Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
Check out the hottest hardware and software from Macworld Boston, ShareVision's $1500 video-conferencing system and Gryphon's $149 image morphing program, Morph. Eric Schlegel shares more information on WorldScript, and we look at what's coming to the PowerBook line this fall, along with a quick peek at the best PowerBook gadgets from Macworld and the second part of Mark Anbinder's piece on System 7.1 technologies.
Copyright 1992 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mark H. Anbinder passes on this tidbit. Apparently Claris has released a maintenance upgrade to MacWrite II to fix a bug that caused the program to crash when spell-checking a document under 32-bit addressing while running on systems with 16 MB of RAM or more during a full moon. The release, version 1.1v3 includes several physical changes. It comes with only two original disks, at least in part because Claris removed several of the XTND translators. MacWrite II now includes translators only for MacPaint, PICT, MacWrite 5.0, Microsoft Word 4.0, WordPerfect PC 4.2, and RTF. If you want others, you can order them for $10 from Claris Customer Relations. In addition, Claris combined several of the smaller manuals into a single User's Guide. I presume you can get the new release directly from Claris (and hopefully for free) if you have run into this bug. Otherwise don't bother.
Claris -- 800/3-CLARIS -- 408/987-7000
408/987-7440 (fax) -- email@example.com
Mark H. Anbinder -- firstname.lastname@example.org
I've been remiss in not reporting this information more promptly, but caution has its uses. Apple introduced the PowerBook 145 at Macworld as expected, and equally as expected, it sports two features over the old 140 - a 25 MHz 68030 and a lower list price, both of which should endear it to users now that Apple has it slotted to become the low-end PowerBook. Look for greatly reduced prices on the PowerBook 100s at dealers since Apple dropped it from the official price lists. The PowerBook 100 has no surfeit of power, but the sales success at Price Club shows that people do have interest in such a PowerBook, but only at a sub-$1000 price. Personally I'd like to see the 100 stick around at prices well under $1000 and with the clear recognition that it trades muscle for price. A $700 PowerBook 100 would sell well, although I wonder if Apple might want to open that price bracket for the upcoming Newton devices.
Snazzy PowerBooks -- In any case, on October 19th the new PowerBooks will either look like the current PowerBooks or will be part of a docking system, as requested by those using the PowerBook as a primary machine. The additions to the standard line will include the PowerBook 160 and 180, both of which will support up to 14 MB of RAM, have LCD screens that can display 16 shades of grey (backlit supertwist for the 160 and active matrix for the 180), and debut a video-out port that can do 8-bit color on a 13" screen (160) or a 16" screen (180). Both will connect to desktop Macs as SCSI hard disks, as could the 100. Otherwise, the 160 will share specs with the 145, and the 180 will feature the same features as the to-be-discontinued 170, though with the addition of a 33 MHz 68030.
I find the new PowerBook Duo design more intriguing, because the base machine will weigh about four pounds, support up to 24 MB of RAM, have a 9" 640 x 480 backlit supertwist LCD screen, and use either a 33 MHz (the 230) or 25 MHz 68030 (the 210). Apple will have two types of docks, the Duo Dock and the Duo MiniDock, available separately depending on your most common usage. For use on the desktop, Apple will have the Duo Dock, which will include two NuBus slots, an extra hard drive, a floppy drive, an 8-bit video-out port for use with monitors up to 16", and the usual ports. Those using the PowerBook Duo primarily on the road will prefer the one pound Duo MiniDock, which will provide only the standard ports and the same video-out capabilities. We don't know how Apple will distribute the PowerBook Duos in terms of price and bundles with the two docks, so stay tuned.
The Duos feature an interesting security feature that may or may not be of use to you. Both docks can lock the PowerBook to the dock, which makes it easy to use a third party security kit from Kensington, Security Concepts, or the like to secure the combination to your desk. The drawback I see is that I doubt you will be able to use a locking device with the PowerBook while on the road because it would interfere with the floppy-drive-like mechanism that the dock uses to suck the PowerBook Duo in and lock it down. One final new feature on the 210 and 230 - Apple recessed the trackball area, which should make it even easier to use. I'm drooling already, but do keep in mind the cardinal rule of computers: If you need the computer today, buy it today because today's model will be cheaper and faster in six months no matter what.
I'm still trying to figure out Apple's new strategy with the IIvi and IIvx and the entire Performa line, so I'll try to talk about that next week after I've had some peace and quiet to think.
MacWEEK -- 10-Aug-92, Vol. 6, #29, pg. 1
One of the coolest demos at Macworld didn't appear on the floor, but was shown at Apple's System Software Showcase at the Boston Computer Museum. ShareVision Technology showed an unnamed video-conferencing system for the rest of us, one which we'll call ShareVision as well for simplicity's sake. ShareVision consists primarily of a pair of NuBus cards, one containing the guts of a v.32bis modem, and the other doing compression, which is necessary for video-conferencing. ShareVision sets itself apart from the competition in two ways. First, it runs over normal phone lines, unlike a competing (and much less impressive) video-conferencing system from Northern Telecom. Second, it will cost about $1500 for a complete system consisting of the two boards, video camera, and software.
I played with ShareVision briefly and talked to a video engineer in California while watching him on my screen and modifying an Excel spreadsheet with him. Not only does ShareVision use v.32bis modems over normal phone lines, but the phone line used for the demo supposedly had bad line noise, which dropped the effective speed from 14,400 bps to 9,600 bps. The two small pictures (I could see myself as well the guy I was talking to) shook and reminded me of a mediocre QuickTime movie, and the audio quality sounded like computer-synthesized speech when one of us moved on screen a lot, but let's face it, simultaneous color video, audio, and data transfer over normal phone lines for $1500 qualifies as way cool.
The data transfer capabilities especially intrigued me because they're done right, via Apple events, rather than through tiddly little pseudo-application modules like some other groupware programs use. So instead of using some dumb draw program that makes the original MacDraw look powerful, you could in theory use something like Canvas, although I don't know if Canvas supports the required events. The demonstration application of choice was Excel 4.0, one of the most fully-wired programs available. The engineer in California and I could both open and work on the same file, changing data and watching charts redraw. Impressive! We have no fully Apple-event aware word processors as yet, although I, of course, have high hopes for Nisus XS. ShareVision also sports a shared collaboration area, but I can't remember what few tools it offered.
From the sound of it, ShareVision Technology has done the hardware right as well. Numerous technologies go into a product like ShareVision, all of which have other uses which ShareVision will provide. The v.32bis modem will double as a standard data modem and will include group 3 fax capabilities. The video camera will allow you to capture motion video and still images, and the microphone will help you digitize sound. ShareVision will use a special microphone from Norris Communications called the Ear Phone which combines a speaker and microphone into a tiny unit that fits in your ear. More on that in a future issue. I feel it is important to utilize all this technology in multiple ways, as ShareVision proposes, because doing so will significantly reduce the real-world cost of the system.
ShareVision impressed me equally as much because of the price and the hardware requirements. $1500 will get you a video-conferencing system when it ships, supposedly sometime this fall. Until now, video-conferencing has been too expensive for use except by wealthy businesses. With ShareVision, small businesses and some individuals could avoid expensive and unpleasant travel. Considering travel costs, a ShareVision setup ($3000 total because you obviously need two) could easily pay for itself within a few months, assuming of course that the replaced travel could get by without the undeniable handshake value of meeting someone in person. Multiple offices in the same city might find more use for ShareVision than more widely separated offices because of free phone calls and the shared work environment that would obviate the need for lots of 20 minute drives in traffic. Just think of the use in telecommuting!
If ShareVision ships this fall at $1500 as promised and works even as well as I saw in Boston, I suspect that it will sell slowly for a short while until it catches on, and then sell like hotcakes. Perhaps we will soon all have ShareVision numbers on our business cards along with fax numbers.
ShareVision -- 408/428-0330 -- 408/428-9871 (fax)
Norris Communications -- 619/679-1504 -- 619/486-3471 (fax)
The response from almost everyone when I asked what they found to be cool at the show was one word - Morph. In many ways, Morph, from Gryphon Software, is similar to ShareVision because it provides a sophisticated capability, image morphing in this case, at an incredibly low price.
Most people probably don't know what morphing is, but many of you have seen it in "Terminator II" when the newer model of the Terminator changed from the silvery humanoid form to mimic a police officer or whatnot. Basically, you take two images, and morph one into the other. Some of the demos that Gryphon showed at Macworld included a politically-ironic clip of Bush morphing into Bill Clinton and then into Ross Perot, along with a clip that showed a cat yawning and gradually morphing into a tiger roaring.
Murph Sewall said on the Info-Mac list that previously such special effects were done with something like a $15,000 Silicon Graphics workstation and a $3000 piece of specialized software. Of course, to achieve the quality necessary for movies or even broadcast video, you would probably still need that kind of power, but for more standard uses, Morph will do just fine for $149. Gryphon's show special of $89 definitely took the cake as far as most popular program, and every time I stopped by, the line of people waiting to plunk down their plastic money clogged the cramped Macworld aisle!
Without damping the obvious and thoroughly amazing way-cool value of Morph, it took me a bit to think of some relatively practical uses for the program. Keep in mind that because Morph must create lots of intermediate scenes between two pictures, I suspect it seriously hogs processor power and disk space, particularly when you're working with large color images. That said, the best real-world use I could think of falls in the presentation category - before and after pictures. Many people commonly use such pictures to demonstrate how well a project went, and what could be snazzier than a QuickTime movie of the shabby old house morphing into the trim new house. Some friends back in Ithaca would love to see that instead of the simple side-by-side photographs they use now. I hate to throw any water on Morph until I've had a chance to play with it personally, and I hope to do so in the future. Until then, suffice it to say that Morph stole the show in Boston.
Gryphon Software -- 619/454-6836 -- 619/454-5329 (fax)
Murph Sewall -- SEWALL@UCONNVM.UCONN.EDU
by Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor
[continued from TidBITS-137/10-Aug-92]
OCE -- One of the most-discussed technologies in the works is Apple's Open Collaboration Environment, or OCE. Apple intends this engine, which has also been known as AppleMail, to provide developers with a core set of routines for Mac-to-Mac and user-to-user communications. Rather than competing with existing LAN-based mail vendors, as has been suggested, Apple is enabling these vendors to concentrate on the differentiating aspects of their products (such as features and frills) and leave the transport mechanism to Apple. This parallels Apple's introduction of the Communications Toolbox (CTB), which allowed developers to skip the drudgery of developing communications software and concentrate on expanding the envelope.
OCE offers a suite of services that include personal mailbox management, message and file transport, directory services, addressing, and digital signatures. As a result, electronic mail packages such as QuickMail, and even application software such as Microsoft Excel or Aladdin's StuffIt Deluxe, can take advantage of centralized services that allow users to exchange files and messages.
OCE includes a variety of interface extensions as well. Each user has a mailbox, and can set up desktop icons that point to other users' mailboxes. Because OCE integrates a wide variety of transport mechanisms, a user need have only one mailbox regardless of the number of communications services he or she uses. For example, an average Mac communications addict might have Internet, AppleLink, CompuServe, and QuickMail messages all available within a single mailbox.
For that same email junkie, OCE provides centralized directory services that permit user searches across a variety of mail systems and addressing schemes. Once a user has been found, his or her addressing information can be stored locally as a "business card" that could contain useful info such as telephone number, fax number, and spouse's favorite color.
Security is of increasing concern, and while there is still little agreement industry-wide on the best approach, Apple provides a digital signature mechanism within OCE. Essentially, users who want to ensure that no tampering occurs can digitally "sign" a message or file. When the recipient opens the message with the password used by the sender, the software can confirm that the message has not been modified. This is different from encryption, which prevents access, in that it only indicates that nothing has been changed along the way by someone without the proper password.
AppleScript -- Put simply, AppleScript is Apple's "programming language for the rest of us." Any action that a user can perform can also be scripted, whether it's a menu selection, a program launch, or a simple mouse click. What's more, AppleScript offers a "watch-me" feature, much like that in MicroPhone II, that creates a script for the user by noting his or her actions. Combined with Apple events, Apple's inter-application communication technology, AppleScript should allow users unprecedented control over automating their computers.
Many applications offer scripting in one form or another, including HyperCard, existing versions of StuffIt Deluxe, and Dantz's premiere backup utility, Retrospect. What's new here is that Apple has provided a centralized mechanism that should allow users to script many of their tasks with a single language, as well as permit collaboration among programs for complex tasks.
Third Parties -- Several companies were on hand, putting Apple's forthcoming System Software technologies to good use, and here are some of the ones that stood out.
Aladdin seemed to have things well in hand for the System Software Revolution Showcase. Their flagship product, StuffIt Deluxe, will offer OCE messaging and file exchange, as well as a full implementation of AppleScript. While StuffIt has offered scripting for a long time, this upcoming version will permit far more interaction with other applications. Aladdin's demonstrations showed that an AppleScript-aware StuffIt will interact fluidly with the Finder, among other programs. StuffIt Deluxe 3.0, which shipped just before the show, is fully compatible with AppleScript's recording mode, so you could turn on recording and then have AppleScript create a script for you based on your actions in StuffIt. Very impressive! The OCE implementation is as seamless as you could hope, with a pop-up addressing pane at the top of each StuffIt archive's window. It's out of the way if you're not going to use it (and presumably not there at all if you don't use OCE) but it's ready to go if you want to send the archive to someone else.
CE Software showed not only an OCE-aware version of QuickMail, an obvious use of the technology, but also an AppleScript-capable QuicKeys. This popular macro program, which has allowed users to string together events for a long time, will now be even more versatile when it comes to manipulating events and working with other applications.
StarNine Technologies' Directory Services product, which has already been shipping to provide centralized directory services for users of more than one email product, will be enhanced to include OCE directory support. For now, it's impressive enough that StarNine has managed to create a directory server that shows both QuickMail and Microsoft Mail users.
Among the more noticeable Macworld products were a number of goodies that will only interest the 300,000-odd people who have splurged on a PowerBook. Let's face, the little beasties are extremely cool, incredibly useful, and cute as the dickens (not that I suspect Charles Dickens was particularly cute). Perhaps the most telling piece of evidence in favor of the PowerBooks being here to stay was a recent PC WEEK article comparing various laptops at PC Expo. A bunch of corporate buyers used, compared, and rated all these laptops, and surprise, the PowerBook 170 easily outdistanced all the PC-clone machines. Of course these corporate buyers didn't like this conclusion because they can't standardize on the 170 since it doesn't run DOS in native mode, but I thought that was just desserts for Macintosh corporate buyers having to put up with DOS on the only decent laptops in the past.
SolarPOWER -- Microtech International's solar panel definitely rated coolest among the PowerBook accessories. It will list for $189 and simply attaches on top of the screen, facing up toward the sun. It plugs into the power port and also the microphone port, the power port for obvious reasons and the microphone port to provide feedback on the best position. You cannot really charge your battery with the solar panel, and Microtech primarily claims that it extends battery life, but frankly, it looks durable, is easy to use, requires little care and no feeding, and is relatively easy to carry since it's the same approximate form factor as the PowerBook and weighs only a few pounds. It definitely falls into the yuppie toy category while at the same time providing a useful service, although it won't run a cellular phone or make espresso. Actually SolarPOWER provides two useful services, because if you are working in bright sunlight, it doubles as a shade for the screen so that it doesn't wash out and become hard to read.
I may sound a bit flip, but I truly think SolarPOWER qualifies as a great idea. Apparently the United Nations has sponsored a few scattered projects to develop solar panels for powering computers, primarily for workers in Africa, where they reportedly have plenty of sun. Needless to say, the UN finds Microtech's solar panel interesting because it will be mass produced and inexpensive, not to mention useful for areas with minimal or flaky power and lots of sun. Heck, it would even serve quite well in supposedly-rainy Seattle, where we're supposedly having the worst drought in 40 years.
Microtech International -- 800/626-4276 -- 203/468-6223
203/467-1856 (fax) -- email@example.com
PowerBook pads -- I can't say a lot about these pads because I only tried them briefly. Silicon Sports will soon release a two-pad set of palm pads for the PowerBooks. These pads fit inside the PowerBook when you close it, and cushion the heel of your hand when you rest it on the PowerBook's hand rests. I suspect they will also absorb the small amount of perspiration that can accumulate if you leave your hands on the hard PowerBook surface. Overall, that implies to me that these pads, which of course come in all the bright Silicon Sports colors for the fashion-conscious PowerBook user, will make using the PowerBooks just a little more comfortable. The only drawback I see comes if you want to remove them since they attach with a sticky adhesive. Call Silicon Sports for shipping date and pricing information on the pads.
Silicon Sports -- 800/243-2972 -- 415/327-7900
Bigger Batteries -- A small company called Battery Technology Inc. (BTI) showed an improved battery for the PowerBook 140 and 170 that provides between 25% and 66% more battery life. To BTI's credit, they make the 25% claim, whereas a study that supposedly came from an independent testing lab claimed that in typical usage, the BTI batteries, which cost $89 each, would provide 66% more time. The BTI folks at the booth said that they performed this feat of electrical legerdemain by simply increasing the size of the battery slightly and still having it fit in the PowerBook slot. BTI showed some engineering hindsight in several ways as well. First, they created a hard plastic snap-off cover for the battery contacts to prevent short circuits and possible fires. Second, and slightly more impressively, they designed a different locking mechanism to keep the battery in the PowerBook without being easily damaged in transport. Worth a look if you need another battery.
BTI -- 800/982-8284 -- 213/725-3517 -- 213/726-3897 (fax)
Colorizing the PowerBook -- In the unattainable new product category, Newer Technology has an 8-bit, active-matrix, color replacement screen for the PowerBook 140, 145, and 170. I say unattainable because it will set you back about $5500. Given the new lower PowerBook prices, I'm not sure many people could justify spending so much no matter how beautiful the toasters look in color.
If you don't want to replace your screen, but still want to drop $5500, you can get an external color LCD, also active matrix, from Envisio, the folks who make an internal display adapter for the 68030 PowerBooks. I presume that Envisio gets their color LCD screens from the same source as Newer since they were equally gorgeous, perhaps even nicer than a CRT due to absolutely flat display and incredibly rich colors. Worth checking out for the independently wealthy. The rest of us should sit tight for a bit.
Newer Technology -- 800/678-3726 -- 316/685-4904
Envisio -- 612/339-1008 -- 612/339-1369 (fax)
by Eric Schlegel -- firstname.lastname@example.org
I wanted to clear up some misinformation in the recent article on WorldScript that claims that WorldScript depends on QuickDraw GX; this is not true. WorldScript is a built-in part of System 7.1 out of the box, and it doesn't need GX to run.
Actually, many people seem to be confused about exactly what WorldScript is. WorldScript won't really let you do anything that you couldn't already do in System 7.0. In System 7.0 it's easy to install multiple scripts, including right-to-left scripts, into the same System file, and with proper use by the application of Script Manager routines the application can display left-to-right and right-to-left text in the same line. This does not require WorldScript, just proper use of the Script Manager, which has been part of the system software since System 4.1. You could do all this fancy stuff before System 7, but it was harder to get multiple script systems installed since you couldn't just drag-and-drop the script files into the System Folder.
(Alas, Microsoft applications still don't use the Script Manager very much, but I'm working on that... Maybe some day.)
The difference between System 7.0 and WorldScript is that in 7.0, Apple wrote every different script system from scratch, and each script system had its own code to display text, measure text, find word breaks, etc. WorldScript defines some new resource types that are generic enough to support all script systems, and it provides two INITs that can interpret those tables and provide support for every script system. So with WorldScript, you can (just as under System 7.0) have multiple script systems installed, but they'll take up less memory and be more consistent because there's only one piece of code implementing all the script systems instead of a different piece of code for each script.
The one big user-visible innovation of WorldScript is that it includes support for double-byte character sets as used by Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, so that for the first time you'll be able to use these scripts on a System 7 Mac. There were no Japanese, Chinese, or Korean scripts for System 7.0, although there were System 6 versions for these scripts.
TidBITS was correct in saying that the current double-byte character sets used by Apple are not Unicode. Apple has been using the standard (pre-Unicode) Japanese, Chinese, and Korean double-byte character sets for several years now, and that does not change in 7.1. I suspect it will be a while before Apple switches over to Unicode - if nothing else, it takes a long time to design fonts that have 20-30,000 characters in them! My understanding is that TrueType GX is very knowledgeable about Unicode internally, however, so once GX comes out we will probably see a lot more support for Unicode from Apple.
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