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Looking for a new handheld? Palm's Tungsten T packs a lot of features into a tiny package, as you can read in Jeff Carlson's review. Plus, Adam reports on how our PayBITS experiment has fared so far. In the news, Apple published an important update for Power Macs with SuperDrives, released new PowerBook G4s with a SuperDrive and 1 GHz CPUs, and lowered prices on slightly enhanced iBooks. This week also marks the releases of Eudora 5.2 and ListSTAR 2.3.
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Mac OS X 10.2.2 Released -- Apple released the Mac OS X 10.2.2 update via Software Update late today, rolling in a number of bug fixes, improvements for both Apple's built-in programs and third-party applications, networking enhancements, and enhanced compatibility with other devices. (Apple's KnowledgeBase article includes a list of specific items addressed). The 24.4 MB update is for moving from Mac OS X 10.2.1 to 10.2.2; a separate combo updater is also available for those updating from 10.2 (though at press time, neither standalone updater was available from Apple's software downloads page). [JLC]
Apple Releases Power Mac SuperDrive Update -- Apple has posted an important update for owners of older SuperDrive-equipped Power Mac G4 computers (specifically, the Digital Audio, Quicksilver, or Quicksilver 2002 models, but not the Mirrored Drive Doors model, to use Apple's insipid model identification scheme). The Power Mac G4 SuperDrive Update corrects a problem in the drive's firmware that could cause the drive to overheat when using new 4x speed DVD media (for more details, see "Apple Posts Important iMac SuperDrive Update" in TidBITS-653). The update is currently available only under Mac OS X; Mac OS 9 versions will be posted shortly, according to Apple. [JLC]
Apple Enhances Titaniums and iBooks -- Just in time for the holiday feeding frenzy, Apple has updated the Titanium PowerBook G4 and iBook lines. The PowerBook G4 now offers either a Combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive or the first slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW), the ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 graphics processor, and a PowerPC G4 processor running at either 867 MHz or 1 GHz. The top-of-the-line 1 GHz model includes the SuperDrive and an AirPort card, along with 512 MB of RAM, a 60 GB hard drive, and 64 MB of DDR SDRAM graphics memory for $3,000, whereas the 867 MHz model drops the price to $2,300 by using a Combo drive, making the AirPort card optional, and shipping with only 256 MB of RAM, a 40 GB hard drive, and only 32 MB of DDR SDRAM graphics memory. Although it's interesting that Apple is now making the AirPort card standard equipment, Apple made no comment about improving the Titanium PowerBook G4's abysmal range with wireless networks. Nonetheless, the enhancements to the 1 GHz model should make it an even more attractive option for those who want to work only on a laptop without giving up options like the SuperDrive that were previously available only in desktop Macs. The 867 MHz model is available immediately; the 1 GHz model should be available in mid-November.
The changes to the iBook are less significant, though certainly welcome. Apple has increased processor speeds, so you can buy iBooks with either 700 MHz or 800 MHz PowerPC G3 processors, and the company also added the ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics controller, with either 16 MB or 32 MB of RAM. Prices have dropped as well, so an iBook with the smaller 12.1-inch screen, a 700 MHz PowerPC G3, 128 MB of RAM, a 20 GB hard drive, and a CD-ROM drive costs only $1,000. Add $300 for the next model up, which offers an 800 MHz PowerPC G3, a 30 GB hard drive, and a Combo drive. The larger 14.1-inch screen model costs $1,600, but provides an 800 MHz PowerPC G3, 256 MB of RAM, a 30 GB hard drive, and a Combo drive. AirPort cards can be added to any of the iBook models. All models of the iBook are available immediately. [ACE]
Eudora 5.2 Improves Filtering, Brings Back SSL -- Qualcomm has released Eudora 5.2, the latest version of their popular email program. The most important and welcome feature is that Eudora filters can now match addresses in incoming messages against the contents of address books; this lets you separate mail from people already in your address book from those with whom you haven't already corresponded, like spammers. The other major improvements relate to security; Eudora now supports Kerberos V Authentication, and the SSL support previously available under Mac OS 9 returns for users of Mac OS X 10.2. Eudora 5.2 also includes numerous other small changes and bug fixes, such as improved performance opening many windows, a help button added to all error dialogs and standard alerts, support for drag & drop to and from the Filters window, personality-specific x-eudora-settings (I've updated the full list of settings for 5.2; send email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> to receive a copy), carbonized Menu Sharing for compatibility with utilities like Web Confidential, support for importing Microsoft Entourage mailboxes by putting them in the Delivery folder, and more. Eudora 5.2 works under PowerPC-based Macs in Mac OS 8.1 through Mac OS 9 (a 4.4 MB download), and is native in Mac OS X (a 3.7 MB download). New copies of Eudora 5.2 cost $40 in Paid mode; upgrades from Eudora 4.3 through 5.1.1 cost $30 if that copy was purchased more than 12 months ago, and upgrades for purchases made in the last year are free. As always, you can use Eudora for free in Light mode (with reduced features) or Sponsored mode (with full features and ads). [ACE]
ListSTAR 2.3 Released -- MCF Software has released ListSTAR 2.3, the latest version of their flexible mailing list management software that works via SMTP or POP. The changes are relatively minor, though welcome, such as automatic renaming of services and address lists when creating new services via templates. Also improved is the Address List editor, which can now handle lists containing more than 32,000 addresses. ListSTAR requires a Mac with a 68030 CPU or better, and at least 4 MB of RAM. It runs in System 7.5 or later, including Mac OS 8 and 9, and Classic mode under Mac OS X. ListSTAR 2.3 costs $275 for new copies, and updates are either $69 (for ListSTAR 2.1 or earlier, or expired MCF Software keys) or free. Evaluation codes are available for the demo versions (10.9 MB for the SMTP version, 7.3 MB for the POP version). [ACE]
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
We're almost four months into PayBITS, our experiment with attempting to let readers acknowledge the actual value to them of specific TidBITS articles. Although none of our authors have retired on their proceeds from PayBITS, we've had only one article whose PayBITS performance would have been ignored had the money been lying on the sidewalk. More important, we've learned some lessons about how people value the content they read. Let's look at the PayBITS responses to recent articles (in rough chronological order) and see what each one tells us.
iPhoto Power Techniques and Upgrading the TiVo -- My article about techniques for using Apple's iPhoto appeared in the same issue as the PayBITS introduction, and, thanks to its practical content, did quite well, garnering 31 payments for $136.50. In the subsequent issue, TidBITS-644, I wrote an overview of the options available for increasing the disk space in the popular TiVo digital video recorder, focusing on the specific solution I chose, an upgrade kit from Weaknees.com. The PayBITS block asked if readers found the article useful and made a suggestion of a $1 amount. The combination of the low amount and freshness of the PayBITS idea resulted in the most payments any article has seen so far, 52 for a gross of $95.60. However, since most payments were for the suggested $1, and PayPal's transaction fees subtracted $0.31 cents from that $1, the net amount wasn't stunning.
The Branding of Apple -- Simon Spence's three-part article explaining and discussing Apple's efforts to create and maintain a strong brand finished up in TidBITS-645, the week after the TiVo upgrade article (we put PayBITS blocks only at the end of multi-part articles). Although Simon's article didn't offer tips or how-to information, it was lengthy, which probably increased the perceived value, and it did a good job of explaining a topic that most of us generally don't consider. It also benefited from being near the beginning of the experiment, and Simon received 25 payments totalling about $70.
Interesting Bits of Jaguar -- In the same issue as Simon's final article was my look at some of the smaller improvements in Mac OS X 10.2. Its timeliness and practical nature made it a good candidate for PayBITS. In an effort to decrease the percentage of the fees that went to PayPal, I worded the PayBITS block to suggest "a few bucks," which increased the payment amounts to the $2 to $5 range. Even though the article brought in only 43 payments, the gross amount was $196.50, helped out by a couple of larger payments between $10 and $25. Clearly this article hit the sweet spot.
A Slew of Reviews -- The next few weeks brought a number of reviews from Contributing Editor Matt Neuburg and Managing Editor Jeff Carlson. Initially, we were disappointed in their performance from the PayBITS perspective, since we'd thought readers might find reviews quite valuable. As you can see by the numbers below, however, only about four or five people found these reviews worth compensating the author, and the amounts generally ranged between $10 and $20.
Matt's review of Sciral's innovative task list manager Consistency attracted five payments for $12.
Jeff's look at a number of iPod cases brought him six payments for a total of $23.
Matt's review of Chaos Software's WorkStrip utility pulled in four payments for $14.
Jeff's review of the Handspring Treo 180 communicator garnered four payments for $8.
Finally, Matt's review and explanation of Eastgate Systems's text snippet keeper Tinderbox did the best, bringing him seven payments for $40 (although several of those explicitly commented that the payment was in part for all the other articles Matt has written over the years).
So why did reviews do so poorly? One possible problem is that no one can realize the value of a review until well after reading the article - the reader must read the review, decide the product is ideal for some situation, purchase it, and use it at least briefly. Only then can the user determine the value of the review, and that's too long for most people to remember. Plus, in some of these articles, the products in question were inexpensive, so it's likely that most people subconsciously weighed the value of the review against the low cost of making a mistake. Confusing that theory was the fact that the two products that were the most expensive, Tinderbox and the Treo, sat on either end of the spectrum, earning $40 and $8 respectively.
Marketing Software -- TidBITS-647 brought the conclusion of Mike Diegel's two-part article on marketing software, which I was confident would do fairly well because it was practical and could help a reader's business. Unfortunately, it attracted only three payments for $7, causing us to ponder what might have gone wrong. In retrospect, although I'm sure many people who didn't have software (or anything else) to market found the article interesting, the audience that would conceivably find actual monetary value in it - small software developers - is tiny. Apply the already extremely low PayBITS percentages to that reduced audience, and the poor results make sense.
Mailsmith Filtering and QuarkXPress Tips -- PayBITS didn't work well for the next two external authors in TidBITS-649 either. William Porter's two-part article on Mailsmith's distributed filtering brought in only four payments totalling $17. And David Blatner's collection of QuarkXPress 5 tips struck out, attracting no payments at all. William's article undoubtedly suffered from the limited audience problem - there simply aren't that many Mailsmith users compared to users of the bundled or free email programs, and cool though distributed filtering is, it's a bit geeky. Although David is the world's best-known QuarkXPress expert, he may have run into a similar problem, not because there aren't many QuarkXPress users, but because TidBITS doesn't focus on desktop publishing. Also problematic was the fact that the article failed to note that the tips applied equally well to the older but more-popular QuarkXPress 4. Plus, saying the tips were taken from David's QuarkXPress book may have encouraged people to reward David not directly, but by buying a copy of his book.
O'Reilly Conference Report and Troubleshooting Primer -- At this point, we were mulling the possibility that name recognition was important, since the articles I'd written had done the best, with Simon Spence's three-part branding article coming in second. That theory was dashed over the next few weeks, when my conference report from the O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference drew only a few payments (four payments for $16), and my troubleshooting primer brought in even fewer (two payments for $3).
With the conference report, I wasn't too surprised, because it would likely have been found valuable only by the small number of people for whom it confirmed their decision to attend next year's conference (assuming there is one) or not to spend what could have been several thousand dollars to attend this year.
The weak performance of the troubleshooting primer did surprise me, though, since it seemed like a helpful article, judging from the complimentary email feedback I received and the number of reprint requests. My guess is that it fared poorly because I said that the information came from the book Glenn Fleishman and I are sending to the printer this week, The Wireless Networking Starter Kit. It's likely many people figured they'd just buy the book when it comes out (something I certainly wouldn't argue with). The moral of the story may be that book authors writing for TidBITS can pick only one of two benefits - PayBITS payments or possible book sales.
Jaguar's Tabbed Windows and Mac OS X Report Card -- These two articles, which I wrote in TidBITS-649 and TidBITS-650, changed direction, asking people to contribute to TidBITS instead of compensating me directly. In both cases, I chose to direct payments to TidBITS in general because of the assistance of TidBITS Talk participants. It's difficult to map contributions in a given week directly to PayBITS, but the tabbed windows article seemingly attracted seven new contributors for a total of $215. The Mac OS X Report Card article performed similarly, attracting eight new contributors for a total of $150.
The number of payments was pretty much in line with other articles, but, the value was much higher. Even after sharing the proceeds with the other staff members, I earned more than I had from many other articles, and more important, a number of these people indicated a willingness to contribute every year. I do think the amounts are slightly inflated over the perceived value of the articles, since a number of people noted they paid more as a way of thanking us for years of publication.
iMac Blacked-Out Screens -- For his important article about how certain iMacs could be rendered unusable by installing Jaguar, Geoff also chose to direct payments to TidBITS as a whole. Although the potential audience was probably relatively small (only people who have those iMacs or help others who do), the extreme utility of the article resulted in it garnering 16 contributions for a total of $360.
Doing the Work of Three --We hadn't planned on including a PayBITS block after Derek Miller's tale of how he single-handedly published a daily conference newsletter with the aid of a Titanium PowerBook G4. Although it was a good story, little of it was likely to be useful, and we didn't see the potential value to readers. But after talking with Derek, we decided to test how PayBITS would perform on such an article. We specifically worded the PayBITS message to make the point of the article clear and joked about how he could buy his own PowerBook with the payments. Amazingly, Derek received 11 payments for $53, though at least one person commented that he was paying in part for Derek's earlier article about editing video on the cheap. Perhaps the point here is that the value of an article doesn't always have to be practical.
Overall Lessons -- Although we plan to continue the PayBITS experiment to see how response changes over time, we have come to a few interim conclusions.
As we expected, no one will get rich from PayBITS. Although the overall TidBITS audience is large, the number of people who find an article sufficiently useful or interesting to compensate the author directly is still very low. Even so, even earning an unexpected $10 or $15 can provide a warm, fuzzy feeling of being appreciated, not to mention a nice lunch.
That said, using PayBITS to encourage contributions to TidBITS as a whole has been successful, in part because the suggested contribution amounts are higher than the direct PayBITS amounts, and also because many people choose to contribute to TidBITS regularly. I suspect people don't mind the higher amount because they feel as though they're paying for years of TidBITS.
Unfortunately, small suggested amounts work poorly because PayPal's transaction fees eat at least $0.31. For those folks who paid a quarter for an article, we appreciate the thought, but it all went to PayPal. Plus, even if a low amount encourages more payments, the total amount is likely still lower than it would be with a higher amount. So far, our feeling is that non-specific amounts like "a few bucks" work better than picking a number. Although we're open to authors using payment services other than PayPal, no one has chosen to do so yet, and the research we've done indicates that PayPal offers the best combination of widespread support, a simple payment interface, and low transaction fees. Most other services fall down badly in one of those areas.
The number of payments received has dropped off somewhat over time, likely because new ideas such as valuing content directly need reinforcement, but we have to balance that with making sure people don't feel guilty about not paying. TidBITS is free; the point of PayBITS is to create a channel by which readers can compensate authors directly for particularly useful, relevant, or interesting articles. I'll be curious if this evaluation of PayBITS so far will increase interest again for a while.
The question of what types of articles perform the best remains open. Though some highly practical articles have done well, others haven't. Reviews as a whole haven't done all that well. We haven't had a serious tutorial article since starting PayBITS, though it would be interesting to see how one would fare. No matter what, it's clear that our content hasn't changed in any significant way because of PayBITS, as some had feared might happen. We have pulled back from including PayBITS blocks with articles that don't feel appropriate, such as news reports, simply because it's not worth causing any unintended guilt for an article that's unlikely to attract compensation.
At this point, I remain positive about PayBITS, not because I believe it's the solution to the problem of how those of us who create content of all types can earn a living, but because I fear we're headed for a dark time in which monied corporate interests will attempt to exercise ever more control over how we are allowed to consume content in general, and that in turn will dictate what and how we're able to create and publish. To avoid a future where all our content comes from huge media conglomerates, we need new approaches like PayBITS to show content creators that there are viable alternative business models.
The Internet is a strong counter to A.J. Liebling's famous quote, "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." But even though the Internet provides the necessary distribution medium, we still lack the structure and customs to ensure that those who have something valuable to say can afford to say it. Freedom of the press is not just political, and not just practical: it's also economic.
PayBITS: Contribute to TidBITS and help support a world of
content that's not pre-chewed for your convenience by weasels!
Read more about PayBITS: <http://www.tidbits.com/paybits/>
by Jeff Carlson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Palm's efforts at securing the high end of the Palm OS handheld market have been surprisingly rocky over the last few years. Last month, Palm released the Palm Tungsten T, a multimedia-enhanced handheld that indicates the company is making a serious foray into the field that it created. Although the Tungsten T isn't aimed at everyone, its influence sets the stage for the next wave of Palm OS-based handhelds.
A Simplified History of Success and Stumbling -- The fact that Palm is releasing a "multimedia-enhanced" handheld is noteworthy, since traditionally it has eschewed features that were outside its comfortable sphere of simplified organization. To appreciate why the Tungsten T is an important reentry point for Palm, we need to look at how we got here.
In 1999, Palm introduced the Palm V, a sleek anodized aluminum handheld targeted at the executive suite. To the company's surprise, the Palm V was a huge success with all sorts of users who wanted a slim handheld. Two years later, Palm pre-announced the Palm m505, a color handheld with the same form factor as the Palm V. Many people believed the company had another huge hit, but two important missteps knocked Palm off its feet. By pre-announcing the m505 months before it was available, interest in the existing product line evaporated, leaving the company with lots of unsold inventory. Then, when the m505 finally appeared, its highly anticipated color screen turned out to be dim and virtually unreadable (see "Palm m505: A Slightly Dim Bulb" in TidBITS-598).
In March of 2002, Palm released the Palm m515 with a decent color screen. By then, Palm OS licensee Sony had taken the lead in color handhelds thanks to models of its CLIE line with high-resolution color screens, MP3 playback capabilities, and more, demonstrating that people were interested in handhelds that went beyond organizing.
Meanwhile, the wing of Palm responsible for Palm OS development (now a spin-off called PalmSource, Inc.) realized that the operating system needed to be updated to support faster processors and better handle the multimedia capabilities demanded by the market. The result was Palm OS 5, engineered to run on processors designed by ARM Holdings.
Sony nabbed the distinction of releasing the first devices based on Palm OS 5 and the ARM architecture with its new NX60 and NX70 series. However, Palm is still the market leader, and the way it handles its self-imposed transition will affect Palm OS-based handhelds to come. Fortunately, the Tungsten T points to a bright future.
Ever Smaller -- The most obvious feature of the Tungsten T is its case design. Palm has moved away from the swooping curves of the Palm m500-series to a rounded slab. At 4 inches (10.16 cm) tall, the Tungsten T is the shortest Palm handheld, but with a catch: the bottom section containing the application buttons slides down to reveal the silkscreened Graffiti area (making it 4.8 inches, or 12.19 cm, tall). Normally such a gadgety feature would conjure images of broken latches or snapped housings, but Palm seems to have created a solid mechanism that should hopefully hold up well. I can only vouch for a couple of week's worth of heavy use, but initially the slider seems well engineered. A nice touch is a preference to turn the device on when the slider is opened; you can also set it to turn off when closed.
The case design also includes a five-way navigation button (up, down, right, left, and push to select) in place of the old up and down scroll buttons, which is remarkably useful. Using this Navigator, as Palm calls it, enables you to look up information without opening the slider or even grabbing the stylus from its spring-loaded silo. With the device off, pressing the Navigator button briefly displays the current time and date. If you press and hold the button, you're taken to the Applications screen. As with previous models, pressing up or down scrolls through your list of programs, but if you press the button again, the first application is highlighted and you can use the other directions to go to the program you want.
In most instances, you're probably just looking up a phone number in the Address Book. But here's where the Navigator excels: In the Address list, press right to enable a letter-directed search in the Look Up field, then press up and down to select a letter. Pressing right again moves on to the second letter, and so on until you've located the person you're looking up. Pressing the center button again displays that person's record. Handspring introduced a variation of this technology with its Visor Edge, but the Tungsten T's five-way Navigator makes it easier to look up information not only without using the stylus, but using just one hand.
Longtime Palm users accustomed to tapping the silkscreened Applications button will probably be initially flustered by the need to open the slider, but pressing the center Navigator button takes you to the Applications screen from within other applications.
A Beautiful View -- Given Palm's spotty track record with color screens, it's clear that the company wanted to get it right with the Tungsten T's bright, gorgeous screen. Unlike many handheld color screens, which are either visible indoors or outdoors but rarely both, this one looks great in both environments. The brightness level is controlled by a sliding scale, and I'm happy to report that even at about 30 percent, the screen is quite bright.
The screen's resolution has been doubled from previous models, now featuring a grid of 320 by 320 pixels. It's not as noticeable in many applications, but in programs that have been optimized to handle the resolution - such as the included PhotoBase for storing photos, or Astraware's excellent game Bejeweled 2.0 - the difference is striking.
ARMed and Ready -- Unlike previous Palm models, the Tungsten T is powered by the Texas Instruments OMAP 1510 processor, which brings a significant speed boost to what was already a fairly snappy platform. In programs like Date Book or Address Book, screens tend to redraw quicker, and processor-intensive applications such as Bejeweled are fast and smooth.
As Mac owners are aware, migrating to a new processor architecture isn't trivial. Developers need to rewrite their software to take advantage of the new environment, so not all existing programs work correctly under Palm OS 5. To ease the transition, Palm OS 5 includes PACE (Palm Application Compatibility Environment), which runs older programs much the same way Apple supports old 68K software on PowerPC-based systems. You must endure some trial and error to see which ones work; a few programs that had trouble on my unit suffered mainly from display problems. In the interim, Palm has created a compatibility Web page tracking current software titles, as well as an application for the Tungsten T called AppCheck that can identify which programs on your handheld are fully compatible.
Bluetooth Enabled -- The Tungsten T is also the first Palm device with Bluetooth wireless communications built in. I don't know anyone with a Bluetooth-enabled handheld, so I wasn't able to test the bundled BlueChat application. I also lack a Bluetooth-enabled phone, which would in theory allow me to connect to the Internet or look up someone's number in the Address Book and then dial the phone.
However, I borrowed a D-Link Bluetooth USB adapter and set it up so I can HotSync with my Mac without wires or using my PowerBook's infrared port. I had to set up a new HotSync connection on the Palm to get this to work, but it took only a few minutes.
Voice Memos -- The last showy feature of the Tungsten T is a built-in microphone and side button that enables the Voice Memo application to record audio. The Tungsten T also includes a standard 3.5mm headphone jack for listening to your memos privately, and a much improved speaker if you want to share them with the world (the audio quality in general is also better for alarms and other system sounds).
You'd think that the Tungsten T would be a nice MP3 player, especially given its the SecureDigital memory card slot. (You could probably store a song or two on the device's built-in 16 MB memory, 14 MB of which is available after the built-in applications, but the external storage option is more likely.) However, there's no software to play back MP3s so far. Rumor has it that a player was in the works but not completed in time to ship with the device; hopefully either Palm or a third party developer will create such a program in the near future.
Highly Polished -- The Tungsten T is a big leap for Palm and heralds a more optimistic future for the platform than we've seen in recent years. Priced at $500 and available from vendors like TidBITS sponsor Small Dog Electronics, it's not aimed at most typical handheld users, but the elegant combination of hardware and software improvements in this device promises a healthier product lineup from Palm in the coming years.
PayBITS: In the market for a new handheld? If Jeff's review
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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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