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In our last issue of 1995, we bring you lots of news and updates, as well as an overview of what's up with retro computer games, European online services, and shopping on the Web (with an eye towards finding holiday presents). Additional articles include a follow-up to our Quicken 6 review and information about the traditional Netter's Dinner at the upcoming Macworld Expo in San Francisco. See you in 1996!
Copyright 1995 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
We're taking the next two weeks off, so don't look for TidBITS until the 08-Jan-96 issue. Happy holidays to you all, and may all your wishes come true. [ACE]
PageMill Demo -- Intrigued by my PageMill review in TidBITS-305? Try the demo! The demo appears to be fully functional, except it cannot save or print. Because it cannot save, you cannot examine the HTML PageMill has used; however, the features working within PageMill's environment. Thanks to Guy Kawasaki, enthusiastic administrator of the MacWay mailing list, for making the demo available online. Note that the 2 MB StuffIt version is considerably smaller than the 2.7 MB BinHex version. [TJE]
Gartner Tech Support Study Online -- Back in TidBITS-299, we reported on a study by the Gartner Group that found technical support costs for Macs lower than those for Windows machines. Although Apple quickly set up an 800 number for requesting copies of the study, international readers will be happy to know Apple has put a summary of the study on the Web. Apple has selectively emphasized some of the information, but the Web page does provide handy material for the eternal Mac versus Windows debate. Official reprints of the study are still available at 800/232-9335. [GD]
Symantec Announces Java Tools -- Not to be left out of the Java frenzy sweeping the Internet, Symantec announced last week it has licensed the Java language technology from Sun Microsystems and released a Java development environment for Windows called Espresso. A Power Mac version of Espresso for Symantec C++ 8.0 is expected to be out in early 1996. [GD]
Not All that Flickers is Gold -- There have recently been numerous reports of video flickering and color distortion in 5200-series Performas and LCs - particularly distressing to owners because the built-in monitors can't be detached for service. Symptoms include shifts between color tints that last anywhere from a fraction of a second to several minutes. The problem appears to be related to the 5200 analog board and may be more prevalent in earlier units, although Apple hasn't confirmed this information. Users experiencing problems should contact their Apple dealers or call 800/SOS-APPL. [GD]
More Secure Mac Web Servers -- StarNine recently released the $1,295 WebSTAR SSL Security Toolkit. The Security Toolkit includes WebSTAR/SSL, a version of WebSTAR that uses the open-standard SSL (Secure Socket Layer) protocol developed by Netscape Communications and RSA Technologies. It also comes with additional utilities for setting up and running a secure Web site. The SSL protocol provides a secure channel of communications to prevent eavesdropping on Web connections, server authentication to verify the identity of the originating Web site, and data integrity to ensure that the transmitted data arrives intact. To take advantage of the security features of WebSTAR/SSL, users must use an SSL-capable Web browser, such as Netscape Navigator. [ACE]
It Takes Two to Tango -- Web site developers may be interested in Tango, a new product from EveryWare Development. Tango enables Mac-based Web servers like WebSTAR to communicate with Butler SQL, EveryWare's relational database. Although useful, the interesting part of Tango is that it combines a CGI for communicating with the Web server with a graphical editor that enables Web administrators to create Web pages quickly and without using SQL or HTML code. Tango 1.0 is bundled with Butler SQL and only works with it. The Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) version of Tango, due out in Jan-96, will support connections to databases including Oracle, Sybase, Informix, and FoxPro, running on Mac, Windows or Unix machines. The CGI is threaded and PowerPC-native for maximum performance. Butler SQL with Tango starts at $495 for a two-user license, although readers of DealBITS <email@example.com> pay only $247 through 30-Dec-95 (and multi-user licenses are also 50 percent off). EveryWare Development -- <firstname.lastname@example.org> [ACE]
PPP Comments & Updates -- Travis Butler <email@example.com> passed on a summary of the messages he received about his two-part PPP overview starting in TidBITS-306:
Many comments concerned the now-defunct MacPPP 2.2.0a. Some people found it worked with Open Transport 1.0.8 and on later PowerBooks than my 170. A few people also mentioned a MacPPP 2.2.1 release supposedly floating around on sites in Europe; Lieven Embrechts (the contact for 2.2.0a who now recommends the new version of FreePPP) said it is a pirated version, not released by MacBel, and that it should be removed from the net.
FreePPP comments included a reminder that FreePPP requires Color QuickDraw and won't run on the Plus, SE, Classic, or PowerBook 100. FreePPP 1.0.4 should be available this week, fixing the bug that plagued 1.0.3. The next major version of FreePPP is slated to be called FreePPP 2.5 at Apple's request. The 2.5 version number should eliminate confusion created by FreePPP having a lower version number than all other MacPPP variants. FreePPP 2.5 is supposed to include some bug fixes from Apple (the Apple Internet Connection Kit dialer is based on FreePPP). Finally, early versions of FreePPP conflicted with Aladdin's CyberFinder 2.0 demo, although it's fixed in FreePPP 1.0.2, despite CyberFinder's Read Me. [ACE]
Holiday Lights -- David K. Dean <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
I'd like to recommend Holiday Lights 3.0 from Robert Matthews of Tiger Technologies. It started out as Xmas Lights 1.0, then changed to Christmas Lights 1.0 (from the now-defunct Atticus Software), and has now become Holiday Lights 3.0. As the ReadMe file says, "Is it useful? Well... okay, no. Is it really cool? Absolutely!" And that's why we all use Macs, isn't it?
The $15 piece of shareware puts a border of Christmas lights, holly, stockings, etc. around your screen. The customizable border supports drag & drop and includes a screensaver that displays the border with snow falling in the background. Several Christmas songs played via QuickTime Musical Instruments are also included. The program can be registered via email (the Order Form scrambles your credit card number when saved, or you can email Tiger Technologies for their PGP signature); registering gets you a bonus file with more Christmas songs and graphics, and a floppy disk with everything. I bought a copy for my wife - I figured everything else in our house is decorated, why not the Mac!
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
Shopping has changed a bit over the last year thanks to all the retailers appearing on the Web. In 1993, sales via the Internet were estimated to total about $100,000; in 1995, that figure should be over $70 million, and current estimates for 1996 are over $500 million. I think we've hit three different types of shopping (not including brain-dead impulse buying via TV). Physical stores are excellent when you don't know what you want, but you think the store has something interesting. You can't beat the bandwidth of browsing in person. Mail order catalogs that clog your mailbox this time of year are good for browsing and easier than vying with hordes of shoppers for the last parking spot at the MegaMall.
This year, finally, we have Web retailers that offer the best in what I call "database shopping." If you know precisely what you want - particularly a commodity item like a CD or a book - it's often easiest to do a search, find the item, and order it right away on the Web. For the most part, I haven't found Web stores useful for browsing, because I have to make an effort to get there and I easily become distracted once I arrive. I also like the fact that Web shopping is usually fast, and retailers often deliver purchases quickly via one of the main delivery services.
That said, here are URLs to the Web-based stores I've used. I recommend them only in that I've used them, they had good prices, and everything worked. I'm sure there are tons of other excellent outfits on the Web, and I encourage you to patronize the ones you like best.
I order books from WordsWorth in Harvard Square, Cambridge, partly because I like the physical store so much. It's always one of my stops during Boston Macworld Expo.
I mostly buy Mac hardware and software from Cyberian Outpost, which was started by Daryl Peck, who had been in charge of Mac developer Inline Design. Their prices seem good and I like the way their Web site is set up, unlike some other computer retailers that I've seen online.
I didn't order any music CDs this year, but if I had, I would undoubtedly have searched on "shopping" in Yahoo to find a CD vendor. Check it out - I'll bet you can find a number of specific musical items on your lists.
Oh, a note to forestall the inevitable comments. I'm no more concerned about credit card fraud on the Internet than in real life. You may be, but I've never heard of a recorded instance of a credit card number being stolen during an online transaction. My credit card number is more vulnerable every time a waiter takes the card out of my sight for five minutes at a restaurant. Judge your own level of comfort with entering your credit card in a Web-based order form and act accordingly.
by Jason Snell, Associate Editor, MacUser <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Although I own several compact discs by Journey and have been known to watch re-runs of Family Ties, I never thought I'd be nostalgic for the bad graphics and jerky animation of those Atari 2600 video games which appeared under the Christmas tree when I was a pre-teen. Nor could you have convinced me that in an era of 24-bit stereo sound, 3-D rendered graphics, and full-motion video, I'd want to play a coin-operated video game manufactured during the early years of the Reagan administration.
But as 1995 draws to a close, that's exactly the position I'm in. These are the days of nostalgia software, when longings for programs written during the heyday of The Cosby Show can be fulfilled.
Nostalgia software developers use three basic methods to create products: rewrite software for a new platform, but recreate the original in every detail; design a software emulator that runs an original program on a new platform; or write an homage to the classic game that adds new features, graphics, or technologies.
Direct Rewrites -- The worst nostalgia software are programs rewritten from scratch to look exactly like the original - namely Microsoft Arcade, a package containing classic Atari console games like Asteroids, Centipede, and Space Invaders. Sure, the games in Microsoft Arcade look like the genuine '80s articles; unfortunately, the games also have the bulk and slothfulness found in '90s-era Microsoft applications. Why play a poky version of Battlezone when you could play Velocity Development's Spectre (which is essentially a more advanced version of the same game, only faster and with better graphics)?
Emulating an Era -- One clever way of reducing development time while providing the ultimate nostalgic experience is developing software that emulates the game's original hardware platform. That's the tack taken by my favorite set of nostalgia games, Digital Eclipse's versions of the Williams arcade classics Defender, Joust, and Robotron. These games use the same code written for the Williams arcade console, plus an emulator that runs them on a Mac. Not only do these games run fast, but all the strategies (and Easter eggs) that worked in your quarter-spending days still do the trick. A CD-ROM version of these games, including three other Williams titles, should be available early next year.
Though Digital Eclipse's emulator might be the most impressive, it's not the only one out there. Activision has released two compendiums of their old games for the Atari 2600, with two more on the way. Although it's great to play Activision chestnuts like Kaboom! and Pitfall, the Activision emulator is neither as fast nor as stable as it should be. Activision's also mining the classic text adventures of the past, offering themed bundles of such great games as Starcross, Deadline, and The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.
All sorts of emulators for older personal computers are available, but my personal favorite is Stop The Madness, an Apple II+ emulator by Kevin Lund and Jim Nitchals. The good news is that Stop The Madness is a fully-functional Apple II+ emulator; the bad news is that almost no software exists for the emulator due to copyright concerns. If you have an Apple II, you can transfer Apple II disks to a Mac via a serial cable and some ingenious software, but if you're like me and sold that Apple IIe years ago to make way for that shiny new Mac SE, software will be hard to come by. You can find Stop the Madness and related software at the following FTP site:
Given the speed and high level of compatibility of the Stop the Madness emulator, it'd be a shame for the program to go to waste. Wouldn't it be nice if a nostalgia-minded company licensed Stop The Madness and made some of those long-lost Apple II programs available to Mac users? Maybe there's hope in the example of Origin Systems' classic Ultima III, now given new life in a Mac shareware rewrite by Leon McNeill. McNeill got the approval of Richard Garriott, the game's original author, and licensed the game from Origin Systems in order to release it legally.
The Sincerest Form of Flattery -- Of course, if developers don't want to worry about licensing decades-old software titles from companies that may no longer exist, they can always create a game from scratch that's an homage to the original. There are excellent shareware remakes of old games - featuring fast game play and snazzy graphics - including Maelstrom (Asteroids), Apeiron (Centipede), Glypha (Joust), and countless others.
In the past year, there have been plenty of complaints that business software has grown slow and monolithic - that we're forced to buy word processors that ship on a dozen floppies when a program that can fit on just one would serve most of us just as well. Maybe the same can be said for games. Sure, it's fun to play Marathon 2 on a Power Mac with stereo speakers, but is it that much more entertaining than a rousing game of Joust, Defender or Space Invaders?
Didn't think so.
Activision -- 310/479-5644 -- <email@example.com>
Digital Eclipse -- 510/450-1740 -- <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Microsoft Corporation -- 800/426-9400 -- 206/882-8080
Velocity Development -- 415/776-8000
by Richard Erickson <email@example.com>
At the beginning of 1995, there was one pan-European online service: CompuServe. Since then, Europe has seen announcements of three new online services, but as the year draws to a close only two exist: CompuServe and America Online. We also have the possibility of Europe Online emerging from the vapors soon.
Language Anguish -- During Europe's spring, start-up announcements from Europe Online, eWorld, and the jumbo combo Bertelsmann/AOL tumbled from press release machines. Major European publishers - with their fingers already in the pies of television, cable, satellite, and digital publishing - were ready to sign any alliance with anyone just so long as they got online before the end of the year. Heady stuff.
In North America, after decades of network TV above the Rio Grande, the language of the population is somewhat homogenized. English is usually accepted as the standard language, despite the presence of incredible ethnic diversity. This part of North America resembles the reality - up until now - of the Internet, where more than lip-service is given to the English language.
Europe, on the other hand - regardless of a long drive for unification - remains a bunch of mailbox- to baguette-box-sized countries; with a dozen languages that have little in common. It is a misconception to believe that everybody learns English as a standard second language - during the 47-year Cold War nearly half the continent learned Russian. European languages have scant respect for lines on maps, and this is a nightmare for online services.
During the year, while the Hachettes, Burdas, Pearsons, Springers, Bertelsmanns; their banks and insurance companies; their partners (such as AT&T, Sprint, France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, and RTL-TV); and their aunts, uncles, and cousins formed and dissolved alliances, bought and sold investments, and cranked press release mimeographs, ordinary users - these future, potential subscribers - used nearly free software and whatever Internet provider they could find to dial the Internet. Newspapers published small announcements from major online services and began publishing columns about the Internet.
How can this be? All these hodgepodge polyglot Europeans, shown by marketing studies to desire language-oriented online services, are paying money - and usually quite a lot - for a service whose dominant language is English?
Internet Overload? If these online services ever connect lots of Europeans to the Internet, the Internet will have to cope with even more users, and it already seems a little overloaded. I asked Dr. Christian Huitema, until recently president of the IAB (Internet Architecture Board), some questions.
Ric: "What position is the IAB taking in face of this development?"
Dr. Huitema: "The most salient action is the development of the new version of the Internet Protocol, IPv6, which enables addressing and routing in a very large Internet, connecting up a million of billions of computers. IPv6 is already published, prototypes are available, and we should be transitioning the Internet in the next two years.
"Other interesting actions are the development of suitable standards for improved security and multimedia, with IP security, multimedia mail, secure mail, and real time transport protocols."
Then I wanted to know if the IAB expected online operators to give something back in return for using our very public Internet. It was a dumb question, but a good answer came back:
Dr. Huitema: "The IAB is concerned with technology and standards, not operation. The online operators will certainly feel some pressure from the general public, however. Today, online services provide "Internet access" to their subscribers but seldom attempt to make their own resources, e.g. publications and forums, available to the Internet. This results in one way connections, and is often ill-perceived by the public. We already see some retaliation going on. I know that some providers of publicly available information, some universities, discriminate against the online customers for this reason, e.g. by refusing to serve their request or by serving them with a lower priority."
As 1995 continued, two of the startups announced the upcoming availability of two-way Internet access. But, according to their later pronouncements, the Internet had advanced technically, and what with the Web and other changes, their original plans had evaporated into nothing. A French version of Apple's eWorld, so bravely proclaimed in September at Apple Expo '95 in Paris, dissolved. Luxembourg-based Europe Online - with a strong set of content-oriented European publishers - looked like it would be a match for the formidable Bertelsmann/AOL jumbo combo, but we are still waiting to see Europe Online in action.
The Majors Changed Horses -- In the end, the majors changed horses and dropped out to think or joined Bertelsmann/AOL - now known as AOL Europa (as seen on one news report) or plain AOL (as confirmed by an AOL spokesman). AOL began in Germany on 28-Nov-95, and the official start for Europe Online was 15-Dec-95, according to a November news release. Europe Online's Web site is up, but many links don't work, and the site doesn't explain how to join.
Perhaps in 1996 we'll see more online services covering more of Europe. With their all-in-one access packages, user hotlines, and thirst for European content being driven by European commerce, these online services have the potential to make going online much easier for many people.
by Stephen Becker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[This a follow-up to Steve's Quicken 6 review from TidBITS-299. -Geoff]
Quicken 6 users should be aware of several bugs. Quicken's Portfolio window includes several performance calculations that may produce inaccurate or misleading results. Since a complex range of factors are involved, I recommend using Quicken's Investment Reports to acquire reliable data on investment performance until a fix is available. Intuit is expected to issue an update around the end of December, perhaps at the same time they release their online banking software. The update will include a number of fixes; be sure to register your copy of Quicken 6 so you will receive these disks.
The update should improve the method used to calculate some performance information in the Portfolio window. For example, the ROI (Return On Investment) calculation for a security with multiple lots is currently based on the average of the ROI for each of the lots. The update is expected to use the more desirable method of weighting the lots according to their size.
Users should also note that although the Portfolio View in Quicken only displays open positions for the selected date range, some of the displayed performance calculations include data from closed investment positions. This is an non-intuitive way of presenting the data, is not clearly documented, and can lead to poor investment decisions based on misinterpretations of the data. I hope this will be changed in a subsequent update to Quicken. Intuit pays close attention to user feedback, so if you agree this should be changed, contacting Intuit should help expedite the fix.
Finally, watch out for a conflict between the 7.0/7.1 Enabler extensions and Conflict Catcher. (These extensions let Apple Guide function under System 7.0 and 7.1; System 7.5 is thus not affected). The Conflict Catcher control panel will crash when opened, even when Quicken is not running. The just-released version 3.0.4 Conflict Catcher Update should fix the problem.
[Users can also remove the extensions to work around the problem, although Apple Guide will cease to function. The Conflict Catcher 3.0.4 update is available on AOL, and should appear on Casady & Greene's update page soon. -Geoff]
by Jon Pugh <email@example.com>
For ten years we've been gathering a herd of nerds and feeding ourselves at the Hunan in San Francisco (on Sansome at Broadway). This year we have something new: online registration and payment.
Due to the phenomenal 50 percent no-show last year, we had to do something about the low turnout. This year we contracted with Kee Nethery's shareware service to provide a solution. All you have to do is download the Register program (61K) and run it. It enables you to enter the number of seats you wish to purchase and email your payment (via credit card) to Kagi and your RSVP to me. The cost is $16 per person (an earlier version of this notice said $14; it has gone up).
You can register via credit card up to the day before the event, which is 10-Jan-96. You can register by fax up to a week before the event, which is 04-Jan-96. You can register via snail mail up to two weeks before the event, which is 28-Dec-95. All of registrations must be done via the Register application.
The dinner will be on Thursday, 11-Jan-96. We'll meet at the top of the escalators on the entrance side (I think it's the north side) of Moscone Center 6:00 PM. We'll do our traditional pilgrimage to the Hunan at 6:30. It takes 20-30 minutes to walk. Of course, wimps can take a cab or drive.
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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