While stumbling wide-eyed through CES’ gigantic South Hall, I ended up watching a demo of an interesting piece of software. Actually I was looking for the Belkin booth and got lost somewhere along the way. The software is called Network Magic and it aims to simplify home networking by managing all your PCs and printers.
Like most geeks I tend to tackle phantom network problems with a dismissive wave and a “that’ll take me five minutes, no problem”. And usually, after a torrent foul language and some loud pleeding to a higher being, I emerge an hour or two later spitting venom and cursing Windows and everyone involved in its development. Therefore Network Magic seems pretty appealing simply as a stress reliver.
The new Mac beta version of the software is the real news, although I only got to see it run on Windows XP, but I expect that it all works in pretty much the same way. You get a very straight-forward user friendly interface that maps out your network with all your various computers and printers displayed.
You can then setup shared folders and the like, and it will test your network and internets speeds like you’d expect. However, the really clever bit is that it will also monitor security levels so you can tell when one computer needs an anti-virus update, or a Windows update and so on. And if you’re installing a new piece of hardware, such as a printer, you can copy drivers across your machines, so you don’t need to wander around with a driver CD.
Part of the network layout screen also tells you whether there are any other machines joining the network that you haven’t approved, so if someone is jacking into your WiFi connection, you can chuck them off with out fiddling around in the router finding out MAC addresses and so on.
The new Mac version makes networking from a PC to Mac much more straightforward than it currently is. The trial version is free and allows you to check out the full service for 30 days. After that you lose the more exciting features like file sharing, remote access and automatic file sharing. Check out the free download at the Network Magic website.