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Another domino topples on the path to TidBITS world domination: in our 400th issue, Adam shows how TidBITS, which predated the Web by about four years, now uses sophisticated software to deliver a constantly changing Web site. Also, we note the release of ShareWay IP, look at Font Reserve, a program that may once and for all solve users' font difficulties, and continue Rick Holzgrafe's Successful Shareware series.
Copyright 1997 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Comments: <email@example.com>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Small Dog Electronics -- Special Deal for TidBITS Readers!
Refurbished Performa 6360, Apple 15" Multiscan Monitor: $1099
For Details: <http://www.smalldoggy.com/#tid> -- 802/496-7171
No TidBITS Next Week -- TidBITS is taking next week off, so you won't see our next issue until 20-Oct-97. However, we plan to add items to TidBITS Updates on Web site, and NetBITS will appear as usual Thursday night. We could say the vacation relates to Columbus Day in the U.S., but that's not so, and the Columbus myth propagandized in U.S. schools doesn't bear much resemblance to reality anyway. I highly recommend James Loewen's book Lies My Teacher Told Me if you're interested in some of the falsehoods that have worked their way into American history textbooks over the years. [ACE]
Connectix and Insignia Face Off Over Emulation -- In our review of Connectix's $150 Virtual PC (see TidBITS-397), we noted Insignia Solutions had shipped RealPC, which (like Virtual PC) offers Pentium MMX emulation, but is targeted at DOS-based gamers and includes MS-DOS 6.22 and a CD of action games for about $80. Connectix last week began competing directly with RealPC by shipping the $70 (estimated street price) Virtual PC - PC DOS, a version of Virtual PC that includes IBM's PC DOS and three sports games. RealPC and Virtual PC - PC DOS both allow you to install other operating systems; to run Windows 95 with either you must purchase it. The upgrade to Windows 95 from MS-DOS or a previous Windows version costs $100 - the full version costs $180 if you can find it. [TJE]
AppleShare Via IP for the Rest of Us -- Open Door Networks shipped ShareWay IP Gateway, a program that enables an AppleShare-compatible server to provide file sharing over the Internet. Instead of using FTP, people using the AppleShare Client Chooser extension 3.7 or later (included with Mac OS 8) can mount remote AppleShare servers over the Internet just as though the server were on a local AppleTalk network. The beauty of ShareWay IP is that it provides one of the most attractive features of Apple's expensive AppleShare IP 5.0 for far less money. ShareWay IP comes in two versions, the $189 Standard Edition ($119 educational) and the $59 Personal Edition ($49 educational). The Standard Edition can run on any Mac on the same AppleTalk network as the server and works with most AppleShare servers. The Personal Edition supports only Personal File Sharing on the same Mac as ShareWay IP. Both require System 7.5.3 or later and Open Transport 1.1.2 or later. Introductory pricing is good until 30-Nov-97 and free evaluation versions are available on Open Door's Web site. [ACE]
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I like marking numerical milestones. TidBITS-100 was the first issue formatted in setext (structure-enhanced text), a format that we've used for email distribution ever since. For TidBITS-300 we had a party for a few friends, and came up with 300 reasons the Mac is great.
We've had no time for such theatrics for TidBITS-400 because we've been busy launching NetBITS and working on our Web site, and it's our Web site I want to tell you about here.
Since TidBITS predates the Web by several years, we had a mature publication and distribution scheme when the Web became real. Our early Web efforts weren't impressive, but most early sites would look amateurish today. About a year ago, we completely redesigned our Web site, which set the stage for this year's update. We were happy with the basic organization, but the site felt dull and slow to navigate. We took a good number of hits every Tuesday as people read the latest issue, but hits dropped off on other days. We wanted to improve the look, navigation, and content relevance to increase traffic and make TidBITS more useful.
The Graphic -- Our first move was to devise a new logo, and the new graphic served as impetus to create a more functional page design with a left-side navigation bar. Graphics have always been tricky for us, since TidBITS is pure text, but working with our friend Jon Hersh <email@example.com>, a graphic designer in Seattle, we arrived at the current logo, which relies heavily on the word TidBITS for visual interest. Color is provided by the purple "torn paper" out of which the "BITS" is cut, and the strong vertical line between the "Tid" and "BITS" helps separate navigational elements on the left from content on the right.
The navigation bar also enabled us to emphasize aspects of TidBITS. For instance, we linked to our translations there and provided direct links to a few of the exclusive DealBITS discounts for TidBITS readers.
The Changing Graphic -- On most pages, the logo is static, but if you visit our home page frequently, you'll notice there's a "slug" (a short slogan) below the "BITS" and some callout text to the right. Clicking the callout text takes you to a specially chosen article or collection of articles in our FileMaker article database, accessed through Blue World Communications' Lasso.
Once per hour, a program Geoff wrote called BlurbMaster chooses a random slug, picks a callout from a select set of articles in FileMaker, then uses clip2gif to create a new graphic with the text of the slug and callout. Next, it generates a new copy of the home page with an appropriate image map tag and uploads the new files.
Every time you visit our home page, you see a random callout that provides access to some of our most interesting articles. Try it - it's neat, and many of the more than 3,000 articles that have appeared in TidBITS are still relevant.
TidBITS Updates -- BlurbMaster does even more to jazz up our home page. To make our Web site interesting throughout the week, we came up with TidBITS Updates: high-quality, concise updates to topics that have been discussed in previous issues, or breaking news items that can't wait for the next issue. All the updates, like our back articles, live in a FileMaker database. When we add an update via a Web form, BlurbMaster regenerates both the home page and the TidBITS Updates page.
Got BITS? But that's not all. We needed to solve a problem TidBITS Updates created. We wanted people to be able to link permanently to an individual update, but we also wanted updates listed on our home page. It was easy to link from the home page to named anchors on the TidBITS Updates page, but since updates expire off the bottom of that page, named links would break after a week or so. Geoff's solution was a CGI called GetBITS that does one of two things when someone asks for an update. If the update is active, GetBITS goes to an appropriate anchor on the TidBITS Updates page. If the update has expired, GetBITS instead pulls it out of the database. Thus, to link to a recent update, just copy the URL from our home page and GetBITS will ensure people always end up in the right place.
GetBITS proved helpful in another way, too. In the past, no one has been able to link directly to a specific article in TidBITS. You could point at a named anchor within a TidBITS issue, but that meant loading the full issue. Geoff's article database provided the article granularity we needed, but the Lasso URLs are far too long to use in TidBITS. So, GetBITS acts as a traffic cop, accepting a request for a specific article via a short URL, then redirecting that request into a longer Lasso URL.
From now on, you'll see URLs pointing to db.tidbits.com, which is where GetBITS lives. Click them to read specific TidBITS articles. If you want to link to a specific article or update, click the Search Author/Title link on our home page, find the article you want, and look at the bottom of the page for a GetBITS URL to copy into your HTML file.
Dynamic Doings -- Overall, it feels great to reach our 400th issue and to add new features to the Web site. Now it's time to turn some attention back to finding sponsors for TidBITS; if you have suggestions or leads, we welcome them at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
by Matt Neuburg <email@example.com>
The irony of fonts is this: they helped create the Macintosh revolution of 1984 and have been a pain in the ASCII ever since. Fonts lie at the heart of much of what we do on a Mac; yet, from the Font/DA Mover nightmare to System 7.1 and the Fonts folder, they have been persistently unmanageable.
Fonts do need management. I'm a mild font user; yet I've acquired hundreds of them, scattered all over my hard disk. There are too many types of fonts, and too many versions of particular fonts. The distinctions can be crucial: back when I was editing a magazine, opening a file with the wrong Garamond loaded could screw up the layout. Different projects may require different fonts; some fonts I use constantly, others I want on hand for that single rare moment that calls for them. Certain applications need certain fonts; some come with fonts that duplicate those I already have; some install fonts without telling me. FOND IDs can conflict. Fonts can become corrupt. Then there's the problem of knowing what my fonts look like, and the arrangement of their characters: how do I type an omega in my Greek font, a thorn in my Old English font, or a pentagram in my dingbats font?
Since the dawn of the Mac, third-party utilities have promised to rescue us. A roster of classics like Suitcase, MasterJuggler, PopChar, KeyFinder, and TypeTools has marched across my desktop, and dozens of utilities have studded the firmament. Yet, despite my experimentation, none has possessed the ineffable rightness of a real solution, that quality that cries with the voice of truth directly into the drowsing ear of Apple Computer: "Like this, people! You should have implemented it like this!"
None, that is, until now.
A Real Solution -- Font Reserve, from DiamondSoft, promises to solve all these font problems with a single stroke, using a paradigm of brilliant simplicity. You give Font Reserve your fonts - all of them, except for the minimal few required by the System, Acrobat Reader, and the like. Font Reserve resolves ID conflicts, weeds out corruption, and associates bitmaps with their PostScript partners. It acts like a database, listing your fonts sorted, filtered, and in subsets. It also functions as the control center from which you view fonts and dictate which are available to the system.
I was excited when I saw Font Reserve demonstrated back in January, and have been panting for its release ever since. With version 1.0.1, which fixes some 1.0 bugs and runs on both PPC and 68K machines, Font Reserve has finally arrived. It's not perfect, but it's a magnificent product and I look forward to its continued evolution.
The Vault -- The heart of Font Reserve is the "vault," a folder where Font Reserve organizes and manages fonts. This notion seems scary, but there's no danger. The vault is invisible by default, but you can make it visible; you can keep it anywhere; and it need not hold font originals - its contents can be copies or aliases.
In home use, you will probably first have Font Reserve copy your fonts; then, once you trust it, you will probably delete the originals. There's no need for multiple copies, and since the problem was that you couldn't organize your fonts, why not let Font Reserve organize them for you?
In a networked environment where multiple users need the same fonts, using aliases might be preferable; the fonts can live on a central server, the aliases take less space on each user's disk, and a new feature makes it possible to "export" a master version of the vault to other networked users. Boy, I wish we'd had this when I worked on the magazine.
The door to the vault is not one-way: you can always copy fonts outside the vault. That's valuable, because fonts used in a particular job might have to ship with it to a service bureau or be archived with it.
Also, when Font Reserve opens a font (makes it available to the system), it doesn't open the copy in the vault; instead, it creates and opens a copy of that copy. Thus, even if an accident were to corrupt an open font, the contents of the vault would be unaffected. This approach also keeps your open files count low, because Font Reserve stuffs the copies of fonts it opens into a small number of suitcases.
What You Get -- Font Reserve is a set of applications, the most important being the one you're least conscious of - Font Reserve Database, which operates upon the vault and opens and closes fonts. It's a faceless background application, and runs all the time (unless you turn it off), thanks to an alias in the system's Startup Items folder. Its suggested RAM size is 3,000K, a likely deterrent for some potential users. Still, I'm glad it's an application rather than an extension: the system remains stable, and if you start up with extensions off you can still run Font Reserve Database and access your fonts.
Since Font Reserve Database is faceless, other applications provide its interface. One of these, actually called Font Reserve, masquerades as a control panel but is an ordinary application; here you start and quit the database, toggle the vault's visibility and change its location, and perform configuration tasks.
Font Reserve Browser is your window on the vault; here you examine your fonts and turn them on and off. The Browser window has two panes, one for sets and one for individual fonts. Sets are groupings of fonts that you create; they display like a folder list in the Finder, and they behave like folders of aliases - a font can belong to any number of sets or to none. You can turn on or off all a set's fonts at once, or drag a set to a Finder window to copy of all its fonts.
You add fonts (or folders or volumes containing them) to the vault by dragging and dropping them into the Browser's window - either into the lower pane, to add them individually, or into the sets panel to create a set automatically. (If that's too much trouble, you can instead drag & drop onto aliases of two utilities, DropFont and DropSet.) A dialog lets you confirm how you want the dropped originals treated; the fonts are then examined and filed in the vault. A downside to adding fonts is that when Font Reserve encounters "problem" fonts (such as corrupt fonts or PostScript fonts without bitmaps), no dialog notifies you; you must check the log later. The log itself is uninformative when non-problem fonts are added, in that it doesn't list their names.
In the Browser window's lower pane, every line is a font. Information displayed can include a font's name, foundry, type, label, owner, and more (owners and labels are user-configurable settings). You can sort on these categories, and generate filters based on them, plus you can filter alphabetically; thus, you have extensive power to limit and arrange the fonts listed in the window.
The Browser window is also where fonts are turned on and off. A font may be turned on permanently or temporarily, meaning that the font will or won't open automatically when the computer and Font Reserve restart.
You also use the Browser window to learn about fonts. Command-clicking a font's icon pops up a large display of its name in that font. Double-clicking a font's icon opens a preview window where you can get data about a font, see its character set, read paragraphs in that font, view short samples and different sizes, and more. All this is highly user-configurable, though I hope preview windows in future versions remember their size and position.
The Font Reserve Browser interface is wonderful. It consists of a single window (listing the fonts) and sometimes a second (the preview window); but both windows, and especially the former, are splendidly designed - the sort of thing that gives one heart about the Mac interface, proving it remains vital and capable of new constructive and intuitive uses.
Suitcase Horror -- A major part of my personal font hell is the inconvenience of font suitcases. Font Reserve not only fails to save me, it increases that inconvenience. I regard this as a major flaw.
For instance, the Browser represents all members of a FOND family as a single font, providing no way to learn what fonts the family really contains. Thus, if the vault contains TrueType fonts for Palatino, Palatino Italic, and Palatino Bold, plus some corresponding bitmaps in various sizes, the Browser shows just one listing - Palatino. The only way to discover the facts is to dig around in the vault (something the manual boasts you will never have reason to do), find the suitcase(s) in question, and look inside.
You cannot drop a TrueType font onto the Browser - it must be in a suitcase first, and Font Reserve does nothing to help you make one. (I was told this would be fixed in version 1.0.2, though.)
Font Reserve does not accept non-fonts, such as FKEYs and sounds, even when disguised in font suitcases. But since Font Reserve is incompatible with utilities I was using to handle such entities (Suitcase or Carpetbag), I am forced to disguise them as font suitcases and put them in the System Folder's Font folder. In other words, Font Reserve replaces my utilities without taking over all their duties, which is impolite.
Other Quibbles -- Members of different FOND families which are in fact related are sometimes treated as separate families: Mishawaka and Mishawaka Bold, for instance, aren't paired correctly. (Possibly that's because they're bitmaps; in general, Font Reserve seems antipathetic to bitmaps that aren't paired with PostScript fonts.)
Font Reserve has no facility (such as Suitcase has) for opening fonts in response to the launch of a certain application. That's a pity, because some applications require particular fonts. The exception is QuarkXPress, for which an XTension is provided that scans a document as it opens and tells Font Reserve to load the requisite fonts.
Font Reserve makes extensive use of invisible files at the root level of your hard disk. That's poor Mac citizenship. There's a proper place for temporary invisible files (the Temporary Items folder), and non-temporary files should be visible. Font Reserve isn't scriptable, which seems silly since communications with the database are entirely via Apple events. I'd also like to see Font Reserve add printing, perhaps for printing a list of font names or better a sample of each font. As a final quibble, I'd like DiamondSoft to mention Relauncher (an application that comes with Font Reserve) in the manual.
Conclusion -- Although I think Font Reserve has room for improvement, it's a delightful concept, beautifully implemented. I'm happy it's here to replace the font utilities I used before. The first time I ran it, it identified font corruption problems which had plagued me, and it has run trouble-free ever since. For home use, I recommend it from personal experience; for a corporate setting, I would recommend it as well.
Font Reserve requires System 7.5 or later. It conflicts with other font managers such as Suitcase and ATM Deluxe, but works with utilities such as TypeTamer and standard ATM. From DiamondSoft directly, Font Reserve costs $119.95 for the electronic version; add another $20 to purchase it on CD with a printed manual; note discounts on purchasing multiple copies.
DealBITS -- Cyberian Outpost is offering Font Reserve for $109.95 to TidBITS readers, a $5 discount off Cyberian's normal price.
DiamondSoft -- 415/381-3303 -- 415/381-3503 (fax)
by Rick Holzgrafe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Part one of this article (see TidBITS-395) focused on two items from my list of seven "Ps" that shareware authors need to consider: Product and Patience. The second installment covered the third P, Polish (see TidBITS-398). This week, I'm continuing with the P that is often the most difficult aspect of shareware publishing: Pay Up. Next time, I'll finish with Propagation, Promotion, and Politics.
The Fourth P: Pay Up -- Sad but true: most people don't pay shareware fees without incentive. I believe most people are honest - but I also believe most people are lazy and forgetful. Nothing's easier to forget than an unpleasant task, and bill-paying is high on everyone's List of Unpleasant Tasks.
Pay Up: Crooks, Solid Citizens, and Mouse Potatoes -- In my mind users fall into three groups. Crooks won't pay if they can avoid it. I don't waste much thought on them: thieves should be stopped or punished, but it's difficult to do either with regard to shareware. Solid Citizens pay every shareware fee promptly, or else throw out the product - no incentives needed. I don't waste much thought on them either, except for an occasional thankful thought that such people exist.
Those in the middle I call "Mouse Potatoes." These are basically honest folks who need a little help in order to be as good as Solid Citizens. At bill-paying time their minds are on the mortgage, the kids' tuition, and the auto insurance - not on the delightful game they'll play after they finish the bills. These are the people you can influence, and who will pay if you make it easy and attractive. Here are some techniques:
Pay Up: Reminders -- "Nagware" is software that reminds you to pay. Typically all it does is nag. It doesn't deny any functionality to unpaid users - it just tries to annoy them into paying. After paying, the user receives a way to stop the nagging.
Nagware can be effective. A number of successful products use it, such as Peter Lewis's Anarchie and NetPresenz, as well as my Solitaire Till Dawn. In fact Anarchie and Solitaire Till Dawn rely completely on the user's honesty: anyone can turn off nagging by clicking a checkbox in the Preferences window labeled "I Paid," whether they paid or not. This works because so many people are honest but forgetful. It may take them months or years to pay their fees, but they won't commit the dishonest act of clicking the "I Paid" button until they've sent their payments.
Pay Up: Incentives -- Another technique is to offer the user something valuable for paying. Usually this takes the form of "crippleware," a program that runs in a semi-functional demo mode until the user pays. Once registered, the user gets access to the full product, perhaps via a password, a special FTP site, or even by receiving the fully functional version via floppy disk or email.
Another incentive is to offer an add-on or bonus - a printed manual, a disk of goodies, another program - after payment is received.
If you sell crippleware, be prepared for some battles. If your product is popular, some criminal will immediately hack it so its full functionality is available for free. Or, someone may post one of your passwords. Any goodies you send to paying users will eventually show up on pirate bulletin boards. There are ways to wage these battles; if you relish combat, then good luck to you. My belief is that criminals won't pay no matter what you do; battling them wastes time. Put your effort into improving your product and convincing mouse potatoes to pay.
This philosophy doesn't mean the crippleware approach is bad. It works well on mouse potatoes because crippleware is even more annoying and inconvenient than nagware. Most top-selling shareware products I know of are crippleware. Just remember it won't thwart determined pirates, so don't spend all your effort trying to bullet-proof your protection schemes. Find a middle road that will influence mouse potatoes without annoying users who have paid. (Hell hath no fury like a paid user who is denied service because both he and the product have forgotten his password.) Remember that you have to send passwords to every paying customer, and deal with calls and mail from users who have forgotten their passwords. Design a system that will minimize effort and grief for both you and your customers.
For an excellent discussion of various incentives, their effectiveness, and their cost to the developer, see Kee Nethery's discussion of "hookware."
Pay Up: Make It Easy -- In my first few years, I required customers to pay in either U.S. cash or a check in U.S. dollars drawn on a U.S. bank. It was (and is) too expensive for me to convert foreign currency. I would have liked to take credit cards, but if you're a hobbyist it's hard to talk a bank into treating you the same way they treat a merchant with a storefront. This meant that to pay me, people had to write a letter and usually a check. That doesn't sound like much effort, but it's a stopper for a lot of folks. Foreign customers were worse off - it's no simpler for them to get American currency than for me to cash foreign currency.
Then Kagi came to my rescue. Kagi is a company that handles payments for shareware authors (among others). My customers send payments to Kagi, and Kagi sends me a lump-sum check each month, minus a few percent for themselves and for bank fees.
This is great for my customers. Kagi provides a small program to include with my product, giving users an order form. They can pay with a U.S. check, currency from over a dozen major nations, by credit card, or other options. If they pay with paper, they just print the form and send it to Kagi with their payment. If they choose credit card or an electronic form of payment, they can fax or email their information.
When I started using Kagi, my sales increased by 50 percent. (Kagi doesn't promise this benefit and some Kagi clients haven't seen it, but many have.) Kagi makes it possible for customers to pay on the spur of the moment without messing with money or stamps. Kagi isn't the only firm offering such services, and I encourage you to explore options. I recommend Kagi highly - and no, I'm not paid for bringing them clients!
[In our next installment, Rick will discuss more keys to shareware success.]
[Rick Holzgrafe has programmed for a number of well-known Silicon Valley firms when he's not crafting shareware products.]
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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