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TidBITS#50/25-Mar-91

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MailBITS/25-Mar-91

Apparently Sitka isn't quite as odd a name as I previously thought. I recently learned that there is a Sitka spruce and a Sitka black-tailed deer. I've also heard more information from a couple of readers.

Scott Robert Anderson writes, "My understanding is that it was a "meeting place" for many different groups (Americans, Russians, Eskimos, etc.). Since the company is in the business of connectivity between many different platforms, this seemed like an appropriate name."

And John Richard Bruni adds, "Sitka is now a real nice little city. I went there to do a story on James Michener when he was writing ALASKA and was amazed at how nice a place Sitka is. It is much like Vancouver in weather, being part of Southeast Alaska rather than the Far North."

Information from:
Scott Robert Anderson -- phssra@unix.cc.emory.edu
John Richard Bruni -- John_Richard_Bruni@cup.portal.com


Microsoft Calls Lotus's Bet

A few weeks ago Lotus purchased cc:Mail to beef up its networking suite against Microsoft. I had mistakenly thought that Microsoft Mail ran on PCs and Macs (well it does, but only supports PC clients, much like CE's QuickMail), but it turns out that Microsoft Mail is not quite the complete solution. So although Lotus's move to buy cc:Mail wasn't quite as desperate as it seemed at the time, Microsoft has countered almost immediately. Despite a proposed close date of April 1st (April Fools Day in some parts of the world), it looks as though Microsoft will spend some $20 million for Consumers Software, makers of a PC mail package called Network Courier E-mail.

The positive aspect of this spending frenzy is that it will help legitimize email, at least at the LAN level (if not the individual level, which I'm more interested in). With both Lotus and Microsoft building email links into their products, the concept of email will become far more common. Microsoft has said that it will rename Network Courier E-mail to Microsoft Mail for the PC, or something that fits with Microsoft's relatively unimaginative (read: "business-oriented") naming scheme. Microsoft no doubt plans to integrate email into its PC programs, most likely in the same manner as it has with its Macintosh programs. This high level of integration will cause Lotus grief, since few of Lotus's products are particularly integrated with each other, either in operation or name.

The negative aspect of these purchases is that with Microsoft and Lotus controlling so much of the email market it will be harder for smaller companies to survive. The best hope for us innovation-oriented sorts is CE Software, which combines small size, the ability to move relatively quickly, good customer support, and a large installed base. CE has done interesting things in the past, and I suspect more will come from them in the future. QuickMail is also flexible enough, what with its numerous gateways, that current users are extremely unlikely to switch to one of the other packages. Let's hope that the users are the eventual winners of these email wars - after all you and I are all little bits of market share so we should get some say in this.

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 12-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #10, pg. 82
COMMUNICATIONS WEEK -- 11-Mar-91, pg. 6
InfoWorld -- 11-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #10, pg. 8
PC WEEK -- 11-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #10, pg. 5
PC WEEK -- 04-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #9, pg. 1

DeskWriter Problems

by Andrew Lewis -- LEWIS@ITHACA.BITNET

The Hewlett-Packard DeskWriter is a wonderful printer, combining 300 dpi print quality with street prices under $800. We even have a waterproof ink for it at long last! But a few other problems have recently cropped up. Unfortunately, even though the problems are relatively rare, HP has done a poor job of making the information available to dealers, who are the primary support for DeskWriter owners. In any case, here are the two DeskWriter problems and solutions that I know of.

People who use the Mac Plus under MultiFinder may experience strange crashes when trying to print to the DeskWriter. HP was aware of the problem as early as August. The problem was identified by HP and Apple as an "interaction" between the Mac Plus ROMs (HP claims this bug may also affect some SEs "which had the same ROMs," although I don't think that any SEs used the 128K Plus ROMs) and the older printer drivers supplied by HP with the DeskWriter.

Version 2.1 of the driver software (one for serial use, one for AppleTalk) corrects this problem. Oddly enough, HP does not guarantee that these new drivers are a complete fix. The people I talked to at HP's technical support said they "didn't have a Plus in the office" on which to test the fix. The update also fixes some other minor problems, including an incompatibility with Super Laser Spool from SuperMac. Getting the new version can be a bit of a pain - it's available in HP's CompuServe forum or theoretically from dealers, though neither of the two HP dealers here in Ithaca had the drivers before I did.

The other problem, quite rare and fairly unpleasant, concerns owners of the newer AppleTalk-capable DeskWriters. This bug pops up when the DeskWriter is used as a serial printer (as opposed to as an AppleTalk printer). After an indeterminate period of time, the printer refuses to work properly - the lights on the printer may flash, and the Mac may display an "Error Trap 10864" error code. The nasty result is that the printer won't print. Switching to the other serial port might help temporarily, but can result in another failure. The DeskWriter's hardware normally senses how it is connected to your Mac and switches itself into either AppleTalk or serial mode, as appropriate. Somehow this failure is begun by a change in the resistance of the Mac's RS-422 serial circuitry, which causes the DeskWriter to switch to AppleTalk, even though it is still receiving serial data which it cannot process properly while under AppleTalk mode.

According to HP, the problem appears with the Macintosh SE, II, SE/30, IIcx, IIci, and IIfx. Apple and HP agree that it is an Apple design flaw. This condition does not seem to prevent other serial devices from functioning properly, luckily. The fact that this condition of the Mac's serial port affects only the DeskWriter probably accounts for much of the lack of knowledge about the problem on the part of Apple dealers. It appears that HP designed the DeskWriter to conform to the standards of the component circuitry used by Apple in the Mac's serial port without taking into account any quirks of implementation on Apple's part. HP's approach to the problem of configuring the printer automatically is to my knowledge unique, and unfortunately generates a unique problem. HP is clear about the fix - avoid the whole problem by using your DeskWriter in AppleTalk mode. This requires only LocalTalk or PhoneNET cabling, which can be had for around $60. You don't need to be on an existing network or have a fileserver or anything of that nature. If you use LocalTalk cabling, the HP AppleTalk driver, and keep AppleTalk turned on, everything (including other serial devices) should work fine.

Assuming that not everyone would like that answer, considering that it increases the printer's cost by about 10%, I checked around about what to do. My local dealer (for both Apple and HP) was unaware of the problem. I called Apple's 800 technical support number and received no information. They told me that they dealt with such matters on a "case by case basis," which meant that they would not tell me anything regarding warranty coverage and such unless my Mac actually developed the problem and I brought it to an Apple dealer. They also were unable to confirm or deny that Apple would release a statement on the problem as HP claimed they would. [Editor's note: I later found Apple's and HP's statements on AppleLink; they both pretty much said the same thing.] However, HP's technical support people provided some information. They told me that HP and Apple had investigated and isolated the cause of the problem. According to HP, Apple dealers should know about the problem since it is in their "Apple Service Manual," and they will fix your Mac if the serial port fails. I couldn't get a firm answer, but it seems that AppleCare or your warranty will cover the repair costs. [Editor's note: Apple's statement on AppleLink confirms this answer, and added that if the Macintosh is not covered that the dealer should discuss the problem with "Technical Operations." I didn't pursue the matter further.]

So what does it all mean? HP has solved both problems but did a lousy job of telling anyone. Even if these problems are relatively uncommon, people who experience them, particularly the second one, could go through a time-consuming, frustrating repair experience. For a repair person who doesn't know of the fix, diagnosis would be difficult, tedious, and potentially expensive, since both the Mac and printer would appear to work fine independently. All of the information above is the result of a lot of phone calls to Apple, HP, and my dealer, as well as the kind indulgence of Kris Stark and his CompuServe account. That sort of research should have been unnecessary. HP should distribute their new drivers and statements on other commercial services such as America Online and GEnie, as well making the information known on Usenet. Even more important, HP should definitely make more of an effort to see that their dealers have the latest information regarding their products.

Information from:
Kris Stark -- STARK@ITHACA.BITNET
Mark H. Anbinder -- mha@memory.uucp
Jeff, Debbie, and Janice at HP Tech Support -- 208/323-2551
Apple Technical Support -- 800/776-2333
Tonya Byard -- TidBITS editor (for the editor's notes)


Microsoft Treading Antitrust Waters?

Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it will begin a non-public investigation of Microsoft for allegedly crippling Windows 2.1 in favor of OS/2. The investigation stems from a 1989 press release in which Microsoft and IBM discussed the direction they would take in respect to Windows and OS/2. At the time, the companies agreed that Windows would serve the low end of the market and OS/2 would take the high end. Since then, quite obviously, Microsoft has changed its mind about what Windows will do and has put its OS/2 work on the back burner.

There are a couple of possibilities here. First, the FTC investigators have been in another part of the galaxy for the past year and haven't seen what Microsoft is doing with Windows. That's possible, but unlikely. Second, IBM and Microsoft were (and perhaps still are) in some sort of collusion designed to reduce competition. That's a no-no in the eyes of the FTC and is quite likely, given Microsoft's bid to control even more of the software industry than it currently does and IBM's tainted history with such things. Third, the investigation is broader than one might be led to believe from the start, and Microsoft's hegemony of both the operating system and applications worlds looks bad in terms of fair competition. The idea here is that Microsoft applications developers can just talk to the Microsoft OS developers over lunch, which gives both an advantage over third party developers. It's no insight that Microsoft has taken advantage of its position as the developer of Windows to release the most powerful and most popular Windows applications. Microsoft has something like five of the top ten Windows applications, and those five are in the upper half of the ten. If Microsoft were found guilty of unfair competition, I doubt any of its competitors would be at all upset.

Although this third possibility is the most likely, there are arguments on both sides. For instance, Borland negotiated with the Windows group at Microsoft to release a version of its Turbo languages that could create Windows applications before Microsoft's own languages feature the same level of support. On the other hand, developers have been complaining because Microsoft released only a beta version of the Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) specs in December, but had been shipping a version of PowerPoint that used OLE for several months. Of course, like Apple's AppleEvents in System 7.0, it will take quite some time before programmers become familiar with OLE and start using it, so it may not be that big of a deal.

No matter what happens, it seems that Microsoft is clearing the legal decks (or was that docks :-)) for a large legal battle. Bob Cringely tells me that Microsoft is trying to settle other litigation quickly, out of court if possible, in preparation for the potential antitrust suit. This might mean an early settlement to the Apple suit, though if Microsoft settles out of court, Apple will certainly extract some royalty payments for Windows. While I'm on that subject, it looks as though I was incorrect when I wrote that the judge might be moving the whole thing into court to decide the issue once and for all. It now seems that he has limited the issue to the simple contract dispute and isn't allowing Apple to bring the larger issues into the case at all.

Information from:
Bob Cringely -- CRINGE@mcimail.com
Microsoft propaganda

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 19-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #11, pg. 75, 77
COMMUNICATIONS WEEK -- 11-Mar-91, pg. 6
InfoWorld -- 18-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #11, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 11-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #10, pg. 1
PC WEEK -- 18-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #11, pg. 1, 6

Multiple Master

Adobe recently announced a new font technology called Multiple Master, which should make everyone who uses fonts happy. Current PostScript Type 1 fonts have a single outline file that allows you to scale a font's size. A Multiple Master font can be scaled similarly, but it has a number of outlines that allow much more flexibility, such as the ability to change the weight, width, and style (the difference between serif or sans-serif). The fonts will be no slower to image and will be completely compatible with all PostScript printers (though not necessarily PostScript clones, like TrueImage). The font files will be somewhat larger than current font files, not surprisingly, but will probably take up less space than if you had all the versions of a current font family.

So what are these fonts going to be useful for? Lots of stuff, probably. One use will be to prevent the ugly appearance of a file that uses a font that you don't have installed (preventing ugliness is an important task in today's society). A Multiple Master font will emulate the original font's character spacing and widths so the document will be formatted correctly again. Graphic designers will also appreciate being able to tweak the character weights and widths to fit a text run into a specific position. I know I've played with the leading and kerning in PageMaker for hours at various times, trying to get a text block to fit between some graphic elements. On a larger scale, book designers will be able to tweak the fonts to ensure that the book will have an exact multiple of 16 pages, which will cut down on paper waste and reduce book costs (well, OK, book prices probably won't go down even if they do save money).

It will be a while before Multiple Master fonts come out. Adobe's talking about releasing the first few of them this summer along with new versions of ATM for the PC and Mac. Some sort of added software will be necessary to manipulate the Multiple Master fonts in applications - probably an INIT or desk accessory. The INIT would almost certainly be easier to use and more integrated, but might run afoul of non-standard font handling practices such as those used by Microsoft Word. Other companies such as ITC, Bitstream, Agfa Compugraphic, Monotype, and Linotype will also manufacture Multiple Master fonts, so there should be no shortage of them in a year or so.

It's unclear how TrueType fits in with all of this. From what I've seen and heard recently, the TrueType INIT is a bit of a pain to use (you can't use older LaserWriter drivers with it, which means you'll have to reinitialize the printer each time someone prints with a different driver) and isn't quite as fast as ATM. That very well may change when System 7.0 comes out, since any INIT that patches the current system won't be as fast as something built into the system. So it looks like the low-end will have TrueType (since everyone who uses System 7.0 will have it), whereas graphic designers will probably stick with PostScript for serious work, particularly when Multiple Master comes out. TrueType could implement an optical scaling scheme like Multiple Master, but it would take some time and would require interest on Apple's part to compete with PostScript on the high-end. I hope that everything get along happily when all of this is over with, if it ever will be.

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 19-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #11, pg. 20
MacWEEK -- 12-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #10, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 11-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #10, pg. 5
PC WEEK -- 11-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #10, pg. 1

Reviews/25-Mar-91

References:


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