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This week TidBITS brings you news of AOL's purchase of ANS, the reason some Performas don't include the modems promised on the box, and how to find Internet mailing lists. Dave Nagel of Apple responds to Dave Winer's recent soliloquy about Apple's failure to properly woo developers, and the issue finishes with Adam's write- up about his recent Macintosh marathon, involving backups, disk formatting, data restoration, and a tangle with System 7.5.
Copyright 1994 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
As the holiday gift-giving season approaches (notice that we said nothing until after Thanksgiving - a bit of a pet peeve here in the U.S. where we're often deluged with holiday capitalism earlier and earlier each year), we're hoping that readers can contribute paragraph-long suggestions of your favorite new games and gifts for Macintosh owners. Due to our battles with repetitive stress injuries, we simply cannot play games and must rely on others for recommendations. Don't worry about including contact information unless you have an email address - for this article we'll assume everyone can talk to their local dealer or read the mail order catalogs on their own. Thanks! [ACE]
America Online buys ANS -- In a distinct case of putting $35 million of its money where its mouth has been, America Online today announced plans to purchase ANS (Advanced Network & Services), the company that has managed and operated the NSFnet Backbone Service since 1990. The ANS backbone network is among the largest and fastest public data networks, carrying daily traffic in excess of three billion packets over more than 12,000 miles of leased 45 Mbps (T-3) fiber-optic circuits. The acquisition of ANS follows on the heels of two other Internet-related acquisitions by AOL, BookLink Technologies and NaviSoft.
AOL also announced a closer alliance with Sprint, the network provider that currently carries more than 80 percent of AOL's traffic. I wonder if the closer alliance might be related to the fact that ANS and Sprint compete directly in the Internet provider business. The ANS acquisition also raises the possibility that AOL might consider changing its name from America Online to AOL, since the addition of the ANS network could significantly improve world-wide access to AOL. [ACE]
Mike Blake-Knox <email@example.com> writes:
A freeware alternative to DeskTape for putting Mac data on a DAT is Sauro Speranzo's suntar program. I've used it to transport large amounts of data between Mac and Unix systems. It supports BinHex and so should also be quite usable between Mac systems. It has the advantage that a recipient doesn't need a DAT on her Mac if she has LAN access to a Unix system.
Internet mailing lists are often hard to find, since there are so many. However, there's a Web page that supposedly lists all of them. It enables you to sort alphabetically or by category, and when you sort by category, you can get more detailed information on the list. The site appears to be a functional advertisement for a $99 tool (currently only Windows-based, but a Mac version is in the works and slated for November release - they'd better hurry) called InfoMagnet, which lets you find, search, and participate in LISTSERV-based mailing lists. From the sounds of it, Info-Magnet is a front-end interface to the often-complex LISTSERV commands.
In addition, another Web page enables you to search a database (maintained by Dartmouth College) of almost 6,000 mailing lists. The database is updated weekly, and this site has become one of my favorite tools on the Web. [ACE]
Apple's latest product info is available right at your fax machine via AppleFax, a fax-back service Apple provides. Those in the U.S. can dial 800/510-2834 for sales literature or 800/505-0171 for common tech support solutions. (Sorry, we haven't seen any international numbers.) Call from your regular phone or your fax machine; you'll be asked to tap in your fax number using the numeric touch tone keypad. On your first call, request an index of available documents, so you'll have the ID numbers for each of the pieces that can be faxed to you. [MHA]
High demand for certain Macintosh Performa models is to blame, Apple says, for its decision to ship some new systems without the Global Village modem that would normally be included in the box. Instead, buyers will find a coupon in the accessory kit with instructions to call Apple to request that the modem be shipped (at no cost to the customer). The alternative, Apple says, was to hold back shipments of such popular systems as the Performa 475 and 575 until sufficient modems were on hand, thereby narrowing buyers' choices during the holiday shopping season. [MHA]
Piet Seiden <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
I know the treatment of non-U.S. Macintosh users is a recurring issue in TidBITS. But apparently earlier pleas have only had minimum effect as problems continue to appear almost every time I examine some new application's keyboard shortcuts for menu commands. Many developers like to use characters like < or > or [ or ] or ; or : or other non-letter characters. Since many, if not most, of these characters are only accessible on many European keyboards in combination with the Shift and/or the Option key, they cannot be used as keyboard shortcuts. Take for instance the Common Ground MiniViewer that you use to browse Apple's Information Alley newsletters. On a Danish keyboard only the "Previous" command has a working keyboard shortcut. All other shortcuts are ignored. There are two solutions: either developers write their own equivalent of the menukey toolbox routine or they should refrain from using anything but the letters a to z and period and comma as shortcut characters. I believe Apple's Thought Police have guidelines saying much the same. This small issue generates a lot of aggravation over here.
[On a related note, version 1.1 of the Common Ground MiniViewer uses Command-Period as the keyboard equivalent for the Next Page command, in blatant violation of the Apple Human Interface Guidelines. Command-period is supposed to be reserved for interrupting an action. -GD]
DeskTape Price -- Oops, the list price I quoted for DeskTape in TidBITS-253 was out of date. The current list price is $329, and you can get it via mail order from Club Mac for $289. [ACE]
Club Mac -- 800/258-2622 -- 714/768-8130 -- 714/768-9354 (fax)
Dantz Development Contact Info -- I keep accidently including old phone numbers and contact information for Dantz Development because I go back to old TidBITS issues to extract them. Thus, I want to set the record straight and put the right information into an issue. My apologies to the folks at Dantz. [ACE]
4 Orinda Way, Building C
Orinda, CA 94563
Mosaic Name Changes -- While I'm cleaning up administrative details, it's worth noting that Mosaic Communications Corporation has changed its name to Netscape Communications Corporation and the name of its excellent Web browser from Mosaic Netscape to Netscape. The reason? Netscape Communications said it wants to establish an identity separate from NCSA's Mosaic Web browser. In addition, the name change addresses trademark concerns raised by NCSA (perhaps due in part to NCSA's agreements with Spyglass for licensing Mosaic and with O'Reilly & Associates for the popular What's New page).
by Dave Nagel, president of AppleSoft <email@example.com>
[This is a response from Dave Nagel of Apple to Dave Winer's editorial in TidBITS-251. -Adam]
You're wrong in thinking that we neither value our developers nor recognize their contributions. We do - very much - on both counts. On the other hand, you're right in saying that we have shanked the developer program in the past. The gentlemen you mention certainly did their magic, but I fear I also contributed shortly after "taking the helm."
We are working hard to fix these problems - and to improve the fortunes (literally) of our developers. I have constantly been on the bandwagon during the past six months - inside AppleSoft and out - about the importance of doing what we can do to make our developers successful. Recently, at our three international sales meetings, I tried to rouse the field people into being much more aggressive with helping "local" developers succeed with their products and their businesses. Of course, the best thing we could do would be to increase our market share - but that's a longer story (which will unfold by itself, I am sure).
We are in the process of revamping our developer programs with a view to helping the smaller developer. We also are trying to work more closely with key large developers (the usual suspects) since their support for the platform is both central to success in the commercial market segments and important for the press. To succeed in the platform game, it's clear we have to deal effectively with both the trade and popular press - you can't imagine how much time this takes. [It must take a lot, since the Apple PR people haven't yet called me back from a question I posed back in September, and we never get any press releases or official release information. -Tonya]
So there are a number of things we are doing - and I am very serious about that. Does it mean that I'll always do everything right by the developers? Probably not (from their point of view), but I am trying hard to balance the realities of our current business model with the need to do everything possible to help developers - both large and small - succeed better on our platform than on the other platform.
I know the good old guys are no longer around and, from your perspective, Dave, there are often a bunch of "suits" in their places. But the world and our business are more complex than when the pioneers were around. So... different folks, different problems, different behaviors - some for the better, some for the worse. What does seem to be a constant is that virtually everyone at Apple does want to make a difference - the culture here is still far, far from being IBM-like. I think we've lost a lot of the "major personalities" and this has created a different experience for those of you who deal with us.
It has been a difficult transition for us over the past couple of years. Our profitability (gross margins) were more than halved in a little over a year. That factor alone created incredible pressures (apart from the layoff - itself a delightful experience). Those pressures are certainly felt by our employees, virtually all of whom work incredibly hard to make our platform a success. Admittedly, it's been difficult at times to keep morale high: employees are barraged every day with popular and trade press opinions that we're going to be crushed under the Gates steamroller. (Maybe if he starts spending more of his time in those old book auctions...).
And, of course, there are a lot of start-ups right now (particularly in multimedia) and many of our employees are being targeted. We've always had a superior work force - it's one of the real strengths of Apple. I don't know if you know, but Bill opened a recruiting office in Cupertino just down the street from our R&D facility. Morale is pretty good now (it was certainly at a low point six months ago) but these things can change quickly. Keeping morale high is a major goal.
So, we have changed and will continue to change. But don't pay too much attention to superficial details. There is a certain core of the culture that's intact - there's a tremendous passion at Apple to do great products and to be a great company. The styles are different and perhaps the pressure is greater; the go-go, indulgent 80's are over and folks here are hunkering down and working without some of the flamboyance of the past.
I feel more positive than I've felt for years. We have a good strategy; we have some fantastic technologies and great people; we're developing some new and aggressive marketing talent; we're working on mostly the right things; the other side has its share of problems to look forward to in the next couple of years; and we've adjusted to our new financial model extremely well. Obviously, I don't want to appear to be too much of a Pollyanna - success is certainly not guaranteed. But I truly think we are better situated to succeed than we have been. And I can guarantee you it's going to be as exciting as hell the next couple of years!
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Life isn't as simple as it used to be in the Mac world. A few weeks ago, I decided the time had come for some fall cleaning on my Mac. A few things were happening on my hard disk that I couldn't quite explain (disk accesses at strange times, primarily), and I wanted to install System 7.5, a SCSI Manager 4.3-savvy driver, and generally fix things up. I'm not a fan of optimization software since I've found that in many cases, it doesn't make much difference (but for those of you who like to optimize twice a day, more power to you - keep good backups). After a year or so, I prefer to reformat my hard drive, eliminating any nastiness that might be lurking at a low level and eliminating fragmentation in the restore process.
Backing up -- This was the first time I've reformatted my current hard disk, an APS 1.2 GB drive with an Quantum mechanism. I back up to an APS DAT drive with Retrospect 2.1, and I've retrieved files from the tapes on ten or twenty occasions, so I'm fairly confident of my backup scheme. Nonetheless, relying on a single backup scares me, so first thing in the morning I backed up the important folders from my files partition onto other hard disks on our network, and it was a good move. More on that later. I also copied my entire system partition to my Centris 660AV's internal 230 MB drive, which I mainly use as scratch space, so that I'd have a familiar boot environment once I'd reformatted the main drive. Luckily, while copying, I thought to copy my entire Retrospect folder to the internal drive as well; if I hadn't I would have not only had to load Retrospect from master floppy again, but I would have had to rebuild the catalog file to my latest backup tape. Not good, and if I had read the Retrospect manual more carefully first, I would have seen Dantz's warning to copy catalog files before reformatting.
Reformatting -- With everything completely backed up (this took a few hours all told, I'm paranoid about backups), the time came to reformat the disk. I chose Drive7 from Casa Blanca Works because it has received good reviews and supports SCSI Manager 4.3, which wasn't true of the version of La Cie's Silverlining I'd been using (and I hate playing their "update of the hour" game). Using Drive7 to reformat the drive was trivial, or at least it would have been if Drive7 hadn't crashed while trying to close the Silverlining driver. Thankfully, Drive7's manual mentioned that specific problem, and its solution - turning the external drive on after running Drive7 and then rescanning the SCSI bus before formatting - worked perfectly. Still, I had a brief moment of panic, which would have been worse if I hadn't seen that comment in the Drive7 manual.
The formatting process was a little strange. Since Drive7 supports the SCSI Manager 4.3's disconnect-reconnect feature, I clicked on the Format button, answered the usual "Are you really sure you want to do this?" dialogs, and then Drive7 issued the AsynchFormat command and let me work again. The strange part was that not only did Drive7 allow me to work in it or in other programs (something that's never been possible before while formatting), but the drive didn't seem to be accessing at all. The access light was off, the APS SCSI Sentry's lights indicating SCSI activity were off, and I couldn't hear the disk doing anything. After about five or ten minutes, I chickened out and called John Catalano of Casa Blanca Works, who assured me that this process could take a while sometimes. Of course, about a minute after he answered, the format finished and all was well.
Partitioning -- Next was the partitioning process. I have four partitions on my hard drive, a 20 MB test partition that doesn't mount by default, a 250 MB boot partition, a 250 MB files partition, and a large partition for applications that takes up whatever space is left. It seems reasonable to me, and I used this scheme (minus the test partition) even back when my hard drive was only 105 MB. I still had John on the phone as I started to partition the drive and he got a little nervous as I began having trouble, mentioning that he doesn't like the interface for partitioning and plans to have the programmers change it. We chatted briefly, and then I hung up to concentrate on the task at hand.
The Drive7 partitioning interface uses a rectangle to represent the disk and four smaller, resizable rectangles inside the rectangle represented my four partitions. To resize a partition, I shrunk its corresponding resizable rectangle (you can only decrease the size, since there is no free space inside the main rectangle). When I shrunk one partition, another partition increased in size to account for the size change. There is no way to predict which partition will change, and sometimes more than one changes.
This interface stinks. I even went so far as to reformat the drive and repartition with Silverlining, hoping to get Drive7 to take over the partition sizes (it didn't work). I then tried the same thing with a program called DriveForce that comes with Microtech drives, but DriveForce wouldn't let me click on the radio button for setting custom partitions. So, I reformatted one more time with Drive7, and this time went about the partitioning process meticulously, throwing out the Drive7 Prefs file (which stores your mistakes) each time I screwed up. Eventually, by resizing the bottom partition to approximately 250 MB, the second to last one to approximately 270 MB, and the third from last one to about 20 MB, I succeeded in sizing my partitions. Drive7's partitioning graphical interface should be junked in favor of that old standby, typing numbers in edit boxes, which would have taken about a minute.
Restoring files -- Once I'd managed to reformat and partition the disk, the time came to restore from backup. As I said earlier, I'd remembered to put Retrospect and its files on my internal scratch disk, so restoring was easy, although it also wasn't all that fast even with Retrospect 2.1's SCSI Manager 4.3 capabilities, because I had a lot of data to restore. After restoring, I started to poke around in some of the restored folders since I'm paranoid, and I don't trust even well-respected programs like Retrospect to do exactly what I want.
It was a good thing I did, since I noticed a couple of important folders that contained different numbers of files. When I checked them against my secondary backups on my other Macs, I discovered that Retrospect, like all good computer programs, had done exactly what I'd told it to do, which was not exactly what I wanted. Like many people who use Retrospect, I suspect, I have a custom selector that avoids backing up certain files that are pointless to save (temporary files, automatically generated log files, etc.). Although I did not indeed want these files backed up every night, I did want some of them backed up once (I had failed to turn off my custom selector on the first backup session on that tape), and I also wanted the disk restored to exactly the same state before my reformat process. Luckily, my secondary backups retained those files exactly as I wanted them, so I didn't lose anything. The moral of the story is: Be paranoid about backups, it's safer that way.
Installing System 7.5 -- With the entire disk back the way I wanted it (aside from aliases and various preferences that always get hosed in a restore process), I set about installing System 7.5. First, I installed a copy on my 20 MB test volume, since I like being able to boot that volume with a clean System. I had no problems with that installation, so I installed a clean copy (reportedly a good idea with 7.5) on my main boot volume. If you press Command-Shift-K in the main installer window, the installer gives you the option to Install New System Folder, which then renames your old System Folder to Previous System Folder.
In the past, I've always recommended that people install for any Macintosh, but with System 7.5, I give up. If you select the "For Any Macintosh" option in the installer, it installs tons of garbage that won't even run on a specific desktop Mac, including all sorts of PowerBook-specific extensions. Sorting through the mess simply is no longer worth the effort (in the eventuality that you might use your hard disk to boot another Macintosh). It's also definitely worth customizing to avoid installing files you'll throw out immediately anyway, such as (in my case) Easy Access.
Rebooting with that copy of System 7.5 worked fine, as I expected it to. The next trick was to move the contents of my old System Folder over to my new one. My standard technique is to open the old Apple Menu Items folder and the new one, then to copy everything from the new one into the old one, replacing anything that should be replaced, like the old Chooser. Once the older files have been replaced, I copy the entire contents of the old folder back to the new one, which transfers all of my old files back to where they'll load. I then repeat this process with all of the folders in the System Folder and with the items in the System Folder itself.
Removing System 7.5 -- The theory is all fine and nice, but the next hour of inexplicable crashes in normally stable applications worried me. I ran conflict tests in Conflict Catcher, but since my crashes weren't reproducible, it couldn't help. I tried reducing the set of extensions to those I consider necessary, such as QuicKeys and Super Boomerang, but nothing I did made much difference. I couldn't figure out what was causing the crashes, and since it was now closing in on midnight, I felt tired and crabby. In a fit of pique, I decided that other than Apple Guide (which I personally won't use much, even though I think it's extremely cool), I had all the new System 7.5 features that I wanted in System 7 Pro. So, in a bold move, I rebooted from my internal drive, erased my entire boot partition, and restored the entire silly thing from my DAT backup once again. A few small tweaks later, and my Centris 660AV was working as I expected it to, with no weird crashes. Life was good, and I'd only spent about 17 hours on the entire process.
Lessons learned -- Why am I telling you all this? Several reasons. First, I did some things right and made some mistakes, and I hope my experiences and techniques might be of use to others. Second, there are times when discretion is the better part of valor, and for me, fighting with System 7.5 was unnecessary. I don't need the features it boasts over System 7 Pro, and I do need to use my Macintosh, so I think I made the right decision in immediately falling back to System 7 Pro rather than putting up with crashes. As I upgrade my extensions and control panels, I expect that whatever caused the crashes will go away, and at some point, I'll try upgrading again. In contrast, Tonya's Duo 230 hasn't experienced System 7.5 crashing problems, and my SE/30 fileserver has been running System 7.5 constantly for several months without a single unexplained crash.
Third and finally, as much as we'd like to think our beloved Macintosh is still an elegant and simple machine without obscure quirks and hassles, it just isn't entirely true. That's not to say that the Macintosh still isn't the best or most elegant microcomputer out there, but it's significantly more complex than ever before. I fully admit that I knew what I was getting into, and that it was a complicated procedure, but even considering the quantities of data I was moving and the safeguards I employed, 17 hours from start to finish is a lot of time. I don't regret that time, since I learned a lot and succeeded in my primary objective of installing a SCSI Manager 4.3-savvy driver, but still...
As a postscript to this article, and to my trials and tribulations, I did finally track down one irritating occurrence. I had assigned custom icons to the partitions of my disk, but when I rebooted with extensions on, I'd only see the generic hard disk icons that I specified in Drive7. It turns out that if I use Drive7's MountCache control panel to create a driver level cache, my custom icons disappear. When I booted without extensions the custom icons generally came back, but it took me a while to make the connection. I'm not all that attached to the custom icons, and since a 512K driver-level cache improves my disk performance (currently) by 122 percent, I think I'll stick with the faster disk and generic icons.
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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