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Wireless buffalo, a new way to block spam, and floating mice: TidBITS is full of surprises this week. Newly crowned Contributing Editor Glenn Fleishman expands his AirPort network with Buffalo routers. Adam looks at Eudora 6.0, including its new SpamWatch feature. Keith Kaiser thinks beyond the mouse pad with Gyration's Ultra gyroscopic mouse. In the news, we welcome Fetch Softworks as a new sponsor, announce the winner of last week's DealBITS drawing, look at iTunes Music Store sales, and note releases of new iMacs, larger iPods, Salling Clicker 2.0, and FileMaker Pro Applications.
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DealBITS Drawing: Tom Bihn Winner -- Congratulations to long-time TidBITS reader Harold Kite of usit.net, whose entry was chosen randomly in our first ever DealBITS drawing. Harold will be receiving a Tom Bihn Brain Bag and laptop case worth $180. Everyone else who entered has received a coupon code good for a 20 percent discount on any Tom Bihn product. Thanks to the 1,295 people who entered, making this first DealBITS drawing a huge success! Keep an eye out for future DealBITS drawings coming soon. [ACE]
Fetch Softworks Sponsoring TidBITS -- We're pleased to announce our latest long-term sponsor, Fetch Softworks, makers of the Mac's longest-standing FTP client, Fetch. Jim Matthews first created Fetch for Dartmouth College back in 1989, and Dartmouth soon made it available for free for educational institutions and non-profits, and as shareware for everyone else. Fetch quickly outpaced all the other Macintosh FTP clients of the time, programs like HyperFTP, XferIt, and others I wrote about in the first edition of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh in 1993. That was when I started corresponding with Jim, and I ended up including Fetch on the book's disk with other such influential software as MacTCP, Eudora, and StuffIt Expander.
Unfortunately, Jim had other responsibilities at Dartmouth and for a number of years wasn't able to devote all his time to Fetch, causing development to lag. Fetch Softworks came into being in December of 2000, when Jim went almost all the way on the television show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and used some of his winnings to buy Fetch's name and source code from Dartmouth. Working mostly on his own, Jim has maintained Fetch's basic look and feel while bringing the program up to speed on Mac OS X and retaining compatibility all the way back to System 7. There are plenty of other FTP clients now, but whenever I run into problems with wacky FTP servers, I always turn to Fetch, which handles them with aplomb thanks to its long years of evolution during a less-standardized time on the Internet. Just recently, Jim brought on noted Macintosh programmer Miro Jurisic, who has twice won the MacHax Group's Best Hack Contest at MacHack, so we may see revisions to Fetch a bit more quickly than in the past.
To kick off their sponsorship, Fetch Softworks is offering $5 off Fetch exclusively for TidBITS readers, so be sure to check out the sponsorship area above for the necessary coupon code. [ACE]
iMacs Speed and Ports Bumped -- Apple refreshed its iMac line today, bumping the processor speed up to 1.25 GHz and improving components on both the 17-inch and 15-inch models. The $1,800 17-inch iMac receives the top-speed PowerPC G4 processor and a fast 167 MHz system bus, and includes 256 MB of SDRAM, an 80 GB hard drive, a 4x SuperDrive, and an Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics card with 64 MB of RAM. The $1,300 15-inch model has been upgraded to a 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processor with 167 MHz system bus, and includes 256 MB of SDRAM, an 80 GB hard drive, a 32x Combo drive, and the Nvidia GeForce4 MX graphics card with 32 MB of RAM. Both models include the same port configurations as previous models, with a slight twist: the three USB ports on the computer are faster USB 2.0 ports (the two ports on the keyboard remain USB 1.1). FireWire 800 ports, which debuted on the Power Mac G4, have yet to appear on the iMac line. Also, both iMacs now support AirPort Extreme (with the purchase of a $100 card), and can include an internal Bluetooth model (available as a $50 build-to-order option). Both configurations are available now. [JLC]
20 GB and 40 GB iPods Debut -- Apple today announced the release of 20 GB and 40 GB iPods, replacing the 15 GB and 30 GB models in the current lineup. The 10 GB model remains available for $300, the 20 GB model is $400, and the 40 GB model costs $500. There are no other changes. The larger drives are certainly welcome, and it's interesting to see Apple taking advantage of hard drive size increases and price reductions by increasing iPod storage capacity while keeping prices static. Although a much cheaper iPod would undoubtedly be welcome, the economics of hard drive manufacturing often result in this sort of pattern, so Apple may not have too much room to maneuver, particularly while maintaining the iPod's high margins. It's hard to argue too much, given that the one million iPods Apple has sold so far have undoubtedly helped the company's financial position. [ACE]
iTunes Music Store Sells Ten Millionth Song -- Apple announced today that after about four months the iTunes Music Store has sold its ten millionth song (in an ironic comment on the state of online music, the song was Avril Lavigne's "Complicated"). It's an impressive number, and although there's no telling what Apple's costs in running the store are, it probably contributed at least $3 million to Apple's bottom line in a quarter of the year. The sales rate seems to have stabilized, as you can see if you look at Apple's published numbers. It took 7 days for Apple to reach 1 million songs sold, 16 days to reach 2 million songs sold, 56 days to make it to 5 million songs, and 133 days to hit 10 million. It's not surprising that Apple wouldn't be able to maintain the initial burst of enthusiasm past the first two weeks, but if you eliminate them from consideration, you can see that days 17 through 56 averaged about 75,000 songs per day sold, and days 57 through 133 saw an average of about 65,000 songs per day sold.
That's not too shabby, considering that the iTunes Music Store is basically limited to Macintosh users who are running Mac OS X, have broadband Internet connections, and an interest in purchasing music online. If market share numbers were to be believed, that's at most 5 percent of the overall market that becomes available when Apple opens the iTunes Music Store to Windows users (expected before the end of the year). Personally, I doubt Apple's current song sales would make up just 5 percent of the combined sales to both Mac and Windows users, but that's because I think market share numbers are about as meaningful as statistics cited in political debates. [ACE]
Salling Clicker 2.0 Adds Palm Support -- Salling Software has released Salling Clicker 2.0, updating the popular utility for controlling a Mac from a Bluetooth-capable device (see "Salling Clicker in Action" in TidBITS-694). Formerly available only for owners of select Sony Ericsson cellular phones, version 2.0 adds compatibility with Bluetooth-enabled Palm handhelds such as the Tungsten T and Tungsten T2. Unique to the Palm is the capability to display images from your iPhoto library on the handheld. This version also features "live-updating" for viewing current Clicker-related activity; for example, you can see the progression of a song in iTunes or read slide notes during a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation. For phone owners, the proximity sensor function has been enhanced with activity awareness, automatically performing actions based on the phone's state (such as pausing iTunes when a call comes in). Also, Salling Clicker features an improved Visual Keypad Editor for assigning tasks to hardware buttons on phones or Palm devices. The update also adds support for the Sony Ericsson T616 phone. Salling Clicker 2.0 is available in two configurations: the phone version costs $10 (and is a free upgrade for existing registered users); the Palm version costs $15. Each requires Mac OS X 10.2.6 or later, and is a 1.9 MB download. [JLC]
FileMaker Releases Two FileMaker Applications -- FileMaker is going in a new direction with its long-standing FileMaker Pro database software. In addition to developing the database applications themselves, the company will also sell FileMaker Applications, a series of task-specific programs developed using FileMaker Pro which - unlike most custom FileMaker solutions - are unlocked to enable customization and extension by FileMaker Pro developers. Although FileMaker Applications are designed to provide instant solutions to data management tasks often overlooked or poorly managed by organizations, by requiring FileMaker Pro 6 they're also intended to spur upgrades and sales of FileMaker Pro itself.
The first two FileMaker Applications are Recruiter and Meetings. Recruiter offers tools for managing contacts and candidate data so users can quickly figure out "who knows who" and "who worked with who," along with tools for managing background information, reporting on organizational structure, email tools, plus more common contact management and reporting capabilities. Meetings offers tools for developing agendas, tracking tasks and action items, sharing meeting minutes, and automating repetitive email. Both FileMaker Applications are available online from FileMaker's online store and require the $300 FileMaker Pro 6 to run; Meetings costs $50, and Recruiter is priced at $300. [GD]
Glenn Fleishman Joins TidBITS -- We've always tried to keep the TidBITS organization lean (though not mean), but our friend and colleague Glenn Fleishman has helped out for so long and in so many ways that we had to make it official. He's now a TidBITS contributing editor, joining Mark Anbinder and Matt Neuburg in that august position. As a contributing editor, Glenn's entitled to the full set of TidBITS perks, including a prime parking spot, use of the company apartment (both at TidBITS headquarters in Ithaca, NY, of course), use of the royal "we" in articles, and a tidbits.com email address that works anywhere in the world. Welcome to TidBITS, Glenn! [ACE]
by Glenn Fleishman <email@example.com>
We've written in the past about the feature in Apple's AirPort Extreme Base Station that allows you to connect several base stations together wirelessly to form a larger network (see "AirPort Extreme: In the Key of G" in TidBITS-663). This cool feature goes by the name Wireless Distribution System (WDS), and it's actually a semi-standard specification also found in devices made by manufacturers other than Apple. But Apple and other companies have told us that they are neither focusing on compatibility nor formally testing equipment from other makers. So we decided to try it ourselves.
Buffalo Technology was kind enough to loan me a few of their WLA-G54 802.11g access points to test their version of WDS for the book Adam and I are working on right now, The Wireless Networking Starter Kit, 2nd Edition. I found that Buffalo's WLA-G54s easily attached themselves as "remote" nodes of an AirPort Extreme Base Station network. I opened the AirPort Admin Utility and connected to the AirPort Extreme Base Station in my office. I clicked Show All Settings, selected the WDS tab, and enabled the AirPort Extreme Base Station as a WDS. I then clicked the plus sign to specify the base stations to use as remotes and relays. Amazingly, the AirPort Admin Utility presented the Buffalo WLA-G54 for me to select as a remote. I hadn't yet configured the Buffalo access point - I had just turned it on. But the AirPort Admin Utility lists all of the access points that the AirPort Extreme Base Station can see. (Had that not happened, I could have manually entered the MAC addresses of the WLA-G54s in AirPort Admin Utility.)
The Buffalo WLA-G54 is a pure wireless access point without any gateway features, like assigning IP addresses via DHCP. That's fine, since I'd have to turn off those features in a distributed network anyway. So what's the utility of the Buffalo WLA-G54 for Mac users? Cost: although AirPort Extreme Base Stations start at a reasonable $200, you can find the WLA-G54 for as low as $100, making it a cheaper way of extending your Wi-Fi network.
Keep in mind that using WDS does impact performance for the entire network, since each remote must receive every packet and retransmit them wirelessly with a single radio. That's probably not a huge problem with the 25 Mbps of real-world throughout that 802.11g is capable of in most situations, but you should be aware of it. If you need the fastest performance, stick with creating a roaming network by connecting multiple access points via 100 Mbps wired Ethernet and setting them to use different channels but the same network name. If you're interested in learning more about the nitty gritty of WDS, I've written a more technical article on the subject that appeared last week on O'Reilly Networks.
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by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Last week Qualcomm released Eudora 6.0, a major upgrade to the company's venerable email client. Eudora's marquee feature is SpamWatch, a new plug-in that employs Bayesian filtering to move spam-like messages to a new top-level Junk folder, but there are a few other welcome changes for users of both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X.
SpamWatch -- There's no question that spam is by far the worst problem facing email users today. I've personally received about 39,000 pieces of spam this year, and that's even with our mail server performing (admitedly conservative) spam blocking. Eudora 6.0 addresses the spam problem with the addition of SpamWatch, a plug-in that employs Bayesian filtering to move spam-like messages to a new top-level Junk folder. Eudora ships pre-trained, so it will start working immediately, but you can (and should) still train it by marking spam it misses using the Junk command, and marking legitimate messages it catches incorrectly with the Not Junk command. A new Junk Mail settings panel lets you set the threshold at which Eudora should consider a message junk (mine is set to a score of 50; the range is 0 for mail that's definitely not spam to 100 for messages that just ooze spaminess), and a host of other useful settings relating to SpamWatch.
In my use since it first appeared for testers in April of 2003, SpamWatch has proven quite accurate, with a false positive rate well under 1 percent. False negatives are low as well, with only a couple of mistakes per day. I can't be more specific because Qualcomm wasn't able to add spam-catching statistics to Eudora's statistics window in time for the 6.0 release. I strongly hope that will appear in Eudora 6.1.
The false positive rate is so low in part because Eudora whitelists messages from senders who are in your Address Book, and if you mark an incorrectly identified message as Not Junk, Eudora automatically records that sender in your Address Book so as to reduce the chance of a future mistake even more. That should work for most people, but for those like me, who receive mail from many people who would not otherwise be in your Address Book, try these two tricks to populate your Address Book. First, if you have mailing lists where you want to ensure that messages from those subscribers (like TidBITS Talk for me) are never marked as spam, add the Remember Sender action to the filter that moves messages to the appropriate mailbox. Second, consider using Robert Woodhead's free BoxSweeper program to extract all the email addresses from your stored mailboxes of legitimate mail; that way you can be sure no one who has sent you legitimate mail in the past will be caught, assuming they use the same address. Remember, though, that spam that forges an address in your Address Book (like your own address!) will always make it past SpamWatch, so you may need to prune your Address Book judiciously.
The fact that SpamWatch is a plug-in is significant, since it means that other developers will also be able to create anti-spam plug-ins for Eudora that are far better integrated than was possible in the past. In fact, Michael Tsai, developer of the SpamSieve spam fighting tool, is already working on a beta plug-in that will integrate Eudora 6.0 and the forthcoming SpamSieve 2.0. Although Eudora's own SpamWatch is doing an awfully good job right now, I think there will be room for other tools, particularly as spammers learn how to circumvent basic Bayesian filters.
Content Concentrator -- SpamWatch is designed to handle the massive influx of spam, but another new feature, the Content Concentrator, is aimed at helping you manage the influx of legitimate mail. The Content Concentrator enhances the preview pane in any mailbox window in two ways (click the expansion triangle in the lower left corner of a mailbox window to show the preview pane).
First, it hides excessive quoted text in an effort to help you focus on just the new text in a single message. I find this useful in mailboxes where I keep the preview pane relatively small, since I can still get an idea for what's in the message without opening its window.
Second, if you use Eudora's Option-click shortcut to select multiple messages by sender or subject (a feature of unparalleled utility and all-around goodness that I use constantly), the Content Concentrator displays all the selected messages (hiding quoted text as appropriate) in the preview pane. It's great for reading mailing list threads quickly.
The Content Concentrator takes a little getting used to. I often use Eudora's type-to-select feature followed by the Option-click shortcut to select messages so I can find a specific one, and the Content Concentrator can get in the way a bit at that point. Also, if you read a mailing list thread in the preview pane using the Content Concentrator, Eudora doesn't currently mark those messages as read, nor does it differentiate in any way between concentrated messages that were read versus those that weren't.
Of course, remember that the Content Concentrator is just hiding headers and quoted text temporarily; if you open a message in its own window, everything appears as it should. If you don't like the Content Concentrator, or want to make it show more or less information, or work only with single or multiple messages, a new Content Concentrator settings panel provides the necessary options.
Look and Feel -- People love to complain about how ugly Eudora is, although by now, I suspect that its interface is a major part of its charm for many long-time users. Qualcomm usually responds with a few cosmetic changes in each release, and Eudora 6.0 brings with it completely new toolbar and system icons. Also gone is the tow truck icon that you could use to drag an open message to a mailbox; now you drag an envelope icon in the title bar, much as you can drag folder icons in Finder window title bars.
More significant for Mac OS X users is the addition of a drawer to the right side of mailbox windows; you open and close it with a little button in the upper right corner of each mailbox window. The drawer essentially shows the contents of Eudora's Mailboxes window, with a hierarchical list of all mailboxes inside. You can click a mailbox to open it in the current window, double-click one to open it in its own window, drag messages to them, and so on. Mailboxes with unread messages appear with their names bold and underlined. You cannot add or remove mailboxes or folders from it; stick with the Mailboxes window for that.
I'm hesitant to recommend the mailboxes drawer. Eudora is designed around multiple windows, and my different mailboxes display differently. Some eschew the preview pane entirely, others display it relatively small, and a few use it as the primary viewing area. Using the mailboxes drawer to switch among mailboxes restricts me to one setting for the preview pane.
I also find transferring messages by dragging them to mailboxes much more difficult than using Eudora's Transfer menu (for which you don't have to keep the mouse button down the entire time). Finally, since many of my filters open mailboxes that receive new mail, I often ended up confused about which mailboxes were open and why. I turned off automatic mailbox opening to give the single-window view a chance, but I'll be going back to the multiple window approach as soon as I find the time to edit my filters. It simply doesn't match the way I like to work with email.
One last, and extremely welcome change: in Mac OS X, Eudora is now a self-contained application package, making it a better Mac OS X citizen. That also means you can turn plug-ins on and off via the Get Info window in the Finder.
What's Missing -- In almost any major release, some people will be disappointed, and those looking for an overhaul of Eudora's increasingly creaky filtering system won't find any major changes in Eudora 6.0. Eudora still doesn't use Apple's Address Book, although the more I see other applications trying to tie into Apple's Address Book, the more I'm unsure that it's currently a good universal solution because different applications have different requirements from a contact database. Also unchanged is Eudora's HTML parser, which enables Eudora to display HTML mail in a readable way most of the time, but not much more. I hope Qualcomm will replace the internal parser with Apple's recently released WebKit, which is the HTML rendering engine at the heart of Safari.
That said, there are oodles of other minor tweaks, improvements, and bug fixes in Eudora 6.0, and you can read all about them in the release notes. There's also no question that Eudora remains the most configurable email client on the planet, thanks to the way it provides access to hundreds of internal settings that are off-limits in other programs. I've updated the list of x-eudora-settings that I maintain; get it by sending email to <email@example.com>. Put ADD in the Subject line if you'd like to receive future revisions automatically.
Upgrading & Versions -- Eudora remains available in three modes, switchable by choosing Payment & Registration from Eudora's Help menu. Paid mode provides all of Eudora's features for $50. Upgrades are free if you purchased a Paid mode subscription within the last 12 months; they cost $40 if you have a Paid mode registration code from Eudora 4.3 or later; and you must buy a new copy for $50 if you're a new user or have a registration code for a version of Eudora older than 4.3.
Sponsored mode is also free, and lets you use Eudora's entire feature set except for SpamWatch in return for showing you an ad window with rotating ads and using up to three toolbar buttons to link to advertisers. Personally, I couldn't survive without something like SpamWatch, but if you don't receive much spam and don't mind the ads, Sponsored mode works fine.
Light mode eliminates all the ads, but also reduces the feature set significantly, making it a fine option for someone who needs a basic email program without all the bells and whistles for free.
Eudora 6.0 is a 4.4 MB download for Mac OS 9 users, and a 4.2 MB download for Mac OS X users.
PayBITS: Did Adam's insights into Eudora help you tame
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by Keith Kaiser <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I'm easily the most relaxed Mac user anywhere.
Let me explain: My reclining chair is surrounded by my technology, made up of four or five remotes, cordless phones and cell phones, remote light switches, and of course a laptop table with my AirPort-enabled iBook. When friends come over it's not uncommon to find me browsing the Web while listening to iTunes or my iPod, surfing for the latest Mac software, and watching CNN on television in the background, all at the same time. However, all that work on the iBook's trackpad was starting to take its toll. My wrist and hand were becoming numb, and often my ring and pinkie fingers were cramped beyond use. On top of that, my forearm was always tired from being held at an unusual angle, because the laptop table was higher than the arm of the chair. Clearly this situation had to change.
The solution turned out to be the Gyration Ultra Cordless Mouse. Unlike other wireless mice, the Ultra uses radio waves to communicate with the computer, and to my knowledge is the first to employ small gyroscopes to determine its relative position. This means it can be used on a hard surface like a normal three-button optical mouse, or you can operate it in the air (on no surface). The device itself is shaped unlike any other mouse. You grab it like a fishing pole or a hand shake. An activation trigger, which you use when you want to use the Ultra off the table, falls right under your index finger, leaving your thumb free to use either the right or left button and the scroll wheel.
The Ultra uses non-replaceable, rechargeable, NiMH batteries, which are recharged using an included mouse cradle and charger. A separate receiver plugs into your Mac's USB port.
To outfit my computer "loungestation," I used a piece of Velcro to secure the receiver to the bottom of my laptop table, conveniently hiding it and storing it out of harm's way at the same time. The mouse sits in the included charger/cradle next to the iBook, taking up no more room than a normal mouse, which makes it easy to pick up when I need it.
Gyration claims that the mouse has a range of about 25 feet (7.6 m). Another model with 100-foot (30.5 m) range is also available, but only the largest of presentation halls would require it. The Ultra's control of the Mac's pointer is rock solid on the screen, and actually easier to position than with the trackpad. Once the pointer is placed over a spot, it remains there, letting you repeatedly click the same spot without worry that it has drifted.
As for taking mousing into the third dimension, it took all of 30 seconds to get used to using the Ultra without a tabletop. The gyroscopes in the device track the relative horizontal and vertical movements you make in the air (it does not track depth, as some 3-D controllers do; the Ultra mainly frees the mouse from gravity's pull on a desktop). Very little wrist action is needed to move the Ultra, less than a conventional mouse, and it works with both the tracking speed and double-click speed settings in the Mouse preferences pane. You can easily hold the Ultra in your hand and, without moving your arm, emulate the actions of a conventional mouse without keeping it in the same plane, such as on a mouse pad. The movements needed to position the pointer actually seem to help my wrist, as opposed to hurting it as before. No more carpal tunnel or repetitive stress injuries for this guy! Weighing in at just over five ounces, the mouse is a little heavy, but I think that adds to my ability to stabilize the pointer.
Although the user guide warns that the right mouse button does not work on a Mac, I found that it works on everything you would expect it to, in both Mac OS X and Mac OS 9. You can add additional button-mapping functionality by using the shareware USB Overdrive X; the device includes only Windows software. Gyration's promotional material says the mouse sends tracking data at 80 Hz, much faster than other cordless mice, and from my experience this feels true; for example, it makes scrolling with the wheel very smooth.
Using the Gyration mouse has been a pleasure. It was easy to set up, and with a price less than $80, it's a good value. I highly recommend it for anyone who needs a wireless solution that will work both in the air or on the desktop, or if you just need relief from the stress on your hand, wrist, and arm.
[Keith Kaiser is a Senior Programmer Analyst for Worldspan in Kansas City, Missouri. On the side he operates HyperMac Software, a Mac support service, and spends most of his free time as a volunteer for the North Star District, Boy Scouts of America.]
by TidBITS Staff <email@example.com>
Hog Bay Notebook comments -- Readers weigh in on what they like and dislike about Hog Bay Notebook in comparison to other snippet keepers. (4 messages)
Internet vulnerabilities -- So is the Internet more or less vulnerable than Chuck Goolsbee described in his interview? And does the Internet make for a good target for terrorists anyway? (14 messages)
Concerns with Google -- After our announcement of the experiment with Google AdSense, a reader wrote in with some concerns based on the Google Watch Web site. That then prompted some fascinating responses about the Google Watch Web site's biases, including the fact that there's a Google Watch Watch site. (4 messages)
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