Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue

TidBITS Logo



Copyright 1991 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <> Comments: <>


This is important! The refund for MODE32 from Apple ends on 31-Dec-91, so if you haven't sent in for your $100 refund, you should send your original disk to Apple at the following address. If you wait too long, too bad on you. You could return the disk, get your refund and buy a share or two of Apple stock. That way you can continue supporting Apple without passing up your $100.

Apple Computer, Inc.
Customer Assistance Center, MS-73P
20525 Mariani Avenue
Cupertino, CA 95014

Mark Nagata commented on our recent SFDIaloger comparison (in TidBITS-093). He mentioned that some utilities, at least the CEToolbox/DiskTop combination and Suitcase II (for DA launching) remember the last folder used and put you in that folder no matter where the application or DA launched may reside. That's true, and it's an extremely helpful feature of these utilities. We didn't include them in the review, because the way they modify the SFDialog is completely transparent to the user (and because we hadn't thought of them). The only other comment we received came from Edward Reid, who mentioned that some of Super Boomerang's controls must be accessed from the Control Panel, whereas others are available in the SFDialog. That split can be a little confusing at times, and we forgot about it because once you set the Control Panel, you're unlikely to go back there all that often.

Povl H. Pedersen writes: "You can make your copy of Nisus read MacWrite II files (I can even read DOS WordPerfect 5.0 files and a lot more). If you keep the option key pressed while selecting Open... Nisus will use the Claris XTND technology if it is installed. And the good news is that there is a XTND Developer package available at that includes XTND and filters for MacWrite and MacWrite II. It's in the /dts/mac/tools/xtnd directory, but it's big, about 520K. The XTND file must be in a folder named 'Claris' inside the System Folder, and all translators goes into the 'Claris Translators' folder inside the 'Claris' folder." [This trick works in 3.06; I can't comment on previous versions. I think more translators are available from third parties like DataViz.]

In the "Oops" department this week, we've heard that Microsoft sent out a letter about upgrading Word to a bunch of customers. This letter listed an 800 number that people could call, but the number listed goes to a consultant who's a tad displeased to be receiving a lot of calls from Word users, especially since he pays for every call. It sounds like a Freudian slip for a company that has eschewed toll-free support for so long.

Information from:
Mark Nagata --
Povl H. Pedersen --
Edward Reid --

TidBITS Schedule

As many of you who have been reading TidBITS for some time know, we've been working on some heavy-duty vaporware - the promised new format. I hate making the same excuses over and over again, so I've decided to set the record straight.

TidBITS-100, which will be the first issue of 1992, will be issued in the new structure enhanced text format (called "setext," but if anyone has a better suggestion let us know). If everything works out as I hope, that will be a special issue covering the new format, and it will include an extremely cool application designed by myself and Doug Davenport of SNAP Technologies in Ithaca, NY (Doug is doing 99% of the programming - I just did some of the ResEdit stuff). That browser will take over for the current brain-damaged stack and will provide far more power in terms of searching and selecting articles of interest. The TidBITS issues will be much smaller, needless to say, and will be easier to break up. In a truly ideal world, we would also include a HyperCard utility for converting your current TidBITS Archive into a text format that the browser will import, along with a utility for creating your own setexts and a new HyperCard stack for those people who wish to continue using HyperCard. In the issue would be specs on the new format (which will be completely and totally open) so anyone can write an application or macro on any computer platform to import and export files in the setext format.

You may have noticed a certain amount of waffling in the above grandiose promises. That's because like the text in TidBITS each week, all of this comes to you courtesy of several volunteers, one of whom is currently in the throes of massive hardware failures. These programs and utilities have been star-crossed from the very start, it seems, running afoul of two or three complete and utter hard drive crashes (one without a backup of the last few days of important work), a dead Mac that has yet to be replaced, and a nasty illness. But despite all of this bad luck, the new format has been far too long in the making, so TidBITS-100 will be a text file if I have to hand-code it myself. I hope to have some complex Nisus macros do the job for me instead, but if not, too bad on me.

The practical upshot of this message is that you can depend on TidBITS-100 appearing in text format, but I may not be able to ship the associated utilities and programs along with it. They will follow as soon as possible if they miss the initial ship date. However, since our the setext format is completely human-readable while still retaining internal structure and typography, unlike Microsoft's RTF format, which is almost completely unreadable, you will be able to read TidBITS in whatever program you desire. I suspect many people will scan through the issue in a newsreader or in their email program on whatever platform they use to connect to the nets. For those of you who wish to keep the issues for later reference (about half, if the numbers from last year's survey are any indication), I'd recommend downloading the file and reading it in Nisus or TeachText or any other program that can open a TEXT file. If you wish to create your own database, try either Eastgate Systems's excellent hypertext editor, Storyspace, or the textbase ThoughtPattern from Bananafish Software. Both should be able to import and split up the issues into their component articles. I'm sure most normal database programs could do the job too.

I'm sure that many of you will wish to create your own special programs, stacks, and shells to read and store TidBITS as you specifically want. I've received tons of suggestions and numerous enhanced versions of the current stack over the last year and a half, and I doubt that tide will slow down. This time, however, I'd like to ask that you do not send me a copy of your program until you've seen and included support for the setext format (which will take care of special character substitution, word wrapping, typographical styles, multiple user-defined fonts, etc.). At that point, I'd love to see anything you've got, no matter what platform it runs on, be it Macintosh, DOS PC, Windows PC, Unix, Emacs, NeXT, or whatnot. As a matter of fact, I hope to see lots of different readers popping up as the boundless creativity and energy of the network community comes into play. If space and bandwidth permit, I will also make all of the good readers available on the fileserver for anyone to request.

Speaking of the fileserver at, thanks to all of you who've sent in listings of local bulletin boards that carry TidBITS. The file is now up on the server with the Subject: line keyword "bbs" (without the quotes, of course). So far we've got six boards listed, and I hear about more every day. That file will continue to change as I add listings, so I've created a new file, called "news" that notes any changes on the fileserver (along with the effective date) and includes the latest news about TidBITS in general. Do remember that those of you on CompuServe can send mail to the fileserver using the following address format:


and people on AppleLink can try this address format:


Those of you on America Online, GEnie, Delphi, and stand-alone bulletin board systems will have to lobby with the administrators of those services for a gateway to the Internet. I doubt Prodigy would even want TidBITS anywhere near it.

The more astute among you will have noticed that this is TidBITS-096, and I've promised that TidBITS-100 will be the first issue in 1992. That means that I will be taking a couple of weeks off here and there in what is left of 1991 to make the numbers work out. For starters, there will be no issue for 02-Dec-91 since it closely follows the US holiday of Thanksgiving and I have some serious cooking to do. 09-Dec-91 and 16-Dec-91 will probably come out as usual, and I'm working on a special issue that covers tips, tricks, trivia, and heavy duty power user hacks relating to System 7. After those two weekly issues and that special issue, I'll be taking some time off for Christmas and to rest up. Oh, if you're counting, we would have to hit 104 issues by the first week in April of 1992 to average one issue per week over the last two years. At the rate we're going now, we should make that number in mid-January, well ahead of that schedule.

As always, thank you for your continued enthusiasm and moral support.

Cheers... Adam C. Engst, TidBITS Editor

School Software

by Kieran O'Connor

I'm a high school teacher in Cortland, N.Y. One of the things I use my Mac for is to help me do my grading, and to help me prepare things for class. Two programs my school has bought upon my recommendation are Grade Machine, by Misty City Software, and CrossMaster, by Focus Development Corp. I'll talk about each of them briefly.

Grade Machine by
Misty City Software
10921 129th Place
Kirkland, WA 98033

Price: 79.95, coupon price 69.95 (you can also get this price by mentioning an ad in Teacher Magazine). Department and school licenses are available and are based on staff size.

I've used three grade managing programs: Apple's freebie which comes bundled with "Educator's HyperCard," Teacher's Rollbook from Current Class Productions, and Misty City's Grade Machine. I have found that Grade Machine has the most versatility and produces the best reports.

One thing that I looked for in a grading program was the ability to separate my grades into different categories, tests, quizzes, and homework, for instance, and then have the program calculate grades based on a weight that I give to each category. Grade Machine does this. It also allows me to give a weight to any assignment within a category, so that I can count any assignment at a higher weight than another. Teacher's Rollbook 2.2 and Educator's HyperCard do not do this, perhaps because these programs are not written by teachers.

You put each class into its own file. Then when you want to print out reports, you choose a "style" for that particular report. The "styles" are essentially a report template - they do not alter the class file in any way but only manipulate the data for printing. For example, I have three styles: bulletin board style, individual style and report card style. The bulletin board style prints a report with all grades for all assignments. It prints sideways, and only includes ID numbers, no names. I post this in my class each Monday. The individual style prints a report for the student to look at with his/her parents. It lists all assignments and the associated grade, and also includes category and overall grade. The report card style is for my use. It prints category grades for all the kids, and also prints a class average and final grade for each student.

Grade Machine will also print out attendance charts with the students names and a blank grid listing the days of the week for about 8 weeks. It can be used to keep track of attendance. Attendance is not kept with the class file, but is done separately on paper. I have used a program called Teacher's Rollbook which includes an attendance feature. However I find this to be some useless since I don't, nor do many other teachers, have a computer at my desk. This attendance sheet could also be used to manually record grades for later entry into the Mac. It provides a nice grid with the kids names and small boxes for each student.

I find Grade Machine to be very helpful. I can print reports for any student or parent who asks for one. The styles allow me to keep a "setup" for each type of report I like to print, so I don't have to constantly change this every time I use it. This program will work for college professors, as well as high school teachers. You specify the grading scale to use, whether it be letter (A,B,C,D,F), grade point (3.0, 4.0, etc.) or just out of 100 like most high schools do.

Misty City's customer service is excellent. I called them on Easter expecting to have to leave a message. The guy who wrote the program answered and basted his turkey as he spoke with me about a question I had. Our school bought a department license for $130, and there are school licenses available too. Misty City also has IBM and Apple II versions of the program if you are at a mixed platform site as is the case at many schools.

I give it 7.5 penguins. I think the program is easy to use and fairly well arranged. It does take a little digging to figure out how to get at some of the more "sexy" features. It will give a lot of information if you want it: class averages, standard deviations, graphs of just about anything and more info than you might even need.

The second program I am reviewing is CrossMaster, by Focus Development.

Focus Development
903 SW 43rd St. #202
Fargo, N.D. 58103

Price: $79.00

This program will do two things: allow you to write crossword puzzles, and allow you to solve them on the Mac. I generally use them for the former and not the latter.

I use all my crossword puzzles for the kids I teach. I have eighth graders and they eat them up! I take questions from material I've covered and then put them into a crossword puzzle. About thirty questions will take the kids 40 minute to do. I often make puzzles for test review.

To create a crossword puzzle, you enter clues and answers into CrossMaster's editor. After entering all the words you tell the program to generate the puzzle, a task which takes about 3 seconds. You can also have the program read a word list from any word processor, as long as it was saved as a text file.

A puzzle can be anywhere from five to thirty rows, and five to thirty columns. The program allows you set many things such as the location of the puzzle on the printed page, the number of clue columns, the font for clues, the shading of the puzzle, the name of the title and many other items.

If you are the sort that just likes to solve the puzzles right away, you can solve puzzles on the screen, without having to print out a hard copy. The program will optionally beep if you put in the wrong word. I tend not to use this because I prepare puzzles for class and I don't have a Mac for each student! :-)

I've found one big drawback to this program. Some of the fonts are set to Geneva, especially the title fonts. I use a Hewlett-Packard DeskWriter, and since Geneva is not one of the resident fonts, it doesn't print out well. [Though TrueType might help here. -Adam] Overall I find it easy to use and easy to customize your puzzles so that they look good.

There is a page layout feature which allows you to set a bunch of things. You can set the positioning of the puzzle grid on the page - top, bottom, center, top-left, top-right - etc. You can also tell the program how many rows of clues you want. I usually play with a bunch of combinations of clue columns to try to get the puzzle on one page so I don't have to duplicate extra pages for the kids. If you have too many clues, it will put them on a second page.

I give it 7.5 penguins. I've used CrossWord Magic, a competing product, a few times and I would rate CrossMaster higher for two reasons. The most important reason is that you can do a lot of the layout features with CrossMaster that you can't do with Crossword Magic. You also can't set the puzzle grid size in Crossword Magic as you can with CrossMaster. This is important because it allows you to make really nice puzzles where a lot of the answers intersect. Crossword Magic sets the size and sometimes the puzzles come out one answer on the left, and one answer on the right, instead of a nice compact puzzle.

On a final note, the Grade Machine developer will accept purchase orders from school districts, while the CrossMaster developer will not.

Information from:
Kieran O'Connor -- oconnor@snycorva.bitnet

SCSI Plugging

The indefatigable Murph Sewall passed on these bits of information about connecting SCSI devices when the power is on (don't do it!).

In response to my question about the risk of connecting or disconnecting a SCSI device without bothering to shut down, one person says they've done it from time to time and had a fuse blow once, possibly as a consequence. Another person said they disconnected an externally-terminated Ethernet SCSI device and had an immediate loss of hard drive response until shutting down (which took five minutes) and restarting. Four people were pretty sure it's a bad idea without really knowing why.

I did get one pretty good explanation which has convinced me to stop switching ADB devices around on live Macs as well. I asked Doug Larrick if I could pass what he told me along, and he said I could as long as everyone understands: "I speak not for my employer. All I have said here is from my own personal experience and knowledge of electrical and computer engineering (hey, that is what my degree is in :-) ); it is not the "official word" on anything."

Herewith, the "unofficial word" from Doug Larrick:

RS-232 [although of course, the Mac uses RS-422] has spoiled so many people it's amazing. That standard was designed specifically so that you could hook all the wires together at both ends and not hurt anything, with the consequence that you can connect and disconnect those cables at will with all the equipment powered on.

SCSI and the ADB are different beasts, however. Damage can occur when you make and break the connections. What typically happens is that the pins make contact at different times, and electricity flows the wrong way in some circuits on one end or the other, blowing them out. The worst-case scenario is that the reference power lines get connected last, so all the receivers get fried.

[Editor's note: If I remember correctly, frying the ADB, which some have done and others can't believe is possible, results in having to replace the motherboard unless you have a local wizard who can do component-level repair. I personally have plugged and unplugged ADB devices with the Mac on, but I don't generally recommend the practice. -Adam]

Now granted, there's some leeway here (it's heat that does the damage, and it takes a while for the heat to build up to the damage point), and I've been successful in occasionally transferring ADB devices around, but I wouldn't try it with SCSI - too many pins to try to connect all at once, too much potential for expensive damage. I did manage to fry a Sun keyboard by unplugging it and plugging it back in.

Dave Platt adds, "If you accidentally short the TERMPWR line to ground, when connecting or disconnecting a live SCSI cable, you will blow a fuse in each device which is providing terminator power. If this happens, external terminators will no longer function."

Information from:
Doug Larrick --
Dave Platt --



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