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TidBITS#21/17-Sep-90

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Copyright 1990 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
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System 7.0 in '91

Vaporware has become all too prevalent in this day and age of knee-jerk competition. Announcements are made to get a jump on competitors or to steal competitors' thunder, but the products seldom follow the announcements as closely as we would like. An unfortunate example of this problem came this spring, when Radius announced, and then shipped, the Pivot monitor. The next week, PCPC announced the Flipper - going Radius one better by adding 16-bit color. Has anyone seen the Flipper yet?

Even Apple is not immune from the perils of vaporware, with System 7.0 working its way into the Vaporware Hall of Fame. A press release this week made official what many of us have suspected for some time - that System 7.0 has slipped yet again, to the first half of 1991. The good news is that it is in beta test release now, which presumably means that developers are getting a version of System 7.0 that they can really work with, in contrast to the alpha release many received at the Developers' Conference. This should help developers finish up the System 7.0-specific features in their applications. At least Microsoft has announced that it will not ship updates to Excel or Word until System 7.0 comes out because it wishes to take advantage of the advanced capabilities present in System 7.0.

Apple has taken a lot of grief for announcing System 7.0 so far in advance of whatever the ship date may be, but Apple's position is unenviable. For System 7.0 to become the standard system software for most Macs, there must be a reason to switch in the form of System 7.0-studly applications, to borrow Apple's parlance. Had Apple merely positioned System 7.0 as an upgrade to System 6.0.5, it would likely have met the same fate as Microsoft's DOS 4.01, which has had underwhelming support from users since DOS 3.3 does basically the same things without the hassle of upgrading. Of course it doesn't help that DOS upgrades are seldom free, whereas System 7.0 will probably follow the Apple policy of free disk distribution and $49 manuals. At this point, it seems obvious to us that Apple is trying to get System 7.0 out the door as fast as possible, but without real competition (and Windows doesn't count, as many surveys have shown so far), Apple sees no need to release System 7.0 before it is really done. Considering what System 7.0 will do for everyone when properly applied, I personally can wait a while until Apple is ready to release the latest and greatest.

Apple Computer -- 408/974-3019

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Apple propaganda


Truth in PostScript

Well, the font wars aren't exactly over, but a major flag-waving went on recently when Apple and Adobe reconciled their differences. That's literally all anyone knows because Apple and Adobe announced that they would be working more closely. This of course leaves the entire issue open for speculating, which I intend to enjoy doing.

Consider the major players in this whole fiasco, Apple, Adobe, and Microsoft. Others have interests and even some sway, but the entire battle was between those three. Apple and Microsoft announced that they were working on TrueType, a display font rasterizer to compete with Adobe Type Manager (now available for both the Mac and Windows). In addition, they would use TrueImage, a PostScript clone owned by Microsoft, instead of licensing PostScript from Adobe. This scared Adobe into releasing the specs on its proprietary encrypted Type 1 fonts, so now font vendors can be selected among based on price and quality since everyone can have Type 1 fonts.

The problem with TrueType is not its technical design, but simply the amount of time that goes into creating a font rasterizer. Adobe knows the business better than most, and Apple and Microsoft had to recreate what Adobe has done for the most part. Once Adobe released the Type 1 specs (and many say once Jean-Louis Gassee left Apple), it became clear that it would be easier and cheaper to work with Adobe rather than against them. Especially since Microsoft is in many ways working against Apple as well, it might be hard for Apple to help Microsoft create a technology that would cut into Macintosh sales. Ideally, Adobe and Apple would meld the technically positive parts of TrueType into ATM and then bundle ATM with the rest of the system software, at least until that technology could be built into the system. Then users would only have one type standard to worry about, which was the major threat behind TrueType all along.

None of this may reflect on the reality of the situation, because corporate relationships are only slightly less stable than those depicted on daytime television. One way or another, Apple and Adobe can only benefit from working together to solidify both PostScript and the Macintosh.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 11-Sep-90, Vol. 4, #30, pg 1
InfoWorld -- 10-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #37, pg. 1

Removable Cartridge Flap

I somehow missed the very beginning of this discussion on Usenet, but the topic seemed clear and important enough nonetheless. Apparently several people have had instances in which they believe a SyQuest drive trashed their hard disk (so watch out for roaming SyQuest drives!). No one was able to confirm that the problem was absolutely linked to the drive and there is no reason to believe that the SyQuest mechanisms in general have problems. (For those wary of the SyQuest mechanisms, Iomega now has Bernoulli drives that are probably more reliable given their method of operation.) Some people suggested the possibility, and one with which I've fought recently, that there were problems with the SCSI chain which resulted in the damaged hard drives.

Essentially, the SCSI theory is that the first and last devices in the chain must be terminated. Everything else should not be terminated. I think the maximum length of a SCSI chain is 16', but don't hold me to that. The problem I ran into involved a Mac Plus, a LaserWriter SC (no termination), a Dataframe XP60 (internally terminated) and a PLI SyQuest drive (also internally terminated). The only way this setup would work was if the XP60 was hooked to either the LaserWriter SC or the PLI Infinity, but not both at once. The LaserWriter only worked when hooked to the XP60 if it wasn't externally terminated, in defiance of the rules, and the PLI Infinity only worked if it was connected to the XP60 by a short cable, was the last device in the chain, and was turned on first. I tried invoking a few daemons, but they were no more effective than applying the rules.

In any event, if you are using a SyQuest drive and are having troubles, try to isolate the drive as much as possible and test it. Some problems are related to the fact that the mechanism is hot and the media doesn't like the heat (for this reason BMUG (Berkeley Macintosh Users' Group) recommends the DPI SyQuest drive). Other problems are undoubtedly related to the termination problems I mentioned above, so getting a SyQuest drive with external termination (APS SyQuest drives have been recommended on the net and have external termination) will make your SCSI trial-and-error session more productive. If you already have a drive with internal termination, the company you purchased it from can tell you how to remove the termination resistors, at which point you can buy a normal external terminator and try that. A final possibility is that internal termination takes its power from the drive, whereas external termination gets power from the Mac on some models, at least. Thus, if the SyQuest drive is turned off, the termination might not be working as expected. Of course, all bets are off if you are using a Mac IIfx.

Now that SCSI-2 has been ratified (ratified: to be thrown before the rats, or whatever standards committees do - actually I'm not sure of that except for the fact that the new NeXT machines have SCSI-2) Apple will of course implement it fully in the Mac IV and there will be no more problems. Or at least very few. In the meantime, I'm trying to remember those incantations.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Robert K Shull -- rob@uokmax.ecn.uoknor.edu
John Heckendorn -- bmug@garnet.berkeley.edu
a phil sohn -- sohn@Apple.COM
R. Crispin -- psych@watserv1.waterloo.edu


Claris HyperCard 2.0

A reader recently commented that it would be great if we could provide short abstracts with the titles in the distribution files (for those of us who can't sight-read either Binhex or StuffIt format :-)). We unfortunately had to reject his suggestion because writing abstracts for such short articles is kind of odd anyway, and TidBITS only takes about three minutes to download at 2400 baud one way or another. We could do so with the knowledge that the distribution files for TidBITS II will be human-readable, thus eliminating our reader's problem.

The title of this article, though, says it all. Apple transferred responsibility for the development, marketing, distribution, and support of HyperCard to Claris, effective in November. For those of you keeping score, this would seem to mean that HyperCard is no longer considered System Software, which is distributed solely by Apple. On the other hand, with Claris firmly in hand as a wholly-owned subsidiary, Apple can farm out anything it wants to Claris without fear of competition or leaks (short of the usual ones that supply MacWEEK's Mac the Knife with rumor fodder each week).

Two features of the press release were ominous though. The first one was a sentence that reads "The first broad US distribution of the new HyperCard 2.0 ... will be a Claris product." This would imply, at face value, that HyperCard will not be available until November. However, the press release does say that a version of HyperCard will continue to be shipped with all new Macs (thanks to Bill Atkinson for specifying that originally). We hope that Apple will ship HyperCard 2.0 with the new Macs being introduced in mid-October, but it's hard to tell since the hold-ups seem to be political in part, rather than just technical setbacks. Another indication of this is that the HyperCard engineers have started posting more frequently on Usenet. The second ominous part of the press release was the part that said "A complete HyperCard 2.0 authoring system, necessary for developing stacks, will be sold by Claris." Combined with the bit about a version shipping with new Macs, this implies that there would be two versions of HyperCard, one that was read-only version and another that allowed authoring (much like ToolBook). The good news? There will be only ONE version of HyperCard. The press release is misleading and poorly worded, and thanks to Chuq Von Rospach for clearing this up on the nets. The main difference will be that the bundled version will be set at a low user level (so novices cannot mess anything up inadvertently) and the procedure for switching to a higher user level will be hidden. The positive side of this is that Claris will presumably be distributing useful developer tools with the commercial version and developer tools are what made HyperCard popular by greatly extending its abilities. Claris will also provide developer support, which is always nice to have around in a pinch.

As long as Apple continues to provide a full working version of HyperCard with every Macintosh for free, we see no problems with the transfer to Claris. In some ways now, Claris is little more than another Apple division, albeit one with a name recognizable in the market and the staff and structure to develop and sell software. Perhaps Claris will be better than Apple about getting stuff out the door as well. :-) The free distribution policy was key in HyperCard's popularity, though it did bias the market against commercial stacks. The only way HyperCard will disappear now is if it can be completely supplanted by Apple's planned system scripting language, and we refuse to even hazard a guess as to when that will show its face.

Apple Computer -- 408/974-3019
Claris -- 408/987-7202 -- 408/987-7534

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Chuq Von Rospach -- chuq@apple.com
Mark Wilkins -- wilkins@jarthur.Claremont.EDU
David Emery -- emery@linus.mitre.org
Jeanne a. e. Devoto -- jdevoto@apple.com
Apple propaganda


The next NeXTs

Last week, NeXT announced a new line-up of computers, all based on the Motorola 68040 chip. The computers range from the $4995 standard NeXTstation (monochrome display, 8 megabytes of RAM, 105 megabyte hard disk, 2.8 megabyte floppy that also reads and writes DOS disks) to the $29,295 Division Server (monochrome display, 64 megabytes of RAM, two 1.4 gigabyte hard disks). Color NeXTs are included in the line-up, and NeXT also announced version 2.0 of NeXTStep.

The smaller, less expandable NeXTs are now housed in pizza box-style boxes that (unlike pizza boxes) are sturdy enough to hold the MegaPixel Displays, whereas the more expensive, more expandable NeXTs remain traditional cubes. The 256 megabyte optical drive is only available as an option in the cubes. Color NeXTstations start at $7995 and with the NeXTDimension boards, have the ability to take in and play up to 60 minutes of real time video. To avoid the storage crunch with video, JPEG (I don't know what it stands for) image compression from C-Cubed is built in and the compression amounts are user-selectable. For those wishing to trade data around, the 2.8 megabyte floppy is good, but a third party, Pacific Microelectronics, now has a 1.4 megabyte floppy that reads and writes IBM, Mac, and NeXT formats.

Along with the computer announcements, NeXT emphasized the amount of "personal productivity" software available or soon-to-be-available for the NeXT. FrameMaker, Wingz, and WriteNow are among those currently available; Improv (from Lotus and hopefully not a Jazzed-up version of 1-2-3), WordPerfect, SoftPC 2.0, MicroPhone II, PowerStep (a spreadsheet from Ashton-Tate), and Adobe Illustrator are among those coming real soon now. Another "announced-but-not-shipping" program is HyperCube, a HyperCard-like program from Thoughtful Software. If HyperCube uses NeXTStep and allows non-C programmers to develop useful applications, it could be an extremely popular program. Heck, I'd buy it.

Will the new NeXTs catch on? I often consult on computer purchases and have showed many people what the NeXT is like, but most of them were merely curious, knowing its price was out of reach. With Display PostScript, Unix, graphical interface, DSP (digital sound processor) chip, and optical 256 megabyte read/write drive, the NeXT stacked up a great array of features for a price that few individuals could afford. The new pricing puts the price of a low-end NeXT in the same range as the cost of a Mac II setup. I expect to see more people at least seriously considering the NeXT, although issues surrounding compatibility with existing systems should still be a major factor in some people's minds. (We wouldn't be adverse to seeing a Mac emulator, perhaps based on ROMlib, along with SoftPC.) If NeXT can ship its machines soon (NeXT hopes to sometime this fall), and if Motorola can supply the needed 68040 chips in a timely fashion, then the NeXT could become a major force in the computer industry.

Pacific Microelectronics -- 415/948-6200

Information from:
Tonya Byard -- TidBITS Editor
NeXT's Fall 1990 "List Prices" brochure

Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 17-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #37, pg. 6
InfoWorld -- 17-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #37, pg. 17
MacWEEK -- 11-Sep-90, Vol. 4, #30, pg 1
InfoWorld -- 10-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #36, pg. 5
InfoWorld -- 27-Aug-90, Vol. 12, #35, pg. 1
PC WEEK -- 27-Aug-90, Vol. 7, #34 , pg. 1

Reviews/17-Sep-90

References:


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