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The main shadow and substance of this issue comes from Apple, with a combination of soft rumors and hard products, including the new LC II and a hot new laser printer. Check out an excellent review of SuperPaint 3.0, and read about yet another virus rearing its slimy head. You’ll also find an article on a user group that keeps Reflex Plus alive against all odds and some clarifications of last week’s review of Panorama II.

Adam Engst No comments


Michel Langereis writes, "The 1992 MACWORLD Expo Benelux, to be held in Amsterdam from May 4th to 6th, has been cancelled, as confirmed by the organizers. There was no comment on the reason but I’ll dig into it. What the heck is going on in Europe? Several expos have already been cancelled and I wonder if more will follow, although there aren’t that many left."

Information from:
Michel Langereis — neabbs![email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

PowerBook Modem Fix?

PowerBook Modem Fix? — Jonathan Feinstein of Shrink2Fit Software passes along a useful hint for people having problems connecting to remote modems from their PowerBook’s internal Apple modem. Apparently, these difficulties come from some non-standard aspects of Apple’s error correction firmware routines, which Apple wrote that way to avoid infringing on Hayes’s modem patents. This is not related to the problem we reported on earlier with the PowerBooks losing input data at high speeds.

Jonathan says that Apple tech support suggested that he replace the standard "ATDT" dialing command with "AT&Q0DT" (that’s a zero, not a capital letter O, after the Q). In other words, the command to dial Memory Alpha BBS would be "AT&Q0DT 1-607/257-5822" instead of "ATDT 1-607/257-5822". Note that many programs dial automatically, so you may need to reconfigure your program’s default dialing command.

Information from:
Jonathan Feinstein

Adam Engst No comments

Classic PowerBook Rumors

Pythaeus tells us that Apple is preparing to ship its internal 80 MB hard disk drives for the PowerBook series. This should come as welcome news for PowerBook power users who have been feeling scrunched between the small 20 MB and 40 MB standard hard drives that have been shipping in Apple’s notebooks.

More interesting, and a bit more surprising, is the rumour that Apple will offer a trade-up deal to owners of the smaller drives. As a result, all those existing PowerBook owners should be able to acquire an 80 MB drive without having to keep the original drive or try to sell it in a market with practically zero potential customers (after all, every PowerBook already has one of the smaller drives in it).

As much as those 80 MB drives will be extremely welcome, we wonder if they will have the same, ahem, feature that some of the current 80 MB drives have (notably the drives in some IIsi’s). Apple ships drives pre-formatted, but the standard formatting often doesn’t create as large a partition as possible. With some of the 80 MB drives, up to 4 MB of disk space may be wasted in a free space partition. You can recover this space by backing up your entire hard drive (not a bad thing to do while you’re thinking about it anyway), running Apple’s HD SC Setup program, and increasing the size of the default partition with the Partition button. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t mess with this, since you will have to reformat your drive in the process, erasing everything on it. This is one of the advantages of Silverlining – you can resize partitions on the fly without reformatting. It’s always a good idea to backup before performing any task of this sort though.

Finally, as of April 15th, Apple will officially remove the 2 MB Classic and 2 MB Classic II from the price lists, thus admitting that 2 MB is really not enough RAM to run System 7. The 4 MB versions of those Macs will stick around, and you can bet that Apple won’t introduce any more 2 MB versions of the desktop Macs again.

Information from:

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

New Apple Crop

Continuing in its plan for a major set of product introductions every six months, Apple today announced several new hardware products, including one new Mac. The Macintosh LC II, a 68030 version of the popular Mac LC, leads the pack, followed by a spiffy new LaserWriter, a new CD-ROM drive, and a version of the Apple OneScanner for Windows users (which we’ll talk more about in a future issue).

The new Macintosh LC II is, plain and simple, a replacement for the original LC. The new computer offers a 16 MHz 68030 processor in place of the 16 MHz 68020 in the LC. The ‘030 doesn’t offer a tremendous speed advantage over the 68020, but it does provide a small improvement… and more importantly, provides virtual memory capability to the smallest member of the modular Mac line. The LC II also sports a newer ‘030 processor direct slot (PDS) for expansion purposes, allowing users to add ‘030 PDS cards while supporting most ‘020 PDS cards created for the LC (software upgrades may be necessary for such cards). [Adam: I certainly hope that the new ‘030 PDS slot is compatible with the current SE/30 and IIsi PDS slots. The last thing we need is yet another slot format.] The LC II joins Apple’s product line at the same retail price level as the LC ($1700 for a 4 MB RAM, 40 MB hard drive machine), making it an extremely affordable path to ‘030 computing. An upgrade from the LC will be available in several months, but we don’t have a price on that yet.

One long-rumoured addition to Apple’s printer line-up is the Personal LaserWriter NTR with a 16 MHz AMD Am29005 RISC processor and Adobe PostScript Level 2 at its heart. Otherwise, this printer uses the same engine as and is similar to the Personal LaserWriter NT, which will remain in the product line. The high-speed RISC processor allows this printer to work about three to five times faster than the Personal LaserWriter NT, a welcome speed increase. The NTR has the same built-in multi-purpose paper tray as the Personal LaserWriter LS, and you can add an optional 250-sheet paper feeder base. Like its competition, the QMS-PS 410, the NTR uses "intelligent" port and protocol switching, so it can be used with Macs, PCs, and mixed networks at the same time.

One new product that I hadn’t even heard about in the rumour mill is the AppleCD 150, a new CD-ROM drive that replaces the Apple CD SC Plus, which shipped just last year. The new unit has basically the same performance as the old drive at about 380 millisecond access time, but more importantly it has a new, trim case design for those of you who are picky about peripheral aesthetics, and is about $200 less expensive than the older drive, so it will fit better in the checkbook as well as on the desktop. It’s not technically interesting, but the lower price will help to make some of those interesting new CD-ROM products accessible to a lot more people.

Apple also announced that it is removing the PowerBook 140 2/20 and the 21" monochrome Two Page Display from the product line (a delicate way of saying those products have been "terminated"). No replacements are planned for these products. Of course, Apple is also removing the existing Macintosh LC products and the Apple CD SC Plus. It’s not surprising that the PowerBook 140 2/20 is disappearing – 2 MB of RAM and a 20 MB hard drive is ludicrous for that machine running System 7, but it is curious that the 21" monochrome monitor is going away.

Still missing is the faster Macintosh IIsi that we’re hoping to see some time this year. A 25 MHz IIsi would help differentiate that machine from the new ‘030 LC II, which is only slightly slower than the 20 MHz IIsi, especially when the IIsi is bogged down with internal video. The main gap in the product line, though, is a machine to replace the SE/30, which had the excellent combination of small size, good speed, and some expandability. Apple seems to be relegating the compact Mac line to the pokey Classic and the moribund Classic II, ignoring the fact that power users might want a compact Mac too.

Adam Engst No comments

INIT 1984 Virus

These things come in fits and spurts. We went a long time without a new virus, and the world was a better place for it. Then wham, two viruses within a few weeks of each other. People who have files infected with this new virus will definitely want to get the attention of the as-yet-unknown anti-social troglodyte author, although I expect that attention will again fall into the category of violence to the knee cap region.

This new virus is called "INIT 1984" presumably for the resource number that it installs in infected files. It differs from previous Macintosh viruses in two ways, one fortunate, one unfortunate. Luckily, it only installs itself in system extensions of the type INIT and does not affect the System file, the desktop file, control panels, applications, or data files. This is good because INITs are shared less than applications, which means that INIT 1984 has spread slowly, and indeed, only a few infections have been reported, one in the US and one in Europe. Apparently the virus works under both System 6 and System 7 though on old Macs with the 64K ROMs (the 128K and 512K Macs), the virus will cause crashes at boot time.

Unfortunately, this is also the first virus that intentionally causes damage to the files on infected hard disks when it is triggered on any Friday the 13th in 1991 or later years. Damage includes changing the names and attributes of a large number of folders and files to random strings and the deletion of approximately 2% of your files. Needless to say, the file deletion aside, changed file and folder names and attributes would be almost completely impossible to fix if a backup was not available.

The virus was discovered when it activated a few weeks ago on 13-Mar-92, but it’s possible that other Macs were damaged when the virus would have activated on 13-Sep-91 and 13-Dec-91. If you think you may have had files damaged or deleted on one of those two dates, please contact Gene Spafford at <[email protected]>. If you are not on the Internet, feel free to send mail to TidBITS and we’ll forward it to Gene.

Looking quickly at a calendar, I see that the next Friday the 13th isn’t until November of 1992, so the virus is not likely to damage your data until then if it hasn’t already. However, you should immediately get an updated version of your favorite anti-virus utility to avoid further spreading of any existing infections. My favorite anti-virus utility, Disinfectant, has been upgraded to version 2.7 by its erstwhile author, John Norstad of Northwestern University and should be available at your favorite purveyor of public domain and shareware software. Do note one important change with Disinfectant. The Disinfectant INIT must now load before all other INITs to be able to detect and prevent INIT 1984 from doing its dirty deeds. All other anti-virus utilities will also be updated to detect and eliminate INIT 1984 as you read this, so go grab one now. Incidently, the current versions of both Gatekeeper and SAM Intercept generate an alert if this virus attempts to spread to other files. However, you should still get the updates to those programs so they specifically recognize that virus for what it is.

Information from:
Gene Spafford — [email protected]
Mark H Anbinder, TidBITS Contributing Editor

Adam Engst No comments

Imaging Updates

QuickDraw was pretty neat when it came out, since it allowed the Mac to be a true graphics-based machine. Later on, Apple added color, turning it into Color QuickDraw, the standard in color-capable Macs today. QuickDraw is starting to age, though, and Apple has been working on some fixes. We’ve heard about two projects. The first will work with QuickDraw, providing additional 2D and 3D drawing features and some other nifty stuff, whereas the second project, which looms far in the future, will essentially act like Display PostScript, but will run faster and won’t have an Adobe licensing albatross hanging from its neck.

In the meantime, QuickDraw’s new sidekick will work with graphic objects rather than merely lines, as QuickDraw does now. Objects will include a line, a curve, a path, a rectangle, a polygon, text, a bitmap, and a picture, which is a combination of one or more of the other objects. Even better will be the built-in features that have only been available in drawing packages, such as rotation, skewing, scaling, and enhanced color support for various color output devices.

TrueType will gain from the new model, with Apple adding more sophisticated typographical controls for tasks like tracking and even some optical scaling, which allows you to significantly modify a font based on various variables. Currently only Adobe’s Multiple Master fonts offer such capabilities, although Altsys recently announced Fontographer 3.5 which not only opens and creates Multiple Master fonts, but changes the weight of existing fonts or even interpolates between two different fonts. Of course Fontographer is for creating and editing fonts, whereas Multiple Master and the enhanced TrueType will allow font modifications within documents, but the end results are similar.

Information from:
Altsys propaganda

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 09-Mar-92, Vol. 6, #10, pg. 1

Matt Neuburg No comments

SuperPaint 3.0 Review

SuperPaint, the old workhorse that started life as little more than a combination of a MacPaint clone and a MacDraw clone, has been given a new lease on life in the competitive world of increasingly sophisticated drawing and painting programs. Version 3.0, produced by a Silicon Beach now subjugated to Aldus, adds some splendid color tools to its already solid and easy-to-use capabilities.

SuperPaint 2.0 had lately been overshadowed by low-priced paint and draw programs (Color MacCheese, UltraPaint) incorporating the sort of color and texture tools associated with higher-priced programs; version 3.0 is clearly an attempt to reclaim some of the lost territory, and I suspect it will be successful. Serious artists may still need the greater power and precision of Canvas, FreeHand, PixelPaint Pro, or Illustrator, but if you want to buy just one all-around program for occasional use (pictures for HyperCard, diagrams for teaching, custom color icons, and the occasional desktop image are my main uses), and you’d rather spend a bit over $100, not something over $300, SuperPaint may prove an excellent choice.

The original SuperPaint idea of combining a single draw layer and a single paint layer in one document remains a clever and powerful one. The draw layer permits precision work with basic geometrical shapes and text, and objects remain objects after you’ve created them: you can move them, delete them, or modify their attributes, at any time and independently of one another. It also allows objects to be encoded more precisely than the screen will show: a circle that looks jagged on the screen will be perfectly round in a higher-resolution print (such as laser printing), and you can edit at that higher resolution as well. The paint layer is just a collection of 72-dpi pixels; but even so, you can edit close up for precision work, and SuperPaint comes bundled with lots of "fun" paint tools and patterns (streams of bubbles or musical notes, that sort of thing). The result is that even the most hamfisted operator (like me) can have a good time and make something acceptable.

The burning question is whether SuperPaint can add color features without sacrificing the ease of use that has been its trademark and greatest advantage over its higher-priced, more powerful rivals. The answer appears to be "Yes." The color tools are built conceptually onto the back of the old black and white tools in a thoroughly intuitive and straightforward way, and clever use of palettes that pop up from palettes allows easy mouse-driven access to everything (with keyboard shortcuts as well, but I can never remember them). Only one thing is clumsier to do than it was in version 2.0: making the widths for horizontal and for vertical strokes be different (though there is also vastly more flexibility here than there was, so perhaps the trade is a fair one).

Using color is just plain easy. If your line or fill is solid, you can choose a color for it (from a pop-down palette); if it is a pattern, you can choose one color for the "white" part and another for the "black" part. SuperPaint remembers all your pattern-color combinations, and posts images of them on a floating palette so that you can recreate them with a single mouse-click.

And that’s not all. Included are a number of "textures" – complex color images, such as a water-surface or a delicately shaded brick wall, that can repeat at intervals of any size, even so large that no repetition may be visible on an ordinary page. Also, a number of gradient structures are included, so you can shade a round ball with a round smear of color. A solid line or fill, or the "black" part of a pattern, may be one of these textures or gradients instead of a color. You may edit the gradients, and you can create and save new textures. Since SuperPaint can also import EPS and TIFF images with full resolution (into the Draw layer as single objects), you have tremendous power and flexibility here (especially if you happen to own a scanner).

Finally, when one image appears over another, you can set the nature of the interaction between the two: the front image’s line and fill may each be opaque, transparent, or translucent. The possibilities for fun and experimentation seem endless.

Now for the down side. First, SuperPaint can be a little slow if your machine is slow; and, more significantly, it is a terrible memory hog the moment you start using color. The program tries to compensate by using a virtual memory scheme (only showing on screen what it can maintain in memory, and keeping the rest on disk); but when I’ve assigned the program 4500K and I keep getting "Not enough memory to do that" alerts, I believe I’ve a right to be a bit exasperated, especially when "that" is something simple like save my document as a startup screen.

Second, don’t throw away your copy of Adobe Illustrator. SuperPaint has no facilities for making text follow a path. Worse, its Bezier tools (for determining mathematically the characteristics of a curve) remain as clumsy as in version 2.0: handles are not marked as to what point they belong to; you are not shown changes smoothly as you work and have mostly to operate by blind guessing and then waiting for the result to appear; and you can easily accidentally rocket yourself out of Bezier mode when you are not finished editing.

Finally, if there isn’t a PostScript (e.g. laser) printer in your life, be prepared for a disappointment at print time. On a laser printer, even a black and white one, SuperPaint will reduce everything intelligently to simulated gray shades, and will show all items from the draw layer (including rotated text and Bezier curves) in perfect high resolution. But on a QuickDraw device such as a StyleWriter, your output won’t be much better than on an ImageWriter: nearly everything is reduced to 72 dpi, a waste of your 360 dpi capacity. Come on, Silicon Beach, I know you can do better than this, because Adobe Illustrator translates Bezier curves into high resolution and complex color blends into beautiful smooth simulated gray-shades on a StyleWriter. My crystal ball says some third party has or will develop an engine for converting SuperPaint’s PostScript output into nice StyleWriter images. But then, my crystal ball has never been right yet.

Aldus — 206/628-2320

Adam Engst No comments

Reflex Orphans Uniting

The unwashed masses of computer users do have clout, though it has seldom been used to effect change in the overall strategy of a company bent on, well, screwing its users. The best recent example of this clout came when Apple decided under user pressure to license MODE32 from Connectix to solve the problems with unwashed ROMs on some of the older Macs. There has been talk of a similar campaign to free FullWrite Professional from the depths of PC-oriented Borland after the acquisition of Ashton-Tate. That talk has yet to lead to any concerted action, but another movement against Borland is just gathering steam.

Remember Reflex Plus? Nah, I didn’t think you did. It was a powerful and well-liked relational database that had its roots back in the early days of the Macintosh in 1985. Many people bought into Reflex Plus and spent thousands of hours and dollars creating custom databases to run their businesses. Then, in 1988 Borland decided that they had to concentrate on their DOS and Windows products to remain in the marketplace at all, and in the process cut off all future development work on Reflex Plus, abandoning the entire user base. Many people switched from Reflex Plus to one of the other powerful relational databases but many others, an estimated 40,000, liked the Reflex Plus environment and/or did not wish to throw away the significant investments they had in Reflex Plus. Thus was born the Reflex Plus Orphans Association (RPOA), a volunteer user group dedicated to supporting users of Reflex Plus when Borland would not.

The RPOA has provided support for Reflex Plus users on America Online and CompuServe for over a year now, and recently started a campaign to find a third party developer who could take over the Reflex Plus code and provide updates and support to existing and future users. Philippe Kahn, the CEO of Borland, said on CompuServe: "We love the [Mac]. So tell me of a concrete solution and we’ll work on it." Despite this apparent (though never concrete) willingness, the RPOA has still met with much difficulty in dealing with Borland, although several developers have shown interest. Part of the problem is that Borland does not want to sell the Reflex Plus code to a company that will be unable to stand behind it and continue supporting its users, although Borland may get even worse PR for sitting on the code. Ironically, many people used Ashton-Tate as an example of a company that sold its software when it no longer wished to support it. Ashton-Tate sold dBASE Mac to New Era Software, which renamed it nuBASE and has recently suffered massive mismanagement, threatening its chances to continue supporting nuBASE.

Borland does have a point in not wanting to just let anyone take over Reflex Plus, but at the same time, four years of neglect have done little for Borland’s image in the Macintosh market. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Borland get back into the Mac market at some point, and although there is no indication that they are working on anything, there is all that code from Borland’s Sidekick utility and Ashton-Tate’s FullWrite Professional, Full Impact, and FullPaint just sitting around. Kahn is not stupid and selling Reflex Plus to a good home would do a lot towards helping the company regain some respect among Mac users, respect that might be of some use in the continual battle with Microsoft.

What does all this mean for you? For most of you, not too much short of general knowledge of industry workings. If you are interested in lending support to the campaign to find a developer and know a company well-versed in the Mac, 68000 assembler, and Reflex Plus, you should tell them about the RPOA’s efforts. If you harbor hopes of rescuing FullWrite Professional or Full Impact in the same way, I’d pay attention and see what works and what doesn’t for the RPOA. Kahn is no pushover. Finally, if you own and use Reflex Plus, you can join the Reflex Plus Orphans Association for $25 per year and get a year’s subscription to the RPOA News, online and phone support, discounts on support disks, and the latest version of the program (7/7/88) to its legal owners/licensees. In meantime, we wish the RPOA all the best in their quest to liberate Reflex Plus.

3142 Beaver Brook Lane
Baldwinsville, NY 13027 USA
315/635-7550 (email is preferred)

Information from:
Fred Rushden/RPOA — FredAR on AOL — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Panorama II Clarifications

Well, no one’s perfect, and I missed a few things in my review of Panorama II last week. My overall comments stand, but there are a few things I feel the need to clarify.

It is easy to display the results of calculations on forms using what Panorama II calls an auto-wrap text object and a variable merged in with the text. I can’t believe I didn’t realize that, especially since I have used formulas in auto-wrap text objects for creating intelligent addresses that know not to include a space for company name if there is none present.

One cool feature that I forgot to mention is Smart Dates. Panorama II knows how dates relate to each other, so you can enter dates like "May 21" or "3/17" and have Panorama II expand into that the date format you are using in that particular field, even adding the current year automatically. Neater yet is the ability to enter "last Tuesday" and have the program figure out the proper date. It can be easier to remember a relative date than the absolute date, and it’s always nice to have Panorama II enter the current year for you if you wish.

Jim Rea of ProVUE explained the rationale behind the Design Sheet to me. Apparently, ProVUE assumes that most people will use the Field Properties dialog to define and modify fields at first, but once a user becomes more comfortable in the Panorama II environment, he or she will prefer to use the Design Sheet, which is much faster and more efficient for making multiple changes. I must be abnormal, then, because I’ve almost never used the Field Properties dialog. Maybe if I had read the manual more carefully… 🙂

Information from:
Jim Rea, President of ProVUE — ProVUE on AOL