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TidBITS#58/29-Apr-91

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Copyright 1991 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
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MailBITS/29-Apr-91

Dave Kosiur writes, "I looked over your last few TidBITS and was taken in by the SentientNET April Fools' joke. However, even though you've now pointed readers towards the DCE stuff for other machines, there's something even closer to home - for Macs. Apple, through its Advanced Technology Group and university research fund (or whatever it's called), has been working with a group at the StatLab in Heidelberg on a project called NetWork. It's currently designed to work on AppleTalk networks and lets you distribute processing over the network to other machines. They've worked very carefully to insure that the extra processing does not interfere with the user's work - in this case, the network process backs off immediately if someone starts doing something on that Mac. The examples they provide with the code are: RemoteJob, a way to handle distributed use of MPW; Spinning Brain, a neural net that runs on the network; and ScreenSaver, an app that can be launched over the net when a machine is idle. The pertinent information and code has been available on the last two Developer's CDs. It's pretty interesting." [Would anyone who is familiar with this technology like to write an article about it?]

And speak of the devil. Guenther Sawitzki writes in a recent Info-Mac Digest, " The new version 1.2b2 of the NetWork software for distributed computing is on our file server statlab.uni-heidelberg.de [129.206.113.100] and is accessible by anonymous FTP (binary!). The release version 1.2 is scheduled for Developer CD VII. Here are some rarely noticed features: If you have a folder "NetWork Idle Tools" in your system folder, any program which you have in this folder will be launched as your machine becomes idle. See the "Screen Saver" example. Any program in a folder "NetWork Startup Tools" in your system folder is launched when you start your system."

Information from:
David Kosiur -- D0591@AppleLink.Apple.COM
G. Sawitzki -- gs@statlab.uni-heidelberg.de


The SE/30 Colorized

The oldest Mac still in Apple's current product line is the venerable SE/30. When the SE/30 first came out, people quickly became fond of it because of its combination of IIcx power and SE size. It also gained a few converts later on in its lifetime when people who owned the SE decided to increase power by upgrading the SE to the SE/30, which is what we did last year. So why has the SE/30 been able to hang on while the IIcx and IIx have fallen by the wayside? Primarily, the SE/30 offers an attractive combination of small size, good speed, and acceptable expandability despite its lack of NuBus slots. The main problems facing the SE/30 these days are the small screen and the 24-bit ROMs that will not let you use System 7.0 to its fullest. With System 7.0, the 24-bit ROMs limit you to 13 MB of RAM (that's a maximum of 8 MB worth of DRAM SIMMs plus whatever virtual memory you need to have a total of 13 MB RAM - you probably wouldn't want to use a system configured to a total of 13 MB unless 8 MB of that RAM was from real memory). So if you install eight 4 MB SIMMs, you'll still only get 13 MB of usable RAM (that's one reason for petitioning Apple for new ROMs - see below). For the moment, I'll just address what can be done about the screen.

The most common expansion that an SE/30 will experience is the addition of an external monitor. The compact size of the SE case restricts the SE/30 to the 9" monitor, but the Processor Direct Slot (PDS) can hold a video card to drive an external monitor. The PDS has never been as popular as NuBus, so you won't find as many choices of cards for the PDS, though several have appeared over the years. As far as video cards go, the most popular 8-bit card appears to be the Micron Xceed card (the one we have), which runs about $350 mail order and supports 640 x 480 color monitors. Micron also has an 8-bit card which supports 1024 x 768 monitors. Another popular card is the RasterOps 264/SE30 card, which costs a bit more than the Micron card but provides 24-bit color. SuperMac also may have a ColorCard SE/30, which is also slightly more expensive than the Micron Xceed, but I haven't heard much about this card in quite some time, so it may no longer be in production. Finally, Nutmeg Systems has two SE/30 video cards as well ($400 for an 8-bit color card or $500 for a card to drive a full page display), though we have no specifics short of a brief ad in the MacConnection catalog. MacConnection also mentions several MegaGraphics card/large monitor combinations, but no one on the nets had said anything about these.

Once you have a video card, you need a monitor. The Apple 13" color monitor is always a good choice, though it tends to be more expensive than others. That's the one we bought because of the educational discount. Other popular monitors include a Magnavox 13" color monitor (about $530 from MacConnection), the Sony 1304 for a bit more than $600 from various places, and the Seiko CM1445C (about $600 from MacAvenue). Those three monitors all use the same Sony Trinitron guts that Apple puts in its 13" color monitor, and thus should be fairly similar in picture quality. Another popular monitor is the NEC MacSync, but its lower price (about $500 from Mac's Place) seems to be reflected in lower quality - people on the nets have been less pleased with the MacSync. Of course, a monitor is a subjective beast, so if it's at all possible, use the monitor before buying or at least make sure you can return it if you don't like it. Also keep in mind that installing a video card in an SE/30 is not a trivial job and you probably don't want to mess with it unless you're quite familiar with discharging monitors and connecting cables in irritatingly small places. It took me a while to install my Micron card, and while it wasn't hard, it was a pain.

It's relatively easy to add a larger color monitor, and the dual monitors are well worth the cost. I'm completely addicted to the dual monitor setup because it allows me to keep Remember?, Timeslips III, QuickMail, and ThoughtPattern open on the little monitor and use the large monitor for my primary work (i.e. writing TidBITS in Nisus :-)). You will notice that many programs are not smart about remembering their window positions or zooming to the correct monitor size, but these are minor drawbacks considering how much more productive you become when you have a lot of windows open at once.

Micron Technology -- 800/642-7661 -- 208/386-3800
Nutmeg Systems -- 202/966-3226
RasterOps Corp. -- 408/562-4200

Information from:
Pythaeus
Dieder -- UOG01162@vm.uoguelph.ca
Paul Jacoby -- pj@pnet51.orb.mn.org
David Hightower -- dth@shark.cis.ufl.edu
Puneet Pasrich -- pasrich@seas.ucla.edu
Pottie Karl -- kpottie@icarus.cs.kuleuven.ac.be


The Scientific Mac

Every now and then a scientist or engineer complains about how the Mac is lousy for scientific and engineering applications. That certainly was more true a few years back, before the Mac II and large color monitors, but we hope that the gap is narrowing. A recently formed group, MacSciTech (the Macintosh Scientific and Technical Users Association), will try to aid this trend, planning to "enhance the effective utilization of the Macintosh within the scientific and engineering communities." Nothing like a little engineering-speak to round out a meal of business-speak.

Apple and the Consortium for Laboratory and Industrial Applications of the Macintosh, Inc. announced MacSciTech's formation at the recent AppleTech '91 show. MacSciTech will try to merge the realms of the user group and the professional association. In its user group hat, MacSciTech will open up channels of communication on various electronic services, administrate public domain software archives on the Internet, and publish a quarterly newsletter. The professional association hat will focus more on official communications with Apple and will host an annual technical conference. Sounds like fun all around.

I'm neither an engineer nor a scientist, but I think that this group will do a great deal of good for the Mac in the scientific and engineering fields. My impression is that the Mac fares poorly in such fields in comparison to machines like Sun's workstations. Since people do a great deal of interesting work solely on high end computers, it's in the interests of all Macintosh users to cultivate high-end research as well as the low-end marketing that Apple has concentrated on recently. MacSciTech's Board of Directors sounds like a group that can help the Mac out, including people from academia, business, and government, including Cliff Stoll, who probably wants to return to being an astronomer already.

On to the details. For the rest of 1991, charter member dues will be $25 per year with the starving student rate being $15 per year. Hmm, that wasn't much in the way of details. If you want more of them, you can contact Shari Worthington at the addresses below.

MacSciTech -- 508/755-5242
cons.lab.mfg on AppleLink
SciTechMac on America Online
scitech@ra.nrl.navy.mil

Information from:
MacSciTech propaganda (complete with organizational chart)


Excel Upgrade Costs

Ah, it's spring, the season of the year when a company turns its thoughts to software upgrades. I was going to say "when young companies..." but since the company I have in mind is Microsoft, a relative geezer at 15 years old, it wasn't quite appropriate. Macintosh Excel 3.0 will be out very soon, and 2.2 owners have started receiving upgrade letters. The letter we saw gave the owner the chance to upgrade for a "truly exceptional price - only $129." And that's for the academic version - it might be different for the real one (I have heard numbers like $149 floating around, so perhaps that's the price for the normal-people version.) "Exceptional" is right! That's a lot of money for an upgrade! Actually the real price is $129 plus $5.50 for shipping and handling and sales tax where appropriate (I assume in Washington state, but I'm not sure). If you bought Excel after Pearl Harbor Day (Microsoft just said December 7th, for those of you not in the US) you luck out and get the upgrade for free. The deal is good through Halloween (OK, so they only put October 31st as the date - but it is Halloween). It would have been funnier if Microsoft had actually said Pearl Harbor Day and Halloween, but as it stands, all you can really laugh at is the "exceptional" price, and that's only funny if you don't have to pay it.

The upgrade price raised a ruckus on Usenet, where people started complaining quickly. The upgrade price for 2.2 was $99, so another $129 struck most people as steep. Many got Excel 2.2 at educational prices, which in many cases are lower than the upgrade fee - at least one person said he could buy another copy 2.2 at the campus bookstore for $105 and upgrade to 3.0 for free, saving money in the process. A number of people wondered about Claris's forthcoming spreadsheet, Resolve, which should be System 7.0-compliant, if not System 7.0-studly. Resolve uses the Wingz technology that Claris purchased from Informix a while back, so it might be pretty snazzy. Wingz has a HyperTalk-like language called HyperScript, and since Claris now controls HyperCard, I'd like to see HyperScript disappear in favor of HyperTalk along with spreadsheet-specific extensions to the language. Now that would be snazzy! If Claris was smart and sleazy, they would use a standard Microsoft ploy and announce Resolve now so lots of people would hold off upgrading to Excel 3.0. Microsoft does that all the time - announcing a product too early to gain a competitive advantage.

What especially galls about this upgrade price is that Microsoft is making a bundle on it - far more, in fact, than on a new package. New packages often must go through a national distributor and a dealer or mail order firm, so everyone gets a slice of the price, and new packages usually have more packaging and more manuals than upgrades, so they cost more to produce. One person on Usenet intelligently anticipated this and other high upgrade prices (want to bet on how high the upgrade price for Word 5 will be?), saying, "I just knew this would happen after their last upgrade so I made my Mac a "Microsoft-free zone" a year ago."

To be fair, Excel 3.0 does look like a nice program, and Microsoft has a history of getting it right on the third try. But such upgrade policies will not endear the company to anyone and will leave the market wide open for a touch of Borland-style marketing for Claris's Resolve when it comes out. I'd recommend complaining to Microsoft directly - they will notice if enough complaints come in. Heck, I'd complain even if you plan on upgrading.

Information from:
Kevin -- blissmer@expert.cc.purdue.edu
Rich Long -- long@mcntsh.enet.dec.com
Jeff Hexter -- jhex_ltd@uhura.cc.rochester.edu
Derek Fong -- thewho@elaine23.Stanford.EDU
Patrick Hoepfner -- hoepfner@heawk1.gsfc.nasa.gov
Rick McCormack -- Rick_McCormack@mindlink.bc.ca
Jeff Wiseman -- wiseman@tellabs.com


Open Letter To Apple

Editor's Note: Below is the final draft of the letter I will be sending to Apple and many of the Macintosh publications. If you support the letter as it stands and desire to be included as a signatory, please send me an email message stating that you support the letter and wish to be included as a signatory. Please include your full name and snail/email addresses - I want this to be as official as possible. If you do not wish to use your work address, fine by me - I don't want to get anyone in trouble.

Many thanks to all of you who have already sent email supporting the letter, and I wish to thank Jim Gaynor especially for doing most of the work. I am merely picking up where he was forced to leave off, and I hope I will be able to produce as fine a finished product as he would have.

Sincerely, Adam C. Engst, TidBITS Editor and pseudo-chair of the NewROMs group.

An Open Letter to Apple Computer, Inc.

With the advent of System 7.0, 32-bit Addressing, and the new low-cost Macintoshes, Apple Computer has shown that it remains committed to enhancing the capabilities of the Macintosh line of computers without abandoning its users. However, in that effort to advance technology, past technologies should not be abandoned haphazardly, nor should unfulfilled potentials be left unrealized.

Apple advertised and documented the Macintosh II, IIx, IIcx, and SE/30 as having the capability to address as much as 128 MB of memory, an amount that should be sufficient for most users years into the future. In addition, Apple had the foresight to manufacture the Macintosh IIx, IIcx, and SE/30 with their System ROMs on SIMMs. This feature, touted by Apple as a selling point, was to allow these machines to easily upgrade their System ROMs at such time as that became necessary. That time rapidly approaches.

Users discovered that the current System ROMs for these Macintoshes are not "32-bit Clean." Thus, rather than having 128 MB of memory space available as they believed, users of these Macintoshes are limited to 16 MB - even less after the addition of expansion cards. Businesses, educational institutions, and individuals have invested in these Macintoshes, and although 16 MB may be adequate for many users, many others already find that limit restrictive. As Apple continues to move towards full 32-bit Cleanliness in its software and hardware, more users will encounter this 16 MB barrier, and find their otherwise capable Macintoshes hamstrung by "dirty" ROMs.

Users and administrators have looked to Apple for an initiative, for some plan of upgrading the ROMs of these Macintoshes, but none has come forth. Apple designed the Macintosh II, IIx, IIcx, and SE/30 to be easily upgraded but has neither utilized the upgrade potential of these systems nor announced an intent to do so.

We, the users, owners, and administrators of these Macintosh computers, would like to see Apple make a public statement regarding its plans to make a ROM upgrade available. We would hope that this upgrade be made available within a reasonable time frame, and at a reasonable cost to businesses, educational institutions, and individuals alike. We understand that Apple may wish to implement a strict return policy on the old ROMs to prevent unauthorized Macintosh clones. We also understand that Apple may wish to add additional features to such an upgrade, and that those features may add to the time required. A quality product is worth the wait required for its production, as is shown by the eagerly-anticipated System 7.0. Still, we hope that Apple Computer will recognize the unfulfilled potential of those Macintoshes with "dirty" ROMs and provide them with the means to realize their full 32-bit potential.

We thank you for your commitment to the Macintosh User Community.


Reviews/29-Apr-91

References:


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