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Steve Jobs took the stage at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference this week to announce Mac OS 8.6, a free upgrade to owners of Mac OS 8.5. Geoff Duncan looks at the upgrade's new features, bug fixes, and groundwork for Apple's future plans. Also in this issue, Adam explains how everyone subscribed to Internet mailing lists can improve the utility of those lists with minimal work, and we note new G3 Series PowerBooks and Conflict Catcher 8.0.5.
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PowerBook G3s Get Thinner, Lighter, Faster -- Mobile Mac users with sore shoulders will be happy that Apple announced a thinner, lighter successor to the current PowerBook G3 Series at this week's World Wide Developer Conference. Sharing the existing model's design but measuring only 1.7 inches deep, the new laptop weighs as little as 5.9 pounds with one battery and a CD-ROM drive installed. The new PowerBook G3 Series (which doesn't feature a name change, adding new levels of confusion when trying to describe the different models) will be available in two configurations. The high-end model features a 400 MHz G3 processor with 1 MB of backside cache, a 6 GB hard disk, and a DVD-ROM drive; the 333 MHz version includes 512K of backside cache, a 4 GB hard disk, and a CD-ROM drive. Both variations include 14.1-inch active matrix screens, 64 MB of RAM, ATI Rage LT Pro video controllers with 8 MB of video memory, built-in 10/100Base-T Ethernet, and 56K modems. One significant change is the presence of two USB ports, replacing the ADB and serial ports in earlier models; unlike Apple's other USB-equipped Macs, a SCSI port is still standard issue. The new PowerBooks also benefit from the use of a 50-watt-hour lithium-ion battery, which Apple claims provides up to five hours of use. Pricing for the 400 MHz model will start at $3,500, while the 333 MHz machine will start at $2,500, with both available beginning 20-May-99. [JLC]<http://www.apple.com/powerbook/>
Conflict Catcher 8.0.5 Ready for Mac OS 8.6 -- Casady & Greene has released Conflict Catcher 8.0.5, complementing Apple's release of Mac OS 8.6. (See Matt Neuburg's review of Conflict Catcher 8 in TidBITS-446.) Conflict Catcher 8.0.5 updates Conflict Catcher's Clean-Install System Merge feature so it will move your extensions, preferences, fonts and other custom items into a freshly installed version of Mac OS 8.6. Version 8.0.5 also updates Conflict Catcher's file sets for Mac OS 8.6, adds new file definitions to its reference library, and improves support for non-U.S. versions of the Mac OS. Conflict Catcher 8.0.5 is a free update to owners of Conflict Catcher 8. [GD]
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of mailing lists. I both subscribe to and operate a number of lists on many topics, and I spend much of my day communicating professionally and personally in these discussion groups.
And yet, I'm troubled by behaviors I see in most lists. Many people pay little attention to spelling, grammar, and the basic composition of their messages, post pointless notes, and bulk up replies by quoting complete originals and appending huge signatures. How you write in email - especially in public places like mailing lists - affects how other people regard you, your opinions, and your knowledge. Think of it this way: if mailing list messages were a reflection of personal hygiene, you don't want to come across to others like you need a shower, clean clothes, and a haircut.
Here then are the main behaviors that I would encourage for all mailing list participants. If you're as bothered by the problems in mailing lists as I am, feel free to refer others to this article for advice. You can link to it permanently at this URL:
Write Carefully -- I realize that I risk sounding like a pedant here, but in cases like this, I don't care. Writing skills in the general Internet populace stink, which means you can make yourself look even more intelligent and thoughtful than you are by writing well. Good writing isn't difficult, and requires only grammatical sentences and proper spelling. You don't need to be a professional writer or be able to make words flow trippingly off the tongue.
You should also follow a few basic rules when writing email:
Quote Sparingly -- One of my peeves with mailing lists is that people seldom delete unnecessary quoted text in their replies, with the worst being people who reply to a message in a digest and quote the entire digest. Quoting sparingly does require manual work, since most email programs automatically quote the original message in replies. But failing to edit the original wastes everyone's time and bandwidth.
In some email programs, you can select some text in the original message, press a keyboard shortcut, and have only that text appear quoted in the reply. (Eudora for the Macintosh does this with its Command-Shift-R shortcut.) Other email programs assume that replying with some original text selected means you want to quote only that text.
Especially problematic are email programs that quote an original message by appending it to the bottom of the reply with no quote marks in front of each line. That prevents inline replies, since there's no easy way to differentiate original and new text, so users of those programs tend to leave the entire original hanging off the end of the reply. That's fine in private messages, but in mail destined for a list, it's just sloppy. Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is to switch to a different email program
Avoid Junk Messages -- Another complaint about people's behavior on mailing lists revolves around "junk" messages. I'm not talking about spam, since spammers aren't constructive members of a mailing list. Instead, junk messages fall into the following categories:
Unsubscribe messages mistakenly sent by subscribers who didn't read (or locate) the instructions for leaving the list. Every list goes to lengths to simplify the process of signing off, and yet a large number of people still send unsubscribe messages to the list itself. Read and save the welcome message you receive when you subscribe to a list, then refer to it when you want to unsubscribe.
Me-too posts sent by well-meaning list members replying only to convey that they agree with a message or had a similar experience. A Web-based poll is a better way to take votes on a topic.
Welcome messages that appear when someone new joins the list. No one on a mailing list needs to read "Glad to have you on the list!" from everyone; send such messages to the new member in private mail.
Congratulation messages that appear after a member of the list has mentioned some milestone or personal triumph. Again, send these in private email.
The moral of the story is simple: Avoid sending junk messages to a list. They're easy to identify as you type - just ask yourself if the message would be of interest to the majority of the mailing list. If not, that doesn't mean your message is worthless: the original sender might appreciate being welcomed or congratulated via private email.
Write Descriptive Subjects -- When you receive messages from a mailing list, the first thing you see is the subject line. Which of these subject lines would you rather see on a mailing list devoted to, say, tropical fish?
wondering Recommendations for fish that can live with cichlids
Unless your telepathic powers are better than mine, the first subject line tells you nothing. So, the first rule of subject lines is to make them descriptive.
Another problem affects primarily digest readers. They see an interesting message and want to reply, but when they do so, their email program uses the subject line of the digest (Tropical Fish Digest #251) rather than the subject of the message. That leads to messages being sent to the list with useless subject lines, since the title of the digest is rarely descriptive. There's no good solution to this problem, although two mediocre workarounds exist.
Copy the subject line from the message to which you're replying and paste it into your reply's subject line, prefixing it with "Re:". This is effort well spent.
Have the digest sent as a MIME digest and use an email program like Eudora Pro that can separate the digest into individual messages in a mailbox. The problem goes away then, but, for some people, so does the point of receiving the digest version of a list.
Sometimes you want to reply to a message but change the topic of discussion. When you do that, you should change the subject line; if you don't, people following the thread will be confused when your message doesn't match its subject. Some people (and some programs) indicate when they've changed a subject line by appending "(was <the original subject>)" to the new subject. That's acceptable but results in long and unwieldy subject lines that work badly in list archives.
On the other side are people who change the subject lines on every message they send. That's equally problematic, since it prevents list members from reading (or sorting) messages that are related by a shared subject line.
If you create descriptive subjects, maintain the correct subjects if you're a digest reader, and change subjects only when appropriate, you'll be well on your way to being admired as a paragon of list etiquette.
Use Short Signatures -- My final gripe about mailing list postings is that many people have long signatures at the end of their messages. Email signatures are useful, but mailing list signatures should be kept to a minimum. This is especially true for lists that have digests because the signatures can take up a significant portion of the digest. For instance, messages with long signatures sent to the moderated Info-Mac Digest are rejected with a note asking the person to resend with a shorter signature.
Many email programs let you switch between multiple signatures, but you have to remember to do so for each message. There's a trick you can use in Eudora Pro (but not Eudora Light) to switch signatures automatically when you're replying to messages that come from mailing lists. Follow these steps:
In the Signatures window create a shortened signature for use with mailing lists called "Short signature." Your name, affiliation, email address, and URL are all that is essential.
In the Personalities settings panel, create a personality called "Mailing list signature." Fill in the Real Name and Return Address fields, and select the "Send mail whenever sends are done" checkbox. All the other fields can be blank, and the checkboxes related to checking mail should be deselected.
Switch to the Personality Extras settings panel, leave the Stationery pop-up menu set to None, and choose Short signature from the "Signature when not using stationery" pop-up menu. Click OK to save your personality settings.
Open the Filters window. In filters that move messages from mailing lists into specific mailboxes, add a Make Personality action, and from the Personality pop-up menu, choose "Mailing list signature."
You've created a signature for use with mailing lists, connected it with a specific personality that differs from your dominant personality only in the default signature setting, then created a filter that automatically assigns that personality to incoming messages from mailing lists. Now, whenever you reply to a message from a mailing list, Eudora Pro knows to use your mailing list personality and thus your mailing list signature. You'll still have to choose your mailing list signature manually when sending a new message to a list, but all replies will use it automatically.
Ridin' that High Horse -- I freely admit that there's nothing new in this article (well, except maybe the Eudora tip above). These recommendations have been floating around the Internet as long as there has been an Internet. The sad fact is, though, that mailing list manners haven't improved with time.
So why can I complain? Two reasons. First, I think it's important that this topic, old as it is, remains in the public eye. Second, I do the work every day to create a mailing list that tries to conform to all the recommendations above. In TidBITS Talk, I do the following to every message:
Basic editing and spell checking, which is significantly eased by Eudora Pro 4.2's inline spell checker. I also add blank lines between paragraphs, add angle brackets to URLs, and remove styled text.
Eliminate unnecessary original text in replies. This task is quite easy, since wholesale deletions take little time.
Reject junk messages. Most mailing lists aren't moderated, but eliminating junk messages, or even multiple identical answers to the same question, is a major advantage of moderation.
Normalize subject lines. I try to keep similar messages in threads and break new thoughts out into new threads. This work also improves the quality and coherence of our archive database.
Signature pruning. Since I'm already editing messages, it's little extra work to trim signatures to their essentials.
I do all this work because I think it makes for a far better list experience, and highly positive feedback from the members of the TidBITS Talk list confirms this. Another advantage is that this work tends to keep the list volume down, since I'm less likely to post messages that require a lot of work to clean up.
I'm not trying to be smug - I love it when I can post submissions to TidBITS Talk without a lick of work. I also don't expect most other people who run mailing lists to expend this level of effort (though I wouldn't complain if some did). Instead, my goal here is to educate people who participate in mailing lists, since only by improving our list manners will mailing lists continue to become increasingly pleasant and useful.
by Geoff Duncan <email@example.com>
Today at Apple's annual World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple Interim CEO Steve Jobs announced the immediate availability of Mac OS 8.6. Mac OS 8.6 is an incremental update to the Macintosh operating system that introduces some new features and capabilities, addresses a number of known problems, and lays a foundation for future Macintosh models. Mac OS 8.6 has the same system requirements as Mac OS 8.5: any Macintosh system that originally shipped with a PowerPC processor and that has at least 24 MB of RAM.
Obtaining & Installing Mac OS 8.6 -- Mac OS 8.6 is available in two forms: a retail CD-ROM and a free online Mac OS 8.6 Update for Mac OS 8.5 owners. The CD-ROM should be available shortly from Apple for $99 (and at lower prices from other vendors); people who purchased a computer with Mac OS 8.5 pre-installed can obtain Mac OS 8.6 on CD-ROM for $19.95 through Apple's Mac OS Up-To-Date program.
Apple's servers also offer the free Mac OS 8.6 Update, which will upgrade any system running Mac OS 8.5 to Mac OS 8.6. The download is substantial, either as a single 35 MB disk image or as a series of 12 MacBinary segments. The Mac OS 8.6 Update is currently available only for the North American English version of Mac OS 8.5; localized versions should be released in coming weeks.
Installing the Mac OS 8.6 Update is straightforward: the installer offers no custom installation options, so updating from Mac OS 8.5 is an all-or-nothing proposition. As with any installation of system software, common sense dictates that you perform a complete backup of your system before installing Mac OS 8.6. You should also disable any virus protection software and Norton CrashGuard (if installed) before updating to Mac OS 8.6.
If you have an iMac you may need to install the iMac firmware update before installing Mac OS 8.6; the installer won't work if your machine's firmware isn't up to date. The iMac firmware update will be in the CD Extras folder on the retail Mac OS 8.6 CD-ROM; the 1.2 MB update is also available online from Apple for free. In addition, if you have an Ultra Wide SCSI card, you should check with the card's vendor before installing Mac OS 8.6; some older cards need a firmware update to work with Mac OS 8.6.
Getting Ready for Team Play -- Some of the most important changes in Mac OS 8.6 are invisible. Apple has re-implemented some lower levels of the Macintosh system software to support full symmetric multiprocessing. Current applications run under Mac OS 8.6 without any changes, but future applications can take advantage of new multiprocessing services to enhance their performance significantly on systems that have more than one CPU chip.
Although Apple hasn't made any official announcements, it's safe to assume Apple didn't engineer full multiprocessor support into the Mac OS solely to support the handful of older systems with multiple processors. In coming months, Apple is likely to announce new computers built around PowerPC G4 processors, which have been designed with both single- and multi-processor systems in mind. Although I wouldn't expect an iMac with multiple processors any time soon, Apple is likely to offer multiprocessor systems at the high end of the professional and server lines. Mac OS X, built on technologies acquired with NeXT, already supports symmetric multiprocessing; now applications developed for the Mac OS will be able to take advantage of multiprocessor systems as well.
News You Can Use -- Other changes in Mac OS 8.6 are more obvious, including Sherlock 2.1, an enhanced version of the lauded search tool that debuted with Mac OS 8.5. Sherlock 2.1 offers better support for SOCKS and proxy servers (including the capability to limit the number of network connections Sherlock uses when connecting to Internet search sites), and also offers a resizable Internet panel, so users no longer have to use ResEdit or apply patches to resize their list of Sherlock plug-ins. Sherlock 2.1 uses the Mac OS's new built-in URL Access technology to connect to the Internet, which changes a few things about how Sherlock communicates with remote servers. Most existing Sherlock plug-ins will work with Sherlock 2.1 with no changes.
Sherlock's Find By Content feature can now index HTML and Acrobat PDF files, and you can use Finder labels to restrict indexing either to items with a particular label or to all items except those with a particular label. In addition, a new contextual menu item enables you to index a particular folder: Control-click a folder, then choose Index Selection from the contextual menu.
Mac OS 8.6 also includes LaserWriter 8.6.5 and version 1.2 of the Desktop Printer Utility. LaserWriter 8.6.5 is a significant upgrade that supports logging both print jobs and font utilization, enables you to set a preference for using either Type 1 or TrueType fonts, and can force fonts to be downloaded to a printer. In addition, LaserWriter 8.6.5 supports USB-based PostScript printers, and Desktop Printer Utility enables you to create desktop printers for either USB printers or printers you connect to over TCP/IP networks using the LPR protocol. Finally, LaserWriter 8.6.5 supports secure printing connections with print servers under AppleShare IP 6.1 or later (although it obviously can't prevent someone from reading your document while rummaging through a printer's output tray).
DVD-RAM support gets a boost in Mac OS 8.6, enabling folks with DVD-RAM drives to format DVDs as Mac OS Standard (HFS), Mac OS Extended (HFS Plus), Universal Disk Format (UDF), or MS-DOS volumes. The MS-DOS option is available only the first time you format a DVD-RAM disk; subsequent formats must use a Macintosh format or UDF. Starting up from a DVD-RAM drive is not supported, so although you could install system software to a DVD-RAM disk, it wouldn't do you much good.
One under-the-hood addition I'm especially happy to see in Mac OS 8.6 is URL Access, a low-level component that allows programs to transfer information to and from the Internet using HTTP or FTP. I'll look at putting URL Access to work in an upcoming TidBITS issue.
Newly Integrated & Newly Tweaked -- Mac OS 8.6 rolls in items that were previously available separately. Support for FireWire and USB devices is now integrated into the Mac OS installation, as is Game Sprockets, a collection of libraries that help game developers and better enable Macs to support game controllers. Mac OS 8.6 also includes Macintosh Runtime for Java 2.1.1, although Apple recently released MRJ 2.1.2 to address several issues in earlier versions. Mac OS 8.6 ships with QuickTime 3.0.2 but does not include QuickTime 4.0; preview releases are available from Apple.
A few items receive touch-ups in Mac OS 8.6, including AppleScript 1.3.7 (which fixes a few minor bugs and adds Navigation Services capabilities, but doesn't address some long-standing issues) and the AppleShare client. If you're connected to an AppleShare server that goes offline, the alert dialog warning you of that fact is now dismissed after two minutes, and the AppleShare client creates a file on your desktop called AppleShare Server Messages containing the text of the alert.
Mac OS 8.6 includes Open Transport 2.0.3, which fixes several potential problems with DHCP, including a possible crash when acquiring an IP address and connectivity problems with some cable modems and DSL connections. (Also, the AppleTalk control strip module now reliably turns AppleTalk on and off.) Apple has also fixed a long-standing Ethernet problem in first-generation PCI-based Macs and Macintosh clones that could shut down all networking under heavy TCP/IP network loads. These machines may be more reliable as Web, mail, and backup servers under Mac OS 8.6 than under previous systems.
Mac OS 8.6 also includes PlainTalk 1.5.4, which supports 44.1 KHz sound input sources, adds support for the iMac's built-in microphone, and now correctly restores the sound input source when shutting down speech recognition. Also, at long last, the Keyboard control panel now sports a pair of Dvorak keyboard layouts.
The built-in Mac OS HTML help engine has also been updated, although the changes aren't noticeable to users. Apple is finally working on allowing other developers to use Apple's Help Viewer for HTML-based online help, so other programs should start using HTML-based help via Apple's Help Viewer soon.
Finally, Mac OS 8.6 includes Pacific Tech's Graphing Calculator 1.1, which can rotate graphs in three dimensions, use different colors, and even impose an arbitrary image on 3D surfaces. The Graphing Calculator had gone essentially unchanged since 1994, but I still use it to demonstrate Macs - and even occasionally to do math. Version 1.1 of Graphing Calculator adds some fun features - I immediately pasted a photo of one of my cats over an oddly modulating surface - so it's once again a great tool for showing off the Macintosh. Version 1.1 doesn't offer all the capabilities of the commercial edition of Graphing Calculator, currently at version 2.2 and available for $50 - you can check out a demo at Pacific Tech's Web site.
A Few Gotchas -- Although additional specific issues are bound to emerge over the next few weeks, here are a few issues with Mac OS 8.6 you should be aware of now.
If you use Connectix's Virtual PC, you must update to version 2.1.2 or higher to use it with Mac OS 8.6.
Owners of original Apple StyleWriters, the StyleWriter II, or StyleWriter 1200 should use the StyleWriter 1500 printer driver that comes with Mac OS 8.6 rather than the original driver for their printer.
Apple's language kits must be updated before they work with either Mac OS 8.5 or 8.6. If you're upgrading to Mac OS 8.6 from Mac OS 8.1 or earlier, use the Language Kit Updater for Mac OS 8.5; it's available on the Mac OS 8.5 CD-ROM (and will presumably be on the Mac OS 8.6 CD-ROM as well). As far as I can tell, the Language Kit Updater for Mac OS 8.5 is neither available online nor included in the free Mac OS 8.6 Update.
Some applications may need more memory under Mac OS 8.6 due to the way some system components are used. In most cases, giving these applications about 300K more memory via their Get Info windows should solve the problem.
Do You Need Mac OS 8.6? Any decision about upgrading to Mac OS 8.6 is, of course, up to the individual. If you need some of the new features in Mac OS 8.6 and aren't fazed by downloading many megabytes of data, Mac OS 8.6 should be a safe decision. I've had few compatibility or stability problems while using Mac OS 8.6, and the price is right. On the other hand, if none of Mac OS 8.6's new capabilities appeal to you and you're happy with your current system setup, don't feel compelled to upgrade right away - Mac OS 8.6 is a significant and worthwhile refinement over Mac OS 8.5 but doesn't offer profound new features.
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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