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It's the week after WWDC and the Macintosh world is buzzing. Check below for info on the next version of the Mac OS and Apple technologies like Project X, Apple e.g., QuickTime and Linux for the Macintosh. Also this week, details on using Apple's LocalTalk and LaserWriter Bridges with Open Transport, everything you could every want to know about TidBITS, and a thought-provoking essay from Robert Hettinga on Apple, big business, and the Internet.
Copyright 1996 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Before Copland, Harmony -- Following Apple's announcement that Copland (now being referred to as "Mac OS 8") would not ship until mid-1997, Apple surprised no one at WWDC by speculating there would be a pre-Copland release of the Mac OS, currently codenamed "Harmony." Scheduled for release in roughly the first half of 1997, Harmony should wrap QuickDraw 3D, QuickTime 2.5, OpenDoc, Cyberdog, and some Copland technologies into the system. I've also heard Harmony will carry through on Apple's recently announced plans to build a Web server into the Mac OS, and incorporate Java support (last week, Apple licensed Natural Intelligence's Java implementation in an effort to get better performance and reduce dependencies on Sun). [GD]
Developer Release of MkLinux -- Apple recently announced the first developer release of MkLinux, a port of the Linux operating system for the Power Macintosh based on the Mach microkernel (see TidBITS-313). Although right now MkLinux only runs on NuBus-based Power Macs (the 6100, 7100, and 8100), Apple plans to make MkLinux available for PCI Power Macs and on future PowerPC Platform machines. You can purchase CD-ROM versions of MkLinux DR1 for $10 from Prime Time Freeware (with complete source code!), but if you have a (very) fast connection, the entire release is available online. [GD]
Info-Mac Web Site -- It's been a long time coming, but the Info-Mac team has finally assembled an "official" Info-Mac Web site in cooperation with Pacific HiTech. The volunteer-run Info-Mac archive has been a staple of the online community for over ten years, and the new Web site should serve as a central location for finding information about Info-Mac, mirror sites, search engines, the Info-Mac digest, and more. Even better, when you tell people about Info-Mac, you can now give them a single URL. [GD]
Metrowerks recently announced the availability of CodeWarrior 9, the latest installment of its Mac software development environment. CodeWarrior 9 offers full support for Java as well as third-party plug-ins, including compilers from Apple and Motorola. Metrowerks also announced it has signed an agreement with Microsoft to provide support for Java and ActiveX (Microsoft's Internet version of the little-loved OLE). Not stopping there, Metrowerks will provide Java support for Microsoft Internet Explorer along with InterCon's Internet products. [GD]
Connectix and America Online have announced a joint project to bring rudimentary videoconferencing to AOL users. AOL will begin selling the Connectix Color QuickCam (now available for both Macintosh and Windows) in its online store, and Connectix will implement technology to allow AOL users to exchange still images and even video while communicating online. Software to enable these features is expected later this year. [MHA]
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
Publishing TidBITS every week for the last six years has given us a good sense of continuity. We usually know off the top of our heads whether we've written about a topic, who wrote about it, and how long ago the issue was published. But it's easy for us to forget that many of our readers - in fact, most of our readers - haven't been along for the whole ride. During Macworld Expo in January, I met many TidBITS readers, but two in particular made me decide to write this article. One reader introduced himself, said how much he liked TidBITS, and that he'd been reading since issue 50 in 1991. A few minutes later, another reader came by, said he liked TidBITS, and had been reading for two issues. So, though long-term readers have read a few articles like this, I thought I'd write another to help newer readers figure out who publishes TidBITS, where TidBITS came from, and why.
Who, When, Why, and How-- Being on the TidBITS staff is more a life-style than a job. TidBITS is run by an odd triumvirate consisting of myself, Tonya Engst, and Geoff Duncan. I sometimes take the title of Publisher, Geoff is more or less our Managing Editor, and Tonya is probably our Senior Editor and the most organized of us all. A multitude of other people help with TidBITS, and we are grateful for their able assistance. In particular, Mark Anbinder, our News Editor, has written loads of articles for us over the years; Mark Williamson at Rice University has been stunningly gracious in administering the TidBITS mailing list; Lauren Snell makes DealBITS possible, and a whole slew of wonderful people translate TidBITS into a variety of languages.
TidBITS started in April of 1990, before Tonya and I were married, long before we met Geoff, and when we still lived in Ithaca, New York, where we'd both grown up and attended Cornell University. TidBITS began as an effort to summarize the latest news in the Macintosh industry and has expanded to include software reviews, editorials, and an emphasis on the Internet.
We distributed the first 99 issues as a HyperCard stack that functioned as a cumulative archive. With issue 100, we moved to the setext format, which let us to increase readership immensely, since you no longer had to download and decode each issue. That's remained a guiding force in our distribution philosophy, and is one of the reasons we don't use Acrobat, DOCMaker, or any similar file formats. If you want to read more of the early history of TidBITS, check out TidBITS-222.
In November of 1994, we hired Geoff Duncan as our Managing Editor. Geoff assembles and distributes each issue, writes articles and most of our MailBITS, coordinates submissions, and manages editorial email. He also scripts everything in sight and develops custom tools. To read more about why we hired Geoff, see TidBITS-256.
Although TidBITS has always been free to readers, we've funded it over the last few years with corporate sponsorships along the lines of the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) model. The companies that sponsor TidBITS ensure we can pay Geoff, travel to Macworld Expos, and buy the occasional piece of hardware. TidBITS has always been profitable because of how we do business (spend nothing you don't have), but we're not talking about big bucks. Also, because of our incredibly low overhead, we don't need a big cash intake - a lesson for Internet entrepreneurs.
We started DealBITS relatively recently (see TidBITS-297) to help smaller companies who couldn't afford sponsorships get exposure, experiment with ways to promote commerce on the Internet, and to bring in a little more revenue. Lauren Snell <firstname.lastname@example.org> joined us a few months ago to coordinate DealBITS with advertisers.
Despite its 150,000 readers and 40,000 person mailing list, TidBITS gets relatively little media attention in comparison to newer and flashier Internet publications and services. I attribute it to the fact we've been around a long time, prefer to provide quality information rather than bandwidth-wasting glitz, and let our work be our primary method of self-promotion. We don't arbitrarily add people to our mailing list (an extremely impolite way of getting bigwigs to read your stuff), nor do we publish the many kind letters from our readers (they'd steal space from more important information).
We stay excited about creating TidBITS by sticking to our main criteria for how content gets in the issue - we tend to only write about stuff that enthuses us or that we think is newsworthy and important. It's no fun to use boring or mediocre products, so we rarely review them. Although we overlap a bit, Geoff tends toward breaking news, system software, and development stuff; Tonya writes about word processors and Web authoring tools these days; and I concentrate on Internet connectivity, clients, and philosophy, as well as various unrelated bits of software. We also publish many articles submitted by TidBITS readers - usually if someone thinks something is cool enough to write a decent article about it, the product is cool enough that we want to publish the article.
Finding TidBITS -- One development that's surprised us recently is that some TidBITS readers have only encountered TidBITS on the Web - they have no idea we're primarily a mailing list (and have been since 1990!). Similarly, people who have read TidBITS for years may not realize TidBITS issues are available via the Web. So, quickly, here's where to find TidBITS.
You can subscribe to the TidBITS mailing list by sending email to <email@example.com> with this line in the body of the message:
SUBSCRIBE TIDBITS your full name
Substitute your real name for "your full name." You can also find TidBITS issues at the FTP and Web URLs below. TidBITS issues are available on a number of other sites, and translations are available in a variety of languages (check the links at the final URL below).
Reprinting Articles -- Another of our guiding philosophies is that TidBITS should be free to readers (or so cheap that no one would notice, which isn't currently possible on the Internet). As an extension of that philosophy, non-profit, non-commercial publications (such as user group newsletters) should feel free to reprint TidBITS articles. All we ask is that you give credit to TidBITS and to the author and include the <firstname.lastname@example.org> address so people can get more information. For-profit publications should contact us to work out a reprinting arrangement.
Articles and Submissions -- We can't be experts on everything. If you think something deserves coverage in TidBITS, consider writing an article about it. We like publishing other points of view and are happy to work with authors and edit articles to fit the TidBITS style. We can pay only in fame, but a number of TidBITS articles have been reprinted (with payment to the author) in other major and minor publications, and some of our more regular authors have found additional work based on having written for TidBITS.
If you think you'd like to write an article for TidBITS, send a note to <email@example.com>; we'll send you guidelines and let you know if similar articles are already in the works.
Questions and Email -- We attempt to read and reply to the email we receive, but that's become increasingly difficult as the volume has increased. In addition, many people seem to view us as a source of free technical support. This can be frustrating - although we welcome comments and are happy to help out when we can, we don't know everything and dealing with all the mail takes time away from researching and writing articles.
Another class of email that takes a significant amount of energy to handle is email asking us what we know about some topic or another. Since TidBITS is a publication, if a topic is current it's conceivable (even likely) that we've already covered it. However, sometimes we don't talk about current topics for good reasons - they may be unconfirmed rumors, we may not find the topic interesting, or we may be trying to find the time to finish researching the issue. In addition to our own interest in covering subjects thoroughly, we've learned that if we cover a topic in an incomplete manner, we will be deluged with questions.
There's a searchable archive of TidBITS issues online at the URL below. Though it might be difficult to reach at times, searching there is almost certainly faster than asking us via email whether we've written about something.
And the Eternal Question... In closing, I'd like to clear up the mystery of why the BITS in TidBITS is uppercase. I don't know that we've ever explained this, and Geoff complained recently that in over a year as managing editor, he still didn't know why. Here's the scoop: we came up with the name for TidBITS at about the time the NeXT machine from Steve Jobs shipped, when all cool products at least had weird capitalization, and the super-cool products had wacky capitalization. Naturally, we went the wacky capitalization route, though we admit that it takes hard work, not just wacky capitalization, to make for a super-cool product.
by Caleb Clauset <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There seems to be a bit of confusion about the status of Apple's LaserWriter Bridge and LocalTalk Bridge with regard to Open Transport. These bridges, allow a machine connected to both a LocalTalk and an Ethernet network segment to act as a "bridge" between the two networks. Apple's LaserWriter Bridge (as the name implies) allows a LocalTalk LaserWriter to be shared with an Ethernet network; the LocalTalk Bridge allows the full range of AppleTalk services to travel back and forth across the two types of networks.
To date, the released versions of the bridges (2.0.1) are not compatible with any version of Open Transport. Apple's LaserWriter Bridge and LocalTalk Bridge software were designed to check for a specific version of AppleTalk software, and because Open Transport registers itself as a more recent version, the bridges will not launch.
Although Apple-supported updates for Open Transport-compatibility are currently underway (to be released as version 2.1), they are presently only available to developers. For now, the only work around is a temporary patch that modifies the bridges' version check to recognize Open Transport.
The patch is available in two flavors, one for LaserWriter Bridge and one for LocalTalk Bridge:
Make sure to use the appropriate patch for your version of LaserWriter or LocalTalk Bridge. For those brave enough to use ResEdit to apply the patch manually, you can do the following:
The patch should work on all Macintosh computers (including PCI Power Macs and clones) using Open Transport version 1.0.8 or higher. Please note this patch has not been tested extensively; it is considered a hack and should be treated as such. If you have any doubts in applying this patch to your software, wait for the Apple-supported update which should appear soon.
by Geoff Duncan <email@example.com>
Over the years, Apple has talked about, released, and made popular all kinds of new products: personal computers with graphical user interfaces, PostScript printers, Newtons, personal file sharing, and more. On the software side, Apple popularized everything from drag & drop to QuickTime. Apple is bursting with crazy (and often excellent) new technologies, and - at least in part - that's why the press scrutinizes Apple so closely. Last week, at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple gave the press more food for thought.
Project X -- Though the name might be unimaginative, Project X is a information browser that presents list views and three-dimensional "information spaces" that can represent a Web site, a hard drive, or audio tracks, and can be extended to other information sources. Project X is built on top of Apple's own MCF (Meta Content Format) file format, which is basically a hierarchical way of storing information about other information. Though the last thing anyone needs is another file format (especially one that's not yet publicly documented), it's still an interesting model of information navigation with advantages over the Finder and other schemes. Apple demonstrated a MCF view of Yahoo at WWDC, and a demo of Project X for Power Macs is available now, with a 68K version expected shortly (along with a white paper on the MCF format). Apple plans to make a Cyberdog-capable version of Project X, and possibly versions for other browsers. Though it's too early to predict the future of Project X, it's attracting attention and is notable for its small disk footprint and RAM requirements.
Apple e.g. -- Apple e.g., a free searching CGI for WebSTAR or other Web servers, uses the V-Twin search engine (built into part of Cyberdog and Mac OS 8's search agents) to provide speedy full-text searches along with relevance ranking of results. In a neat twist, search results appear with checkboxes beside them; if you don't find what you wanted, you can check the closest matches and tell Apple e.g. to "find more things like this." Apple also announced a developer's kit to let other parties roll Apple e.g. into other products, although the kit doesn't include the full V-Twin engine. Apple e.g. should be available shortly from Apple's CyberTech Web server. And though some feel its product name might be a little too imaginative, it beats "Apple Internet Full Text Searching Solution for the World Wide Web."
HyperCard and QuickTime -- Almost overlooked in the Internet-hype of WWDC was a significant public statement on the future of HyperCard and QuickTime. Despite recent signs of life and a steadfast following, HyperCard has had a moribund reputation for several years as its multimedia capabilities were eclipsed by products like Director and SuperCard. (Though HyperCard remains one of the most useful prototyping tools around.)
At WWDC, Apple showed running demos of HyperCard 3.0, and the biggest surprise is that the new version is built around QuickTime 3.0. Essentially, every HyperCard stack becomes a QuickTime movie, and is playable in any application that can handle QuickTime, including MoviePlayer, Netscape plug-ins, Cyberdog, and word processors. Using QuickTime finally gives HyperCard completely integrated color capabilities as well as cross-platform support (QuickTime is already well established on Windows). According to the presentation, existing HyperCard externals will continue to be usable and there will be Internet-savvy media handlers giving HyperCard (and QuickTime) the ability to use remote content. Both QuickTime 3.0 and HyperCard 3.0 are scheduled for release in spring of 1997.
by Robert Hettinga <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Despite all of the doom and gloom about Apple, the company is still doing well in the home and education markets. The doom and gloom comes in part from Apple's ever-increasing trouble in the business market. I don't think there's anything new in that.
Apple's heart was never in the business market. For all its lip service to business, Apple never felt passionate about building better word processing and spreadsheet boxes, even if the company did have the best one at the time of the big ramp up of the business microcomputer market, before Excel and Word moved to Windows. This lack of interest showed in Apple's attitude toward most business people. Apple's commercials portrayed outside consultants and mavericks as heroes, thus attracting outside consultants and mavericks to the Macintosh at the expense of attracting large businesses and conformists.
When compatibility with mainframes became an issue (for the short time people were off-loading mainframe data onto LANs) Apple didn't want to be there. With the advent of LANs, Apple didn't build the technology to deal with LANs on their own turf, large corporations. Instead, Apple built peer-to-peer networks of collegial desktop machines. Unfortunately, they never paid attention to two major problems: the network bandwidth and the multitasking necessary for those networks to function properly from the high-volume user's point of view. Power users would suffer from problematic performance hits when they tried to work while printing in the background and having their Macs accessed via file sharing.
For PC users, multitasking was less of a problem, because those two jobs were usually off-loaded to separate machines, whose jobs were to do nothing but run a printer or serve files. In contrast, on most Macintosh networks (especially after System 7 came out), every machine is potentially a server for everyone else, and everyone is their own print server. Only late in the game did Apple release the Apple Workgroup Servers.
Fortunately, the first problem, bandwidth, has been addressed, because most Macs now come with Ethernet, while the second problem, preemptive multitasking on faster processors, is being solved slowly. This is good for Apple, because peer-to-peer architecture is where the world appears to be headed. The whole Internet is a peer-to-peer, "geodesic" network, where each machine is optimized for its own particular function, be it serving or switching information. The Internet has no central repository of anything, and that has been Apple's view of networks since day one.
If it's any consolation, in the future, we won't even need LANs to do business. A couple months ago, I saw Netscape running in the bond trading room of the largest institutional trustee bank in the United States. In this case, Netscape beat PowerBuilder hands-down in a prototype development shootout. The prototype was the production version. Netscape can do anything from secure outside-the-firewall SQL calls to conducting actual cash commerce. Game over. Netscape is not special in this regard - any sufficiently secure browser/server combination can do the same thing. Either one, client or server, can be developed for a dime a dozen even now. This is especially true when compound document architectures come online, like Apple's Cyberdog.
We won't need LANs because the only real difference between a LAN and the Internet is a firewall for security, and the need for clients to speak Novell's TCP/IP-incompatible proprietary network protocol. With Internet-level encryption protocols like the IETF IPSEC standard, you won't need a firewall. The only people who can establish a server session with any machine connected to the net will be those issuing the digital signatures authorized to access that machine. Then, networks will need to be as public as possible, which means, of course, TCP/IP, not NetWare. It's like Heinlein's old joke about space: "once you're in Earth orbit, you're halfway to anywhere". So, once you've gotten rid of the firewall, you're everywhere.
What happens to the information concentrated behind those firewalls - or proprietary software markets, for that matter - when, because of strong cryptography, firewalls disappear? Remember what happened to those floating globs of grease in the detergent commercial? Surfacted away into tiny bits. I can hear Bill Gates now: "I'm melting! I'm melting!" Now you see why he's fighting so hard to be Internet-compatible all of a sudden.
In this "decade of the Internet," the user interface, platform, desktop, LAN, whatever, is meat and real life is on the net, to paraphrase William Gibson.
For the time being, I have thought that the Mac, at least as long as Apple makes most Macs, is the computer for the "best of us," not "the rest of us." I've learned to live with that. I no more worry about Apple's prospects than I do about Porsche's. I expect Apple management, like Herr Doktor Porsche, is just waking up to the fact that even though Apple designed the Volkswagen, it can't possibly mass produce them efficiently at a decent enough profit to advance the state of the art, which is where Apple's heart has been all along. Sooner or later, Apple will go back to cranking out 917s that demonstrate the power of the technology, 911s that offer a more affordable version of that power, and 928s that are for those of us who only want to look the part. Fortunately, there are lots of companies, like Power Computing, to produce Volkswagens for those who can't afford Porches, and "Macintosh" won't mean just "Apple" anymore.
To me, a fully-credentialed Mac Bigot and camp-follower, Apple's future means Cyberdog, and Cyberdog means breaking down large "glops" of information and software "grease" and surfacting them, fractally, into little bitty bits out into the net, where all machines, not just dumb Java terminals, can use them better. It also means developing cryptographically strong Internet-level security, so anyone can talk to any machine from anywhere if they have permission to do so, and nobody without permission can get in or see what those authorized people are doing. It means building into all network applications the ability to do digital commerce. That is, the ability to handle digital bearer certificates, like Digicash's ecash and the ability to handle micropayments, like the MicroMint protocol, or their successor technologies. Imagine if your code could send you money in the mail, or if a router did real-time load balancing by changing its micropayment price-per-through-packet when traffic got too high or too low. The future of the net may be a strange place, indeed.
Until that happens, I suppose Porsche parts is still a lucrative business, as long as developers keep in mind what business they're in.
[Robert Hettinga writes frequently about digital commerce and the Internet; for more on the topics above, check out his other essays.]
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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