Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
Copyright 1991 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Comments: <email@example.com>
This is it, my last issue for a few weeks. Remember, send all TidBITS related mail to Mark H. Anbinder (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). My mail will be collected and forwarded eventually, but there's no telling what could go wrong. I hope to be back online as soon as possible.
Occasionally a client wants me to take a look at a strange program they've been given or had around forever. Often these programs come with minimal contact information, which leaves me to figure out what's happening. Although I enjoy that process, it can be nice to know how to reach the original company. In addition to the usual methods of ferreting out information, I've discovered a new one, the National Software Database. It's a long distance, 2400 bips call to a computer that has a huge database of commercial products. It probably isn't all inclusive, because I gather vendors have to pay $20 per year to be listed, but searching on the term "spreadsheet" turned up 77 responses of spreadsheet products for all sorts of computer systems, each with full contact information. If you want to give it a try, the number is 704/255-8259 (8 data bits, 1 stop bit, no parity, prefers VT100 emulation with auto line-feed) and the voice number (which you have to call to be listed, I assume) is 704/253-0270. Enjoy.
Mark H. Anbinder passes on more product news from Apple. Apparently it's almost impossible to purchase an Apple Scanner due to an incredible backlog. If you want one now, too bad, but if you can wait until fall, Apple will come out with a "new and innovative scanning product." If you have an order in, you can opt for the new scanner instead or just cancel your order. Mark also mentions that as of 15-Aug-91, Apple will discontinue the Macintosh Display Card 4*8 and will drop the list price of the Macintosh Display Card 8*24 to $699, which is only about $50 more than the old 4*8 card was. It sounds like Apple sees little point in producing two cards that do not have greatly different prices, especially since most people wanted the 8*24 anyway. All existing orders will be filled, however.
Jack Lawson writes,
Just thought you might be interested in another potential use for those old Mac CPU's! This text briefly describes the Block II controller which controls the operation of each engine on the space shuttle. Note the cost (!) and the brand of CPU!
Subject: New Main engine controller...
Shake Hands with Mister Controller: An Introduction to the BLOCK II Space Shuttle Main Engine Controller
The new "Block II" controllers (the old one is the Block I) sit on each engine and monitor and control each engine through ascent.
Block II controllers average cost $3 million in 1989 to 1994 dollars. All parts are "Space" class. It is based on the Motorola 68000 CPU, 4 per controller. The timing on the chips is so critical that each set is taken off of the same die.
Now if only I could get $3 million for 4 Mac Plus CPUs :-) Makes buying an Apple machine seem like a BARGAIN !! :-)"
Someone on Usenet asked if there was a way to print a screen shot in System 7. Jim Reekes of Apple replied, saying "Easy question. Type Shift-Cmd-3. Open the picture file just created at the root of your hard disk. Open it (it's a Teach Text file) and then choose Print from the menu. By the way, that FKEY plays a camera click sound when you invoke it and it's a recording of my camera." [I noticed that it took a picture that included both of my screens, and the color monitor came out in color. Way to improve the built-in utilities, Apple!]
Steve Holden comments on our Ambulatory Computing article, "In your July 15th issue you mentioned dial-up AppleTalk - over the 4th of July weekend I spent some time with the development team that is working on this. According to them it is up and running (with some bugs) but it is pretty neat. They said they thought it would be available with the new AppleShare that is due out in the Fall. Keep up the great work and don't have to much fun moving across the country. [Thanks, Steve, we'll try to avoid having too much fun - just what is too much fun, anyway?]
Mark H. Anbinder -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Lawson -- email@example.com
Jim Reekes -- REEKES@applelink.apple.com
Steve Holden -- firstname.lastname@example.org
There's been a lot of grumbling among my academic friends about how hard it is to protect a Macintosh in a public lab. Apparently the best solution so far is to use Suitcase II to load DAs into the Apple Menu and to make the entire System Folder invisible. What they would all like though, is the ability to boot the Mac remotely over an Ethernet network. A company called Mauswerks has a product that can do just that. BootToob, as it's called, replaces a ROM on an Apple or Asante Ethernet card with one that creates a RAM disk at startup, loads the boot image into that RAM disk over the network, disconnects from the network, and continues to boot. A number of Macs can share the same image file, which must be stored on a Mac running MacTCP on the network. Right now, BootToob retails for $139 for one Mac and one server, and $995 for ten Macs. It requires a Mac II-class machine with a minimum of 2 MB, but Mauswerks plans versions of the BootToob for the SE/30, the LC, the IIsi, and SCSI devices (I guess that means the Nodem - I haven't heard of any other SCSI-based Ethernet adapters). Of course, Apple is certainly working on this sort of thing too, but who knows how long it might take for them to get a product out the door.
Mauswerks -- 614/294-7300
MacWEEK -- 29-Jan-91, Vol. 5, #4, pg. 15
By now, I'm sure that you've all heard about QuickTime, Apple's multimedia extension to the Mac's system software. I personally have had trouble internalizing what QuickTime will mean to the normal Macintosh user. With an eye to correcting that, I jumped at a chance to talk to Joseph Ansanelli, QuickTime product manager at Apple. He sent me an overview of what QuickTime provides and answered a bunch of my questions and concerns about QuickTime. This article is based entirely on his overview and the talk we had.
Apple hopes to broaden the scope of the Macintosh through QuickTime. When the Mac first appeared, its use of integrated graphics set it apart from its character-based brethren. Although the Mac has always had decent sound capabilities, sound, animation, and video were all hacks that were limited to specialized programs. QuickTime will release these three methods of communication (this is probably the point where I should include a pithy quote from Marshall McLuhan, but I'll refrain this time) into the Macintosh world at large, integrating them tightly with Macintosh hardware and all Macintosh software. Why do you think Apple starting including a microphone on some new Mac models? Because Apple is building QuickTime into future versions of the system software and because QuickTime runs on all Macs that use the 68020 or later with 2 MB of RAM, it will become a common development point, much as cut, copy, and paste of PICTs is now. In addition, QuickTime is modular, so you can install newer and snazzier "components," as Apple calls them, at any time. Finally, Apple is making the QuickTime Movie file format open so it can migrate to other platforms.
Enough of the theory and on to the details! QuickTime has four main parts, the system software, the file formats, the Apple compressors, and the human interface. The system software part of QuickTime is composed of the Movie Toolbox, which aids in the creation, editing, and playback of movies (I'll get to the definition of a movie in a bit), the Image Compression Manager, which arbitrates between applications and the compression components, and the Component Manager, which acts as an intermediary between applications and external devices, such as digitizer cards or VCRs. Applications work with the Movie Toolbox so they can incorporate support for the movies. Apple claims that developers have been able to support movie playback in two to three days. The Image Compression Manager handles compression requests from applications and matches them with the most appropriate compression module installed in the system. It will also handle picky little details like clipping, scaling, crossing screens, and fast dithering (which lets you view a 24-bit movie in a lower resolution at the same speed). The Component Manager works slightly like the Image Compression Manager in that it mediates between applications and components (modules) that developers write to drive their hardware. Essentially, the Component Manager does for many devices what Apple's printing architecture did for printers. You have one driver for each printer, and all applications work through that driver. In contrast, DOS applications require a driver for each piece of hardware in each application, so both Word and WordPerfect have hundreds of printer drivers for the same printers, but you can't use Word's drivers in WordPerfect or vice versa. The Component Manager actually works with all external resources, which includes system extensions, so it can handle software as well as hardware.
QuickTime includes two new file formats, extensions to the PICT format and the Movie format (moov for those of you who pay attention to the file types - it can also be pronounced with a bad accent to get "moof" - wonder where that might have come from :-)). Apple extended the PICT format by adding support for compression using any compression scheme registered with the Component Manager and by adding preview support. The preview will consist of a 4-5K thumbnail image saved with the PICT. Archiving applications could use that image, and Apple plans to support it in the extended Standard File (SF) Dialog box when you are opening PICTs. The Movie format is much more ambitious. It is a container for multiple types of dynamic data, such as sound and video, which will be the first two tracks (types of information included in the Movie format) defined by Apple. QuickTime will handle synchronization of the tracks, and it stores the description of the data separate from the data itself, which (although I don't have a complete grasp on why yet) allows for multiple versions of the data without duplicating the content each time. Like the new PICT, the Movie format will include preview support, but in two forms, posters and previews. Posters (as you would expect) are still frames which represent the movie for printing, whereas previews (as you would also expect) are short clips that represent the whole when previewing in an SF Dialog box, for instance. One feature of QuickTime that no doubt helped attract IBM is its openness and extensibility. Apple encourages third parties to use the Movie format as a cross-platform medium of exchange. Apple also plans to extend the number of tracks in the Movie format past the original two. An obvious choice for a new track type is a MIDI track, but I suspect people will think of plenty more types in the coming years. To integrate the Movie format with the rest of the Mac, Apple has ensured that it will have full Clipboard and Scrapbook support, so people will be able to cut, copy, and paste movies to their hearts' content. Joe said that he expected 50 to 100 applications to support the Movie file format by the beginning of 1992, which indicates that developers are taking QuickTime seriously.
As far as the Apple Compressors go, Apple has three basic ones to start with, the Photo Compressor, the Animation Compressor, and the Video Compressor. The Photo Compressor is an implementation of the JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) standard and can compress images between 10 and 25 times with no visible image degradation. If you want an example of JPEG compression, check out the color image we sent to sumex-aim.stanford.edu along with a free JPEG decompressor (in the same file). The Animation Compressor can decompress and display animations on the lower-end Macs without speed degradation using both lossless and lossy modes of compression. The compression ratios vary widely, depending on what is included in the animation. Finally the Video Compressor can decompress video sequences from a hard disk or, more impressively, a CD-ROM in real time with no extra hardware. It too can compress files between five and 25 times. All of these compressors are optimized for speed as well, and from what I've heard, you don't really notice any additional processing going on while the file decompresses. One thing that worried me slightly at first was the role of the popular compression programs in all of this. Joe assured me that while it was certainly possible to write a DiskDoubler component for QuickTime, it would only work with QuickTime-compatible applications, and everyone would have to have that component. So while Salient or Aladdin could come up with a QuickTime compression component, it will be unlikely to hurt the rest of their market.
The last part of QuickTime is the Human Interface. Apple has defined two new interfaces to work with QuickTime. First, the SF Dialog will support preview of PICTs and movies, which will be handy, and second, Apple has a control mechanism for viewing movies. It includes gadgets that look much like the standard window gadgets, but are located at the bottom of the window. You can toggle the sound, play or stop the movie, and step forward or backward through the movie. In addition, the largest control is a slider bar much like the standard elevator bar, with which you can jump around within the movie and get a sense of your location in the movie. This sort of interface standardization is what has set Apple apart from other companies, and is what will continue to do so in the future unless the competition takes note.
Developers can get an APDA toolkit for QuickTime that includes the QuickTime Extension, picture and movie utilities, XCMDs for HyperCard, and sample code and drivers. The toolkit comes on a CD-ROM and costs whatever a normal toolkit from APDA does. If you as an end user want to check out QuickTime, Apple will have a QuickTime sampler floppy that will contain the QuickTime Extension, various pictures, movies, and conversion utilities, and some samples. The disk will be free and will be distributed through user groups, bulletin boards, and dealers.
One of the things I've been trying to think about since I talked to Joe is what sorts of applications lend themselves to working with QuickTime. The best candidates I've thought of (and the most obvious, certainly) are interactive help and training systems and dynamic Post-It-type notes (which some applications already have, but without the benefit of standardization). If you think back a few weeks to the article I did on videoconferencing, QuickTime should be able to do everything I said about animating a talking head and synchronizing a voice with the mouth movements, all in real time with full compression. I'd hope to see that sort of application come from a company like Farallon fairly quickly.
QuickTime's main competition will come from the MPC (Multimedia PC) group that Microsoft started but which is now an independent organization. MPC must approve a computer for it to carry the MPC label, indicating that it has certain hardware capabilities and peripherals. The low end of the MPC line is a 286 with VGA graphics. Also commonly included (if not required, I'm unsure about this) are a CD-ROM player and audio hardware. Microsoft plans to come up with multimedia extensions for Windows which will cover much of what Apple has done with QuickTime, although from the sounds of it, Microsoft's extensions for Windows aren't as comprehensive or as well thought out as QuickTime. In addition, because of the overhead with Windows sitting on top of DOS, even a fast MPC-approved PC won't be faster than cheaper Macs that have inherent QuickTime support. I've heard from someone who saw a 25 MHz 486 doing enhanced JPEG compression that the PC was only about as fast as a Mac LC doing the same compression under QuickTime. MPC-approved machines can be 286's, but most will probably be 386's, simply because the 286 is slow and more or less obsolete. From what I've heard, MPC merely raises the multimedia level of the standard PC to what the Mac had about three years ago. Also keep in mind that QuickTime will be free at first and then will be integrated into Apple's free system software and bundled hardware (such as the Mac's sound chip and microphone), unlike Windows and the standard PC.
QuickTime actually works now with all programs, thanks to a quick extension hack by Apple France that fools all applications into being QuickTime compatible. I gather it has some bugs, not surprisingly, but is otherwise quite useful. Interestingly enough, and I'm not sure of the form this takes, the application Apple apparently uses to demo QuickTime is a beta version of the next release of WordPerfect, so it sounds like major developers are jumping right into the QuickTime boat. Apple has shown QuickTime at the Interactive Multimedia Association and is pushing it as a cross-platform standard format for dynamic data. There's no reason the movie format can't be used by Macs, PCs, Suns, NeXTs, etc., and if nothing else, I think it is one of the first proposed comprehensive standards in this field. Interesting stuff, so keep your eyes on QuickTime when Apple finally ships it by the end of 1991. I'm certainly not one to jump on the Multimedia-Will-Save-The-Industry-Bandwagon, but I do think QuickTime will stimulate creative thought that hasn't been too prevalent recently.
Joe Ansanelli -- email@example.com
MacWEEK -- 21-May-91, Vol. 5, #20, pg. 6
MacWEEK -- 16-May-91, Vol. 5, #19, pg. 6
InfoWorld -- 10-Jun-91, Vol 13, #23, pg. 45
PC WEEK -- 10-Jun-91, Vol 8, #23, pg. 8
by Frances Blomeley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Title: West of Eden - The End of Innocence at Apple Computer
Author: Frank Rose
Publisher: Hutchinson Business Books, 1989
Have you ever used a Macintosh? If so, have you ever wondered how such a machine - one so radically different in design and functionality from anything which preceded it - came into existence?
In fact the Macintosh did have an ancestor. It was called the Alto and was developed at the Palo Alto Research Center in California, which was established as an experimental foray into the growing field of computers by the Xerox Corporation in the early 1970's.
At that time, the dominant ethos in computing was one of subservience to technology. Most computer interaction required the user to learn an arcane set of commands in order to communicate with the system, and to adapt one's thinking to the requirements of the software.
The Alto encapsulated ideas known collectively as the Dynabook, or 'dynamic book'. Most of the features of the Alto - which included a high-resolution bit-mapped screen, overlapping and movable windows, a point-and-click mouse, command icons, and WYSIWYG word-processing software - were simply on-screen representations of the way in which people naturally worked with pen and paper.
Such innovation is not cheap. By 1984, after 10 years, Xerox had spent 100 million dollars on research at Palo Alto without the emergence of any significant products. In that time, the original management had been replaced by a more conservative board which was less prepared to take the financial risks associated with lavish research projects; instead they decided to pursue an alternative path into the computing market place by investing in one of the local home computer manufacturers. This manufacturer was Apple Computer, and it was selling Apple personal computers at a rate which was increasing exponentially year by year.
The apocryphal story of the origin of Apple is now part of the folklore of computing. In 1976 two enthusiasts from an amateur hobbyist computer club, together with an indeterminate amount of catalytic input from other members of the club and from the new microprocessor technology, went into business together selling a computer assembled in the garage of one of their parents' houses.
The two founders of Apple combined two important ingredients of a successful production team. Steve Jobs had the vision, the energy, and the ability to sell ideas, while Steve Wozniak possessed superlative engineering skills and could translate Jobs' ideas into practice. By 1983 both were multi-millionaires.
Part of the deal in which Xerox bought 100,000 shares in Apple Computer was the agreement that Steve Jobs should be allowed to visit the Palo Alto Research Center. The technology which he witnessed on that visit, and the Alto in particular, immediately fired his imagination; from that moment onwards his prime concern was how to transform the highly expensive interpretation of first-class ideas into an affordable product which would be available to everyone. The ultimate result was the Apple Macintosh.
However, this is not a book about the Macintosh. That is just one of many fascinating peripheral sketches which embellish the central theme. Others include: a brief history of Silicon Valley; the origins and development of the IBM PC; a truly nightmarish account of an attempt to cure bugs in several interacting components of the Macintosh system software a week before its release; and an informative look into West Coast working practices, in which the "most productive" time of the day is considered to be between 5.00 and 7.00 a.m.
The main story line concerns life on Bandley Drive - the home of Apple Computer - from 1982 to 1986. It relates events from the time when Steve Jobs brought in a new president (John Sculley of PepsiCo) to give Apple the professional leadership being demanded by Wall Street, up until the unwilling departure of Jobs from Apple three years later.
It describes the volatile atmosphere which pervaded Apple; an atmosphere, largely attributable to the presence of Steve Jobs, the effects of which ranged from inspirational to harrowing. The transition from the former to the latter is as important a part of the story of Apple as the material events which took place.
Written in a style which effectively conveys the pace of life at Apple, the book is based upon prodigious research and personal interviews. In a postscript, the author states that he was "struck by the number of people who told me that working at Apple had been the high point of their lives - not their careers, but their lives". After reading this book, that isn't difficult to believe.
Frances Blomeley -- email@example.com
It seems that I can never catch up with everything I want to write about, and since we're moving in a week or so, I just thought I'd mention the items that will be lost in the shuffle. By the time we get to Seattle and are set up, these may no longer even be interesting, so here goes. Maybe this will also provide me with a section to write about this stuff without having to worry if I can't make a full article out of it.
I'd wanted to say something about Word 5.0 for the Mac, if only to expand on the previous stuff I've written about when it should be coming out. It now sounds like it will appear sometime this fall with a host of cleaned up features, but little that will set it apart from the pack. My favorite new feature is that Command-A will finally be set back to Select All instead of Again. Luckily for those of us who are die-hard non-Word users, Paragon should release Nisus XS in August, and that will include better columns (don't know about tables, but I hope so) and full System 7-studliness. Nisus XS will also implement a modular architecture that will allow users to add new modules easily to enhance Nisus even further (if such a thing could be possible :-)).
I'd planned on writing more about Apple and IBM at some point, but it just got lost in the shuffle. I also went back and looked at my original article, and I was basically on target. I can't say much about the deal that hadn't already been said. Suffice it to say that the only thing that has changed much is that IBM has purchased Metaphor Systems, the company with which IBM had formed Patriot Partners. It looks likely that there will be some integration of the Apple/IBM company and Patriot Partners, if only on the technology level. Tune in next week for As the Apple Turns.
I'm not a Unix hacker by trade or temperament, but I like interconnectivity, which Unix has down cold. Now Tenon Intersystems has a new version of Unix for the Mac, called MachTen. Unlike A/UX, MachTen just runs on the Mac normally without requiring partitioning or special drivers or anything like that. At some point I'd like to take a look at it, but for the moment, you'll have to ferret out more information on your own.
The FTC doesn't comment on current investigations, so little news has come from the Microsoft investigation. The FTC has said now that it is investigating Intel for anti-competitive measures. There's no telling what will happen with that case, although you may notice that Intel is absent from both ACE and the Apple/IBM agreement. The ACE specs call for their OS to run on Intel hardware as well, and IBM is unlikely to drop the PS/2 line, but it's still an interesting game to watch. Basically, it looks like no one likes Intel and the way they work, but at this point there's nothing anyone can do about it.
I completely ignored the announcement of 1-2-3/Mac from Lotus, not because I think it's unimpressive (a number of people have said that it's actually quite good) but because I couldn't think of much to say about it. I'll wait until it comes out and then see if any of you spreadsheet users out there want to review it.
Apple Events are a strange and mysterious subject right now, and Jon Pugh has promised to write an article about them when he has more to say (he does something with them at Apple, so if anyone will know, he will). The one interesting application (short of QuicKeys 2.1, of course) that works with Apple Events is something called Control Tower, which, as far as I can tell, translates similar events between applications. Control Tower comes from Simple Software (though I expect it's quite complex) and should be a useful method of integrating and automating programs via Apple Events when the commercial release ships.
The article I've had on tap for the longest time is one about XLink from Cel Software. It's a simple idea that might, or might not, be incredibly useful to you. When you install XLink, you can suddenly use many HyperCard XCMDs and XFCNs in certain applications and macro programs. Supported products include QuicKeys 2, Tempo II Plus, Excel, 4D, Wingz, and Ragtime 3. Again, I haven't been able to decide if it will be useful to the end user, but it very well might be to a developer. Call them and see.
Possibly the most useful article I've read in MacUser for some time came in the August issue. Owen Linzmayer wrote about how to get online support, and while the article is good, the table listing electronic addresses for many Macintosh developers is wonderful. If you live in the electronic world, I highly recommend getting this issue, if only for the table. If you know of email addresses for companies that aren't listed, send them to me (in a bit, when I'm connected again) and I'll mention them in an upcoming issue.
A videotex provider called Baseline has started a unit that provides videotex services to magazines and the like. That's not interesting. What is interesting is that Baseline's first client is the porn magazine Penthouse, which has a videotex service called Petline. Petline provides chat services, shopping (adult products included) and lets users download pictures and illustrations from the magazine. Remember what I said a while ago about how VCRs became popular when X-rated movies started to come out on videotape? I wonder if the same rule will apply to this sort of online service? Only time will tell.
And no, I don't have the number for Petline, sorry. :-)
Tenon Intersystems -- 805/963-6983
Simple Software -- 415/381-2650
Cel Software -- 800/463-9100 -- 403/429-1903
Ben Schaffe was kind enough to forward this message to me, posted for Naoto Horii on GEnie by Bruce Tomlin of SoundMaster fame. Ben also mentioned that MaxAppleZoom 1.4 was out, and when I looked on America Online, I saw version 1.43. The version that was posted to sumex-aim.stanford.edu yesterday carried the version number 1.42, but I unfortunately do not know the differences.
I very much want everyone to read and think about Naoto's letter below since it outlines some of the many problems that a real-life, normal-person shareware author must face. Like other talented, responsible shareware authors (such as Dave Warker of Remember?, Bill Goodman of Compact Pro, and Bruce Tomlin of SoundMaster) Naoto managed an elegant hack without the financial and marketing support of a commercial enterprise. That's impressive (and believe me, I get a sense of what a shareware author goes through because of my experiences with TidBITS). I'm not saying that all shareware is great, and in fact, much of it is worthless. But intelligently implemented programs that fill a niche in your electronic environment (be it reminders or file compression or funny sounds or a larger screen area) deserve your support. Perhaps the most depressing part of this whole incident was the number of people who admitted to not having (yet) paid the shareware fee for MaxAppleZoom. It's not something to be proud of, folks. If you use it and like it, pay for it. If you use it but don't pay for it, don't brag about it and certainly don't complain if it stops working for any reason.
If nothing else, think of shareware authors as a defense against the horde of corporate mergers that is quickly engulfing the market. At the rate the big companies are going there will only be a few companies soon, and you think Microsoft Holdings, Inc. or Apple, Conglomerated will be bothered to come up with something like MaxAppleZoom in a few years? No. So please, support our shareware wizards and also, be understanding if they can't compete with a toll-free support number and weekly updates. Also, please accept my apologies for this editorial rant - I guess it's my prerogative, but I try avoid overdoing it. Maybe I just need a couple of weeks off. Yeah, that's the ticket. Take it, Mark...
From Naoto Horii, Brussels, July 15, 1991.
I'd like to present my apologies to all the users who were inconvenienced by the expiration date feature of MaxAppleZoom. I've heard there's been a lot of harsh one-sided criticism about this on the net, and I'd also like to try to explain my position. It wasn't planned that users would stumble like this upon this feature: When I wrote v1.3 - in mid-1990 - I expected I'd be able to release a new version in time to avoid any service disruptions. I wanted the next version of MAZ to be System 7-compatible, and I - like many ? - was led to believe by Apple's announcements that System 7 would be available in late 1990 or early 1991 at the latest.
I was only able to get hold of a copy of System 7 in late May, and by early June a nearly final version of MAZ v1.4 was completed. This was several months behind my initial schedule. With only a few days left before the expiration date of v1.3, the program was obviously to be sent as quickly as possible to all the interested parties, but I couldn't do it for the following two reasons:
The motherboard of the Mac I'm using chose this rather inopportune moment to die, making disk duplication rather difficult. The dealer tells me that the motherboard has to be replaced. It looks like component-level repair is not yet available in Belgium. This is a quite costly repair and I'm afraid the expense cannot be reasonably justified for a home computer.
While I was developing MAZ, I had to postpone a lot of important work, and the backlog was becoming critical. Although I knew I'd be in deep trouble if I didn't ship the program in time, there was simply no choice. I feel a morally compelling sense of duty towards my registered users, but the actual amount of money involved is rather modest and I definitely cannot mix up my priorities. We shareware authors tend to understate the true source of the financial backing of our product, and thus users tend to notice it only when there's competition for time between our normal and shareware-related activities.
But there's a more important perception gap between the author and the users than the merely financial aspect. That is one about the quantity of time available. Let's not forget that to be able to spend some of our time toying with computers to write and maintain shareware, we authors must spend a far larger amount of time doing more important, "real" work. I received really nice and heartwarming letters from my registered users, and I very much would have liked to respond to every one of them, but I had a dilemma: given the limited time I have available for shareware-related activities, do I choose to spend it writing letters, or do I rather try to show the registered users my appreciation by concentrating my efforts to enhance MAZ and make sure it remains compatible with Apple's System upgrades ? I chose the latter option, because v1.4 needed far more resources than I had foreseen, and usage time of some borrowed equipment had to be optimized to keep the development costs down.
I usually cashed rather quickly the payments I received, but v1.4 development was proving to be too difficult and time-consuming. System 7 still wasn't shipping and my other activities put heavy demands on my time. Once I had doubts that I'd be able to create a System 7-compatible MAZ, I could no longer cash the payments I received. The burden MAZ put on me made attractive the prospect of killing it and refunding the money of the previous registered users. Time and money were very tight, and this explains my silence during the past "few" months.
I think the expiration date caused a scandal because of the following reasons:
I wasn't able to develop and send in time an updated version of the program to the users who paid their shareware fee.
There was no warning in the documentation, and MAZ's death troubled a lot of people. Maybe there should have been a warning, but I first wanted to see how many spontaneous payments I'd receive.
I noticed, reading the messages on the net, that some people implicitly tend to assign a very high value to their own time, and they couldn't care less about the amount of time authors spend to develop programs. I am a normal person, and I don't see why the time I spent to maintain MAZ for my registered users - and "some" other people are benefiting too - should have an insignificant value. In v1.4 I've kept most of my promises I made in the documentation of the previous versions: System 7 compatibility, a clean, noise-less monochrome mode, support for a 24-bit video card and multiple-video card configurations... Granted, the program didn't ship in time and users had to switch back to a 640*480 screen. But - as mentioned above - I think some people haven't the faintest idea about what it takes to take a conceptual idea like MAZ and implement it in a reliable and transparent product, perhaps because the software is rather easy to use. MAZ development and maintenance took several hundred hours, and I'm getting tired of the discipline I had to impose myself since releasing MAZ to scrape together that much time. There are also a lot of other things I should have done or wanted to do during that period, not to mention the adverse effects it had on my social life. And if at my first failure the majority of the users gang up to treat me as a scoundrel, I'm definitely not getting a very good deal.
I still think that an expiration date - if it's managed correctly - is an acceptable way to suggest to users to re-evaluate the usefulness of the program. This scheme is often used in software for large computers and causes minimal inconvenience compared to other protection methods. Let's note that:
There is now a warning in the documentation.
The expiration date forces me to create and release updated versions to keep the program alive and all users benefit from it. As Apple probably won't release System 8 before a couple of years, I'll be able to better control the development schedule.
If I'm definitely fed up with MAZ, a commercial publisher could take charge of the project and expect some return from an unsaturated market. The firm will need it. As even equipment repair was difficult to finance, it won't probably be easy, even for a commercial operation, to purchase equipment and pay for its maintenance, and pay decent salaries to a person responsible for distribution/production/user support and an engineer who will maintain and develop the program. And I wonder why an engineer would want to waste his time doing such a boring job. Advertisements and packaging costs won't probably be negligible, either. The author would like to get part of the revenue, too (why not?) As the market isn't probably that large for a program like MAZ, any business plans a small publisher might draw up has thus to be pretty good and credible.
Some people disliked the fact that I'm using a P.O. Box as my mailing address. A P.O. Box is a more secure way to receive mail, especially during the periods I'm not in Belgium. Also, I've heard that several locations in Belgium were burgled after their addresses had been published in a local Mac journal and I'm not willing to run that risk.
Fare thee well.
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