Disney Blast Online opens to Mac users Entertainment: This excellent Internet site for children can be used free for a limited time and by subscription thereafter

Mac Centric

August 03, 1998|By Dave Zeiler | Dave Zeiler,Sun Staff

Good news: Disney's 3-year-old, Internet-based service for children, Disney Blast Online, is available for the Macintosh.

For a limited time, Mac users can access all areas of the service for free. After the test period ends, Disney says Mac "guests" who want to keep using the service can sign up at regular subscription rates: $5.95 per month or $39.95 per year.

Mind you, this is not a separate online service like America Online. You have to be connected somewhere else first. To access Disney Blast, go to www. disneyblast.com/mac. After supplying some personal data, you will be prompted to download a plug-in for your Web browser. No other software is necessary.

While Disney Blast won't hog your hard drive, its system requirements aren't skimpy. Disney recommends Mac OS 8.0 pTC (7.6 minimum), a 200-MHz Power PC processor (100 MHz minimum), 32 megabytes of RAM (24 MB minimum), a 28.8-kbps modem and Netscape or Internet Explorer 4.0.

True to Disney's reputation, the site offers first-rate entertainment for children that should please adults as well. You can solve puzzles, participate in live chat and play games.

What impressed me most, however, were the interactive animated stories. I checked out a chapter of "Mulan," Disney's current movie release. While looking at drawings that include animated sequences, you read character dialogue in comic-strip-style balloons. Music and sound effects play in the background. Clicking on a character's dialogue balloon brings up the next line of dialogue or scene.

At some point in the chapter, you are asked to help Mulan by completing a task (that is, by playing a short game).

If you have Disney-age children, this site is worth investigating.

Beware the 'worm'

The thousands of destructive viruses that torment the PC world historically have been of little concern to Mac owners because the villains who concoct them have largely ignored the Mac OS.

Until now, that is.

Dubbed Autostart 9805, this new "worm" adds invisible files to any hard drive or disk mounted on your PowerMac. (Older 68K Macs are immune.) After infection, the worm seeks out specific data files and overwrites them with garbage.

Symptoms of the Autostart worm include extensive disk activity every 30 minutes (when the worm looks for new volumes to infect), unexpected restarting after insertion of a disk and a menu bar that flashes the application name "DB" briefly when a disk is mounted.

Fortunately, you can inoculate your Mac against the worm by disabling the autoplay option in the QuickTime control panel. If you have a version of QuickTime earlier than 2.5, you should disable QuickTime altogether until you can upgrade. You can download QuickTime 3.0 for free from Apple's Web site (www.apple.com).

If your Mac is infected, you can remove the worm with an antivirus utility,, or (gulp!) you can remove it manually.

For detailed information on Autostart 9805 and how to deal with it, visit MacInTouch's excellent Web page at www.macintouch. com/hkvirus. html.

Mac briefs

* At the MacWorld Expo trade show in New York, interim Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs announced the inevitable: When the first iMacs ship in mid-August, they will have 56K modems. Apple had been pilloried for originally choosing a slow 33.6K modem in the futuristic machine.

* Connectix has a new version of its PC emulator, Virtual PC 2.1 with Windows 98. Designed for Macintosh G3 systems, it will carry a street price of $179, a bit closer to Insignia's competing SoftWindows 98 program (about $200). The previous version of Virtual PC with Windows 95 costs $145.

Send e-mail to david.zeilealtsun.com.

Pub Date: 8/3/98

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