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TidBITS#06/21-May-90

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Copyright 1990 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
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Garfield Strikes Back

The Macintosh virus count increased by one last Monday when a new virus called either MDEF or Garfield was found at Cornell University. Contrary to an article in MacWEEK, the virus was found by Gordon Suggs of Cornell Information Technologies and Adam Engst of TidBITS. Tom Young, also of CIT, did an excellent job clarifying and distributing information about Garfield to the virus protection authors and the world at large.

The virus is fairly simple and is partially stopped by CE Software's Vaccine. Chris Johnson's Gatekeeper stops it completely. The virus was discovered when a number of Macs attached to public laser printers failed to drop any menus. Vaccine had been reporting attempts to add an MDEF resource, but those attempts had been denied. Garfield's first step is to renumber the MDEF 0 resource in the System to MDEF 5378. Vaccine does not stop the renumbering, and when the System cannot find MDEF 0, menus no longer drop. The second step is for Garfield to copy itself into the System as MDEF 0, at which point it can copy itself to applications unnoticed since the menus still work (apparently it calls the original MDEF resource when necessary). Added evidence of the virus' simplicity is that it cannot infect later models of the Mac (after the SE) since the MDEF resource is in ROM in those machines.

John Norstad's Disinfectant and the commercial programs SAM and Virex were updated within days to find and eradicate the Garfield virus. The latest version of Disinfectant is 1.8 and Virex is at 2.7. Symantec Corp. is publishing the methods of finding MDEF with SAM. If you have Jeff Shulman's Virus Detective 4.0 or later, you can add this search strings to look for MDEF:

Resource MDEF & ID=0 & WData 4546#58EA9AB#C3F#B6048; To find Garfield MDEF

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Gordon Suggs -- cd7J@cornella.cit.cornell.edu
Tom Young -- xmu@cornella.cit.cornell.edu

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 22-May-90, Vol. 4 #20, pg. 10

Electronic Books

Bob Boynton reports on a Washington Post article that claims Sony will introduce the Data Discman, a portable text reading system. The hand-held system consists of a 3" CD-ROM drive, a ten line screen, and a small keyboard. The principle behind the device is instant access to large volumes of information, and to avoid the common chicken/egg problem, 18 CDs will be released along with the Data Discman in Japan on July 1st (overseas introduction is scheduled within a year). All 18 CDs are reference works, though other types of information such as fiction may appear later. The problem with fiction would be reading it on a ten line screen, but the unit can use a television as an alternate viewing device and also has a jack for headphones.

No mention was made of a method of attaching the device to a computer, but at a price around $400, it would certainly be popular with computer owners looking to get into the CD-ROM world but scared off by the high prices of CD-ROM players. In any event, the Data Discman is likely to popularize the concept of easily accessible electronic information, and that will be a boon to the computer industry.

Information from:
Bob Boynton -- BLABYNPD@UIAMVS.BITNET

Related articles:
Washington Post -- 16-May-90, pgs. D9,D13
InfoWorld -- 28-May-90, Vol. 12 #22, pg. 21

Windows Hoopla Cubed

Microsoft never formally announced Windows 3.0, so its release last week was not officially late, though users had been waiting anxiously since early this year. But now it's here and opinions vary widely.

One person on Usenet claimed that Windows 3.0 will cure cases of "Mac envy" while another person disagreed, saying that he thinks the Mac is still easier to use and still has a better graphical interface even though he is an IBM hacker.

The trade magazines were also unsure as to the impact of Windows. PC WEEK ran a separate 62 page Special Report on Windows alone and in one article quoted Bill Gates, chairman and cofounder of Microsoft, as saying "There is nothing in this industry that Windows 3.0 isn't going to change." Yet another article in the same supplement echoes the same sentiments we have heard from Macintosh users who have used Windows 3.0-namely "So what?" MacWEEK too printed statements from several Mac users that say basically the same thing as well.

Interestingly enough, Windows destroys one of the "edges" IBM-clones held over the Mac for so long. Little software is written for Windows, and software that isn't written for Windows may not run or will reap none of the benefits of the Windows environment. So now the Windows world is playing catch up to the Mac in terms of powerful software. And although at least Lotus will be coming out with a Windows-specific version of 123, it (along with a Windows version of WordPerfect) doesn't exist yet. Another person on Usenet posted his experiences trying to run various programs under Windows as opposed to getting them to run under Desqview, a character-based multitasking program. His opinion was that Microsoft was unconcerned about helping with anything not written for Windows, whereas the Desqview people were more than happy to help with his problems. He and others talked about the increasing number of expansion busses, graphics systems, chip sets, BIOSes, operating systems, operating environments, and CPU's that were by their very existence producing incompatibilities in the PC world. We feel incompatibilities are inevitable with a computer standardized by popularity rather than company guidance, as Apple has done with the Mac.

Lest it appear that we are being defensive about Windows, let it suffice to say that we support anything that advances the level of personal computing. We aren't worried about Apple going under in the face of cheap IBM-clones running Windows because the Mac is still cleaner and easier to use. Price isn't really an issue either, because the ideal Windows machine will still cost at least $3500 (a 25 MHz 386 machine with color VGA, 4 MB of RAM, and a large hard disk). Of course Windows will run on a plain vanilla 286 with only 1 MB of RAM, but that's masochism of the ilk of running PageMaker on a Mac Plus over TOPS (don't smirk, we've done it). We do hope that Apple will start feeling pressure (whether or not it is really there) and will push a bit harder in the future.

Information from:
Peter Frenning -- pfrennin@altos86.Altos.COM
Sam Shim -- shim@zip.eecs.umich.edu
Peter Nelson -- nelson_p@apollo.HP.COM

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 22-May-90, Vol. 4 #20, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 21-May-90, Vol. 12 #21, pg. 1
PC WEEK -- 22-May-90, Vol. 7 #20, pg. 1 and supplement
MacWEEK -- 26-Jun-90, Vol. 4, #24, pg. 47

The ToolBook Toolbox

Despite numerous criticisms, HyperCard has been extremely popular among Macintosh users because of its ease of use and flexibility. Clones were inevitable, and Silicon Beach introduced SuperCard and Olduvai introduced PLUS (now marketed by Spinnaker) to complement HyperCard. Both are slower than HyperCard but provide powerful features that HyperCard lacked. Neither has gained the acceptance HyperCard has, though, because both are commercial products that cannot compete with the price of the free HyperCard.

HyperCard-like products sprang up on the PC as well, with HyperPad being the most visible along with LinkWay from IBM. None could read HyperCard stacks, though, until Spinnaker announced a version of PLUS for Windows and Presentation Manager that could read PLUS stacks from the Mac, and thus HyperCard stacks through the Macintosh version of PLUS. LinkWay has been criticized as clumsy, and HyperPad has no graphical capabilities, being limited to the ASCII character set of the PC.

Now however, a recently-released program may provide some of HyperCard's power for PC users. Asymetrix Corp., founded by Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, announced its first product, the $395 ToolBook. ToolBook is designed to work with Windows 3.0 and runtime versions of ToolBook will accompany all copies of Windows 3.0. In addition, all 386 machines from Zenith will come with Windows 3.0 and the complete version of ToolBook installed. Hopefully they will also include at least 1.5 MB of RAM, because ToolBook needs that much minimum.

ToolBook uses a "book" and "page" metaphor instead of HyperCard's "stack" and "card" metaphor, although we at TidBITS think that if it quacks like a duck, it's a duck, no matter what the ostensible metaphor. Like HyperCard 2.0 and System 7.0, ToolBook will exchange information with Windows applications through Dynamic Data Exchange, and also like HyperCard and its XCMDs and XFCNs, ToolBook will be extensible through what it calls Dynamic Link Libraries. One advantage ToolBook will have over HyperCard is a Script Recorder that will build scripts from watching the actions made by the user. Scripts can also be attached to anything such as graphics or bits of text, not just buttons or fields. ToolBook books can be distributed with a royalty-free runtime version, although in theory everyone with Windows 3.0 should already have that runtime version.

The icing on the ToolBook cake is a program called ConvertIt!, written by The HyperMedia Group for Heizer Software. ConvertIt!, true to its name, will convert HyperCard stacks into ToolBook books. ConvertIt! will be released this summer and we then see how complete its conversion actually is. Who knows, we may even convert the TidBITS reader to ToolBook, although we would do so from the ground up to take advantage of ToolBook's capabilities and avoid its weaknesses.

Asymetrix -- 206/462-0501
Heizer Software -- 415/943-7667 -- 800/888-7667
Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 22-May-90, Vol. 4 #20, pg. 9
InfoWorld -- 21-May-90, Vol. 12 #21, pg. 1, 101
PC WEEK -- 22-May-90, Vol. 7 #20, pg. 6, Supplement pg. 38
PC WEEK -- 11-Jun-90, Vol. 7 #23, pg. 51
InfoWorld -- 11-Jun-90, Vol. 12 #24, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 02-Jul-90, Vol. 12 #27, pg. 82

MacUsenet

A common question on Usenet is how to use the Mac to read mail and Usenet news directly, without having to use a mainframe or workstation and their less-intuitive interfaces. The question arose again this week and was greeted with some new answers.

One person writes that Project Athena at MIT is working on a program called TechMail, which uses POP (Post Office Protocol), in which a host machine stores mail and serves it out on request to remote client machines. In addition, Apple's MacTCP Toolkit (available from APDA or via anonymous FTP from apple.com) includes a HyperCard stack by Harry Chesley that allows you to read and write news, although not mail. If we remember correctly from the demo we saw, it suffers partly from not having the ability to kill a thread but mostly from its requirement of a LocalTalk (or EtherTalk) connection to an NNTP (Net News Transfer Protocol) server machine. A similar package is published by InterCon Systems, although we have not seen its interface.

The classic method of reading and writing mail and news on a Mac is to use the public domain implementation of UUPC for the Mac. However, UUPC does not have a Macintosh interface and can be difficult to set up. A cleaner solution, though more expensive, is to use CE Software's QuickMail with the UMCP Bridge so QuickMail can talk to a Unix machine. QuickMail works well for mail, but has no news reading capabilities yet-perhaps in a few months. Accompanied by a sophisticated news reader, QuickMail will be ideal, especially considering the number of gateways it has to other types of mail systems.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS editor
Mark Anbinder -- mha@memory.uucp
Dan Revel -- dan@lclark.UUCP
J.A. Tanner -- jat@ukc.ac.uk
Skip Montanaro -- montnaro@spyder.crd.ge.com
Kurt Baumann -- kdb@macaw.intercon.com
Brian Bechtel -- blob@apple.com
J. Vickroy -- jmv@sppy00.UUCP


A/UX Grows Up

A/UX, Apple's version of Unix for the SE/30 and Mac II line never gained a great deal of popularity. Version 2.0, due out in June, should help A/UX's reputation significantly though, judging from the rave reviews it has received on Usenet. A/UX runs many MacOS applications, including multiple application under MultiFinder. Apple claims that only "32-bit clean" applications should be expected to run, but users have said that in reality most standard Mac applications do run, including Word 4.0, Wingz 1.1, and Excel 2.2.

A/UX comes on different media, including CD-ROM, 80 MB hard disk, floppy disk, and tape. Prices vary between the media, with CD-ROM the cheapest at $795, floppy and tape at $995, and the 80 MB hard disk coming in at $2395. (Looks like another area in which Apple is trying to make it worth your while to buy a CD-ROM player.) A/UX ships with five manuals: the Installation Guide, A/UX Essentials, Setting Up Accounts and Peripherals, Roadmap to A/UX, and A/UX 2.0 Release Notes. The rest of the documentation, true to Unix, is online in the form of man (manual) pages. You may not need the documentation as much, though, because A/UX has Commando-style dialogs allowing you to build complex Unix commands by choosing items in a dialog box. It's not as fast as typing the command in, but it is faster than looking for the syntax in the documentation.

For those of you who drool over the details, A/UX is System V Unix from AT&T with BSD networking, sockets, signals, etc. It supports two Unix file systems, System V and Berkeley FFS, along with the standard Macintosh Hierarchical Filing System (HFS). You have to partition your hard drive and you must use System 6.0.5, but that's to be expected.

One person mentioned that purchasing A/UX 1.0 and using the free upgrade would save a lot of money, but another person said that he checked with the bookstore at Stanford and it was too late to do this. MacWEEK reported that upgrades ranged from $275 to $550 depending on the media, so perhaps the upgrade was only free to academic users.

Information from:
Jeff Noxon -- jeffn@nuchat.UUCP
Ron Johnston -- johnston@Apple.COM
Steve Goldfield -- steve@violet.berkeley.edu
Chris Ranch -- csr@ubvax.UB.Com
Philip Machanick -- philip@Kermit.Stanford.EDU

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 22-May-90, Vol. 4 #20, pg. 7

Reviews/21-Mar-90

References:


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