Caldera – DR WebSpyder review

DOS-based thin-client browser
Photo of Caldera – DR WebSpyder
Pricing: approx. £30 for DR WebSpyder, approx. £300 for the DR-SBK (contact Caldera for OEM pricing)

You wouldn’t immediately think that there would be much of a market for a DOS-based Web browser. After all, as everyone knows, DOS is dead, long live Windows/Linux/BeOS/Whatever. You’d be wrong. For a start, there are hundreds of thousands of 386 and 486 PCs still in use all over the world, none of which is particularly good at running Windows-based bloated browsers. And low-power, thin-client PCs are also growing in popularity, while dedicated devices such as set-top boxes, Web kiosks and hand-held computers can all benefit from running compact yet powerful DOS applications.

DR WebSpyder from Caldera is just such an application. It’s an HTML 3.2-compliant Web browser that supports Javascript, forms, CGI scripts, image maps, tables and cookies. Graphics and sound file formats supported by the browser include GIF (including animated GIF), JPG, BMP and XBM, while WAV and MID sound files are also supported. In fact, this is an extremely versatile piece of software, with screen resolutions ranging from 320 x 240 in 256 colours to 1600 x 1200 in 16.7 million colours, plus special modes and fonts for television screens.

The browser incorporates an SMTP/POP3 mail client that handles MIME and UUENCODED attachments. It’s all very easy to use, and can be configured for mouse, keyboard or touch-screen use. Extended HTML tags can be programmed by the user or developer to perform tasks such as account configuration and other functions. The full version of DR WebSpyder, which also supports printing and multiple user accounts, requires 4MB of disk space or ROM and 8MB of RAM, although there’s a cut-down ‘Lite’ version without the Javascript and print support that will run in 4MB of RAM. Both versions are easy to set up: you need to know your nameserver addresses, but that’s as complicated as it gets, and we had no trouble browsing via one of the UK’s free Internet services using Caldera’s dialer and TCP/IP stack.

Caldera, set up in 1994, has a clever selection of thin-client tools at its disposal, including OpenLinux and DR-DOS. The latter is a 32-bit, Year 2000-compliant version of DOS that includes powerful multi-tasking features and power management tools. It will run happily on a 386 PC, and comes with network drivers and various powerful disk management tools. A copy of DR-DOS is included as part of Caldera’s System Builder Kit, which itself includes the DR WebSpyder component, ROM creation tools and various power management API utilities. If you want to see what the DR WebSpyder package looks like, an evaluation version can be downloaded from Caldera’s Web site. It includes a modem dialer/network layer and TCP/IP stack, and can be run from a self-extracting/executing boot disk. The full version can be purchased either on a per-licence basis or you can go for the DR-SBK that we looked at, which includes powerful OEM customisation tools as well as the source code to all the major components.

Company: Caldera

Contact: 00 1 801 426 5001


Verdict
It's always nice to see compact, intelligent programming. DR WebSpyder is a powerful Web browser and mail client for DOS, and although it works just fine as a single-user PC browser, its real benefits are its ease of customisation and flexibility, making it ideal for developers looking for thin-client solutions, set-top boxes and kiosk terminals. What Opera is to Windows PCs, DR WebSpyder is to thin client systems.