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Psst, did you hear Sun is trying to buy Apple? If not, catch up on the news below! Also, learn about price drops and promotions for Apple Performas, the latest news on WordBasic macro viruses, and info on an update to Quicken 6 and a fix for the PowerBook 2300c. Finally, we round out the issue with reviews of Voyager's Invisible Universe CD-ROM and a free version of Pictorius' Prograph programming environment.


Copyright 1996 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
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This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:


PowerBook 2300c Trackpad Fix -- Last week Apple released the PowerBook 2300c Update which is supposed to ensure the PowerBook's trackpad works correctly. Your PowerBook 2300c may already have this extension installed, but if you don't have a file called PowerBook 2300c Update in your Extensions folder, you can download it from Apple. These URLs may change; Apple appears to be reshuffling their PowerBook software. [GD]

Quicken Online Banking Updater -- Last week, Intuit released the Online Banking Updater for Quicken 6.0, which updates Quicken 6 from R2 to R5. The package includes an updater application plus new versions of some files that ship with Quicken. Intuit has made three versions of the updater available; the one you need depends on the version of Quicken you have installed (68K, PowerPC, or "Universal"). The updates range between about 2.5 MB and 3.5 MB; read the directions on using the update before downloading it.

In addition to online banking features, Intuit says the update fixes a "handful" of problems reported by customers, although it's not clear whether this includes issues reported in TidBITS-308. [GD]

WorldWrite 3.0 for the Mac ships -- WorldWrite has been around outside the United States for two versions, but version 3.0 is now available for general worldwide consumption at a list price of $99 or $149. (The price depends on your linguistic demands; the English-only version is $99.) The svelte program requires 2 MB of application RAM and works on any Mac running System 7.1 or higher. Once I've had a chance to sit down with the software, I'll review it. Key features include: WorldScript support, tables, columns, indexing and table of contents, and color separations. The program ships with a QuarkXPress filter and supports XTND. [TJE]

WorldSoft -- 800/225-9299

Going Where Someone has Gone Before -- In my overview of the Mac version of Microsoft Internet Explorer in TidBITS-311, I mentioned that Explorer was ahead of other browsers in handling a variety of audio formats and QuickTime movies without helper applications. Several readers have pointed out various browsers from InterCon - including NetShark, TCP/Connect II, and the browsers used by AOL and eWorld - have handled these formats without helper applications for some time. [GD]

The TidBITS Server Move

by Adam C. Engst <>

We moved our main Internet server on 25-Jan-96. It had been at our old house, connected to the Internet through the 56K frame relay line that we'd set up while we were living there. Even though we moved four months ago, US West has been incapable of providing us with a dedicated Internet connection via ISDN or frame relay, or even a second analog voice line. Among US West's many problems are a combination of utter incompetence, horrible customer service, and a legitimate lack of facilities.

We didn't want to move the server twice (once to a temporary location and then to our new house) because of the disruption in service, but after four months we decided we'd been strung along long enough. We'll figure out our setup again when US West finally gets us a dedicated Internet connection, but - for the moment - our server is sitting happily at the office of Point of Presence, a Web-presence company run by our good friend Glenn Fleishman.

There are several advantages to siting the server at Glenn's offices. Glenn has a T-1 connection to the Internet, and T-1's 1.544 Mbps speed is much faster than our 56 Kbps connection was. The speed will be nice, and an important side-effect is that we've finally been able to recover the name for the server. Long before we had the dedicated connection and our own server, we set up that name to point to a machine called, which served files related to the second editions of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh and Internet Starter Kit for Windows. I wasn't sure our 56K line could handle the load, even after setting up files to redirect folks to Hayden's Web site (which didn't exist when we first set up this scheme). But, now that our Apple Internet Server 6150 is behind Glenn's T-1 line, we're confident it can take the traffic. So, from now on, use the URL below to get to our Web site:

The new IP number of the machine is, but it's conceivable your local domain name server hasn't yet realized this. If you do a domain name lookup with Peter Lewis's MacTCP Watcher on and get the old number (, you won't be able to connect to our machine and email to us may not work. There are two possible solutions. First, if you're using a Mac and had connected to before last Thursday but haven't rebooted, MacTCP will have cached the IP number. Rebooting should clear the cache, but throwing out MacTCP DNR from the System Folder (it will be rebuilt on reboot) and rebooting should be the definitive method of clearing the cache. Second, if the problem lies with your provider's domain name servers, ask your provider to do a name daemon restart, which clears the cache of recently visited sites on your host machine. To judge from the traffic we're seeing, most people aren't having trouble, but this advice may be generically useful as well.

We've been working on a mirroring project to increase access to TidBITS via the Web and to avoid problems when a site cannot update issues (as happened with Dartmouth Web site at the end of last year). Basically, we've set up a directory containing HTML versions of our issues (since TidBITS-274 currently, but they'll all be converted eventually) along with graphics and a navigation page. That directory is available for anyone to mirror as long as the Web site in question is free for public use. If you're interested mirroring TidBITS issues, send me email at <>.

The Sun Also Hovers

by Geoff Duncan <>

Last Tuesday, the Mac world went into a tailspin when the Wall Street Journal reported on Sun Microsystems' efforts to buy Apple, saying that a deal was "imminent" between the two companies. Over the years, Apple has been approached by many buyers (including a serious offer from IBM two years ago), but this time the rumor mill revved into overdrive, aided in no small part by the Internet and any number of people saying they'd heard from "inside sources" that it was a done deal. Rumors were further bolstered by CEO Michael Spindler and Chairman A.C. Mike Markkula's performance at a crowded shareholder's meeting, which was long on generalizations and short on specifics of how Apple plans to return to profitability.

As usual, reports of Apple's sale have been somewhat exaggerated. At this time, no deal has been struck between Sun and Apple, and talks are apparently breaking down. According to published reports, the main sticking point has been price, with Sun CEO Scott McNealy offering $23 a share for Apple in a stock swap deal, and Apple asking for $33 per share. Since Apple must keep shareholders in mind, Apple would have a hard time accepting less than market price for the stock, and Sun may now be playing a waiting game to see how low Apple's stock goes before revising its offer. Although buoyed last week by rumors of a Sun takeover, Apple's stock price has been declining and is around $29 a share as of this writing.

Today, Apple took out full-page ads in a dozen U.S. newspapers, urging customers to "keep the faith" and emphasizing that the "top priority of Apple's board and management team is to take action to prepare Apple for its next chapter of growth and profitability." Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Apple might be looking for another buyer, such as Motorola or Sony. Reportedly, former suitors Oracle and IBM are not interested.

Historically, reports of Apple being sold to another company are almost predictable in their regularity - heck, with a good calendar program, you can probably pencil in when the next rumors are likely to start. Though some feel Apple and Sun would be a good match, others note the $6 billion Sun is smaller than the $11 billion Apple and that buying Apple would dilute earnings for some time. It's also worth noting that though Apple posted a $69 million loss last quarter and is expected to post a larger loss next quarter, PC clone maker AST Research, Inc. posted a net loss of $128.6 million for its second quarter, and Unisys Corporation reported a whopping $676.8 million loss for the final quarter of 1995, which includes the cost of eliminating nearly 8,000 employees. Both companies had net revenues in 1995 that were considerably smaller than Apple's, which serves to point out that Apple doesn't have a problem bringing in money but rather with turning a profit. It's unclear how a merger with Sun (or another company) would allow Apple to increase its profit margin without alienating its remarkably loyal customer base.

BusinessWeek's latest issue did a cover article about Apple's problems, and Neil Ticktin <>, publisher of the Macintosh developer magazine MacTech, weighed in with some interesting comments.

"It never ceases to amaze me what happens when a media feeding frenzy starts. Your latest issue's cover broadcasts: "The Fall of an American Icon." This "Icon" had a profitable 1995, increased revenues/unit sales, an expanding developer base (the best future indicator), superior products, and many strategic moves about to come to fruition. Yes, this company had a quarterly loss and layoffs (in an industry fraught with similar reports and underwhelming profits). But, to paraphrase text deep within the article, the loss "won't put much of a dent in its balance sheet" and the layoffs "won't match the trauma of 1985."

"Yes, this company is Apple Computer, Inc. - the company the press loves to hate. Compare this article to the same issue's positive comments on the "revolution" taking place at Daimler-Benz, which reported a $4.2 billion loss for 1995 and is hindering the German economy. Yes, Apple has problems to solve, but does this coverage seem even-handed?

"By the way, most of the people I know appreciate the media's help in driving down Apple's stock price so we can buy more of it. After all, when the press focuses on another topic, we'll be laughing all the way to bank as Apple stock goes up."

Price Drops Launch Performa Promotion

by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor <>

As part of their Power Payback promotion, Apple has begun a "Performa + Printer = Payback" rebate offer that returns $150 to anyone in the U.S. purchasing any Performa along with one of several Apple printers, ranging from the low-end ImageWriter II and StyleWriter 1200 to the new Color LaserWriter 12/600 PS. At the same time, Apple announced price reductions on several Performa models.

The Performa offer brings the Power Payback promotion to a wider variety of customers than the promotion's first phase, which offered $200 to $500 rebates for Power Macintosh 7200s when purchased with certain Apple displays or printers, and $150 rebates for PowerBook laptops when purchased with certain Apple printers. These deals are still valid; all three components of the Power Payback run through 17-Mar-96.

Purchasers have until mid-April to submit their rebate requests, which must consist of a form available from dealers plus the original dated sales invoice or a legible photocopy.

Apple meanwhile has reduced both dealer pricing and the "minimum advertised pricing," with which the company replaced its suggested retail pricing, on several models of the Performa 5200, 6100, 6200, and 6300 families. End-user pricing should see reductions ranging from $75 to $300, not counting the rebates described above.

Apple Computer -- 800/950-7521

Word Macro Viruses Still Out There

by Geoff Duncan <>

In TidBITS-292, we reported on cross-platform virus written in WordBasic that affected some users of Microsoft Word 6.0, mostly on non-Macintosh platforms. Since then, an additional WordBasic virus has appeared; although the WordBasic viruses discovered so far are not particularly destructive, they present a support headache for Macintosh managers, and - according to reports - the viruses are becoming more common on the Mac.

I've found a good deal of information about the viruses online, and Microsoft has released a set of anti-virus tools to combat the problem.

For the record, the viruses spread as WordBasic macros included in Word 6 documents, and - because WordBasic works across platforms - the viruses can infect any machine running Word 6, regardless of platform. On the Macintosh, the virus only affects Microsoft Word 6.0 and 6.0.1; earlier versions of Word do not include WordBasic and cannot be infected, even when using infected Word 6 documents from another system. Commercial anti-virus utilities like Virex and SAM can detect the viruses, but the freeware Disinfectant does not, since it's designed only to pursue viruses in machine code form. If you use a commercial anti-virus package, contact your vendor if you have questions about detecting WordBasic viruses.

Quick checks with some large corporate and educational Macintosh sites using Word 6 didn't reveal widespread concern, although incidence varied widely. One source at a large site estimated that 80 to 90 percent of Macs in the company were infected; conversely, several sites reported they'd never seen the viruses on a Mac. An educational site reported detecting and removing the viruses "a few times a week," and a support manager at a large corporation noted the WordBasic viruses appear frequently on Macs in heavily cross-platform departments. Several sources noted that Mac users think the virus can't spread to the Mac, and thus take no preventative measures.

I've seen no reports of significant damage caused by the viruses; the main cost seems to be the time support personnel spend dealing with it or purchasing and installing anti-virus software, a task apparently sometimes dictated by (in the words of one source) "overly paranoid" management. One site reported the virus had spread in an infected template file to nearly every employee via email. "No one got hurt, but we spent well over a week chasing it down, explaining everything, and re-assuring everybody. That certainly wasn't cheap." Interestingly, all these sources spoke to me only on the condition they remain anonymous.

If you use or support Word 6 in an environment where documents are regularly exchanged with others (particularly outside your organization), it might be worth investigating how to detect the viruses and manage the situation, rather than waiting for a larger problem to develop. Microsoft's detection tool takes a while to scan a hard disk (especially on a Mac), but you only need to do it once. Better safe than sorry.

Microsoft -- 206/635-7200

Invisible Universe

by Jon Pugh <>

"Amusing and educational" - if you could sum up my life after I'm gone, I hope both of these words could be used, and it always delights me when others follow these precepts. I ran across a product recently that did so, and I thought highly enough about it to write about it here.

The product in question is Invisible Universe by Dr. Fiorella Terenzi, a CD-ROM describing elements of the universe beyond human sight. It's a Voyager disk and lives up to Voyager's quality standards; it also has a sense of humor and a high level of technical content and accuracy. Considering that Dr. Terenzi is an Italian astrophysicist, the technical accuracy isn't too surprising, but when you realize that she's also the beautiful narrator appearing in all the QuickTime movies, it becomes delightful. Her accent charms as she describes the cosmos, ranging from a tour of our solar system to the vast reaches of galaxies surrounding ours.

The often puckish presentation also amused me - Dr. Terenzi is frequently shown standing among the stars, gesturing toward items she is discussing. Other times she appears as a floating head describing the scene, and at one point she's lying on one of the galaxies, so the folks creating the CD-ROM were clearly having fun. The movie shoot must have been a blast for everyone involved.

All of the movies are set to music - it turns out that Dr. Terenzi's specialty is taking radio telescope data and setting it to music. Invisible Universe uses a full hour of her music throughout, and I truly enjoyed it in all the presentations, some of which are simply galaxies scrolling by while music plays.

The Invisible Universe CD-ROM also contains a star map that shows the locations of many interesting phenomena. It includes my favorite, Eta Carinae, a nova which exploded about 150 years ago (see the JPEG image below), as well as a multitude of others I haven't managed to explore entirely. Also included are pictures of the planets and their moons, complete with descriptions and close-ups.

Finally, Invisible Universe holds a plethora of famous poetry, read by famous people, including John Perry Barlow, Herbie Hancock, Thomas Dolby, and a poetry duet with Dr. Terenzi and Timothy Leary. Although not the most technical content, the poetry underscored the light-hearted attitude of the project.

The $40 Invisible Universe CD-ROM was produced using Macromedia Director, and it runs on Macintosh and Windows (check the Voyager page listed above for details). If you are interested in astronomy or cosmology, I think you'll find it worth a look. Even if you're not a major star buff like me, Invisible Universe might give you a sense of the cosmos around you.

Get Your Hands on Prograph

by Matt Neuburg <>

This past August, Pictorius, a company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, announced plans to release a freeware version of its flagship product, Prograph. The version appeared in the Info-Mac archive in early November. Now it's a funny thing, but when a program lists for around $1,500 (as Prograph once did) or even $700 (as the current version does), no matter how much I read about it, the discussion somehow fails to make any great impression upon me. On the other hand, when something is free, I'm interested.

[The whole package comes to about 4 MB. -Geoff]

Prograph is an environment in which you develop computer programs graphically. Instead of learning a lot of verbal syntax, so that you can (presumably) say and read things like this:

if (inModelID == SCPage::modelKind) {
if ( mPagelist -> FetchAItemt(inPosition,&page) ) {
PutInToken(page,outToken); return; }} essentially just draw a diagram showing the flow of data from one operation to another. These diagrams are not somehow "translated" into a "real" programming language by Prograph; they are the language.

I had always been skeptical about Prograph, chiefly because of an obvious drawback of its approach: your program can't be documented in a small space. What you could express as a few lines of text in Pascal or C might take up a whole screen in Prograph. However, since it was free I downloaded it, opened the tutorial, and plunged in.

The tutorial is splendid. It's brilliantly written, with a keen eye to the thought processes of the reader. Every time I found myself thinking, "But what if I'd done it this other way instead?", or, "What was that funny-looking symbol you made me use there?", a discussion of that very question would follow.

I soon found that I was having a great time and picking up the language with far greater ease than any programming language I had ever learned. After I completed the tutorial (which took a few days), I fixed on a project to test myself: an elementary card-playing program. I had no difficulty creating a "deck" object and supplying it with a few "methods," such as getting it to shuffle itself, deal a card off its top, and so on. As you may have guessed, Prograph is object-oriented, and it makes object-oriented programming supremely natural and easy. Each object class is an icon, and its methods and attributes seem literally to live inside it - double-click a class icon, and a window with its methods or attributes appears. This is vastly better than describing an object textually in C++; it's more like HyperCard, where the script of a button lives inside the button.

Then I decided to get fancier and start putting up some menus and windows like a real Macintosh program. Prograph has an Application framework that takes care of the basic Mac interface for you: it comes with classes and methods (written in Prograph, of course) that handle the event loop (responding to mouse clicks and drags in menus and windows) and has an easy graphical menu and window editor so you can just draw the window you want your program to use (without having to resort to ResEdit). However, I soon realized that you don't get to throw away your multi-volume collection of Inside Macintosh. I wanted to put up a "thermometer" progress window, which the user could watch while my deck was shuffling. I got the window to come up when the shuffling started, and to vanish when it ended, but for some reason no drawing was getting done: the thermometer wasn't appearing. Finally, I discovered the problem: I had to put up the window and then stop, letting the event loop take over, and let the repeated Null events trigger Idle actions that would advance the thermometer, just as you might do if you were writing the same routine in C. Once I did this, the thermometer worked perfectly. So, if you want to write a Mac program with Prograph you still must learn to program the Mac; Prograph doesn't take care of everything for you the way HyperCard does. I can tell you from experience, though, having tried to write the same sort of program in C++ that Prograph is vastly easier.

I found the writing process incredibly fun, because the Prograph milieu is totally dynamic. You don't have to get every single routine right in order to try out a program; there's no compiler that won't let you get started if you don't have everything just so. Instead, you start running your program, and if it makes an "error" Prograph pauses and lets you fix it. For instance, when I wrote my shuffle thermometer, I wrote the loop that advances the thermometer, but I didn't bother to say what was supposed to happen when the loop had iterated the total number of times. So I started my program, and after advancing the thermometer, Prograph stopped and put up a dialog saying, in effect, "You need a routine here that you haven't written. Would you like to write it?" I said "yes," wrote the routine (to close the thermometer window), and Prograph then picked up in my program exactly where it had left off, and proceeded to close the window! Even cooler, you can pause a running program and examine what data is being handled; thus, your "code" (the data-flow diagram you drew) becomes its own debugging tool. If you find an error, you can insert a corrected value, or back to some earlier routine that caused the problem and rewrite it (in which case Prograph rolls back to that earlier point and carries on from there).

I can't say enough about how neat, easy, and satisfying I found Prograph, but I can't describe it adequately, either; in fact, no description I've read has done it justice. You have to experience it. Even if you've never done any programming - perhaps especially if you've never done any programming - you'll pick it up right away.

The freeware release, called Prograph Classic, isn't crippled; it was the current version once upon a time. The only hitch is that if you want to save a program as stand-alone (instead of running it at low speed inside the Prograph interpreter), you must buy a compiler for a mere $25, which Pictorius calls a shareware fee and has promised to donate to charity. Once you're familiar with Prograph Classic, if you're curious about newer versions, check out:

I'm not saying you'll rush out and spring for the current version, but I think you'll agree that Prograph is to programming as Macintosh is to computers. The Pictorius folks are to be strongly commended - and thanked - for this free release, a gift that lets Mac users have a wonderful experience they would otherwise be denied. More software companies should pursue this policy of releasing outdated versions as freeware.

[Addendum: EveryDay Objects, Inc. has developed a set of Internet classes and primitives for Prograph that have been used to make a Web server that queries a database and returns Web pages generated on the fly - their demo at Macworld Expo was pretty neat. - Geoff]


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