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Copyright 1991 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
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Seen on an envelope from MacConnection recently:

"Rush. Dated material. Dated for freshness. Blind dated. Updated. Open immediately. Open really soon. Open as soon as you can. Open sesame. Open says a me. Don't fold spindle or mutilate. Many are called but you were chosen. This is not junk mail. Save for future use. Save for a rainy day. Save for a sunny day. Save for today. Live for today. Live for tomorrow. Search for tomorrow. No prize numbers enclosed. No secret decoder ring enclosed. We know where you live. Valuable savings inside. Handle with care. Envelopes love to be opened."

A Whole New Ball Game

We've heard that, in an unexpected move, IBM plans to purchase Lotus Corp. IBM isn't telling how much it will pay, but we're betting that it will be an obscene amount of money, considering that Lotus is one of the largest software companies after Microsoft. Whew! IBM didn't say much else about the deal in true IBM fashion, but it will certainly shake up the computer world. If nothing else, who knows what will happen to the 1-2-3 palmtop with wireless peripheral links that HP and Lotus are working on.

Think of Microsoft. One minute the company is riding high, controlling a good part of the microcomputer software industry; the next minute IBM swaggers into town, a six-shooter full of Lotus software at its hip. Heck, I'd be worried if I were Bill Gates. And think of the phone call that Jim Manzi would have made to Bill if he were really childish. "Hi Bill, this is Jim Manzi. Nyah Nyah. Click." I'm sure Jim Manzi would never do that, though, so at least some propriety reigns. I wonder what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will think about the deal, since it was worried about Microsoft before and has had run-ins with IBM in the past. It certainly sheds some new light on any deals IBM and Microsoft might have made at some point to divy up the PC operating systems.

IBM will be in the antitrust spotlight again, considering that it has pushed OS/2 over Windows for some time but has lacked any software clout to enforce its preference. With the array of powerful (if currently unconnected) software from Lotus, IBM now has some of the best software on the market, which it will undoubtedly port to OS/2 as soon as possible. There was talk previously of IBM devoting $40 million to marketing OS/2 in direct competition to Microsoft's $10 million Windows marketing blitz. Now that makes a bit more sense, since IBM can ensure a decent software base. Sheesh, for $40 million, IBM could buy a professional sports team and name it after OS/2.

So long as the FTC doesn't get too antsy (and remember, IBM has never lost that sort of lawsuit before, though they have settled out of court on occasion), the deal makes a lot of sense from IBM's perspective. Like Apple IBM now controls a line of hardware, an operating system for that hardware, and a line of popular software for that operating system. IBM has always emphasized complete solutions in its corporate philosophy, so this fits in well, although it does mean a bit of retrofitting with SAA (Systems Application Architecture), IBM's interoperability scheme. But how many people are buying big computers, even workstations, in comparison to microcomputers these days? Not that many, and IBM is bowing to the dollar figures that say the company makes a good chunk of its profit from microcomputer sales. You can buy bundles these days that include a PS/2, Windows, Word for Windows, and Excel. That's all fine and nice, but IBM would far prefer to see those bundles including OS/2 and 1-2-3 and Ami Professional of OS/2. Oh, and for those of you who remember's IBM's dismal microcomputer applications software (like DisplayWrite), those programs have been dropped in favor of the new Lotus Software Division's application suite. About time.

To put the words of that wonderful author, L. Frank Baum, into the mouth of Jim Manzi, "I don't think we're in Cambridge any more, Toto."

Information from:
IBM & Lotus propaganda

Related articles:
COMMUNICATIONS WEEK -- 25-Mar-91, pg. 16, 38
InfoWorld -- 25-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #12, pg. 8

Clone Cubed

This is weird. We heard of a new computer from small startup company in Texas called TechnoWizards. Well, OK, that's not so weird. What's strange about this particular machine is that it's a hybrid, which accounts for its name, the Hybrid/3. It can run Mac software at about the speed of a IIcx, PC software at the speed of a 33 MHz 386 clones, and it sports its own operating system as well.

TechnoWizards achieves this compatibility in an interesting way. Hybrid/3 includes a 16 MHz 68030 CPU (and its associated math coprocessor) from Motorola and a 33 MHz 80386 from Intel, along with a custom controller that allows either one to be used independently (one at a time) or can use both CPUs in tandem. This gives the machine three basic modes, which you control with a hardware switch. The first mode addresses only the 68030 and will use the NuTek chipset for Macintosh compatibility. It's unclear how well the NuTek chipset will perform as far as compatibility goes, but it's likely to work with most applications. For those of you who weren't paying attention when we talked about NuTek a while ago, that will mean that TechnoWizards will not be able to ship their machine until well into 1992, since NuTek wasn't going to release the chipset until late in 1991. TechnoWizards said they weren't committed to NuTek and could switch to another company's Macintosh emulation if necessary. It's possible that Apple might be interested in licensing the MacOS to TechnoWizards by then, what with Sculley's talk about licensing the ROMs.

Anyway, the second mode addresses the 80386 and uses a Phoenix BIOS. In that mode, you pretend that you are working on a normal PC clone. This, being easier than the Mac stuff, already works, and TechnoWizards says that both Windows and various flavors of Unix run fine. The third mode is the most interesting by far, because it uses both chips simultaneously to run both Mac and PC software in a windowing environment as well as tools specifically written for the Hybrid/3's native OS. So why wouldn't you always want to be running in native mode? Since TechnoWizards's own operating system is completely different from the MacOS and DOS, there is a noticeable speed hit, and some ill-behaved PC applications might not appreciate being forced into a window. Those sort of programs tend not to run well under Windows either.

Hardware-wise (and note that I'm no hardware whiz, so I might get some of this slightly wrong), the custom controller handles all the I/O, and a separate graphics chip handles all the screen displays. Each of the microprocessors, including the custom controller, lives on a SIMM-like card for easy upgrades, and TechnoWizards says that the Hybrid/3 will support the 80486 and 68040 at some point. In addition, the Hybrid/3 has a Motorola 56001 digital signal processor (DSP) chip that will aid telecommunications and sound applications. The Hybrid/3 uses SCSI-2, so you can add up to seven hard drives, each of which can be partitioned or combined (into one or more volumes spanning several physical drives) as you desire. Macintosh and DOS (or Unix or A/UX) files are stored in the appropriate type of hard SCSI partitions, which avoids the danger of a soft partitioning scheme that simulates a volume within a large file. TechnoWizards built in Ethernet (thin and thick) and included two serial ports and a parallel port as well. For market compatibility, the company chose to use Macintosh monitors, so in theory any monitor that works with the Mac should work fine. For expansion capabilities, TechnoWizards included both three NuBus slots and three ISA (AT-bus) slots, though it's unclear if all PC and Mac boards will indeed work well, especially under the native OS. You never can tell with strange hardware.

This new operating system, appropriately called NewONS (pronounced "nuance" - and ONS stands Operating/Network System), is a 32-bit, object-oriented, windowing environment probably closest to PenPoint, GO's handwriting recognition operating system. There is a single "Overseer" that controls all of the various "Projects," where a Project is considered to be a data file (but one which can contain multiple data types) or a stand-alone environment such as a game. The Overseer provides each Project with the necessary tools when appropriate, so if you want to create text in a data file, you call up the text tool and create away. Once the text is created, the Overseer makes sure that whenever you are in that area of text, the text tool is available. TechnoWizards intends the tools to have a very narrow purpose, so a single tool in NewONS is equivalent what we know as a single tool in a graphics program. NewONS will ship with a standard set of tools that most people will want, a text creation/editing tool, a line tool, a rectangle tool, an ellipse tool, a database tool, a calculation tool, and a few others. Needless to say, these tools will not be terribly sophisticated, which leaves room for third parties to develop more powerful versions, say an ellipse tool that has an optional modifier to constrain the ellipse into a perfect circle or a rectangle tool that includes size information as you draw. The beauty of the way NewONS handles these tools is that you can put together the functionality of a current program like PageMaker without having to pay for or store all the parts of PageMaker you never use, like color printing or the Story Editor. For that matter, you can use a far more capable set of text tools, like the sort that Nisus includes, instead of the Story Editor, so you would get full editing power as well as powerful layout capabilities. Companies will no doubt break current Macintosh products down into sets of tools and sell them together, but it's up to the user to pick which ones to use.

I'm extremely interested in the Hybrid/3 because it seems to play both sides of the fence quite well. The older standards are supported along with a new 32-bit operating system. No one loses. In addition, because the custom controller chip handles all I/O, interesting new forms of input devices will be easy to hook up and use in all three modes. I wouldn't be surprised to see devices like the Gold Brick (the interface controller that allows you to use Nintendo 3-D controllers) and the BAT chord keyboard show up, along with even stranger controllers, such as devices that can read your brain wave to move the cursor and perform simple actions (more on this in a few weeks). Of course, just being technically wonderful doesn't mean much these days. After all, I think I've mused before on how all the world's a marketing scheme.

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 26-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #12, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 25-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #12, pg. 5
PC WEEK -- 25-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #12, pg. 6

Piggyback Portable

We've all been waiting for Apple to announce a 68040 Mac and a lighter, faster portable. Well, it looks like the wait will soon be over, but there is an unanticipated twist. Rumour has it that the top 2 inches of Apple's upcoming 25 MHz 68040 Mac TX will actually comprise a pop-out 7.2-pound portable Mac. (I don't know if that weight includes the battery, but the 68040 is probably less power hungry than the 68030 and a coprocessor, so the battery will last as least long as the other high end portables that Apple will release this fall.) The portable contains the CPU for the TX and one of four memory banks. The two sections of the computer can share the processor and RAM due to the technology that Apple purchased from Outbound. A likely configuration for the portable unit is a 20 MB hard disk and 4 MB of RAM (neither the hard disk nor the RAM will be expandable, but the tower unit will hold more memory and additional SCSI devices). The portable's screen will be similar to the one in the current Mac Portable, active matrix with backlighting. Also thanks to Outbound, when the portable is not attached, the TX can still function as an AppleShare server, though it's useless for desktop work.

The Max TX will also contain new technology from General Magic. We aren't certain of the details, but wireless Mac networking is about to become reality (a tremendous relief to everyone who has dealt with all that tedious wire stripping and untangling). All the information will now be sent via radio waves as per Apple's petition with the FCC (the actual speed of the network, practically speaking, should be about twice that of LocalTalk). It's still unclear how this will tie into a setup with more than one building, but third party vendors will certainly provide the necessary hardware.

So essentially what you've got in the Mac TX is a killer desktop workstation that can convert to an AppleShare file server and a small portable computer by removing the portable unit. It might be pretty pricey, but this will be the perfect machine for a network administrator or high-powered engineer who has to travel a bit. While the portable is away, the server will play.

Information from:

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 26-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #12, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 25-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #12, pg. 5
PC WEEK -- 25-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #12, pg. 6


Most everyone is in favor of networks these days. But current networks are quite stupid - they're nothing more than pipes through which information flows. That may change soon with a new networking application I heard of recently.

It's not an official product yet, but the application, code named SentientNET, is an interesting collaboration between CE Software and several Soviet programmers who are part of an organization called EleKlub. EleKlub isn't exactly a company, since private companies are still frowned upon in the USSR, but is instead a club of local programmers in Minsk interested in exchanging ideas with Western programmers. The application can determine the CPU load of all Macs on a network (LocalTalk is acceptable, but EtherTalk is better) and then have local programs execute CODE resources on an unused remote machine and receive the results back. The Soviet programmers came up with the basic idea for SentientNET because powerful computers are extremely rare in the Soviet Union, and SentientNET allows them to turn a small network of Macs into the equivalent of a mainframe.

The practical value of SentientNET is that if I've got a processor-intensive application that would normally bog my Mac down for an hour, SentientNET would automatically divy up the workload between all the machines on my network, giving more work to those that are unused, less to those that are doing something else. My application would take far less time to run, because all the other Macs would have done a large proportion of the work and reported the results back to my machine. SentientNET will create quite a bit of network traffic and thus prefers a fast network like EtherTalk. However, because LocalTalk networks are so common and inexpensive, the programmers plan to make SentientNET self-configure to the network type, so if you use LocalTalk, SentientNET will send smaller jobs across the network so as not to bring down other network applications. If you're still having trouble visualizing this, think about DataClub from IBS. DataClub creates a virtual disk that everyone on the network shares. SentientNET does exactly the same thing, but with CPU cycles instead of disk space. With DataClub, if you add a hard drive, you've increased the size of your virtual disk. With SentientNET, if you add a Mac, particularly a powerful one, you've increased the power of your virtual CPU. Pretty snazzy!

From what I can tell so far, SentientNET should work over any AppleTalk network, including the wireless scheme mentioned in the Piggyback Portable article. I guess the major restriction right now is that SentientNET can only work within a zone, but that shouldn't be a big problem for most people. Applications won't have to be rewritten to work with SentientNET, but it wouldn't help a good number of current programs because they simply don't require that much power. Users will retain control over their own Macs, so SentientNET can be configured to leave your Mac alone even if the CPU usage is low in case you don't want to run with even a small slowdown.

As cool as it is, SentientNET isn't a completely new concept. Recently, IBM, DEC, HP, Groupe Bull, and Siemens-Nixdorf demonstrated a similar scheme by which an application ran in a network layer using the processing power of workstations from each manufacturer. In addition, Apple has an internal program called SchoolTalk, I think, which allows an instructor to run a program on a remote Mac over a network. Apparently, the hard part is executing CODE resources, which programs like Timbuktu and Carbon Copy can't do. I'm not positive of this, not being a network guru, but that's what friend who should know claims. SchoolTalk is not as complete as SentientNET will be, but it's a start, so Apple may come out with something like at some point too. It's an incredible selling point for Macintosh networks ("Buy five Macintosh computers, get one supercomputer.") and would endear Apple to the power hungry crowd that is thinking about switching to workstations from NeXT and Sun.

Oh, I just thought I'd mention that everyone should read the entire "About..." card this week. Cheers!

Information from:
Alexandr Tchlevsky --

Related articles:
COMMUNICATIONS WEEK -- 25-Mar-91, pg. 20



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