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TidBITS#90/28-Oct-91

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Copyright 1991 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
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MailBITS/28-Oct-91

Hoo boy, it's correction time again. You can tell I'm still slightly out of touch because I made the excellent suggestion that Apple bundle AppleTalk Remote Access with the PowerBooks and a modem. What I didn't know when I wrote those fateful words was that Apple was already bundling AppleTalk Remote Access with the PowerBooks and that the 170 even has a modem built in. Oh well, the world moves fast and sometimes it's hard to keep up. Thanks to Mark H. Anbinder, Charlie Mingo and Norton Chia (who calls it "Ring Ring AppleTalk", as you really have to phone it up. :-)) for setting me straight.

Terry Morse of Salient writes, "Just saw your TidBITS-088 on CompuServe. Good article, very fair and informative. Just one correction: the article said that DD updates the modification date. It doesn't. Creation and modification dates are preserved through a compression/expansion. The type and creator are changed, however." [Thanks for the compliment, Terry. I did know that the modification dates didn't change but was confused because files often appeared "changed" when backing up with Retrospect. Sorry about that.]

Mark H. Anbinder, our estimable contributing editor, writes, "You commented in TidBITS recently that you hoped Apple and Adobe would allow unrestricted electronic distribution of ATM. I would not expect that to take place, because they may need to keep track of the number of copies being distributed. Now, they may be able to do it through normal electronic distribution channels [i.e. CompuServe and AOL], but I would not expect to see it up for anonymous FTP or on comp.binaries.mac." [I just spoke with an Adobe representative, and he said quite specifically that the ATM for $7.50 was only available through Adobe right now. As far as he knew there were no plans for expanding the ATM distribution to Apple dealers, software vendors or the various networks. He had no information about when ATM might be bundled with Macs, or even if Apple and Adobe have plans to do so. My recommendation, then, is that if you want ATM to call and order it. $7.50 is basically materials, shipping, and handling, so it's hard to complain about the price, and it might be a while before it is freely available from Apple. One additional note. As Bob Snyder mentioned in email, if you are a network administrator and want to buy multiple copies of ATM for all your machines, you can only order one copy per call. Sorry about that.]

Adobe -- 800/521-1976, ext. 4400

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder -- mha@memory.ithaca.ny.us
Charlie Mingo -- Charlie.Mingo@p0.f716.n109.z1.fidonet.org
Norton Chia -- norton@extro.ucc.su.OZ.AU
Bob Snyder -- RSNYDER@atl.dnet.ge.com


Downline 1.1.1 Review

Downline 1.1.1
Eric Bloodworth
Morpheus Systems
P.O. Box 10991
Blacksburg, VA 24062-0991
rri!eric@vtserf.cc.vt.edu or eric%rri@vtserf.cc.vt.edu
72607.1472@compuserve.com
Rating: 9 penguins

Every now and then I see a freeware or shareware application that impresses me. Downline from Eric Bloodworth of Morpheus Systems is the latest application to fit into this category and is truly excellent. I highly recommend it to everyone on the Internet and to people who must deal with Binhex 4.0 and StuffIt 1.5.1 files on a regular basis.

Like many successful programs, Downline has a simple purpose, to create Binhex and StuffIt 1.5.1 files and to deBinhex and unStuff files. Lots of programs do this. However, with Downline, Eric has paid close attention to the human interface and come up with one that you can completely ignore after taking care of some initial settings. These settings appear in a large dialog box that opens the first time you run Downline and whenever you choose Set Options... from the File menu. (You can also make them appear automatically by holding down a modifier key when you launch Downline.) The primary settings include Input Folder, Output Folder, and what actions to perform. Files placed in the Input Folder will have the specified actions performed on them and the results will be placed in the Output Folder. Simple, no? The actions, as I said above, include unStuffing a file, deBinhexing a file, unPacking a file (it even knows about PackIt archives), or Stuffing and Binhexing files.

There are plenty of other minor options, such as whether or not Downline should put the results in a folder (rather than strew all the files from the archive around in the Output Folder), whether or not Downline should delete files after it has deBinhexed and unStuffed, how often Downline should scan its Input Folder, if Downline should keep track of all the email headers to Binhex files along with a log of all the actions it performs, and what to do with unprocessable files such as Compact Pro archives. You can easily set and forget these options, at which point you can get down to using Downline.

Like many people, I snag a software in bunches from the nets. I use a mail server at LISTSERV@RICEVM1.BITNET for many files, so they come into uAccess (the excellent UUCP software for the Mac from ICE Engineering) as normal mail files. It is trivial to save the mail file into my Input Folder, where it joins all the others I've received since I last ran Downline (I also usually save files from AOL and a local BBS into the Input Folder). Then I choose a Downline alias from the Apple menu and Downline obliges by defunking all the files that it can and placing them in the Output Folder, which in my case is the desktop. (Otherwise I tend to forget about the files.) My settings have Downline store the StuffIt files in a Downline Used Files folder so I can upload files to the local BBS, and Downline keeps a single file of all the Binhex headers so I don't have to retype the file descriptions when I upload those files. The original Binhex files are a waste of space, though, so Downline throws them away for me. Downline works nicely in the background and optionally displays a small window with a progress bar so I can see how it is doing as I continue to read other mail.

Since I primarily want to defunk files, I have my default settings set for accomplishing that task. However, I could just as easily have Downline create StuffIt and Binhex files for me by changing the settings and putting the original files in the Input Folder. You can also create multiple settings files and launch Downline by double-clicking on the settings file, at which point Downline will use those settings. As it is though, I don't often want to create StuffIt and Binhex files other than TidBITS issues. Eric provided for my usage by making Downline System 7-savvy with drag-and-drop abilities. If you drag a normal file onto the Downline icon or an alias, Downline will run and pop up a dialog box asking what you want to do to the file, Stuff it, Binhex it, or both. If the file was originally Stuffed or Binhexed, Downline is bright enough to ask if you want unStuff or deBinhex instead. From now on, I'll be wrapping up TidBITS issues with Downline - it's simply the easiest option.

Downline isn't perfect, but Eric has shown that he's committed to working on it. The main enhancements I'd like to see are support of more compression formats including StuffIt Deluxe, DiskDoubler, and Compact Pro. The first two do provide hooks so that programmers can access the StuffIt Engine and the DiskDoubler algorithms, provided that the person actually has StuffIt Deluxe or DiskDoubler installed. Compact Pro isn't a completely closed format either, since Super Boomerang includes a Super Boomerang Extractor that allows it to look inside Compact Pro archives. There's also work going on to create a more efficient compression format (to replace StuffIt 1.5.1 format) that will exist completely in the public domain. I'd like to see Downline support that when it comes out too. Eric has promised to work on all this stuff and on multiple-part Binhex files, which Downline can't currently defunk correctly.

Now for the best part. Downline is free. However, Eric has a system which allows him to make some money from people who can afford to pay for the latest and greatest. If you want the latest version of Downline as soon as it finishes beta testing, Eric asks that you register for $25. If you're poor or don't feel that you use Downline enough to warrant paying for it, no problem, but you'll have to wait until the public release, which might be quite some time later. I like this method of marketing free software, since it allows the user to decide the worth of the software and its upgrades and provides incentive to register without compromising the idea of distributing free software. Eric also promises that the free versions of Downline will never have annoying shareware reminders or copy protection. In fact, you have to read the help in the About Downline... dialog to even figure out that you can register and where to send the money. Downline is available on AOL, CompuServe, sumex-aim.stanford.edu, and numerous other places. Check around, you won't regret it.

Information from:
Downline documentation
Eric Bloodworth -- rri!eric@vtserf.cc.vt.edu


Quadra Quirks

The Quadras and PowerBooks are out and I actually saw some of them recently at the dBUG Hardware SIG, thanks to a local dealer. By now most people probably have a decent idea of what each machine offers, so I won't talk about that any more. Instead, I want to discuss what's weird about each machine, what you will want to know before you buy one, and that sort of thing. For this information I'm indebted to Cary Lu, the author of The Apple Macintosh Book from Microsoft Press. Based on the invaluable information he provided at the meeting, the latest edition of the book should be well worth buying and reading.

Let's start with video. The Quadras have internal video that supports all Apple monitors, VGA monitors (using the same adapter as used by the Mac LC, and Super VGA (SVGA) monitors. In addition, there is support for a one-page landscape display (the current Apple one-page display is portrait), a category currently filled only by an E-Machines 16" monitor with ROMs dated after July of 1991. Cheap upgrades are probably available from E-Machines. Unfortunately, the VGA and SVGA emulation is done strangely and only works at 60 Hz for VGA and 56 Hz for SVGA. So you can hook up a cheap VGA monitor, but it will flicker, since flicker-free monitors generally run at over 60 Hz. The Quadra 700 comes with 512K of Video RAM (VRAM) and the Quadra 900 with 1 MB of VRAM. Both can be upgraded to 2 MB of VRAM for greater speed and 24-bit color for larger monitors. The VRAM will be expensive, but the since the Quadras have their own VRAM, they won't slow down when using internal video (unlike the IIci which does slow down to varying degrees when using the onboard video since the onboard video takes a share of the RAM). Graphics will be even faster since some of the graphics acceleration from the Apple 8*24 GC card is built in, although that card can accelerate all NuBus video cards, which the Quadra internal video can't do. The Quadras also include support for NTSC and PAL, although I don't know the details. For the PowerBooks, I've already mentioned the SCSI box that will provide external video support from Radius, and other companies will do this too. However, the internal RAM slot may provide a faster connection for an external monitor and several companies have already announced monitors that connect in this way.

RAM in the new Macintoshes is equally interesting. Both machines ship with 4 MB of RAM, but Apple only advertises the Quadras as being able to expand to total of 20 MB in the 700 and 64 MB in the 900. The Quadra 700 has 4 MB of 1 MB SIMMs soldered on to one bank, with one bank of four slots open, whereas the 900 comes with four banks, one initially full of 1 MB SIMMs, but with nothing soldered on. Apple's claims that these Macs can only go up to 20 MB and 64 MB (using 4 MB SIMMs), may turn out to be conservative since true 16 MB SIMMs have been informally tested and work fine. I say true 16 MB SIMMs because composite 16 MB SIMMs that are made up of four 4 MB SIMMs may not fit into the Quadra case, although at least one company, Newer Technology, claims that they have composite SIMMs that will fit. No point in bothering with 2 MB SIMMs particularly since they are expensive, but if they fit inside, they should work. Cary Lu said that 64 MB SIMMs were still in the research phase, so there's no need to worry about them for some time yet. In addition, I gather that there is a 1 gigabyte limit built into the MacOS, and that will become an issue eventually as well. RAM for the PowerBooks will be expensive because only a few companies make it so far, and they will require the more expensive pseudo-static chips. Upgrades will be available in 2 MB, 4 MB, or 6 MB sizes from numerous vendors, and each PowerBook can only have a maximum of 8 MB. PowerBook RAM looks like it will cost between $100 and $150 per megabyte.

The Quadras don't come with the IIfx's strange black terminator (the Quadras use normal ones) or the direct memory access (DMA) to SCSI that Apple used in the IIfx (which, by the way, is no longer in production, although there are plenty in stock), but the Quadras do have some interesting options with SCSI disks. The 900 has a double SCSI bus which allows some interesting possibilities with using several disks in an array (creating one massive volume from several physical disk drives - MicroNet Technology has already announced one of these). The double SCSI chain will significantly increase the SCSI speed, but is not wide SCSI and is still limited to 7 devices in all. There is no external floppy port, so it's a bit more difficult to replace the internal floppy with a hard drive than it is on other models. The PowerBooks have two different types of hard drives - a 17 mm high drive in the 100 and 19 mm high drives in the 140 and 170. You're unlikely to easily increase the internal storage of a 100 particularly since the drive is soldered in. All the PowerBooks can accept external SCSI drives using a new and completely non-standard connector which you will have to buy from Apple (when they become available sometime in the future along with all the other accessories that you can't get now) until third parties start developing them. The PowerBook 100 can be hooked to a normal Mac via the SCSI cable (to be honest, a different SCSI cable) at which point it will look like an external hard disk to the Mac. The 140 and 170 do not include this feature but Apple is likely to add it later on since they recognize that it is a good idea (apparently there just wasn't time to fit it in). The general consensus was that the PowerBook 100 would be internally terminated since all internal hard drives are, which could cause some SCSI termination troubles if you have a strange SCSI chain. Good luck on that.

Expansion slots are the usual mess, and the Quadras include yet another type of processor-direct slot, although using it will prevent you from using one of the NuBus slots since they physically conflict. I really wish Apple would standardize the PDS slots by including a timing sensor that could figure out the speed of the processor and adjust the card accordingly, since I gather that timing is the main reason for incompatibility between the different PDS formats. The version of NuBus in the Quadras can check the timing involved, so most old NuBus cards will work in the new Quadra NuBus. However, keep in mind that the timing on the old cards will slow down the newer, faster cards, so you may not want to mix and match. The Quadra NuBus runs much faster since it has its own subsystem and doesn't require the CPU's attention. The figures I heard were 5 MB (don't know the unit of time here) for the IIci versus 8 MB for the Quadras. In addition, the Quadra NuBus sports a 37 MB burst mode between cards, which would be especially useful for graphic accelerators. I said that you can use old cards in the new NuBus, but the Quadra 900 has a larger case so companies might start building slightly larger NuBus cards for the 900 that wouldn't fit into other Macs. I'm not sure if newer cards will work in the old NuBus, and I suspect it will vary from card to card. The final feature from the Quadra is that they can support up to 14 NuBus slots using an expansion chassis such as the Expanse NB8 from Second Wave. Remember that the number of NuBus cards in operation does affect the amount of memory available, but if you can afford 14 NuBus cards you can probably afford lots of RAM.

Speaking of the Quadra case size, I've seen some experimental boards that require that you remove the top so there is room for the cards to spill out all over the place. Do that on a Quadra and you'll toast the motherboard, literally. The 68040 is hot, very hot, and Apple says that you are likely to destroy the motherboard if you run the Quadra without the case for more than 20 minutes. Testing that must have been fun! Apple solves the heat problem with carefully designed airflow through the case and with heat sink fins that sit on top of the 68040 and are easily broken off. So if you muck around in your case, be very careful of those fins since your warranty won't cover them if you break them. The corollary to the 68040 heat problem is that it will be a while before a 68040 laptop comes out, at least for use anywhere warm. It might be kind of nice to have in Minnesota - heated keyboard and all. The PowerBooks have a strange physical quirk too. If you service the PowerBooks in any way, do not test the machine until you have fully closed the case. If you test it with the case open, you could blow a fuse that is soldered onto the logic board, at which point you have to replace the logic board because the fuse is not a serviceable part at this time. Nasty! In addition, do not open or close the case when the main battery or backup batteries are in place. So to repeat myself, do not turn the PowerBook on until you have completely assembled it and closed the case. Thanks to BAKA Technical Support in Ithaca, NY for this last bit of extremely useful information.

Availability is mediocre at best. If you want a Quadra 900 or a PowerBook 100 with the external floppy, you're in luck. Anything else and you will have to wait a few more weeks, although at least one source expected everything to be readily available within 90 days with the Quadra 700 being one of the slowest to market.

Information from:
Pythaeus
Apple propaganda
Cary Lu
dBUG Hardware SIG members
BAKA Technical Support -- mha@baka.ithaca.ny.us


Claris Goes Windows

By now, if you've been paying attention (and there will be a quiz), you know all about the Apple/IBM deal and the two new companies, Taligent (the operating system spin-off) and Kaleida (the multimedia spin-off). We've just heard about an interesting side deal that can't help but be related to the larger deals made by Apple and IBM. A few years ago IBM started the IBM Desktop Software Unit (IDS) to take over all of IBM's software offerings for PCs and license other programs to create a industry-leading suite of PC programs. To put it bluntly, IDS failed. IBM is now trying to figure out what to do with IDS, and although we aren't sure of its fate (and we don't care all that much either), Claris has just acquired rights to market and distribute Hollywood, one of the best of IDS's applications.

If you're puzzled because you haven't heard of Hollywood, that's because it is a Windows desktop presentation application that shipped in the spring of 1991. Yup, that means that Claris is now officially a Windows developer with a shipping product and all. It's much like adopting a child, I suspect. I recently saw Hollywood at a Windows seminar and was mildly impressed - it looked like IDS had done a decent job with it considering that it was from IBM and it ran under Windows. I'm also not generally into presentation programs, primarily because I seldom do presentations. It turned out though, that IDS had merely licensed Hollywood from the original developer, Publishing Solutions, Inc. (PSI), and PSI is, in press release-speak, "committed to continuing to evolve the product and will work collaboratively with Claris to do so." Gee, I wish I could write like that and sneak two redundancies into one sentence. :-)

So the upshot (that's a strange American term which means "basic idea" for those you who are confused by my language) of all of this is that Claris, and therefore Apple, is now in the Windows market. Claris claims that they are working with PSI to create versions of Hollywood for OS/2 and the Mac, an announcement which isn't surprising given the deal with IBM even though the shipping date of OS/2 has slipped again. A Mac version of Hollywood will actually fit in with the rest of Claris's products pretty well, although I believe MacDraw Pro has something of a presentation mode as well. Now all that remains for Claris is to ship Windows versions of MacDraw Pro, MacWrite Pro, and FileMaker Pro before those markets close up. I'm sure Mac chauvinists will be offended by the move, but on a practical level, working with the Windows market makes sense. If you can sell a lot of Windows software in addition to Mac software, people are more likely to use MacDraw on both platforms. Of course, the significant amount of money that Windows software could bring in has probably occurred to Apple/Claris executives as well.

Information from:
Claris/IDS propaganda


Little Mac Book Fiasco

I've never promised to be completely accurate (we're all human), and occasionally I have to decide whether to use a story one week or to put it off for a week to gather more information. The story on the confusion between the two versions of The Little Mac Book, one from Peachpit, one from Que, illustrates well why this can be a hard decision to make. I had heard a fair amount about the issue via email and in the Info-Mac digest, and Peachpit was quite helpful over the phone. The person at Que, however, knew nothing about the issue. I decided to go with the story rather than wait, since it was obviously of some importance, at least to Peachpit and to Robin Williams, author of Peachpit's Little Mac Book.

I've since received email from several people about the problem and have talked to Que to get their side of the story (when you call, they now know about the problem since they've received a lot of irate calls). First, a little history. Way back when (about two years ago or so), Que published another book by Neil Salkind, called The Big Mac Book. We haven't read it carefully, but upon thumbing through it in a book shop about a year ago, it looked like one of those monster-sized books that tells you everything you might want to know about the world of the Macintosh, much like The Macintosh Bible. Que and/or Neil Salkind thought it would be a good idea to publish an abridged version of the book and quite naturally decided to call it The Little Mac Book. Que scheduled this book to come out quite some time ago, well over a year ago, in fact. If Que's Little Mac Book had come out on time, Que claims, it would have beaten Peachpit's book to market. Here's where everything started to fall apart. For one reason or another (Chris at Que said that they were waiting for a certain computer program or something to that effect), Que's Little Mac Book kept getting pushed back, time after time. Meanwhile, Peachpit released Robin Williams's Little Mac Book.

The way the identities of these books dance around is all very Shakespearian, especially since Robin Williams originally self-published her book as "Macintosh Basics: An informal guide to using the Mac." I presume that publishing companies regularly check Books in Print (available at your friendly local library) to make sure they aren't duplicating book titles. However, when Peachpit chose the name for its Little Mac Book, Que's book wasn't out yet, and presumably, when Que had checked titles on the original schedule, Peachpit's book wasn't out yet. So it all seems like a massive mishap at this point and in the end, no one wins. Robin Williams loses because her book is likely to get less recognition in stores since Peachpit is much smaller than Que, and Que loses because the mistake has caused them to receive a great deal of negative press.

I'm still not completely happy with this explanation. Even though Chris explained that Que often ran into the problem on the other side (apparently there are plenty of books that mimic Que's titles), I can't believe that Que just didn't know about Peachpit's Little Mac Book for over a year. If they didn't know, which is possible if a manager left and the new person wasn't as up on the computer book industry, etc., I would hope Que would make some kind of a statement to the effect, or to possibly even change the name of their book (even though I realize that would be hard to do at this point). It seems more likely now that Que is just hoping that the furor will pass, and to be cynical, that Que's Little Mac Book will be confused with Peachpit's. If Que did know about Peachpit's book in advance, then I think it is negligent that they didn't change the title before printing, something which they had plenty of time to do, at least in retrospect.

In the end though, I have to agree with Dan Becker, who, along with Carla Rose, sent mail informing me about Que's Big Mac Book. Dan's closing quote was "The current situation is just sad." and I have to concur. My apologies to the people at Que if I was unfairly harsh, and my condolences to Robin Williams and Peachpit, because I think they still stand to be hurt by the presence of Que's Little Mac Book.

Information from:
Chris at Que
Dan Becker -- DBECKER@MACALSTR.EDU
Carla Rose -- JC Rose on AOL


Reviews/28-Oct-91

References:


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