Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
The Web gets stickier this week as we bring you news on updates to all the major World-Wide Web browsers and details on StarNine's announcement of Mac-based Web server products. Plus, important news on Harry Mangalam's new incarnation of the Info-Mac WAIS database, a new Federal lawsuit regarding encryption technology and electronic privacy, and reviews of ZipZAPP and ZipQuest Pro, two ZIP Code/Area Code databases for the United States.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Copyright 1995 Adam & Tonya Engst. Details at end of issue.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
ftp.tidbits.com Down -- For various reasons, the machine that runs <ftp.tidbits.com> died yesterday. Northwest Nexus is working on getting a new machine up in its place, but they currently estimate a 10 to 12 day downtime.
The upshot of this is that none of the Anarchie bookmarks that ship with my book, The Internet Starter Kit will work, since they point at a directory on that machine. Nor will you be able to retrieve TidBITS or any files from the Info-Mac mirror part of <ftp.tidbits.com> until the machine comes back up.
I'll post another note when the machine is back and functional again. In the meantime, I recommend that you look at AOL's Info-Mac mirror for Internet files and issues of TidBITS in: [ACE]
Encryption Lawsuit Filed -- In late February, U.C. Berkeley graduate student Daniel Bernstein, with the support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, filed suit against the U.S. State Department over the publication of an encryption program called "Snuffle." As has been illustrated with the recent legal history of the PGP algorithm and the Clipper chip, the State Department currently classifies encryption software as a munition subject to tight export restrictions; however, Bernstein feels the government is violating his First Amendment rights by preventing him from publishing his work.
Computer privacy experts are taking the position that this suit could help define major issues surrounding encryption and privacy issues in the computer industry. The Federal government holds that allowing unregulated access to cryptography benefits terrorists, drug traffickers, and other criminals, effectively granting immunity to whole segments of criminal activity. Privacy advocates counter that the right to privacy outweighs law enforcement needs and that limits to the range of law enforcement have always been fundamental to U.S. law. "It would be much easier to crack down on drug dealers or terrorists if we allowed torture, or if we prohibited a jury trial," said John Gilmore, a board member of the EFF. You can check out the EFF's information in EFFector Online, or at the EFF Web site. [GD]
Nisus and QuicKeys Lists Move -- Fred Terry <email@example.com> points out that the Nisus and QuicKeys mailing lists are now automated by a LISTSERV program at Dartmouth. List members should have been automatically transferred, but in case you got lost in the move or in case you'd like to subscribe, you can get on either list by sending email to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. In the body of your message, type one or both of the following commands:
sub nisus Polly Penguin
sub quickeys Polly Penguin
Of course, be sure to type your full name in place of Polly Penguin. [TJE]
QuarkXPosure Announced -- Brent Bossom <email@example.com> wrote to let us know about the announcement of QuarkXPosure at Macworld Tokyo last month. Jointly developed by Quark and JVC (with the core technology originally developed under Unix by JVC), QuarkXPosure is an image-editing application that uses object-oriented databases to track editing operations. The idea is similar to styles in word processing, where styles can be applied, removed, saved, exported, etc., without changing the text. QuarkXPosure will enable users to add and remove operations performed on an image without changing the image itself, as well as separately save and store sets of operations so they can be repeatedly performed or shared with other users. QuarkXPosure is supposed to be very fast because it doesn't alter the image directly until changes are saved and because it runs exclusively on Power Macs. It has a number of unique features, plus compatibility with third-party plug-ins (such as Kai's Power Tools) and smooth integration with QuarkXPress. English and Japanese versions of QuarkXPosure should in late 1995, with world-wide pricing the same as that for QuarkXPress. [GD]
by Geoff Duncan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The WAIS-using Macintosh community owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Harry Mangalam <email@example.com> for recreating the Info-Mac WAIS databases that disappeared when Thinking Machines took down their public WAIS server. According to Harry, Thinking Machines may yet revive their service, but Harry took it upon himself to use some extra disk space and re-index the available postings.
This new incarnation of Info-Mac is in a slightly different form - it's split into two databases, one for 1992-1994 and one for 1995 exclusively:
info-mac Volumes 10-12 (1992-1994 inclusive) info-mac95 Volume 13 (1995)
Via the World-Wide Web, you can access the new Info-Mac databases through this URL:
Or you can use direct WAIS URLs to get to the databases:
wais://ih34.hsis.uci.edu:210/info-mac?query boolean query ...
wais://ih34.hsis.uci.edu:210/info-mac95?query boolean query ...
If you use Netscape Navigator to access these databases, you must configure a WAIS proxy in your Netscape preferences. You can use the same host that the Info-Mac databases live on (<ih34.hsis.uci.edu>, port 80), but Harry warns that the proxy jump can be slow - as long as minutes - although I've had no particular trouble getting through this way. NCSA Mosaic for the Mac doesn't support WAIS queries yet, and EINet's MacWeb will try to launch MacWAIS, available in Info-Mac mirror sites. You can also look into the freeware collection maintained at WAIS, Inc. for WAIS clients for other platforms.
For those looking to make their own Info-Mac sources in a WAIS client program (such as MacWAIS), you can use this to construct a WAIS "src" file for the databases. Change the field "database-name" from "info-mac" to "info-mac95" to access the 1995 articles.
(:source :version 3 :ip-address "18.104.22.168" :ip-name "ih34.hsis.uci.edu" :tcp-port 210 :database-name "info-mac" :maintainer "firstname.lastname@example.org" :description "Harry's test infomac server The info-mac digest from email@example.com" )
Thanks again, Harry - we owe you one!
by Geoff Duncan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Early last week, new versions of three major Macintosh World-Wide Web clients - EINet's MacWeb, NCSA Mosaic, and Netscape Navigator - hit the virtual streets with some fanfare. Thought it's worth noting that none of these represent the release of a finished product, they all incorporate significant new enhancements and features, and all are available for both 68K Macs and Power Macs.
In addition, a fourth Web browser has recently appeared on the scene, although it hasn't received as much attention - it's part of InterCon's powerful but pricey (about $365 mail order) TCP/Connect II 2.1, an integrated program that shoehorns clients for almost every Internet service into a single program, including Finger, Ping, Whois, Telnet, email, news, FTP, Gopher, and of course, the Web.
TCP/Connect II 2.1 -- The TCP/Connect II 2.1 Web browser is most notable for its speed and links to other parts of TCP/Connect II. It feels like the fastest Web browser I've used, thanks in part to the ability to use multiple connections, but otherwise, its feature set more or less matches those of the other main Web browsers. There are a few missing features, like multiple windows and support for WAIS URLs, but it has some nice touches like a drag & drop interface for the hot list. Since the Web browser is part of TCP/Connect II, it can use the other modules for mail, Telnet, Gopher, and FTP links, which often makes more sense than the approach taken by other Web browsers, which try to force everything through a Web browser. InterCon's Web site has more information about TCP/Connect II 2.1 and it also lets you download a demo version and apply for a demo key.
MacWeb 1.00A3.2 -- EINet's MacWeb isn't supposed to be a real product yet, with an "official" 1.0 release presumably still in the future. However, alpha 3.2 of MacWeb continues to be the leanest and meanest of the major Macintosh Web clients, running in as little as 750K of RAM. Though a number of the improvements to alpha 3.2 are internal technical changes, there are also significant improvements to the performance and functionality of FTP via MacWeb, plus better handling of errors and user cancellations, recording of window positioning, and faster local file dispatching with helper applications. Still missing, unhappily, is the ability to copy text directly out of the browser windows (still on the to-do list) and some user amenities, but all told MacWeb remains a respectable, speedy client with a small footprint.
NCSA Mosaic 2.0 Beta 1 -- In public alpha release since June of 1994, the Mac version of NCSA Mosaic 2.0 officially went beta last week. New features include support for inline JPEG images, support for mailto URLs in HTML documents, plus a controllable local disk cache of recently-accessed documents. Mosaic implemented support for HTML tables in previous releases, and that support seems to have improved in the beta, although Mosaic still has problems when extracting tables and other materials from the disk cache, along with a few windowing and interface quirks. NCSA also indicates performance improvements have been made in this release, although Mosaic continues to bring documents in through a single HTTP connection, unlike Netscape. Other additions include improved printing, better handling of pagination, and numerous bug fixes.
Netscape 1.1b1 -- Netscape Communications Corporation released version 1.1b1 of Netscape Navigator with a fair bit of public hype, claiming that their clients account for more than 75 percent of WWW traffic.
Netscape is pushing hard on the idea that they're committed to open standards in WWW development. Though Netscape has made some significant moves in that direction, several of its implementation decisions continue to generate controversy, such as its custom HTML tags and the decision to implement SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security in the NetScape client and server products.
Netscape Navigator 1.1b1 implements several new features based on the not-yet-etched-in-stone HTML 3.0 proposal, including tables, custom document backgrounds, and dynamically-updating documents. Dynamically updating document use "push/pull" techniques wherein a server or browser can request that information in a document be periodically updated, thus making for all sorts of spiffy Web implementations - up-to-date stock quotes, animations, real-time updates on networked coke machines, and so on. Netscape also sports a MacWeb-like pop-up menu that allows users to copy URLs to the clipboard, open links in new windows, or directly save image files. HTML authors who have the Drag Manager can now save the HTML source to disk by dragging a link from a Netscape window out to the desktop.
Netscape Navigator 1.1b1 also has a few general performance improvements, enhancements to its newsreader capabilities, somewhat-enhanced scripting capabilities, and the ability (finally!) to change the background color of your browser window. Importantly, it includes support for three major Japanese character set schemes: JIS (ISO-2022-JP), SJIS (Shift-JIS) and UC-JP (Extended Unix Code for Japanese).
Netscape Navigator1.1b1 will expire on 01-Apr-95, although Netscape promises to keep 1.0N available and other betas may be forthcoming. Netscape Navigator 1.1 is slated to officially ship sometime in April under the same pricing and terms as the 1.0 release; purchasers of the 1.0 release may be eligible for free upgrades and continuation of their customer support. And, for those of you just itching to etch your mark on the product, Netscape is holding a "No Throbbing, Pulsing, Breathing N Contest" through Sunday, March 19, 1995, to replace the icon animation in the upper right-hand corner of their browser window.
Getting Their Feet Webbed -- The three commonly-available Web browsers have consistently shown their laundry in public by releasing alpha and beta versions of their client software. In part this is due to the phenomenal growth of the World-Wide Web in the last two years: it's certainly better for them to have pre-release browsers out there than nothing at all - if for no other reason than to make sure they stay in the game. But two interesting things are happening. First, the availability of pre-release versions may be considerably extending the development cycles of these products. NCSA Mosaic and EINet's MacWeb have each been issuing alpha versions since June of 1994, but with final versions still off in a deep haze. Only Netscape is adhering to what might be called a typical software release cycle, for better or for worse. Second, like it or not, these pre-release versions increasingly define what we think of as the World-Wide Web. Netscape may be the most popular browser out there right now, but its HTML extensions and "non-standard" features have set a good portion of the WWW community on its ear, which in turn impacts the development processes of other Web clients and the processes by which HTML and WWW standards are set. Users of the Web might be voting with their feet, but do they understand the direction they're being asked to march?
Netscape may be doing everything it can to use and conform to open standards, but in its rush to capture a market it may be helping to create a de facto standard, the ramifications of which aren't entirely clear. And, let's face it folks, DOS is a standard too.
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor <email@example.com>
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
StarNine Technologies has stepped into the limelight of Macintosh-based Internet server software with its announcement at the Mactivity conference this week of plans to market new versions of the MacHTTP Web server software as WebSTAR and WebSTAR Pro. These WWW server products will join StarNine's email gateway software and related products in the Internet-oriented StarNine family.
The partnership between StarNine and BIAP Systems, founded by MacHTTP author Chuck Shotton, will bring improved options to people setting up Internet server software on Macintoshes. WebSTAR will take advantage of Apple's Thread Manager to permit smoother handling of many simultaneous tasks, and a future version will support Apple's upcoming Open Transport networking framework and its new TCP/IP implementation. The new software will offer 68000 and PowerPC versions, and has a variety of other enhancements over the existing MacHTTP software. StarNine says a Mac-based WebSTAR server will easily handle "hundreds of thousands of WWW transactions a day."
WebSTAR Pro will offer the same features as WebSTAR, but will also support electronic payment exchanges using the First Virtual Internet Payment System, and secure connections between client and server using Netscape Communications Corporation's Secure Sockets Layer protocol (SSL). First Virtual has created a secure means of transacting business on the Internet without requiring credit card information be sent across the net. Small merchants can maintain a presence on the net without even having to arrange to accept credit cards themselves; an example is a small Ithaca-based fiction publisher called Aether Press.
The pair of World-Wide Web servers will offer an alternative to Unix-based HTTP server software (including Netscape's Netsite package), providing easier administration and operation without sacrificing performance or functionality. Pricing has not yet been announced for the servers, which are scheduled for release by the end of April.
Meanwhile, StarNine is changing the name of its upcoming EMail-on-Demand mailing list server software to MailSTAR (see TidBITS-258). MailSTAR provides Mac-based LISTSERV-style mailing list capabilities and rules-based "mailbot" features. StarNine plans to offer a bundle of WebSTAR and MailSTAR - plus FTP and Gopher server software - in a combined package called OmniSTAR.
StarNine Technologies -- 510/649-4949 -- 510/548-0393 (fax)
<firstname.lastname@example.org> -- http://www.starnine.com/
by Tonya Engst <email@example.com>
If you rarely call or send mail to people within the United States, the software reviewed in this article will probably be of limited interest, but if you frequently send piles of mail or talk on the phone to people in the U.S., keep reading to find out about two utilities that might help you out - TrueBASIC's ZipZAPP and Montage Software Systems' ZipQuest Pro. Both programs help you look up information (such as a ZIP code) based on other information (such as an area code).
As a former phone-based software support person, a number of possible uses for these programs jump out at me. If you want to check a customer's time zone before accidently calling her at what would be 6 AM her time, you can do it. If you just want to see what time zone someone is calling from, you can check (customers calling around 6 PM their time tend to have limited attention spans). Both of these programs beat dog-eared, excessively-photocopied sheets of paper for efficiency, usefulness, and elegance. Besides the basic lookups, each program offers a few more specialized options. ZipZAPP offers information about the population of a given location, and ZipQuest Pro computes the distance between any two locations.
ZipZAPP -- ZipZAPP enables you to search for information based on city name, ZIP code, or area code. By knowing one piece of search information - say the city name - you can discover not only the area code and ZIP code, but also the state, population, and time zone.
ZipZAPP has three menus: The File menu offers a Quit command, the Edit menu a Copy selection command, and the Help menu a Time Zones command. When it comes to quitting, clicking the close box in the ZipZAPP window quits the application, but pressing Command-W (the usual close window command) does nothing. This actually works properly in the sense that if you did close the ZipZAPP window without quitting the program, there would be no window to reopen. The Time Zones command brings up a window that explains how to figure out what time it is someplace else, although you'll have to fire up a few brain cells to figure out and compute the time.
In addition to the menu commands, ZipZAPP offers a simple search interface at the top of the window where it displays found information. To do a search, you use a pop-up menu to indicate whether you are searching based on ZIP code, city, or area code. Next, you type what you want to look for in the Search For text box. ZipZAPP responds pretty much instantly to search requests on a wide range of Macs - I tested it on a Classic and a Power Mac 7100.
ZipZAPP shows found information in columns labeled City, State, Zip Code, A.C., Population, and Time zone; the somewhat inconsistent capitalization of the labels exactly matches the way they are printed in this review. The window displays rows of information and the found item is always highlighted at the top of the window (if you search for a city called Washington, ZipZAPP finds several and highlights the first one). Although ZipZAPP presents found information in a clear manner, you cannot customize the font, column width, which columns display, nor any other aspect of the interface, except for the highlight color (which is the color you set in your Mac's Color control panel). The newest version of ZipZAPP, version 2.0, has improved the interface somewhat over the previous version - the window can now be resized vertically and looks more attractive on a color monitor. ZipZAPP weighs in at 864K of disk space, but only consumes 100K of RAM.
ZipZAPP comes in DOS, Windows, and Mac 68K versions (there isn't much need for a PowerPC version; the program is already plenty fast). TrueBASIC sells ZipZAPP to individuals for $29; annual data updates cost $9.95. You can also purchase a $49 bundle, which includes ZipZAPP and ABBREV, a program with a similar feel to that of ZipZAPP that defines some 34,000 abbreviations and acronyms, with an emphasis on airport codes and stock symbols. Performa users may already have ZipZAPP; apparently it comes bundled with some of Apple's Performa bundles.
TrueBASIC also sells ZipZAPP with a volume discount to companies who want to distribute the program with a logo and mini-advertisement in the bottom inch or so of the ZipZAPP window.
ZipQuest Pro -- ZipQuest Pro is ahead of ZipZAPP in terms of interface, but it's also far more than a pretty face. It can search based on a city or ZIP code and return the corresponding city, state, area code, time zone, and county. If you tell ZipQuest Pro where "Home" is and set your Mac's clock correctly, lookups also return the time at the lookup location and the distance between the lookup location and Home. According to the well-done manual, ZipQuest Pro correctly accounts for daylight savings time when it accounts for the time. You can also perform lookups based on knowing all or part of the name of a city, view a reference table matching area codes to states, and view a reference table matching abbreviations to state, U.S. Possessions (such as Palau), and U.S. Military Addresses (such as Military-Atlantic).
ZipQuest Pro has elegance - the first part of the manual is unnecessary for anyone who groks the Macintosh interface. As icing on the cake for serious Macintosh users, ZipQuest Pro comes wired with Apple events so that other scripting-savvy applications can query it for lookups. The second half of the manual explains how to use ZipQuest Pro in an AppleScript context, and the program comes with demos that should help get you started in QuicKeys, 4D, ACT!, FileMaker Pro, and TouchBase Pro. ZipQuest Pro started life as an add-on for 4D and also comes with a 4D external which helps with performing lookups from 4th Dimension.
Montage modified the stock database that comes from the U.S. Postal Service so that ZipQuest Pro can give information for cities that are not the primary city for a given ZIP code. Judging from the manual and press materials that came with ZipQuest Pro, this is an important feature.
Complete with ReadMe files and demos, ZipQuest Pro consumes 1.6 MB of disk space and loads into 120K of RAM. Get rid of all but the application and the data, and the disk size drops to 1.3 MB. To run the program, you need a Mac Plus or newer and System 7 or greater. ZipQuest Pro lists for $49.95. Montage offers data updates on a biannual basis; updates cost $24.95 each or $19.95 if you get them through an automatic update service, though the package comes with a coupon for 50 percent off your first update.
I am impressed with the product and with the quality of information that Montage provided, both in the manual and the advertising sheet. You can find a 329K demo version of ZipQuest Pro at:
Comparative Thoughts -- Although in many ways the programs offer the same information, ZipQuest Pro stands out as the more professional and more Macintosh-oriented product. ZipQuest Pro also contains cities that are not the primary cities for a given ZIP code. If you need population data or one product that works on PCs and Macs, ZipZAPP is clearly the way to go; otherwise, ZipQuest Pro is most likely your product of choice.
Montage Software Systems, Inc. -- 800/266-6824 -- 203/834-1144
203/762-9601 (fax) -- <firstname.lastname@example.org>
TrueBASIC, Inc. -- 800/436-2111 -- 603/298-8517
603/298-7015 (fax) -- <email@example.com>
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