Of course by now you’ve all heard that Microsoft officially announced Word 5 last week after over two and half years, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll see it before January. We’ll probably be doing an article about what is good, bad, and ugly in the new version sometime in the future, so keep an eye out.
I haven’t heard too much about this subject recently, having moved away from Cornell and its public computer rooms, but at one point I was very interested in getting a Mac to boot to a network. Actually, my low tech solution was a cheap SCSI device that held a small storage device, perhaps EPROMs. That would then work with any Mac, rather than requiring a network. (And anyone who wants to use my idea can pay me royalties and I’ll tell them the rest of the details :-)). However, a more logical situation for public rooms with Ethernet installed is to use something like Sonic Systems’s recently-announced The Diskless Mac (TDM). TDM is a ROM chip that replaces ROM chips on popular Ethernet cards and includes software that loads an image of the System Software into a RAM disk on the client Mac. One of TDM’s claims to fame is that it will work with a Unix server as well as with an AppleShare server, which increases its flexibility. I don’t know if BootToob, the other remote booting package, supports this (see TidBITS-073 for more information on BootToob). The advantage of remote booting should be obvious – client Macs don’t need hard disks, easier network administration, viruses having a harder time spreading, and simpler software protection. The only drawbacks to this sort of thing are that it requires an Ethernet network, which isn’t as cheap or as common as LocalTalk networks, it requires extra RAM (my guess is that 4 MB would be the minimum after you devote 1 MB to the RAM disk and 1.5 MB for the System to use for normal operation; check your About this Macintosh… to see how much your System is using), and it costs an extra $149 per Mac. Still, for the protection and convenience it offers (I wrote the moron-proof instructions for rebuilding a public hard disk from backups at Cornell, and it would have been wonderful if those Macs hadn’t required rebuilding all the time), TDM could easily pay for itself in no time.
Sonic Systems — 408/736-1900
Connectix tells me that they’ve shipped version 2.2.1 of HAND-Off II, which adds compatibility for System 7.0.1, the PowerBooks, Quadras, and other 68040 accelerators. The upgrade is free to registered users, just call Connectix and ask. If you already own On Cue or the Now Utilities, you can get HAND-Off II for $35 directly from Connectix through December 31st, 1991. In addition to the added compatibility, Connectix’s Roy MacDonald said that he felt the main benefits of the upgrade over Now Software’s MultiMaster are application substitution, greater reliability, and a stronger Launch menu (it now includes a better interface, color and sound switching), and the ability to pop up the menu anywhere on the screen. HAND-Off II also includes the SuperMenu feature that makes the Apple menu hierarchical, a feat matched by Now’s NowMenus, HAM from Microseeds, and the $10 shareware BeHiearchic. In this version of HAND-Off II, Connectix has optimized the SuperMenu feature for speed and memory usage, but having only used NowMenus, I can’t comment on the difference. One final addition to HAND-Off II is the ability to have your menu drop automatically when you move the mouse over it, called "auto-drop," or to have the menu stay down once you click once on it, called "click-to-drop." I’ve found similar features irritating on 13" monitors, but Roy said that despite misgivings, he found it quite useful on a 25" monitor. Time will tell.
Connectix — 800/950-5880 — 415/571-5100
At the last dBUG meeting, Aldus president Paul Brainerd said that he wouldn’t buy a PowerBook right away because he couldn’t live in 40 MB. Luckily for him, CMS has announced 40 MB and 80 MB upgrade drives specifically for the PowerBooks, and has a 100 MB drive in the works for early 1992. These LDPB drives sport 15 ms average access time and a somewhat better throughput than Apple’s models. I mistakenly said in our "Quadra Quirks" article that the hard drive in the PowerBook 100 was soldered on, which would have made upgrading the 100 quite difficult. Soldering the hard drive on to the motherboard was proposed as a way the next PowerBooks could get still smaller but got mixed up in my scribbled notes (I forgot the MiniBAT that night.). Thanks to Karl Seppala of CMS for setting me straight on that. So if you have any PowerBook and need a larger internal hard drive, these drives from CMS should now be shipping. They don’t come cheap, with the LDPB 80 drive listing for $999 and the LDPB 40 for $699, but size is inversely proportional to cost these days. Needless to say, a dealer should install this sort of thing, especially considering how easy it is to mess up a PowerBook and its equally fragile warranty if you don’t know what you’re doing inside.
CMS — 714/222-6000
Here’s an interesting new CD. Raynbow Software has searched far and wide for GIF (I believe it stands for Graphic Interchange Format and was developed by CompuServe) images and put them on a CD-ROM. They have about 5000 images of the G and PG variety, to use the Motion Pictures Association of America ratings. So those of you looking for the NC-17 GIF images should look elsewhere (X and XXX actually aren’t MPAA ratings). The only catch is that GIFdb, the database software for searching among these 5000 images only runs under DOS. Ick. However, Raynbow has included GIF viewers, convertors, and manipulators for the Mac as well as the Amiga, Atari ST, and Sun, and when I asked, Louis Goldstein said that the disk was pressed in ISO 9660 format, which means that you can use it with a Mac. Without the search engine it might be a tad difficult to find any given image, but all the images will be accessible. Louis did say that they plan to create search engines for other platforms if this disc succeeds, so hope remains. The disc is being pressed as I write and should ship soon. Interestingly enough, since Raynbow has merely collected the GIF files and the utilities, those are included for free. The $50 cost covers only the media and Raynbow’s DOS search engine. A penny per image isn’t bad in comparison to the connect fees you would rack up downloading them, plus they’re all on a single CD, a good place for space-hungry graphic files.
Raynbow Software — 408/425-1154