This issue is full of the latest and greatest software and hardware shown at Macworld SF and some unpleasant bugs in Word 5 that you should know about. Also check out why I think QuickTime will succeed where HyperCard failed and why the DeskWriter C driver can cause headaches in laboratory rats and Murph Sewall alike. Finally, the long-awaited announcement of our very own TidBITS mailing list. Have TidBITS delivered to your Internet door every week!
What a show! Going to a Macworld Expo always takes a great deal of effort because I want to see everything and talk to lots of people, and I usually spend the entire day on the floor. I wanted to order a new set of legs by the end, but all the mail order places were backordered by then. 🙂
I enjoyed the show, and I’ll write more about it below. I want to mention how nice it was to meet so many of the people I’ve corresponded with electronically for so long. We had made up a bunch of cool red TidBITS buttons (the only button at the show with a penguin on it) and I tried to give them away to TidBITS readers, but I’m sure I missed many of you. We’ve still got some buttons and will give you a chance to get one via snail mail in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for details.
Hot PowerBooks — Mark H. Anbinder, obviously hoping to add a Junior Woodchuck Crime Prevention Badge to his TidBITS Contributing Editor Badge, sent this note:
Late in December, three Macintosh PowerBook 140’s (4/40 part #M1227LL/A) were stolen from the ComputerLand Mid-Atlantic warehouse in Clinton, MD. The following are the serial numbers for the units:F2144L5D7 F2145JTG7 F2148HWK7
If you have information about these units, please notify Officer Wingate with the police at 301/336-8800, and reference case #91-364-419. Please pass this information along to anyone who might come into contact with these units.
140 Floppy Solution — While you’re peering around for your PowerBook 140’s serial number to see if it’s hot, check to see if your machine has the shield that solves the intermittent disk recognition problems that have plagued 140 owners. PowerBook 140s with a serial number of F2149 or later (PowerBooks made after Christmas, 1991) had the shield installed in the factory and will not experience this problem.
As we reported a few weeks ago, the immediate solution is to turn off the backlighting on the screen, and the long-term solution is to call Apple at 800/SOS-APPL and make arrangements to send it in to be fixed, a free repair I believe. Do note that this repair deal only applies to the 140, and not to the 170 or the 100.
Mark H. Anbinder — [email protected]
Word 5.0 Addendum — Dwight K. Lemke writes, "An addendum to your report on Word 5.0: I was informed by Niles & Associates that the latest version of EndNote Plus includes a Word 5.0 command application so that it can be accessed from the Insert menu. Expect to see it in mid-February."
[Adam: I’m glad to see people using the plug-in capabilities of Word 5.0, but I would have been more impressed if they could be easily turned on and off without quitting the program and moving the files around.]
Dwight K. Lemke — [email protected]
Finally! After 101 issues and almost two years, we’re setting up a mailing list so that you can receive TidBITS in your electronic mailbox. Thanks to some great folks at Simon Fraser University in Canada, you can now receive TidBITS directly rather than waiting for it to come through in comp.sys.mac.digest or snagging it from an FTP site a few days later. This will definitely be the fastest way to get TidBITS from now on. The mailing list should work for people on CompuServe as well, although probably not for people using the AppleLink gateway, since AppleLink has something like a 30K limit on incoming files, and although most issues are under 30K, I can’t guarantee that all will fit through.
Subscription to the mailing list is extremely easy: just send an email message (you don’t have to include a special Subject: line or special body text) to:
and you’ll be automatically added to the mailing list. This list is not a discussion list; it is solely for distributing issues of TidBITS via email, so please do not use it to talk about TidBITS. I enjoy receiving comments and suggestions, but please send email to my personal account ([email protected]) for that purpose. I include selected comments and suggestions in our weekly MailBITS column in TidBITS.
Alvin Khoo — [email protected]
A friend who went to San Francisco Macworld several years ago claimed that it was so crowded that you could only walk in the direction the crowd was flowing. It wasn’t that bad this year, but I spent a full day exploring both Moscone and Brooks Hall, and then another day checking out all the things I’d missed at Moscone.
Giveaways — In past years, companies went all out on the giveaways. Well, we have met the recession and it is us. I collected only about twenty buttons (which we promptly doctored with magnetic tape and stuck on our refrigerator), and only three demo disks. The most common marketing concept was to give a prize to a random person spotted wearing a specific button, so Mass Microsystems, for instance, would give a prize to someone they saw wearing their button. In theory it cut down on the prizes and increased the button exposure, but I don’t know how well it worked – I certainly didn’t wear all twenty of my buttons every day or I would have been bullet-proof. Had I stayed in a worse neighborhood in Oakland, that might have been a feature. Anyway, the moral of the story is that the computer industry is looking for ways to cut costs and increase real exposure, and trade show giveaways were early on the chopping block. Even still, the award for the best giveaway goes to CE Software for their specially-printed packets of Earth Software, better known as wildflower seeds.
Demos — I must admit that I have a low tolerance for demos. Usually I can learn more from fifteen minutes with a program on my own than by sitting through an hour long demo. My tolerance goes down even further when I have to stand for the demo and peer over other people. That said, the demo that impressed me the most was Adobe Premiere, a QuickTime movie-making application that looked fun. Diva’s VideoShop, a similar application was also popular, so much so that I never had the patience to elbow my way to the front of the crowd so that I could get a glimpse. NewTek showed their VideoToaster in a corner, and packs of people swarmed around the booth, making it so you couldn’t get within twenty feet. The worst demos were those with a theme. Shiva had baseball bleachers up and an announcer dressed like Babe Ruth, and Farallon had a pair of actors who performed several different skits, all of which involved Farallon products at some point, although I couldn’t stand them long enough to tell for sure.
Parties — I never went to parties at previous shows, so I mainly stuck to press receptions (or "How to eat cheap in San Francisco") and the netter’s dinner. The dinner was a blast, with 120 people from nets attending, many of them the programmers of much of the excellent shareware and freeware out there. I know I promised to send some of you various things, but I also assured you I would forget, so please remind me via email. I enjoyed the Hunan food, although I expected it to be hotter based on Jon Pugh’s statement: "They can make it cooler, but we frown on that sort of behavior." There could have been a bit more food, but my stomach may have been biased from the meager fruit and croissants I’d given it that morning. My vote goes to a few more courses in the next revision, Jon.
I did go to the Software Ventures party, at which I mainly talked to people from BMUG and various programmers. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, and they even invited me to MacHack, which is 96 hours of no sleep and serious programming (or in my case, serious kibitzing) in June. I’d love to go and will try to make it and report back on the cool stuff created there. My downfall at being a serious party animal (which was otherwise aided by my barracuda tie) was due in part to the fact that the train to Oakland, where I was staying with a friend, turned into a pumpkin around midnight and I didn’t feel like traveling from downtown San Francisco to somewhere in Oakland on my own. Ah well, maybe I’ll be rich and famous enough next year to stay in San Francisco itself so I don’t have to make like Cinderella when it starts to get late.
This is by no means a definitive list of all the interesting software at Macworld, or even everything that I saw, but here are some of the products that caught my eye.
ThoughtPattern 2.0 — Bananafish Software showed a beta of the next version of ThoughtPattern, a personal information manager (PIM). PIM is one of those acronyms that doesn’t mean much, but I’m impressed with ThoughtPattern because it melds the standard calendar features of other programs with a full-featured database. Unlike most databases, though, ThoughtPattern excels at storing unformatted information such that which flows in from the nets. My main ThoughtPattern textbase is 1.3 MB in size, and 95% of that file came from the nets. I don’t use it every day, but periodically I find it extremely handy. We’ll review ThoughtPattern when 2.0 ships since it will be a significant upgrade from the current version (1.2.1).
Bananafish Software — 415/929-8135
InfoLog — Connectix is deciding on a final name for this database product, but I expect it will be popular. InfoLog has a specific purpose – helping you keep track of physical papers, especially if you have organized them with an unusual system. As a child collecting comic books, I filed my Spiderman comics under "P" for Peter Parker, Spidey’s real name, due to lack of space in "S". That was fine for me, but no one else would have guessed. You may know someone who files papers in an equally illogical order, or you may have three or four people who file things in subjective categories that other people have to find later. In either case, InfoLog can track those documents and their hiding places so that anyone can easily find them. InfoLog would also come in handy to track incoming faxes, which often aren’t easily categorized and which are often removed from the machine by someone other than the intended recipient. I don’t know how soon InfoLog will be out, but I suspect that people will find uses for its document tracking and locating abilities.
Connectix — 800/950-5880 — 415/571-5100
Compression Utilities — These guys never let up. Salient was shipping AutoDoubler, which is every bit as cool as promised and about as transparent and stable as possible. I’m pleased with how it came out. There’s not much we can add to our original article, other than that what we said then was right.
Aladdin was exhibiting, though not shipping StuffIt Deluxe 3.0 and SpaceSaver, the latter of which will be sold separately. I don’t know SpaceSaver as well as AutoDoubler, not having tested it yet, but it appears that the programs perform similar actions, with the main difference being that SpaceSaver is smart about file and folder names as well. So, if you want to create a StuffIt archive, just add ".sit" to the end. ".sea" will turn the file into a self-extracting archive, and other user-specified words will immediately compress or expand files and folders. StuffIt Deluxe 3.0 has a much improved interface and has dropped the umpteen zillion compression formats (though it still reads them) in favor of a single one that achieved incredible compression (over 70% on some files I saw) and amazing speed (approximately two seconds to expand a 130K document).
Alysis showed the new More Disk Space, which I somehow missed seeing, but which supposedly installs itself into the System file to ensure that it runs all the time. I prefer the way Salient and Aladdin ensure that you’ll be able to expand your files by including an application that can always expand compressed files, but I expect that Alysis’s solution does work.
The most interesting newcomer to the transparent compression world is DiskSpace from Golden Triangle. They’ve built compression directly into the hard disk driver, which means that everything on the disk is automatically compressed all the time, even the System and Finder, which no other programs touch. The disk appears to be twice as large as it is. Currently, you must reformat your hard disk to install DiskSpace, but Golden Triangle plans a version for the summer that will take over disks from other drivers. I was unable to find any holes in their implementation from talking to the programmer, but I, possibly like other people, am a little leery of anything that works at such a low level. In addition, I bought Silverlining for a reason (namely it’s a great disk formatting and diagnostic package), and I wouldn’t want to give it up just like that. Neat idea, though.
Expanded Books — One of the most pleasant surprises at Macworld came from Voyager, who shipped the first three Expanded Books, designed especially for use on the PowerBook screens (but which will work on any screen 640 x 400 or larger. The three titles are Michael Crichton’s "Jurassic Park," "The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams (a longtime Macintosh fan), and Martin Gardner’s "Annotated Alice." Written in HyperCard 2.1 (one of the few commercial programs to use HyperCard), the Expanded Books are designed for easy reading, browsing, and searching. You can add bookmarks, copy selected passages, add marginal notes, and mark passages for reference. I don’t know how hypertext-like the books are since they were originally written linearly, but short of the true hyperfiction that Eastgate publishes, this is as good as it gets. Voyager also has some fun CD-ROMs full of QuickTime movie clips, one of baseball’s greatest moments, another called "Poetry in Motion," with readings by famous poets, and two more that dig through America’s recent past. I really must get a fast CD-ROM drive soon.
Voyager — 310/451-1383
The most interesting hardware was harder to find, squirreled off in the corners of Moscone and even in local hotels. I saw some products and regretfully missed others.
Same BAT channel — I tried the full BAT keyboard at Infogrip’s booth and came away wanting to really put it through its paces. Infogrip was still having trouble with the ADB since Apple apparently hasn’t been terribly forthcoming, but the design was extremely comfortable since it incorporates a palm rest right with the keyboard. The keys had a decent feel to them – much nicer than the mushy keys on the miniBAT – and I felt that it wouldn’t be hard to figure out the chording system given an hour or two of practice. I believe that you can keep both the standard QWERTY keyboard and the BAT hooked up at the same time, so if you have to whip something out quickly before you’ve gotten up to speed on the BAT, you’ll be able to switch easily without having to restart and plug in the normal keyboard.
Infogrip — 504/766-8082
Cute Fax Modem — The award for the cutest product at the show goes to Mass Microsystems for their MASSfm 24/96, a strangely named but minuscule 2400 data/9600 fax modem. It’s a mere 3.5" tall and resembles a Quadra 900 from the hit movie, "Honey, I Shrunk The Mac." It appears to be a full-featured send and receive fax modem from the brochure with some advanced features like using power directly from the Mac’s serial port and the phone line, but being able to drop into a low power sleep mode when idle and wake up on a command or phone ring. I’d like to see it with higher speed data capabilities, and the Mass Microsystems people assured me that they would add that capability once they could figure out how to cram the chips into that mini Quadra case and still get the case to close, a problem my luggage and I struggled with as well.
Mass Microsystems — 800/522-7979 — 408/522-1200
Psychic Hardware — I think I’ve mentioned work being done on brainwave recognition once or twice (basically differentiation between two basic patterns, yes/no in one case, anxiety/confusion in the other). Psychic Lab showed a state-of-the-art electroencephalograph (EEG) and biofeedback system that accepts brainwave input from a sensor headband, transmit it to the computer (or to anything that can record audio), and then display it in any one of seven rendering modes. The coolest rendering mode is the 3D color graph that moves as more data comes in. The system, called the Interactive Brainwave Visual Analyzer (IBVA), is only an input and display device right now, but I’m sure that enterprising programmers could figure out more things to do with it in terms of interacting with a computer, virtual reality, or any of the health-related uses of biofeedback systems. Neat stuff, and I look forward to seeing more of it.
Psychic Lab Inc. — 212/353-1669
VPL Microcosm — I missed the demonstrations of Microcosm because they were held in one of the hotels rather than on the show floor, and I’m still kicking myself for it. Microcosm is VPL Research’s virtual reality system for the Macintosh. It’s not cheap at $58,000, but that price includes a Quadra 900, the EyePhone XVR for viewing virtual worlds, the DataGlove XVR for manipulating objects in those worlds, and software to design your own virtual worlds. I’m curious about how they manage three dimensional sound – that is, sound that has a single source that you can pinpoint as you walk around rather than seeming to come from all around you. I’m sorry I missed it, but I’ll try to check it out sometime and report on it further. Alternately, if you have $58,000 burning a hole in your pocket…
VPL Research — 415/361-1710
John Sculley chortled slightly as he said, "Remember, I’ve been talking about multimedia for the last four years." This year he could afford to chortle as QuickTime stole the show. Apple boasted right and left that over 100 shipping applications at the show supported QuickTime, and they even had a special room dedicated to showing QuickTime-savvy applications. Perhaps the most impressive though, were the demos during Sculley’s keynote address, and I was pleased to see one was a video conferencing system, something I suggested many months ago.
Videophones are a fascinating idea, and people who don’t want them because of concerns about callers seeing them as they rush from the shower are indeed all wet. In the immortal words of Captains Kirk and Picard of Star Trek, "On screen." With any sort of privacy-invading technology, the end user must retain complete control, which is why you don’t have to talk to everyone who makes your telephone ring. Same thing with videophones – you’ll have to consciously turn on the video, so if you’re buck naked and dripping wet when your grandmother calls, you need not worry.
Enough philosophy. During the keynote, Sculley used a normal Mac and a normal telephone line along with some slightly special hardware consisting of (I presume) a seriously fast modem, some sort of video camera, a real-time digitizing and compression board from Workstation Technologies Inc. (WTI), and special video conferencing software from Northern Telecom to talk to and view an art director at Time Magazine. Then, using a digital camera back on a Nikon camera and Adobe Photoshop, a photographer and the art director created a fake cover for Time showing Sculley with the caption, "Read My Chips." It ran a bit slowly, and the images of Sculley and the art director in New York were in black and white and jumpy, but it worked. Impressive.
I think I’ve figured out why QuickTime will be a success. QuickTime is like HyperCard, except Apple has made sure that there will be a commercial market around QuickTime. Despite the gigabytes of stacks created in HyperCard, it has been a smashing commercial failure because Apple provided too much. Any moderately bright monkey could create something in HyperCard using the built-in tools – few people needed the more powerful tools marketed commercially, and even fewer people did a good enough job to market their stacks commercially. Because there’s no market around HyperCard, it’s languishing at Claris and everyone is sitting around trying to figure out what to do with it. Had Apple provided the guts of HyperCard as an extension to the system software so anyone could run a stack, but left the market for development tools open, commercial HyperCard utilities and packages of externals would have sprung up, some on the high end, some on the low end. It’s not quite parallel, but it’s close.
That is what’s going to happen with QuickTime. Apple has said, "Look people, here’s this great stuff that your Mac can do, and if you want to make your own or modify what you’re getting, go buy a package from a third party." Some of the programs for creating and editing movies will be high-end and expensive, and others will be more on the level of Kid Pix Companion, which among other things, allows kids to put together slide shows using QuickTime movies. Lots of movies and animations will be uploaded to the electronic services, and hard drives that groaned under the weight of HyperCard stacks may need replacing to handle the even bulkier movies.
Sure, you can’t do much with QuickTime right now. That’s because developers are still figuring out what might be fun to do with it. Adding basic support for playing movies is easy, and that’s what most applications have done. But the impressive stuff, like Adobe Premiere, is starting to appear, and the little utilities are just poking their heads out the door. The first I’ve heard of is VideoBeep, which can play a QuickTime movie at a number of system events, like Startup, Shutdown, Disk Insert, Disk Eject, and so on. The point is that because Apple has merely provided the platform and stepped out of the way, developers can step in to produce useful software. Competition will result and before you know it, there will be far more uses for QuickTime than appear possible now. Look at the compression market. Aladdin was sitting pretty with StuffIt Deluxe, and then along came Salient with DiskDoubler, redefining the market in the process. Now Aladdin, Salient, and Alysis are barely on speaking terms due to fierce competition, but their products are improving and evolving far more rapidly than any others that I can think of at the moment. That will happen with QuickTime utilities too, though probably not at the same rate for a while.
Another reason QuickTime will succeed is that camcorders and digital cameras are getting cheaper and better all the time with the consumer market pushing them. A friend from Ithaca came to visit and brought four 1.4 MB floppies filled with 75 pictures of our friends and the gorgeous autumn leaves back there. It was a slightly more difficult to view the pictures than a stack of glossies, but it was a lot cheaper and he could easily throw out the lousy ones to make room for more. I’m already coveting a camcorder for just this sort of thing.
Finally, Apple is pushing QuickTime as an open standard. Learning from IBM’s accidental move with the original PC, Apple has realized that open standards usually win out and they’re even better if you control the standard and have a head start in implementing it. To that end, one of Sculley’s assistants at the keynote showed some QuickTime movies on a Mac, copied the files to a DOS floppy (I don’t know if he was using Apple’s soon-to-be-released DOS Exchange program or not), copied them onto a Windows system, and ran them using what he termed "extremely prototype" software. Still, it worked, and those QuickTime movies ran just fine under Windows, and once people use QuickTime on Macs and PC clones, the amount that you will be able to do will increase even more rapidly.
Someone goofed, folks. I know lots of people who only use Microsoft Word because it talks so well with PageMaker. Not too surprising, considering that Microsoft and Aldus are about ten miles apart. We said in our previous articles on Word that the file formats of Word 4.0 and Word 5.0 are the same. That’s apparently true with the exception of about 100 bytes at the beginning of the file, and that minor difference can cause problems when placing documents in PageMaker, though the situation is still a little fuzzy.
The basic problem is that if you work on a Word 4.0 document in Word 5.0 and then want to place that document in PageMaker 4.x, it sometimes fails, (even more frustrating than if it failed consistently). Documents that have never been touched by Word 5.0 are fine, and documents created in Word 5.0 and never touched by Word 4.0 are fine. There isn’t much else we can tell you about the problem (you’ll know it when you see it) except the solution, which currently seems to be the only fix for problematic files until Aldus releases new import filters for PageMaker.
To fix, as my mother would say, a bad-dude file, open it in Word 4.0, save it in RTF format (which, by the way, is an excellent way to fix some common problems with Word files), open the RTF file in Word 4.0 again, and save under a new name. Then you can import the file into PageMaker. If you were paying attention you’ll notice that Word 5.0 does not figure into the fix at all, so make sure you keep Word 4.0 handy if you regularly import Word documents originally created in 4.0 into PageMaker.
Graphics Bug — We’ve heard reports of Word 5 crashing when editing mildly complex graphics in its graphics editor, and at first figured that people were just pushing the limits a bit too far. A little testing showed that the graphics editor is not terribly stable, particularly in low memory situations. I created a Word 4.0 document with a few words and one of the standard graphics from the Scrapbook (the Downtown Business Occupancy Rate one), opened it in Word 5.0, double-clicked on the graphic, and then played with the lines in it for a minute before Word bombed. Be careful out there folks.
Public Relations Bug — In the humor department, at a recent dBUG meeting, a Microsoft product manager called a woman from the audience up on stage and asked the leading question, "How many people out of ten must pass a feature in Microsoft’s usability testing for that feature to reach the final program?" Undeterred by the prospect of not winning a hot pink Microsoft Word duffle bag, the woman confidently replied, "One," paused for a few seconds as the audience fell out of their seats laughing, and then gave the desired answer (nine) to walk off with the duffle bag and the audience’s applause. Life is never dull around here.
Microsoft Mac Word Technical Support — 206/635-7200
Santa kindly left a DeskWriter C under my tree so I’ll be able to enlighten future undergraduates with color transparencies. But I found a few problems with the current DeskWriter C printer drivers. I was prepared to put up with the absence of background printing until the new driver came out, but the current driver is not compatible with 68040 caches. There are a couple of ways to temporarily disable the caches (without restarting), but those don’t work with the DeskWriter C AppleTalk driver. With the caches on, an attempt to print (or even access print setup) hangs the system. With the caches temporarily off, print commands report that they can’t find the DeskWriter C on the network (after a few seconds, the Chooser does find the printer, but on returning to the application, the driver loses it again).
I’d read that some Quadra network problems are solved by the new version of AppleTalk (it ships with Remote AppleTalk, which I own). However, AppleTalk 57 made the incompatibility with the DeskWriter C driver even worse. Evidently, the existing DeskWriter C driver is entirely incompatible with AppleTalk 57 (likely to be part of System 7.1).
OK, back to AppleTalk 56 and restart with caches off (only for testing, there’s no way I plan to make a regular thing of running with caches off). I have a 2+ MB application (SPSS) that comes with it’s own TrueType font. About This Macintosh… with balloon help says SPSS uses 2,250K, but the DeskWriter C driver says it doesn’t have enough application memory to print a page when the app memory is set at 2,900K. [Editor’s note: This is probably related in part to what Murph was printing, since the memory requirements rise dramatically when you want to print lots of colors. See our article on the DeskWriter C in TidBITS-080/09-Sep-91 for more information.]
I’ve talked to HP’s technical support. They indicate that the System 7-friendly and Quadra-compatible drivers probably won’t be available until "the second quarter." That’s four, maybe six, months. The technician also said she didn’t think there is even a beta copy yet, at least not one that is compatible with the Quadra. I appreciate the logic that the Quadra cache problem was something that took HP unaware (funny that the folks at Absoft included an item about it in their newsletter six months or so ago), but I don’t understand why HP hasn’t already shipped System 7-compatible drivers. Surely, HP had early beta copies of System 7, and the technical specifications even earlier. System 7 has been out for 7 months, a year later than originally planned.
Other developers don’t appear to have had too much difficulty upgrading for cache compatibility. Of course, print drivers may be a whole different problem than extensions and applications. The HP technician described Hewlett-Packard as "one of Apple’s competitors, so they don’t make beta hardware available to us." My understanding is that Apple’s dealings with third party developers are not so simple. Perhaps someone out there can allay my suspicion that HP just hasn’t been giving the problem adequate attention. [Ed. There have been ongoing complaints about the DeskWriter’s drivers for quite some time now, so it’s not too surprising that there would be problems with the DeskWriter C’s driver as well.]
The fact that the old drivers worked up to now may have led HP to assign a lower priority to working on the new drivers, but based on my experience, the existing AppleTalk driver is unlikely to work with the forthcoming 7.1 (and its likely associate, AppleTalk 57). Anyone contemplating purchasing a DeskWriter C to use with System 7.1 or a Quadra might want to insist on the new drivers before committing to the purchase. At the very least, pressing lots of dealers into calling HP about System 7.1-compatibility should generate more attention to the problem.
Murph Sewall — [email protected]