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If you're focusing on digital cameras this season, Arthur Bleich wraps up his overview of 1999's offerings for beginners. Also, Adam looks at the features - and ads - in Eudora's next release, plus introduces Crossing Platforms, a book for Mac users learning Windows and Windows users learning the Mac. We also note IBM's ViaVoice speech recognition product and updates to The Tilery, Anarchie, WebSTAR, and SoundJam MP, plus news of Macworld Expo SF 2000 events.
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Holiday Hiatus -- It's the Christmas holiday season here in the United States, which means that TidBITS is taking its yearly holiday break. We'll continue to post Macintosh news and new polls on our home page, and look for this year's TidBITS Gift Issue to arrive soon. The next regularly scheduled issue will roll out on 04-Jan-00. Please note that we'll be reconfiguring many of our servers during this break, so some services may be temporarily unavailable, particularly 16-Dec-99. [JLC]
IBM Ships ViaVoice Speech Recognition -- IBM has shipped ViaVoice for Macintosh, the first continuous speech recognition program available for the Mac OS. (IBM announced the product last July at Macworld.) The $80 ViaVoice includes a noise-cancelling headset microphone and requires a PowerPC G3 or G4 Macintosh introduced after August 1998 (233 MHz or faster), Mac OS 8.5.1 or later, 48 MB of RAM, and 200 MB of disk space. ViaVoice needs to be trained to an individual user's voice profile, but thereafter users can dictate text into its SpeakPad application, then transfer the spoken text to directly supported programs or another application via the clipboard.
Longtime TidBITS contributor Glenn Fleishman <email@example.com> has described his ongoing difficulties with ViaVoice in TidBITS Talk; possible early adopters might wish to read his experiences. Glenn did discover the lone Macintosh ViaVoice support person happened to be an Italian in Scotland. As Glenn put it, "So I'm on the phone to New York, transferred to Scotland, talking to an Italian person about standard English voice recognition. (The next line should be, "and a priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into my office.")" [ACE]
The Tilery 4.1 Improves Display Options -- Semicolon Software has released The Tilery 4.1, an update to its utility for switching between open applications by clicking on configurable tiles. The new version now remembers tile placement and sizes on different monitor resolutions, displays 32-bit true-color icons, and uses Navigation Services under Mac OS 8.5 and later. It also adds a Select New Original command for reassigning existing tiles. New users can use all the features of The Tilery 4.1 during a 30 day trial period, after which some features are disabled; shareware registration is $15. The Tilery is a 456K download. [JLC]
Anarchie 3.7 Rolls In Mac TCP Watcher -- Stairways Software has released Anarchie 3.7, its popular FTP and HTTP file transfer and Internet searching tool. (See "Anarchie (Pro) Continues to Rule" in TidBITS-448 for a review of version 3.0). Anarchie 3.7 includes a Watch menu which can generate a technical, low-level report on the status of your TCP connectivity and sports many functions from Stairways' earlier Mac TCP Watcher 2.0, which Anarchie now supersedes. Anarchie can now do DNS lookups; perform traceroutes to remote systems (so you can see the path packets are taking to and from another computer on the Internet ); perform ICMP, TCP, and UDP tests of remote systems, and display a list of all active and listening TCP connections on your Mac. Unfortunately, these new functions aren't scriptable or accessible via key commands, which is sure to frustrate frequent users. Anarchie 3.7 is free to registered users; otherwise the product is $35 shareware. Anarchie is a 1.4 MB download and requires System 7 and MacTCP 1.1 or later (System 7.5.5 and Open Transport 1.2 or later both recommended). [GD]
StarNine Ships WebSTAR Server Suite 4.1 -- StarNine Technologies has released WebSTAR Server Suite 4.1, the latest edition of its widely used collection of Mac OS Internet servers, including Web, email, FTP, Proxy, and directory services capabilities. Major new features in version 4.1 include full Mac OS 9 compatibility and an enhanced search engine which can serve as a Web crawler, indexing material available from any Web local disks as well as remote sites. WebSTAR Server Suite 4.1 also features a myriad of fixes and tweaks to its plug-ins, significant improvements to its FTP and email servers, and enhancements to its Web-based email interface. WebSTAR Server Suite 4.1 also ships with Active Concepts' Funnel Web 3.6 Lite log analysis tool, so WebSTAR users can more easily analyze their server usage and performance (Funnel Web 3.6 Lite is limited to 50,000 hits per report). WebSTAR Server Suite 4.1 is a free 8 MB downloadable update for owners of version 4.0. WebSTAR normally retails for $600, with discounts for upgrades, academic, and volume purchases; a 30-day demo version is also available from StarNine's Web site. [GD]
Free SoundJam 1.5 Update Improves MP3 Encoding -- Casady & Greene has released SoundJam MP 1.5, a free update to the company's popular MP3 player and encoder. SoundJam 1.5 offers numerous major improvements, with a focus on encoding capabilities, including variable bitrate (VBR) encoding (see "Making MP3s, Part 2" in TidBITS-505 for details), a "Faster" encoding mode, the option to play the converted track during encoding for real-time feedback on conversion quality, batch conversion of CDs, and better Internet streaming performance. SoundJam, which retails for $40 (electronic download) or $50 (physical format) requires at least a PowerPC 603 running at 100 MHz with Mac OS 7.6.1 or later. The update is a 1.6 MB download. [ACE]
Macworld Expo SF '00 Events List Online -- Ilene Hoffman has once again started up the Robert Hess Memorial Macworld Expo Events List. If you plan on attending Macworld Expo in San Francisco from 05-Jan-00 through 08-Jan-00 (note that the show extends to Saturday this year), check the list for public events and parties you might want to attend. If you're hosting an event at Macworld Expo, be sure to fill out the Macworld Event Submission Form. As always, we strongly encourage anyone planning an event to read our "Macworld Geek Party Guide" from TidBITS-415 for tips on how to throw a successful trade show party. [ACE]
Macworld SF Netter's Dinner 2000 -- Speaking of Macworld Expo, if you're interested in attending the annual Netter's Dinner, visit Jon Pugh's Netter's Dinner 2000 Web page for information and a link to the Kagi-based signup form ($17 per person) for the necessary pre-registration. It doesn't look like Jon will be able to attend this year, so I'll again be emceeing the dinner and performing the ritual raise-your-hands survey. We'll start gathering at 6:00 PM on Thursday, 06-Jan-00, at the top of the escalators inside Moscone on the south side of Howard Street. At 6:30, after we've all gathered, we'll make the traditional walk to the Hunan on Sansome and Broadway in an impressively large crowd. Space is limited to 300 people, so register early! [ACE]
Poll Preview: Digital Exposure Time -- This week's issue offers the second part of Arthur Bleich's article on digital cameras, and the polls will continue to follow along this week and next, with a special poll that will appear during the final week of the year. The question this week, then, is when did you (or do you) plan to buy a digital camera? Next week's question will narrow the topic even further, asking how much you paid for your camera. As always, visit our home page to vote. [ACE]
by Adam Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Qualcomm has released a public beta of Eudora 4.3 (limited to 250,000 users who fill out a survey), adding a few new features and eliminating the previous split between the free Eudora Light and the commercial Eudora Pro (see our "Eudora Pro 4.2" series for details on Eudora Pro's features). Although we normally don't report on beta software, the changes appearing in the next revision of Eudora mark an interesting shift from the way Eudora has been distributed in the past, and how it's dealing with pressures from free email clients such as Microsoft Outlook Express.
Once Eudora 4.3 is finally released in a few months, users will be able to select any of three operating modes - Light, Paid, and Sponsored - by choosing Payment & Registration from the Help menu. Paid mode isn't currently available in the beta since Qualcomm hasn't gotten the registration system online yet, and Light mode switches back to Sponsored mode after a restart in 4.3b10 - that will be fixed in the next beta.
Light mode is essentially an upgrade to the current Eudora Light, offering a reduced feature set for free.
Paid mode moves along the same lines as Eudora Pro, providing Eudora's full feature set for $50 (with a $10 rebate). Paid mode in the release version of 4.3 will be free to owners of Eudora Pro 4.2.
Sponsored mode, which is new to Eudora 4.3, combines the free price of Light mode with the full feature set of Paid mode, giving you the full power of Eudora Pro for no payment. The catch is that a 144 by 144 pixel advertising box displays a series of static ads that are visible at all times while you're in Eudora. Sponsored mode will be the default for the free downloadable version.
The addition of Sponsored mode is bound to raise controversy, since it is one of the first mainstream examples of advertising appearing outside of Web browsers. However, Sherlock has always displayed banner ads, and Sherlock 2 displays only ads from Apple or Apple partners - neither version offers a way to opt-out of the advertising, no matter how much money you pay Apple. Plus, Microsoft Outlook Express 5.0.1 for Windows reportedly displays advertising for users reading mail downloaded from Microsoft's advertising-supported Hotmail service.
Overall, though, I think this foray into advertising-supported software makes sense in a software industry increasingly driven by free software. Sponsored mode is merely an addition for Qualcomm - Eudora 4.3 still offers the equivalent of Eudora Pro and a significantly upgraded Eudora Light. So Eudora Pro 4.2 users gain a few new features for free. Eudora Light users gain a major upgrade for free. And if a new user doesn't feel like paying for Eudora but still wants all the features, Sponsored mode is there. After testing Eudora in Sponsored mode, I didn't find the ads particularly annoying - especially in comparison with many Web sites, because Qualcomm isn't accepting ads with animation or sound.
Other New Developments -- The main new feature in Eudora 4.3 is a History address book to which Eudora automatically adds the addresses of people whose address you type or to whose messages you reply. Names in the History address book work just like other nicknames you create, which simplifies sending mail to someone with whom you're having a discussion, but who otherwise isn't in your Address Book. Also new is a Link History window that tracks all the URLs you've visited, along with a variety of minor tweaks and bug fixes, including an indicator of the number of selected messages in the Size box and an undocumented feature that lets Eudora read and write specific settings to Internet Config even if connection to Internet Config is turned off. Just replace the setting with ««ICP»» (that's ICP surrounded by two double angle brackets on each side, which you get with Option-Backslash and Shift-Option-Backslash). This feature is useful for automatically switching SMTP server settings in Eudora when you switch locations with the Location Manager. Qualcomm also plans to add tools to import mail and addresses from other email programs before Eudora 4.3's official release in the first quarter of 2000.
System requirements for the Eudora 4.3 public beta include a PowerPC-based Mac (68K support is still under consideration) with 1,800K of RAM running System 7.1.2 or later with the Text Encoding Converter. The download weighs in at 5.9 MB for the Mac (or 7.5 MB for Windows, if you also use Eudora there). Note that this beta software: you use it at your own risk and with the understanding that you'll report problems to Qualcomm. In the interests of disclosure, also note that I wrote "Eudora for 4.2 Windows & Macintosh" from Peachpit Press.
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
It's been hard keeping this one under wraps, but for almost a year and a half now, I've been working on a truly neat project that's also been one of the hardest things I've ever done and, I hope, one of the most useful. Together with David Pogue (who you may know as the author of "Macs for Dummies" and the Desktop Critic column in Macworld magazine each month), I've written a new book called "Crossing Platforms: A Macintosh/Windows Phrasebook" (ISBN 1-56592-539-4, O'Reilly, 1999). The book lists for $29.95, but is readily available for less from most booksellers, including Amazon, with whom TidBITS has an affiliate program.
Understanding the Concept -- The book is essentially a translation dictionary, much like you'd use when travelling to look up a word in your native language to learn the corresponding word and pronunciation in some other language. You could also liken it to a language phrasebook that would tell you how to say, "Waiter! There's a dragon in my soup!" in another tongue. In this case, though, the languages in question are those of the Mac OS and Windows 95/98.
The translation dictionary approach is an unusual one for a book, but it fits perfectly with its target audience. Imagine that you're an experienced Macintosh user who has to start using Windows at work. You're neither stupid nor a novice, so straining useful information out of an introductory Windows book would be tedious at best. And if you're like the rest of us, you just want to get some work done without spending a lot of time reading. For instance, you might want to make an alias on a Windows machine and not even know that the Windows equivalent is called a shortcut. Look up "alias" under A in Crossing Platforms, and it will promptly identify the Windows equivalent as a shortcut, tell you how to make one, and explain the differences between Macintosh aliases and Windows shortcuts.
Alternatively, imagine that you've finally convinced a Windows-using friend or family member to buy a new iMac (joining the hundreds of thousands of other Windows users who've done so). You've set yourself up for Macintosh tech support for life, but what do you do when your new convert asks about the Macintosh equivalent to protocol components in the Windows Network control panel? You can quickly flip to the Windows side of the book, look up Network control panel under N, and see what the Macintosh equivalent is (and once you've been tipped off, explain how to set up the AppleTalk and TCP/IP control panels on the Mac). Or, of course, you could encourage your friend to get their own copy of the book so they can translate from Windows to the Mac on their own.
The Goals -- I wanted to write this book for a couple of reasons. First, despite misinformed comments about how Windows 95 was "just as good as" the Mac and some superficial similarities, the Mac OS and Windows are quite different, especially at a deep conceptual level. When I needed to use Windows to write about Windows versions of Internet programs, I found these conceptual differences quite annoying - I had come to Windows with the impression it would work more or less as I expected a Mac to work, and I was quickly disabused of that notion. So my first goal was to help Mac users avoid the frustrations I went through with things like trying to make my PC stop asking me to login at every startup.
Second, while working on Cary Lu's "The Race for Bandwidth" with Steve Manes, a columnist for Forbes who concentrates primarily on the PC world, I had numerous long discussions with Steve about things that bugged him about the Mac OS, coming at it as a PC user. I could generally fix his problem and explain why the Mac OS worked as it did, but I started to see how a PC user could find the Mac OS frustrating as well, and I tried in the book to explain the Mac so that Windows users will see the power, consistency, and flexibility of the Mac OS.
These two mindsets - a Mac user having to use Windows and a Windows user trying to learn the Mac - proved to be the focus of the discussions David and I had while working out the design of the book. And when I was writing each alphabetical chapter, I had to keep reminding myself which mindset I needed to use for each entry. Luckily, as the reader, all you need to know is which half of the book to use. If you're a Mac user learning Windows, use the first half. If you're a Windows user learning to use the Mac OS, stick with the second half.
Sample Material & Reviews -- To get more of a feel for the book, you can read the A chapters on O'Reilly's Web site. If you're interested in reviewing the book, interviewing me or David about it, or inquiring about discounts on bulk purchases (for departments whose Macs have been taken away, for instance), send me email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
by Arthur H. Bleich <email@example.com>
Is it finally time to buy a digital camera? The digital camera market is already several years old, early adopters are now old pros, and more people consider the switch to digital photography every day. In part one of this article, I asserted that this year really is the year to buy a digital camera, whether it's your first or a successor to an earlier model, and I offered a checklist of features that you should look for in the current crop. In part two, it's time to pull away the curtain and give you my list of best picks for beginners for this year.
If you want to see pictures of the digital cameras described below and check out a comparison chart that lists their features, click on over to my site, the Digital PhotoCorner.
The "Model A" of Digital Cameras -- The Fuji MX-1200 is the first-ever blister-packed digital camera, but don't let plain-clothes packaging put you off; this camera will deliver excellent pictures. Even though it doesn't have autofocus, its f-4.5 to f-11 lens (38 mm equivalent) will keep objects sharp over a large range and its top shutter speed of 1/750 second will stop most action. When you want to get in really close (like up to 4 inches), flip a switch to Macro mode. It has excellent low-light capabilities, a manual mode to control white balance and exposure compensation, five flash modes, and has about the easiest menu of any digital camera I've ever used. It's ready to go in about 2 seconds after you turn it on, and you can click off shots every 3 to 4 seconds. It's a good-looking digital camera, too, and will take 32 MB SmartMedia memory cards (4 MB included). The MX-1200 marks a defining moment in the history of digital cameras. Street price: about $250.
The Low Light Champion -- The Olympus D-450 Zoom has a 3x optical zoom lens, autofocus, and a fast shot-to-shot time of about one second thanks to its big buffer that stores shots as they're being processed. It includes a whole slew of features including video out, two light metering modes, and a choice of three ISO ratings: 160, 320, and 640. I've shot pictures with this digital camera at night where the camera recorded details I couldn't even see. It can also store uncompressed TIFF images, has a fast sequence mode of up to 2 frames per second, 5 flash modes, shutter speeds of 1/2 to 1/1000 second, and a fast f-2.8/f-8 lens which is needle-sharp. Olympus is one of the most experienced optical houses in the world and has been in the forefront of photographic innovation (including digital photography) for more than 80 years. A nice feature is that distances can be pre-set to capture fast action so the camera isn't slowed down by having to focus. If big prints are what you're looking for, this camera will deliver. Included are Adobe's PhotoDeluxe, Enroute Quick Stitch Panorama software, and an 8 MB Smart Media memory card. Street price: about $390.
Finally, Big Yellow Scores! The Kodak DC240 Zoom is one of the first Kodak digital cameras I found to be just right: solid and well built. Its shot-to-shot time is fast for the first two images, and then slows to a still-creditable four seconds or so between shots. But its simple and elegant controls and menus are where this charcoal and silver beauty excels. If you can't figure them out in less than five minutes, give up on digital cameras. In essence, Kodak has reverted to their roots in that you need only to push a few buttons and the camera does the rest. The LCD monitor is a bit grainy in low light and a tad jerky when you move it quickly from one scene to another, but since you're not shooting movies, it's tolerable. It has a 3x optical zoom, an aperture range of f-2.8 to f-16, shutter speeds of 1/2 to 1/755 second, and four flash modes. It also comes with four AA alkaline batteries so you can get going right away, while the included charger juices up the four NiMH rechargeable batteries that also come standard. Also supplied: an 8 MB Compact Flash memory card and Adobe's PhotoDeluxe and PageMill. For video out you can toggle between NTSC or PAL and, along with its standard serial port, the DC240 Zoom features USB. Street price: about $395.
A Voyeur's Dream Cam -- The Minolta Dimage EX1500 Zoom costs more than the others and will take you longer to learn to use, but it has one feature no other digital camera in the world (that I know of) offers: the entire lens assembly can be detached from the camera body and placed in any imaginable position you desire. A five foot optional cable allows you to hold the LCD monitor in a comfortable position while poking the lens around a corner, over a fence, or even into a hole in the ground. I found it great for cat photography; the small handheld lens part becomes very non-threatening and allows for some unusual angles. It does have a few quirks: the lens cuts slightly into the optical viewfinder's field of view at its widest setting; you have to open the battery compartment to insert or remove the memory card; and its LCD monitor is jerky when you move the camera to frame your scenes - all annoying, but not fatal. With a 3x optical zoom, f-3.5 lens, 1/4000 second shutter speed, five flash modes, a burst rate of up to 7.5 frames per second at high resolution, and its detachable lens feature, this is a one-of-a-kind digital camera. Street price: about $550.
The Scrunch Eliminator -- The Canon PowerShot A50 Zoom has a unique optical 2.5x zoom which, at its widest setting, it is the equivalent of a 28 mm lens on a 35 mm camera. Although most people crave more telephoto power, it's the wide end of the zoom that produces the most visually interesting shots, with great depth of field and dramatic spatial relationships between objects in the foreground and background. You can also get more of a crowd into the picture at close quarters without having them scrunch together. In its miniature brushed duraluminum case, it looks like it was designed not only to see, but to be seen. It has an f-2.6 lens, shutter speeds from 2 to 1/750 second, four flash modes, and is able to capture uncompressed images if you need the highest quality. It has an interesting feature that forces the camera to shoot at the slowest speed commensurate with good exposure which, among other things, will let you pan with a moving subject or object to keep them sharp while blurring the background. If you choose this digital camera, plan on spending another $80 or so for a kit containing a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery and a charger/AC power combination because it comes with only a disposable battery. Street price: about $325.
Hi-Res & Smokin' Fast -- The Toshiba PDR-M4 is the only 2.1 megapixel digital camera in this group. Alas, it doesn't have an optical zoom lens but it does have 2x digital one (which, unfortunately, lowers resolution when used). Nevertheless it's a speed demon: two seconds from power-on to ready, less than a second between shots, a burst-rate - at its highest resolution - of four shots in two seconds, and some super-slow shutter speeds (up to eight seconds) to allow great, special effects night photography. It's a mini-camera (the most compact of the group) and if you have big hands you'll have to adjust somewhat, but that's a small price to pay for the quality of images you'll get. The camera includes a Lithium-Ion battery which can be charged in-camera or with an optional external charger. (Put a spare battery on your shopping list, though, to have as a backup.) With an aperture of f-3.2 or f-8, a normal shutter speed range of between 1/4 and 1/1000 second, 4-inch macro capabilities, five flash modes, NTSC video out, and an 8 MB SmartMedia memory card included, this is quite a package for the price. It comes with both serial and USB. If you need super-high resolution and speed, and can forego the zoom lens, this little jewel could be a good choice. Street price: about $400.
A Digital Tomorrow Today -- All of the cameras above are good values with outstanding features and realistic prices: the flexibility of digital photography has finally come down to earth for a wide range of consumers.
[Arthur H. Bleich is a photographer, writer, and educator who lives in Miami. He has done assignments for major publications both in the U.S. and abroad and is currently Contributing Editor of Digital Camera Magazine.]
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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