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We can hold our tongues no longer, and this issue contains Adam's personal statement on the situation in Iraq. Mark Anbinder weighs in with a look at Microsoft's acquisition of Connectix's Virtual PC, and Tonya Engst makes a rare appearance with a review of StickyBrain 2.0. In the news, Apple swaps loud Power Mac G4 power supplies, we look at new goodies for .Mac members, MYOB offers Jaguar to purchasers, and we note BBEdit 7.0.2 and WebSTAR 5.2.4.
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Apple Offers Power Mac G4 Power Supply Swap -- If you purchased a Power Mac G4 last year and wondered why Apple included a built-in jet turbine, it's time to remove your earplugs. Responding to numerous complaints about the noise produced by its 2002 Power Mac line - particularly from the professional audio and video communities - Apple has announced a Power Mac G4 Power Supply Exchange Program. For a $20 shipping and handling charge, owners of the Power Mac G4 (Mirrored Drive Doors) can receive a new power supply (including a new system fan) that operates more quietly than the original. A prepaid airbill is included for sending the original power supply back to Apple. Apple also includes directions for installing the hardware, but recommends that anyone uncomfortable performing the repair take the new components to a certified service provider (which could entail a labor fee). The program runs until 30-Jun-03. [JLC]
Free Jaguar with MYOB -- Apple may be bundling a "New User Edition" of Intuit's QuickBooks accounting program with new professional level Macs, but long-time Macintosh accounting software vendor MYOB isn't taking it lying down. Buy a copy of MYOB AccountEdge before 31-Mar-03 and you can get a free copy of Mac OS X 10.2 from MYOB. Oh, and that bundled version of QuickBooks? It's not QuickBooks Pro 5, and you must upgrade to QuickBooks Pro 5 to get job costing, estimates, time tracking, and a new visual report finder. [ACE]
Free BBEdit 7.0.2 Update -- Bare Bones Software has released BBEdit 7.0.2, a free update for all registered owners of BBEdit 7. A major change in this release is substantially improved translation and detection of text file encodings: BBEdit now supports default encodings when opening and saving files, detects encodings in well-formed XML and HTML documents, and offers appropriate encoding support in Save As dialogs and in the status area of every document. In addition, BBEdit 7.0.2 supports Mac OS 9.1 (although Mac OS 9.2.2 is still preferred), rolls spelling dictionaries into the main application package under Mac OS X, and offers a reworked Philip bar that moves in sync with the horizontal scroll bar (since no one has a 9-inch black-and-white screen anymore). Lastly, BBEdit's AppleScript dictionary is again available to Apple's Script Editor under Mac OS 9! As usual, Bare Bones has published a complete list of fixes and changes. The BBEdit 7.0.2 update is a 12.5 MB download. [GD]
WebSTAR 5.2.4 Gets SOAPy -- 4D, Inc., last week released WebSTAR Server Suite 5.2.4; the latest version of their collection of Internet servers. The main enhancement is support for Web Services via a full SOAP implementation (the PHP NuSOAP library) that provides integration with Web Services in other applications, including 4D's own 4th Dimension 2003. Other improvements include numerous fixes to 4D Mail, reliability fixes for the Web server, and enhancements to 4D WebMail Pro. WebSTAR 5.2.4 is a free update for registered users of WebSTAR V; upgrades cost $200 from WebSTAR 4 and $300 from WebSTAR 3 and Mac OS X Server. [ACE]
.Mac Upgrades & Goodies -- People who ponied up for Apple's .Mac service have been receiving a variety of deals that have more than eliminated the $50 charge for the first year of a .Mac upgrade from iTools. First there were 100 free prints you could order from iPhoto, and now Apple is offering a free copy of Aladdin's DropStuff compression utility, worth $30. That's available through 13-Apr-03, as is a half-off deal on Aladdin's StuffIt Deluxe. Add that to a variety of free games that have appeared (the latest is Gamehouse's Super Nisqually) and the .Mac membership fee is seeming more and more reasonable. Also be sure to download Virex 7.2 for Mac OS X, since it includes the eUpdate feature that automatically downloads virus definition updates for you. (But don't install Virex 7.2 if you're using the Unix package management program Fink; there's apparently a conflict between the two.) Now if only Apple would offer a deal on a real backup utility to replace the utterly lame Backup application that comes with .Mac. [ACE]
Poll Results: Do You Use Software Update? Last week we asked how often you have Software Update set to check for new software. Of the more than 1,600 responses, 21 percent have it set to check every day, 40 percent check weekly (which is the default setting), a mere 2 percent check monthly, and only 4 percent don't use Software Update at all. The most interesting group of responses, however, came from the 33 percent of people who use Software Update manually. As we heard on TidBITS Talk, many of these folks use Software Update to tell them what's available, but don't let it download and install automatically. Instead, they either download manually in Software Update (use the Download Checked Items to Desktop command in the File menu in the Jaguar version of Software Update) or download from Apple's Web site by hand and install at a later date. Using Software Update only for notification provides the opportunity to download and install at a more convenient time, not to mention a chance to read reports from more adventurous users and news sites before risking an installation. And speaking of news sites, these results and the comments we received tell us that a large number of our readers learn about updates from TidBITS, which reinforced our decision to keep covering updates of interest even when we have little additional information to add. [ACE]
by Mark H. Anbinder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Citing the virtual server capabilities of the technology, Microsoft last week announced that it has acquired from Connectix the entire Virtual PC product line. Connectix first developed Virtual PC to enable Macintosh users to run the Windows operating system and applications, along with other operating systems (such as Linux) that use Intel hardware. In recent years, the company has introduced Virtual PC for Windows, enabling PC users to run multiple simultaneous "virtual machines," each with its own operating system. Virtual Server, a new product under development at Connectix that caught Microsoft's eye, is designed to allow multiple independent server processes to run on a single Windows computer.
Microsoft has purchased all three products (Virtual PC for Mac, Virtual PC for Windows, and Virtual Server) from Connectix, and has hired "key members of the Connectix team to continue moving these products forward." Connectix will continue to sell and support these products during a planned six-month transition period, while Microsoft works to incorporate them into its product line. Following the transition, Microsoft says it will honor all support commitments to existing customers and will offer new support plans. Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit will inherit responsibility for Virtual PC for Mac and plans to continue development.
In the past, Connectix has licensed its technologies to Apple (MODE32), Logitech (QuickCam), and Sony (Virtual Game Station). The company says its product line will still include DoubleTalk and CopyAgent until the end of these products' life cycles. Since both are compatible only with Mac OS 9, it raises the question of whether Connectix will continue as a company after the six-month transition period. (RAM Doubler support is also slated to end in September of 2003.)
The acquisition makes sense for Microsoft from multiple perspectives. The interesting virtual server technologies let modern servers run legacy applications and ease the hassle of running more than one application per server. Virtual PC for Windows similarly helps desktop users by letting them run legacy programs that are only compatible with older versions of Windows. And Virtual PC for the Mac can only help Microsoft sell more copies of Windows - in the end, Microsoft doesn't really care what hardware you use to run Windows. For users, the acquisition will probably mean future versions of Virtual PC with significantly improved Windows performance, thanks to access to the Windows source code, although it's entirely likely that support for other operating systems such as Linux may be de-emphasized or dropped entirely.
Still unclear is what will happen to Connectix after September of 2003. Until then, Connectix is still selling and supporting Virtual PC, but after that point, the company will basically be a sales and service organization with no products. Although it's possible that the owners will simply wind up the company then, Connectix has reinvented itself several times over the 14 years the company has been creating Macintosh products. Roy McDonald, Connectix's president and CEO, told us that they'd be using the next six months to figure out what comes next, and if they come up with any great ideas, we won't have seen the last of Connectix.
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by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
I'm angry. I'm worried. And I'm sad.
I've refrained from voicing my opinions on this matter until now, but because I've always kept TidBITS personal and despite my reluctance to allow such matters into these pages, I can refrain no longer. Regardless of my utter lack of influence in international politics, to remain silent would be to join those of our leaders whose silent acquiescence I find despicable. Also, although this article reflects my personal frustrations, worries, and fears, other members of the TidBITS staff - Tonya, Matt, Jeff, and Mark - have asked to be included as publicly supporting what I say below.
I'm angry because it looks as though the United States is about to wage war on Iraq without direct provocation, without clear evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction, without strong international support, and without even having shown indisputable ties between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network.
I'm angry because the cynic on my shoulder keeps whispering that it's all about oil, that it's aimed at distracting from an inability to hunt down Osama bin Laden, and that it's happening right now so it won't turn into an election-year issue in 2004.
I'm angry because despite a massive public outcry, with protests larger than any since the Vietnam War and the strangest of bedfellows campaigning together against unprovoked war, I hear almost nothing from our elected representatives. If they are against the Bush Administration's saber-rattling, why aren't we hearing fiery opposition speeches, such as came from Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia? If they support Bush's relentless march toward war, where are the attempts to persuade us that we should send our friends and neighbors off to war? Where is the discussion about what the long term goals of a war in Iraq should be? I expect them either to represent the views of the people or to take leadership roles, not to cower in silence.
My anger walks alongside worry. I'm worried about spending hundreds of billions of dollars on destroying and then rebuilding Iraq, money which could be spent in productive ways. And I'm worried not just about those direct costs, but also the effect a war would have on a stumbling economy. Business prospers in times of certainty and optimism, and every step we take closer to war reverberates ominously in the stock exchanges, adding a layer of confusion and doubt on top of already suspect corporate financial underpinnings.
I'm extremely worried that whatever the result of our aggressive actions in Iraq, they will inflame those people already unhappy with America's foreign policies. We may eliminate an Iraqi threat while simultaneously birthing a generation of terrorists. And I worry that the U.S. government's knee-jerk responses to these acts of terror will both further damage our civil liberties and increase racial and ethnic tensions. It's ironic that such a thing should happen here, in a country built on the backs and brains of immigrants from many lands.
Perhaps most of all, I'm worried about the Bush Administration's avowal of a preemptive strike policy. Call me naive, but that's just not how the good guys act. We've already seen other countries trying on the rhetorical fit of preemptive strikes, and it will be nothing but pure hypocrisy if we condemn such actions on the part of others but reserve them for our own use. Talk about the world's policeman caught beating Rodney King.
Bundled up in all of this is an unremitting sadness. I'm sad that we've allowed our leaders to twist words and meanings so far that we live in a continual state of war. Wars are meant to have beginnings and ends, to have clear-cut antagonists, and at least from the side of the good, to have noble goals. (And yes, I'm also naive enough to believe that there should be a side of the good.) First the war on drugs, and then the war on terrorism, which I can't see ending so long as there are people in the world who, for legitimate reasons or not, hate the United States. And now we face an actual war in Iraq. Whatever happened to the desire to live in peace? Does it simply not make a good sound bite? Or have we been at peace long enough that we need war, even an unnecessary war, to remind the population at large of the importance of peace?
I'm sad too that people are going to start dying for all these weak reasons. Scores of Iraqis will die, and Americans will die too, along with men and women from other countries. Don't be shocked - wars kill people, often lots of people. Some of those people will be good, others will be bad, some will have chosen a profession with a likelihood of violent death, others will simply have been born into a situation they couldn't or wouldn't escape.
I'm sad that the world has spawned men like Saddam Hussein, and I'm sad that the U.S. government saw fit in the past to support him with money and weapons. Even assuming he was the lesser of two evils, the fact remains that this country was responsible for aiding the growth of evil in the world. Just as we're told as children not to start fights and to try to get along with others, another of those early lessons is that two wrongs don't make a right.
Lastly, I'm sad that amid all of these concerns, which I am by no means unique in having or expressing, the Bush Administration seems either unable or unwilling to develop creative solutions to the Iraq problem. There's no question the threat of force was instrumental in restarting the weapons inspections and in galvanizing the United Nations, but there's a huge difference between a threat and wholesale war. There are plenty of good ideas out there - are we really so jaded that war is anything but a last resort?
I don't have the answers, and no one in power would listen if I did. But I know that this is not a video game with bonus points and extra lives, and it's not a feel-good action movie with a happy ending after the explosive special effects. Those are fantasies, and the reality is that unprovoked war with Iraq is not an end, but the beginning of a chain of events that fills me with dread.
I do not expect everyone to agree with me, nor do I ask that those who do follow me in any way. Everyone must decide for themselves what to think and say in this situation, as I've done here. What I do expect, and what I do ask, though, is that you act with intention, in accordance with your convictions, and with careful thought toward the long term interests of the entire world. It's the only one we've got.
by Tonya Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In 1999, when my son Tristan was born, I began having trouble with to-do lists. The problem was twofold: on one hand, there were so many things to remember to do, or that I might want to do someday; on the other hand, even though I often made to-do lists, I often lost them beneath piles of papers or - worse - forgot about them altogether.
As the years went by, I tried to organize my piles of papers and to-do lists, but I was continually confounded by the many ways information arrives, both physical and virtual, and the necessity of sharing contact and calendar databases with Adam and our array of Macs (we use Now Software's Now Up-to-Date & Contact). I receive stuff in email. I see stuff on the Web. Our local library, for which I am a volunteer board member (and which requires some serious funding to move more solidly into the Internet era), sends me reams of paper via regular mail. Tristan brings home notes crumpled under wet mittens in his backpack. The Internal Revenue Service sends inscrutable forms requiring telephone calls to our accountant. Add more than four years of sleep deprivation to the mix, and, truly, it had become a huge jumble.
Given that my life as a TidBITS person keeps me well supplied with software aimed at organizing personal information, it's surprising that it took so long for me to chance upon a program that works for me. Developed by a company called Chronos, it takes the concept of Apple's Stickies (virtual Post-it Notes) to a new level, with a good mix of simplicity (which makes it easy to learn) and power (which makes it easy to love). The software is called StickyBrain 2.0, and I'm stuck on it.
Matt Neuburg reviewed StickyBrain 1.2.1 along with two similar utilities, EZNote 2.01 and Z-Write 1.2.1, in TidBITS-593. This article updates his review of StickyBrain, but does not look at EZNote, Z-Write, or any of the many competing snippet keepers.
Sticking Your Stuff -- Within moments of launching StickyBrain for the first time, you can create a new sticky note using the big Store Anything button on the Control palette, type or paste text into the note, categorize the note (helpful, though not essential, for finding it later), and even give it a background color or pattern. Note windows look much like Post-it Notes, though in version 2.0 a note window may have scroll bars, and it may also display a horizontal ruler containing controls for simple word processing.
I found that just typing or pasting into a StickyBrain note requires almost no learning whatsoever, and for several weeks I was content not to learn anything new. However, as I used the software more and more, I discovered features that made adding information more interesting or that helped me customize note contents in special ways. Three of these additional features (buttons, privacy, and text grabbing) moved me from casual user to complete convert.
I'm particularly fond of the button feature, which lets you add a button for an email address, Web address, or file to a sticky note. I don't use the email address button, but the note on which I list stuff I ought to buy for Tristan has buttons for my favorite online kid-related shopping sites, and the note for my current copyediting project has buttons for the FTP, Web, and wiki sites the project is using. My money-related to-do lists have buttons that open appropriate spreadsheets. If only I could customize the appearance and size of these buttons!
The second feature I especially like is that any note can be made private, which causes StickyBrain to encrypt and password-protect the contents. I used this feature to keep Adam from accidentally seeing his gift list last December, and I use it to protect stored userids and passwords for some Web sites. StickyBrain has a feature, which works in Internet Explorer 5.2.2 and the current beta of Safari - but not Netscape 6.2.2 or 7.0 - that makes it easy to call up a sticky note containing the userid and password for the Web page you are viewing.
StickyBrain is not PGP, however. When I asked how secure it was, Chronos described the encryption to me as follows: "It's not 128-bit encryption. It's simply meant to conceal private information from casual observers. However, if someone wants bullet-proof protection, we recommend placing the entire StickyBrain file in a protected location." (If you are looking for an application devoted to storing and tracking userids and passwords, check out Alco Blom's Web Confidential, which Adam reviewed in TidBITS-441, or Selznick Scientific Software's PasswordWallet).
The third feature that especially appeals to me is the Grab Text option, which (via a contextual menu) helps you grab text from various applications and place it on a new, categorized sticky note. If you grab text from Internet Explorer, the note also contains a button linking to the original Web page. The contextual menu doesn't work everywhere - on my Mac OS X system it doesn't work in Classic applications, nor in Netscape. It does work in a variety of programs, though, including Eudora, Microsoft Word X, and Help Viewer. Grab Text works partially in the beta version of Safari; the URL isn't automatically imported into StickyBrain. Chronos is working on an update to fix that problem.
Features that I don't much use, but that you might also like, include notes with timed reminders and notes with tiny calendar pages. Then there are notes that behave like simple word processing documents, with options for setting page and margin dimensions, a spell checker (complete with an optional inline spell checking feature that colors unknown spellings), a find-and-replace feature, and a ruler that offers basic formatting such as tabs and indents.
You may also find it handy that StickyBrain can import straight text files; Chronos's online help suggests you'd use this feature to fill a Contacts category with a note for each entry in a contact database. StickyBrain can also import classic Stickies files, but not Mac OS X Stickies files.
Sticking Stuff in Categories -- StickyBrain's categorizing capability is key because it lets you quickly view only the notes in that category. StickyBrain offers a handful of sensible default categories, and you can create your own. Each category has its own default settings for text, background color or pattern, window size, and so on.
I went wild with categories and set up about nine of them. One was for projects related to Tristan (shopping lists, art projects, nursery school forms to fill out, and so on), and another helped me organize all the reminders I have related to various books (kids books, grown-up books, books to buy for other people). I also set up a Money category where I made to-do lists for a myriad of financial tasks. Because the categories made it possible for me to reliably locate these lists, I found myself refining them regularly over the ensuing weeks. I've found that these detailed to-do lists increase my efficiency dramatically.
More professionally, I have set up categories for each book I copyedit, keeping style guides (usage and spelling notes, such as the difference between "login" and "log-in"), as well as notes about each project.
Everything about adding a sticky note to a category works smoothly - if you've used a computer much at all, you can do it with no special thought. And, if you are having a non-linear day, you can just whack stuff in and set the category later. It's worth thinking about your categories in advance, though, because changing a category's default formats requires diving into a series of nested dialog boxes, after which you must still manually apply the new default to each existing note.
UnSticking Your Stuff -- Once you put data into StickyBrain, you'll want to retrieve it. If you can't find it quickly by browsing an appropriate category, you can try StickyBrain's two searching options: either a simple Find dialog or through the Sticky Browser. The Sticky Browser works much like a Web search engine interface overlaid on your sticky note collection, and makes it easy to find matching notes. If you have limited screen space, or like a more orderly view, you might prefer to keep your note windows closed and just view them in the Sticky Browser.
Given that I've entrusted StickyBrain with so much important information, it's nice to know that it makes automatic backups. These backups are user-configurable; you can set the when and where of backing up. It also automatically saves your changes as you work. Further, in an improvement from earlier versions, StickyBrain can export to text, just in case I ever want to extract my info.
Sticky Wishlist -- Despite StickyBrain's multifarious features, a number of them don't go far enough. Although StickyBrain's word processing features let you indent text, it doesn't offer outlining features where headings can be expanded and collapsed, moved around en masse, and so on. Since it's handy to take notes in a sticky note, it would also be useful to turn those notes into an outline. And, going further, it would be great if that outline could be exported as RTF for later import into Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or other RTF-savvy applications for further use.
In addition to within-note outlines, StickyBrain needs a feature for subordinating some sticky notes to others. It would also be nice to use buttons for note-to-note linking. That way, my to-do list that has an item for filling out 1099s (federal income reporting forms) for TidBITS staffers could link directly to the note where I've placed instructions for filling out the forms.
A few features feel as though they are still working their way under the StickyBrain umbrella, such as the calculator whose connection with the rest of the program is only that it can create a note that records your calculations. Also, StickyBrain can operate as a system-wide glossary, making it possible to store and insert commonly used bits of text either via a keyboard shortcut or contextual menu. Unfortunately for me, the fact that it doesn't work in Classic applications under Mac OS X limits its utility. Also, though the contextual menu works in a reasonably wide range of applications, on my system the keyboard shortcuts fail in Eudora and Safari.
Other utilities, like QuicKeys X and Keyboard Maestro, can insert bits of boilerplate text in a wider range of applications in Mac OS X, though even they can have problems with Classic applications. Matt Neuburg reviewed QuicKeys X in TidBITS-602; Adam looked at it and Keyboard Maestro, along with other similar utilities, in TidBITS-628.
Will It Stick for You? StickyBrain is fun: you can color sticky notes and even give them scenic backgrounds; you can put them wherever you like and rearrange them as often as you wish. StickyBrain has an organic, imprecise feeling that should appeal to people who don't want to work with orderly fields and grids or whose personal data doesn't fit neatly into a linear set up. I see StickyBrain as a tool for those of us (particularly those who shy away from scripting) who want to customize the way we interact with our data, but who need a free-flowing environment that requires minimal setup, that respects our short attention spans, and that doesn't spit up all over when we make mistakes.
These needs aren't new, and many attempts have been made to meet them over the years. Of course, no one program can hope to solve these problems for everyone.
You can give StickyBrain a whirl by downloading the 4.3 MB, fully functional, 30-day evaluation version. StickyBrain costs $40 for just a registration number for a downloaded copy, or $45 for a version on CD-ROM. Upgrades from the previous version cost $25. Whether you use Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, StickyBrain will run on your system, so long as it's a PowerPC G3- or G4-based machine with 10 MB of free disk space.
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