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Adam Engst No comments

Bah, Windows Again

We’d hoped not to have to address this topic again, but it refuses to die on Usenet or in the trade press. Essentially, the argument is whether or not the introduction of Windows 3.0 will make a PC-clone just as good as a Mac, thus putting Apple out of business because the Mac would no longer be worth the money.

There are two separate issues here, first, if Windows 3.0 is as good as the Mac interface, and second, if Apple can and should compete with PC-clones on price. Our impression of Windows after installing it (and having it hang because of a conflict with a batch file), is that it is a step forward for user PC-clones user interfaces. It concatenates the functionality of a number of previously separate (and confusing) memory management tools into one package. And finally, it provides some form of (we aren’t getting into the argument over the definition of "true" here) multitasking. However, Windows is just an interface, just as the Finder is. You cannot initialize a hard disk from the Finder, similarly, you cannot perform many low level functions in Windows. The difference is that with the Mac, you get other programs with decent interfaces for low level functions. On the PC, you get DOS or at the ultimate worst, DEBUG (I’m thinking specifically of formatting a new hard disk on an XT, which required use of DEBUG). Windows users still must deal with the infamous CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files that have confounded many a DOS user. Windows makes using applications written for Windows easier than using non-Windows applications-it does not make a PC-clone into a Mac. If you have a powerful PC-clone and aren’t going to buy a Mac soon, get Windows. Issue one done.

Issue two is stickier. Apple has promised a low-cost Mac and such a Mac would be good for Apple’s image if not its coffers. Apple would appear less elitist, which never hurts. The world should have low-cost Macs. However, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for Apple to make them. Apple’s prices are very comparable to IBM’s and Compaq’s, the pre-eminent PC manufacturers, because all three companies are similar. They all do research and development and push the frontier of technology (no quibbling about IBM for the moment). However, you can buy a PC-clone that may even be better than an IBM PC machine because many other companies concentrate all their efforts on bringing out well-made, inexpensive machines. Apple is not a low-end marketing company, and it is very difficult to push both the technology forward and the prices down. The only company that achieves this as far as I know is Hewlett-Packard with their printer line.

Two possibilities suggest themselves to us. First, Apple could (as we’ve proposed before) license the old ROMs in the Plus and SE to certain third party manufacturers. Apple would then retain control over the high end and would still reap the benefit of the increased market share of Mac-compatible machines. To keep quality high, Apple could only license the ROMs to companies who have proven manufacturing and support abilities, like Dell Computer Corporation. Second, Apple could itself create a spin-off company, much as it did Claris in 1987, that would completely handle the low-end machines. That way Apple could keep fairly tight control and would even make money by owning the majority share of the new corporation. That would also leave Apple with the option of re-absorbing the company at some future date if necessary. Issue two done.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst & Tonya Byard — TidBITS editors
Steve Martin — [email protected]
Matthew Mashyna —
Matthew T. Russotto — [email protected]
Benson M. Wu — [email protected]

Related articles:
Umpteen zillion in all the major trade magazines and Usenet

Adam Engst No comments

Disinfectant 2.0

John Norstad just released version 2.0 of Disinfectant, his excellent virus checking and removal program. Disinfectant is completely free and is available from most online sources. If you cannot get it online, you may obtain a copy of Disinfectant by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope and an 800K floppy disk to John Norstad at the address below. People outside the US should send an international postal reply coupon instead of US stamps (available from any post office). Please use sturdy envelopes, preferably cardboard disk mailers.

Enough of the nonsense, here’s the news. Disinfectant 2.0 has been completely re-designed so that it is a true application instead of being a modal dialog. It is MultiFinder-aware and can scan and disinfect disks in the background. We’ve found it to be completely unobtrusive, which is pleasant when you are checking a 105 megabyte hard drive. The excellent help section includes complete descriptions of existing Macintosh viruses and can easily be printed or saved to a text file. (Disinfectant will even set the Creator appropriately for any major word processor.) Disinfectant also boasts several new scanning options and an improved scanning station feature for those of you who run Macintosh labs.

The final major enhancement of Disinfectant is the protection INIT, which replaces other protection INITs by detecting and blocking all known virus attacks. It does not completely supplant GateKeeper, which can protect your system from as yet unknown viruses, but the INIT will be updated to deal with new threats as they appear. Norstad recommends that you use either the Disinfectant INIT or GateKeeper and GateKeeper Aid or one of the commercial packages such as SAM, Virex, or Rival. He does not recommend that anyone use Vaccine any more because of its limited efficacy against new viruses.

John Norstad says, "the main goal of version 2.0 is to provide a complete and free solution to the Macintosh virus problem in a single package (in fact, in a single file). Version 2.0 addresses all four aspects of the virus problem: detection, repair, protection, and education." In our opinion, Disinfectant achieves its goal admirably and John Norstad should be thanked profusely for the service he has done the Macintosh community. Thank you, John.

John Norstad
Academic Computing and Network Services
Northwestern University
2129 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208

Bitnet: jln@nuacc
Internet: [email protected]
CompuServe: 76666,573
AppleLink: A0173

Information from:
John Norstad — [email protected]
Mark Anbinder — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Claris Absorbed

Apple spun off Claris in April of 1987 because Apple felt it was a hardware company, and the only software it wanted to develop was new system software. Since then Claris has updated the backbone programs that were first available for the Mac-MacWrite, MacPaint, and MacDraw-and aggressively acquired other products such as FileMaker and the Wingz technology. Last week, however, Apple announced that it was re-absorbing Claris back into Apple. No one is quite sure what effect the absorption will have on the Macintosh market, although some third-party developers are concerned that they will be unable to compete with Claris. Presumably, Claris would see new Apple technology first and be able to take advantage of it before third party developers.

Feelings about the re-acquisition at Claris are generally positive, according to Dennis Cohen of Claris. "As is to be expected, the engineers like being part of Apple and the "suits" aren’t sure yet." But what are suits ever sure of?

We hope that the closer connections between Apple and Claris lead to innovative products without suppressing third party innovation. Our feeling is that Apple now sees (rightly) Microsoft as its main competitor and cannot compete with hardware alone. In some respects, the Apple hardware is nothing special-it’s the software that makes a Mac a Mac. If Apple has finally realized the importance of pushing their vision of Macintosh software along with their hardware, the re-acquisition of Claris makes perfect sense. After all, Apple owned over 80% of Claris, and Claris is one of the leading Mac software developers with some cutting-edge technology (particularly in System 7 applications). Besides, we would far prefer Apple/Claris-dominated software interfaces to the er, idiosyncratic interfaces favored by Microsoft.

Information from:
Dennis Cohen — [email protected]
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS editor
News Notebook 1.08

Related articles:
InfoWorld — 02-Jul-90, Vol. 12, #27, pg. 3
InfoWorld — 09-Jul-90, Vol. 12, #28, pg. 8
MacWEEK — 10-Jul-90, Vol. 4 #25, pg. 1
PC WEEK — 02-Jul-90, Vol. 7 #26, pg. 1

Adam Engst No comments

Electronic Frontiersmen

Mitchell D. Kapor and John Perry Barlow have established a foundation, called the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), to address social and legal issues arising from an increasing use of electronic forms of communication. The EFF’s mission is to civilize the electronic frontier by educating people in electronic communications, advising policy makers and the public on First Amendment matters being applied to telecommunications, and encouraging the creation of tools that make electronic forms of communications accessible to people other than the technical elite.

The initial funding for the EFF came from Kapor and Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple Computer. The EFF’s first actions have been to award a grant to the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR). The grant will be used by CPSR to expand the scope of its on-going Computing and Civil Liberties Project. Other current EFF projects include legal intervention on the part of Steve Jackson, a game manufacturer whose computer equipment was seized in the Secret Service’s Operation Sun Devil, and intervention in the case of Craig Neidorf, a University of Missouri student who is the editor of the electronic newsletter Phrack World News.

The founding of the EFF is ironic in the face of news that Lotus Corporation recently won its suit against Paperback Software for interface infringement and is proceeding to bring charges against Borland International and the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO). Perhaps the EFF will help defend against Lotus, although it seems that the EFF is aiming more to help individuals and small organizations who cannot adequately defend themselves. Kapor, who left the management of Lotus some time ago, has already said that he does not approve of the Paperback Software decision and opposes Lotus’s decision to sue Borland and SCO.

The founding of the EFF seems to us to be a good step in the right direction because so much public policy relating to computers and telecommunications has been misguided due to lawmakers being unaware of the surrounding issues. If you feel strongly about this or just want more information, write or call the EFF and tell them you approve (or disapprove, as the case may be, although we hope not). Just mention where you read about the EFF as they may be interested in the sort of thing we are doing with TidBITS as well.

Electronic Frontier Foundation
One Cambridge Center, Suite 300
Cambridge, MA 02142
617/577-1385 — fax 617/225-2347
[email protected]

Information from:
Geoff Goodfellow — [email protected]
Major — [email protected]
Tom Rombouts — tomr@ashtate
Mike Godwin — [email protected]
Milan — [email protected]

Related articles:
InfoWorld — 09-Jul-90, Vol. 12 #28, pg. 1
MacWEEK — 10-Jul-90, Vol. 4 #25, pg. 113

Adam Engst No comments

New Apple Magic

It often seems that some of the magic has gone out of Apple in the last few years, what with the new machines offering few innovative features and the managerial musical chairs. Some have blamed John Sculley for this-by ousting Steve Jobs, they feel, he removed Apple’s lifeblood. However, Jobs was not the only creative genius at Apple, and several of the others have just formed a new company funded in part by Apple. Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, and Marc Porat founded General Magic Inc. with Apple as a minority investor and the new company’s largest corporate shareholder. Perhaps in return for the investment, Apple has the first non-exclusive license to manufacture and market General Magic’s technologies and products. Another tie to Apple will be Apple CEO John Sculley’s presence on General Magic’s board of directors.

The company’s first order of business will be to design and develop a new class of "Personal Intelligent Communicator" products. The sort of project General Magic will work on is the sort of thing that Apple doesn’t wish to concentrate its own resources on, although there will certainly be give and take between the two. We at TidBITS are particularly interested in forms of electronic information exchange and are looking forward to seeing what General Magic will develop. Who knows, perhaps General Magic will come up with some tools for manipulating and archiving text, tools that will be similar to those available in the next version of TidBITS.

Apple Computer Inc. — 408/974-2202

Information from:
David Fry — [email protected]
Christopher Escher — Apple Computer

Adam Engst No comments

The fx Terminator

Apple’s new SCSI terminators for the Mac IIfx have bewildered a number of new owners who have attempted to daisy chain SCSI devices from their machines. The new terminators work with the IIfx’s new SCSI DMA controller to provide high speed data transfer between SCSI devices and the 68030 chip. Only A/UX takes advantage of this controller now, though future versions of the MacOS and future, faster SCSI devices (up to 3 megabytes per second) will use the controller to increase the data transfer speed of the IIfx.

For those of you unfamiliar with SCSI chain theory, one terminator must be located before the first device and one must be located directly before or directly after the last device. Most Macintosh manuals provide illustrations of SCSI chains, although at least one person on Usenet was unable to find a helpful discussion of SCSI termination for the IIfx in his manuals. There are an unknown number of exceptions to the rules (possibly caused by an incomplete SCSI standard or by manufacturers’ lack of compliance), so be prepared to experiment when putting together a long SCSI chain. A good stiff drink probably wouldn’t hurt either.

The terminator for the first end of the IIfx chain is inside the Mac. The terminator (50-pin) for the end of the chain comes loose in the IIfx box (and must be used at the cost of an incredible speed drain or possibly damaging your computer. IIfx owners having SCSI devices with internal terminators must remove the them. Easy so far, eh? But what happens when you already have an Ehman Syquest drive that sports a 25-pin SCSI connector similar to the ones on the back of the Mac? We have heard two suggestions from different sources. Shane at Ehman suggested sandwiching the terminator between 25-to-50-pin cables to place the termination directly before the last device. Alternately, a LaCie rep suggested attaching a 25-to-50-pin cable to the open port of the last SCSI device and letting the terminator hang off the cable at the 50-pin end. Evidently Ehman will be switching to standard 50-pin connectors soon.

And then there’s the question about moving drives between IIfx’s and older Macs. I asked the folks on AppleLink about this and was assured that IIfx terminators can be used on older Macs. Good thing. We’re looking forward to SCSI-2 because it will be a more rigorous standard and should help to eliminate these troubles.

Information from:
Tonya Byard — TidBITS editor
Martin Minow — [email protected]
Bolo — [email protected]
Mat Davis — [email protected]
Steve Baumgarten — [email protected]
Brian Bechtel — [email protected]
Dave Platt — [email protected]
Alex Pournelle — …elroy!grian!alex

Related articles:
MacUser — Aug-90, pg. 243