Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
Copyright 1991 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Finally. Despair almost crept over me when I heard that Radius had not introduced a color version of its Pivot monitor at Macworld in San Francisco. After all, I try to include rumors that eventually come true. I've been in this game for almost year now, and I'm still getting the hang of the timing rumors (I'm sure it's a game since real life is not nearly this much fun though it does pay a lot better). Sooner or later I'll figure it out.
For those of you who either weren't reading TidBITS then or have forgotten, I wrote about the possibility of a color Pivot appearing at Macworld in the 10-Dec-90 issue. It looks like I will be off by three or four months. I've heard that the Color Pivot will appear sometime in the middle of this month, possibly at the CeBIT expo in Germany. Short of that information, I don't know a great deal. I had fun reading the articles in MacWEEK and InfoWorld though, because they didn't particularly agree. MacWEEK claims that the Color Pivot will work with the onboard video of the IIsi and IIci and that the price will be "under $3000." InfoWorld, in contrast, claims that the price will come in about $2200 and that Radius will have two versions, one with a video card and one without for Macs with internal video (although InfoWorld gives the LC as one example of a Mac with internal video, which, while true, the Pivot won't work without a VRAM upgrade at the bare minimum).
Whatever the details turn out to be, I think that the Color Pivot will be a great success as long as the price isn't too high. Even at educational and discount prices, an Apple 13" color monitor with a 4*8 video card runs about $1200 and the Apple 15" portrait display is about $100 more. So if the Color Pivot comes in with a list price around $2200 and discounts down to the $1600 range, it would be a serious contender with existing systems. And the concept of full page color is wonderful, although I'll admit that I've become extremely fond of my combination of the SE/30 internal monitor and an external Apple color monitor hooked to a Micron Xceed card.
Radius -- 800/227-2795
MacWEEK -- 26-Feb-91, Vol. 5, #8, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 25-Feb-91, Vol. 13, #8, pg. 8
by Harry Skelton -- email@example.com
[Editor's Note: Many thanks to Harry Skelton for sending us this article. It's not the sort of thing I have the expertise to write about personally, yet I suspect that a number of people will be interested. By the way, that means that you should direct questions about this directly to Harry. Also, to be fair, I gather that there are other gateways, though as I said, I don't know anything about them. Oh, and for you budding biologists out there, I bloody well do know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator - it just sounded like a nice title.]
In dealing with the Unix marketplace, and having a need internally for a Macintosh gateway product, I made a startling discovery!
GATORBOX IS NOT ALONE!
If you purchase a GatorBox with GatorShare and GatorMail-Q, you'll spend $7,200. If you purchase a Sony NEWS system with AppleShare, you'll spend $6,800. BUT! the NEWS system gets its connectivity via uShare Plus from Information Presentation Technologies (IPT). uShare Plus will run under SCO Unix and SCO Xenix and costs $395 for server software and $59 (presumably each) for client software. For that, you get complete file sharing, print services, email services, telnet, ftp, and other items. I believe that uShare Plus also runs under other platforms as well. Hardware-wise, they sell a LocalTalk card for $295 for your PC and hardware for VME/SBus/MicroChannel and Sony Bus.
I called Cayman Systems regarding this "problem," and, taken aback, they drilled me for details regarding uShare Plus. They wanted to know what box this ran on, how fast it worked, what Apple format it used. (GatorBox will store the file in both Apple I or Apple II format [*ACK**PHHHTT*] which makes it near impossible to download the file from your Unix host from home.) IPT explained to me that they support those formats as well as MacBinary II (the normal file format for us BBS junkies).
After about an hour of grilling, I told Cayman the price. Silence. Then they told me that they wanted to transfer me to someone else regarding this. It was their Marketing Director. (Gee, wonder if I hit a nerve?) After I explained the services and support that IPT is willing to provide, he could only explain that Cayman is expanding their services (they have been talking about this for at least two years now) and that they are looking into changing their code to support MacBinary II format (this claim also checks in at about two years old). After talking about services and speed, he explained that he knew the overhead on the GatorBox and they were working on trying to make it run faster. He even went so far as to explain that a newer and bigger box with better DMA and other things was to show up later in the year. But just as in trying to judge religion, the talk regarding these two Mac products got nowhere fast. He hung up. I started grinning.
For all those users who thought NFS connectivity to a Mac with email, printing, virtual disk, and server abilities would cost $7000+++ ... guess again and check out the Sony NEWS server with uShare Plus.
Cayman Systems -- 800/473-4776 -- 617/494-1999
IPT -- 800/232-9993 -- 818/347-7991
Sony Microsystems -- 800/624-8999 x 96 -- 408/434-6644
I don't know how many of you have had the opportunity to view some of the extended ASCII characters on PC-clones, but they are pretty funny. You find little smiley-faces, all the suits in a deck of cards, and lots of other fun characters. Unfortunately, these cute characters are just about useless, and they aren't that easy to use anyway. The Mac, on the other hand, has a decent extended ASCII character set with useful typographical symbols like *, [tm],(c),[tm], and a whole slew of accented letters. Even still, if you are used to a foreign language, the Mac doesn't even begin to cut it. Even though the designers of the Mac made better choices than the designers of the PC, both machines (and indeed almost all machines) use an 8-bit character set. This means that you can have only 256 characters. Initially, I suspect that the computer designers thought that 256 characters would be more than enough, but these designers also thought 128K was a good amount of standard memory and 640K was more than anyone would ever want. So if you want to transfer files to a PC from a Mac, you have to be careful to use only the first 128 characters of the ASCII character set, because those are the only ones that will be the same. I won't even mention EBCDIC because it irritates me too much.
Well, the companies responsible for these difficulties have banded together in what seems to be an unprecedented level of cooperation to form Unicode Inc. The Who's Who membership list includes Microsoft, IBM, Aldus, NeXT, Apple, GO, Sun, Metaphor, Lotus, Novell, and - for a little academic interest - the Research Libraries Group. Unicode is working on a new standard for character representation that will use a 16-bit character set that will support more than 27,000 characters out of a possible 65,000. Of course all applications will have to be rewritten to support Unicode (although Apple's Script Manager should make that process easier for Mac developers once it supports Unicode), but once all applications support Unicode the ASCII barrier will fall.
The best part of Unicode is that because all the major computer companies are involved, it has a very good chance of being implemented correctly on all major platforms, including future versions of the Mac, OS/2, and Windows. There is a competing proposal, ISO 10646, the relative merits of which are being bandied about on a BITNET discussion list called HUMANIST (and in other places, no doubt). A couple of the arguments center on floating accents, which Unicode supports and which ISO 10646 doesn't, and whether or not ISO's method of variable length bytes (8, 16, 24, or 32 bits) makes any sense at all. I don't totally understand the issues on either side, since I work with only one language that can't be represented in ASCII, but I get the gist of it all. My non-ASCII language is ancient Greek, and let me tell you, it's an incredible pain to transcribe Greek letters into a reasonable ASCII facsimile, working primarily on sound and visual similarities. Ugh.
The languages that will benefit the most (or which we will benefit the most from, it's not clear) from Unicode are the Oriental ideographs, which have few visual analogues and whose pronunciations are often too subtle for coding in ASCII, unlike Greek, which can be made to sound enough like English to be comprehensible. I didn't see the Unicode guide to the Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, because they are too large to send. I do have a copy of the draft proposal, and I'm extremely impressed by Unicode's completeness. Included are a number of mathematical operators, geometric shapes, currency symbols, a full set of punctuation marks, basic dingbats, and a bunch of languages I'd never heard of, such as Gurmukhi, Devanagari, Oriya, and Bopomofo.
The Unicode Consortium -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Tuthill -- tut@Eng.Sun.COM
Michael Sperberg-McQueen -- U35395@UICVM
MacWEEK -- 26-Feb-91, Vol. 5, #8, pg. 5
InfoWorld -- 25-Feb-91, Vol. 13, #8, pg. 8
Last week we talked a bit about the good things Microsoft did with Excel 3.0 and whenever you think of Excel, Word inevitably surfaces as well. Little has come out of Microsoft about what Word 5.0 will look like or what new features will be included, but we can make some educated guesses about likely changes, and a recent discussion on Usenet indicated the places Word currently has trouble. We haven't heard anything about when Word 5.0 might show up, although it's a good bet that the time will come right after System 7.0 ships. Think about it - the date in the About... box on at least one version of Word I've seen is April 10th, 1989. Two years without an upgrade is a long time when competing products the caliber of Nisus come out.
Microsoft has said that its strategy is to reuse as much code as possible for an application between different platforms. That's all fine and nice for Excel, but the Microsoft word processing programs (Word for the Mac, Word 5.5 for DOS, Word for Windows, and Write) are currently enough different that it's unlikely that Microsoft will be able to completely standardize a single interface. Nonetheless, that's the trend, so look for Word 5.0 to have a Toolbar like the one in Word for Windows. Word for Windows also has a macro facility that might show up in the Macintosh version, particularly since AutoMac III, the free macro program bundled with Word, isn't terribly impressive, to say the least.
Probably the main complaint discussed on Usenet (and experienced by thousands of users everywhere) is Word's poor human interface. Microsoft ignored Apple's programming and interface guidelines, which is why you get such gems as "Select All" being "Move the mouse over to the left gutter (which is tiny on a 9" screen) so that it points right instead of left, then hold down the command key and click in the left gutter." Egads! To be fair, there is a keyboard equivalent, Command-Option-M, though no one has ever explained why they didn't use Command-A like the Finder and most other Macintosh applications in the known universe. Another major contributor the interface headaches is the "Short Menus" feature (I've heard an instructor in a class once say that Short Menus is a bug, not a feature.). With Short Menus turned on, most of the menu items disappear, resulting in complete and utter confusion when the user wants to perform an action whose menu item no longer exists. To quote a tire salesman with whom I once had the pleasure of doing business, "Scrog it."
A number of Word's features were appreciated by people on Usenet, but they saw plenty of room for improvement. For instance, Word can make an automatic backup of the file you are working on when you save, but it can't do so automatically after a certain amount of time, like WordPerfect, or after a certain number of keystrokes, like Nisus. In addition, Word can't store the backups on a different volume, which is essential for data security. The backups also have to be started by selecting Save As... after the file has already been saved once since the Make Backup button isn't available until the file already exists. That's just sloppy, as are those irritating little Word Temp files that hang around in everyone's System Folders. Unlike most programs, that only leave temp files around if the Mac crashes, Word's temp files are seldom erased unless you use something like the freeware INIT Temperament. Style sheets are one of Word's most useful features, in part because they import directly into PageMaker and because Word was one of the first programs to have them. However, Word's style sheets are paragraph-based, so you can't define a style that will affect only a few words, for program name, for instance, because it will affect the entire paragraph. Nisus and WordPerfect have character-based styles and can optionally use paragraph styles as well, a far more powerful scheme. Finally, Word has extensive keyboard shortcuts, even allowing you to use them in dialog boxes. However, there's no way of finding out what the shortcuts for the dialog boxes are on the fly. Nisus solves this problem by displaying the keyboard shortcuts only when you press the Command key. And although you can change the keyboard shortcuts in Word, it doesn't come close to competing with the way Nisus allows you to assign more than one alphanumeric key to a shortcut, thus making Page Setup... be Command-P-S (or whatever you want).
Suggested enhancements from Usenet include built-in print spooling, a facility for numbering and re-numbering sections, graphics, references, and the like, faster response time when working with tables (which are perhaps the most popular feature of Word 4.0 despite the fact that commands to work with them sit in three separate menus), and the ability for the speller to ignore a word for a single document, but without adding it to the dictionary (which is what the ~Spell style does in Nisus).
These enhancements will help, but looking at the competition offered by Nisus and WordPerfect 2.0, Word needs a serious upgrade. Both of those programs offer sophisticated macro programming abilities and relatively powerful internal graphics abilities, and Nisus has PowerSearch and PowerSearch+ (GREP for those of you who use Unix boxes) for unparalleled searching power. I gather that FullWrite has one of the nicest interfaces of the powerful word processors, but it's the only one I've never used. Luckily for Word users, Microsoft is paying some attention, to judge from a Microsoft "One-To-One with Microsoft" newsletter I received recently. It talks about the Microsoft Word User's Conference held in October. Evidently Microsoft felt it got a lot of good feedback from the conference, though it would be better if Microsoft would put a representative on Usenet and America Online (I don't know if the company supports CompuServe) to better keep in touch with the people who use Microsoft programs day in and day out. Then people might even find out about new versions of the program (I seem to remember that Word is up to 4.00e, but you have know what the bugs are when you call to get that version from Microsoft).
Microsoft -- 800/426-9400 -- 206/882-8080
John F. Mansfield -- John_Mansfield@emal.sprl.umich.edu
Dennis H Lippert -- email@example.com
Stewart Tansley -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Baumgarten -- email@example.com
Chaz Larson -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Aslakson -- email@example.com
John T. Chapman -- firstname.lastname@example.org
David Palmer -- email@example.com
John Wilkins -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Kennaway -- email@example.com
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue