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This might be the week the computer industry focuses on COMDEX in Las Vegas, but that doesn't mean things aren't happening everywhere else. We bring you news that OpenDoc 1.0 and new versions of BBEdit and Netscape Navigator are available, plus the latest on troubles at clone maker Radius and difficulties obtaining Adobe PageMill overseas. Also, read about a $10,000 Internet security challenge, and get Adam's thoughts on both Apple's and eWorld's explicit shift toward the Internet.
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OpenDoc 1.0 & SDK Available! Apple intends to include OpenDoc as part of the Mac OS with hardware bundles and as additional system software components throughout 1996 - but you can get it sooner than that, if you want. Apple last week announced the availability of the OpenDoc Software Development Kit for the Mac, which includes the complete OpenDoc 1.0 release as well as sample code and tools for OpenDoc developers. Supposedly, a free developer CD can be obtained by mailing <email@example.com>, but some messages have been bounced from that address, so I can't guarantee it.
Before downloading OpenDoc, you need to know two things. First, most people have no reason to install OpenDoc, since only a few components are available and no applications support it. Three hundred developers have committed to shipping OpenDoc-compliant programs in 1996, but that's still a ways off. Second, OpenDoc is big, with the basic installation and a few sample components coming in around 4 MB, and the development tools are hefty 20+ MB in addition to that. (Apple thoughtfully provides separate, smaller files for people using modems.) So unless you're a developer or terminally curious, there's no driving reason to install OpenDoc yet. I applaud Apple for releasing OpenDoc and - better still - making it freely available. This release follows hot on the heels of the announcement that IBM will be taking over development of OpenDoc for Windows from Novell, although Novell remains publicly committed to the technology. [GD]
$10,000 Internet Security Challenge -- I wrote about the WebMaster Macintosh security challenge back in TidBITS-295 and, as expected, no one was able to break WebSTAR's security and claim the prize of free passes to the WebEdge conference. Now the stakes have increased. Seven companies - StarNine, EveryWare, Maxum, ComVista Internet Solutions, WebEdge, Digital Forest, and Westwind Computing - have joined forces to offer a more lucrative prize of $10,000. The new challenge is similar: you must break WebSTAR's security to find information that's isn't available to the public and report it by midnight on 30-Nov-95. Check out the rest of the details online if you are interested. [ACE]
High-end DOS Cards at COMDEX -- Among the many things Apple will demonstrate at COMDEX in Las Vegas this week will be prototype "PC Compatibility Cards" based on both the Pentium and Cyrix 586 chips. Long rumored, these PCI-based cards will succeed Apple's current 486-based DOS Compatibility Cards. No pricing or availability information has been divulged, although they're not likely to be cheap. [GD]
Linux Clarification -- A MailBIT in TidBITS-302 regarding Novell's intention to sell WordPerfect and Quattro Pro implied Ray Noorda, former CEO of Novell, controlled commercial rights to Linux, Linus Torvald's popular Unix clone distributed under the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). The language was from Novell's and Noorda's public statements on the issue, and was misleading in stating Linux is shareware and implying Mr. Noorda controls all commercial rights to Linux.
First, Linux is distributed under the GPL and is not shareware. Second, Caldera, Inc., a company founded by Bryan Sparks with money from the Noorda Family Trust, distributes Linux under the terms of the GPL as part of its Caldera Network Desktop (now in "preview" release), along with additional proprietary components. This is by no means an exclusive arrangement; it would have been more accurate to say Noorda is involved with Caldera, which is preparing a Linux-based product line for corporate users. Caldera is also of interest to the Mac community since Caldera plans to support OpenDoc in the Caldera Network Desktop. [GD]
IKEA -- Sorry for not having tracked down a phone number for IKEA before for those of you who wanted to get a catalog and check out the Jerker desks I mentioned recently. It turns out IKEA's 800 numbers are geographically limited, so people on the East coast of the U.S. should try the first one, people on the West coast should try the second one, and the non-800 number and fax number (for ordering a catalog - fax them your snail mail address) should work anywhere, although the last two are local Seattle numbers so the telephone people may refer you to a different number for your area or country. The 800 numbers weren't accessible from my phone for some reason, so if all else fails, try the non-800 number. [ACE]
IKEA -- 800/434-4532 -- 800/570-4532 --
206/656-2980 -- 206/656-8104 (fax)
by Geoff Duncan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To almost no one's surprise, signs began appearing last week that the beleaguered video and graphics company and Macintosh clone maker Radius might be on its last legs. Radius laid off nearly half of its 320 employees last week (following the layoff of 80 employees in September), and rumors have been circulating that the company - or at least its licence to manufacture Mac clones - is for sale.
According to MacWEEK, Radius is expected to announce a loss of $20 million for the fiscal quarter ended 30-Sep-95, a figure considerably higher than what had been expected. Radius executives reportedly blame the loss on declining margins for video cards and monitors, as well as insufficient supplies of its 81/110 Macintosh clone system. Radius is also suffering from lackluster sales on many of its high-end video products, including its Telecast system.
Interestingly, sources indicate that Radius has manufactured as many as 10,000 machines but has sold less than 10 percent of them. Sales of Radius clones were almost certainly hurt by Apple's recent price cuts, which resulted in Radius machines being priced higher than Apple systems of similar performance. Radius prices may also have been driven up by Radius's reliance on Apple parts.
Radius still claims to be developing PCI-based Macintosh clones for early 1996, but sources indicate Radius has laid off the group responsible for developing the clones as well as specifications for two new models. Obviously, Radius still owns the plans and designs, but without key personnel and capital, eventual production seems unlikely.
In addition to recent layoffs, Radius has been hurt by an exodus of engineers and software developers, many of whom now work at Silicon Graphics and (surprise) on Macintosh development projects for Microsoft.
If the troubles at Radius stem in part from its venture into Macintosh clones, perhaps the lesson to be learned is that targeting the high end of the Macintosh market may not be good business. The wide margins at the high end of the Macintosh line are basically a thing of the past, and they need to stay that way if the Mac is going to remain competitive with other platforms. In the Intel world, clones were successful because they strove for volume rather than margin; however, presently all Macintosh clones sell to the mid-to-high end of the Macintosh world. Admittedly, that's where the companies will find users more able to take the technological step out of Apple's shadow, but if Radius's experience is any indication, it may not be possible to build a viable business model so close to Apple's core market.
by Tonya Engst <email@example.com>
BBEdit, a popular text editor and text-based HTML authoring tool, has matured greatly over the past years, and this most recent round of updates includes several valuable features and fixes.
The freeware BBEdit Lite, now at version 3.5, fixes bugs and offers several improvements including full-featured text wrapping, improved Find and Preferences dialog box, and fancier Get Info options (like character, word, line, and page counts). BBEdit Lite also now has PowerPC code in its core text engine.
The full BBEdit is commercial, but version 3.5.1 comes as a free update to registered 3.5 owners. The new version corrects a number of bugs, offers an impressive list of minor interface improvements, and can be more easily controlled by AppleScript and Frontier. According to Bare Bones, the new version also comes with a "dramatically improved" Replace All function. If you own a commercial version of BBEdit 3.5, you can download the update and apply it to your copy.
Bare Bones Software -- 508/651-3561 -- 508/651-7584 (fax)
by Dave Martin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
With Novell placing WordPerfect and Quattro Pro up for sale, it may be time for people to put some pressure on Claris to make an offer - assuming Claris isn't already a serious bidder for the products. Even if Claris has started negotiations, a flood of calls supporting the purchase could make sure the company doesn't back off.
Why would it matter if Claris bought the pair? For starters, a company without strong Macintosh development experience could just let WordPerfect for Macintosh stagnate, with no further development and less-than-optimal technical support. A relatively new, smaller company is risky because potential customers and investors may worry about the company's endurance as well as their ability to handle cross-platform development and support for two big products. A new, small company might also have more trouble shipping a Mac Quattro Pro.
Why Claris, rather than Adobe, Quark, or another company with a strong Mac presence? Why shouldn't Apple - through Claris - do what Microsoft has been doing for years? Microsoft makes word processors and spreadsheets for use on their operating systems, competing directly with third-party developers. Why can't Apple do the same thing? MacWrite Pro doesn't have much chance on its own, but the idea of combining the best elements of WordPerfect and MacWrite has great potential.
Claris already has a cross-platform mindset. Buying WordPerfect would give them a popular DOS/Windows word processor with a large installed base, plus a Mac version to which increasing numbers of Macintosh users are switching in an attempt to escape Microsoft's Mac applications. Quattro Pro would give Claris a start towards building their own office suite; they already have FileMaker Pro for Macintosh and Windows. Imagine a cross-platform business applications package (or set of OpenDoc parts) centered around WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, FileMaker Pro, and ClarisDraw. Toss in Emailer and Claris Organizer and you have an excellent bundle, especially if the price is right.
Of course, Claris would face obstacles. Unless Novell worked on a Macintosh port of Quattro Pro (and this strikes me as unlikely), Claris would have to develop a Mac version from scratch. Also, the programs won't be well integrated - even Claris products don't quite blend well on interface, and at the moment WordPerfect certainly doesn't work and look like a Claris application. There is also the question of product longevity: Claris tried an application suite once before. How many people bought Claris Resolve only to have the program abandoned? Claris SmartForms met the same fate.
There's also no doubt whoever buys WordPerfect and/or Quattro Pro will be purchasing a technical support nightmare due to the size of the installed bases of those programs. Unless the buyer can acquire the lion's share of existing technical support resources with the purchase, sizable tech support groups would have to be created and trained.
In the long run, however, it seems that WordPerfect and Quattro Pro may have a better chance for a viable future on the Macintosh if Claris adopts them. The Macintosh version of WordPerfect has come a long way in recent years, quickly offering new Apple technologies and trying hard to be a serious contender. It would be a shame to see all that effort go to waste.
by Tonya Engst <email@example.com>
Although at least one Japanese reader of the PageMill mailing list reported successfully purchasing the electronic version of PageMill, the European purchasing situation appears to leave much to be desired. Here's the official word from the U.S. branch of Adobe, as written to the PageMill mailing list by Kelly, an Adobe employee:
"Here's the scoop on international orders: Adobe has a strong European sales organization, and that organization is handling PageMill differently, so we're not doing Web sales there to avoid competing with ourselves. We also cannot sell to countries that the U.S. currently has an embargo with, e.g. Cuba and Libya. When you call to place your order, the order center has a list of approximately sixty countries that we can't sell to. If you give a telephone country code or address in one of those countries, we'll be unable to process your order."
Richard Erickson <firstname.lastname@example.org>, who you may recall from his recent report on Paris's Apple Expo, wrote a much more personal account of the situation:
Since reading about PageMill in TidBITS-290, TidBITS-295, and TidBITS-296, and exchanging a few messages about the release date with Ceneca Communications, I have eagerly awaited the release of this software.
Then TidBITS-302 arrived containing the release news. Even better, for those of us nine time zones east of California, the news contained the hint - nay, the dream - of the future of software distribution. Tonya wrote, "People on the list [the PageMill mailing list] have reported successfully purchasing the electronic version of PageMill from Adobe, though when you purchase the electronic version, you must have a fax number so Adobe can fax you a special URL, which you then use to download the program."
Aha, I have a fax number, I have plastic numbers, I have a modem, and I have a Web browser or Anarchie for an FTP download. What could be easier? What's the franc at today - less than 500 for $99? Plus 20 francs to the lady who has the fax in her newspaper shop just a five minute walk from here. And I have Acrobat Reader; I'm set!
So I copy the Web URL right out of TidBITS, paste it into my Web browser and hit Return.
My connection is fast because most of America is still asleep. I fill out the Web form: name, address, telephone number, fax, plastic number, and - at the bottom of the page - I finally get to: "At this time, we regretfully cannot accept orders from countries in Europe. Please contact your local Authorized Adobe Reseller for product availability."
In France, Adobe has a fairly new thing called Adobe Shop and it has the equivalent of an 800 number. When you dial it, a computer tells you to press various numbers on your telephone. The result was zero. If what you are looking for isn't programmed, you are eventually given a non-automatic toll number, and it was busy. Later, after waiting 11 minutes (at 73 centimes a unit), I learned that the name of the product is known, but Adobe had no information about local availability.
Between calls to Adobe, I called MacZone and MacWarehouse-France, but neither had heard of the product. Of course, I can order PageMill by phone from a vendor in the U.S., and unless they are under some scrupulous restraining order of Adobe's, they will ship. But that's not the point. It seemed for a blissful few moments that the future of software distribution had arrived - a future that said "Ciao!" to airfreight, and that had no store, no warehouse, no cash, no paper order, no package, no shrink-wrap, no paper manual, and no registration card.
[In case you missed it last week, here's where to find out more about the PageMill mailing list. -Tonya]
Adobe Shop (in France) -- 05 90 86 78 -- 44 131 451 1699 (fax)
by Geoff Duncan <email@example.com>
Netscape Communications recently made the second beta version of Netscape Navigator 2.0 available. This version has several enhancements, including fixes for some serious bugs in the first beta, improved versions of mail and newsreader windows, and preliminary support for LiveScript, Netscape's own scripting language. This version also claims to be more stable, offers improvements to the bookmarks and address book interfaces, and claims to have additional networking improvements for people accessing the Internet over a modem. Netscape has assembled a Web page listing worldwide mirror sites, so if one site refuses a connection, try other nearby sites. This beta edition of Netscape Navigator expires 21-Jan-96.
What's LiveScript? This beta features preliminary support for LiveScript, Netscape's own scripting language. LiveScript is loosely based on Java, but is designed to be more accessible to inexperienced programmers. LiveScript is by Netscape's own admission "lightweight," which means there are significant limitations to what people can do with it. LiveScript is not part of any standard specification and (naturally) is only supported in Netscape's browsers, which in many estimations makes it yet another in a series of non-standard "Netscapisms."
What's more, LiveScript isn't finished yet - this is just a "preview." Major portions of the language aren't implemented, and the available portions are subject to change without notice. Some preliminary (and incomplete) information is available online, and it provides a glimpse of what Netscape wants to do. One thing that makes LiveScript more accessible than Java is that it's a "loosely-typed" run-time system. In theory, this makes it more akin to HyperTalk than C; however, LiveScript is still considerably more obtuse than highly-accessible languages like HyperTalk and clearly shows its Unix/C++ roots.
The basic idea behind LiveScript is that functions can be embedded in an HTML page (in a <SCRIPT> tag), and the functions are then called when the client detects that certain events have occurred. For example, you might use LiveScript to make your Web page play a sound in response to a button being clicked, or you might use it to verify that a form entry met certain criteria, or (maybe) interact with a plug-in or another application. There are many potential uses for this sort of functionality, and it's not surprising that Netscape has first implemented elements associated with forms, buttons, and links. The ability to perform simple client-side evaluations and actions with anything from user-entered information to results returned from a database-searching CGI would be of interest to any number of Web publishers, but particularly to folks interested in online ordering and transactions. It's no coincidence these are the same folks who might be in line to purchase Netscape's server software.
What Else? Of course, the biggest notable omission from this release of Netscape Navigator is support for Java, which is now apparently available for every other Netscape-supported platform. Like the previous beta, this version of Navigator is not compatible with Open Transport, and though there have been changes to Netscape's GIF handling, running on a monochrome system still isn't a good idea. Before running this beta, I recommend that you look through Netscape's release notes for additional information that may affect you.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Apple introduced its second-generation commercial information service, eWorld, the stated goal was to have eWorld eventually replace the expensive and aging AppleLink. Apple went so far as to reserve AppleLink usernames on eWorld so all Apple employees, many of whom rely on AppleLink for internal email, would be able to switch to eWorld with a minimum of fuss. Whatever its technical achievements or failings, eWorld was the anointed solution for Apple and its users.
As we all know, eWorld hasn't been a shocking failure, but it hasn't been a major success. As America Online, using the same basic software, has ballooned its user base to a reported four million people, eWorld has slowly risen to a few hundred thousand users. And lest Apple be singled out for castigation, keep in mind The Microsoft Network (MSN) has faced similar problems. After the free beta test period ran out, MSN subscribers have been packing their bags and leaving at a rate of over 100 per day, according to one rumor from the nets.
These events more or less match with what I thought was going to happen. My comment in regard to both was "The world doesn't need another CompuServe." For eWorld I qualified that statement, because I think Apple had a chance to make eWorld the place to find Apple online, and if Apple had managed to offer and encourage the use of official tech support on eWorld from the beginning, eWorld might have stood a chance in the short term. But in a victory for content over style, eWorld's bustling welcome sound has never reflected a bustling user community using and contributing scads of eWorld-only information. Now it seems MSN has learned the same lesson after making many of the same mistakes. As one friend who recently dropped MSN after the beta test said, "It's a serious ghost town." People don't want to use a commercial service these days, they want to use the Internet.
Apple and Microsoft, as much as they may have ignored that message in the past, have gotten it now. MSN's goal has subtly changed over the last year or so from being a CompuServe-killer to being a commercial information service that doubles as a method of gaining full Internet access via tools included with Windows 95. Apple in turn has announced eWorld will move toward an Internet-centric model. Early indications of this are an increasing number of links from within eWorld out to the Web, and in a message on AppleLink, Vice President of Apple Internet Services Peter Friedman, said "eWorld's next major release, expected in mid-1996, will be entirely based on Internet/Open Standards technology (instead of its current proprietary technology) and live out on the Internet."
Perhaps even more telling is that Apple has dumped plans to move internal Apple communications from AppleLink onto eWorld. Apple has decided instead to move all communications to an Internet-based service. This won't happen immediately, of course, but means AppleLink's death grip on the tree halfway down the cliff will remain strong for some time. It also means Apple will be releasing the reserved AppleLink usernames for use by eWorld users. For more information on the change, check out the following path on AppleLink.
AppleLink HelpDesk -> eWorld Showcase -> eWorld, AppleLink, 'Net Strategy.
I approve greatly of this move for one simple reason. I don't believe that a company - any company - can produce stellar Internet products unless all of their employees have access to the Internet and use it regularly. Internet familiarity at all levels of a company introduces a set of checks and balances on any Internet product or service, since it's far more likely internal pre-release users and testers will relate to the product or service on a consumer level. This, in turn, will hopefully prevent some of the sillier product ideas put forth by people who don't understand what the Internet is about.
Large companies often wish to avoid the Internet because of support issues, security concerns, and because programs designed for Internet communications aren't always as focused as those designed for a specific type of internal network. I'd argue, though, that any company doing business on the Internet, producing Internet products, or in any way skirting the edges of the net must encourage Internet familiarity in its employees. Support and security concerns are less of an issue these days, as more companies release commercial versions of necessary Internet clients and as firewall technologies continue to improve. And although Internet email and groupware-type programs still tend to more generic than their LAN-based brethren, the flexibility provided by supporting Internet standards more than makes up for it.
For instance, Apple hasn't said precisely what programs it will use to move its communications to "an Internet-based service." But think about it. As long as Apple sets up servers that speak SMTP and POP for email, Apple employees can choose from a number of different alternatives, ranging from Cyberdog to Eudora to Emailer to CommuniGate to PowerTalk (since Apple just acquired StarNine's Mail*Link for PowerTalk gateway). Other companies in similar situations wouldn't have to worry about Mac and PC versions of the same LAN email package because there are plenty of Internet programs for both platforms, and all of them work with Internet standards.
It remains to be seen how completely or how efficiently Apple moves its internal communications infrastructure to the Internet, but even the realization such a move is necessary is a large and important step. I'm curious to see what specific implementations Apple settles on, and I think Apple should publicize to its user base how a large company can rely entirely on a combination of Apple technology and the Internet for its communications.
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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