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Published in TidBITS 71.
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Dirtier ROMs

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For some time after I coordinated the NewROMs petition there was no response at all. Henry Norr of MacWEEK said that he thought the issue was dead until Apple issued a statement, and the only other mention that our letter received came from Bob Cringely of InfoWorld. In the last few days I've heard some more interesting news, though it doesn't necessarily mean anything in terms of getting new ROMs.

A few days ago I got a call from David Burmaster, a consultant based in Cambridge, MA. He was irate about the problem of the dirty ROMs and had gone so far as to send a letter to John Sculley threatening a lawsuit. What interested me about his situation was that Apple responded by saying that he could jolly well go out, buy MODE32 from Connectix, and shut up. OK, so I doubt that Apple actually worded it like that, but David was upset enough that it might have been. We can see that Apple now officially recommends MODE32. David checked with his lawyer to see what kind of chances he had at winning a suit against Apple for misrepresenting the abilities of the Mac II, IIx, IIcx, and SE/30. His lawyer said that although he thought he could prove the misrepresentation in court, it would take 18 to 24 months to get a court date and a minimum of $5000 in legal fees to file. That's the first educated legal opinion I've heard on the issue, and it's interesting that it does put Apple in the wrong. David decided not to sue since it made no financial sense and since Apple Legal is not a group you want to tangle with unnecessarily.

A day or so later, I received another call (I normally get a lot of email, but not too many telephone calls, so all this surprised me), this time from Roy MacDonald of Connectix. He'd heard from a MODE32 beta tester that I would be a good person to put on the press list, so he called and asked me if I'd like a copy of MODE32 to work with. Mark H. Anbinder has already done a mini-review of MODE32, but I'm never one to turn down software to test. I haven't been using it for all that long, but it seems to work just fine. I can't ask for virtual memory over 16 MB since I don't have that much disk space available, but I do plan to clear up some more space eventually. I'll keep people posted on my experiences with MODE32. Thanks, Connectix!

A number of people have wondered why Apple couldn't just build the 32-bit cleanliness into System 7, as they did with A/UX. I've heard that the 32-bit cleanliness worked a bit like virtual memory under System 6. Someone at Apple said to the engineers, "How about putting virtual memory in System 6?" and the engineers said, "Can't be done." In January of 1989, Connectix introduced Virtual 1.0. So when work started on System 7 and virtual memory was included, someone said, "How about 32-bit cleanliness, so users can use lots of memory and virtual memory on those older machines?" Once again the reply came back, "Can't be done in System 7. A/UX is a different OS." Once again, several months later, the wizards at Connectix came out with MODE32. Hmm, starting to see a pattern here? Actually I doubt Apple will let such an obvious gap happen again, if only to save face. Next time somebody asks one of those questions, the answer will be, "Is tomorrow soon enough?"

Lots of rumors have floated by about how Apple has some 32-bit clean ROMs based on the IIfx ROMs or the IIsi ROMs, or something like that. I've now heard that those rumors were true, though the details are still to be completely discovered. Apparently, some people poking around at Apple found a couple of boxes labeled "Mr. Clean" and inside the boxes were a bunch of 32-bit clean ROMs. These ROMs were never a product, are not a product, and may never be a product, but when they were made, Apple distributed them to developers who used machines with dirty ROMs and who needed to test their code on the 32-bit clean ROMs. Essentially then, it sounds like these clean ROMs got caught in some sort of marketing/administrative snafu and ended up in a closet instead of on a production line and in all of our hot little hands. Humph!

Information from:
Roy MacDonald -- connectix@applelink.apple.com
Pythaeus
David Burmaster

 

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