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TidBITS#172/12-Apr-93

We present a PowerBook-heavy issue this week, with a look back at the real story behind the PowerBook 100 and a hopefully- instructive investigation of a weird Duo troubleshooting problem. We also have an announcement of a new virus, a bit on Macintosh Easy Open (which eases opening foreign file types) in MacLinkPlus, and finally, a review of CMaster, Jersey Scientific's extension to Symantec's THINK C.

Topics:

Copyright 1993 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <info@tidbits.com> Comments: <editors@tidbits.com>


This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:


MailBITS/12-Apr-93

We'd like to welcome our latest sponsor, Dantz Development, makers of some of the best backup software anywhere, including DiskFit Direct, DiskFit Pro (which I currently use), Retrospect 2.0 (which I intend to use once I have a DAT drive), and Retrospect Remote.

We have several files from Dantz that I think you'll find interesting and useful, ranging from product data sheets to information about compatible tape drives to a white paper entitled "Workbook Backup - A Workbook for Macintosh Administrators" that will help you figure out the details of backing up a network. If you want a 73K file containing all of this information, send email to <dantz-all@tidbits.com>. If you want the same file in compressed form along with an Easy View index (29K - StuffIt 3.0 format), send email to <dantz-comp@tidbits.com>. If you want individual files, send email to <sponsors@tidbits.com> for an index of available files.

Dantz has another white paper called "Backup - Personal Computing Insurance" that I couldn't translate to straight ASCII. It discusses different backup philosophies, different types of backup devices, and the like. Dantz will send it to you at no charge if you email them your snail mail address. Thanks, and I'm sure Dantz will be happy to hear any feedback about the files or their products.

Dantz Development -- dantz@applelink.apple.com

Performa Mail -- Bill Waits, who provided us with some of the information we used in last week's bit about new Performas, asks that people please stop requesting more information, especially about the Performa 430 and the modems, about which he has no information. It's not as though these Performas are interesting. They are exactly the same as comparable Mac LC IIs and LC IIIs, except they cost more and you buy them at Sears. In addition, I'm hearing of problems with installing System 7.1 over System 7.0.1P or 7.1P on the Performa 450 and 600. Apparently the enablers won't cooperate.

Macintosh Easy Open, an extension from Apple which allows you to substitute eligible applications to open files created by applications you don't have, is now available with MacLinkPlus. The extension replaces the standard "application not found" dialog with a larger one that lists programs that can open the file and can optionally remember your preference so that it uses that program automatically. Other benefits include more specific file descriptions in the Finder's "Kind" field and color icons in Open and Save dialog boxes.

DataViz -- 800/733-0030 -- 203/268-0030 -- 203/268-4345 (fax)
By Ross Scott Rubin <72137.2627@compuserve.com>

New INIT 17 Virus Busted

by Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor -- mha@baka.ithaca.ny.us

Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers

In a joint bulletin released today by Gene Spafford of Purdue University, the various Macintosh antiviral developers announced the discovery of a new virus earlier along with new utility versions to combat it.

The new virus, dubbed INIT 17, infects the System file and most applications as they run, and is likely to spread quickly once a machine is exposed to the virus. The virus infects programs by modifying existing code, which can in some cases cause irreparable damage to the applications or the System file. On some low-end Macs (such as the Plus, SE, and Classic) the virus can cause the computer to crash while executing infected applications.

The only overt action by the virus is to display an alert message saying "From the depths of Cyberspace" the first time you restart an infected machine after 6:06:06 PM, 31-Oct-93.

Users of Chris Johnson's freeware Gatekeeper package will be pleased to note that the current version, 1.2.7, catches INIT 17 already, so they need not update. John Norstad has released version 3.1 of his free Disinfectant utility. Jeff Shulman says registered owners of his shareware Virus Detective package will receive search strings in the mail (a good reason to register your copy!). All commercial antiviral publishers are sending updates to their subscribers and mailing notifications to registered users; contact the publisher of your utility for further information.

Information from:
Gene Spafford -- spaf@cs.purdue.edu


PowerBook Panegyric

Definition: PowerBook 100 - a terribly nice Macintosh sometimes mistaken for a low-end, powerless laptop.

What happened to the PowerBook 100? It came out in September 1991 at an unaffordable price. About one year later, Apple discontinued it and sold it at fire sale prices. Why such a short lifetime? It wasn't like the 140, which Apple realized could support a faster processor, and it wasn't like the Mac Portable, which died of obesity. In talking to people in the know, I've pieced together this story; consider it an eulogy to the PowerBook 100, a pleasant machine with only a few problems, a machine on which I type at this moment.

Apple wasn't the only player in the PowerBook 100 development, because although Apple designed most of the PowerBook 100, consumer electronics giant Sony was slated to do the manufacturing. Apple wanted to work with Sony in part because Sony excels at inexpensive manufacturing, and in part because the collaboration was well-received in both the U.S. and Japan, a market in which Apple does well and wants to do better.

But then Sony discovered it couldn't make the PowerBook 100 as cheaply as it had estimated and in fact, the cost would be approximately double early estimates. Apple realized early on that the price would be unacceptable, but the public relations coup of the Apple/Sony collaboration was more important. Apple decided to manufacture a relatively small quantity of PowerBook 100s. As consumers purchased the PowerBook 100 in the fall of 1991, Apple placed the final orders. Those final units rolled off the production line in late June of 1992, completing the installed base of over 100,000 PowerBook 100s.

As to the rumors that Sony might bring it back, no more PowerBook 100s have been manufactured since, and given the cost, I doubt any more will be, especially given that the Duos fit many of the same niches. Those of us who want a serial port, a power plug, and no floppy drive (I've hooked ours up maybe five times in six months) will stick with a Duo for future purchases. Sources indicate that we will never see a PowerBook 100 again in the U.S., but apparently there is a chance that something resembling the PowerBook 100 might appear elsewhere.

The PowerBook 100 had a short life, and Apple had no chance to correct its few problems, as it did with the 140 and the 170. Perhaps the worst problem is the mediocre trackball. It's small, and because of the plastic posts on which it rests, occasionally hard to move accurately and smoothly. Some of that can be alleviated by moving the left blue roller further down, and the bottom blue roller further right. The idea is to lessen the pressure on the ball so it rolls more smoothly. Some people have also had luck roughing the ball's surface slightly with cleaning powder - don't use heavy duty sandpaper.

Apple is known for its well-crafted prototypes, and it turns out that the PowerBook team made about thirty PowerBook 100s with modified trackball mechanisms from Logitech. These modified mechanisms use the same ruby bearings that the Duos use, and as a result they feel much smoother. Evidently Apple used the "Pepsi & Doritos" test, wherein they mixed up a slurry of Pepsi and Doritos and poured it into the trackball before testing it. The jeweled bearing trackballs passed with flying colors. A few lucky souls have these jeweled mechanisms, but unless someone can convince Logitech that the existing base of PowerBook 100 owners is a large enough market, the rest of us will have to suffer with the standard trackball. However, if a new version of the PowerBook 100 does appear outside of the U.S., U.S. users would almost certainly see jeweled trackballs become available, and they might even make their way into repair stock.

The only other problem the PowerBook 100 might have been accused of was lack of speed. The 100's peppy 16 MHz 68000 destroys the 8 MHz 68000 in my Classic, but it is no match for the 68030 chips in the other PowerBooks. For basic word processing, which is probably the primary use of the 100, I doubt most people notice. I don't. But what if, in an alternate universe, the PowerBook 100 had a 68030? You'd only have to go to Cupertino to find that alternate universe, because Apple made at least two 68030 prototypes. The prototypes imply that the ROMs can handle a 68030 chip, which helps verify a recently-rumored third-party 68030 upgrade for the 100. Of course, the limited market of the 100 may curtail such plans, but what would you pay for a 68030 upgrade? I'm happy enough with our PowerBook 100 that the upgrade would have to be cheap, and from what I've heard, many other 100 owners feel the same way. Any new version of the PowerBook 100 will use a 68030 chip in place of the slower 68000, if only because the 68030 is cheaper now.

The most memorable feature of the PowerBook 100 must be its glory days in the bargain basement. When Apple dropped the prices to clear stock, the PowerBooks flew out of Price Clubs and dealers alike. No one had seen a computer sell like that, which shows that if you price something like a PowerBook right, you'll have to beat the buyers away with a stick. It appears the 100's legacy will be this method of cleaning out old machines to judge from the way Apple discontinued the IIsi and dramatically lowered IIsi prices. I think it's a great move on Apple's part, and I hope they keep it up. Those fire sale prices allow people to buy a Mac who, for one reason or another, probably never would have bought one then otherwise. On that basis alone, the PowerBook 100 was a smashing success, and as I type on our sub-$1000 8 MB/20 MB PowerBook 100, I see nothing but that success.

Information from:
Pythaeus


Double the Trouble?

A friend had problems with his Duo 210 recently, and I thought a brief exposition of how we solved them might prove useful to Duo users and anyone who does trouble-shooting. Bill has a Duo 210 and a Duo Dock, although no monitor at the time. He could to print to his serial DeskWriter, but printing to a PostScript LaserWriter or to a PostScript file (with or without background printing on and from almost any application) caused his Duo to hang. However, when he printed from PageMaker using the Aldus driver, it worked fine. He tried the standard procedures, booting without extensions, replacing the LaserWriter driver, and even reformatting his drive (getting more space by repartitioning in the process) and reinstalling the System and his applications from scratch. Nothing worked. After he had an Apple Express Modem installed, his serial DeskWriter acted up as well, but we solved that by installing the DeskWriter 3.1 driver and fiddling with the many Control panels that control the port mapping.

Finally he brought his Duo, Dock, and DeskWriter over here so we could test on my network and use my 13" monitor with the Dock. Three problems arose quickly, and all the problems occurred whether or not the Duo was docked. First, the DeskWriter in AppleTalk mode hung halfway through printing if extensions were on. Second, when I tried to copy Conflict Catcher from my hard drive over the network to the Duo, I received failures with error #-37. Third, printing to my QMS-PS 410 PostScript laser printer caused a hang after the first "starting job" message.

Running Conflict Catcher in Conflict Test mode identified the elderly SNDPatch extension as the culprit for the DeskWriter printing problem. One down, and a win for Conflict Catcher since Bill had a slew of extensions that would have taken hours to test.

We then spent an hour trying to figure out why the Conflict Catcher files wouldn't copy, and eventually chalked it up to network daemons when we realized all other files copied fine. We finally ended up copying the Conflict Catcher files in an archive, and CopyDoubler author Dave Heller of Fifth Generation Systems told me several days later that the problem stemmed from the fact that those two filenames started with an ASCII 0 character to make them sort first. Apparently, an ASCII 0 character first in a filename confuses network copying to no end. On to the printing problem, which was the main one anyway.

Booting without extensions made no difference, and neither docking the Duo nor using the LaserWriter 7.2 driver was any more encouraging. Finally, we laboriously modified a copy of the Disk Tools disk so we could boot from floppy and print. You need a System, Finder, Duo Enabler, and Chooser in addition to LaserWriter, and there is barely enough disk space. When we booted from that disk, the QMS came to life and printed correctly. Replacing the System and the Finder with the versions on the floppy made no difference, so we copied the entire boot floppy's System Folder to the hard drive and blessed it in favor of the old System Folder. That worked, which isolated the problem to the old System Folder. We gradually moved folders over to the new System Folder (testing as we went) and it worked fine until we moved the Fonts folder (remember, this is a Duo, so 7.1 is necessary). Aha, a corrupted font! I hadn't thought to check Bill's fonts since I'm not used to System 7.1 and the System file hadn't been the problem, but it turned out that he had a herd (or maybe fonts come in gaggles or troops?) of public domain TrueType fonts.

At first we thought it might be related to the fact that he had some fonts loose and others in suitcases. Bill had heard that loose fonts can cause troubles, but packing his loose ones in a suitcase didn't help, and it ended up being a matter of testing each font, one at a time. Too bad Conflict Catcher doesn't help with fonts. Bill isolated the rogue font to be London, edging out the one we suspected on principle, Nixon in China.

The curious part is that we were easily sidetracked because of unrelated problems that seemed to point to AppleTalk and the LaserWriter driver. The fonts were also disguised by the fact that he had printed all them, including the corrupted one, via the serial driver for his DeskWriter. Yet, somehow the LaserWriter driver looked at all fonts, even those not used, and crashed when it hit the corrupted one.

There are three morals to the story. First, the Duo can be a mega-pain to troubleshoot if you don't have a floppy drive and an appropriate dock, although booting from a stripped RAM disk should have had the same effect and I'm still kicking myself for not having suggested that earlier. Second, corrupted fonts can cause seemingly unrelated problems, which I also should have considered, and if you don't do a clean install, those fonts exist in a new System as well. Third, in many trouble-shooting situations, booting from a clean system disk like Disk Tools can crack open a problem.

Incidentally, Tonya and I were talking about ways switching among multiple Systems, and we thought of a simple way of un-blessing (cursing?) a System Folder. In the System Folder, create a self-extracting archive of the Finder, and when you want to un-bless the System Folder, throw out the Finder. When you want to bless that System Folder again, expand the self-extracting archive (which will stick around for the next use), close the folder, and open it again so the active Finder realizes what you've done. It's generally a bad idea to have two potentially-active System Folders on the same disk, and this provides a low-tech way to switch systems without a switching utility.


CMaster Review

by Andrew Johnston -- 71101.556@compuserve.com

President, Johnston/Johnston Consulting, Macintosh Developer

Jersey Scientific's CMaster is an extension for Symantec's THINK C that is 90 percent enhancements to THINK C's rather austere editor, and 10 percent enhancements to THINK C's project environment. THINK C's editor has always been ripe for improvement, and CMaster provides a useful set of tools that either adds new functionality or improves access to existing features through an iconic palette.

CMaster is compatible with THINK C 4.0.x or newer and System 6.0.5 and newer, although some features require THINK C 5.0.x. I used CMaster version 1.0.9 on both a Mac IIcx with a 25 MHz Radius Rocket 040 accelerator and on a PowerBook 170, both under System 7.1.

CMaster patches itself into THINK C and intercepts several THINK C routines including GetNextEvent, which lets CMaster intercept many events before THINK C sees them. CMaster does this well, and this arrangement caused no crashes. CMaster loads when you open a THINK C project and uses around 77K of THINK C's application heap. You can disable CMaster by holding down the option key when opening a project file.

What it does -- On the left side of each editor window, CMaster icons provide navigation aids, searching, block commenting, multiple clipboards, general placemarkers, a function prototype generator, a function navigator, a pop-up function name menu, and a header file pop-up menu. In addition, CMaster has a slew of keyboard-only commands that join lines, split lines, etc. You can tie almost every CMaster action to a user-defined keyboard command, and you can modify CMaster's palette.

Several tools duplicate built-in THINK C features (e.g. markers and the headers files pop-up menus), but they seem to simplify access. However, CMaster uses its own parsing routines to determine the placement of the function markers that allow CMaster to update the function marker list when you type in a new function definition. No more running your source code through a "marker" application or explicitly marking functions within THINK C. CMaster also allows the use of the "#pragma mark xxx" syntax to insert custom non-function header markers into source code.

The more-interesting editor tools include multiple clipboards and multiple placemarkers. Up to four clipboards can be active at a time - each with both a global and local clipboard attached. You can optionally set up clipboards to use a push down stack that will hold multiple clipboard contents in a First-In-First-Out (FIF0) stack. CMaster also has up to four temporary placemarkers that temporarily mark a place holder in the current source file without being recorded in the resource fork for later use. Placemarkers show the line marked plus a few surrounding lines in a mini-window if you click in the lower half of the place marker icon. This is useful when you need to reference another function (or code segment) in the same file because it eliminates jumping back and forth and reduces the need for split windows in the THINK C editor.

Although the bulk of CMaster's functions are editor-related, I most appreciated the other functions. THINK C 5.0.x can take advantage of source code control information from Apple's MPW Projector tool. This was a great step forward for those of us who use both THINK C and MPW. I don't know how many times I was using MPW Projector for source code control and inadvertently changed the source using THINK C. CMaster has two window preferences settings that help out - "Make files outside project read-only" and "Make locked files read-only." Both options make the files appear to be Projector read-only files, which helps prevent stupid mistakes like accidentally changing a source file in the wrong environment. I find this especially helpful when working with the THINK Class Library (TCL), an ungodly amount of source code that I'm constantly looking at via the editor. These files are unprotected from inadvertent changes, the slightest of which can be next to impossible to locate and will render your application worthless. Also, the "Make locked files read-only" option protects you from trying to change a source file only to find out on saving that the file was locked. Don't laugh - it happens!

The "Open Project Resource File Warning" can also save you time. It warns you when you try to build or run a THINK project with the resource file still open in a resource editor. Normally THINK C would build or run the application without loading any resources, most likely resulting in a bus error when the application runs.

Problems -- The only flaky behavior I discovered was in the "Show Preceding Comments" option. This feature displays at the top of the window any comments directly before a function definition (and therefore its marker) when you select the marker for the function and scroll the window to show the function. This works well if there actually are comments before the function; however, if the comments sit between the function definition and the opening curly bracket, CMaster places the function definition line just out of view. Jersey Scientific indicated that they would fix the problem in the next update. Most people will find this feature useful since comment headers describing functions are commonly placed immediately preceding the function, and in fact, Symantec commented the TCL this way.

Improvements -- I asked if Jersey Scientific might add the capability to search MPW 411 style help files, which are generic text-only kind of open format help files so users can create their own help files. This kind of 411-lookup feature would provide some way to access custom help from within the THINK environment. Jersey Scientific mentioned that they were hard at work on a major upgrade of CMaster, but they don't think it will be ready to ship until later this year. (They noted that this is NOT an announcement, but rather that they were working on a new set of features that they hope will be CMaster 2.0.) This new version may have a feature that would let users write their own extensions to CMaster that would support MPW 411 files. Interesting thought - an extension to an extension of THINK C!

CMaster could take better advantage of color. Jersey Scientific is aware of this deficiency and discussions with them indicate that the next release will better support color. I would particularly like to see CMaster use color styles for functions, keywords, and comments. This can greatly increase the readability of source code, and although it would add significantly to CMaster's parsing responsibilities, high-end development tools like ACIUS ObjectMaster already have such capabilities.

Overall -- This is not a complete discussion of CMaster's every feature. I only mentioned the main ones and those that I found particularly interesting. Almost all the features have some kind of option key variant that makes them more useful than it seems at first glance.

Jersey Scientific responded quickly to email queries and even answered their tech support line. They post CMaster updates in the THINK C file section on CompuServe, and from there to sumex-aim.stanford.edu for anonymous FTP. Jersey Scientific prefers that you use the CompuServe address if possible, especially from the Internet.

Is CMaster worth $69.95, or about a third of THINK C's street price? It significantly enhances the THINK C environment in ways that will probably save you time and aggravation. If you use THINK C on a weekly basis, CMaster is necessary. If you use THINK C daily you will save yourself $69.95 worth of your time in the first week.

The real question is how much, if any, of this functionality will be included in THINK C 6.0, which is rumored for release this spring (MacWEEK 15-Feb-93). Jersey Scientific cannot, for non-disclosure reasons, say anything about even the existence of THINK C 6.0, much less its features. Jersey Scientific did say that they will do their best to release a compatible version as soon as possible after Symantec ships a major upgrade to THINK C. This will most likely be version 1.2, and will resemble 1.0.9 in terms of features, although it will drop support for THINK C 4.x (THINK C 5.x and 6.x will be supported). New users can expect the price of CMaster to increase with version 1.2, but upgrades will be provided at nominal cost.

CMaster -- $69.95
Jersey Scientific, Inc.
545 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
212/736-0406
212/947-4981 (fax)
70400.3361@compuserve.com
AppleLink: jersci

Reviews/12-Apr-93


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