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Apple tops our headlines this week with a $25 million profit for its fourth fiscal quarter this year! Other announcements include the just-introduced PowerBook 1400 series and important news for GeoPort users. Also this week, Adam shares an obscure tip for speeding up Power Macintoshes by way of the WorldScript Power Adapter and Steve Becker weighs in with a review of the powerful utility OneClick.
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Apple Posts Quarterly... Profit! After serving as a punching bag for Wall Street, business and technology press, and financial pundits for the last three fiscal quarters, Apple surprised most financial analysts last week by posting a $25 million profit for its fourth fiscal quarter. Although Apple still lost a lot of money for its 1996 fiscal year (an intimidating $816 million), this return to profitability is largely credited to Apple's restructuring, reduced operating expenses, and improved efficiency under new CEO Gil Amelio. Although Apple's still not out of the woods and faces many challenges, this unexpected news should bolster Apple as it introduces a number of new products and takes aim at the lucrative holiday season. [GD]
Apple Telecom 3.0 Released -- Today Apple officially released Apple Telecom 3.0, which finally offers 28.8 Kbps speeds to GeoPort users. The update comes in two flavors: the commercial GeoPort Telecom Adapter Kit (expected to be available in the U.S. and Japan in December) and the free GeoPort & Express Modem Updater 3.0. Apple expects to sell the GeoPort Telecom Adapter Kit for approximately $130, and the kit will include a GeoPort pod, the Apple Internet Connection Kit, and a suite of new communications-oriented programs including fax, answering machine, and speakerphone capabilities. The free GeoPort & Express Modem Updater is available online as two disk images, and lets GeoPort owners with Power Macs achieve speeds up to 28.8 Kbps. [GD]
by Geoff Duncan <email@example.com>
From a customer and public relations standpoint, the PowerBook 5300s may have been the most disastrous set of Macintoshes Apple ever made, although many dedicated 5300 owners have stuck with Apple and have had good luck with their machines. First, the series earned the nickname "HindenBook" when production was halted to correct a potentially explosive problem with its original lithium-ion battery (see TidBITS-295). Next came a series of software compatibility problems, a system update, a quiet hardware recall, more updates, and then a massive advertising venture with major Hollywood movies just as Apple pulled the 5300 series from dealer shelves and instituted a "repair extension" program (see TidBITS-331).
After all that, it's not surprising Apple isn't looking to turn the laptop world on its ear with the PowerBook 1400 series, a conservative followup to the PowerBook 5300 that aims to provide a high-quality, reliable laptop that addresses critical shortcomings in the previous PowerBook line. The bad news is that the PowerBook 1400s don't look to be speed demons or dirt cheap; the good news is that they can handle a CD-ROM drive, have flexible expansion capabilities, and preliminary reports indicate they're solid and well-engineered.
The Basic Specs-- The PowerBook 1400 series picks up where the top of the 5300 line left off, with a PowerPC 603e processor running at 117 MHz, and a high-end PowerBook 1400 with a 133 MHz 603e processor due in January. The low-end PowerBook 1400cs features a dual-scan passive matrix display with no processor cache, while the higher-end PowerBook 1400c features an active matrix display and a 128K Level 2 cache.
The displays measure 11.3 inches diagonally, and features 800 by 600, 16-bit color. Although passive matrix displays are generally dimmer and less sharp than active matrix screens, reports so far indicate the 1400's passive matrix display is quite respectable, surpassing the quality of the passive matrix screens in the 5300 series.
The PowerBook 1400 series sports a 5.5-inch, front-loading device bay, which can be used for a floppy drive or (at long last!) a 6x CD-ROM drive. None of the expansion bay devices for the PowerBook 1400 series use SCSI: along with the internal hard disk, they all use a less-expensive but speedy IDE bus. The expansion bay can also hold a spare battery, but unlike the 5300s it's only passive storage. However, PowerBook 1400s also sport a small, rechargeable lithium backup battery, so you can put a 1400 to sleep and swap its batteries without losing data or a RAM disk. You can also swap devices in and out of the front device bay while the PowerBook sleeps.
Unlike previous PowerBook models, PowerBook 1400s do not feature flip-out feet to tilt the keyboard forward if you're using it on a flat surface like a table. The reason is that removable media devices in the front-loading bay - like a CD-ROM drive - can't open properly if the PowerBook is tilted forward.
PowerBook 1400s feature the same PC Card expansion capabilities as the 5300 series, with room for two Type II cards or one Type III card, and the internal expansion slot accommodates Ethernet and/or video cards. Also like the 5300s, the 1400s use nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries with reported real-world battery lifetimes of two to three hours.
According to Apple, the PowerBooks 1400 series will ship with System 7.5.3 pre-loaded (rather than the recently-released System 7.5.5 - see TidBITS-346) along with ClarisWorks, Apple's Internet Connection Kit, Apple Remote Access, and other utility software.
BookCovers -- Perhaps the most talked-about new feature of the PowerBook 1400 is its removable lid panel, called a BookCover. Apple will ship the PowerBook 1400's with a standard grey cover and a transparent cover: the basic idea of the transparent cover is that you can slip a bit of pre-printed, laminated card stock under it to give your 1400 a distinctive look. Apple will reportedly include a number of card-stock designs with the 1400 - think of them as the PowerBook equivalent to Desktop Patterns, except these kill trees - or with a little ambition you could certainly create your own "CoverWear." I've seen reports of third-party replacement lids, some offering functional enhancements like stereo speakers, and some offering... well, something else entirely. Imagine a celebrity BookCover line painted by Ringo Starr, and you get the idea.
What About Expansion? Opening and working inside the PowerBook 1400 is reportedly simple, especially in comparison to the tortuous innards of previous PowerBook models: just remove a panel above the keyboard, lift out the keyboard, then remove the heat sink and some conventional screws. This also reveals one of the primary changes in the PowerBook 1400: a more complicated (but more flexible) RAM configuration. The 1400 comes with 8 MB soldered to the motherboard, and there's space for three memory add-on boards. Apple will include either a 4 or 8 MB module on one side of the bay, leaving two slots empty. Memory from one side of the bay can't be used on the other side, but you can install stackable memory modules on the empty side without removing the memory Apple installed for you. The PowerBook 1400 currently tops out at 64 MB of RAM: two 24 MB stackable modules on one side, one 8 MB module on the other, and 8 MB on the motherboard.
A number of vendors have announced products specifically for the PowerBook 1400 series. For the front storage bay, VST Technologies will produce additional hard disks, ZIP drives (next year), and magneto optical devices. Magneto optical devices are expected to start at 230 MB, moving to 640 MB in mid-1997. Focus Enhancements <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Newer Technology have announced internal Ethernet adapters. Moreover, Newer Technology will ship a spate of additional products, including stacked memory modules, a 16-bit video card, and (notably) a 200 MHz processor upgrade (with 128K of Level 2 cache). I've heard that both Apple and Focus Enhancement will offer video options as well.
Perhaps the most clever 1400-related product is the PowerCover from Keep It Simple Systems. I'll just mention "BookCover" and "solar," and leave the rest to your imagination.
Performance -- The PowerBook 1400's 117 MHz 603e processor might seem paltry now, especially when 240 MHz versions of the same processor are shipping in desktop units from Power Computing, and Apple is shipping its own 200 MHz 603e machines in the Performa 6400 line. Preliminary tests show that the PowerBook 1400's performance is right in line with its predecessor, the PowerBook 5300 - certainly no speed demon. The PowerBook 1400's CPU is on a removable daughter card, and Newer Technology has already announced it will provide 200 MHz CPU upgrades for the PowerBook 1400.
However, before buying a PowerBook 1400 and thinking you'll be able to improve its performance significantly via a processor upgrade, consider that its system bus runs at 33 MHz, and is only 32 bits wide. This is half the speed (and half the width) of busses found in current high-end desktop machines, which means that a processor will spend a lot of its time waiting for the rest of the PowerBook to catch up. Some tasks - particularly CPU-intensive actions - can be improved with a processor upgrade, but don't expect dramatic, system-wide performance improvements.
Pricing and Availability -- Although there's plenty of hoopla about the PowerBook 1400 series right now, actual units aren't expected to be available until mid-November, and Apple is already warning it will be difficult to purchase a PowerBook 1400 until at least mid-January, when they've completely ramped up their manufacturing capability. Although this typical for PowerBooks, it would be nice if Apple actually had PowerBooks available for customers when the machines were introduced.
Pricing for the PowerBook 1400 series is likely to disappoint many users, especially after months of rumors low-end PowerBook 1400s might come in at less than $2,000. Apple is currently estimating a floppy-only version of the 1400cs with 12 MB of RAM and a 750 MB hard disk will retail for about $2,500, while a fully-loaded 1400c with a CD-ROM drive, 16 MB of RAM, and a 1 GB hard disk will retail for around $3,500.
What About Hooper? If you're not satisfied with the PowerBook 1400, your patience might be rewarded. Apple expects to ship higher-end laptops, codenamed Hooper, in the first half of 1997, with processor speeds of at least 200 MHz and a built-in PCI expansion slot. There's also a chance that we'll see Macintosh clone vendors introduce Mac OS compatible laptops during 1997, particularly once the Mac OS is available for PowerPC Platform (PPCP) machines.
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
We're all interested in squeezing as much performance out of our Macs as is reasonable, and a tip from Tim Holmes, Mac OS Evangelist at Apple, might help Power Mac users a bit. It appears that the WorldScript Power Adapter, which would seem to help only users of WorldScript, actually contains native PowerPC routines for handling text. Thus, if you leave WorldScript Power Adapter loaded, even if you're not using WorldScript, you should get a small speed increase.
This tip seemed rather quirky, so I asked Leonard Rosenthol of Aladdin Systems about it since Leonard's familiar with WorldScript. He disassembled it quickly and found that on Power Macs the WorldScript Power Adapter appears to install a completely new set of routines for a block of traps called "ScriptUtils." ScriptUtils handles basically all the non-drawing routines related to text - things like sorting, comparison, time/date, and so on.
Don't worry if the programmer-speak above doesn't make sense. The upshot is that the process of drawing text on the screen won't increase in speed if you use WorldScript Power Adapter, but anything that requires sorting text, comparing text strings, and so on, should see a speed increase. For instance, when you sort files in the Finder, filter messages in Eudora Pro, or do text searches in some databases, the new code in WorldScript Power Adapter should help speed things up. Word processors and text editors that are WorldScript-savvy (such as Nisus Writer) should also see speed increases because they frequently call ScriptUtils to calculate line lengths and the like.
It's unlikely that you'd see truly significant speed increases from this tip, but hey, there's no reason not to take what little we can get.
by Steve Becker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Late last year, WestCode Software introduced OneClick, their answer to the need for a flexible, easy-to-use, comprehensive, highly customizable utility program. OneClick incorporates some of the best features of Apple's Control Strip, QuicKeys, Square One, SuperClock, PopChar, PopUp Folder, and other utilities, integrating them into a single program with a low memory overhead, low price, and relatively low learning curve.
I have tried many Macintosh utilities over the years. In total, these programs cost a lot of money, resulted in extension conflicts, had overlapping feature sets in some areas, and still failed to provide all the features I wanted. I consider my computer needs to be fairly eclectic: they cover the gamut from word processing and email, to business accounting and trading stocks on the Web. My equipment ranges from a 68030-based IIsi to a Power Mac 6100/66. I've been extremely happy with OneClick, a single program that adapts to my wide-ranging hardware and software needs.
Nuts and Bolts -- OneClick consists of a single control panel that uses under 300K of RAM. After installing OneClick and restarting your Mac, you'll see a one-time, brief tutorial, as well as several Global palettes: the System Bar comes pre-configured with many useful buttons; the Task Bar displays buttons for each launched program; and the Launch Strip quickly opens anything that the Finder can open, including programs, files, and folders. OneClick also supports application-specific palettes that are only available when a particular program is active - including a pre-configured palette for the Finder as well as palettes for several popular applications (I particularly like the ones for ClarisWorks). You use the OneClick Editor to customize each of these palettes and to create more palettes - I'll talk more about that in a bit.
Palette buttons cause programs to launch, files to open, or scripts to run. Each button shows an icon, or text - or both - that indicates its function, so you don't have to remember key combinations. (You may assign keyboard shortcuts to buttons if you wish.) If a button's function is not self-evident, OneClick thoughtfully provides either Balloon Help or a less-obtrusive, yellow, pop-up description tag. It's easy to toggle either help option, and you can also edit the help text - a thoughtful feature.
Many OneClick buttons perform basic functions like Paste, Insert Date, Change Font (displays a pop-up list of available fonts in their actual typefaces - very neat), Change Font Size, Page Setup, Empty Trash, Make Alias, and Get Info. A small sampling of some of the more powerful buttons that come with the program includes Insert Character (like PopChar, this lets you select and quickly insert any character available in a given font), Glossary (create a glossary of commonly used bits of text and then quickly insert those bits; I use this button to create a signature glossary), Pop-up Hierarchical File List (shades of PopUp Folder), Pop-up Phone Book/Dialer, Pop-up Hierarchical List of files in the System Folder, Auto Save (at user specified time intervals), and Tile Windows. [Additionally, OneClick can use modules from Apple's Control Strip. -Tonya]
I think new users will find the basic buttons especially helpful. Even as an experienced user, buttons such as Insert Date, Change Font, and Change Font Size save me time. It is easy to create additional basic buttons, such as Print One Copy and Customized Page Setup (to apply pre-determined setup characteristics) - I use these with most of my applications. Some of the more powerful buttons like Insert Character, Hierarchical File Pop-ups, and Phone Book/Dialer replace entire utility programs and I find them a significant enhancement to my Mac's capabilities.
OneClick also adds a OneClick menu to the menu bar, though you can also access this menu from any palette. The OneClick menu lets you quickly show and hide palettes and switch to the OneClick Editor.
Customizing the Interface -- Using the OneClick Editor, you can create a new palette for any program, or modify an existing palette. To add a button to a new palette, you simply drag it from the OneClick Library to the palette, or you drag it from an existing palette.
In practice, the customization options for buttons and palettes appear nearly endless. You can assign any icon, or multiple icons, to any button; change a button's background color, size, and palette position (adjusted down to a resolution of one pixel); assign different styles to a button; and more. Similarly, palettes have a range of customization options, including background patterns and colors.
Although I like the tabbed organization and layout of the OneClick Editor, many features are not labeled and are not intuitive as to their use. Also, an Undo option is not available. WestCode is aware of these concerns and plans to address them in a future release.
Avoid Screen Clutter -- If you are thinking all these palettes cause screen clutter, WestCode has done a good job of preempting this potential problem. Palettes can be collapsed (iconified, in OneClick lingo) to a small icon with a single click. Many of the palettes can also be reduced to a small Title Bar. To hide all palettes, you choose Hide Palettes from the OneClick pop-up menu or press a keyboard shortcut. Palettes may also be configured as to their location on the Desktop and several other parameters. One possible enhancement in a future release will be an option to have a palette automatically get out of the way of the active window, so as to not obscure any part of it. [WestCode hopes to add this to version 1.5, due out later this year. -Tonya]
Be Creative -- If OneClick did nothing more than what I've already covered, it would be a fine program. In reality though, I've only begun to discuss what it can do. Just use the Record feature to make a button script for almost any action you perform with regularly with your Mac, and voila - you have a button that performs the recorded task.
You can record keys presses and actions like clicking a radio button or choosing a menu option. OneClick records such actions not in terms of mouse movements, but in terms of what you did, making for scripts that do not depend on the mouse being in a particular location when the script begins running. Once a script is recorded, you can edit it in the OneClick Editor window, which offers built-in help and error checking. I've encountered a few a situations where a program will not properly run a recorded action, but most of the time I've found recording to be easy, fast, and wonderfully effective.
If you know AppleScript, or want to learn OneClick's own (easier) EasyScript, you can create button scripts from scratch. If you are new to using a scripting language or programming, be sure to read the appropriate manual carefully.
[In addition, Matt Neuburg <email@example.com> notes "OneClick's language is spectacularly well thought out and easy to learn, with splendid data types and object-oriented messaging and a full battery of control structures. OneClick can gather all sorts of information about what's happening on your system, in real time, and make it available in fascinating ways. A OneClick button is programmable - you can drag & drop things onto it, press it with or without modifier keys, and have it react in different ways; it can display a pop-up menu for you to choose from. OneClick has superb abilities for communicating with other scripting milieus." -Tonya]
OneClick's Editor includes a basic graphics editor and the ability to borrow icons from other files. This, plus the ability to add text to a button's icon and create help text lets your buttons be self-descriptive.
I put my own words into practice. WriteNow is my favorite word processor, but the interface lacks toolbars. Combining the Record feature and the EasyScript Editor, I was able to create - okay, maybe I'm not objective about this - a terrific palette of buttons for WriteNow. Now WriteNow maintains its small memory footprint and quickness while providing me with the customizable toolbar features found in higher-end word processors like WordPerfect and ClarisWorks.
Warning -- This program should have a warning label attached saying "This program can become addictive." In addition to the customization features and productivity boosts - and the temptation to explore them fully- there is an active and helpful OneClick mailing list. (You can join the list through WestCode's Web site.) You'll also find a regularly updated collection of free buttons on WestCode's Web site (including my WriteNow palette, along with a few other palettes I made). In addition, a group of OneClickers has formed the Button Circle, where they regularly upload new freeware buttons.
The WestCode and Button Circle Web sites include palettes for programs like Eudora, Photoshop, Netscape Navigator, Emailer, and AOL, as well as buttons that provide an almost unbelievable array of features, such as saving multiple text clippings, printing selected text on or across pages, creating notebooks or address books, displaying available memory, and pasting quoted text.
Owning this program is like having your own personal utility factory. Its dynamic and flexible nature invites you to use your imagination in creating new scripts, or to just record common operations. If you don't think of yourself as the adventurous type, you can look forward to a free stream of buttons and palettes that others have created.
Some Commentary -- It is rare to find such an innovative program as OneClick. It eliminates the need for many other programs, uses little memory, adds only one extension to your System Folder, comes pre-configured with a large list of buttons that greatly enhance both the Mac OS and most of your applications, is regularly expanded through a steady stream of freeware buttons and palettes, is highly customizable to your individual needs, and it is fun to work with. To me, this program exemplifies much of what the Macintosh is all about - it empowers users to get much more out of their Macs while enjoying the experience.
Recently, Heidi Roizen (Apple VP of Developer Relations) gave an enjoyable talk at a BMUG (Berkeley Macintosh Users Group) main meeting, discussing Apple's new focus on needs of the developer community. WestCode represents a small, independent, innovative developer that is dedicated to working only on the Macintosh platform. I hope that both she and Gil Amelio put WestCode on their list of developers that will receive as much support as possible from Apple. In fact, bundling this product with Macs - or striking a deal to incorporate its technology into the Mac OS - strikes me as a way to further increase the benefit of the Mac OS over Windows. Also, though Mac OS 8 is still but a dream, this might breathe new life and excitement into System 7.x. In the meantime, other developers recognize the potential of OneClick; for example, the next version of Quicken will incorporate OneClick's Shortcut Technology into its Tool Bar.
Final Observations -- By now, you know that I am impressed with this product. Although most users report no or few problems with OneClick, I have encountered numerous bugs, most of which are fixed in the current 1.0.2 release. None of these problems resulted in data loss, and they have been worth putting up with in exchange for the overall benefits of the software. I have found WestCode technical support to be exceptionally friendly and helpful. The call is not toll free, but if no one answers your call immediately, you may leave your number and WestCode returns the call.
WestCode plans to release OneClick 1.5 later this year. Important enhancements center on more powerful Task Bar and Launcher palettes. A Task Bar button will display and launch recently used applications (think Apple Menu Options), and another Task Bar button will pop up the Launcher; especially useful should you keep the Launcher hidden. The new Launcher will be able to keep file sets, such as a separate Internet Applications set.
The street price for OneClick is around $75, and QuicKeys users can purchase a competitive upgrade for about $40 (the exact price depends on what version you have). OneClick requires System 7.0 or higher, and a 68020 or later processor.
[Steve Becker has been a BMUG member since purchasing his first Mac and runs his own Mac consulting business, MacEase, in Berkeley, California.]
[Those of you hoping to compare OneClick to its strongest competitors, QuicKeys 3.5, which we reviewed in TidBITS-348 and KeyQuencer 2.0, for which we have a review underway, should stay tuned. After reviewing all three products, we plan to compare them. -Adam]
WestCode Software -- 800/448-4250 -- 619/487-9200
619/487-9255 (fax) -- <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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