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TidBITS#25/15-Oct-90

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Copyright 1990 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <info@tidbits.com> Comments: <editors@tidbits.com>


Scissors, Paper, Disk

As with the paper in the children's game, Scissors, Paper, Rock, Farallon hopes to cover all the formats with its new DiskPaper product. Basically, DiskPaper is an intelligent "print to disk" utility. In the past, printing to disk meant saving an ASCII file on the disk instead of sending it to the printer. Unfortunately, the ASCII we all know and love lacks a lot in terms of bells and whistles, and graphics don't have a chance. With DiskPaper you have no limits on what is printed, from 24-bit graphics to styled text. Once the document is on disk, you can view it with the royalty-free DiskPaper Viewer or you can embed the viewing code within the file for ease of distribution to other users.

Either way, the entire document is available with no losses during the transmission. By that I mean that even if you are transferring a document that used a strange font and a color graphic, someone using a plain Mac Plus will be able to view that document completely. The image will be present and dithered to make up for the lack of color, and the font will be displayed in all its glory whether or not it is currently installed. As an added bonus (this is Farallon, remember), you can add a voice note to the document, describing it or making some other comment. Voice requires one of Farallon's recording products or one of the Apple sound digitizers now present in the Mac LC and IIsi.

Wait, there's more. The most irritating thing about some view-only documents is just that - you can't get anything out of it. DiskPaper is different in that you can copy and paste any text or graphic (it sports a full palette of tools) into another application without losing any formatting information (though I suppose you would lose specific font information if the font wasn't installed in your system). It doesn't appear from Farallon's propaganda that you can completely save the entire document out of the DiskPaper shell back into its native format. If DiskPaper could do that it would be truly neat because then you could distribute everything in DiskPaper format and the recipients could either just view the document or save a copy and edit it without going through a complicated copy/paste routine.

For longer documents, DiskPaper provides a Find function to search for text strings (we suspect, but do not know, that the Find File desk accessories like GOfer and On Location and Locate DA will be able to search within DiskPaper documents as well). If you don't want certain people prying around in your documents, you can encrypt them and restrict certain activities such as copy/paste and printing. Password protection rounds out the security features. Oh, DiskPaper can of course print out a copy of the document you are viewing just as though it had been printed from the original application. We'd like to know if it can replicate the features provided by Aldus Prep for PageMaker documents, such as being able to print with .25" of the edge of the paper.

Looking at DiskPaper from our point of view as editors of an electronic journal that strives towards the archiving of information online, the main feature we would like to see is archiving support. Most of the tools are already in place, the re-usability of text and graphics, the Find feature, the ability to print the document, etc. What Farallon needs to do is to build a small archiving application to manage the DiskPaper documents on a volume. It wouldn't have to be fancy at first, but features like a list of filenames (and any associated comments!) and the ability to search within all or a subset of files would be a good start. Of course such an application would be good for electronic-only documents like TidBITS, but also for desktop publishers who want to store old files without keeping copies of the old applications around (try opening a PageMaker 2.0 document in PageMaker 4.0 - it just doesn't work unless you convert the 2.0 document into 3.0 format first and all you really wanted was a copy of that graphic on page 3) and anyone else who wanted to keep an archive of work online where it could be re-used. If anyone from Farallon wants to talk about this, feel free to contact us.

Farallon -- 415/596-9303 -- 415/596-9312

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

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 16-Oct-90, Vol. 4, #35, pg. 6
InfoWorld -- 15-Oct-90, Vol. 12, #42, pg. 44

HELP!

You can be singing the Beatles' Apple Corp. song to Apple Computer with their new toll-free helpline. However, you can't call them to complain that your Mac insists that your favorite floppy disk is damaged when it looks fine to you. Questions like that, along with all others, must be first directed to your dealer or company support department or whoever you are officially supposed to ask. If your local guru cannot answer your question, then the fun begins. You call the number and give them the name, address, and phone number of your support person. Then tell them the reason your support person couldn't help you and provide a complete description of your problem, including your complete hardware and software setup. And then, in its infinite wisdom, Apple answers your question immediately. :-)

It's that first bit that sounds a little odd. Yup, you're right. It's a computer support tattletale line. Apple hasn't said what they intend to do after they find out which dealer was incapable of solving your problem, but it's our guess that they write the dealer's name down and check up on the situation at some point. They might wait until they've had several calls that should have been handled by the same dealer, but it's unlikely that Apple will just throw out such incriminating evidence.

Overall, Apple's toll-free support line sounds like a great idea. After all, most companies provide some sort of user support, if only because if the company can't get it right, dealers are even less likely to do so. Large companies like Apple and IBM have restricted support to dealers in the past because it is cheaper and easier. However, support is an excellent way to gain customer loyalty, as evidenced by WordPerfect's excellent support and large market share. Dealers may not like the tattletale aspect, though, since some customers are never happy with the support they get no matter how correct or complete it is. Given the privileged position that Apple dealers sit in, I feel that there should be some system of checks and balances so the dealers can't get away with charging for terrible support. Over the last five years, I've heard more complaints about local dealers all over the country than I have glowing stories about their competence. If incompetence really is more the rule than the exception, this new support line could help weed out the dealers who abuse their positions from those who try to help the customer at every turn.

So if you have a complaint about your local source of official support, make sure your gripe is legitimate and if it is, call Apple. At worst, you won't get any better help. At best, your problem will be solved and your support people will be chewed out (or merely informed better) by Apple. Note that we don't currently know what the policy will be for international customers, but we gather 800 numbers don't work overseas so it might be a moot point. If you're interested, send mail and we'll check into it further.

Oh yeah, the number is 800/776-2333 and you can call Monday through Friday between 6am and 5pm Pacific Standard Time.

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


Geoworks Ensemble

Windows 3.0 is nice if you use a PC-clone, but it is a tad hardware hungry. Reports indicate that a nice Windows platform is a 25 MHz 80386 machine with color VGA and 4 meg of memory. Microsoft claims that Windows runs on 8086 machines (XT-class), but recommends a 80286 with 2 meg of RAM as a minimum system. There are a lot of 386 machines out there, but when you get right down to it, by far the majority of them are 8086 and 286 machines with 640K of RAM. Those are the el-cheapo machines that everyone talks about getting because the price is right. Those are also the machines which are still going strong after being in service for three or four years.

A company called Geoworks is betting that most of those machines will never run Windows 3.0 comfortably and has introduced a competing - yes Virginia, some companies do try to compete with Microsoft - graphical interface to sit on top of DOS. This interface, called Geos, provides the same basic features as Windows 3.0 such as pre-emptive multitasking, multiple threads, bit-mapped and outline fonts, and device-independent graphics. However, Geos runs happily on machines as lowly as an XT with 512K of RAM, CGA or Hercules graphics, DOS 2.0 or later, 3 meg of hard disk space, and of course, a mouse. Not everyone has a mouse, but other than that, Geos's requirements are minimal. This is not to say that it doesn't run better on a 286 with extra memory (extended or expanded) and a nice color VGA monitor.

The Geoworks Ensemble has a number of applications to allow users to do something right away with a graphical environment. Included are Geo Write, Geo Draw, Geo Planner, Geo Dex, Geo Comm, Geo Manager, a notepad, and calculator. Both the OSF/Motif interface and a Presentation Manager-type interface are included so you can pick and choose what the interface looks like. Geoworks has had some experience in this arena since there are versions of Geos for various Commodore computers and the Apple II line. We doubt that Geoworks will steal Microsoft's thunder since it's hard to beat a $10 million advertising campaign such as the one Windows 3.0 was treated to, but for many millions of PC users, Geos might put a bit of a shine on DOS.

Geoworks -- 415/644-0883

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

Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 08-Oct-90, Vol. 12, #41 -- 13

An LC Education

The latest discussions on Usenet have focussed on the new Macs, but a number of them have taken an interesting twist. Some think the Mac LC, which won't be available in quantity until early next year, will be Apple's new education computer in that it has decent speed, color support, and a relatively low price tag. The idea of the LC, these people think, is to replace the Apple II line (probably the strongest 13 year old computer system around, even still) and regain some of the education market lost to low-cost PC clones. That would seem to be the point behind the LC's otherwise unsupported 020 Direct Slot, since Apple has announced two cards for the slot, the Apple IIe emulation card and an Ethernet card.

Apple recently announced its plans to ship single and a dual-floppy LCs - these machines will not come standard with hard drives - to educational dealers, and these machines (at an academic discount around $1300) should help answer criticisms that the LC is too pricey for the education market.

One way or another, the LC is a color machine that, with the addition of a $200 card, runs the many Apple IIe educational programs, making it an important player in the K-12 market. In addition, the built-in AppleTalk networking capabilities allow a school to set up a networked lab of floppy-only LCs and get around not having many hard drives by running software over the network (assuming that the Apple IIe software can run over a network). Apple has always been popular with the education market and many educators were upset with the previous pricing on the Macintosh line. We hope that the new Macs, particularly the Classic and the LC, will restore Apple to the good graces of the educational market. After all, it's getting harder and harder to get by without some knowledge of computers, and computers are like languages - best learned when young.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Tonya Byard -- TidBITS Editor
Fred Zeats -- kreme@isis.cs.du.edu
Jim Gaynor -- gaynor@hpuxa.ircc.ohio-state.edu
mark j cromwell -- cromwell@acsu.buffalo.edu
Jordan Mattson -- jordan@Apple.COM
Brian Bechtel -- blob@Apple.COM
Brendan Mahony -- brendan@batserver.cs.uq.oz.au
Robin Goldstone -- robin@csuchico.edu
Fong -- kf@mbunix.mitre.org


TidBITS Countdown

Recently, we've been implementing small changes here and there, making the TidBITS stack a little cleaner and easier to use. In the next week or so though, the true experimentation will start as we test out a different look for the entire interface. No one will have to do anything differently to read TidBITS unless you already modify the stack in some way to make it easier for you to use. As always, comments on our changes are welcome.

Be warned that now that HyperCard 2.0 is out for public consumption, we will be moving to it in the near future, so please, get your hands on a copy and System 6.0.5 or later from your dealer or local users' group! System 6.0.5 is necessary to run HyperCard 2.0 and it does have a few bug fixes from previous versions and thus is worth upgrading to anyway. Of course, System 6.0.7 is the absolutely latest and greatest, but we haven't heard anything particularly good or bad about it yet. We would like to take advantage of many of the new features in HyperCard 2.0 that were difficult or impossible to duplicate in 1.2, so TidBITS will eventually require HyperCard 2.0. If you are a cutting edge sort and have already upgraded, don't worry, HyperCard 2.0 seems to open and convert TidBITS stacks without any troubles (that's one reason why we want to switch to HyperCard 2.0 - so we can get rid of 1.2 and avoid the confusion of using two different versions at the same time).

Oh, if you've got HyperCard 2.0 and have found what you think is a bug, fill out the following form and send it to SNOWBUG@applelink.apple.com. Of course this only helps you are on AppleLink or the Internet, but it's still worth mentioning.

     THE FORM
     --------
 
     Date:
     Name:
     Address:
     Phone #:
     Versions of:
      a. HyperCard:
      b. Associated software:
      c. System Software:
          1. System
          2. Finder
          3. ImageWriter file
          4. LaserWriter file
          5. INITS
          6. Any others
     Type of Macintosh:
     Peripherals:
     Description of problem, suggestions or comments:

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Kevin Calhoun -- jkc@apple.com


Reviews/15-Oct-90

References:


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