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This issue features news about how to keep up with updates, as well as details on new versions of FreePPP, Mac TCP Watcher, and World Wide Web Weaver. We also include information about banishing erroneous "System memory too low to run Word" error messages and reader responses to the idea of a system-level database. Rounding out the issue, Adam writes about his latest book, the fourth edition of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh.
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Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Our transition from LISTSERV to ListSTAR continues this week, so please bear with us as we iron out the wrinkles. The bug that caused many of you to receive two copies of last week's issue was squashed promptly by Quarterdeck, and we're now running the fixed version of ListSTAR. I've also set up an auto-reply address from which you can request the latest version of TidBITS should your copy be munched en route for some reason. To retrieve the latest issue of TidBITS, send email to <email@example.com> (the subject and body of the message will be ignored). [ACE]
FreePPP 2.5v2 -- Last week, the FreePPP Group released FreePPP 2.5v2, replacing version 2.5rf. Although the release offers no new features, it does contain a number of significant bug fixes, and users of Global Village modems may be particularly interested in the upgrade. However, the old adage of PPP on the Macintosh still holds true - if what you're using now works fine, there's no need to upgrade. FreePPP 2.5v2 is available from Info-Mac mirrors; if you want to delve into the guts of FreePPP, check out the FreePPP FAQ. [GD]
Mac TCP Watcher 2.0 -- Peter Lewis recently released version 2.0 of Mac TCP Watcher, a $10 shareware utility favored by network administrators, power users, and the interminably inquisitive. Mac TCP Watcher exposes the guts of TCP network communications: version 2.0 is compatible with both Open Transport and MacTCP, sports a new traceroute feature, and offers a bundle of other enhancements (including Balloon Help with occasional typos!).
If you're just curious about the paths your packets take between machines on the Internet, you might want to check out Bryan Christianson's freeware program WhatRoute. WhatRoute only works with Open Transport and doesn't offer all the functionality of Mac TCP Watcher, but it can be a handy tool; a beta of version 1.3 offers ping and DNS features. [GD]
Another Miraculous Release? HTML aficionados take note - Miracle Software has released World Wide Web Weaver 2.0. Also known as W4, the new version adds many new features, including a special version of Casady & Greene's new Spell Catcher (formerly Thunder 7) and multi-file search and replace (though the search and replace lacks a "whole word only" feature, wild cards, and grep). Additionally, the forms and table editors are more flexible and useful than those in earlier versions.
W4 2.0 requires about 2.5 MB of both disk space and application RAM. The new version lists for $89, but with a $60 educational price and a $35 upgrade from version 1.x if you didn't buy an applicable subscription. Miracle Software has made a 1.2 MB demo available. [TJE]
Miracle Software -- 315/265-0930 -- 315/265-1162 --
Stay Up on Updates -- In TidBITS-309, I wrote about the Macintosh Software Update Report from LEVEL 6 Computing, formerly an electronic- and paper-based publication that succinctly listed information about recent Macintosh software updates. The Macintosh Software Update Report has recently experienced a few important changes. First, its name has changed to the jazzier "Update Weekly.Mac." Second, Update Weekly.Mac is now distributed solely via email. Finally, LEVEL 6 has completely revamped its revenue model and changed the pricing significantly. Update Weekly.Mac used to cost $150 per year. Now, LEVEL 6 offers two versions. One version is free to readers, but supported by sponsors. Sponsorship information appears at the top of each free issue, and software vendors with current major upgrades may also pay to insert copy about their products within the issue. A second version costs $49 per year, comes with additional services, and does not include sponsors. [TJE]
LEVEL 6 Computing -- 818/888-0675 -- 818/888-5635 (fax)
by Tonya Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Several years ago, when I worked at Microsoft answering questions about Word for the Mac, people frequently called in to ask about an annoying "System memory too low to run Word" error message that would appear when they launched Microsoft Word 5.x. This message left users with no alternative but to try launching Word again. This problem happens even if the Mac in question has plenty of free RAM available.
Microsoft could never come up with a truly satisfactory solution, though you can try juggling your memory situation by installing or removing extensions, launching or quitting other programs, or allocating a different amount of RAM to Word. Sometimes trying to launch Word a second or third time would work; sometimes launching other programs first (like the Alarm Clock or Key Caps) would solve the problem. I still use Word 5 for some word processing tasks, and I run into this situation probably 20 percent of the time when I try to launch the program. Microsoft has published its specific comments about the error in a Knowledge Base article, which you can read on the Web.
A potentially more satisfactory fix is now available, though. Written by Larry Rosenstein, the freeware extension FixWordSystemMemory 1.1, should correct the problem by, as Larry explains it, "allocating and immediately freeing a block of memory in the system heap when Word starts up (it does not do anything until you launch Word)." Word has launched smoothly for me since I installed the extension, though I don't use Word often enough to vouch for the extension's complete success. According to Larry, version 1.1 has some improvements over 1.0 that make the extension more successful, and the 3K download shouldn't take long.
[The technique used by FixWordSystemMemory is commonly called a "memory bubble." By allocating and immediately releasing a piece of memory in the system heap before Word launches, FixWordSystemMemory creates a "bubble" of free memory for Word to use which otherwise may not have been free. Ironically, Microsoft has used the same technique in some of its other applications, and yes, it's common for programs to need a bit of memory in the system heap for their own use. -Geoff]
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
My comments in TidBITS-341 about building a database into the system for applications to use hit a chord with readers. A number of people wrote in with additional comments and ideas.
Alex Sirota <firstname.lastname@example.org> offers an additional requirement to my suggestions for what features are essential for a relational database system:
Another requirement that you didn't mention is a structured language with which to manipulate the contents of the database system. The power of an RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) over something like FileMaker Pro is the ability to manipulate the data, stored in tables, using a standard, accepted language such as SQL (Structured Query Language) and program the database procedurally with extensions to SQL that many RDBMSs support.
Shay Telfer <email@example.com> comments:
The Newton uses a system-wide database that is accessible to any package running on it. Different applications can tightly integrate with your names, addresses, and appointments databases (known as "soups"), and can search or add information to each of these soups as appropriate. The database contains everything on the Newton, including code, graphics, etc., and it copes with people removing storage cards at will (even while the database is being searched). Such integration is extremely powerful and I think Apple should be aiming for this level of integration in the Mac OS (and I think it's what the people at Be are hoping for in the BeOS). The Newton is definitely a technology that was, and still is, ahead of its time.
Apple's Dylan implementation (may it rest in peace) was based around a database system where all the source code for each project was kept in a database. This made project revision control much easier, and was more sensible than the current way of thinking where functions are lumped together in a group of flat files on disk, which give little indication how the different parts of the software relate to each other. As far as I know, there are very few development environments out there which do this, other than Smalltalk, Prograph, and Frontier.
David Charlesworth <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
I wanted to mention a few of things about using databases for storage at a system level:
An additional benefit of a public database interface is that it provides a choice of tools to query and report on the data, repair problems, and extend the data. For example, if one of the PIM (personal information manager) producers used a standard database, then you could add additional tables and fields, and use "the right tool" (whatever that may be for you) to build reports, and still have the benefit of the user interface that the PIM provides. Just think how nice it would be if your PIM and your email program and your fax software shared the same database!
There's the JET Engine shipped as part of Windows (ODBC interface, reasonable speed, full relational capability). When we wanted to build a prototype for a potential cross platform product recently, we built it on Windows because we could use the JET Engine for storage. This speeded our prototyping cycle, enabled us to ship to evaluators without licensing hassles, and enabled us to substitute other SQL-compliant databases for multi-user data sharing down the road. All of these are big wins. We spent zero time on reporting tools for it, zero time on storage-related optimizations, and had revision cycles of a few hours because we didn't need to rebuild our test data.
Marty Wachter <email@example.com> adds:
You should note that AOCE (more commonly known as PowerTalk) contained an OS object database for storing anything, however it was not widely known, and there were only low level routines documented to deal with it under the PowerTalk API. I think the developer API for the Catalog Manager (or whatever they wound up calling the thing) contains all of the info. The actual API was really ugly, and thus no one used it - even those of us who found it.
Lawrence Conroy <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
As it happens, we are exploring system level databases for a project we're doing for a customer. I wholeheartedly agree with you that databases will be of increasing importance.
For instance, much as I say it through gritted teeth, Microsoft has a system level database of sorts in the Windows 95 Registry. It's rather like a collective preferences folder, so that applications can store their configurations setting there, rather than having a large number of application-specific .INI files. There is a "standard" way to access these database entries, and there's an included program (RegEdit) so users can browse and edit the entries.
There is another area where databases in a commonly understood format will be useful: databases that are accessible remotely. Related work is being started in the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). For example, there's a group based at Carnegie Mellon University developing proposals for a protocol for access to a remote configuration database; other groups are also working on this kind of problem, notably in the Access, Searching and Indexing of Directories (ASID) group of the IETF.
Microsoft has been active in the ASID group, proposing that the existing LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) work be extended for dynamic databases using their User Location Service (ULS). This is, basically, an enhancement of their existing WINS directory that's at the heart of Windows Networks. Their Internet Draft is at:
In an attempt to (among other things) reinvent the telephone network, a number of directory companies are setting up multi-user remote databases that show (a) whether a user has a particular program (like a certain flavor of Internet phone application), and (b) whether or not the user has the program running at the time of the query. This kind of generally-accessible database is necessary if such applications are going to find widespread use. Otherwise it's difficult to know whether or not you can talk to someone (at all), since different Internet phone programs usually don't talk to one another. Likewise, without a way of registering the running program at startup, it's difficult for callers to know whether or not the delay in response is due to their call request disappearing into the bit bucket, or because their intended correspondent isn't running the program at that time.
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
As I noted briefly in a few previous TidBITS issues, the fourth edition of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh (ISBN 1-56830-294-0, Hayden Books, $39.99) is available and should be appearing in bookstores now. Whenever I finish a new edition of the book, people always ask what's different from the previous editions, so I'll cover that below.
First, however, I want to explain why I write about new editions of the Internet Starter Kit, since some people feel these articles are inappropriate for TidBITS. The simple fact is that royalties from these books (there have been a variety of spin-offs, including translations into Japanese and German) make it financially possible to operate TidBITS as we do. In addition, I think Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh is a good book that can help many people who either want to get on the Internet, want to learn more about it, or want to provide a reference for a friend or family member. For me, the goal of writing is to help people; if no one buys the book, it hasn't helped anyone.
All that said, let's look at what's different from the third edition. The simple answer is that just about everything has changed to accommodate the ways in which the Internet has changed over the last few years.
Easier Connections -- The most common criticism of the book that I hear is that it's too big. I don't have a lot of sympathy for this complaint, since the book is obviously large and I'm comfortable that everything in the book is useful. However, in previous editions, the size meant that finding the information you needed to connect to the Internet was difficult. For the fourth edition, I grouped the connection chapters at the beginning of the book, and there's even a gray bleed on those pages so you can look at the page edges and see how little of the book you have to read to establish a connection. Those first chapters discuss requirements, choosing an Internet provider, the contents of the Internet Starter Kit CD-ROM (and how to use installer), plus provide a set of step-by-step instructions for using the main Internet programs. Finally, although I hope everyone can skip it, I included a chapter of extensive troubleshooting information for those who have trouble connecting.
Getting connected to the Internet is handled by a pair of programs, the Internet Starter Kit Installer and the Internet Configurator. The installer works much as previous editions did, but you can now run the Internet Configurator to configure all of the installed software for any one of over 340 Internet providers around the world. And (although you can never be sure), since these providers all signed themselves up for inclusion with the book, there's a good chance that they're more Macintosh-savvy than average.
What's Installed -- The main difference in the installer is that it installs Microsoft Internet Explorer (MIE) instead of the now-moribund MacWeb. Many people ask why I included MIE and not Netscape Navigator. There are two simple reasons. First, MIE is a good Web browser that requires less RAM than Netscape Navigator. Second, MIE was free, whereas licensing Netscape Navigator would have cost so much that it would have added a significant amount to the price of the book. And of course, anyone who wants to evaluate Netscape Navigator can do so for free by downloading the version of the week.
The installer also installs FreePPP 2.5 instead of MacPPP 2.0.1, and everything works fine with either Open Transport 1.1 or MacTCP 2.0.6 (which is also installed). The installer does not install Open Transport 1.1, but System 7.5 Update 2.0 and System 7.5.3 Revision 2.0 are both included on the Internet Starter Kit CD-ROM, so if you have System 7.5, you can update to System 7.5.3 and use Open Transport if you want. Rounding out the list of the installed programs are the usual suspects, Anarchie 1.6, Eudora Light 1.5.4, Internet Config 1.2, and StuffIt Expander 4.0.1. They're all essential, in my opinion.
Internet Starter Kit CD-ROM -- Since Internet software is getting bigger, I couldn't include even the basics on a single floppy disk. Once you have to bundle more than one floppy with a book, though, it's cheaper to produce a CD-ROM, so I did. Along with the installer, the Internet Configurator, and Apple's system updates, I included over 300 MB of Internet-related software. There's no way I could list it all here, but suffice it to say that there are about 250 programs, including things from Apple like Cyberdog and OpenDoc, and it took me a heck of a long time to download it all so you don't have to. Everything is uncompressed and neatly organized, and yes, I even did things like regularize all the window positions. Making CD-ROMs is hard work.
Along with all the freeware, shareware, and demo software on the CD-ROM are more than 650 bookmarks to all the Web sites, FTP sites, and Usenet newsgroups mentioned in the book. Typing URLs is a major drag, so I've included these bookmarks (organized by chapter) as an MIE Favorites file, a Netscape Bookmarks file, as individual CyberFinder files (and as a CyberFinder library), as a DragNet file, URL Clerk files, a URL Manager file, a Web Squirrel file, and a WebArranger file. Of course, versions or demos of all those bookmark managers are available as well. I don't intend to keep this list of sites up to date, since that would be a ton of work, but I will post it to the Web soon.
Online Components -- As usual, there's a Web page for readers of the book, but anyone is welcome to use it. I collected what I consider to be the best sites for searching the Internet and a small collection of the best Macintosh sites, and listed them all on a concise Web page. It makes a great home page.
Although they haven't changed much, I'm also still maintaining several other pages related to the book, including a Macintosh Internet Software Updates page (and ancillary table) and a Macintosh Modem Init Strings page, both of which are linked on the main page above.
New Chapters & Organization -- Probably the most significant changes from the previous edition are in the number of new chapters that I wrote and the almost complete reorganization of the book. It starts, as I noted, with a section containing the information you need to get connected quickly. After that, I step back in the second section and look at what the Internet is, where it came from, where it's going in the future, and some of the technical background that's necessary (things like file formats and URLs). Those chapters are pretty much the same as in the third edition, although the chapter on past, present, and future has been beefed up significantly to address present and future issues related to the Internet (things like Internet commerce, governmental control, privacy, pornography, and free speech).
The third section holds the meat of the book. First comes a chapter explaining Open Transport and MacTCP in great detail, followed by a chapter looking carefully at FreePPP and mentioning all the other PPP and SLIP implementations. Then come what I consider to be the four main chapters, which cover email, Usenet news, FTP, and the Web. Each of those starts by explaining its respective Internet service, covers usage and social issues, and talks about how each one actually works. Each chapter then moves into reviews, with long reviews of the two main programs in each category and short capsule reviews of others, and finishes with troubleshooting information in Q & A format. The two remaining chapters in the third section (Real-Time Communications and Utilities and Miscellany) are similar, although they use capsule reviews throughout, other than a full review of Internet Config. The final chapter in the third section is the odd chapter out, since it covers the Internet features of America Online and CompuServe.
The book's fourth section is almost entirely new. Chapter 20 helps novices learn how to find things on the Internet, and ends with scavenger hunt questions (and answers, with techniques explained) that I'm quite proud of. In the following chapter, I essentially used my searching techniques to find and list the most useful Macintosh Internet resources, figuring that the Mac is one thing everyone who reads the book will have in common.
The final two chapters in the fourth section are the most optional, although I expect they'll prove quite popular. First comes Tonya's HTML chapter, which she expanded significantly to include information on things like tables, forms, and other HTML design capabilities. It's the best discussion of HTML that I've seen that's specific for Macintosh users. After that comes a completely new chapter I wrote about setting up Internet servers on Macs. That chapter isn't a how-to guide, but is meant to provide readers with the background necessary to decide if they want to set up Macintosh Internet servers. It also lists all the Internet server software available for the Mac, including every Web CGI that I could find, since I'd been frustrated when I tried to figure out what CGIs were available for handling forms, for instance. Much of the Internet server software is available on the CD-ROM.
In the End -- Frankly, I think this is one heck of a book. The previous editions were certainly good, but I put more work into this update than into any previous edition, including the first. If you bought any previous edition and still use it, consider donating that edition to a friend, relative, school, or library, and pick up the fourth edition. I'm of course utterly biased, but I also have a pretty good idea of what's out there, and Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, Fourth Edition is the most complete Internet solution available for the Mac. Apple's Internet Connection Kit may be bundled with every Mac and retail copy of System 7.5.3 (which makes it hard to compete with) but it only works with a couple of Internet providers, doesn't include nearly as much software, and lacks an 880-page book explaining the Internet and what happens when things don't work the way they should.
Bookstores have started to receive the fourth edition, to judge from reports on the net. If you're interested, I recommend your favorite local bookstore as the first approach. If they don't have it, please ask them to get it. (One of the generally unknown aspects of the book industry is that it doesn't matter how good a book may be - if the bookstores don't carry it, it won't sell well.) Alternately, if there's no bookstore handy, you can order online directly from Macmillan Computer Publishing or from online bookstores like WordsWorth and Amazon (and I'm sure there are other great ones as well).
Finally, the online version of the third edition is still available, and we're working on converting the fourth edition to HTML. I'll announce it when it's available.
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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