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Shekhar Govind follows up the voting change in Williamson County, Mark Anbinder looks at the ultimate solitaire game from Delta Tao, we review Mangia, a truly great cooking program, and finally, we present gift suggestions from our backlog and from readers. We also announce a two-week layoff, so see you in 1994.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Copyright 1993 Adam & Tonya Engst. Details at end of issue.
Automated info: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Comments: <email@example.com>
This is it - the last issue of 1993. I'm taking a few weeks off from TidBITS and email, so please don't expect quick responses. The next issue will appear on 03-Jan-94 and may break my self-imposed 30K barrier as I clean out articles for which I haven't found room recently. See you in 1994, and may all of your wishes come true.
Macworld Signing -- I don't know the details, but I will be happy to sign copies of my book at Hayden's Macworld booth. Stop by the booth to check the times and dates.
The Quicken 4 Updater to Release 6 is now at <mac.archive.umich.edu> as:
Connectix has announced RAM Doubler, an extension that provides twice as much RAM for opening applications on any Mac II or greater Mac with at least 4 MB of RAM. Connectix says "RAM Doubler combines Connectix's award-winning memory management technology developed for MODE32 and Maxima with a new set of memory protocols that can typically triple the amount of information stored in a megabyte of RAM. The exact details of the technology are covered under pending patents." Not being one to let such claims go, I asked Connectix president Roy McDonald for clarification. Here's his tongue-in-cheek response:
We've programed a set of External Logical Value Enhancing Subroutines into a System Accessible Nanyte Task Accumulator. This works on a sub-system level to increase the storage capacity of each memory address.
In layman's terms, SANTA's ELVES run around inside RAM finding room for more info than normally can fit inside. Of course, SANTA keeps a list of which memory sectors are good and which are bad and fills the bytes accordingly...
More details in the coming New Year. -Roy.
by Shekhar Govind -- firstname.lastname@example.org
After counting the trailing zeros in the estimates of the economic loss to the county if Apple pulled out, one Williamson County commissioner changed his vote. Last week, the commissioners reversed their earlier decision and by a 3-2 vote granted Apple a tax break similar to the one Dell just hammered out with the county. The deal is now a tax reimbursement to Apple over a seven year period, provided that Apple improves a public road near the site. Also possibly related was a poll by a local newspaper of 401 randomly selected households showing that, by a 50 percent to 37 percent margin, Williamson County residents favored granting Apple the tax rebate. This soap-opera played out in real life proves once again that whatever the race, creed, or sexual orientation involved, the color of money still reign supreme. In this case, the $750,000 tax rebate paled against an estimated $300,000,000 from increased employment, construction, and consumer spending.
Ironically, Williamson County is named after Robert Williamson, an individual who cherished his liberties deeply enough to be labeled "the Patrick Henry of the Texas Revolution." His impassioned newspaper editorials so moved the Mexican government that they instituted a prize for his head, properly detached from the rest of his body of course.
A small portion of the city of Austin falls within Williamson County. Austin recently become the only city in Texas to offer city employees a benefits package for domestic partners similar to Apple's. Apple already operates facilities in Austin and a number of Apple employees reside - where else but - in Williamson County.
The Bureau of the Census designates almost all urban areas of Williamson county within the Austin MSA. (MSA stands for Metropolitan Statistical Area, a large population nucleus together with adjacent communities that have a high degree of social and economic integration with the nucleus.) The county population has mushroomed from a modest 37,305 in 1970, to 78,521 in 1980, to 139,551 in 1990. The largest segment of this demographic shift is from the Midwest. About half the urban work force in the county commutes to work in Austin. Hmm...
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor -- email@example.com
Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers
Even if the clever folks at Delta Tao Software didn't create such wonderful software, we'd could cheer the ecological responsibility they display by selling their software not only without styrofoam filler, but also without a box. But they DO create wonderful software, such as Spaceward Ho!, Color MacCheese, and the latest example - Eric's Ultimate Solitaire, a collection of seventeen popular solitaire games and variations.
Why seventeen? "Because that's how many fit in the menu on a Mac Plus without scrolling," says the documentation. Fair enough!
As always, we're impressed with the elegant simplicity of Delta Tao's software and the wit strewn through the documentation. Ultimate (Delta Tao's shorthand name for the product) is easy to use. We suspect that, like Othello, although each takes a minute to learn, some variations take a lifetime to master.
Although it's neat that each game has its own playing card artwork, we must note that we're more taken by the basic card design of Solitaire Till Dawn, the multi-game solitaire program by Rick Holzgrafe of Semicolon Software (also famous for Scarab of Ra, Applicon, and SignatureQuote). STD's cards also look better on black and white or grayscale displays.
One nice touch is that Ultimate saves users precious mouse movements by allowing a casual "toss" to move a card instead of requiring a laborious effort to move the card to its final destination. Ultimate's "Intellitaire" feature alleviates frustration by suggesting strategies, making obvious moves for the user, and creating "always winnable" games on demand. Happily, this feature may be turned off for those who prefer the challenge.
Eric Snider, Ultimate's author, is the younger brother of David Snider, the author of such popular Apple II software as David's Midnight Magic and Serpentine. Obviously David's talent has rubbed off on his little brother!
Eric's Ultimate Solitaire retails for $59, and is available from dealers and from mail-order houses other than MacWarehouse, for about $40. It is available directly from Delta Tao as well.
Delta Tao Software -- 800/827-9316 -- 408/730-9336
408/730-9337 (fax) -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Solitaire Till Dawn is $25 in the U.S., $30 for Canada and Mexico, and $35 overseas. (Add sales tax in California.) You can FTP a demo version from <mac.archive.umich.edu> (in /mac/game/demo at last check). Or, simply place your order by sending Semicolon Software a check or money order in U.S. funds, with your name and mailing address, and a note requesting Solitaire Till Dawn.
P. O. Box 371
Cupertino, CA 95015-0371 USA
-- Information from:
Delta Tao propaganda
Joe Williams, Delta Tao Software -- email@example.com
Rick Holzgrafe, Semicolon Software -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Mac-related gifts are appropriate any time, but we figure that this is the best time for those benumbed by the consumer feeding frenzy. I won't include contact information for each item, but computer stores, mail order vendors, and bookstores should carry the items listed below.
Games -- Randy J. Rightmire recommends a game called Oxyd, where you control a marble in order to solve puzzles. There's no time limit, and it combines thinking with some coordination. You can download the game from online services and play the first 10 levels; to unlock the next 90 levels you must buy the $40 code book.
A small company called Callisto has three games, the first an enhanced Minesweeper called Super Mines, the second, called Super Maze Wars, a Spectre-like game that pits you against up to eight human (via a network) or robot tanks in a number of different mazes, and a third, called Spin Doctor. I'm lousy at fast tank games but Super Maze Wars seems like a excellent contender in that arena. The graphics were solid 3-D, and although the game requires strategy, the speed is plenty fast. Definitely worth checking out.
The neatest of Callisto's games, though, is Spin Doctor. Think of Spin Doctor as an abstractionist view of early primate jungle life. You control a rod that spins around dots, and you can swing or flip among the dots, collecting bonus points and avoiding various dangers such as other rods, acid droplets, and sparks. My metaphor may fail, since Spin Doctor is a deucedly difficult game to describe. Luckily, it's fun, and definitely my favorite thinking game of the year. It requires some coordination, but doesn't force you into a fast pace. Highly recommended.
Callisto -- 508/655-0707 -- email@example.com
Inline Design's Cogito is solely a thinking game with a timed element but no worry about finishing quickly. You see a grid that holds a scrambled pattern and must recreate the pattern by sliding rows or columns in the pattern. Unfortunately, after the first few levels, clicking to move a row may move it backwards, may move a column, or may move a row and a column. Since rows and columns intersect, you can imagine the consternation (I never completed level eight). If you relish a challenge and are good at spatial relationships, try Cogito.
CD-ROM -- Donald Glockzin placed an AppleCD 300 CD-ROM player on the top of his list, and adds the CD game Myst, since you'll need something to play. Also consider The Journeyman Project from Presto Studios, which is slow, but the stunning graphics make the journey worth the wait. I'm fond of its non-violent approach to gaming - violence works but isn't rewarded as you travel through time, solving puzzles and closing rifts in history that threaten your future.
Those who require more interactive speed would do well to check out Iron Helix on CD from Spectrum HoloByte. Although its graphics aren't as impressive as those in The Journeyman Project, they're good, and the game play moves faster. You control a scientific probe that must find DNA samples of the dead crew of a deadly spaceship run amok, and with the DNA samples discover clues that will help you destroy the Defender robot and stop the ship from delivering its deadly payload. Despite the threat of failure, this is purely a non-violent adventure.
Joe Dulak suggests that HyperCard enthusiasts might enjoy the MACnificent 7.1 Games and Education CD-ROM from the National Home & School Macintosh User Group and Digital Diversions Software. It contains over 7,000 files, including 1,000 games, 280 MB of HyperCard stacks, 650 educational files, 70 commercial demos, and over 2,500 game support files. It retails for $59 from MacWarehouse.
PowerBook Goodies -- Larry Wink points us at the PowerBook DOS Companion from Apple for about $240 because it's still, unfortunately, a PC world. The package includes Macintosh PC Exchange, MacLinkPlus/PC, PowerPrint, a MacVGA cable, and the MacLinkPlus/PC cable. Apple's bundle price is lower than the combined street prices of the individual pieces. Larry is also looking at On the Road from Connectix (see TidBITS #203).
Rich Wolfson and Sharon Aker's PowerBook Companion (ISBN 0-201-62621-7) ranks on my list for PowerBook owners because it answers all the common questions. PowerBook owners who don't like being forced to take a break by Apple's two-hour batteries might want a VST ThinPack, an 1.5 pound, .25 inch thick external battery that, in conjunction with the internal battery, provides five to nine hours of battery life. VST -- 508/287-4600 -- 508/287-4068 (fax) Technoggin offers the PowerPlate batteries that can provide more battery life, but at a greater weight (2.5 and 4.0 pounds for the PowerPlate 3x and 5x, which provide three and five times normal battery life).
Technoggin -- 800/305-7936 -- 513/321-1777 -- 513/321-2348 -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, check out the APS PowerBalls, colorful replacement balls for your PowerBook trackball. They're about $10 for one, or $20 for a set of all four colors and are available for all PowerBooks.
Books and Publications -- <email@example.com> recommends a subscription to WIRED for $39.95 per 12-issue year. Call 800/SO-WIRED or email credit card info to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Steven Nygard recommends Defying Gravity, a photo-heavy book that details the efforts of bringing the Newton to market and the trials faced along the way. You can order the book for $19.95 (add $7 for overnight shipping, otherwise expect it in three weeks) via email to <email@example.com>. In one message, ask for the book and include a Visa number. Then, in a second message, include the expiration date, name, and shipping address.
Christopher Bohling and several others noted that my book, the Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh (ISBN 1-56830-064-6), is high on their lists. Thank you all.
If you're looking for a great general Macintosh tome, check out David Pogue's and Joseph Schorr's massive 1,020 page Macworld Macintosh Secrets (ISBN 1-56884-025-X). Normally I'm dubious about all-in-one books, but David and Joseph did wonders, ferreting out an incredible amount of hitherto obscured information. Tonya was impressed with the section on Microsoft Word, and she's picky about that sort of thing. The book comes with three high-density disks packed with commercial and shareware applications.
Game players will enjoy MacArcade (ISBN 1-56604-038-8), the top 40 shareware and freeware games according to MUG News Service founder Don Rittner. Don provides all the details about each game, including such useful bits of information as where you can find the game online, download time at 2,400 bps, compatibility information, a description of each game, a profile of the programmer, and tips on playing. Perhaps the best part of this book for the impatient reader is the two disk set that contains the top 10 games, including such favorites as Diamonds, Solarian II, Continuum, and Spacestation Pheta.
Robin Williams has once again graced the computer world with a wonderful book, a dictionary called Jargon (ISBN 1-938151-84-3). Unlike your typical stuffy dictionary, Jargon provides hefty definitions that actually tell you something along with pronunciations and etymologies of words. Jargon sports a massive index with cross-references to over 7,000 terms, making it easier to find something when you don't quite know what the word is.
Peachpit Press has two new books for hardware fiends. The Underground Guide to Laser Printers (ISBN 1-56609-045-8) collects the best articles from four years of Flash Magazine, a periodical issued by Black Lightning, a toner cartridge remanufacturer in Vermont. Larry Pina's Macintosh Classic and SE Repair and Upgrade Secrets (ISBN 1-56609-022-9) is essential for anyone who's handy with hardware and who wants to keep an aging Classic, Classic II, SE, or SE/30 alive and well.
Eastgate Systems, publisher of Storyspace, the preeminent hypertext editor on the Mac, also sells a line of hypertexts, some written in Storyspace, some in HyperCard. Michael Joyce's Afternoon, A Story is the seminal hypertext, and John McDaid's multiple (and I mean multiple) media work Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse is a quest for meaning while searching through the literary remains (embodied in email, screenplays, galley proofs, and audio tapes) of the late Buddy Newkirk. Anyone who enjoys exploring the very experience of reading should encounter Eastgate's hyperfictions.
Eastgate -- 800/562-1638 -- 617/924-9044 -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Utilities -- Mike McLane recommends StuffIt SpaceSaver if you can't afford new hard disks for people on your list. Mike was sold on SpaceSaver because of the ability of Norton Utilities to recover all the files SpaceSaver compressed, as tested for an article in the Jan-94 MacUser. [Although frankly, I don't understand why different sorts of file compression should make any difference. -Adam]
I'm a word person, and I've come across an online dictionary that I like. The $99 Random House Webster's Electronic Dictionary and Thesaurus takes about 8 MB on disk for its 180,000 definition dictionary and 275,000 synonym thesaurus. An included extension enables you to highlight a word in any program and hit a hotkey to look up definitions or synonyms. It offers a definition search, wildcard search, anagram search, and a history of words you've looked up that session, making for an enjoyable word browsing environment. I'm also fond of the pronunciation and etymology details. The interface isn't perfect, but it's decent, and I like being able to happen across great words like deuteragonist, one that I'm going to work into an issue some day.
Desktop pattern fiends who prefer applications to extensions will like Screenscapes from Kiwi Software. It offers square and rectangular patterns in sizes up 256 x 256 pixels, includes gobs of patterns, and can read pattern formats from Wallpaper, Chameleon, and ppat resources. My favorite feature is the Catalog Folder feature, which opens a window displaying thumbnails of patterns in that folder. Although you can't delete patterns from that window, it's easy to leave the window open and trim your collection manually in the Finder. Screenscapes includes an Auto-Changer application which installs a random pattern at startup, but it can't randomize within a session. I won't say that a pattern changing application is essential, but Screenscapes is solid and well-implemented utility that makes the Mac more fun.
Other -- Lars Bertelsen writes: "I have a friend who is becoming disenchanted with his SE running System 6.0.5. He thinks it is slow and lacks "OOMPF". I plan to dig up an old 80286, equip it with Windows and give it to him. That should make him happy with his beast." [Talk about an electronic lump of coal... -Adam]
Chuck Kuske writes: "I plan on giving the Newt Boot, a handy green, burgundy, or black cordura case to hold Newton essentials: the MessagePad, modem, AC adapter, RJ-11 cord, extra batteries, PCMCIA cards, and extra pens. It features a handle, a shoulder strap, and quick access to the MessagePad for $49 plus $4.50 shipping. To order email to email@example.com or fax to 307/739-1716."
One of the greatest lies foisted on the unsuspecting computer shopper of ten years ago was "You can use it to keep your recipes." Yeah, sure. Essentially no one ever kept their recipes in a database file because it's not a simple task. I'm pleased to report that the days of avoiding the computer for recipe keeping are over, thanks to Upstill Software's Mangia.
Mangia is essentially a muscular relational database dedicated to making it easy to enter, find, and display recipes. The problem with keeping recipes on the computer was not the database engines, but the interface. I saw an alpha version of Mangia about a year and a half ago, and thought it was awful. Then, when I ran into Steve Upstill's booth at Macworld Boston, I was stunned - the ugly duckling had turned into a swan! Steve cleaned up the interface, simplified the controls, added color judiciously, and polished Mangia almost beyond recognition.
I cook, I cook a fair amount, and people tell me I cook pretty well. Nonetheless, I don't like spending time looking for recipes. Over the years, Tonya and I have found a system that ensures we make dinner even when we are too tired think of anything to cook. Every weekend, we make a weekly menu - just a list of days and the meals we want to eat. Then we make a shopping list and buy everything we need for the next week. The beauty of this system, aside from avoiding grilled cheese every night, is that we can look back through old menus for inspiration.
Mangia arrived and I dove in, gasping with delight at the nice touches, including the manual, which takes the unique approach of "two-minute lessons" that occupy a single page each. This technique works well in that most tasks are covered in a two-minute lesson, and the manual has an engagingly informal tone that keeps you reading once you start. The only drawback is that when something isn't covered in the manual or online help, you're on your own.
When you launch Mangia, it presents you with a Recipe Browser window that shows the recipes in open cookbooks (of which Mangia ships with two, Mangia Miscellany and Cooks Redux, a collection of recipes from the late Cooks Magazine). A file to Mangia is a cookbook, and you can have a number of them. Within the Recipe Browser the recipes are sorted alphabetically, but you can specify dividers to differentiate by type of dish, main ingredient, season, and so on.
If you want to find a specific type of recipe, or recipes with specific ingredients, Mangia includes several powerful methods of doing just that. Once you've found one, double-clicking on the name displays the recipe (nicely formatted, and you can pick from multiple formats or design your own), so you can see if you want to make it, and dragging it to (or clicking on) a Recipe Clipboard button adds it to the Recipe Clipboard. You use the Recipe Clipboard as a temporary corral for recipes until you print a shopping list. You can also define what Mangia calls "meals" in the Recipe Clipboard - calling them "menus" would have been too confusing. Because of our system, I define a meal for each day of the week.
Once you have selected a number of recipes and added them to meals if you wish, you can select some or all and ask Mangia to print a shopping list. The time-honored problem with shopping lists is that the Mac has no way of determining what's already on your shelves. Mangia isn't omniscient, but it uses an clever method of limiting the problem. When you generate a shopping list, the ingredients are listed for each recipe, and an asterisk appears next to those in your pantry. You then scan down the list and mark each item as to whether or not you actually have it. Needless to say, once you mark something as existing in your pantry, it's still there the next time you use Mangia. Once you've identified all the items you need to buy, you can select the pantry items and delete them from the list before printing the list with items optionally sorted by section of the store (you can modify this for your store) and with the recipe name and quantity needed next to each item.
This works wonderfully if you can limit yourself to the recipes Mangia provides, but we all have some favorites that won't be in Mangia's repertoire. Although Upstill Software is working on releasing more cookbooks (actually turning paper cookbooks into Mangia files) for the moment, there aren't many out there. I've typed in about 30 of our main recipes, and someone posted a set of 10 recipes of Irish Mist Desserts to the Internet. If you wish to enter recipes, it's easy - just a matter of filling in various data entry screens. The tricky part is that to ensure the capability to track the Pantry and to scale recipes, Mangia requires that you use (or add) specific terms in its dictionary. That means if you come up with an ingredient that isn't in Mangia, you must add it manually. However, because Mangia knows how all of its ingredients are spelled, it has a clever feature that tells you graphically when it knows the ingredient you're trying to type and can finish it for you. If you want to use a menu instead, Mangia shows the ingredients hierarchically, which would be clumsy without Mangia's sticky menus option to simulates a click-lock.
Mangia isn't perfect. It's a bit slow, and there are a few interface lapses here and there in the program, such as the Enter key not selecting the default button in a dialog. The program is not the most stable I've used, but it's generally OK and since it saves everything all the time, it's hard to lose data (still, back up personal cookbooks, just in case). There are a few drawbacks to the philosophy as well - for instance, most people don't just buy food at the grocery store, but Mangia can't tell you when you're out of tissues, for instance, unless you do like we did and make a recipe called Regular Shopping Items that contains ingredients for the non-food miscellany that we buy frequently. We've come up with a few other workarounds such as empty recipes called Dining Out and Leftovers, since we want place holders for meals we don't cook but don't want anything appearing in the shopping list.
It's not perfection that I ask for these days, but responsiveness, which Steve Upstill has provided in spades. One of the first things I did was try to print a list of my meals on a single page, and I couldn't. I sent Steve email asking about it, and he responded by sending a new version within a few days - it seems that the necessary button had somehow moved offscreen in the Print dialog. That's what I call customer service, and Steve has been open to suggestions and comments along the way.
Right now, Mangia suffers mainly from a lack of cookbooks. There's a solution out there. It's called the Usenet Cookbook, and consists of a large number of recipes submitted by Usenet readers over the years. I have no idea of the details surrounding it, but I noticed that you can search it via WAIS and that all the recipes have a rigid format. It would take programming work, but Steve said he's willing to help out with a conversion program if anyone wants to figure out how to convert these text files into a Mangia cookbook.
In any event, Mangia is by far the best cooking program I've seen. If you're looking for the perfect present for a Mac chef, I highly recommend Mangia. You can find a demo that I uploaded a while back on <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> as:
Mangia sells for the idiosyncratic price of $49.93 (plus $3 shipping and sales tax in California if you order direct from Upstill Software).
Upstill Software -- 800/JOT-DOWN -- 510/486-0761
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.
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