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

TidBITS Logo


Macworld Expo news here! We have our informal awards, focussing on products like Retrospect 2.0, StuffIt Deluxe, The Journeyman Project, and Envisio's SmartStack. We look more closely at Apple's Adjustable Keyboard and MAXA's Alert, which promises to fix all your problems automatically. Also check out a new Trojan report and a note from the author of Gatekeeper along with Mel Martinez's clever method of integrating Nisus and Expressionist with QuicKeys.


Copyright 1993 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <> Comments: <>


Phew, what a week! Macworld Expo is always a trip, figuratively and literally, and this year was no exception. We'll have news from the show for the next few issues, but first, I have to clear up a few things from last week.

Lotus Number -- Leon Campbell writes, "I called the 800 number for the $49 upgrade to Lotus 1-2-3 mentioned in TidBITS-157 and the operator said she only knew about the $119 upgrade price. I read her the TidBITS piece and she put me on hold for a couple of minutes and came back with the message that the number I called could not do the $49 upgrade. She gave me another number - 800/343-5414. I called and they took care of the order very nicely.

Information from:
Leon Campbell --

Nisus Drag & Drop -- Thomas Robb writes, "SoloWriter 1.3, the 'Japanized' version of Nisus, has drag & drop already! I'm not sure if Ian Shortreed, the 'Japanizer,' wrote the code on his own or if Nisus gave it to him, but it's there, according to the 1.3 literature."

Information from:
Thomas N. Robb --

Compatibility Checker Comments -- Peter Galko writes, "I found that the Compatibility Checker reported parts of the 7.1 stuff Apple sent me as a beta tester of 7.1 were supposedly incompatible with 7.1! It also reported that there is a newer version of Adobe Illustrator (later than the latest). Apparently Apple used an outside contractor to collect the data, and they made a few mistakes, to say the least."

Information from:
Peter Galko --

YAT - Yet Another Trojan

by Jeff Shulman --

There is a version of "CPro 1.41.sea" [masquerading as an update to Compact Pro -Adam] that is really a Trojan. It will attempt to erase your startup volume and any floppy in disk drive one. We haven't finished fully analyzing it yet so it is possible it may do more. So far it has only been sighted in Michigan. You can tell it from any legitimate version by a 312K snd resource called "log jingle."

Gatekeeper Message

by Chris Johnson --

Users of Gatekeeper 1.2.6 will soon receive a warning stating that 1.2.6 is out of date and should be replaced with a more recent version. This warning appears automatically when modern versions of Gatekeeper exceed six months in age and is intended to prevent people from unwittingly depending on obsolete versions of the program which may no longer offer effective or safe protection from viruses. In spite of the warning, though, Gatekeeper 1.2.6 remains FULLY functional.

The six month time limit was chosen because it seemed likely that due to the need for periodic bug fixes, functional improvements, and code to stop new viruses, new versions would always be released within six months of each other. Unfortunately, the testing/debugging phase for Gatekeeper 1.2.7 has run unexpectedly long and delayed its release beyond the anticipated six months.

So, some form of 1.2.7 will be made available as soon as possible (if it has bugs, it certainly has far fewer than 1.2.6), and, in the meantime, Gatekeeper 1.2.6 remains as functional as ever even though it will complain about being out of date once every five days.

I apologize for any inconvenience.

When 1.2.7 is available, an announcement will be posted in the comp.sys.mac.announce newsgroup, and the file will be sent to all major Macintosh archive sites, and posted to the comp.binaries.mac newsgroup.

Nisus and Expressionist

Oops, I blew this one big time, writing last issue that Expressionist was from Macreations and not Prescience, the company that actually makes Expressionist. Sorry about that, Prescience. In addition, Mel Martinez passes on this useful information on how to link the current versions of Nisus and Expressionist.

Mel writes:

Expressionist and Nisus XS should be able to communicate seamlessly through Apple events. Although Expressionist might end up bundled with Nisus XS, I doubt it will be incorporated into the program. With Apple events, there is no real need to do so.

Keep in mind that it is not necessary to wait for Nisus XS in order to tightly integrate Expressionist and Nisus. Using QuicKeys, you can easily set up hot keys that let you edit an Expressionist equation that you pasted into Nisus earlier.

Linking Nisus and Expressionist -- In Nisus, select the equation by double-clicking or click-drag. Then press a QuicKeys key-combination to move the equation from Nisus back into Expressionist for editing (I use command-option-E).

The QuicKeys sequence macro looks like this and will do the following:

Now that you're in Expressionist with your equation, edit it to your heart's content. When you finish, press your QuicKeys combination to copy the equation in Expressionist, return to Nisus, and paste it in over the old version of the equation (I use command-option-N).

This second QuicKeys sequence macro looks like this and will do the following:

This works quickly and smoothly on both a IIsi and a Quadra. Note that because Nisus has multiple Undos, you can always undo the pasting of the edited version of the equation and go back to the original.

This technique also applies to combining almost any tools such as equation editors, table editors, or graphics programs with not only Nisus, but other word processors as well. Nisus's main advantage is its multiple clipboards and multiple Undos (as a safety net). Also, Nisus's macro language allows one to combine powerful internal Nisus macros with QuicKeys's interapplication abilities. For example, a Nisus macro can systematically search for a type of item (such as data) in a Nisus file, then use QuicKeys to call up some other program to operate on it, return to Nisus with the changes and then continue looking for the next item.

[I use Nisus, Frontier, and QuicKeys to automatically reroute certain bang-routed uAccess UUCP mailfiles while I'm on vacation for just this reason. -Adam]

Information from:
Mel Martinez --

Macworld Expo SF 1993

Although I don't think Macworld Expo had any stunning surprises this year, it did feature more promising new products and solid upgrades than I recall from previous years. Perhaps the hardest part this year was remembering everything that I wanted to write about after the fact, but here are some of the lights, mostly high, a few low.

Best New Interface: Retrospect 2.0 -- Although PageMaker 5.0 added some nice interface elements such as the ability to drag objects from one document to another, they also left in some major interface idiocies, such as one setting that requires navigating through five modal dialog boxes. Thus, the best new interface award goes to Dantz for their clever interface work with Retrospect 2.0. Although Retrospect 1.3 was relatively easy to use once you understood its idiosyncracies, it was never a striking example of good design. From the demo I saw of Retrospect 2.0, Dantz has rectified that error and then some.

Almost everything is done from a main modeless window that superficially resembles a non-scrolling System 6 Control Panel. Five icons line up along the left, controlling functions such as instant backup, scripts, reports, configurations, and tools. When you select one with the mouse or by typing the first letter of its name, additional options appear to the right, and again, you can select items in that part of the window by first letter or by clicking. I especially liked Dantz's use of the keyboard since it makes sense to use the keyboard as a controller device when it cannot be used for text input.

The other main interface element that improved significantly is the scripts, which now appear in a single window, showing you the source, destination, criteria, options, and schedule in a clean and easily understood list. Creating and reading selection criteria has become easier, and once created, modifying and using the criteria is also much better. You can even view the files to archive when you have multiple sources selected for archiving, something which irritated me in the previous version. I could go on, but take my word for it, Dantz did an amazing job on the interface. I don't believe the functionality has changed significantly although Dantz did add a few things like faster compression and additional hardware support.

Dantz -- 510/849-0293 --

Most Interesting Hardware: SmartStack

Given that I don't specialize in any particular area, I don't get excited about advances in printer or modem or whatever technology. However, one thing other than the Apple Adjustable Keyboard (more on that in a bit) did catch my attention. Envisio, now owned by Mirror, introduced the SmartStack, a device that allows you to vertically stack up to seven SCSI devices in a single unit. Drives in the SmartStack do not connect to each other using cables, instead, the drives actually plug into each other. Envisio hopes that this new way of connecting drives will reduce cable clutter, interference, and SCSI errors. For $249, you buy a SmartSource base for the bottom of your stack, which includes SCSI connectors and a fan, and a top unit that offers another cooling fan and a SCSI loopback connector so you can chain additional existing SCSI devices. The SmartModules that contain the actual SCSI devices stack neatly between the SmartSource and the cover module.

Envisio has ten SmartModules available now, including hard drives ranging from 127 MB to 1 GB, a 128 MB removable optical drive, and a 2 GB DAT drive. You are limited to modules produced by Envisio or specifically engineered for the SmartStack, but Envisio is negotiating with other manufacturers and working on additional modules to accommodate network interface modules, CD-ROM players, modems, disk arrays, and possibly even SyQuest drives turned on their sides. SyQuest should also have a 105 MB 3.5" removable drive out sometime this spring, according to various rumors I heard, and that drive will fit within the horizontal size of the SmartStack. Although some additional engineering is required, the lack of a power supply or additional connectors on each module should help keep the prices competitive, if not specifically low. The SmartStack is worth a look, especially if you are buying a new system and don't already have a number of external SCSI storage devices.

Envisio -- 612/628-6288 -- 612/633-1083 (fax)

Booth Most Likely to Drive You Stark Raving Mad

This award goes to the intensely designed Pinnacle Micro booth, which had fully enclosed walls and ceiling and a funky green neon waterfall. The walls seemed to be a brushed aluminum with a three dimensional design etched into them in such a way that I kept looking into the wall trying to make sense of the pattern. Needless to say, I never did, and what with the booth's green and purple spotlights, bright green waterfall, and neon pink plastic flame thingies, I found it a truly a psychedelic experience, and not one I care to repeat soon. I wonder what they sell?

Best Giveaway: Video Toaster Tape

NewTek carries this award with their Video Toaster demo videotape, which is about ten minutes of snazzy effects and animations, all done with the Video Toaster. The Toaster grows more and more impressive, and as I see it each year, I keep lusting after one until I realize that I will never do video production. It's just not a hobby I'm likely to get into in my copious spare time. I'll depend on others for my Video Toast. (Quick quiz: Which makes darker toast, a Video Toaster or a Flying Toaster?)

NewTek -- 800/368-5441 -- 612/881-2862

Best Buttons: Peachpit Press

Due to my current status as email junkie, I give the best buttons award to Peachpit Press for their set of three yellow smiley buttons, a normal smiley, a wink, and a kiss. I picked up the buttons and stared at them for a few seconds the right way up, not getting it until I turned them on their sides the way smileys were meant to be. Runner-up goes to Wired magazine (supposedly the Rolling Stone of the computer world) for their "Get Wired" buttons. I haven't read much in the premiere issue of Wired yet, but it looks interesting and might be worth checking out at $20 per year.

Wired -- 800/769-4733

Best Hat: Robin Williams

A truly silly award to author Robin Williams, who has the third edition of the Little Mac Book out (it's getting a bit bigger, though), and pre-release copies of a new little book called "Tabs and Indents." I leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine the topic of that book. Anyway, back to the award, Robin once again wore the most interesting hats of the show while the rest of us dressed in our "Ken and Barbie Go to Macworld" costumes. I unfortunately forgot my fish tie.

Best Financial Reason to Attend: StuffIt Deluxe

The best deal of the show goes to Aladdin Systems for their guerilla pricing on StuffIt Deluxe and SpaceSaver (which is included with the complete StuffIt Deluxe package). Aladdin offered StuffIt Deluxe for $45 and SpaceSaver alone for $25. Although I understand that people don't often need the full power of StuffIt because SpaceSaver can create and expand StuffIt archives, I still think the extra $20 is worth it for the full package. That one time someone gives you a file that has been tar'ed and you can't expand it online due to disk space problems (which I always have - or you work on a CMS machine that wouldn't know tar from feathers and wants to translate it all into EBCDIC anyway) it's nice to have the full set of StuffIt's translators. It's also fun dragging things from archive to archive - an example of interface done right.

Second prize in this category goes to Teleware for dropping the price on their well-reviewed MYOB accounting program and its just-released smaller sibling, Best Books, to $19 for the show. Considering MYOB's list price of $99, the show special went over so well that Teleware quickly ran out of packages and had to promise to ship them after the show.

Most Promising Game: The Journeyman Project

Presto Studios is finally shipping The Journeyman Project. I haven't played it yet, not having received my AppleCD 300 yet, but from the demos and from talking with the creators of The Journeyman Project, it's an impressive accomplishment and a ground-breaking game. The Journeyman Project is an interactive, non-linear game, unlike Spaceship Warlock, which is more of a movie. It has 400 areas, each of which has four views, and Presto rendered each of the 1600 scenes and then retouched each one with Photoshop, thus making The Journeyman Project the first photorealistic game. The graphics are indeed stunning, but even more impressive is the way Presto designed the game so you can solve it either peacefully or violently. The Journeyman Project does penalize your point total for using unnecessary violence, but more interestingly, it makes future actions more difficult, thus discouraging rampant violence. A nice change, and one I'll look at in more detail once I can play for a while. If you're in the market for a CD-ROM game, you won't do any better than The Journeyman Project right now, although several interesting games are in progress from other companies as well.

Presto Studios -- 619/689-4895 --

Apple Adjustable Keyboard

I finally saw Apple's new ergonomic keyboard, the Apple Adjustable Keyboard. Its innovative features include the ability to open in the middle to up to a 30 degree angle, splitting the standard QWERTY layout (ISO for European users) so the 6, Y, H, and N keys sit on the right-hand side of the split. The space bar remains stationary in the middle and is enlarged for ease of use no matter what the keyboard's orientation (I approve of this since the space bar is the most commonly used key). The keyboard includes detachable palm rests and a separate extended keypad which can sit on the right or left side of the keyboard, attached by a short ADB cable. The numeric keypad offers function keys on its left side, then a cursor keypad, and on its right side, the numbers. Apple also added features never seen before on Macintosh keyboards, including speaker volume, mute, and microphone recording controls, which will be ideal for the increasing number of multimedia users. That's the good news, and even despite the upcoming bad news, I still think this keyboard is one of the best of the mass market.

The bad news is that Apple only gave the keyboard the standard little flip-down feet for slope adjustment, and as important as the opening angle is, some vertical adjustment would have been useful. Ideally you should be able to hold your hands so that your thumbs are on top rather than on the inside when typing. I can see where vertical adjustment would be hard to engineer, but hey, it's my job to complain about this stuff.

Potentially more serious is the way Apple used chiclet-style keys (like the buttons on a touch-tone phone only smaller and round) for the escape key, the sound keys, and the function keys. I use the function keys (along with QuicKeys) on my extended keyboard to switch between programs because the function keys are hard to logically or mnemonically map to application-specific functions and work best on system-wide functions. I'm concerned that the chiclet-style keys will prove enough harder to push that they may actually aggravate repetitive stress injuries, contrary to the keyboard's design. The infrequently used sound keys should be fine, and I wish Apple had made the Caps Lock key a chiclet key, since unlike all other keys it might be useful to have it small and round so I couldn't press it accidently. Only extensive testing will allow me to determine whether or not the other chiclet keys will be a problem, but I'm considering replacing my five year-old and somewhat flaky Ehman Extended Keyboard with one of these Adjustable Keyboards.

Just today, we learned that Tony Hodges, maker of the Tony! keyboard, plans to sue Apple for patent infringement. The Tony! has been around for a while but has never shipped. When it ships it will cost much more than Apple's keyboard but will offer more in the way of customized key angles and tilting. At the moment, both sides are muttering legalese, so it's hard to tell what's what, but we'll write more about this should interesting details develop.

I tried touch typing on the Adjustable Keyboard at the show for a paragraph or two, and surprisingly, even at the maximum open angle of 30 degrees, I made few errors. The errors I did make were on keys more in the middle of the keyboard, the I and the U primarily, rather than the keys that border the chasm. The keyboard's tactile feedback felt much like other Apple keyboards, which I don't prefer, but at least it's consistent. The unit I used had the keypad on the right side as it normally is, but I think I'd immediately try it on the left side so that I wouldn't have to move my right hand as far to get to my Curtis trackball and to off-load some non-typing duties to my left hand. No need to discriminate here. The keyboard will supposedly list at $219 when it ships next month, and it is only compatible with ADB Macs (everything after the Plus), and it will work with PowerBooks. The software for the special sound keys works with System 6.0.7 and later. Give it a test write at a dealer and see what you think.

Information from:
Apple propaganda

Alert! Most Likely to Succeed, If...

Of the new programs I saw, MAXA's Alert shows the most promise if it lives up to all of their promises. Apparently the main developer did a lot of the work on Norton Utilities for Macintosh, and although his contract forbids him from working in the same areas as Norton Utilities, he decided to create a program that could work in much the same way, actually fixing problems rather than just reporting them. Since disk problems were out, he created Alert, which will scan your disk for conflicts and problems and fix them for you. OK, I was skeptical too at this point, so I pushed for some details.

Alert essentially goes through your disk and looks for things that it knows are wrong. So, if you have a program that requires a minimum memory partition of 1024K and for some reason you (or someone) has set it to 666K, you're probably going have problems (potentially of more than one sort). Alert will discover that problem, and can fix it by increasing the memory partition, without you doing anything. It can also do things like determine that certain programs aren't 32-bit clean and that you are running in 32-bit mode even though you don't have more than 8 MB of RAM and you aren't using lots of virtual memory. As a fix, Alert turns off 32-bit addressing, and using a database which MAXA promises will be the most extensive in the industry (more comprehensive than the one that comes with Help! from Teknosys), Alert will provide you with the phone numbers for the vendors of the offending programs so you can find out how to upgrade. The database will be either free or cheap for two years after purchase, unlike Help's quarterly subscription deal.

To make Alert more useful to consultants, MAXA designed it to work not only over an AppleTalk network, but also over a modem. So if you're an independent consultant and a client calls with a problem, you can run Alert over a modem connection to determine and automatically fix the problem on their machine.

My basic impression of Alert is that if it works and has a great deal of depth (and those are big IFs) it will become an important tool for all of us who are in some way responsible for keeping less-knowledgeable users' Macs running (Hi Mom!). Unfortunately, it's the sort of program that will require extensive testing on many Macs before I'll be able to make that judgement, and since it's not shipping yet, it will be a while before I can start the testing process. If it turns out that Alert never tells you anything you didn't already know, or if it isn't complete in its reports about what it has done while you weren't looking, it will quickly wither away.

MAXA -- 800/788-6292 (US and Canada)

Information from:
MAXA propaganda


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