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This week’s opinions include an article on computer-based racism and a tale of emulator woe. We also have lots of useful information bits including more details about the newest StyleWriter driver, why Apple didn’t just patch the System for he disappearing file bug fix, the codes to help Virex correctly identify CODE 252, a note on how Inspiration stacks up to MORE, how to install penguins in your Mac, and updates for several of CE’s products.

Adam Engst No comments

CE Updates

CE Updates — Mark H. Anbinder passes on this information. "CE Software, Inc., has just announced that the company is now shipping System 7 compatibility upgrades for its products DiskTop, In/Out, and Amazing Paint. The upgrades, each of which costs $15 (though a DiskTop updater is available from various online services), offer 32-bit clean compatibility with System 7. The exception is In/Out, whose server software is not System 7 compatible, even though the client software is. US and Canadian users may call CE’s customer service office at 800/523-7638 to inquire about the upgrades, and international users should contact their local distributors for information, or call CE at 515/224-1995."

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder — TidBITS Contributing Editor

Adam Engst No comments

Inspiration Corroboration

Tad Davis writes:

Kudos for the review of Inspiration. I’ve been a user of this program for some time, and was in fact one of the beta testers for the most recent version. Your review was thorough, and it gave a nicely balanced sense of the product – both its strengths and its weaknesses. I was particularly glad to see the attention you gave to "Families," which is something unique to Inspiration.

I HAVE used the other outlining programs. Inspiration’s outlining feature set compares favorably to MORE’s: it won’t "clone" topics into more than one heading, but it does allow you to "hoist" and "dehoist" topics for uncluttered focus on a single idea. (This is somewhat like the concept of Families, but not quite.) The one major advantage that MORE has is speed. Inspiration accepts typing sluggishly.

Note that I’m talking only about the outlining stuff here. MORE certainly has many slide-show features that Inspiration lacks. On the other hand, you can use Inspiration to create free-form flow-charts, bubble charts, idea maps, and other kinds of diagrams; MORE is basically limited to fancy variations on structure charts and bullet charts. Inspiration’s flowcharting features compare favorably with those of many stand-alone flowchart programs. If you’re a programmer or systems analyst, you can use it to create professional-looking flowcharts, data flow diagrams, data structure diagrams, and so forth. One particularly interesting feature here is that you can label the lines that connect one entity with another; and when you move the entity or the lines around, the labels go with them.

Disclaimer: apart from my brief venture as a beta tester, I have no connection with Ceres Software, other than as a fan.

Information from:
Tad Davis — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Virex Corrected

Jeffrey L. Needleman passes along this note from Microcom.

The following is a revised version of the UDV (user defined virus) code necessary to update Virex 3.x to detect the recently discovered CODE 252 virus.

The original UDV falsely identified the virus in a number of files under specific conditions. We recommend that you delete the original CODE 252 definitions and enter this revised version.

We apologize for any inconvenience!

     Name: CODE 252
     Guide Number: 6332704
     1: 0203 3001 7778 2A00 / 79
     2: 0C50 4EFA 0003 A9AB / C4
     3: 0004 A9AA 0002 A647 / B2
     4: 8102 0330 0012 7100 / B2
     5: 0004 5081 8380 9090 / 9C

Information from:
Jeffrey L. Needleman — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

StyleWriter Update

Matt Neuburg writes:

It appears that the problems some applications are having with StyleWriter 7.2.2 are the fault of those applications, not of Apple. Ron Voss of Apple (speaking for himself, not for Apple), says:

"It now appears that Illustrator is trying to get its resolution info from a private print record field whose definition has changed. Apps which properly call GetResolution are properly getting back 360 from the driver."

And I have received similar info from people checking the info that the driver gives out when consulted properly. This is sad news because it implies that the problem will not be taken care of quickly. But users of Adobe Illustrator, SuperPaint 3.0, and any other graphics programs that print worse with StyleWriter Driver 7.2.2 are reminded that they can correct the problem easily enough by reverting to StyleWriter Driver 7.1 for those specific programs.

[I tried unsuccessfully to contact Aldus and Adobe so I could get their sides of the story on why SuperPaint and Illustrator suffer from this problem with StyleWriter 7.2.2. If anyone at either of those companies can offer an explanation and let us all know if and when a fix is planned, I’d be more than happy to report that information in a future issue. -Adam]

Information from:
Matt Neuburg — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Tune-Up Rationale

Greg Marriott of Apple writes about why Apple decided not to install the disappearing files fix into the System file directly: "Actually, it may seem like a no-brainer to just install the fix in the System and leave it at that. But it gets kind of complicated. The version of the System file is the key. If we don’t change the version number after installing the fix, then there is no way for the user to tell if the fix is installed or not. If this is the only fix that we’ll ever ship this way, then changing the version number is a trivial (and useful) solution. But since the possibility exists for other fixes being shipped in a Tuner-like delivery mechanism, then changing the version gets problematic. Each succeeding fix could just bump the version number, but what if a user has fix A and C, but not B? This is the point where my brain starts to turn inside out! 🙂

It is WAY simpler to have the functionality connected with the Tuner file, regardless of where some of the code really lives. This way, tech support people can ask a question that users can answer in a simple way.

Tech Support: Do you have Tuner 1.1.1 installed?

User: How do I tell?

Tech Support: Look in your Extensions folder for an icon called System 7 Tuner. Select it and use the Get Info command in the File menu."

Information from:
Greg Marriott — [email protected] — AOL: JusSomeGuy

Adam Engst No comments


Hatred is not dead. I’m sure that surprises none of you, but it always bothers me, especially when people use computers to spread hatred. The most recent examples would only be interesting for their trivia value were it not for their closeness in time and the fact that both cases directly involve Microsoft.

Several weeks ago on the Info-Mac mailing list, a discussion list dedicated to things Macintosh, Gann Matsuda posted that he had noticed that the spelling checker in Microsoft Word 5.0 suggests "Nips" as a replacement for "Nisei." Now, "Nisei" means "second-generation Americans of Japanese ancestry," but more to the point, "nips" is derogatory slang for "Japanese-American." Based on a posting Gann made later, I don’t believe he was implying in any way that Microsoft is racist, merely that this was an unfortunate coincidence that could have been avoided had "Nisei" been in Word’s dictionary. Unfortunately, the conclusion that Microsoft is racist was immediately aired, and some suggested that Microsoft should alter Word’s spelling checker so it didn’t produce that combination (interestingly, "Nips" was the second choice behind "Nice" and ahead of "NYSE"). Even more unfortunately, Gann reported later that he received some offensive personal mail in relation to his posting. Hatred spreads any way it can. Sigh.

This is the issue, then. The fact that Word’s spelling checker makes an unfortunate suggestion is meaningless (it’s been known to make others – it used to suggest "kidnapper" for "childcare" – and it’s not even alone. MacWrite II apparently suggests "Nazi" for "Nisei"). In fact, the incident points to the fact that nothing is offensive to a computer. The spell checking code (which wasn’t even written by Microsoft, by the way) merely matched a combination of letters that it didn’t recognize with other likely combinations that it did recognize. To accuse Microsoft of racism based on that computer generated match is ludicrous.

If you agree that the above Microsoft-bashing is ludicrous, wait until you hear this one. A recent article in the New York Post alleged that Microsoft was in fact anti-Semitic because if you type the letters "NYC" (for New York City) into Word for Windows and then change the font to Wingbats (a dingbats font in Windows), those three characters will change to the skull & crossbones poison symbol, the star of David, and the thumbs up sign. Actually the allegation was not just that Microsoft was anti-Semitic, but that those symbols were a coded death threat to Jews in New York City. As Brad Silverberg, vice-president of Personal Systems at Microsoft said, "This allegation would be silly if it weren’t so ugly." He’s right – ludicrous doesn’t even begin to do this allegation justice. This sort of thing borders on the darkly paranoid numerology and cabalism in Umberto Eco’s fictional "Foucault’s Pendulum" and does not belong in the technological light of day.

Just to inject a little of the silliness back into this idiocy, we checked out some of the other characters in Wingbats so other conspiracy buffs can get in on the action. NUT translates to skull & crossbones, cross (as in the Christian cross), and snowflake, which obviously means that Bill Gates intends to secretly freeze the Pope using state of the art cryogenic technology developed at Mr. Bill’s biotechnology firms near Seattle. For followers of Nostradamus-like ambiguities, USSR translates to a cross, two raindrops, and a sun, which obviously points to the pivotal role the Pope played in all that tumult and indicates that much hardship (the two raindrops) will be followed by the sun’s prosperity. Mixed signals come from the translation for USA, which is cross, raindrop, and the finger sign meaning peace since this country is obviously being run by the Moral Majority, environmentalists, and the peaceniks of the 60’s. But wait! That peace sign was also used as a "V for Victory" sign, no? Perhaps the most telling translation is the one for the New York Post’s initials, NYP. That becomes skull & crossbones, star of David, and a waving flag, which obviously means that the New York Post is promoting anti-Semitism through its silly article. It’s all so obvious.

(And for anyone who doesn’t realize how obvious it is, especially if you happen to be a lawyer for the New York Post – I am kidding!)

Microsoft may be guilty of Windows and non-standard Macintosh programming practices, but to accuse them of racism on the basis of a spelling checker coincidence and a font is ridiculous. We’ve all got better things to worry about, not the least of which is making computers help with the creation of good and beauty in the world, something they actually do quite well with things ranging from the lovely Mandelbrot set to the wonder of global network communications.

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

Berkeley Announces Winners

[Speaking of an entertaining and often stunning use for computers… -Adam]

Berkeley Systems, Inc., has just announced the winners of its 1992 After Dark Display Contest. The company, publishers of the modular After Dark screen saver utility, selected ten winning screen saver modules out of over 150 entries received.

The winner of the $10,000 grand prize was Ed Hall, who wrote an After Dark module called "DOS Shell," which simulates a DOS computer booting up and executing DOS commands to display the contents of the user’s hard disk. No doubt Insignia Solutions, publisher of the DOS emulation software SoftPC, won’t get the joke! I wonder if it simulates lots of mistyped syntax errors too?

The Macintosh Programmer category winner was "The Artist," a module by Jeff Kowalski and Bob Covey of Alameda, CA, that displays a PICT graphic and then redraws it using simulated artist’s tools such as a fine brush, felt pen, and charcoal. Second and third place prizes went to Jean Tantra for "Patchwork," which creates patchwork patterns on the screen, and Wade Riddick for "Renoir," which allows users to create a wide variety of displays using a mathematical interface.

Winners in the Windows Programmer category were Jeff Falkner, for "Logrus," which maps chaos; Wes Cherry, for "Guts," which spins desktop icons and other shapes around a "magnetic" center; and John Hunt, for "Papillon," which sends butterflies fluttering across the screen.

The new Computer Artist category, which was not included in earlier contests, was topped by Frank Huyett and Mario Margherio, who created "Berk," an animated character whose face is made up of the contents of the Windows desktop contorted to fit the shape of a human head. Second place went to CirQoQuirko, a surrealistic (and damnably difficult to type) circus scene modeled in Macromind Director by Steve Lyons. Last but certainly not least came Randy Bowman and Ellen von Reiser with their Director loop entitled "Revenge of the Penguins," starring lots of penguins enjoying themselves on Antarctic ice floes, with one curious penguin approaching the screen to knock on the inside glass. I’m sure Adam can’t wait for that one.

Some of these modules, and some released by Berkeley in its "More After Dark" collection of modules, seem to have missed the point of a screen saver utility, as they don’t protect the screen from burn-in so much as entertain the computer’s user and passersby. However, we must admit that the entertainment value isn’t entirely unimportant!

One deserving entry that happens not to have won the contest, but, we feel, meets the criteria of protection and entertainment, is Kablooie, by Ithaca programmers Adam Miller and Jakub Buchowski. This module creates an inspiring and colorful fireworks display on the screen, complete with realistic, digitized explosion sounds. One of the inventive aspects of this module is that the module itself is modular. Users may create their own fireworks using ResEdit, specifying such attributes as sparkliness, size, longevity, how many "children" fireworks will be generated when the firework explodes, what else happens when the firework explodes, and how much effect gravity will have on this particular type of firework. Kablooie is available from your favorite purveyor of shareware and freeware software as well as from Ithaca’s Memory Alpha BBS at 607/257-5822.

Of course, there are tons of other excellent shareware or freeware modules out there as well – a current favorite is bgMon from Joshua Golub. bgMon displays an EEG-style display that represents how much work the CPU is doing. It’s amazing how much the Mac does when you’re not using it.

Berkeley Systems says that these contest winners and other notable modules are likely to be released in an upcoming collection that will supplement More After Dark for those users who just can’t get enough protection for their computer screens.

Information from:
Berkeley Systems, Inc. — 510/540-5535
Jakub Buchowski — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

In Search of Stickybear

(or Don’t Rush Out and Buy SoftPC, Yet)

by Tom Hirasuna — [email protected]

Although I have used personal computers for over ten years, only recently did I become aware of the many children’s educational programs (my son Jeff is now 5). One such program is the Stickybear reading program. Stickybear is the featured character in a family of programs from Weekly Reader Software. Weekly Reader Software offers about 25 programs that tutor very young children in basic educational concepts such as the alphabet, numbers, shapes, reading, music, grammar, writing, comprehension, typing and math.

The Stickybear programs, which originated on the Apple II platform, recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. Many of the titles are also available for the IBM PC platform and the Commodore 64. By today’s standards, the Stickybear programs have crude animation, and this may explain why Stickybear programs do not run directly on the Mac. I expect a Stickybear for Macintosh program would require significant graphical improvement. However, the programs are fun and simple enough for a preschooler to run. I saw the Stickybear Reading program in operation and was convinced that Jeff would be thrilled by it. Providing Stickybear for Jeff to use in a Macintosh household became a small project in itself.

What alternatives are available if you want to use to a specific program that’s not currently available on the Mac platform? One course of action is to wait for the Mac version and encourage the publisher to "upgrade" its program to run on a Mac. With Stickybear, it’s uncertain whether a Mac version will come out in the near future, if at all. Another alternative is to adapt your Mac to run the other platform (whether it’s the Apple II or PC) and there are both hardware and software options to do this. Finally, you may want to buy another computer; many used Apple IIs and old PCs are available. In the PC platform, as the 486 increases its share, the prices of new 286 (the so-called "AT-class") and 386 computers drop by the month. Many used 286 computers are becoming available as their owners upgrade to 486s. The older PC and XT clone models based on the 8088 chips are also dirt cheap, but their capabilities are extremely limited. The rule of thumb is that if you need to run Windows, which Mac owners don’t really need to do, you should buy at least a 386SX. A 286 has lots of capabilities (approximately equivalent to a Mac LC) and a new system will run between $700-$1000.

My search for "MacStickybear" corresponded to the time when I was in the market to buy a new Mac to replace my old 512KE originally a 128K Mac. I eventually purchased an LC with a color monitor (yes, I’m glad I bought a color Mac); I also looked forward to buying the Apple IIe emulator card, which had been promised but was delayed. Finally, I thought, I could get Stickybear for Jeff. Within several weeks, a local Apple representative demonstrated the Apple IIe emulator card. He had Stickybear among some of the programs he brought for the demo, and I eagerly asked him to run it. The Apple IIe card did its job too well. I had expected to see a Mac desktop with a window for the Apple IIe emulation such as SoftPC does for PC programs. Instead, the emulator completely takes over the LC to run as an Apple IIe: no windows, no access to the Mac programs while running in Apple IIe mode. Even worse, the card only supports the Apple IIe, not its bigger brother, the Apple IIgs. I could not see spending money to buy a board to seriously cripple my Mac.

Another option was to run a fairly old software package called II-in-a-Mac, from a small company called COMPUTER:applications, Inc. They are so small that they advertised in the Marketplace section of MacUser and neither MacConnection nor MacWarehouse sold the product. Priced at $150, the program did not support color and was not a true window on the Mac desktop. I called about possible upgrades; they told me that II-in-a-PC (to run Apple II software on a PC) was available and was a significant improvement over II-in-a-Mac. An improved version of II-in-a-Mac was a future project for the company, but as far as I know, the product has not yet been released.

I started thinking of some bizarre possibilities for running Apple II programs on the Mac. I had seen SoftPC demonstrated and had a favorable impression of it (in retrospect, however, I failed to notice that the demonstration was performed on a high-end Mac II). Among these possibilities included running SoftPC on the Mac, then getting II-in-a-PC to run under SoftPC. I then realized that many of Stickybear programs have PC versions (and this is true for most children’s software with successful Apple II versions). I did not need Apple II emulation at all, just PC compatibility. There are some NuBus emulator cards for the Mac which let it run PC programs, but these cost nearly as much as buying a separate PC. I also thought that SoftPC would give me access to a wealth of ham radio and public domain programs (e.g., SuperMorse and PacMan). As soon as SoftPC became available for the low cost Macs (SoftPC Classic, now called Entry Level SoftPC), I went for this option. I also purchased AccessPC, a separate program which allows you to work with PC files on the desktop and format disks in PC format. Note that both programs are needed to allow you to run PC programs on the Mac desktop more smoothly. Street prices for Entry Level SoftPC and Access PC are about $125 and $60, respectively.

After I bought SoftPC I immediately purchased the PC version of Stickybear Reading as well as a bunch of public domain game programs. I soon learned the major drawback of SoftPC: it runs so slowly on low-level Macs that animations seem to progress only a frame at a time. Sounds behave similarly. I could get very high scores on Space Invaders, but it was no challenge. The SuperMorse code training program could not be set to proper code speeds, one factor which is critical to code practice. In general, SoftPC does not run any animations well, even on the faster Macs. I had been right that Jeff would enjoy Stickybear Reading; whenever we visited Grandpa we brought Stickybear along to run on his 286 PC clone. However, Jeff would no longer ask for Stickybear on the Mac after a couple of tries with SoftPC.

All in all, SoftPC has been a major disappointment. There are only a few categories of PC programs without equivalent programs on the Mac. I mentioned the children’s educational programs and the amateur radio programs, many of which evolved before the Mac was available. There is also the category of scientific software which runs laboratory instrumentation. Here you often have computers dedicated to the operation, data collection, and data analysis for one instrument. A PC is sufficient to do this without being too expensive.

Before Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect came out for the Mac, many people considered SoftPC as a godsend; if they had to run 1-2-3 or WordPerfect in their offices, they still could justify buying a Mac (with SoftPC added to the package). For these two programs, time dependence of the operation is not as critical as with data collection or animation. Finally, consider the level of the PC that SoftPC emulates. SoftAT at $200 street price is the top of the line version of SoftPC, but an AT is only a 286 PC. Also, Insignia Solutions, the developer of SoftPC, has established a record of expensive software upgrades, and its Customer Service is spotty, in my opinion. I do not recommend SoftPC to anyone – if you need to really run a PC-based program, get a PC clone. Don’t feel that you have to buy the top-of-the-line 486 PC machine if a used 286 PC would be sufficient for your needs.

All was not lost though; I found AccessPC to be a wonderful program which allows me to handle PC files and 3.5" PC formatted disks. It’s extremely useful when you have both a Mac and a PC and need to move files between them. Yes, I ended up with a PC. Grandpa upgraded to a 486 PC and gave us the old 286 PC so that Jeff could play Stickybear. And this old PC leaves SoftPC behind in the dust.

My comments about SoftPC are my own opinion and not necessarily representative of anyone who may feel that SoftPC was never intended to handle animation and other software requiring delicate timing, just to provide a way of running "must-have" DOS software on a Mac.

[I think the moral of the story is not so much that SoftPC is bad, but that emulation is just not as good as the real thing. Tom originally wrote this article for CLICKS, the newsletter of the Ithaca Macintosh Users’ Group. -Adam]