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TidBITS#150/02-Nov-92

November brings news of MODE32's partial incompatibility with System 7.1, more concerns about Performa support, a look at two thoroughly fun books on After Dark, and news of several more useful Internet services for gatewayed users. Rounding out the issue is an excellent review of the heavily-tweaked FileMaker Pro 2.0 from FileMaker consultant Charles Wheeler.

Topics:

Copyright 1992 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <info@tidbits.com> Comments: <editors@tidbits.com>


MailBITS/02-Nov-92

Mark H. Anbinder writes, "Many users will be disappointed to learn that the offer of a free 7.1 update to those who bought System 7 since the beginning of September applies only to those who bought a System 7 Upgrade Kit package. Users who purchased System 7 as part of a recent Macintosh purchase must pay separately for the update. It seems to us that, as long as Apple is claiming that we've been paying for the system software within the price of the Mac all along, they should not distinguish between system software purchase approaches in deciding who deserves the free update."

After Dark 2.0w for the new Macs -- John Baxter passed on this helpful news about After Dark. Apparently After Dark 2.0v is compatible with System 7.1 but incompatible with the machines released on October 19th - the Performa 600, IIvx, IIvi, PowerBook 160 and 180, and the PowerBook Duo 210 and 240. Berkeley Systems is now shipping a compatible version, 2.0w, and the free updater for 2.0v should be available within the week. You don't need to update unless you have a new machine and if you're can't find it online, you can send a note requesting 2.0w along with your After Dark 2.0 master disk to:

Attn: Mac Upgrades
Berkeley Systems
2095 Rose Street
Berkeley, CA 94709
510/540-5535

Information from:
John W. Baxter -- jwbaxter@halcyon.com
Raman Boucher, Berkeley Systems -- 75300.1376@compuserve.com


MODE32 with System 7.1

by Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor

Hazy reports surfaced last week that MODE32 was not compatible with System 7.1. Happily, Connectix informs us that the incompatibility exists only in limited circumstances, and most users won't have trouble.

MODE32 is the nifty utility, developed by Connectix and licensed by Apple for distribution to all Mac users, that "cleans up" Macs with older, dirty ROMs, allowing these Macs (the II, IIx, IIcx, and SE/30) to use 32-bit mode, and thus allowing them to address more than 8 MB of RAM or more than 13 MB of virtual memory.

According to Connectix CEO Roy McDonald, MODE32 is compatible with System 7.1 unless the Mac is in 32-bit mode AND using virtual memory. Because Connectix's analysis of its registered user base shows that most MODE32 users are using the software so they can address a large amount of real memory, and therefore wouldn't be using virtual memory, Roy doesn't believe that most users will notice this problem.

The incompatibility seems to be "highly configuration-dependent," meaning that even in the situation described above, some users might not have difficulties. Early testing has led Connectix to suspect that one factor involved in the problem may be the arrangement of NuBus cards, so users who do experience this incompatibility can try moving around their NuBus cards.

Connectix is not working on a 7.1-compatible version of MODE32, because Apple has announced that a "system enabler" is in development that will provide the same functionality. No release date has been announced for this technology, which Apple claimed was in the works last September. The company is undoubtedly rushing now that it's too late to release it along with System 7.1.

Even though Connectix is confident that most users won't experience problems, and believes that they have narrowed down the possible problems, Roy asks that users who feel they have found a source of incompatibility other than virtual memory between MODE32 and System 7.1 call Connectix Technical Support at one of the numbers below.

Connectix Corp. -- 800/950-5880 -- 415/571-5100
415/571-5195 (fax)

Information from:
Roy McDonald, Connectix -- connectix@applelink.apple.com


Performa Software Update

I think we've finally figured out how tech support for Performas will work when the System file becomes corrupted. Apple's John Cook told us, "Every Performa comes with a bootable Utilities disk. It contains the Apple Restore program and HD Setup." That solves the immediate problem, since the user can always boot from that floppy, restore the clean System Folder they backed up first thing and start working again.

As you can see from the comments below, there are a variety of potential problems with the strategy behind Apple's backup system.

Mark H Anbinder writes:

I verified that in fact the Performas do not include a set of system disks. They include a single "Utilities" disk with a startup System Folder, HD Setup, Disk First Aid, CloseView, and the Backup and Restore utilities. That should theoretically be all that anyone would need.

Since the Apple Backup software that comes with the machine can make a backup of the System Folder onto high density floppies, the user should be able to restore just the System Folder onto the hard drive, replacing a theoretically damaged one. That might pose problems for users who have heavily customized after backing up, but we're not talking about power users here.

In any case, users could always make a copy of the System file itself and keep that as a backup. They'll have to do this on their own, because the Backup and Restore utilities don't handle individual files or do incremental backups. A good alternative might be the just-released $49.95 DiskFit Direct from Dantz Development, an even simpler version of their popular DiskFit Pro backup utility.

Replacing a corrupted System file with the one from the Utilities disk might work, but would leave the user with a stripped-down operating system.

Sandro Menzel adds:

It appears as though we may be overlooking one thing. It's hard enough to get today's users to backup. The Performas are supposed to be marketed at the computer illiterate. Can we expect them to be any better?

I'm still undecided as to the support issues these machine will raise. Too much rests on who will actually buy the darned things. There will be a bracket of ignorant users whom dealers will never see and group of sophisticated users who will care for themselves. The middle group will no doubt pester the heck out of dealers.

Jonathan Schultz chimes in:

While waiting for Sears Automotive to change my tires, I went to check out the new Apple Backup program (YABP - yet another backup program). It is as simple as can be, and modal (which makes sense since these machines are for beginners). The user is given the choice of backing up just the system folder or the entire hard drive. The software only supports HIGH DENSITY disks. The first screen warns the user to use only HD disks and demonstrates the difference.

Although I understand that Apple is trying to make computer life easier for new users, I think they should have done more research. The idea is to make the user backup often. What beginner is going to like backing up the whole drive when only a small percentage has changed? An 80 MB disk would require over 50 HD disks. Apple should have at least offered a third option - to backup the document folder they force on users. [Another good reason for Performa users to consider DiskFit Direct instead of the included software. -MHA]

I strongly object to Apple not including system software. How many people are going to make a backup of the system folder first thing after setting up the computer? How many of those will lock the disks and keep them in a safe place?

Take a user who did a backup of the original System Folder, and does a backup at the end of each day (yes, I'm dreaming). The user is having problems with a program, and the tech support person says to reinstall the system. Which System Folder should the user restore? The last one with all the preferences and customization that may be corrupted, or the original "good" one without all those saved preferences?

[With a partial restore capability, users could restore only the System file, leaving most of their preferences and other customizations intact. If the machine in question is a Performa 600 running System 7.1, which keeps the user's fonts outside the System file itself, the System file should now contain little more than operating system resources. -MHA]

Dantz Development -- 510/849-0293 -- 510/849-1708 (fax)

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor
Sandro Menzel -- smenzel@aol.com
Jonathan Schultz -- schultz@iastate.edu


After Dark: The Books

As I wandered the rows of Wordsworths bookstore in Harvard Square this summer during the week of the Boston Macworld Expo, I was astonished at the number of computer books. Many of them, no doubt, do a better job of explaining the program than the program's manual, and may even be necessary. But then I saw not one, but two books about After Dark?!? "You've got to be kidding!" I thought out loud, interrupting three Harvard students engrossed in an intensely personal conversation. They looked at me strangely, so I moved on, but not before noticing that one of the books came from Peachpit, one of my favorite computer book publishers, and the other one was by Ross Scott Rubin, whom I had known back at Cornell.

After the heart-to-hearts had moved on, I went back to look at Ross's book, "Cool Mac After Dark" ($19.95, ISBN # 0-672-48529-X). It looked as though Ross had done a good job covering the basics of After Dark and the modules, and he also talked about (and included on disk) a selection of the better freeware modules. I made a mental note to ask him later if he was getting rich off this, but I had to leave before I could check out the other book, "Art of Darkness," ($19.95, ISBN # 1-56609-012-1) by Erfert Fenton.

Art of Darkness -- The next day at the show the Berkeley Systems people nicely gave me a copy of "Art of Darkness" to review and ease my curiousity about its contents. I took it home and read it in about 15 minutes while doing other things. We're not talking "War and Peace" here. Like Ross's book, "Art of Darkness" covered the basics of After Dark and in a traditionally-friendly Peachpit style, gave more detail and history about the various modules. Interestingly, Berkeley Systems endorsed "Art of Darkness" and worked with Ms. Fenton on it, I gather, while at the same time suddenly ceasing to show interest in Ross's book, which he had in progress at the same time. I guess that's the way the screensaver ball bounces.

Ms. Fenton writes clearly and fluidly, and may even provide some useful information about After Dark, although I can't remember any. I think Berkeley Systems and Peachpit intended the book as a vehicle for the collection of ten new modules, including Blackboard, which scrawls either punishment messages like "I will not waste chalk" or tremendously complex scientific equations on the screen; Fractal Forest, which creates fractal trees through the seasons; and four pattern modules, Strange Attractors, Pearls, Spin Brush, and Sunburst. For history buffs there's ProtoToasters, the first prototype of the now-famous Flying Toasters.

Cool Mac After Dark -- "Cool Mac After Dark" comes from Hayden and resembles "Art of Darkness" (or is it the other way around?) in many ways. If anything, Ross's writing style is even looser than Ms. Fenton's, and his descriptions of the modules, lacking the information that only Berkeley Systems could provide, serve mainly to entertain. I particularly like his inscrutable description of the More After Dark module Confetti Factory, "Your guess is as good as mine. Say hi to the ducks."

Ross doesn't delve into combinations you could create with MultiModule, but he does include some files for use with various modules, including a QuickTime movie, a PICS file, a PICT, and even an icon of a cool Mac, should you want one for your duplicate modules. Ross walks you through creating a clever QuicKeys macro that allows you to invoke After Dark with a keystroke. Another salvo in the checkbox war comes from the "Cool Mac After Dark's" flip movie of the book's eponymous hero. And, although "Art of Darkness" has two full pages of full-color screenshots, "Cool Mac After Dark" includes six blank pages between the index and the discussion of what's on the disk. Not even a little message saying "This page intentionally left blank." Completely white, like the White Album, or six White Albums. Yes, that's right folks, I'm grasping at straws.

From my perspective, the purpose of both of these books is to provide cool modules to a slavering public, of which I'm proud to be a member. For those aren't as hooked into the networks as I am, the freeware modules included with "Cool Mac After Dark," including the gorgeous Frost & Fire and the mischievous runaway network train NetTrain, serve the same purpose as the Berkeley-sanctioned modules in "Art of Darkness."

Let's face it, you're not going to buy either of these books because they are literary masterpieces. I met Erfert Fenton the next day at Macworld and mentioned that I'd read her book the previous night. She said, "Ah, took you about 15 minutes, did it?" You buy these books because they are relatively cheap fixes for your module habit and both provide at least 15 minutes of ocular entertainment. But hey, as addictions go, modules are pretty safe. Thanks for the fix.

Peachpit Press -- 800/283-9444 -- 510/548-4393
510/548-5991 (fax)
Hayden Books -- 800/428-5331 -- 317/573-2500
317/573-2583 (fax)

Gateways 1.75/Yet More Internet

You thought I had finished writing about the Internet after my articles about CompuServe and America Online, but the Internet grows at the mind-boggling rate of 10% to 20% per month, and we've come across a number of Internet services that users of the commercial services will find useful through the email gateways.

FTPMail -- People on AppleLink and America Online suffer with file size limitations of 30K and 27K respectively. That limitation causes trouble when requesting a file from an Internet mailserver, but no more. Two servers now split files so that they can fit through any gateway, although you'll have to paste them back together on your end.

The first and most flexible of these is called ftpmail, and it lives at a machine called decwrl - DEC Western Research Labs, I believe. If you know what you want, what it's called, and where it is, exactly, you can provide ftpmail with a sequence of commands that allows ftpmail to get the file for you (keep in mind that response is slow because it runs at a very low priority on decwrl). In addition, you can ask ftpmail to break the file into chunks. For instance, if I wanted to get an issue of TidBITS on sumex that was too large to fit through the gateway, I could send a mailfile to <ftpmail@decwrl.dec.com> (including anything in the subject - it dislikes empty subject lines but doesn't care what's in there) with the following lines in the body.

     reply <ace@tidbits.com>
     connect sumex-aim.stanford.edu
     ascii
     chunksize 25000
     get info-mac/digest/tb/tidbits-143.etx
     quit

In order, this mailfile tells ftpmail:

     who to send the file back to,
     which machine I want to connect to,
     to connect using ASCII rather than BINARY,
     to split the file into 25K chunks,
     to get TidBITS-143 from a specific directory
     and finally, to quit.

Of course, that only works if you happen to know where the file lives, but you can include "chdir" and "ls" commands to change directories and list files. Ftpmail will then mail the directory listing back to you. You can only change directories once, and speaking of limitations, you can only request ten files at once, and since ftpmail is case sensitive, you must get the case right. For more information on everything that ftpmail can do, send it this command list:

     reply <your Internet address here>
     help
     quit

To receive a binary file (anything ending in ".sit" is binary), include a "uuencode" command before the "get" command. Otherwise ftpmail will default to the "btoa" format for turning a binary file into mailable ASCII, and we don't know of any tools for defunking that format. You can get a number of programs, including UUTool and UMCP Tools, I believe, for defunking uuencoded files. You'll also want a shareware DA called BinHqx since it's good at removing extraneous header information and combining split files. Read on for a way to get BinHqx and some of these uudecoding utilities...

BART -- The large Macintosh file archive at the University of Michigan recently implemented a mail server called BART, or Brode's Archive Retrieval Thang. It's easier to use than ftpmail, and when I asked, the helpful guys there knocked the chunk size down to 25K to ensure the files would fit through all gateways.

To use BART, send email to <mac@mac.archive.umich.edu> and put one or more lines of commands in the body of the mailfile. BART ignores the subject, so don't worry about that. Since the index file at BART includes all the file descriptions, it's about 700K and will clog your mailbox fast. Here's a command list to start out with, including commands to retrieve several files that you will need to use ftpmail:

     help
     send 00help/newfiles.txt
     send system.extensions/da/binhqx1.02.sit.hqx
     send util/compression/uutool2.32.hqx

Along with those two utilities, this list will get you the help file and a list of all the files changed in the last two weeks. If you want the full list of files, you can give this command:

     send 00help/allfiles.txt

If you're a true masochist, you can send it the simple command:

     index

but remember, that will dump 28 mailfiles in your mailbox, and that will entail a hefty downloading charge.

FAQ site -- We've found a good site to explore with ftpmail. We talked about frequently asked question (FAQ) lists in the first Gateways article, and now there's a central location for many FAQ lists on subjects ranging from Douglas Adams to sex. The machine is called <rtfm.mit.edu> and if you have to ask about the name, well, never mind.

Here's an ftpmail command list that should work (I haven't gotten my test back yet):

     reply <your Internet address here>
     connect rtfm.mit.edu
     ascii
     chunksize 25000
     chdir /pub/usenet/news.answers
     ls
     quit

Keep in mind that some of the entries in the directory listing are themselves directories, so trying to "get" them will fail. You'll have to go down another level to see what's in them. This site has two Mac-oriented FAQ lists, one on communications and one on programming, in the directory /pub/usenet/news.answers/macintosh, so you may want to check those out.

Information from:
Ron Beloin -- ron_beloin@qmrelay.mail.cornell.edu
Jeff Needleman -- JNeedleman@MCIMail.com


FileMaker Pro 2.0: What it's got and what it's not

by Charles Wheeler -- charlesw16@aol.com

Claris recently upgraded of its best-selling database program, FileMaker Pro 2.0 (not to be confused with FileMaker II, which came after FileMaker 4 but before FileMaker Pro...). If you're looking for a major, from-the-ground-up rewrite of FileMaker Pro, you'll have to buy a Windows machine. That's right, FileMaker Pro now comes in two popular flavors, Mac and Windows. Claris claims both versions are nearly identical in features and operation, and can share files simultaneously on the same network. Since I haven't used the Windows version yet, I'll limit my review to the Mac version.

As I alluded to earlier, FileMaker Pro 2.0 for the Mac is not a major rewrite; it's a major tweak. It looks like the programmers added as many requested features as possible without rebuilding the database engine. These include interface enhancements, QuickTime and sound support, better handling of labels and the ability to open one file from within another, to name a few of the most requested features. This version is "System 7 omniscient," meaning better than "aware," newer than "studly," but not quite completely "savvy." FileMaker Pro strongly supports Apple events, but barely acknowledges Publish & Subscribe (data can be exported in the Edition format). Claris does not promise speed improvements, although it seems to run a little faster, possibly because of a definite quickening of screen redraws.

If it sounds like I'm withholding my enthusiasm, I am. All of these features are nice, but worth the price of a major upgrade (over $100 with tax, shipping and handling)? Maybe when Apple events become more widely used. However, FileMaker Pro offers one new feature I have yet to mention that not only makes the upgrade worth the price but is an absolute must for any serious FileMaker user: ScriptMaker.

ScriptMaker is the new script writing tool for FileMaker. You can still use the "look over my shoulder and remember what I did" method familiar to users of earlier versions of FileMaker, or you can create complex scripts completely from scratch. The new interface is both simple and complete, with a list of script "steps," an area for building scripts, and an Option field for displaying options for each step. For example, if you choose the step "Go to Layout[...]", the Option field will list all the available layouts. Select one from a drop down menu, and FileMaker Pro replaces the three periods between the brackets with the name of the selected layout in your script. The order of the steps in a script can be rearranged by simply dragging a step up or down the script. Claris prides itself on making "simply powerful" software, and if anyone has come up with a better way to create and edit scripts or macros than FileMaker Pro 2.0, I have yet to see it. For the majority of FileMaker users, ScriptMaker alone makes the upgrade price worthwhile.

FileMaker has always been a program that invited users to work around its limitations with calculations, scripts, and - starting in FileMaker Pro - buttons. Along with the more powerful scripting tools, FileMaker Pro 2.0 allows for the ultimate workarounds - using other programs from within FileMaker Pro. Claris cites an example of creating charts for data contained in an FileMaker file by exporting the data to a spreadsheet program, having that program create the chart, save it as a PICT, and import it into a picture field, all done using scripting and Apple events. Although it looks good on paper, how many average FileMaker users will put this feature to use? Developers and consultants whose clients are running 20 MB of RAM, on the other hand, will have a field day.

The award for most ridiculous waste of memory in this category is the "phone dialer" workaround, which suggests that the way to avoid FileMaker's inability to dial a phone number from within a field is to export the number to HyperCard, which, through the miracle of Apple events, would dial the number for you. Fortunately, several folks are working on little applications whose only purpose in life will be to dial the phone from FileMaker at the cost of only a few K of RAM. Watch your favorite online service for the fruits of their labor.

For database publishers, FileMaker Pro 2.0 adds several new goodies, including new font styles and full text justification. One shortcoming that Claris has taken some heat for in their support area of America Online is the way FileMaker handles text embedded in EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) files. FileMaker downloads fonts to the printer if those fonts are contained in a field or layout, but not if they reside in an EPS graphic. Unless the font is downloaded manually before printing, your graphic that uses Garamond Semibold Italic could come out of the printer in Courier.

(Another AOL FileMaker user pointed out that, although Claris generally does a good job maintaining interface consistency among its programs, the color palettes of the major Claris products have the colors arranged differently. Talk about attention to detail. I want this guy checking the engine mountings of the next 747 I ride.)

FileMaker Pro also supports Data Access Queries on a remote server, a nice feature, but 98% of FileMaker users probably won't use it. Many other small niceties have been added that will be used by most users, like easier layout manipulation and enhanced cut & paste capabilities. In fact, if I tried to list them all here, this review could turn into a two or three part series like Howard Hansen's Excel 4.0 review. FileMaker has always been a program of pleasant surprises ("Gee, it would be nice if this program would... hey, it does!"). I'll let you discover some treasures on your own. If you want clues, Claris has updated and enhanced the manual as well.

Summing up, FileMaker Pro 2.0, although not a major rewrite, is a major and worthwhile tweak. With the addition of a powerful script manager, Apple events, and the ability to export Editions, FileMaker users have a considerably larger bag of tricks to move information into, out of, around and within their databases. With the release of FileMaker Pro for Windows, Claris should own the flat-file database market for the foreseeable future.

Stop the modems! Although the transition from FileMaker Pro 1.0v3 to 2.0v1 has, by most accounts, been a remarkably smooth one, Claris Tech Support reports there will be a maintenance release shortly to address known bugs. They did not elaborate on what those bugs might be. Claris has in the past done quick releases to address relatively minor bugs in new software versions. In those cases, registered users received the update automatically at no charge. Stay tuned.

Claris -- 408/727-8227 -- 800/544-8554

Reviews/02-Nov-92


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