If you've been reading TidBITS carefully, you've noticed the increasing furour over Apple's unclean (32-bit-unclean, that is) ROMs in the Macintosh II, IIx, IIcx, and SE/30. When it became clear that owners of these computers would be unable to use the 32-bit mode of System 7 to address more than 8Mb of real memory, or 13Mb of virtual memory, lots of people became upset and pointed at the product literature for their computers, which had stated that they could address up to 128Mb of memory. A petition was circulated (see TidBITS-058, 29 April 1991) asking Apple to provide ROM upgrades for these machines, but little news on that front has been forthcoming.
Meanwhile, the geniuses at Connectix Corporation, who brought us such products as Virtual and Maxima, were quietly preparing their own solution to the entire problem. MODE32, which shipped about a week ago, is a software-based ROM patch that allows users of the Mac II, IIx, IIcx, and SE/30 to set their computers in 32 bit mode and thus take full advantage of System 7's ability to address vast amounts of real or virtual memory space.
MODE32, which retails for $169 and should be available at your favourite dealer or other software supplier by the time you read this, is innovative and remarkable enough that it certainly deserves its own Special Review Issue of TidBITS... but there's just not that much to say! MODE32 works, and it works seamlessly, and what's more, it's easy to install and use.
The software itself comes on a single diskette, which contains an Installer application. This application (which is smart enough not to install the software on a computer that's already 32-bit-clean, such as a IIci, IIfx, IIsi, or LC) places a single Control Panel file into the Control Panels folder of the computer's System Folder. The software is fully functional right away, and its control panel, when opened, is very clean and straightforward. All you need to do to turn on MODE32 and make your computer 32 bit clean is click the "Enabled" button in the MODE32 control panel.
That simple action doesn't turn on the 32 bit mode on your computer, though. All it does is make the computer 32 bit clean. You can then proceed to Apple's own Memory control panel, in which the "32 bit Addressing" control is suddenly available. You can now turn on the 32 bit mode, and take advantage of up to 128Mb of real memory (DRAM) or a whopping one gigabyte of virtual memory (if you have that much hard disk space!).
The problems aren't necessarily over, unfortunately. There are still a number of applications, desk accessories, drivers, and other pieces of software that are not 32 bit clean, and won't work in 32 bit Addressing mode, whether you're using MODE32 or an already-clean IIci. This isn't Connectix's fault, of course, but it is worth mentioning. Most of the developers whose software isn't yet clean are working on new versions, but in the meantime, some people may not be able to use 32 bit mode while they wait.
The one disadvantage I've been able to find with MODE32 itself is that the software is copy protected. This isn't really going to affect honest users to any great extent, though philosophically, I must say that copy protection is a bit passe. In this case, I can understand Connectix's desire to protect their investment in this small but valuable piece of software.
On the up side, in addition to the simplicity of the software's operation, are an exceptional manual and the wonderful technical support that we've come to expect from Connectix. The documentation provides not only clear, step by step instructions on installing and using the software, but also a detailed explanation of the evolution of memory on the Macintosh, and of the complexities of the current memory situation. The tech support Connectix provides is great, as well. They are very responsive, even when I had to wait for a call back. This is sometimes necessitated by the odd time shifts that spring up when you're dealing with people on the opposite coast! Once you reach them, the folks at Connectix are knowledgeable, friendly, and always helpful.
This is certainly one of the cleverest moves Connectix could have made, now that Apple has released its own virtual memory to compete with two-and-a-half-year-old Virtual, the first Connectix product. They are offering a product that will be enormously useful to a huge number of people, especially if Apple is as slow as usual about providing a real ROM upgrade for these unclean computers. Connectix is to be applauded for having the sight to fill this void at just the right time.
9 penguins out of a possible 10.
Connectix -- 800/950-5880 -- 415/324-0727