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So much news, so little time. MBDF authors indicted, Microsoft apologizes, ACE crumbles, disk utilities appear from the woodwork, QuicKeys extended, strange behavior from Apple Canada, and a French product that will let a 140 or 170 act like a hard disk. Where will it all end? In a review of Peachpit’s "The Little Mac Word Book," that’s where. PS: What happens when you hit Cmd-S in Disk First Aid? There will be a quiz.

Adam Engst No comments


Alberto Ricci writes, "Pressing command-S while (or right before you click Start) Disk First Aid is scanning a disk brings up a progress window that explains what it’s doing. It’s there from the old days, when Disk First Aid was another program, which was then acquired by Apple. The first program had a menu choice; Disk First Aid now doesn’t show it, but it’s still there. And, as you may guess looking at the "hidden" window, the program was Scavenger." [It’s interesting finding out what Disk First Aid is doing after all these years of wondering if it did anything at all. -Adam]

Information from:
Alberto Ricci — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Virus Authors Indicted

In the good news department, a Tompkins County grand jury indicted the two Cornell sophomores arrested in March on suspicion of releasing the MBDF virus. David Blumenthal, 20, and Mark Pilgrim, 19, were both indicted for first degree computer tampering, a class E felony that carries with it a maximum sentence of one to four years in state prison. Arraignment and trial have not yet been scheduled.

As I understand it, and I’m not exactly one of the great legal minds of the Western Hemisphere, the fact that Blumenthal and Pilgrim were indicted means that the prosecution decided that they had enough evidence for a trial and the grand jury concurred. Even if Blumenthal and Pilgrim are found guilty (or plead guilty right off), it’s unlikely that they will receive a prison sentence. Stiff probation, a hefty fine, and lots of community service are far more plausible sentences.

I don’t see much point in throwing these two in jail – the prison system is already overburdened. They worked long and hard to cause people trouble; now they should work even longer and harder to help others, whether they want to or not. There’s not much else to say about the case right now, but we’ll keep you posted.

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder — TidBITS Contributing Editor

Adam Engst No comments

An Official Microsoft Apology

Laurel Lammers of Microsoft Word Marketing writes in regard to our article "CompuBigotry" in TidBITS-122:

To Gann Matsuda and all others concerned about the Microsoft Word Speller:

Microsoft values diversity in its workforce and its customer base. We license the dictionaries from another company and we do extensive testing of them. This is an unfortunate coincidence in the suggestion algorithm and does not represent any intention on the part of Microsoft or the outside vendor to offend anyone. We apologize for any offense taken.

Adam Engst No comments

Canadian PowerBooks

We’ve just heard from Pythaeus that Apple Canada is not yet selling the PowerBook 170 configuration with 4 MB of RAM and an 80 MB drive (with or without the internal fax/data modem), which is the highest end PowerBook available from Apple. Apparently Apple Canada will announce the modem-less version of the 170 4/80 at the end of this month, so any of our Canadian readers who are considering purchasing a PowerBook 170 may wish to hold off for until that model becomes available. Interestingly, the PowerBook 140 4/80 is available in Canada now – wonder what the difference is? In any event, keep that little fact in mind if you’ve decided that you just have to have a 170 in the near future.

Information from:
Pythaeus — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

ACE in the hole?

Compaq Computer recently dropped out of the Advanced Computing Environment Consortium (ACE), claiming essentially that it could make do just fine with Intel’s P5, or 80586 chip, in its high-end PC servers and workstations. Compaq claimed that Intel was ahead of schedule on the 586 and that it would come in competitively-priced with the MIPS RISC chips that were to form the basis of ACE-compliant machines. Compaq’s move may significantly limit ACE’s chances in the competition against Sun’s Solaris operating system, Taligent’s Pink, and NeXT’s NeXTSTEP. I’m sure Hewlett-Packard has something in the works as well, but I haven’t heard any details recently. This may all sound like boring business-speak, but this action is actually important and rather intertwingled.

Compaq helped found the ACE consortium a little over a year ago along with DEC, Microsoft, MIPS, and The Santa Cruz Operation (SCO). Apart from Microsoft, the group was generally a bunch of runner-ups for one reason or another, and they viewed ACE as a way to advance the level of computing in a standard way that would leave IBM, Sun, and Apple out of the deal. Lots of other companies without the initiative, talent, money, or clout to compete with the biggies joined ACE in hopes that it would raise their fortunes as well. Membership now includes nearly 200 companies worldwide.

As with anything designed by committee, there were some questions about the choices of operating systems and hardware that would constitute an ACE-compliant machine. Last I checked, there were at least two operating systems, Windows NT and SCO Unix, and two hardware platforms, the MIPS R4000 and the Intel x86. That situation might have changed, but what has definitely changed is the make-up of some of the more prominent members. Several months ago, Silicon Graphics, an early member and manufacturer of high-end Unix-based graphics workstations, bought MIPS, the company that was to provide the R4000 RISC chip to the rest of the consortium. Sounds a little fishy to me, as it must have to the other ACE members…

The Silicon Graphics/MIPS deal may have been a little fishy, but then in late February, DEC introduced the 21064, the first in a series of fast 64-bit microprocessors in the same league as the MIPS R4000. It was silly to think that DEC had just dissolved all of its research and would depend on the MIPS chip just because it was a member of ACE, and in fact, DEC seems pretty proud of the 21064 and its Alpha open computing architecture. DEC claims that it has even licensed the 21064 to Cray and other supercomputer companies for use in massively parallel machines (for those of you who don’t know what parallel computing is, just think lots of little processors, relatively speaking, all working together very fast). If that wasn’t enough anti-ACE news from DEC, the company announced recently that it would be working with Microsoft to set up DEC’s Alpha architecture and Microsoft’s Windows NT as the chief RISC-based computing system. So it seems that DEC has little use for the rest of the ACE consortium, and Microsoft, seeing an opportunity (perhaps Bill Gates’s greatest strength) has jumped on the Alpha bandwagon.

So it’s not looking good for ACE. The final blow to report is that apparently SCO has withdrawn from the ACE executive board, although it is still remaining a member of the group. SCO also stopped working on a version of its implementation of Unix for the MIPS R4000. I almost wonder if all the major players in the ACE group realized that design by committee is a politically sensitive but otherwise inefficient method of working. It’s also possible that there were some serious corporate egos running into each other at the meetings – I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but to judge from some of what I’ve read about the industry in Robert X. Cringely’s excellent "Accidental Empires" and numerous other places, corporate ego is a significant factor in much of this posturing.

Overall, I’m still unimpressed with the concept of ACE and will not be sorry if it disappears officially. There was too much effort involved with trying to please everyone and not enough realization that people don’t really give a hoot what processor their computer has or what operating system it runs so long as it does what they want.

Information from:
DECNEWS — 02-Mar-92

Related articles:
Communications Week — 04-May-92, #401, pg. 8

Adam Engst No comments

Even More Utilities

Just as many of us received our long-awaited upgrades to Norton 2.0, Central Point Software upped the ante with a version 2.0 of its MacTools utility package, adding a number of new and cool features as well as a completely new virus-checking module. In addition, Fifth Generation Systems just announced Public Utilities, and Microcom updated 911 Utilities. Details are scarce on Public Utilities, but it appears that it offers the standard functionality and some of the same automatic checking abilities promised in MacTools 2.0. Reports on CompuServe indicate that there might be some problems remaining in the Complete Undelete file tracking extension of Microcom’s 911 Utilities.

As far as I can tell, and based on reports from the nets, Norton Utilities 2.0 has few completely new features. Most of what’s new in Norton 2.0 came from SUM II and was cleaned up or rewritten (for example, Norton Partition and Norton Backup). Directory Assistance II looks like a solid and useful SFDialog utility, although without Super Boomerang’s ability to search for text in files and to create a hierarchical Open menu, and without ShortCut’s integration with StuffIt archives. If you don’t use either of those, Directory Assistance will be useful. People on the nets are still leery of SpeedDisk, Norton’s optimizer, although no one has reported problems with the current version as they did with version 1.1. One final note, the DiskLight extension which provides an on-screen indication when your disks are reading and writing is still flaky – on my system the hard disk would randomly access for about a minute for no known reason. This problem went away when I shut DiskLight off. On a more serious note, it appears that Norton’s FileSaver extension is incompatible with MultiFinder 6.1b9, which comes with MPW under System 6. You may be able to work around the conflict by installing and configuring under Finder only, then switching back to MultiFinder. Just don’t try accessing the FileSaver Control Panel under MultiFinder after that.

But enough about Norton, I wanted to say more about MacTools 2.0. From the information Central Point sent me, it looks as though they’ve thought a bit more about a complete solution. They added an anti-virus program that combines scanning, cleaning, and prevention, and set it up so that it can be updated with new virus signature files automatically on a network. With viruses though, prevention and quick reactions are key, and Central Point has added a checksumming feature to its Anti-Virus Control Panel. If new viruses appear, help and new files will be available in a multitude of ways. For those who just want to check, Central Point has a 24-hour virus hotline at 503/690-2660 with the latest information on viruses.

Central Point also enhanced its Backup program. Backup can now create Finder-readable backups as well as compressed backups and supports more backup devices, including DAT drives. To make sure your backups are clean, Backup has integrated virus scanning capabilities. Some high-end features reminiscent of Retrospect now appear in Backup as well, so you can schedule automatic unattended backups and even include multiple sources and destinations. You can also backup drives to a network server, and in addition to the virus signature file updating over a network, the entire package can be configured and installed over a network, easing the administrator’s load.

Perhaps the most interesting new feature in MacTools 2.0 is its ability to run unattended, checking constantly or at regular intervals for any sign of damage that might require repair. The DiskFix program can then perform the maintenance automatically, presumably alerting the user later that something has been done. Central Point claims that DiskFix can fix over 100 disk problems. I wonder how it compares to Norton’s Disk Doctor in this respect – I’ve always found Disk Doctor to be somewhat more effective in actually fixing the disk. Another utility, FileFix, can now repair damaged Microsoft Word and Excel files, something which will no doubt be extremely popular if it works as Central Point claims, recovering undamaged data rather than losing the entire file.

Single-user upgrades for MacTools will cost $49 and the suggested list price will be $149. MacTools runs on a Mac Plus or higher with System 6.0.5 or higher, including System 7. Those of you with 1 MB machines may wish to check with Central Point before buying since it appears that MacTools requires 2 MB of RAM, even under System 6.0.5.

No matter which of these utilities you choose, I recommend that you get and use one of them. Even excellent backup habits (which we all have, right?) aren’t always enough to save us from a lot of rebuilding work.

Central Point Software — 800/445-1684
Fifth Generation Systems — 800/873-4384 — 504/291-7221
Symantec — 800/-441-7234 — 408/253-9600

Information from:
Central Point propaganda
Wayne Pollock — [email protected]

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 04-May-92, Vol. 6, #18, pg. 4

Jean-Philippe G. Nicaise No comments

A PowerBook Umbilical Cord

When Apple unveiled the PowerBook line six months ago, it appeared that they had made an odd and inconsistent mistake. The PowerBook 100 (which was designed by Sony, remember) has the ability to act as an external hard drive for a desktop Mac, but the otherwise more capable 140 and 170 lack this useful feature. It’s too bad, because transferring files to and from a PowerBook moves much faster via SCSI than AppleTalk or floppy. Rumor had it that Apple simply ran out of time and decided not to implement this feature in the 140 and 170, but for the tons of people who already own one, hope is not lost. A new product called PowerDisk from a French company, Additional Design, can do this and more with a PowerBook 140 or 170.

The PowerDisk package includes a PowerBook to SCSI disk cable, a jumper to change your PowerBook’s internal hard disk SCSI ID, a disk with the software to disable the PowerBook CPU, and two manuals: one for your Macintosh dealer and one for the installation and use of the software.

The modification of the internal hard disk SCSI ID must be done by an Approved Apple Dealer who will open the PowerBook and simply place a jumper. Additional Design provides a label to stick on the rear panel indicating the new SCSI ID. The installation manual is so clear that you could do it yourself if you had the correct screwdrivers (and don’t mind voiding your warranty and possibly damaging your PowerBook). In France Apple has endorsed this procedure (so it will not void your warranty) as long as it is done by an Approved Apple Dealer. Since PowerDisk is only distributed in France for the time being (sorry folks), it’s possible that Apple may set up different policies in other countries.

The software installer simply adds a driver to your System file (.POWERDISK) and copies the PowerDisk application to your Apple Menu Items folder. If your Macintosh isn’t a PowerBook or your PowerBook hasn’t had the SCSI ID modified, the installer will warn you and won’t do anything.

To prepare the connection, you simply run the PowerDisk application which makes sure you want to proceed. If you agree, the PowerBook will be shut down and PowerDisk will be set to activate when the desktop Mac looks for external SCSI devices. Then you just switch off your desktop Macintosh and your PowerBook, connect the SCSI cables, and make sure that all SCSI terminators are off.

Now, you act as though your PowerBook was an external hard disk: switch it on and then switch on the Macintosh. Your PowerBook’s screen will simply show the SCSI ID of your hard disk, the accumulator level indicator and the PowerDisk icon. Those indicators move around on the screen as though they were part of a screen saver module. If you strike a key, click, or move your trackball, a message will tell you PowerDisk is running and what to do to bring your PowerBook back to life (switch off your Mac, switch off your PowerBook, disconnect the cables, switch on your PowerBook).

It’s easy, simple, and really efficient. PowerDisk’s price in France is 690 French francs (about US$115) which is fair since the package includes the cable, a 290 French francs (about US$48) value on Apple’s price list. PowerDisk is currently sold only in France, but Additional Design is looking for distributors in the US and other countries. The product’s availability will depend on how soon they find distributors – interested parties should contact Additional Design for more information.

Additional Design:
Voice : +33 (1) 69 07 30 28
Fax : +33 (1) 69 07 86 74

Information from:
Franck Lefebvre, Additional Design
[email protected]

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

QuicKeys Line Enhanced by CE

CE Software has been in the press quite a bit lately, and deservedly so. The latest piece of news out of West Des Moines, Iowa, is that CE has announced two new pieces in the QuicKeys product line, one of which will ship later this month.

QuicKeys is CE’s macro product for the Macintosh, allowing users to customize and largely automate their work environment by assigning frequently-used or "menial" operations to one-or-two-keystroke commands. Version 2.1.2, scheduled to ship on 20-May-92, is 32-bit clean, System 7 savvy, and supports Apple Events of all kinds. This latest version also offers improved compatibility with Microsoft Word 5.0 and other minor changes.

The additions to the family are Instant QuicKeys and QuicKeys Runtime. The former is a new installation and modification application that leads users through a process that automatically sets up dozens of useful QuicKeys without having to use the regular QuicKeys editor. With Instant QuicKeys, which will ship in the box with QuicKeys 2, CE says they no longer have just a "power user’s" product, but a product that will cater to all levels of Mac user.

Instant QuicKeys will also allow users to set up on-screen palettes of "SoftKeys" containing up to ninety frequently-accessed macros, accessible through a single keystroke or by clicking on the screen. An additional application, QKIcons, will allow users to create icons that can invoke any QuicKey with a single click. The icons can be placed on the desktop or in any folder for easy location and use.

This last feature is reminiscent of Tiles, CE’s "intelligent desktop" product, which hasn’t done as well in the marketplace as the company would have liked. One of the features of Tiles is that a QuicKey can be assigned to a tile, which resides within the program’s windows or can be dragged out to float over the desktop. The program is an application launcher and desktop organizer, but users have complained of a confusing interface and excessive memory requirements, and many prefer to accomplish the same tasks with simpler, less-expensive utilities.

QuicKeys Runtime, for which a shipping date and price are not yet set, is a runtime version of QuicKeys that will allow system managers, consultants, or value-added resellers (VARs) to create customized sets of QuicKey macros and install them for users who won’t need to modify them or create their own. We hope that CE will elect to price the runtime package at an affordable level that will enable large workgroups to afford to share in QuicKeys’s benefits without the extra expense. Since the product is obviously aimed at workgroups and larger installations, it would make sense for CE to offer quantity pricing, as they do with QuickMail, their flagship electronic mail product. Five, ten, fifty, and one hundred user packages would make sense.

Current QuicKeys 2 users will be able to upgrade to version 2.1.2, including Instant QuicKeys, for $30, and users of versions prior to 2.0 will be able to upgrade for $49. Users who are interested in upgrading from 2.1 to 2.1.2 without getting Instant QuicKeys, SoftKeys, or QKIcons may download an updater utility from various online services, or may obtain an update disk from CE for $15. Users who purchased QuicKeys after 01-Apr-92 will be able to upgrade to 2.1.2 (with Instant QuicKeys) for free. International users should contact their local distributors, or call CE customer service at 515/224-1995.

CE Software — 800/523-7638 — 515/224-1995

Information from:
CE propaganda

Tonya Engst No comments

Little Mac Word Book

Microsoft’s Word has a ton of options buried in its menus, though it can take patience to make these options show their heads and perform their tricks. In fact, many people use Word for years without delving into its depths. Peachpit Press recently published "The Little Mac Word Book," a book that should help anyone harness Word’s capabilities.

With lively prose and a liberal sprinkling of screen dumps, author Helmut Kobler explains not only how to use Word’s features but also which tasks are particularly suited to the different features. Don’t think of this book as a heavy reference tome, but rather as light (or at least somewhat light) reading that you might do over a weekend. The Little Mac Word Book actually would make a good reference for most purposes, but it’s not completely comprehensive. It should be especially good for newcomers to Word and for people who have used Word for a while but infrequently use some of its deeper features such as table of contents, tables, and placing graphics on a page. If you never use a certain Word feature because you can’t figure out the arcane logic behind it, this book should help you out. In addition, Word works much better for people who are more aware of what it can do, so reading this book could enhance your overall Word experience.

Kobler begins with a summary of what’s new in Word 5.0, giving brief descriptions and page number references for where the book explains the features in detail. The book continues with a Project Guide, which matches common projects with features in Word will be most useful and with more page number references.

Somewhat predictably, the next section has a basic introduction to word processing (let the computer do the wrapping; cut, copy, and paste; saving files, etc.). Interspersed through these expected explanations Kobler has sprinkled tidbits that many Word users will appreciate (Word’s different views, how Word repagination works, selecting text using different techniques, and more). The section is to be commended for explaining about never using spaces in place of tabs right up front, and for a good description of using the SFDialog box, a place where many beginners get stuck.

The rest of the book systematically explains how to do most of the things that you would ever wish to do in Word. The book struck me as being particularly strong in its explanations of how to use Outlining and Framing. Other strong points included indexing, table of contents, print merges, and footnoting. On the whole, and for most practical purposes, the book is outstanding. Unfortunately, though, the book also has a number of minor glitches. Some of these appear to be due to careless editing, and some are most certainly due to the inherent difficulties in writing a book about a program while the program is in beta. I don’t know how commonly books such as this have errors, so I don’t know exactly how damning a criticism this is.

Two errors that particularly caught my attention were these. First, in the final release version of Word 5.0, the program can open and save files in WordPerfect for DOS versions 5.0 and 5.1. Perhaps due to the usual pre-release shuffle of features that do and do not miss the deadline, the book states that Word 5.0 will save and open files for Mac WordPerfect and WordPerfect for DOS versions 4.1-5.1. Don’t look for these translators – they just aren’t there, and WordPerfect users may have to convert to a more compatible format manually before transferring the files to Word 5.0. The second glaring error comes when the book incorrectly states that in one operation Word can do a find and replace in the main section of the document, as well as in the header, footer, and footnote sections. Unfortunately, this task is beyond Word 5.0’s capabilities.

Visually, the book has a fair amount going for it. The headers are in an easily readable grey-blue color, making it easy to skim for particular information. The text is nicely broken up by screen dumps illustrating directions in the text, and ample margins leave room for notes if you like to write in books. Also in the margins are related tips and tricks. The only problem that I noticed was that in my particular copy the leading ("line-spacing" in Word-speak) looks a bit strange after some of the sub-headings.

In conclusion, the Little Mac Word Book certainly works as a credible reference for Word 5, but what makes it stand out is its friendly layout and spirited prose. An interested Word user could probably read straight through without falling asleep (something that certainly could not be said about Word 5.0’s admittedly-improved manuals), and any Word user should be able to use it to quickly find out how Word can most effectively do what she wants it to do. True power users who require an in-depth reference to every possible word feature will find this book a little light, but most Word users should find it a useful addition to their computer libraries. The Little Mac Word Book retails for $15.95 and should be available at good bookstores everywhere by now.

Peachpit Press — 800/283-9444 — 510/548-4393