Ever since the first user visited the first Web site with the proto-browser, users have complained about the Web's delays. The past year has seen various products, such as Traveling Software's WebEx (née Milktruck) for offline browsing, that accelerate surfing. And many large companies have proxy servers, which cache Web addresses for the entire network.
Peak Net.Jet speeds Web access in a different way. When you load in a new page, Peak Net.Jet loads all available links to that page into its cache (as shown in Screen 1). Then, when you click on a link, Peak Net.Jet delivers it to you immediately from its cache. This predictive read-ahead happens when you aren't actively using your connection (e.g., when you're reading a loaded page).
Use and Performance
I loaded Peak Net.Jet on two workstations running Windows NT 3.51 and NT 4.0 with version 3.01 of both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. Installation went quickly and smoothly. Clicking on the Peak Net.Jet desktop icon brings up Dial-Up Networking (DUN) automatically if you're not already online, and then opens your selected browser.
The first time you load Peak Net.Jet, and occasionally thereafter, the program asks whether you want to check for Peak Net.Jet updates, which the program autoloads from the Peak Web site if updates are available.
You browse as usual, but you operate Peak Net.Jet from a small toolbar. You can adjust the amount of RAM and hard disk allotted to Peak Net.Jet's cache (as shown in Screen 2), which is separate from your browser's cache. You can also regulate the number of freshener threads--the number of links the program preloads at once, usually four.
Peak Net.Jet's operation is obvious and essentially transparent. If you're curious, you can watch the lights on your modem while Peak Net.Jet busily loads pages during quiet times, or you can pop up the Peak Net.Jet Progress Graph, which shows how many of the page's links Peak Net.Jet has preloaded.
Once preloaded into Peak Net.Jet's cache, pages load almost immediately. This speed makes browsing much more pleasant on a dial-up connection--as long as your visit to each page is long enough to preload the links and the site in question can supply the links before you need them. Obviously, Peak Net.Jet won't preload links that depend on your answering questions, or links that change often.
Limitations and Difficulties
Peak Net.Jet, which is Java-based, is still not completely stable. Several times while the browser was in the background, the Java Virtual Machine crashed, taking the browser with it. Peak Net.Jet also disables one Netscape feature: When Peak Net.Jet is running, you can no longer type the root name of a Web page (e.g., winntmag) into Netscape and expect Netscape to try the likely full names (e.g., http://www.winntmag.com).
However, Peak is still working on the product: It upgraded from version 1.12 to 1.13 after less than a week. Peak Net.Jet comes with an uninstaller, and Peak is considering a Peak Net.Jet proxy server--Peak Net.Jet currently won't run with any proxy server.
Worth the Money
Preloading Web pages before you need them is such an obvious advantage that future browsers will almost certainly incorporate the idea. Until then, Peak Net.Jet is a fine little product for the price.