Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
News from Apple this week includes a request for feedback from ex-32-bit Enabler users, updated free utilities that all Macintosh users should have, and a fix for some LaserWriter NTR bugs. Digging through the Macworld information pile, I glance at some of the small products that make the Mac fun. Finally, if you're confused and irritated about the scatterbrained Macintosh product line, check out my editorial entitled Proliferation Polemic.
Copyright 1993 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Comments: <email@example.com>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Sorry this issue is a day late - for those of you not in the U.S., Monday was Labor Day, a national holiday celebrated in true oxymoronic style by not working. I wonder if there are any holidays that people celebrate by working especially hard? Probably not.
IN CONTROL Offer -- I guess Attain liked Matt Neuburg's review of IN CONTROL in the last issue since they have made it easier for TidBITS readers to check out the program and expand their wardrobes at the same time. If you order via email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> you will receive IN CONTROL 2.0 and an IN CONTROL t-shirt for $75, which includes shipping within the U.S. That's about $10 cheaper than mail order, and you get the t-shirt. I didn't receive further details in time, but I assume you would have to include your shipping address, telephone number, and credit card type, number, and expiration date.
AV Monitor Correction Again -- Daniel V. Blystone <email@example.com> writes: "In regards to the comment by Michael Shannon last week, you do not need a TV to see what you are recording QuickTime movies. You do need software that will let you see what you are recording, such as Adobe Premiere, which lets you view the input while you record. Many of the Apple utilities do not let you preview while recording. There are several advantages to having a TV monitor hanging around. You can run your captured movies on the TV using NTSC standard, and you can watch your favorite cartoon while you work."
Michael Shannon <firstname.lastname@example.org> clarifies: "Perhaps the way I worded the statement was misleading. Recording QuickTime movies from an external video source is no problem. It's recording the video OUTPUT (either composite or S-VHS) that disables the Mac display."
An unfortunate bug has reared its ugly head in CopyDoubler 2.0, the utility from Fifth Generation Systems that significantly speeds copying. It seems that if you drag a blank floppy disk onto another floppy disk while CopyDoubler is installed, files on your hard disk can be deleted. Needless to say, this is a major problem, and Fifth Generation has released a patcher that brings CopyDoubler to version 2.0.1 and fixes the bug. If you use CopyDoubler or CopyDoubler Lite, make sure to download the updater. It's available on America Online (keyword: Salient), CompuServe (GO FIFTH, library #14), and on <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> as:
A patcher for CopyDoubler Lite exists in the same places with a slightly different name. Obscure bugs happen, and it's a shame that this one had to happen to a program as good as CopyDoubler, but I'm pleased to see an updater available on the nets.
-- Information from:
Terry Morse, Fifth Generation Systems -- email@example.com
Mitch Bayersdorfer <firstname.lastname@example.org>, the project manager in charge of the 32-bit Enabler at Apple, is looking for feedback from users of the 32-bit Enabler who went back to MODE32. Please send Mitch email about specific problems you've had with the 32-bit Enabler (concentrating on programs that work with MODE32 but crash with the 32-bit Enabler), as well as comments about why you like one better than the other. The level of response will directly determine Apple's inclination to update the 32-bit Enabler, so please do write to Mitch. Thanks to Jack Howarth <email@example.com> for forwarding this message.
Just to set the proper mood, I'll start. I like using the 32-bit Enabler more than MODE32 because it's less obtrusive and doesn't turn off if you move it with an extensions manager. However, when I use the 32-bit Enabler on my SE/30, the rs command in MacsBug doesn't restart the machine, and if I open the Define Colors dialog in PageMaker 4.2, the Mac crashes instantly. Neither of these problems occurs with MODE32.
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers
Back in August, Apple announced a collection of software utility updates intended to replace versions already in users' hands. The Macintosh Software Utilities Update, version 1.0, includes Apple HD SC Setup 7.2, Disk First Aid 7.2, and MacCheck 1.0.4. The utilities are intended for users of System 7.1.
MacCheck has shipped with the Performas for a while; it provides a diagnostic tool that users can refer to while speaking to a technical support consultant on the phone. It gives a profile of the hard drive, a logic board test, and a file system verification test (to find corrupted directories and system files).
The new Apple HD SC Setup utility offers better flexibility in formatting hard disks larger than 1 GB. Apple also released it with the recent Hardware System Update 2.0.
Disk First Aid 7.2 adds new repair capabilities and a completely new user interface. Version 7.1 did not always agree with MacCheck's diagnoses, and often could neither find nor repair problems that MacCheck pointed out to a confused user.
The free update disk is available immediately from AppleLink, via anonymous FTP from <ftp.apple.com> (using the path /ftp/dts/mac/sys.soft/utils), and from other online services, user groups, and dealers. Questions may be addressed to Apple's help line, 800/SOS-APPL, to MACCHECK on AppleLink, or email@example.com on the Internet.
Apple notes that the recent new Macintoshes and the ones introduced this fall, will probably include Disk First Aid 7.1.1, rather than 7.2. Apparently the fall machines' disk-completion deadline was in July, and Disk First Aid 7.2 was not ready.
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Apple has announced that replacement ROM chips will be available from service providers to fix two problems in the Personal LaserWriter NTR printer. Users who have experienced either problem are eligible for the upgrade; users who haven't seen either problem probably don't need it.
The first problem would be immediately apparent. If the Personal LaserWriter NTR is used in a network with routers that have checksum capability, the printer will not appear in the Chooser, and therefore can't be selected. The second problem, perhaps less evident, is that the printer might occasionally print a blank sheet of paper immediately prior to a print job or immediately upon startup.
The upgrade kit consists of six ROM chips to replace chips in the printer, and is available from Apple service providers (such as most Apple dealers) free of charge through 15-Aug-94.
-- Information from:
I'm finally processing my stack of information from Macworld Boston, and I wanted to write about some of the products that I liked the most when there, not because they improve your bottom line or productivity, but because they improve your mood. The Mac is fun, or at least it should be, and these products help keep it that way. Anyone who doesn't think the Mac should be fun should go futz with A/UX on an Apple Workstation Server 95. That should be a load of laughs.
Screenies -- I kept dragging friends over to see Screenies, since they are small, simple, and use no RAM. They can't crash your Mac, and depending on your configuration, might even be useful.
Screenies are cardboard screen frames that attach to the edge of a monitor with velcro. That may be the worst part - I don't know if you can easily remove the velcro if you don't want the Screenie any more. They come in two sizes, one for 14" monitors (those fit 13" and 15" monitors as well) and one for 9" monitors (although in fewer designs), and 51 different designs, many created by well-known artists. I can't do the range of designs justice, but you can probably find at least one you like. I especially liked the Etch-a-Sketch and the Retro TV Screenies.
Two Screenies are more than decorative - a corkboard and a dry erase whiteboard. Given the number of people who stick notes to their monitors, I suspect the whiteboard in particular will be popular.
Screenies cost about $12 for big ones and $10 for little ones (prices may vary), and should be available from many stores, including CompUSA, Egghead, and many non-computer vendors. You can also call and ask for the location of a local reseller, and if even order one over the phone (although short of the corkboard or the whiteboard, you would want to pick one out in person). Recommended.
Screenies -- 800/959-6190 -- 707/939-6060 -- 707/939-6065 (fax)
The Disney Collection -- Berkeley Systems continues to fight off the advent of power-saving monitors with collections of modules for their After Dark screen saver, and the latest one is certainly worth a look if you're a module collector.
The Star Trek collection didn't excite me because animating the Star Trek characters resulted in stiff, odd-looking renditions of real people and special effects. In contrast, The Disney Collection works well since the characters are animated to begin with, so converting them to onscreen animations fits perfectly. The modules I saw at the show looked slick and well-done. There's a Goofy module in which he messes around with items on your desktop, a Fantasia module with Mickey Mouse and the animated broom, a module in which Donald Duck paints the screen while being lowered from a swing, and a cute one with 101 Dalmations reversing out of a white screen and leaving black silhouettes and... you'll have to see it. Also included among the 15 modules are modules from The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, both of which are too recent for my Disney cultural knowledge.
Like the Star Trek Collection, the Disney Collection comes with After Dark, so you don't need to buy it separately, but if you have After Dark already, the modules will work fine. The list price (not that many people pay it) is $49.95, and the Disney Collection is slated to ship at the end of September.
Berkeley Systems -- 510/540-5535
UnderWare -- Continuing on to the latest take on screen savers, we hit UnderWare, which, in its less-interesting modes, can act as a screen saver (compatible with most After Dark modules) or as a Wallpaper-like desktop pattern utility. Where UnderWare shines though, is in the time between when you stop working and when the screen saver kicks in. UnderWare provides over 30 modules that run in "dynamic desktop" mode, interacting with the icons and windows on your desktop.
Like the Goofy module I mentioned above, the UnderWare modules interact in an often-hilarious manner with desktop objects. The modules include icons that sprout legs and run off the screen, a burglar who tunnels into your Mac and steals chips, butterflies that fly around and land on icons, a fire-breathing dragon that melts your trash can, a wizard that zaps icons, and a garbage truck that drives onto the screen and empties your trash (although I don't think it deletes anything).
The slightly confusing part of UnderWare is that the propaganda says that it runs while you work. That's not exactly true. It kicks in quickly after the Mac goes idle (and I think you can set that delay) so that you can enjoy its displays, but it's not slowing things down as you type.
Like any good screen saver-type utility, UnderWare provides a configurable system activity monitor that checks for network access or modem usage. UnderWare is a Control Panel and requires less than 100K of the system heap, although it does require at least a 68020 Macintosh with Color QuickDraw and System 7. UnderWare will ship in September at a list price of $59.95. Definitely worth a look.
Bit Jugglers -- 415/968-3908 -- 415/968-5358 (fax)
Crazy Covers -- If you work in a dusty environment, you've probably thought about covering your Mac. If you have ever cracked the case of an elderly SE and been assaulted by dust bunnies with the size and personality of warthogs, you've definitely thought about covering your Mac. Crazy Covers makes a variety of covers from Tyvek, a strange, durable material that definitely never came from anything living. Crazy Covers has a ton of designs, and although they aren't as neat as the designs on the Screenies, they're better than plain white. You can choose from one of their pre-existing designs, such as a jungle, an ocean, a globe, a polar bear, a Woody Jackson-ish cow motif, and various Apple logos, or you can have them custom print any design you send them. A custom cover could be a neat advertising gimmick, although they're a bit pricey to be a Macworld giveaway, ranging in price from about $10 to about $30. Crazy Covers donates a portion of the proceeds from the jungle, ocean, and globe designs to environmental organizations.
Crazy Covers -- 800/624-1404 -- 802/463-1404
SimCity 2000 -- The game that has held my interest the longest (and which Tonya plays on the PowerBook 100 when she's sick) is SimCity from Maxis. For us at least, it has the elements necessary to hold attention beyond even the other Sim games like SimEarth, SimAnt, and SimLife (which I actually haven't seem). The next major release in the Sim line should be SimCity 2000, which is an impressive upgrade to SimCity Classic (as it will now be called).
SimCity 2000 takes the city simulation concepts in SimCity Classic and expands on them in almost every way. Instead of a single overhead view, you can display your city in three dimensions and at three magnification levels. Moving up from the 16-color graphics in SimCity Classic, SimCity 2000 supports 256-color graphics, a noticeable difference. Instead of creating only roads and railroads, you can create roads, highways, tunnels, on-ramps, and bus depots, and of course the mass transit equivalents - underground subways and rail depots. Energy simulation has expanded as well, so instead being limited to coal or nuclear power plants, SimCity 2000 lets you experiment with coal, nuclear, solar, cold fusion, hydroelectric, wind, gas, oil, microwave beam, and solar power plants. Outdoor recreation for the Sims should prove more interesting in SimCity 2000 with its parks, zoos, stadiums, and marinas. Other features include (reading from the propaganda - the program was barely in stable alpha or beta at the show) 64 levels of altitude (and you can raise or lower the ground level), an underground level for waterworks and subways, variable sized zones, more city services, built-in terrain editor, a local newspaper for event updates and citizen feedback, angled roads, musical soundtrack, and brand new disasters.
Put it this way. I want this program. Maxis claims they will ship it with some real-life cities built-in, and I hope they do Seattle, with its massive debates raging over mass transit issues. If not, I may create a Seattle simulation, just to satisfy my own curiosity about how some of the transit plans might work out.
SimCity 2000 will list for $69.95 when it ships late this year. They had no firm date when I asked, but I'm sure it will be in the stores for Christmas. Watch for SimCity 2000 - it will be a winner. You might also look for SimFarm sometime soon, and having grown up on a farm, I'll definitely have some opinions on that one.
Maxis -- 800/336-2947 -- 510/254-9700 -- 510/253-3736 (fax)
Anyone who has tried to buy a Macintosh in recent years or who supports them professionally or personally has no doubt cursed Apple for the proliferation of Macintosh models. What processor did the LC II have? How fast is the IIvx in comparison to the LC III? Why does the Quadra 700 support 24-bit internal video whereas its faster sequel, the Quadra 800 doesn't? These are among the questions that I and many others continually ask, along with the question at the root of these evils - what are they putting in the drinking water in Cupertino?
This problem shows up frequently in what are now historical looks at the Macs of yesteryear. In the BMUG Glossary (I used the version in the massive Spring Newsletter), they list the Classic II in the 68000 line, but they also list it, along with its Performa 200 clone, in the 68020 line. Buzz! Buzz! The otherwise-excellent second edition of Rich Wolfson's "The PowerBook Companion" mentions that the Classic II uses a 68000 chip . Buzz! In Robin Williams's wonderful new book "Jargon," she says that all Mac II-class machines use the 68030 except for the Mac II, the LC, and LC II. Buzz!
These excellent books come from respected authors, and they all miss the fact that both the Classic II and the LC II use a 16 MHz 68030 with a 16-bit data bus. We don't blame these authors or even their technical editors for the mistakes; we've made similar ones in TidBITS. The blame lies with Apple for introducing many variations on the theme and for eliminating all printed traces of information for older models when a machine becomes obsolete. Try finding a spec sheet on the SE/30 these days.
The Solution? -- By now you're thinking that this is an old complaint, although admittedly one which Apple has generally ignored. In a feeble move in the right direction, Apple will reportedly drop the Centris name in the future, calling all Centris machines Quadras, which may reduce the number of Macs, but will leave the current Centrises isolated in the history books. To balance that bit of sanity, the new Quadra 605 rumored for this fall will sport yet another case design, slimmer even than the LC case. How many cases is that now?
Some time back, Guy Kawasaki wrote in his Macworld column that Apple should drop all but three models of the Mac, the Color Classic, the PowerBook 160, and the Centris 650 (see TidBITS #174 for my initial comments on that suggestion). Such a suggestion fails miserably in the marketplace for two reasons. First, there isn't enough flexibility in those three Macs to satisfy a large number of purchasers. Second, with only three Macs in the line, Apple gets almost no shelf space in computer stores in comparison to PC clones.
Over the past few months, Tonya and I have talked about this problem at length (as a tech support person, Tonya is painfully aware of the problems in keeping up - try helping a novice restart a Mac when you have no idea where Apple put the restart or power switch on a new model). Although perhaps not perfect, we think we've come up with a solution that satisfies most everyone.
Apple should create four lines of Macs, each of which would have different case designs for which you could choose individual configurations specifications like processor speed, RAM size, monitor, and hard drive. First comes the Home/Education/Individual User line, which encompasses the Color Classic or LC 520 case and the standard LC case. Second, we have the Business/Power User line, which encompasses the Centris 610 case, the Centris 650 or Quadra 700 case, and the Quadra 900 case. Third comes the PowerBook line, with PowerBook and Duo cases. Fourth and most interesting, comes the Collectible line, in which the case changes with each new Mac, but only one new Mac appears every nine to twelve months. The most important part of this is that within each line, the motherboards are identical other than size or number of slots. That eliminates the model-specific quirks as much as possible. Let me explain.
The Explanation -- You seldom hear complaints from the PC world about number of models because it's relatively easy to compare machines, even from different vendors, based on the chip speed and options. You don't run into quirks like the IIci and the IIsi sharing RAM between applications and internal video, but every other Mac with internal video using VRAM. PC clones are generally stamped out on a production line and the customer chooses options after picking a base unit. That method works well, because it provides flexibility to the user as well as standard configurations to track (for the moment we'll ignore the much-touted myth of "PC compatible"). So we recommend moving the main Macintosh line to the PC model, as suggested above in the first three lines of Macs.
However, the PC model fails in terms of creating machines with personality, machines that have characteristic quirks, machines that you can name. One 25 MHz 486 is basically the same as any other 25 MHz 486. Many people (although not many businesses) like personality, and I think, for instance, that it says something about me as a person that I work on a PowerBook 100 and on an SE/30, (although admittedly an SE/30 with two screens, 20 MB of RAM, and a 1.2 GB drive). I identify with my SE/30, and when I buy a new machine, I'll hold on the SE/30 and use it as a file server or something. Same goes for the PowerBook 100 - it's a sweet machine that does what I need it to do, under-powered and obsolete though it may be. That's why we suggest the fourth line, the Collectible Mac, so those wishing to spend the money could have a cool Mac that screams individuality.
Just to show that this suggestion isn't accompanied purely by a lot of hand-waving, let me share some the specific details of how this could work.
Home/Education/Individual User Details -- Apple would aim these machines at the individual user or school that didn't anticipate needing high-end software or specialized hardware. At most these machines would have one PDS slot, and RAM and VRAM expansion (16-bit video maximum) would remain at the current limitations of the LC III. The Color Classic or LC 520 case (pick one, it doesn't matter) would satisfy people who wanted it all in a single box, where as the current LC pizza box design would satisfy users who wanted a different monitor (larger, third-party, Pivot, etc.). For these machines, low cost (no math coprocessors) and ease of use are paramount, and the only real upgrades would be to faster processors, more memory, or larger hard disks.
Business/Power User Details -- These machines would more or less encompass the current Quadra and Centris lines, although under one name. The three case designs allow the price range to vary significantly from the one-slot Centris 610 case (perfect as a general machine for a large company to purchase in quantity) to the three-slot Centris 650 or Quadra 700 case (pick one, it doesn't matter), to the six-slot Quadra 900 case. Within each case you could choose the processor speed, RAM size, VRAM size (although all would support up to 24-bit video), hard drive, and monitor, although they all come with an FPU and Ethernet on board. Again, upgrades to faster processors (even if they require new motherboards) as they come out would be simple, since the same case designs should stick around.
PowerBook Details -- The PowerBooks are some of the most confusing Macs around, since the numbers are so numerous. How does the 165 compare to the 145 to the 170 to the 180? No one can keep them straight, so there should be just two cases, a normal PowerBook case and a Duo case. Within each case you choose the processor speed, whether or not it has an FPU, the RAM size, hard drive, and most importantly, monitor type (monochrome, gray-scale, or color in either passive or active matrix). Ports will be standardized on the current ones, so all PowerBooks will have video out and the standard ports, whereas the Duos will still only have a serial port and the docking port. Speaking of the docking port, I see no reason to change the line of docks since with only three possibilities (floppy adapter, MiniDock, and Duo Dock) they are easy to track.
Collectible Mac Details -- Here's where Apple's engineers can strut their stuff. One new Collectible Mac should appear every nine to twelve months, and there should be only two configurable options, RAM and hard drive size (or perhaps a floppy-only version). Each case should be designed by a different renowned designer, and they should feel free to avoid the standard computer look. Maybe we'd see a round Mac covered in teak, or a black Mac with mirrored insets (you can tell I'm not a renowned designer). If you buy a Collectible Mac, you are buying a Mac and making a statement about your life-style. Sure, there might be more quirks and compatibility issues, but you don't buy a Collectible Mac because you rely on utter stability day in and day out. Apple's engineers can use the Collectible Macs as test beds for features like those in the new AV Macs. Innovative features might disappear with the next Collectible Mac, or they might migrate to one or more of the other lines. There's a risk associated with a Collectible Mac, but the people buying them won't care - they're the same people who buy fancy cars and seldom drive them. As far as expansion goes, there wouldn't be any short of adding more RAM or a larger hard disk, since these Macs are one-shot deals. That's fine, since the purchasers of Collectible Macs will either hang on to them to keep the collection going or will sell one to buy a newer model. Of course, Apple probably can't say that a Collectible Mac is a dead end in the documentation, but no one thought the IIfx was a dead end when it came out either.
Naming Schemes -- I haven't mentioned names yet, but simplicity rules here. There should be one name for each line, and to reduce confusion, the names should be different from the current ones. Let's use Turbo as an example. Since all Turbos will differ only in details, when you are talking about your machine, you'd say, "I've got a 25 MHz 68040 Turbo in a one-slot case." If you upgraded to a PowerPC processor, you'd simply say "Now I have a 50 MHz PowerPC 601 Turbo in a one-slot case." No more confusing name and number changes and trying to figure out why the Quadra 800 is faster than the Quadra 900.
The Collectible Macs are another story. Each one must sport its own name, much as each Mac has a code name during development. So you would buy a Macintosh Flame, or a Macintosh Zodiac, or whatever, but that name would uniquely identify that machine, so there wouldn't be any problem with confusing numbers or letters after the name.
Overall -- I won't pretend that this scheme solves all of Apple's problems, or that it would be easy to implement. Nonetheless, if Apple wants to play the PC-clone game, they have to do it right. Although machines with individual character are part of the Macintosh philosophy, confusing the user with a myriad of differences is not. There is a time and a place for individuality, and smack dab in the middle of the product line is not it.
I welcome comments in discussion groups on this issue, since I think it's a major problem. I somehow doubt Apple will listen, but maybe if we all speak up...
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