MY notebook is so slow, so agonisingly slow. My disk drive thrashes like an epileptic magnet and my battery drains away before my eyes. But this was not always the case; it has only started to do this since I installed MagnaRam 2 two weeks ago. MagnaRam 2 had promised to take my basic, Windows-capable, four-megabyte notebook and turn it into a power machine which could run as many simultaneous applications as an eight MB monster. On the contrary, I am so fed up with the speed it takes to load applications, switch applications, open dialogue boxes and save files that I usually opt to word process in Notepad and go on-line with Terminal - a less than ideal situation. MagnaRam 2 combines several techniques to allow users to load more Windows applications and avoid going to the drive to access data in virtual memory. These techniques include maximising available system resource memory, use of a RAM (random access memory) buffer - effectively a virtual memory RAM cache, and compression of infrequently used data while in RAM. It was the compression of data in memory which sounded so promising. Compression technology such as that used in disk compression tools such as Stacker is sophisticated and fast and MagnaRam 2 held out hope that this could be effective in compressing RAM and decreasing disk access. Unfortunately, using the default settings and even playing with the settings did not remove the new problems which my computer has experienced since MagnaRam was installed. Nonetheless, the documentation, which is quite good to Quarterdeck's credit, does say that with compression active, loading applications takes longer. But taking 10 minutes to load an application, which used to take two or four minutes, seems excessive. In addition, in most applications the mouse and keyboard response has become so poor and the disk thrashing so continuous that it is impossible to work in any kind of interactive sense. In fact, in my simple shareware word processor (which is smaller than one MB), my drive thrashes continuously while the Window is open, even when no typing or input is going on. To take it even further, opening a file means watching the lines appear at about one every two seconds rather than almost immediately, and spell checking is now out of the question. Granted, the situation is not all bad. By disabling the memory compression and decreasing the size of the memory page available to MagnaRam (decreasing the amount of virtual memory on hand), the performance of my notebook returned to normal but along with it I lost what I hoped would be the key benefit of MagnaRam: an increase in usable memory - both hardware and virtual. Still, even in this situation running MagnaRam improves memory handling and means that there is less chance of a PC running out of system resources before available virtual memory is used up. Of course, on a more powerful PC with more memory to begin with, MagnaRam's performance is much better and it is easier to feel like you have a 16 MB machine in an eight MB 486 DX4, but this is not the ideal market for a product like MagnaRam. Desktop RAM is relatively cheap but notebook RAM is expensive and many notebook users are struggling to run Windows on four MB machines. In the end, while the concept behind MagnaRam is admirable, the technology is still in its infancy, much like driver-level compression, and most users are probably better off waiting until later generations of the technology become available and, hopefully, the norm. MagnaRam 2 is available from Quarterdeck and in the United States for about US$50.