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Return the survey, maybe win a button – it’s your only chance! Back in the real world, there’s a mean DOS virus that even Mac users should be aware of, a brand new TIDBITS LISTSERV mailing list, and a possible reason why that Quadra doesn’t seem so fast. A review of Timeslips III and a gripe about unreasonable international upgrade fees help round out the issue, ably backed by a special deal for StuffIt Deluxe that is solely for online users.

Adam Engst No comments


Kent P. Miller writes, "I called Sterling Software today about the Usenet CD, and the only format available right now is for Sun workstations. At the end of March they will release a version in ISO 9660 format that Mac people can read. Around late April they plan to include a Mac program to browse the archived news."

Information from:
Kent P. Miller — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Train Power

Train Power — Lucius Chiaraviglio writes in regard to this quote from TidBITS-106:

But then, as someone recently said on the net, "there are few other media that can beat the bandwidth of a truck full of CD-ROMs."

"As a serious railway proponent I am obliged to point out the following: No media (on land, anyway) can beat the bandwidth of a train full of CD-ROMs." 🙂

Information from:
Lucius Chiaraviglio — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

TidBITS Survey II

Welcome to our second annual TidBITS Survey! Unlike MacWEEK and the other "qualified" subscription magazines, all you have to do to receive TidBITS is be interested. This survey will only appear in this issue of TidBITS, so please fill it out and return it soon if you can. We realize that you’re all busy people, as we are, and don’t have lots of time to spare. So you have three options.

  1. You can send in the entire survey below, at which point you may win a super-cool TidBITS button like those I gave to a few enthusiastic people at Macworld Expo. It was the only button at the show with a penguin on it. We’ve got 100 buttons to give out and will give them to every 20th response. If we get more than 2000 responses, we’ll space them evenly, so if we get 2500 responses, every 25th person will get a button. Of course, for me to send you a button, you’ll have to include your snail mail address, but rest assured that those addresses will never go to a direct mail company.
  2. You can just send in a survey response telling us how you get TidBITS, from Usenet, from sumex-aim, from our mailing list, from a BBS, or from another source. No buttons for the busy, sorry.
  3. You can ignore this entirely, which will make us seriously depressed. <sniff>

Please send survey responses to:

[email protected]

if possible, but it’s OK to send to my personal address if you have to (i.e. by replying to this note on the Internet). Those of you on CompuServe and America Online can use our addresses there instead, 70262,3152 and "Adam Engst" respectively. If you have no access to any of these electronic mail addresses, feel free to send snail mail to:

9301 Avondale Rd. NE Q1096
Redmond, WA 98052 USA

The Short Form — Remember, if you’re short on time, please just send back this form, but we won’t be able to send you a button unless you fill out the whole thing.

 I read TidBITS on:
     [ ] Usenet
     [ ] The SFU mailing list
     [ ] The TIDBITS LISTSERV mailing list
     [ ]
     [ ] Other anonymous FTP site _________________________________
     [ ] CompuServe
     [ ] America Online
     [ ] A local BBS (name) _________________ (phone#) ____________
     [ ] Other ____________________________________________________

The Long Form — I’m curious about the demographics of the TidBITS audience this year in part because we’re thinking of setting up a sponsorship program like that used by Public Broadcasting (PBS) and the survey results will help us figure out if that’s feasible. Nonetheless, check out question #17 – we ought to be able to do some good statistics on that one. 🙂

We’ve tried to give some examples of possible categories for the questions below, but keep in mind that they are only guidelines, and if your title is "Girl Friday" (don’t laugh, that’s a position at Delta Tao Software), then by all means write that down.

 00) Your Name
     Your Company
     Your Address
     City, State, Zip, Country

 01) I read TidBITS on the following online source:
     (i.e. Usenet, the SFU mailing list, the TIDBITS LISTSERV,, CompuServe, America Online, local BBS,
     a local network, other - please be specific!)

 02) Your organization's primary activity:
     (i.e. education, government, engineering, manufacturing,
     legal, communications, retail, consulting, thumb twiddling)

 03) Your professional title:
     (i.e. president, owner, VP, network manager, engineer,
     programmer, scientist, educator, consultant, grand poohbah)

 04) Your department's function:
     (i.e. education, communications, design, consulting, sales,
     MIS, R&D, finance, advanced thumb twiddling)

 05) How many people are employed at your organization?
     (numbers please, spreadsheets don't understand technical terms
      like "gazillions")

 06) How many Macs does your organization own?

 07) How many Macs does your organization plan to buy this year?

 08) How many DOS computers does your organization own?

 09) How many DOS computers does your organization plan to buy this

 10) How many Unix workstations does your organization own?

 11) How many Unix workstations does your organization plan to buy
     this year?

 12) Do you participate in the purchasing of hardware and software,
     both within your company or for others?

 13) If so, for how many computers do you have this participation?

 14) Has TidBITS influenced your purchasing decisions in any way?

 15) If so, how many purchases have you made as a direct result of
     information in TidBITS?

 16) Please indicate the communications capabilities that the
     computers in your organization have.
       [ ] Local Area Network
       [ ] Networked to workstations, minicomputers, or mainframes
       [ ] Communicate with remote computers via modem

 17) What is your favorite integer? :-)

Adam Engst No comments

Yet More List Stuff

It’s taken a little while to come up, but we now have a genuine LISTSERV running at Rice University. Many thanks to Mark R. Williamson and the other great people there for going to the effort of setting this list up. LISTSERVs work a little differently from the mailing list that we currently have at SFU now, so pay attention if you want to get TidBITS through the LISTSERV. The fact that Rice exists on both BITNET and the Internet means that it will probably work better for folks on BITNET, and we’re planning on moving BITNET people from the SFU list to the LISTSERV for that reason.

LISTSERV instructions — To subscribe to the list, send email to LISTSERV@RICEVM1 if you’re on BITNET and to [email protected] if you’re on the Internet. In the body of the mailfile, put the line:

SUBSCRIBE TIDBITS (yourFirstName yourLastName)

and you will be automatically added. You should also receive an acknowledgment from the LISTSERV so you know that you’re on. If you wish to remove yourself from the list, you can send the LISTSERV a message with this line in the body of the mailfile:


SFU Remove Function — Some of you may wish to switch yourselves from the SFU list to the LISTSERV, or perhaps you just want to shut off the list temporarily while you go on vacation. It’s now possible to remove yourself from the SFU list by sending email to:

[email protected]

with the word "remove" (in lower case and without the quotes) in the Subject: line. Unlike the LISTSERV, the SFU mailer only cares about the Subject: line and doesn’t care one whit about what’s in the body of the message. I realize that this is a bit confusing, but there’s no avoiding it since the two mailing lists are running with different software on different machines. I’m sure you can all figure it out.

For those of you reading this on America Online and GEnie and other places that don’t support connections to the Internet, my apologies for wasting your time. We strongly encourage all services to connect to the Internet, however, because we believe in freedom of communication, and limiting access is merely a way of discouraging free communications. The online community is huge and is growing rapidly, so it helps all of us when more people can share their knowledge and skills with the rest of the online world.

Adam Engst No comments

DOS Michelangelo Virus Alert!

This one’s a nasty bugger. The Michelangelo virus is a variant of the Stoned virus that infects the boot sector of disks. Unlike Stoned, on a certain date , March 6th (of any year), Michelangelo destroys data on the startup disk. Why am I telling you about this? First of all, lots of you probably have to work with DOS machines in some form or fashion, and it will make your job a lot harder if you have to recover from a trashed hard disk after Michelangelo gets through with it. Second, any Mac user running Insignia’s SoftPC or the Mac286 or Mac386 emulators cards from Orange Micro is at risk as well. It’s not quite clear if the virus just overwrites the FAT (file allocation table) and the boot sector or if it actually erases all data on all volumes, but if your SoftPC hard disk is infected and you have the E: drive set to a Mac folder, it’s possible that the virus could damage your Macintosh files as well.

The Michelangelo virus is one of the most virulent in that it has spread incredibly quickly and has even been shipped with commercial software such as DaVinci eMail 2.0 and on preformatted PC hard disks such as those in Leading Edge PCs. The virus scare has died down a bit on the Mac side, but it’s still worth noting that the networks are perhaps one of the safer places to get software since files on well-run servers are usually checked at least briefly before posting. In addition, the networks are the best places to get the latest versions of virus protection software. The upshot of all this is that if you’re at all worried about possibly having infected your DOS machine or SoftPC hard disk with Michelangelo, do yourself a favor and check it. You’ve got plenty of time before the March 6th destruction date to get a virus detection and removal package from the nets.

Several good packages that will find and remove the Michelangelo virus include Fridrik Skulason’s F-PROT shareware package (2.02) or the SCAN85 and CLEAN85 shareware programs from McAfee Associates. These programs should be available from most good sites carrying DOS software. Internet folks might look on, but be prepared to search for a bit – there’s a ton of software there.

If you suspect your machine has this virus but do not have an updated version of a virus scanner, running the CHKDSK program will report a "total bytes memory" value 2048 bytes less than expected. For example, a PC with 640K of memory will normally return a value of 655,360 bytes, with Michelangelo that value would be 653,312. Unfortunately, having less "total bytes memory" does not necessarily mean your machine is infected, since some memory resident programs can affect this value as well.

If your run out of time to check for Michelangelo, but do want to protect your data, you might try changing the date on your PC’s clock. Set the date for March 7th, and then after March 6th, reset the date to make it correct. Do not just do this and ignore the fact that you may have a virus though, since Michelangelo spreads constantly, and you could infect many other people through your negligence.

Contact a local DOS guru if you need help with this stuff, but don’t just laugh it off unless you think losing all your data is generally funny.

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder — [email protected]
Tom Young — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Slip Slidin’ Away

Do you know how many hours you work? Do you care? I do. I’m a statistic junkie and I like to know how much time I spend on certain tasks. After I find out how much, I often wish I hadn’t checked, but that’s life. The sort of people who are most in need of tracking their time are independent consultants and other professionals who bill by the hour or even by the minute. I used to do consulting before moving west, and I’ve had a few requests for information on this program, so I decided to check out Timeslips III 2.0 from Timeslips Corporation.

Timeslips III comes in both Mac and PC versions, and I gather they can share data to a certain extent, although I’ve only worked with the Macintosh version. The program is split into two basic parts, TSTimer, a small timer that you turn on and off to track when you’re working on a project, and TSReport, which brings all of the data together and turns it into a report or a bill. Timeslips works on the time slip concept in which you fill out a slip for every activity that you do. That slip carries with it information on the client (3400 maximum), the project (should you have multiple projects for the same client – up to 128), and the activity (up to 250). You can also have up to 250 users so your colleagues can work on the same projects and have their work merged in at the end. I doubt many people will ever run into these limitations.

TSTimer — TSTimer comes as a DA for UniFinder users and as an application for MultiFinder users. Both look the same though, and allow you to enter information specific to each slip like user, client, project, activity, date range (entered automatically from the clock) up to 32K of comments (which can be entered as abbreviations and which Timeslips will expand automatically, much like a glossary feature in a word processor), time estimates, and time spent. TSTimer will of course track the time spent automatically when it’s turned on, but your activities may not be at the computer. If so, you can enter lots of timeslips in batch mode. You can even specify if a slip is billable, unbillable, or no charge, options that let you narrowly specify which actions generate income. Using TSTimer is simplicity in itself – just create a new slip (which can carry all the client and activity settings from the previous slip), select a user, client, and activity from their respective buttons and click the "Turn on" button. At that point you can switch TSTimer into its Mini View, which is a smaller window that shows you only the client, slip time, and slip value (based on the rate you charge for that activity or client). There are also two buttons, one for switching back to Full View and one for toggling the timer. You’ll probably leave TSTimer in Mini View most of the time except when creating and editing slips.

TSReport — TSReport takes all of the information in the slips and helps you to sort through it and bring it together in a coherent way. It has four basic types of reports, each of which can be customized. If you wish to figure out how long you spend on all your projects and how those times compare to each other internally, the Timeslips reports and charts will help. If you wish to merely get a list of all your users, clients, activities, and projects, the System report will do that. If you want to see detailed information on each client, the Clients reports will provide that function. Finally, but perhaps most important is the Bills report, which allows you to select which clients and activities to bill and to print out a nicely formatted bill to send off. Of course, if you want to export everything to a file and manipulate it with a spreadsheet that is equally possible.

TSReport also manages all the details of the client and project information, so you can enter detailed client and account information in TSReport and have that taken into account when billing. Once you’ve billed a client, you obviously cannot change the slips that correspond with that bill, and TSReport provides simple mechanisms for backing up all your slips and archiving old ones that you don’t need to see any more but which might be useful on occasion.

I think I can safely say that if you want to automate your time and billing procedures Timeslips can do it. There are far more options and settings than anyone is likely to want or need, but the end result is that you can get your bills and reports looking like you want with the information you want on them.

Problems — This is not to imply that the program is perfect. I find the overabundance of features somewhat confusing, and the terminology is definitely aimed at professionals who understand what to do with options like the ability to modify the next aging date and payments to client funds. I’m sure that these options are extremely necessary for many people, but I would have appreciated Timeslips explaining them in the manual or truly useful online help. I also found it rather difficult when I first started using it to transfer to using Timeslips from the simple billing system I’d set up in HyperCard. That was undoubtedly due to my lack of accounting knowledge, but I don’t think you should have to know that much accounting to bill for your time. One place where the accounting detail would help is in conjunction with the Timeslips Accounting Link (TAL), a separate program that makes it easy to export Timeslips data into popular accounting programs and provides additional reporting features as well. I haven’t used TAL, though, so I can’t comment on it otherwise.

There are a few minor quirks with the program as well. TSTimer is not smart about multiple monitors, so it will never open in the same place I leave it on my second monitor. TSReport allows you to create your own bill layouts in a mediocre MacDraw-style layout editor, but it can never find the layout I created when I start up the program, so I have to manually open that file every time I want to print a bill. You can preview all of the reports on the screen, which is nice, but it’s a pain to move between multiple pages of any report – you have to repeatedly hit the Continue button. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these problems stem from the fact that Timeslips is trying to keep the program as close to the PC version as possible, and certain interfaces simply do not translate well. I gather that Timeslips has added to the program based on user requests, so features that are absolutely necessary for one profession may be completely useless for another.

I also found it disappointing that for all its power, Timeslips appears to be designed more for people like doctors and plumbers in that it has no provisions to automatically track what you are doing on the computer at the time. For people who work at non-computer tasks some of the time, Timeslips is great, since it allows you to track what you are doing whether or not you’re doing it at the computer and easily enter timeslips for both types of tasks. However, for people who work almost exclusively at the computer, Timeslips won’t figure out what you are doing automatically. It’s certainly easy enough to turn TSTimer on and off, but quite frankly, it can be a little too easy to forget either way, and then you have to modify your time manually. A small program from ASD Software called WindoWatch claims to provide this sort of functionality, but from a quick look it has few of the powerful features in Timeslips.

Details — Timeslips has just released version 2.1, which supposedly has 73 new features and 12 new reports. Some of the more interesting features include the ability to have Timeslips create a new slip and turn it on upon startup, find and replace information in slips more effectively, added flexibility in the report layouts, and numerous levels of security. The upgrade is $49.95 for single users and a new copy of Timeslips will run about $195 discount. If you bill for your time, though, the price is well worth it because Timeslips will help you track more of the time you work and let you bill for it. Recommended.

Timeslips Corporation — 508/768-6100

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

Quadra Vampires

If you’re lucky enough to have a Quadra but you’ve been wondering what the excitement was all about, because yours just isn’t that fast… you may be responsible! Rumour has it that the popular, free menu-bar clock utility SuperClock, among other useful doodads, can cause significant performance hits on your Quadra. It seems that many shareware programs, including SuperClock, were compiled with a version of THINK C lower than 5.0 and are not fully compatible with the ‘040 processor. SuperClock in particular will flush the cache each time a second clicks by, so you get an incredible performance hit!

[Adam: I asked Murph Sewall about this since he’s working on a Quadra right now, and here are his impressions. In any event, things like this are a good reason to keep up with the latest version of your favorite shareware products since the most recent versions are the most likely to work without difficulty on the newest Macs.]

Murph Sewall writes, "I’ve been using SuperClock since I got the Quadra. On rare occasions, I run with all extensions off, but I can’t say that I’ve noticed a great speed up when I do. I’ll have to run some specific tests and see if I can find a noticeable effect. SuperClock may indeed flush the caches every second, but a whole second is eons to a 25 MHz processor (whatever performance hit may exist, it’s nothing like the whack that occurs when you turn the caches off)."

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder — [email protected]
Murph Sewall — [email protected]

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

International Upgrades, Ouch!

I recently received an offer from Icom Simulations to upgrade my old OnCue to a brand new OnCue II. I don’t intend to discuss the usefulness of OnCue II but instead the price of the upgrade. The price is just $34.95, which seems reasonable. So what’s the point? Simply that shipping and handling is $6 for US orders and $45 for international users such as myself, since I live in France. Ouch! This adds up to $79.95, closing in on Microsoft’s high upgrade prices. I think something is wrong here.

OnCue II is available for around $55 from any of the mail order firms and with a $25 Federal Express or DHL delivery I’ll receive it within five days, compared to the three to six weeks that most upgrades take to arrive. So it would only cost a mere five cents more to get OnCue II in a few days, which is not a bad trade-off of money for time.

I recently ordered uAccess from ICE Engineering and my air mail packet cost was only $8.95. A few publishers like Symmetry are so nice that they send some non-major upgrades (Acta 7 v1.10 for instance) to international users free, a policy which garners an immeasurable amount of customer loyalty.

[Adam: I realize that this may sound like another "Why is everything so expensive for international users?" gripe, but I think there’s more to it than that. I know for a fact that it’s not all that expensive to mail things overseas from the US – in fact I just mailed Jean-Philippe a one ounce package that cost me 95 cents and took only five days to arrive. I’ve never seen the OnCue package, but as a fairly small utility, I can’t imagine that the whole thing, manual and all, weighs more than one pound. One pound would cost, at air mail letter rate according to the information I have from the Postal Service, a whopping $12.65. I’m sorry folks, but like it or not, this is a global economy and if you want to do well, you have to pay attention to the needs of international users. Especially as the networks break down the barriers of time and distance, intelligent companies will have to learn, as ICE and Symmetry have, that it’s worth the customer loyalty to provide reasonably-priced international service.

You may have noticed that the last issue had an article from Ian Feldman in Sweden, and TidBITS continues to spread around the world. TidBITS-082 was translated into Japanese and has been popular in Japan, and TidBITS-104 has been translated into French as well. I’ve recently heard from new readers in Brazil and Mexico, someone is working on an article on the state of the Mac in Germany, and even a few people in Russia read TidBITS and other network information. Representatives of US companies and the US government reading right now should take note of this – face it, we’re all in this together.]

Information from:
Jean-Philippe Nicaise — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Aladdin Deal

Here’s a good deal for those of you who have been waiting for an excuse to pick up StuffIt Deluxe. Aladdin Systems and Raymond Lau have a special Valentine’s Day offer only for users of online services, including the Internet. You can get StuffIt Deluxe for half price – $50 – which is even less than mail order firms charge. If you’re the t-shirt type, you can get the StuffIt World Tour T-Shirt at the same time for $8. If you already own StuffIt Deluxe or are a registered shareware user, the shirt is $11. For all of these items, Aladdin will pay the shipping charges in the US and charges $5 for Canadians and $15 for those outside the US – certainly better than some companies though not as nice as others. The rest of Aladdin’s fine print says that all Aladdin software carries a 30-day money back guarantee (a thoroughly enlightened policy), and residents of California and New York must add sales tax. The deal ends on March 1st, 1992, so if you’ve been considering StuffIt, move fast.

Aside from all that StuffIt Deluxe can normally do, if you take advantage of Aladdin’s offer, you’ll get a free upgrade to StuffIt Deluxe 3.0 when that comes out. 3.0 will also include StuffIt SpaceSaver, a transparent compression utility that works much like Salient’s AutoDoubler. One main difference is that SpaceSaver can create and extract files from StuffIt archive merely by adding or removing the ".sit" extension from the filename. I haven’t used either StuffIt Deluxe or StuffIt SpaceSaver seriously, but from what I saw at Macworld, they are both good programs.

To order, just send Aladdin your name, address, phone number, online address, MasterCard or Visa number and credit card expiration date. You can use email, snail mail, call, or fax your order, but be sure to include the t-shirt size you need (M,L,XL,XXL) if you’re ordering one of them.

Aladdin Systems, Inc.
165 Westridge Drive
Watsonville, CA 95076
408/761-6200 voice; 408/761-6206 fax
AppleLink and America Online: ALADDIN
CompuServe: 75300,1666; GEnie: ALADDINSYS
Internet: [email protected]

Information from:
Aladdin Systems propaganda