -- can be even more of management challenge than home PCs.
Pure Networks' Network Magic, despite its less-than-informative name, is intended to help solve "home networking hassles" -- especially
for the tech-unsavvy, including wireless configuration and security, and local and remote file sharing (e.g. photos) and access.
At $29.95 for use on up to three systems -- with a free
less-featured version also available -- you're likely to get
your money's worth within one or two trouble-fixing sessions.
The current version helps troubleshoot things like Internet
connectivity, including not-always-obvious basics like "check cables" to an automatic problem resolver which did, in fact, help resolve some transient glitch after I'd rebooted my router. It also generates a map of visible computers and peripherals.
The upcoming new 4.0 version, which was being shown and demoed at
Ziff-Davis' October 2006 Digital Life Expo in New York City, includes some wireless set-up and security -- MAC filtering, a more brute-force solution than WEP or WAP to keeping intruders out, and fine for low-change home environments. Given that
most wireless equipment is apparently returned because the buyer couldn't get it to work, this sounds like a good thing.
Network Magic can also do some interesting distributed-family things, like make digital pictures of your kids safely available from your computer to family and friends in other locations, e.g. coming up as the screen saver, without having to go through a photo-sharing site.
It can also set up one-click computer-to-computer backups, to hedge
against a system failing, and do WAN and LAN speed tests.
Network Magic's not perfect -- it didn't find ZoneAlarm when checking for anti-virus on my system, it tells me I need some "critical Windows updates" but won't tell me which, and wants me
to turn Windows Updates on (which I don't).
In principle, you can do most or all of this with tools that come with Windows, or with home routers, etc., concedes Lydia Waldo,
Marketing Manager for Pure Software. However, that doesn't mean it's always easy or obvious. For example, "A lot of users
don't understand user-mode access rights, which you have to know to
share a folder," Waldo points out.