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TidBITS#37/21-Jan-91

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Copyright 1991 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
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Double Stuff

I've used Salient Software's Disk Doubler since Macworld Boston last summer. It has worked completely as advertised, transparently compressing files to save precious hard disk space, and I suspect I've compressed over half of the files on my hard disk. My problem is that I collect freeware and shareware applications, thinking I might need them someday (my mother is an archivist, so I suppose it's in my blood). I avoided compressing them in the past, but Salient just released a free upgrade to Disk Doubler that automatically expands applications, even when a compressed document is double-clicked from the Finder. This works well, because I don't have to leave, say PageMaker, uncompressed just because I use it once a month. Now, when I open a PageMaker document, compressed or not, Disk Doubler automatically opens everything for me and compresses it all when I'm done. It's like having a butler put away your toys when you're done playing. Disk Doubler 3.1 has a few other features that help it stand out. It has a collection of icons for popular programs that it uses instead of the generic Disk Doubler icon for compressed files. So if you compress an Excel documents, Disk Doubler changes its icon to a version looking like the normal one with the addition of a small DD in the corner. Though not a major feature, this nice touch helps you better identify compressed documents. If you hold down the Shift key when selecting Compress... or Expand... for a single file, the menu changes to Compress To... or Expand To... and lets you specify where to put the resulting file. There are a few other features that I haven't fully explored, such as XCMDs for HyperCard and Extensions for QuicKeys2, but I'm sure that some people will greatly appreciate them.

I have found speed to be a minor problem with compressing applications, and I sometimes wonder about the "transparent" part of the marketing when I watch all 900K of PageMaker expand. Salient has solved this problem by teaming up with Sigma Designs, a major video display system maker. Sigma Designs has come up with two boards, the DoubleUp board and the Bullet. Both boards perform lossless hardware compression, and the Bullet includes a 40MHz 68030 for IIci and IIsi hardware acceleration. Both boards will be bundled with Disk Doubler because of its excellent interface and will use a dedicated compression chip from Stac Electronics, a company best known for compression in the PC world. Stac has a PC board that does lossless hardware compression but must have decided not to mess with the Macintosh market.

I expect that the DoubleUp board will be extremely popular because it offers the same level of file compression as Disk Doubler (about 50%) but at speeds estimated at about 10 times faster than Disk Doubler on a IIcx. At that speed, you won't notice the expansion time on smaller files. The best part is that its suggested retail list price is $229, which makes it eminently affordable when purchased at normal discount prices. DoubleUp should be available in February for NuBus Macs and later in the year for the Mac SE and possibly SE/30. If only I hadn't filled my one slot with the Micron video board. Oh well, I guess I'll have to buy another Mac to hold the DoubleUp card. :-)

The Bullet is equally interesting, but with a retail price of $1999 and the limitation of working only on the IIci and IIsi, I doubt it will be as popular as the DoubleUp. Nonetheless, it sounds as though Sigma Designs has designed it well, since the Bullet has an optional slot for a math coprocessor - $199 extra - for the IIsi and includes a Processor Direct Slot for the IIsi as well, so you can still add another card, though it would be a tight fit. On the IIci, the Bullet fits in the cache card slot, so it doesn't hog a NuBus slot. One way or another, the Bullet is the first accelerator board for any Mac model that combines hardware acceleration with lossless compression, a good combination for all you power users. Look for the Bullet to appear in March of 1991 at your friendly local purveyor of cool hardware.

Salient -- 415/321-5375
Sigma Designs -- 415/770-0100

Information from:
Lloyd Chambers, Salient
LChambers @ America Online
salient@applelink.apple.com
76516.1574@compuserve.com
Sigma Designs propaganda

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 15-Jan-91, Vol. 5, #2, pg. 9
MacWEEK -- 08-Jan-91, Vol. 5, #1, pg. 6

ThoughtPatterns

A friend of mine and I once shared file space on a network. We each had our own folder and there were no space restrictions so long as everyone had a decent amount of working room. I and most of the others organized our files in the normal way, folders and all that. But this one guy had only a single folder, and all of his files were scattered around in it. It would have been bad enough on a large 13" monitor, but this was a Mac Plus screen, and I couldn't figure out how he managed to find anything (and indeed, he often couldn't find specific files).

I was reminded of this when I heard about a free-form database called ThoughtPattern. ThoughtPattern is made by Bananafish Software (easily the best name of the year) and allows you to be as structured or unstructured as you like in organizing your files and other small textual and graphical information bits. You can enter your information directly into ThoughtPattern (oh for the day when Post-It-Notes disappear from my desk and pockets!), and you can link and view existing text, MacPaint, PICT, and EPS files. (Since Nisus files have the filetype of TEXT, they will be viewable within ThoughtPattern directly.) I like the idea of linking little notes with existing files, since I always feel stupid creating an entire file to hold a single line of text. ThoughtPattern can launch applications to view files it doesn't internally support, and Bananafish is looking into including Claris's XTND technology in subsequent versions to provide the maximum flexibility with other files.

Once you have information in ThoughtPattern, you probably want to get it back out in a useful manner. You accomplish this by setting up filters, which can include keywords, item types, and date ranges, to select the appropriate information. One feature that sets ThoughtPattern apart from other information managers is that ThoughtPattern can link in chronological information by allowing you to set alarms that can perform actions such as opening a set of files and ThoughtPattern notes, rather than simply reminding you to open them yourself, as most other reminder programs do.

ThoughtPattern's potential for success is unknown, since it hasn't shipped yet and we haven't had a chance to check out a review copy. Information management programs are hard to write because everyone wants to organize information in different ways, and it is hard to please everyone all of the time. Still, it looks like Bananafish has put a lot of thought into ThoughtPattern.

Bananafish Software -- 415/571-5939 -- 800/522-5939

Information from:
Steve Zagerman -- Bananafish Software Representative

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 08-Jan-91, Vol. 5, #1, pg. 9

More MarketPlace Dirt

We didn't exactly say nice things about Lotus MarketPlace:Households the last time we wrote about it several weeks ago. It seems now that even more dirt has surfaced. Lotus won't give you your information, so you can't check to make sure it is correct, and even if you could, there is no way to fix them. We don't know if they've pressed the CD-ROM yet, but if not, there's no reason why they can't correct the data. Based on this policy, some have wondered whether or not Lotus will remove you from the database if you ask, or if you will just be marked "Don't Use" in the Comments field. Yes, that's right, there's a Comments field that Lotus could use to include arbitrary data. Doesn't that make you feel warm and fuzzy? Of course, if you are marked "Don't Use," that should prevent your name from showing up in any searches. My fear is that a good cracker could break the protection scheme - anything that is not physically protected can be cracked eventually - and in doing so, also gain access to the names that should have been omitted. My mailbox and I are worried.

There were some logical conclusions that we hadn't drawn but which are relatively obvious. If you can search on age, gender, marital status, income, and dwelling type, what's to prevent an enterprising swindler from targeting unmarried elderly women? The technologically-capable cat burglar (or more aptly "mouse burglar") could identify targets based on income, dwelling type, and age. Lotus says that they will check potential customers against a "fraud list," but it's all too easy to be legitimate for a short period of time, or even to steal a complete CD-ROM setup from a legitimate business. This is scary stuff, considering that while such information has been available, it has never been available to so many at such a low price.

Almost as damaging as privacy issues are accuracy issues. If Lotus will neither correct information nor release it for individual checking, extremely damaging errors could occur. PC WEEK tested MarketPlace:Business and found a number of typos and other inaccuracies. (They also were unimpressed with the way MarketPlace ran on the Mac, requiring MultiFinder, but refusing to allow any other programs to run concurrently.) One way, albeit an expensive one, for Lotus to allay fears about the accuracy of the data (remember that businesses are purchasing this disc based on the accuracy of the data; otherwise it's of no use) would be to send a letter to every person on the disc asking them to return any corrections or requests to be omitted. Lotus will never do it, of course, because of the expense (even at the bulk mail rate of 16.7[cts], it would cost them over $20 million to reach the 120 million people on the list) and because a large percentage of people would refuse to be listed, thus seriously diminishing the appeal of MarketPlace:Households.

What I don't understand about the entire issue is, why Lotus? Lotus is a relatively respected software company known almost entirely for 1-2-3. Admittedly, they do own one of the better CD-ROM searching programs, Bluefish, but it only works on PC-clones, while MarketPlace runs on Macs under HyperCard. Selling mailing lists is a switch from selling 1-2-3, and I can't imagine that Lotus is completely prepared to move from being a provider of information-creating tools to a provider of the information itself. It is a different business, and one Lotus has to learn from scratch. Why should Lotus wish to enter that business? It's not something that people are fond of or want to support on an individual level, and Lotus can't afford to become the Snidely Whiplash of the computer industry to an even greater extent. Winning the look-and-feel suit against Paperback Software (is Paperback thus guilty of being touchy-feely?) won Lotus no friends in the computer industry and catering to the bogeyman of direct marketing will do no better.

We've come across some more complete contact information for Lotus, so please, let them know if you don't want to be included. Telling them of your feelings about having your name, address, gender, etc., available for sale is worthwhile as well. It makes me feel like I've been vaguely prostituted. So call the Pre-sales Department and ask to be removed. Alternately, write to the address below. Sending a copy or three of your letter to Jim Manzi (the head of Lotus) at the same Cambridge address might make clear to him how irritating it can be to receive mail that you didn't ask for.

Lotus Pre-sales Dept. -- 800/343-5414 -- 617/577-8500
Lotus Development Corp.
Atten: Market Name Removal Service
55 Cambridge Parkway
Cambridge, MA. 02139

Information from:
John 'Vlad' Adams -- jma@beach.cis.ufl.edu
Robert Minich -- minich@x.cs.okstate.edu
Lotus propaganda

Related articles:
PC WEEK -- 07-Jan-91, Vol. 8, #1, pg. 29
Wall Street Journal -- 13-Nov-90, pg. B1

Tower of Macintosh

The Usenet rumor mill is slowly gearing up for the introduction of a new Macintosh. This isn't the long awaited Portable or anything on the low-end; this will be the Mac to humble existing Macs from the specs that are being bandied around. So if your IIfx is a tad poky, you might keep your eyes out for a 25 MHz 68040-based Macintosh with 5 NuBus slots, 4 SCSI ports (possibly all internal, since the tower-style machine will have room inside the case and removable bezels (what a great word!) for removable media like CD-ROM and SyQuest drives), built-in Ethernet (which isn't surprising considering Apple's recent release of Ethernet products), and a 600-watt power supply. Memory will not be forgotten with room for 64 meg of RAM onboard using 4 meg SIMMs.

It's nice Apple may finally admit that a power machine needs a heavy duty power supply, (especially since the LC and IIsi have such wimpy power supplies). We certainly hope that Apple will follow their current policy of providing upgrades to the current machines, so those people feeling lonely with a IIx can upgrade to the 68040. Even more important, in our opinion, would be an upgrade for the SE case. There are a lot of applications that don't call for a modular Mac but can use the power of the 68040.

Needless to say, Apple will direct the machine at the power hungry crowd, such as high-end graphic designers and engineers. When the IIci was released, a friend brought up an Illustrator 88 document to see how fast Illustrator could draw it on the IIci. It took about 40 seconds, or about twice as fast as on his Mac II. He managed to control himself, though, and settled for a IIfx shortly thereafter. Apple may also be positioning the machine as a server, since it has so much room for storage devices and plenty of speed, though it will only make much difference on an EtherTalk network, since with LocalTalk the network itself is the bottleneck, not the server's performance.

If you can't wait for this tower Mac to appear on the Apple horizon, there are several third party accelerators available for different Mac models. Radius and IIR both offer 68040 accelerators with room for memory for NuBus Macs, and IIR will also carry a 68030 accelerator for the SE. Fusion Data Systems has a 68040 card called the TokaMAC LC, which it claims runs 50% faster than a IIfx. And finally, Total Systems Integration announced a 68040 card for the SE/30 and IIsi (with the Processor Direct Slot option, presumably). These cards all run in the $3000 to $4000 range and should show up in March.

Radius -- 800/227-2795

Information from:
John Starta -- starta@tosh.UUCP
Chuck Rapp -- rapp@sunMg.tellabs.com
David Gutierrez -- drg@mdaali.cancer.utexas.edu
Jim Matthews -- Jim.Matthews@dartmouth.edu
Kenneth J Meltsner -- meltsner@crd.ge.com
Chris Silverberg -- macman@wpi.WPI.EDU
Michael D Mellinger -- melling@cs.psu.edu
Evan J Torrie -- torrie@cs.stanford.edu
Roger Tang -- gwangung@milton.u.washington.edu

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 08-Jan-91, Vol. 5, #1, pg. 1

GraceLAN

Mark H. Anbinder wrote about some network management packages at Macworld Expo last week, but didn't see GraceLAN (through no fault of his, Technology Works may not have shown up). We know about this program because Technology Works sent us a fully functional - for 30 days on ten Macs - demo copy to try out. We recently tried it on a friend's decent-sized network. Overall, we were pleased, though GraceLAN is not the PromiseLAN (that was actually the name of a networking scheme for the Atari ST).

GraceLAN is easy to install and operate, as it merely requires dropping the GraceLAN Responder in every System Folder and installing AppleTalk Phase II and the GraceLAN application on the administrator's Macintosh. Once you reboot the machines, running the GraceLAN application allows you to see a graphical display of the network, which was unfortunately not representative of the true layout, but merely separates the network by zones. GraceLAN lists all the Macs along with their System software versions, and double-clicking on a Mac in the list brings up an extensive profile of that Mac, including hardware types, INITs, DAs, other files in the System Folder, and applications. It even tells which INITs and programs are running and which are inactive. Another nice touch is that it will export selected data on the Macs to a text file, for later importation and analysis in a spreadsheet or database.

A friend who was helping said that GraceLAN wasn't displaying all of the information about the network because each network node (a Mac, for instance) can have a number of sockets, which are used by individual network peripherals or programs. GraceLAN always showed the network node, but would show only one named socket on that node. The fact that it only displayed named sockets was a problem as well, since not all sockets are named (this is hearsay - I'm not a network expert). Otherwise, GraceLAN performed well and is reasonably priced, unlike some of the other network administration programs. The $395 GraceLAN standard package works with 50 users, and can be upgraded to another 50 users for $195. If you have lots and lots of Macs, they have a Corporate package for $995 that works with an unlimited number of Macs.

Technology Works -- 800/688-7466 -- 512/794-8533

Information from:
Technology Works propaganda

Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 26-Nov-90, Vol. 12, #1, pg. 36
PC WEEK -- 17-Dec-90, Vol. 7, pg. 50

Reviews/21-Jan-91

References:


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