Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
Well, what is the PowerPC and should I wait? Good question, and we try to answer it this issue. We also have a look at Fifth Generation Systems' excellent CopyDoubler 2.0, FWB's CD-ROM Toolkit, the shareware ZipIt compression program, information on speeding up file sharing startup, and how to learn more about the PowerPC on AppleLink.
Copyright 1993 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Comments: <email@example.com>
But of course we all know that there are eight SCSI ID numbers (0-7, of which the SCSI controller always steals one), not seven as Jeff Needleman accidentally wrote last issue. Thanks to John Saxton, Frank Nagy, Ioannis Mangos, and everyone else who pointed this out. We don't like being wrong, but we do like correcting our mistakes.
Video Spigot competition comes from Sigma Designs and its $349 Movie Movie, a NuBus hardware and software combination for capturing digital audio and full-motion video. Along with 30 frame per second capture in standard QuickTime postage stamp sizes, Movie Movie can capture a full 640 x 480 resolution window, which is useful for still images.
Sigma Designs -- 510/770-0100 -- 510/770-2640 (fax)
If File Sharing starts slowly on cold mornings, try deleting the AppleShare PDS file that lives at the root level on each shared volume. Jon Pugh <firstname.lastname@example.org> posted this tip on Info-Mac, saying that it took File Sharing about an hour to start up on his PowerBook, and after deleting the file, it took less than a minute. My Mac always seemed to start slowly as well, so I used ResEdit to make the AppleShare PDS files on all my volumes visible (at which point you can see the snazzy killer rabbit icon), trashed them, and then rebooted. I presume that File Sharing rebuilt them on the subsequent reboot, and File Sharing starts up much faster now. You will lose all your sharing preferences, but since I have nothing fancy set up, it wasn't a problem for me. (I just log in to my SE/30's volumes from the PowerBook as the owner, which allows me to avoid setting up sharing for each individual volume. I once heard that using the Finder's Sharing menu item to share the disks, which lets you share specific folders and set more specific privileges, exacts a small performance hit.)
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor -- email@example.com
Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers
Everyone's talking about PowerPC, the new processor architecture Apple and IBM have been developing, that promises to blow away all the microprocessors currently on the market. If you'd like to sound knowledgeable about PowerPC at that big cocktail party this weekend, check out the new "Macintosh on PowerPC" folder that Apple Developer Services has provided on AppleLink. This folder houses general information for third-party developers interested in preparing for the next Macintosh platform.
The information includes options for transitioning to PowerPC, what development tools will be available, what can be done to prepare for PowerPC, and which developers have already hopped onto the bandwagon. The folder can be found under the AppleLink path Developer Support -> Developer Services -> Macintosh on PowerPC.
AppleLink, which previously was available somewhat exclusive to Apple employees, dealers, and third-party developers, is now available to anyone willing to fill out the form and spend the money. Although AppleLink costs a good deal more than other online services, it often has more information, more timely news, and better access to Apple resources and other developers. You can find subscription applications on (you guessed it) AppleLink, under the AppleLink Help Desk icon, so you can ask your local dealer or an existing developer to download one for you.
-- Information from:
Apple Developer Group
by Jim Wheelis -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Up to now, I've thought of zip files (a popular compression format on DOS machines, much as .sit files from StuffIt Deluxe are on the Mac) as kids from the other side of town - tolerated at best. I see a lot of these interlopers from bulletin boards, and I occasionally modem documents to someone who runs a DOS machine. Short of buying Aladdin's StuffIt Deluxe or the Macintosh version of PKWare (which I've seen advertised but never reviewed), it used to be awkward to create a zip file on a Mac. Unzipping wasn't a problem, because A.P. Maika's several incarnations of UnZip did that nicely. I have used MacZip to create zip files, but I found it awkward, and I couldn't make it work unless I placed both the new archive and the original file in the same folder. Tommy Brown's <email@example.com> ZipIt 1.1.1 goes a long way towards making the .ZIP compression protocols available in Mac shareware.
ZipIt's interface is (expressly) modeled after Compact Pro. It uses many of the same commands and has similar dialogs. The manual is comprehensive, and the author is attentive to bug reports. I've used the latest version without any snags on a Brainstorm accelerated Plus and on an LC III.
Is it on a par with StuffIt Lite and Compact Pro? Not on features, not yet. It doesn't do folders, for one thing. You can select a folder containing several tiers of sub-folders, and it will compress the files within them, but doesn't respect the folder boundaries. ZipIt works its way right through the folders, compressing every file into one archive, and it won't allow files with the same name in the same archive. The manual mentions this limitation as something a future version will cure. Even on the DOS side, PKZip and PKUnzip preserve a directory structure only on receiving specific commands to do so - not as a default, like Compact Pro and StuffIt Lite.
ZipIt lets you choose whether to strip linefeeds or save a file in MacBinary format. Although I didn't experience problems when transferring ZipIt archives between Mac and DOS, the manual reports some complaints about compatibility between the two platforms. It's not an instrument of sorcery; you still have to pay attention to formats - whether the TEXT file you compress has linefeeds, what the DOS word processor at the other end can handle, and so on. I had no trouble creating the archive on the Mac and copying it to a DOS-formatted disk.
If you can, before you push your archive into the modem, see if PKUnzip can read it under DOS. If you are dealing with a text file, you can test it further by seeing if typing "TYPE textfile.txt" (where "textfile.txt" is the name of your text document) at the C: prompt produces the text of the file on your screen. This will tell you how much work you have to do before you archive the file. And ZipIt, though it can strip linefeeds, can't add them. For that, you need something else - Add/Strip on the Mac, for example, or your word processor conversion capabilities.
[For those confused by the linefeed issue, the Mac uses a carriage return (CR) to end a line, where as DOS uses a carriage return and linefeed combination (CR/LF). Thus, when transferring text files to a Mac from a DOS machine, you may see little boxes in front of every line since the Mac sees the CR, ends the line, and then doesn't know what to display for the linefeed character that comes next. Hence the little boxes. In going the other direction, Mac to DOS, you want to add linefeeds so DOS knows where lines end. -Adam]
Here are some before and after sizes (taken from the Finder window) and timings on compression (using my analog wristwatch, counting from when the program started compressing until it said Done). I tested Compact Pro 1.33, StuffIt Lite 3.0.5, and ZipIt 1.1.1, all on an LC III with 8 MB RAM.
Test One = 3.9 MB TEXT only
Archive Size Time Compact Pro 965 K 2 min 33 sec StuffIt Lite 890 K 4 min 58 sec ZipIt 878 K 4 min 32 sec
Test Two = 198K PICT
Archive Size Time Compact Pro 68 K 15 sec StuffIt Lite 65 K 12 sec ZipIt 63 K 18 sec
Test Three = 1.4 MB Microsoft Word 5.1 document with 2 PICTs
Archive Size Time Compact Pro 420 K 60 sec StuffIt Lite 380 K 132 sec ZipIt 358 K 152 sec
As you can see, ZipIt was in the ballpark with Compact Pro and StuffIt Lite in each test, although it won't compete with them any time soon in the Macintosh world as a whole. ZipIt's primary purpose is to provide compatibility with DOS compression formats (one reason for not testing applications or other formats that wouldn't transfer), and it appears to do that admirably.
You can find ZipIt 1.1.1 on the Internet at <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> as:
Those of us dismayed at the thoroughly mediocre performance of CD-ROM might do well to check out FWB's new CD-ROM Toolkit. Like FWB's Hard Disk Toolkit, CD-ROM Toolkit replaces Apple's driver software to improve performance. This driver works in the background and can improve CD-ROM performance by up to 1800%, although smaller amounts are more common.
CD-ROM Toolkit works its magic by caching information from the CD-ROM to your hard disk, specifically, to a file in your Preferences folder, which is a problem for those of us who work with a relatively small boot partition. You can trash that file when it's not in use, a feature that might be handy when you need some free space fast. You can specify the size of the file, from 1,500K to 5,000K, but you need that amount of contiguous free space, so optimizing your volume makes sense, especially since if you don't have at least 1,500K of free space, you can't use CD-ROM Toolkit. In that file, CD-ROM Toolkit caches the directory information, along with icon and alias data and a variable-sized read-ahead RAM cache (which assumes that after reading some data, the most likely data to be needed subsequently is the next bit of data on the disk).
CD-ROM Toolkit works with most CD-ROM drives, even the newer multi-speed ones, and supports Photo-CD single- and multi-session disks (the latter only on multi-session-capable drives), multi-platter devices, HyperCard audio XCMDs, Apple Multimedia specifications, ISO 9660, High Sierra, HFS, MS-DOS, ProDOS, and CD Digital Audio. It even comes with an audio CD player program to play audio CDs on any CD-ROM drive with audio jacks (if you play an audio CD on a CD-ROM drive without audio jacks, does it make a sound?).
John Baxter, who relayed his impressions of CD-ROM Toolkit for this article, said that there are a number of options in the CD-ROM Toolkit Control Panel, and that you will need to play with them to achieve optimal performance. One set of options gave far better performance with some QuickTime movies for John, whereas other movies showed worse performance than without CD-ROM Toolkit installed. John did note that the Developer CD and the new AppleScript CD clearly benefited from using the CD-ROM Toolkit. On the negative side, twice John inserted a CD and almost immediately started a Finder Find command, looking for a file that he knew was present on the CD, only to have the Finder report that the file was not present. Many folders also appeared empty, which led John to the tentative conclusion that issuing a Find command immediately after inserting the CD interrupts the directory caching in such a way that the CD-ROM Toolkit didn't go back and finish creating the cache properly. FWB didn't respond to our query about this. When I spoke with him last, John said that he had stopped using CD-ROM Toolkit due to an apparent conflict with Stacker, which he had just installed as well. Nothing definite about that, but be warned. FWB just released an updater to version 1.0.1 of CD-ROM Toolkit, and it's possible that John's difficulties were addressed in that release.
CD-ROM Toolkit is only $49 mail order, so if you use your CD drive heavily, it's worth checking out, although I'd recommend ordering from a vendor that accepts returns if possible, just in case your applications show little or no benefit.
FWB -- 415/474-8055 -- 415/775-2125 (fax)
-- Information from:
John Baxter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Too much utility software these days does an excellent job of solving problems that don't exist. I'm not interested yet another program launcher, or the latest and greatest in hierarchical Apple menu utilities. But Fifth Generation's Salient Software has come up with yet another utility that solves some of my real-world problems, CopyDoubler 2.0.
CopyDoubler 1.0 did a good job at replacing and speeding up the Finder's copying routines, but it wasn't drop-dead impressive. Despite not being nearly as fast, CopyRight from CSG Technologies seemed snazzier, because it could work away on multiple simultaneous copies in the background. It was deceptive though, since much of the time when you copy files, you want to work with either the result of the copy or the source files, and a background copy doesn't finish as quickly as a foreground copy. CopyDoubler's developers figured out how to add background features and queued multiple copies to CopyDoubler, and in the process added a slew of other features that may solve some of your problems as they solved mine.
CopyDoubler is a single Control Panel. Apparently there is a trick to putting application code in a Control Panel, so it lives in the Control Panels folder but can launch as an application (which is how you can send it into the background). By default, when you start a copy, CopyDoubler launches into the foreground and starts to copy. Since it's so fast, most of the time you don't even get a chance to send it into the background, but if you're copying a lot of files to floppy and you don't need it done immediately, you can click in another application to send CopyDoubler to the back. I seldom do this, but it can be handy. If you really like background copying, you always launch CopyDoubler into the background.
CopyDoubler still comes with a number of options for verifying files written to different types of disks, and you can still use it to empty the trash faster than the Finder, or to empty the trash in the background. You now have notification options as well, since otherwise you might never know when a background copy had finished. But the truly interesting new features come with CopyDoubler's scheduled copies.
In some ways, the name is unfortunate, because a scheduled copy doesn't have to have a schedule. As you copy a file, if you hold down the control key, CopyDoubler will let you choose to copy "Now with CopyDoubler," "Later with CopyDoubler," or "Now without CopyDoubler." In addition, you can temporarily changes the settings for verification and notification, and if you use AutoDoubler as well, expand or compress the files during the copy. The ability to compress while copying is especially useful for AutoDoubler users who don't own DiskDoubler, because they can't easily compress a file manually after copying.
In any event, if you choose "Later with CopyDoubler," you can hit the Schedule button to bring up a large dialog that lets you determine when and how your copy will happen. The "When" options include at startup, restart, or shutdown; repeating every X number of hours; repeating at certain times on certain days; only via the keyboard; or postponed indefinitely. I'm sure you can figure out if timed copying appeals to you, but the option that interests me is copying via a keystroke. One of my big problems is that I have various files scattered around my hard disks that I duplicate on the PowerBook 100. These files are items like my Nisus Macros, Nisus User Dictionary, my address database, and so on. All told, there are ten or fifteen of them, and updating them manually is a major pain. None of the PowerBook synchronization programs will help (except reportedly Inline Sync) since I want to move these files from multiple source folders to multiple destination folders, which would require an individual setup in a sync program, even the one I currently like the most, FileRunner. I refuse to organize my life to suit a sync program.
Here's the trick. CopyDoubler's "only via keyboard" option lets me start a specific copy via a keystroke. But, CopyDoubler doesn't force me to choose unique keystrokes for each copy, so I chose the same one for each. Now, by hitting a single keystroke (I don't want to do this at any specific time, but I could), I can update all of these data and support files in one swell foop. Of course, all this happens via file sharing, and as long as AppleTalk is on, CopyDoubler knows enough to mount all the appropriate volumes, remembering passwords where necessary, and even dismounts them when its done. The first time I tried this and it worked I was literally jumping up and down with excitement. All too often my problems stay unsolved, but CopyDoubler did a bang-up job on that particular one.
Now, as much as CopyDoubler can in some ways double as a sync program or a backup program, keep in mind that it isn't specifically trying to do either. It has no facilities for two-way copying like a sync program, and it doesn't let you flexibly choose files like a good backup program, although its Fast Replace will only replace changed files (which is how I can quickly copy the entire folder of TidBITS issues each time). However, if you find yourself with a task that doesn't quite fit either a sync program or a backup program, check out CopyDoubler. The closest I can come to a complaint with CopyDoubler is that it has some large, nested, modal dialogs while editing scheduled copies. That's not something most people will do often, though, and it's a minor quibble. I highly recommend CopyDoubler if you've ever experienced frustration with copying files in the Finder, either in terms of speed or features.
CopyDoubler 2.0 lists for $59.95 and upgrades are available for $14.95. You can test a demo of CopyDoubler if you like; it's available on sumex-aim.stanford.edu via anonymous FTP as:
Fifth Generation Systems -- 800/873-4384 -- 504/291-7221
504/295-3268 -- email@example.com
So what's the deal here? Is the PowerPC chip real? Is the Macintosh line dead? Is it true that if you look at the signatures in an SE case in a mirror one of them reads "Elvis Presley Lives?"
Good questions, all, except the last one, so whoever asked that one, go wash your head. I'm not an engineer, and I'm not an Apple insider, so I'm basing my impressions here on vapor, rumor, and gut feel. So what's new?
For those coming late to the game, the PowerPC chip is one result of the Apple-IBM deal, with Motorola brought in to help with the design and manufacturing. The chip itself is RISC-based (Reduced Instruction Set Computing, or killer fast) and scalable, which means that it will be easy to create different versions for different levels of hardware, PDAs, desktop machines, workstations, and so on. I think Ford has even announced plans to put it in a car, although that strikes me as overkill unless they have something new and neat in mind. Apple and IBM both intend to use the chip in new machines, but for the purposes of this article, we'll ignore IBM. It's not hard if you practice.
The current schedule, which is surprisingly on target or even slightly ahead, has the first PowerPC-based Macs appearing in January of 1994. Those machines will run current Macintosh applications without modification in emulation mode at about the same speed as the 68040-based Centris machines. It will also run native PowerPC applications (of which we may not see many right away) at speeds ranging from two to five times faster than the fastest Quadras right now. There's no telling where in that range the first PowerPCs will fall, although I wouldn't scoff at twice the speed of a Quadra.
In addition, if you're concerned about Intel's forthcoming Pentium chip, I gather that the PowerPC 601, the first of the PowerPC chips, is faster, smaller, cheaper, cooler, and uses less power. Don't worry, though, it will be just as easy to spot Pentium-equipped PCs as it is to spot PCs now. Almost all of them come with this useful little warning required by the Truth In Advertising Act, saying "Intel Inside."
So the PowerPC is going to be a winner next winter from what we hear now. But Apple has the Centris 660av and the Quadra 840av, code-named Tempest and Cyclone respectively, slated for this summer. They will sport all sorts of new technology, including a built-in digital signal processor, which will allow them to perform voice recognition and synthesis, as well as emulate a fast modem when combined with the new high-speed GeoPort for serial and network communications. Both machines will have built-in digital video, allowing them to capture and output 16-bit color video without additional hardware. They also feature direct memory access to the CPU buses, built-in Ethernet, and a faster NuBus. In short, these are killer Macs, especially at the $2,300 estimated for the Centris 660av.
But as much as these two new Macs will represent a major architectural change, the PowerPCs go farther. Will these be the last two 68000-based Macs? Unlikely, especially until a PowerPC PowerBook becomes possible. Are they the beginning of the end for the 68000 line? Very possibly. Think back to the IIfx and its special SCSI/DMA controller that was supposed to improve SCSI performance, but languished unused without system software support. Could the same thing happen to the Centris 660av and Quadra 840av? I just don't know, but I see three possible ways to deal with this situation as an interested consumer.
First, let's assume that the PowerPCs aren't going to be real for some time after January of 1994, in terms of available hardware (although Apple is rumored to be already stockpiling the PowerPC 601 chip that the first PowerPCs will use) and software that will take advantage of the PowerPC's native mode. If that's the case, then the Centris 660av and Quadra 840av suddenly reign supreme at the high end, and anyone who needs that kind of speed will go for the known quantity of the 68040 chip. So wait until this summer and buy one. I don't think you'll regret it, although I'd wait just long enough to confirm that your applications don't have trouble with the new technologies.
Second, let's continue to assume that the PowerPCs won't be real for some time, and that the large quantities of new technology in the Centris 660av and Quadra 840av scare you. That's not a poor assumption for those of you who don't enjoy the bleeding edge of technology. Almost every major change in Macintosh technology has required a few months of break-in time, during which the application vendors scramble to achieve compatibility or to take advantage of the new technologies. There's nothing wrong with that, and the Mac II, the IIci, the IIfx, and the Quadras have all become stable, useful, machines after those first few months. So if you don't wish to take risks of any sort, but you need a new machine soon, you should think carefully about buying a nice Centris 610 or 650, or perhaps a Quadra 800. If it were my money on the line, I'd recommend the Centris 610 since you want to remain flexible on the PowerPCs, so you shouldn't spend all your money now, even if you can't wait.
Third and finally, let's assume that the PowerPCs are going to appear in January of 1994 and that all the major Macintosh applications will run in emulation mode just fine. If you can wait until January for those first few models of the PowerPC, that might prove to be the move of the year, although as with anything electronic, the first PowerPCs will be obsolete within a year or so. But what's obsolete when you have native mode applications running several times faster than a Quadra?
Surprise surprise, I'm in this very quandary right now. I'm working on an SE/30 that started out life as a double-floppy SE in 1988, and although it has served me well and has been rewarded with 20 MB of RAM and ever-increasing amounts of disk space, I fear that I am slowly becoming more in need of a faster machine. In some respects I can wait to see how things shake out because the SE/30 really is fast enough. Heck, I'm writing my Internet book entirely in Nisus on the PowerBook 100. If I only had a Plus, I would be far more inclined to jump for a Centris 610 right now, or maybe hold out for a Centris 660av this summer. Waiting until January might be just too long if I were working on a Plus.
But then there's the technology issue. I'm actually a bit of a wimp when it comes to buying new technology (comes from not having unlimited funds, no doubt), but I want voice capabilities bad. Although my carpal tunnel seems to be in control, I have to watch how much I type, and even with the Curtis MVP Mouse (a trackball) and its footswitch, I find that I sometimes overdo it on mousing. If I could reduce the number of clicks and keystrokes with voice control.... So I personally have to wait for at least the av Macs, but then comes the question of the PowerPCs. Is it worth holding out just a few months longer? The PowerPCs won't have DSP chips in them because the Apple engineers found that the PowerPC chip could do the same tasks as the DSP chip even faster, so adding the DSP chip didn't provide any speed benefits. It's hard to ignore that kind of raw power.
If pressed, I would say that the issue hasn't really changed. The first rule of buying computers is that you buy what you can afford when you absolutely need it. If you can wait, the prices will drop and the power will increase. So I always advise waiting as long as you can possibly stand it (keeping in mind that it may take a while to get your machine of choice even after ordering it), and then buying the best machine you can. Also, if possible, immediately start ignoring all reports of faster machines or cheaper prices - they just make you unhappy. Be content with what you have and rest assured that it was the best choice when you bought it. It's the only way to stay sane in this fast-moving world.
Motorola PowerPC Information Pack -- 800/845-MOTO
-- Information from:
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