Series: The 24-bit ROM Blues
Dirty ROMs in the IIx, SE/30 and IIcx create a furor - and Connectix saves the day
Article 1 of 5 in series
I love coincidence because it generally means I've got an article for TidBITS. Luckily it seems to happen all the time in this industry. A week or two ago, Tonya got a question about the upper memory limit in the SE/30 versus the IIsi at work, and someone complained to me about SE/30 ROMs in email (can't remember why, offhand), and when I catch up on my Usenet news, I find that a brouhaha has been brewing on the Internet about ROM upgradesShow full article
I love coincidence because it generally means I've got an article for TidBITS. Luckily it seems to happen all the time in this industry. A week or two ago, Tonya got a question about the upper memory limit in the SE/30 versus the IIsi at work, and someone complained to me about SE/30 ROMs in email (can't remember why, offhand), and when I catch up on my Usenet news, I find that a brouhaha has been brewing on the Internet about ROM upgrades. People are debating the idea of new ROMs for the II, SE/30, IIcx, and IIx, though it's not so much a debate as a group yell. No one is rabid about the subject yet, since System 7.0 hasn't shipped, but as soon as people can upgrade to System 7.0, owners of the SE/30, IIcx, and IIx will be unhappy because they will be unable to address more than 16 MB of RAM (I think it drops by 13 MB of RAM that you would really be able to use because of the address space for the video and the PDS slot, though I definitely don't completely know what I'm talking about). With the price of 4 MB SIMMS dropping constantly and virtual memory in System 7.0, that limit will suddenly become a real constraint. There's nothing worse than memory limitations - I hate it when I can't remember what I'm supposed to make for dinner and I hate old PC-clones and their foolish 640K main memory limit. Jim Gaynor of Ohio State University says that the spec sheets for the SE/30-class machines advertise their ability to address up to 128M of RAM, which will only become possible with true 32-bit clean ROMs.
Jim has started a mailing list to discuss this problem and to consolidate support for the ROM upgrades. To subscribe, send mail with the body of the message being SUBSCRIBE to firstname.lastname@example.org. The list address itself is email@example.com (I'm irritated when I subscribe to a list and can't figure out how to send mail to it). One interesting thing that came out of the initial discussions on Usenet is that although the SE/30-class machines all have ROM SIMMs which can be easily upgraded (and are even advertised as a feature in the spec sheets for those machines), the Mac II has socketed ROMs, which means that ROM upgrades are easy for that machine too. In fact, Apple has provided at least on upgrade for the Mac II ROMs. It had something to do with early Mac II ROMs being unable to "switch into 32-bit mode to access the EPROMs of NuBus boards that actually have 16 MB address spaces. This means that the Slot Manager would not see the board and all the calls would return an error." Thanks to Russell Davoli for that - I also remember hearing about a problem with the Mac II and Apple's 8*24 GC video board that was solved by a free ROM upgrade. Perhaps it was the same problem. A number of people expressed interest in a ROM upgrade for the Mac II as well, because of this. A Mac II with a PMMU and a ROM upgrade would be functionally almost identical to the SE/30-class machines with ROM upgrades.
I've heard people at Apple are also discussing this now, but a ROM upgrade would mean that bunch of old ROMs would start floating around just waiting for someone to make a Mac clone with them as Outbound did. Apple does not want this to happen, especially since it might screw up marketing for the new portables scheduled for this fall. (Oh, the word is that on the TV show "Night Court" a few weeks ago, the character Harry used a tiny personal computer that actually was one of the new portables. Didn't see it personally.) A number of possibilities for controlling this problem came up on Usenet, among them charging an exorbitant price and then returning the extra money when Apple received the old ROMs and tracking the upgrades and ROM returns by serial number. At least Cornell uses the price method with motherboard upgrades already. When we upgraded our SE to an SE/30, the price was about $1300 if we went with the "Apple upgrade," but if we didn't want to trade in our motherboard, the price went up to about $2400 for the "third party upgrade." It worked - we didn't to keep our SE motherboard.
Another worry inside Apple is that the Mac is all Apple has these days and Apple doesn't want to foster competition until it has another platform closer to release date, which could easily be 1993 or later. Nonetheless, it's obvious that Apple is working on new ROMs, judging from what they did with the Classic's boot ROMs (which, incidentally, contain System 6.0.3 AppleShare drivers that recognize a Macintosh running System 7.0's file sharing). Allowing a Mac to boot from ROM is good for a diskless workstation on a network, but it is also good for a small, light portable computer that could call in to a network for data storage. Combine that with the wireless technology General Magic is working on and that Apple petitioned the FCC for, and you get a very small portable that has boot ROMs and exists continually (while in range, anyway) on a wireless network for data exchange and storage. Interesting thought, but I digress. I'd settle for 32-bit clean ROMs for my SE/30 for the moment and will beg and plead for the portable later on.
Jim Gaynor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Russell Davoli -- email@example.com
Dave Barnhart -- dbarnhar@oiscola.Columbia.NCR.COM
Kent Borg -- kent@sunfs3.Camex.COM
John Price -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew T. Russotto -- email@example.com
Chris Silverberg -- macman@wpi.WPI.EDU
John Scudder -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Campbell -- paul@taniwha.UUCP
Jeff Sullivan -- jas@ISI.EDU
Tony Gedge -- email@example.com
Article 2 of 5 in series
Editor's Note: Below is the final draft of the letter I will be sending to Apple and many of the Macintosh publications. If you support the letter as it stands and desire to be included as a signatory, please send me an email message stating that you support the letter and wish to be included as a signatoryShow full article
Editor's Note: Below is the final draft of the letter I will be sending to Apple and many of the Macintosh publications. If you support the letter as it stands and desire to be included as a signatory, please send me an email message stating that you support the letter and wish to be included as a signatory. Please include your full name and snail/email addresses - I want this to be as official as possible. If you do not wish to use your work address, fine by me - I don't want to get anyone in trouble.
Many thanks to all of you who have already sent email supporting the letter, and I wish to thank Jim Gaynor especially for doing most of the work. I am merely picking up where he was forced to leave off, and I hope I will be able to produce as fine a finished product as he would have.
Sincerely, Adam C. Engst, TidBITS Editor and pseudo-chair of the NewROMs group.
An Open Letter to Apple Computer, Inc.
With the advent of System 7.0, 32-bit Addressing, and the new low-cost Macintoshes, Apple Computer has shown that it remains committed to enhancing the capabilities of the Macintosh line of computers without abandoning its users. However, in that effort to advance technology, past technologies should not be abandoned haphazardly, nor should unfulfilled potentials be left unrealized.
Apple advertised and documented the Macintosh II, IIx, IIcx, and SE/30 as having the capability to address as much as 128 MB of memory, an amount that should be sufficient for most users years into the future. In addition, Apple had the foresight to manufacture the Macintosh IIx, IIcx, and SE/30 with their System ROMs on SIMMs. This feature, touted by Apple as a selling point, was to allow these machines to easily upgrade their System ROMs at such time as that became necessary. That time rapidly approaches.
Users discovered that the current System ROMs for these Macintoshes are not "32-bit Clean." Thus, rather than having 128 MB of memory space available as they believed, users of these Macintoshes are limited to 16 MB - even less after the addition of expansion cards. Businesses, educational institutions, and individuals have invested in these Macintoshes, and although 16 MB may be adequate for many users, many others already find that limit restrictive. As Apple continues to move towards full 32-bit Cleanliness in its software and hardware, more users will encounter this 16 MB barrier, and find their otherwise capable Macintoshes hamstrung by "dirty" ROMs.
Users and administrators have looked to Apple for an initiative, for some plan of upgrading the ROMs of these Macintoshes, but none has come forth. Apple designed the Macintosh II, IIx, IIcx, and SE/30 to be easily upgraded but has neither utilized the upgrade potential of these systems nor announced an intent to do so.
We, the users, owners, and administrators of these Macintosh computers, would like to see Apple make a public statement regarding its plans to make a ROM upgrade available. We would hope that this upgrade be made available within a reasonable time frame, and at a reasonable cost to businesses, educational institutions, and individuals alike. We understand that Apple may wish to implement a strict return policy on the old ROMs to prevent unauthorized Macintosh clones. We also understand that Apple may wish to add additional features to such an upgrade, and that those features may add to the time required. A quality product is worth the wait required for its production, as is shown by the eagerly-anticipated System 7.0. Still, we hope that Apple Computer will recognize the unfulfilled potential of those Macintoshes with "dirty" ROMs and provide them with the means to realize their full 32-bit potential.
We thank you for your commitment to the Macintosh User Community.
Article 3 of 5 in series
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/30Show full article
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
Article 4 of 5 in series
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 InfoWorldShow full article
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!
Roy MacDonald -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Article 5 of 5 in series
If we had presses, we'd have to stop them for this story. Apple has dealt with the dirty ROM problem by making a deal with Connectix to distribute MODE32 free of charge (yes, you read that right) to all usersShow full article
If we had presses, we'd have to stop them for this story. Apple has dealt with the dirty ROM problem by making a deal with Connectix to distribute MODE32 free of charge (yes, you read that right) to all users. Not only that, but Apple will support MODE32 completely on their free Customer Assistance line (that's the free support line that anyone can call at any time, not the limited time number you can call for help with System 7). But wait, there's more, and we're not talking Ginsu knives here. Apple will be distributing MODE32 on all the licensed online services (including the Internet FTP site at ftp.apple.com, America Online, and Memory Alpha BBS, among others) and through dealers and user groups as well. For those of you who needed 32-bit cleanliness enough to buy MODE32 from Connectix (rather than just grumble like the rest of the world), Apple will buy that copy back from you. Just call the Apple Customer Assistance Center at the 800 number below and get information on where to send your original disk for a $100 rebate. If you paid more, you'll need a valid sales receipt, but Apple will pay up to $169 plus tax. If you paid more than that, you got rooked. The other two details are that you have to have purchased MODE32 before 05-Sep-91 and you must send in your disk before 31-Dec-91. So get a move on if you want your $100.
Of course, Apple can't please everyone with this move, but I think they should be coming close. Some people will hold out for the true new ROMs, little pins and all. There's no real reason to do that, though, since the system software has lots of patches for code in the ROMs. In other words, patching the ROM code with system software is already standard practice.
Then you'll get the belly-achers who are leery of patching the system software. These are the same people who think that all extensions (gotta get into using that word in place of INITs) are evil. The answer to these malcontents is that there's nothing wrong with patching the system with an extension either. Do you think Apple would include so many extensions of its own if there were? Basically the use of patching the system externally (at least from my non-programmer background) is that those who don't need the extension don't have to waste the space or memory on it. Come on, how many of you have kept the DAL Extension around even though you're never going to access a mainframe database?
Finally, there's going to be the group that aren't sure they can trust something like this from a company other than Apple. Apple certainly has this technology in house and will include it in future versions of the system software, but what they don't have is thousands of users and thousands of hours of use behind a patch based on their technology. Connectix has both of those. In addition, the programmers at Connectix are memory wizards. Apple did come out with their own virtual memory scheme, but Connectix will continue to develop Virtual because they can make run it faster than Apple's implementation. I wouldn't be surprised if MODE32 is similarly slightly faster than what Apple has been playing with. Oh by the way, this deal applies only to MODE32, not to any of Connectix's other excellent products. So please don't start posting them to the nets claiming that it's OK because of the Apple deal.
So overall, who wins? Users win because they get something for free that can increase productivity. Connectix wins because they're probably getting something from Apple in return for MODE32 (though they're not telling what), and at minimum, Connectix gains a huge amount of publicity and name recognition, which is nothing to scoff at. Apple wins because they are finally appeasing many angry users without charging a cent. The only people who don't win are those that used the dirty ROMs as a reason to slam on the Mac. You'll have to find a new whip, guys.
The main thing I regret about this entire issue is that it had to happen at all. If Apple had recognized the problem while developing System 7, they could have built a 32-bit patch into the system software. Alternately, if Apple had admitted the problem right after releasing System 7 and used the same escape route of distributing MODE32 for free, they would have avoided a lot of bad press. Still, I think the bad press that appeared in TidBITS, MacWEEK (thanks to Henry Norr, who also alerted me to this deal before I heard from Connectix), InfoWorld (thanks to Bob Cringely), and Macworld (the October letters section) played a large part in convincing Apple to follow this route. Along with Lotus pulling MarketPlace:Households, this event goes to show that people can affect the policies of multibillion dollar companies.
Connectix Corporation -- 800/950-5880 -- 415/571-5100
Apple Customer Assistance Center -- 800/776-2333