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Apple does TV set-top boxes, Fred Showker does Macworld Washington, and Global Village drops prices on its popular TelePort and PowerPort modems. Last week's article on advertising to overseas Mac users spawned many useful comments, and for Newton users, how would you like to read TidBITS on the Newt? All this, more details on AOL, the new PowerBooks, and yet another industry merger.
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Sorry for the slight delay on this issue - we were out of town visiting family and couldn't face putting out the issue late at night after dining in the airplane's sumptuous surroundings and enjoying the scintillating entertainment. And if you believe that... [ACE]
The PowerBook 500 series and two new PowerBook Duo models, all sporting 68LC040 processors, reached dealer shelves last week as predicted in TidBITS #222. The specifics are essentially as described in that article. Details of note include the fact that the row of function keys are only on the 500-series models, not the Duos; the Trackpad pointing device on the 500-series machines has a single button below, rather than one top and bottom; and the modems shipping with the modem-equipped 500-series models are manufactured by Global Village. These PowerPort/Mercury modems are also available separately; Apple's bundled version lacks Global Village's OCR (optical character recognition) software and has an Apple one-year, rather than Global Village five-year, warranty. [MHA]
AC Adapters for PowerBook Duos may all look alike, but they're not all the same. Apple just introduced a new unit, with item number M4174LL/B, which works with the new Duo 280 and 280c models, as well as all previous models; it replaces M2781LL/A, introduced earlier this month, which also works with the new and old models. The M4174LL/A adapter works only with the Duo 210, 230, 250, and 270c models. The new item number for the adapter that works with all Duos was probably adopted in order to avoid confusion. Nice try. [MHA]
SuperMac and Radius announced plans to merge in an $80.5 million stock swap. The combined company will have revenues of $340 million, and in standard merger propaganda, said that they intended to market and support all major products from both companies. Since SuperMac bought E-Machines a while back, it seems that the video hardware market is suffering the same implosion that the software market has recently. Sigh. [ACE]
Performa users can go ahead and install System Update 3.0 on their System 7.1 equipped Macintosh Performas. A helpful project manager within Apple's Performa division confirmed for us that the update has been approved for Performa models running System 7.1P, 7.1P1, 7.1P2, 7.1P3, 7.1P4, 7.1P5 and 7.1P6. The update is not designed for use with System 7.0.1 or its Performa equivalent, so Performa 200 and 400 owners who haven't updated their system software should not install System Update 3.0. [MHA]
America Online via the Internet is indeed much faster if you have a direct connection to the Internet, and some have reported faster connections even over modems with SLIP and PPP. However, bugs remain, so beware that a dropped connection may result in your account being charged for 20 minutes until it times out. To formally apply for the beta test on America Online, use keyword TCP and fill out the online application. Also, I was wrong about using other Telnet tools (despite the fact that the America Online software lets you select other tools), but Lonnie Abelbeck, author of VersaTerm, distributed a CCL script for using the VersaTerm Telnet tool on comp.sys.mac.comm last week. Finally, Jonathan Hue <email@example.com> discovered that America Online doesn't encrypt the userid and password when it sends them over the Internet, so a packet sniffer can detect them in their plaintext form. Needless to say, this is a bit of a security hole, not so much because it exists (many systems send passwords in plaintext over the Internet) but because users are charged for America Online access, and because dealing with disputed charges with America Online customer support folks can be an exercise in frustration. [ACE]
by Ashley Barnard <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Computer users of all ages and varieties have been reading and enjoying TidBITS for years. Now, thanks to the advent of the Newton MessagePad, Newton users can enjoy reading TidBITS in the palm of their hand! TidBITS reader Allan Marcus <email@example.com> uses 4D and AppleScript to convert TidBITS issues into Newton book format (starting with issue 200), and usually has each issue available within a day or so of its setext appearance.
The Newton books have the same word-for-word text content as the setext files most Mac users read. On the Newton MessagePads, though, readers can make notes around the text, copy text to the common Note Pad, leap to any given page or find any text, and mark pages for later reference. It's also an extremely handy way to read each issue!
Each Newton book issue of TidBITS (beginning with issue 200) can be found in:
Pythaeus passed on some interesting information from the World-Wide Developers Conference that Apple held recently. Two of the important and somewhat related technologies that showed there (although one to a limited audience) were QuickTime 2.0 and ITV. QuickTime 2.0 sounds as though it will significantly raise the bar for multimedia on microcomputers, in large part due to the addition of a music track that stores music as notes rather than as sampled sound waves. The music track apparently uses a superset of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface - see TidBITS #176, #177, and #178 for detailed information on MIDI) and includes a large set of instrument types. We'll have to wait for our sound mavens to see this to judge how effective it is, but because notes compress much better than sampled sound, QuickTime files may be able to contain far more audio information for their size. Access to the text track in QuickTime has also improved, and text can now be exported, which may make QuickTime files a usable format for electronic publishing. Also new is MPEG support, and much faster (or larger) playback screens. Overall, it sounds like QuickTime 2.0 could make some very interesting things possible.
The second new technology that hasn't received much mention is Apple's new television set-top box. It reportedly uses a version of the Mac OS in ROM, a special pre-release version of QuickTime 2.0, and some relatively ugly hardware. Apple is using the box in a project with what Pythaeus called "British Television" - perhaps the BBC? Anyone from the U.K. seen anything about this? So as much as Apple may be laying low in the digital convergence hoo-hah, it seems that the company is not sitting still.
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
TelePort modems are now cheaper, according to Global Village. The company, which is celebrating its position as the sole vendor with internal modems for the new 500-series PowerBooks, announced significant drops in retail price for its desktop modem line, effective 16-May-94.
The top-of-the-line TelePort/Mercury, with v.32terbo 19,200 bps data capability, dropped from $399 to $349 retail, which includes Global Village's proprietary GlobalFax software and OCR software. The v.32bis (14,400 bps) TelePort/Gold dropped from $349 to $279 (which also includes GlobalFax and the OCR software), and the v.32 (9,600 bps) TelePort/Silver fell from $319 to $279. Prices for the PowerPort series of internal PowerBook modems, and for the low-end 2400 bps TelePort/Bronze II, remain unchanged.
Confused by the identical prices for Gold and Silver models? Don't be. A Global Village representative explained that the company doesn't expect to continue selling the v.32 (9,600 bps) Silver model, which includes GlobalFax but lacks the OCR capability and is considerably slower than its shinier cousins.
Another item of interest is a $100 rebate, redeemable directly from Global Village, when U.S. customers purchase a PowerPort or TelePort/Mercury or Gold modem and one of the company's new OneWorld Remote Access servers, through 30-Sep-94.
Global Village's modems are still slightly more expensive than many of their competitors' products (and Practical Peripherals just announced broad price drops as well), but the new prices are more in line with other good-quality products' prices, and even narrow the gap with the "el cheapo" products somewhat. Global Village is confident that their fax software, their support, and their warranty make the premium price worthwhile. As an active user of three Global Village modems and a variety of other companies' modems, I've seen no reason to disagree.
-- Information from:
Global Village propaganda
Chan's article about the problems faced by international users struck a chord in numerous readers, many of whom passed on excellent comments and additional suggestions. Along with these suggestions, you might wish to check out Tig Tillinghast's excellent article on overseas software pricing issues in TidBITS #168. For those of you who work for companies that do business outside of the U.S., you might want to pay attention. These people want to buy your products - standing in their way does no one any good.
Pete Jones <email@example.com> notes that it's not just citizens of other countries that have difficulty dealing with U.S. computer companies:
Kudos to TidBITS and Mr. Chan for highlighting the problems many of us have outside North America when shopping via telephone. Even more frustrating, though, is the number of vendors who flatly refuse to ship via U.S. mail. A number of us in the military count on U.S. mail to get us the goods, but vendors - such as Pre-Owned Electronics, in Massachusetts - would rather ship to our "friends or relatives" in the States and then have them forward things to us. The implication is that we're somehow not worth the trouble. To a young soldier or airman, this can be a disheartening - and sobering - experience. Shame on them!
Helen Sargan <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
I agree with Mr. Chan about U.S. companies and their lack of easy access. You don't need to go to Malaysia to have problems! I would, however, emphasize the usefulness of 24-hour fax numbers if there is no electronic mail access (and sometimes even if there is). Not only does a fax allow composition time for those for whom English is not their first language, it allows those whose direct dial facilities are limited or non-existent to phone at all. In university environments (and many industrial ones) telephones are usually limited to local or national calls and to make an international call requires pre-arranged permission. The fax machine is less-frequently limited in this way, so sending for information is easy. It also cuts out any time-zone problems and usually means the answer will be back by the next day. I have found that some companies don't look at their electronic mail boxes very often, but they don't seem to avoid faxes as much.
Stefan Kukula <email@example.com> writes:
As an international Mac user who bought his computer in the U.K. nearly three years ago and then moved to Japan a year ago, I would like to voice my support of the views expressed by Mr. Chan in TidBITS #226 regarding the poor global outlook of many U.S. computer software and hardware vendors. The problems aren't just there when you try and buy software; they're there after you've bought it. Technical support for foreign customers is virtually nonexistent. I've spent a fortune over the last few years paying to send in those software registration cards (no postage needed in the U.S.) and how many update notices have I received? Or, in fact, contacts of any kind? One. And that was from Maxis - a SimCity upgrade. It's nice to see that game companies pay more attention to their customers than productivity companies.
Not from Symantec regarding the Think C 5.0 compiler bugs. Fairly important, one would have thought.
Not from any "serious" software supplier, despite providing CompuServe and Internet mail addresses. Despite being apparently unable to use email to tell us about upgrades they all seem to assume that we can all use Internet or commercial services to learn about and obtain the necessary fixes. Well, we can't always, and when we can it is more expensive than in the U.S. (CIS usage in Japan carries a healthy surcharge). A postcard informing us of updates would be nice. I've never even heard officially of any upgrade offers - Expressionist 2.0 was upgraded without me knowing one month after I bought it, despite my having sent off the card.
And as for technical support... U.S. manufacturers seem to imagine that beyond their borders there is a nameless "other country." I bought Norton Disk Doctor 2.0, partly because of the CIS support. A problem arose. They had replaced their U.K. (where I lived at the time) phone number with one in... Holland! I posted a question on their forum-and was told to telephone their "European support line" during office hours. They only give online tech support to U.S. customers. (And that's a quote!) I hope their attitude has changed in the last two years, but I won't buy another Symantec product. For many months I had the reply I received printed out and pinned to the wall at the office where I worked. It didn't encourage anyone else to buy from them either.
All the cases mentioned above were "proper" imports, not on the grey market; a mistake on my part as perhaps that way I wouldn't have had to pay the strange conversion rates that seem to be used, and the firms concerned may have believed I was a U.S. customer and therefore worth bothering about.
In short, if U.S. companies want to sell abroad they should start showing a genuine interest in non-U.S. customers, and give us the same level of support as their U.S. customers. I would advise all non U.S. customers that if they want any updates they should join a local user group, as it's the only way you'll get any product support. It also means that you can warn other members of firm's policies.
It makes me wonder. Now I live in Japan, would I get the same level of support if I bought a U.S. automobile?
The best for tech support? Shareware authors, who seem to be much more switched on. I recommend products like TrashMan, Compact Pro, SpeedyFinder, ZTerm, and Maelstrom whose authors have provided me with better technical support than any of the commercial products. Other authors at least tell you they don't intend to give much technical support. It's the same as commercial software, only much more honest.
Among the worst? Quark (special mention, on behalf of another user group member): "So you bought our product, legally, in the U.K.? And then moved, with it and the computer, to Japan? That invalidates the contract. Not only will we not support it, but unless you send it back, right now, we'll call the police, and charge you with software piracy. Yes, even though you haven't copied it or sold it or... You have to buy a Japanese one, even if it's running on a U.K. machine and system. Why? Because you're in Japan."
Lloyd Wood <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
I just read Mr. Chan's plaint in the latest TidBITS. I agree completely, but I would add that getting software producers to make their updates available to the world is something that he missed.
Lately, I have spent a lot of my time trying to convince tech support people at a number of companies to make their updates available by posting BinHexed copies of the updaters to Macgifts. My pleas seem to fall on deaf ears; a typical response is "we maintain support forums on America Online, CompuServe and AppleLink - get the update from there."
I have no interest in accessing these services just to get updates, and must bug net.acquaintances with accounts to email me copies of the files - which I then pass on to Macgifts when possible. Many non-U.S., non-English-speaking, but netted folk are in the same position - often we don't even know that the update exists until we run across a mention to it by chance. I'm trying to get hold of the CopyDoubler 2.0.3 Lite updater as we speak. I miss Salient's Internet support team.
[The Info-Mac archives based at <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> and the massive archives at <mac.archive.umich.edu> have worked together to establish two Macgifts addresses at <email@example.com> and <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Anything sent to either address will go to not only the two major archive sites, but various others as well, ensuring the widest possible distribution. If you work for a company that distributes updates online, please include Macgifts in your update distribution plans - with free updates there's no reason not to. -Adam]
David Riley <email@example.com> writes:
Great to see that someone is noticing the plight of the Mac Majority! I'd really like to be able to call a company once in a while, but they tend to use 800 numbers, including Apple. I even went out and got a calling card from AT&T recently, which allows you to access those numbers from most countries. Well, the phone charges for about 30 minutes of time came to almost $100! "Aacckk," as Bill the Cat might say. Besides, you have to wade through about five minutes (if you're lucky and get through) of non-human interface before you can even start explaining your predicament to someone. For those of us outside of North America, real phone numbers, fax numbers and most of all, email addresses, really help out. With respect to assistance in using a product, though, I believe that the people on the Internet are much more helpful (and knowledgeable) than many of the company reps you might get on the phone.
Daniel Petit <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
True, you cannot reach 800 numbers from overseas by calling the regular way through your local phone company. But it is easily done if you use a service provider to gain access to the U.S. telephone network. These companies sell you, in effect, U.S. dial tone through intercontinental fiber optic cables and allow you to place a call as though you were physically in the United States.
This is how it works: you reach the United States by dialing an international toll-free number from your country. This number connects you to a private telephone switching system in the United States. After the connection is established, you hear either a dial tone or a recording that prompts you to enter the number you wish to reach.
These service providers exist mainly to offer less expensive international calling rates - often up to 20 percent less. But equally beneficial is the ability to connect to U.S. 800 numbers and the wide variety services that they offer - though you would have to pay for the call. I happen to be associated with one of the companies that offers this service, called Viatel <email@example.com>. Viatel has no sign-up fee and no special equipment is needed. Users need only a valid international credit card. The service works from any phone to any phone that can be reached from the United States. 800 numbers are no problem.
Another reputable company in this field is USA Global Link. Viatel and USA Global Link are known in the telecommunications industry as "light carriers." As opposed to traditional carriers, they do not own a physical transmission network but use sophisticated software to process calls for clients worldwide. Because Viatel uses fiber-optic links and digital switches, there are no delays nor quality degradation.
Bill Baldridge <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
Although I understand Mr. Chan's gripe, there's an easy solution - at least for the phone number portion - called VendorDA, which FourArts publishes.
VendorDA lists 1,246 Macintosh (and cross-platform) vendors, with their main (non-800), sales (usually 800), and support/fax phone numbers.
I have registered users from foreign countries as far afield as Japan, Cyprus, U.K., and Sweden, so apparently it's helpful beyond the bounds of the U.S., as I intended it to be. Usually, when I call a vendor to update their contact information, I ask for the non-800 specifically for foreign callers.
VendorDA 1.43 (and an important updater to 1.43a) is available on America Online (keyword: MUT/Applications 3), and can be ordered directly from FourArts for US$15. [The version I could find on the Internet is older and has some 300 fewer entries, but is probably better than nothing. -Adam]
by Fred Showker <email@example.com>
It's been several years since Macworld Expo ventured into the nation's capital. This Expo was called the Summit, held in Washington D.C. May 10 - 12, and should be called the show of contrasts.
You'll undoubtedly read other reports on Macworld Expo Summit, some good, some not so good, and I suspect my impressions will be somewhat different from most other reviewers. For me, the pleasant surroundings, comfortable, relaxed atmosphere, and the friendly attitudes made this show a pleasure.
The Macworld regulars seemed compelled to compare this Macworld to Boston, so I will too. No, it was not Boston. It was a small show with nowhere near as many exhibitors or as much glitz. But, it was a quality show with quality displays and quality sessions.
This Macworld Expo offered a unique experience. You could actually meet the exhibitors and play with their product offerings. I didn't miss the big Mac-moguls like Microsoft, La Cie, Aldus, and others who usually dominate the show. Show attendees had a great opportunity to discover little-known vendors that seldom get much attention in Boston and San Francisco. I signed up for several free magazine subscriptions including Digital Imaging Magazine, and Digital Video Magazine. I also picked up the latest AISB Glitch Report which exposes problems and "glitches" from imaging centers all around the country.
Impressions -- I guess the threat of "government" kept many of the gimmick hawkers and frivolous Mac-obilia vendors away. Macworld Washington had the crisp tone of serious productivity. Network, workgroup, desktop publishing, presentations, connectivity and multimedia were the key words. Everyone wanted to sell you some power, and most had the words "PC" or "Windows" built into their pitch. I saw some superb presentation productions. Not the usual PowerPoint stuff, but some knockout visual displays. The "Creation, Authoring, and Development Tools" session with Karen Rall, Marcus Frank, Paul Gibertson and Nina Tovish, alone was worth the price of admission! Radius gave a stunning multimedia show, running real-time video with a dazzling display of GIF files which were actually being downloaded, decompressed and displayed from America Online in the background. Avid Technology showed their outstanding desktop video production system Media Suite Pro with Media Composer 1000.
A Publisher's Mecca -- I'm the sort who looks for printing and publishing excitement. Here was something for everyone in the publishing biz, from the large to the small. I took a spin on various impressive color printers, Canon's CJ 10 desktop full-color copier, scanner and printer, the Tektronix Phasers, and Seiko's awesome new ColorPoint2. Seiko also did a nice demo of their ColorStic products for signs displays, iron-on products for T-shirts, mugs and color plaques. Kodak took the time to chat with me, switching from paper to overhead film to demonstrate the ColorEase system's capabilities to produce color overheads. The ColorEase, folks, is by and far the nicest color overhead printer I've seen to date, and it sells for under $7,000! Precision Type was handing out Fonts disks, and I had a nice chat with Bonnie Schmidt of Precision Type about their new "art" fonts. (If you missed the show, you'll want to call them at 800/248-3668 and see if they'll honor their $5.00 font sampler special.) For the high-end folks, the 3M Rainbow Color Proofing System was churning out some competition-crunching pre-press color powers. Too rich for my blood.
Art & Arts for the Artist -- Some new clip art publishers were present, along with well-established ones. One Mile Up was showing their new line of clip art CDs, and I had the opportunity to take a look at their high-quality offerings, and chat with the artist. Nice stuff.
Maps? I got my first look at Digital Wisdom's Mountain High Map Frontiers, an incredible collection of relief maps on CD. If you need maps of the world, or the oceans in wonderful, full-color relief, this one is stunning! If you use people in your publishing you'll definitely want to contact Digital Wisdom and get info on their new BodyShots series. Styled after the famous Fairburn system, and the popular concepts of figure reference books, BodyShots features hundreds of people posing in an amazing array of situations. They're all high quality photos, shot on a knock-out-white background. Call them at 800/800-8560.
The highlight of this Macintosh show for me, however, was not a Mac at all. Now I can forget about the "power" PCs and "power" Macs. Now I know what Apple meant to deliver, but didn't. I got to test-drive the Indigo2 workstation from Silicon Graphics. Imagine selecting all, and applying a Gaussian blur to a 32-bit, full-page Photoshop file and have it appear the instant the mouse clicks. Note I said appear - not redraw. Or, imagine issuing Kai's Spherize command and see it as you look up at the monitor. All for a few dollars more than a dressed-out Power Mac. I'm saving up, starting today! CAUTION: Could be too fast for heart patients, pregnant women, or those prone to nosebleeds. [To be fair, I should note that although the Indigo is a great graphics workstation, it's just that, a Unix workstation, and your existing Macintosh software won't run, so you'll have to replace everything with the Indigo-specific versions of programs like Photoshop or completely different Indigo programs. -Adam]
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