Malevolence continues with a new virus, T4, and a Trojan Horse whose author’s head now carries a price. Luckily, all is not lost, with CE and Microsoft releasing good things, updates to Alarming Events and QuicKeys from CE and a free patch for that nasty styles bug from Microsoft. Rounding out this issue, we have the eagerly-awaited second part of Howard Hansen’s Excel review, which will conclude next week.
We’re back from vacation, which we enjoyed on the whole, but we could have done without the unplanned seven hour bus ride from New York City to Ithaca on a transit-style bus that could barely do 45 miles per hour on the freeway. Isn’t traveling fun? For those of you making the pilgrimage to Boston in August, good luck with your flights, and I hope to see you there.
John Norstad of Northwestern University this weekend released version 2.9 of his free anti-virus utility, Disinfectant. Version 2.9 detects the T4 virus, two strains of which were discovered in several locations around the world late last month.
The T4 virus can interfere with the booting process, either causing crashes during startup or preventing system extensions from loading properly. It masquerades as Disinfectant when attempting to infect files, in an apparent attempt to get around the "suspicious activity monitor" type of anti-virus utility. If you see a warning that "Disinfectant" is attempting to modify a file, and you are not using Disinfectant, it is a good indication that the T4 virus may be attacking your system.
Unfortunately, applications that have been infected with the T4 virus can not be repaired, so it is necessary to delete and replace any infected applications. Previously, Disinfectant had been able to repair virtually any infection. Some anti-virus authors prefer to recommend that users always replace, rather than repair, any infected files, but Norstad feels that it’s more realistic to offer users the option of repairing files rather than expecting them to religiously replace applications. In this case, though, the option is not available.
The virus was embedded in two versions, 2.0 and 2.1, of the game GoMoku, which was distributed widely via online services, Internet FTP archives, and the comp.binaries.mac Usenet group. Users who have these versions of GoMoku should discard them and use Disinfectant 2.9, or another anti-virus utility released since the beginning of July, to scan all of their disks. The games were apparently distributed under a false name; the person whose name appears in the program’s about box was completely uninvolved with the virus, and that name should not be used when referring to the virus.
Norstad took the opportunity in his release announcement to mention that three Cornell University students have been indicted on an assortment of felony and misdemeanor counts, including first-degree computer tampering, in connection with the release of the MBDF virus this spring. They are presently awaiting trial. Norstad hopes that this news will remind potential virus writers that computer viruses are taken seriously, and that writing them and releasing them is a crime that can, should, and will be punished under the law.
REWARD OFFERED FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO ARREST AND CONVICTION OF TROJAN HORSE AUTHOR
The MAUG Staff on CompuServe discovered an upload called CHINAT.CPT which, when we routinely examined the file, revealed itself to be a Trojan Horse program. The program, "Chinatalk," purports to be a female voice for Macintalk. But when run it will overwrite the directory of any hard disk it finds online, which is the same as choosing Erase Disk… from the Finder.
The file was never made public here, on ZiffNet/Mac or on any CompuServe Forum.
All sysops of private BBS services should be on the lookout for this file.
If anyone has information on the perpetrator of this Trojan Horse program please contact me – Neil Shapiro – via either email or phone at 516/735-6924.
On behalf of MAUG, I am personally posting a $500.00 reward for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of this criminal. (Should more than one person supply identical information the reward will be to the first giving the information; or if two or more people give information which is both non-identical and necessary to catching the criminal the reward will be equally split between the parties.) Let’s catch this pond scum and let’s do it quickly!
Again: the file was NEVER made public here, on ZiffNet/Mac, or on any other CompuServe Forum. Thanks, — Neil Shapiro (Chief Sysop, MAUG)
Neil Shapiro — [email protected]
CE Software is now shipping new versions of Alarming Events, a personal scheduling software, and QuicKeys, a macro making program. In addition CE has reduced the suggested retail price of Alarming Events to $99.95.
Alarming Events 1.1 — Alarming Events 1.1 is primarily a compatibility upgrade, making it 32-bit clean and Quadra ‘040 cache compatible, but it does have some welcome new features. Most useful among these are the new "Find" and "Find Again" commands, which allow users to find an event or appointment using specific words or phrases. Although previous versions were good about reminding you when an appointment, event, or other activity was imminent, finding a specific future entry required searching manually. This Find feature would also be a welcome addition to CE’s flagship product, QuickMail. In addition, Alarming Events now has a more colorful interface, a revamped notification system, and an Apple Installer script. Registered users of Alarming Events 1.0 can upgrade for $20, and users who purchased the product after 01-Jun-92 can upgrade free. Users should contact CE at one of the phone numbers below, and should be prepared to provide their serial numbers.
QuicKeys 2.1.2 — According to CE’s recent propaganda, "No one in the world makes desktop automation so easy," and with the new release of QuicKeys, they may be right. QuicKeys 2.1.2 incorporates the Instant QuicKeys, SoftKeys, and QK Icons features described in TidBITS-123, and seven new logic extensions that allow branching based on various conditions. Instant QuicKeys is an "intelligent" automated setup program that helps new users past the hurdles of customizing their QuicKeys macros. The SoftKeys extension provides on-screen palettes of favorite QuicKeys, and QK Icons creates double-clickable mini-applications that execute QuicKeys shortcuts from the desktop. System 7 users will even be able to use drag & drop to access with the QK Icons, for example by dragging multiple documents to a printer QuicKey icon in order to print those documents to the specified printer. This capability is one which Apple promised would be part of a new Print Manager in System 7, but which has yet to arrive.
An updater utility for users of QuicKeys 2.1 can be downloaded from popular online services soon, but this does not include Instant QuicKeys, SoftKeys, QK Icons, or the new logic extensions. Registered QuicKeys users should contact CE for upgrade instructions.
You may not be able to find that updater online right away, since CE has discovered a problem with 2.1.2 that may cause your Universal Keyset to be corrupted under System 6. CE has identified the problem and will make new updaters available soon. From what Tom Hillson of CE Tech Support has told us, the problem may be related to installing without turning off anti-virus software, but if you have any questions, contact Tom at <[email protected]> or CE Tech Support at 515/224-1953. You’ll probably notice if you’ve already run into this problem because the Universal Keyset being corrupted can cause the Mac to crash before loading the Finder.
CE is offering a special sidegrade option to owners of the competing Tempo macro utility from Affinity Microsystems, which recently shipped a System 7-compatible version of Tempo after almost a year. US and Canadian Tempo owners may upgrade to QuicKeys 2.1.2 for only $49, through 30-Sep-92. This offer is available only by mail, fax, or e-mail, not by telephone, and users must provide their serial number, manual cover page (mailed or faxed), or the original program disk from their Tempo package, along with full name, address, telephone number, and method of payment. Orders may be faxed to the number below; emailed to CESOFTWARE on AppleLink, America Online, or MCI Mail, <[email protected]> on the Internet, 76136,2137 on CompuServe, or via QuickMail to 515/224-1721; or mailed to:
CE Software, Inc.
1801 Industrial Circle
P.O. Box 65580
West Des Moines, IA 50265
Sue Nail, CE Software
Tom Hillson, CE Tech Support — [email protected]
Microsoft has fixed the font/styles bug that caused styles to revert to the Normal font when files were transferred between machines (see TidBITS-126). In an unusual move, Microsoft has created a patch program, which it is distributing it for free on all the online services. Of course, you can get Microsoft to mail you a disk with the patch for Word 5.0a on it, but frankly, if you have access to one of the online services, downloading is easier. The patch fixes the bug and updates the version number of Word from 5.0 to 5.0a.
On the Internet, you can snag the patch from several places. Perhaps the easiest is sumex-aim.stanford.edu where the 27K file is stored as:
Of course, you can also get the file through a sumex mirror site – check out the Gateways 1 article in TidBITS-130 for more information on them. You can call a Microsoft BBS at speeds up to 9600 bps for the file as well.
Microsoft Mac Word Technical Support — 206/635-7200
Microsoft BBS — 206/936-6735
Information Electronics, the Hammondsport, NY developer best known until now for its QuickMail add-on products, announced last week that they will no longer offer their QuickMail gateways and enhancements. According to chairman Tom Clodfelter, "We no longer feel that QuickMail is the best solution for a corporate communication system." Instead, the company will now offer gateway and enhancement products for FirstClass, a graphical-interface bulletin board system (BBS) from SoftArc, Inc. that allows both network-based and dialup modem communications.
In a newsletter sent to IE customers, the company explained that QuickMail, the electronic mail product from CE Software, Inc., presents too many limitations. On 04-Jul-92, Information Electronics removed QMConcierge, QMSight, UMCP\QM, and SMTP\QM from the market. The two year old product line offered features not available elsewhere, such as message forwarding and distribution lists with QMConcierge, and connectivity to FreeSoft’s Second Sight BBS software with QMSight. The UMCP\QM and SMTP\QM products, offering Unix and Internet connectivity via UUCP and SMTP had competition in the market.
The flagship of IE’s new product line will be PostalUnion, offering FirstClass system administrators a combination of UUCP and SMTP connectivity, complete with full electronic mail and Usenet news service. The retail price for an unlimited-user-license package will be $1995, and until 31-Aug-92, IE is offering an exchange price to SMTP\QM and UMCP\QM customers of only $200, if the customers are also taking advantage of IE’s QuickMail-for-FirstClass trade-in offer. (For information, contact Information Electronics as shown below.) In addition, IE will offer a $495 gateway to link FirstClass to Microsoft Mail via network or modem.
Asked about Information Electronics’ departure, Sue Nail, a media representative at CE Software, said, "We’re sorry to lose them as developers. Tom’s a good programmer." CE informed many of its large-site customers last month that the Information Electronics products would no longer be available, and presented special offers for IE customers from vendors offering similar products. While CE would prefer to avoid the appearance of stepping on another company’s toes, they explained that they wanted QuickMail customers to hear about alternatives that would allow them to stay with QuickMail if they wish, saying, "We want to take care of our customers in any way that we can."
Information Electronics now offers support for its products, both its new FirstClass add-ons and the previous QuickMail enhancements, via its new FirstClass bulletin board. The graphical BBS, which can be reached by modem at 607/868-3393, shows off the features of both the FirstClass software and the PostalUnion gateway, offering local and Internet discussions, Usenet newsgroups, product updates, and IE’s online support forum. Although the BBS is intended for IE’s customers, the company welcomes people who are interested in experiencing FirstClass to give it a try. Users should call with a modem supporting 1200-2400 bps or V.32 9600 bps, and press Return at both the userid and password prompts to create a new user account. They will then be able to download the Macintosh application that provides the graphical front end or proceed to use the BBS’s VT100 terminal interface. Users may also take FirstClass and PostalUnion for a test drive at SoftArc’s booth (#122) at the Mactivity conference in Santa Clara next week.
SoftArc plans to offer a Windows front end application in the near future, in addition to other enhancements that we will describe in depth in an upcoming issue of TidBITS.
Information Electronics — 607/868-3331
SoftArc, Inc. — 416/299-4723 — 416/609-2250 BBS
Information Electronics — [email protected]
In this second installment of my review of Excel 4.0, I promised to tell you about some of the less glitzy features of the new version. I don’t mean to say that you should stop reading lest you get bored. We’ll see plenty of cool stuff here as well.
[Howard didn’t intend the review to go to three parts, but we ran out of space in this issue. I’ve tried to retain the sections dealing with the functional parts of Excel this issue, and next time we’ll look at user interface and output features. -Adam]
Errata — In the first part of this review, I complained that I wanted a way to turn Autofill’s brains off – so that it would mindlessly duplicate values into adjacent cells. I got my wish much sooner than I anticipated. Holding down the option key as you drag does the trick. Thanks to Ray at Microsoft for noticing my mistake.
I also gave an incorrect example for using Autofill to do a linear regression on a series of numbers. Doing an autofill after selecting 2, 4, 8 returns 10.67, 12.67, etc. I meant to say that doing an autofill on 2, 4 would return 6, 8, 10, etc., not 8, 16, 32, etc., since Excel does linear, not geometric autofills.
Macro Changes — The macro language has many nice changes, of which I find the changes to the debugging environment to be the most useful. Excel has always let you step through the macro one instruction at a time so you can watch what happens. Two new buttons show up in the Single Step dialog: Pause and Step over. Pause has saved me an immeasurable amount of grief. I often step through a macro and, just before coming to the crucial step, realize that I needed to make a little change. Before, I had to halt the macro, make the change, then start the macro up again. Now, I just hit the Pause button, make the fix, then hit the resume tool, which sits on the "Macro Paused" toolbar that Excel brings up immediately after you hit pause. The Step Over button allows you to let Excel run through a subroutine you’ve programmed correctly without having to look at each step in the process. After Excel hits the RETURN in the subroutine, it resumes single-step mode.
Direct copy and paste — The COPY and CUT macro functions now have arguments. No, they don’t fight – they allow you to specify the source and destination ranges. In one step, you can tell Excel where to copy from and where to paste to. Not only will this save tedious coding for activating and selecting, it also runs tons faster. If you have macros that work with the clipboard, rewrite them using this.
Global Macro Sheet — Finally, we have a macro sheet that opens every time Excel opens. When you record a macro, Excel will ask you where to store the commands – in a macro sheet you specify, or in the Global Macro sheet. Before Excel 4.0, I didn’t have a convenient place to put those little utility macros which make my life easier. I’ve also created a custom toolbar that includes tools to run most of my macros.
Other Macro Additions — Excel now has AUTO_ACTIVATE and AUTO_DEACTIVATE macro functions that specify which macro to run when the user activates or deactivates a given document. The ON.DOUBLECLICK function lets you change what double-clicking in a document means. These tools can help you create Excel spreadsheets that only a sophisticated user could distinguish from a stand-alone application.
Crosstab Wizard — Next in what will, no doubt, turn into a long line of wizards in Excel and other Microsoft products, we find the Crosstab Wizard. This remarkable electronic helper makes creating cross tabulated reports from your database information remarkably easy.
A crosstab report consists of a grid of numbers with row and column labels. If you had a database of sales transactions which had information on the product sold, total sale, as well as the sex and age of the purchaser, you could create a crosstab report where the column labels would indicate the sex of the purchaser, the row labels would indicate the age of the purchaser (either as separate numbers or in ranges you specify), and the cells would hold the dollar value of the sales for each category (or alternatively, you could have the crosstab count the number of sales in each category). This can be hard to visualize, but crosstabs are really useful.
Like the Chart Wizard I discussed in TidBITS-127, the Crosstab Wizard takes you screen-by-screen through the process, asking you what field to use for the row labels, column labels, and for the actual cell values. You can choose to sum, count, average, or even take the standard deviation of the reported values.
When Excel creates a crosstab report, it creates a new worksheet to hold the information. This report does not have a "hot links" to the database, so you need to recalculate an existing crosstab when the underlying data change. Once you’ve created a crosstab report, Excel allows you to double-click on any cell in the table, at which point Excel creates another new worksheet and automatically extracts all records from the database which meet the criteria you specify – a killer feature!
None of this comes quickly. Unless you have the fastest of Macs or the smallest of databases, you will spend some time drumming your fingers before you get results. I haven’t had any problems with the shipping version of the Crosstab Wizard (yet), but it bombed prodigiously and spectacularly while in beta, so I still feel a little wary about it – I always save my data before jumping in. Although the Crosstab Wizard works nicely, I still want the kind of live, multi-dimensional crosstab reporting and browsing available with Improv, MUSE, and other products.
Data Analysis — With Excel 4.0, Microsoft has added a number of powerful data analysis arrows to its quiver. For the business user who uses Excel for classic spreadsheet "what-if" analyses, 4.0 provides an excellent way to manage the different results generated from a model. With the new Scenario Manager, you can have Excel run a model you have through a number of different "what-if" scenarios with Excel plugging different values for different inputs and returning the end results. You can name each of the scenarios, and have Excel create a summary worksheet which gives you all of the inputs and the results produced by the model. Using Excel’s new Print Report add-in, you can also have Excel print each different scenario automatically.
For those of a more technical bent, the "Analysis ToolPak" add-in consists of a series of what I like to call "mini-wizards." These ask you everything you need to tell it to perform a statistical, financial, or engineering analysis – you can perform Anova, t-, and, z-tests, and even create one-step histograms.
Workbooks — If you link worksheets together, you probably know the remarkable stress that comes from the "Update references to unopened documents?" dialog box. Excel 4.0 allows you to "bind" as many documents as you wish together into one file, called a workbook. Under Excel 3.0, my company’s financial management system consisted of four separate worksheets (receipts, billings, assumptions, and a summary worksheet). With Excel 4.0, I’ve bound them all together into a workbook. Now I don’t have to make sure I open them in the right order. Plus, I only have to double-click on one icon, and I only copy one file.
You can also have "unbound" worksheets in your Workbooks. They will open just like bound worksheets, but you can change them outside of Excel. For instance, you may have a server which has today’s currency exchange rates in a Lotus 1-2-3 format. If you store it as an unbound worksheet in a workbook, the latest version opens when you open the workbook.
You can also use Workbooks to simulate 3-D worksheets (in fact, if you open a Lotus 3-D file in Excel, it becomes a Workbook). In practice, though, I find that Excel’s Data Consolidate feature provides a more flexible solution for summarizing data than 3-D worksheets.
Add-ins — Many of the new features I’ve described here don’t reside in the core of Excel code. They live on special macro sheets called Add-ins. Rather than put everything into the product, Microsoft chose to make Excel more modular and add major functionality this way. I applaud the decision to keep the core code of the product simple, and allow the user to add only what she needs. This technique saves RAM to make your "real" work faster.
This modularity also has a cost. When you choose the menu item for the first time, Excel opens up the add-in, then does whatever preparation the command requires, so after you let go of the mouse button, you wait… even on my Rocket-accelerated Mac II. I wish Microsoft could figure out a way to compile the add-in and create files like Word 5.0’s command files.
Add-ins also present the problem of possibly different configurations of Excel for different users. I can just see the help desk person saying, "Now just choose Crosstab from the Data menu…. What do you mean you don’t have Crosstab on your Data menu?!?" If you chose a minimal installation, you will have a significantly different program than your neighbor who loaded all 11 MB.
Charting Changes — Excel bulked up with a few new chart types for this version. These include the Surface chart (in 2-D and 3-D versions) and the Radar chart (really – they use it a lot in Japan). You’ve all seen surface charts, but radar??? In a radar chart each data category gets its own axis. I have seen this type of chart created manually in psychological profiles, where the test measures your level of intuition, or extraversion, or whatever, then plots each on its own axis. The radar chart connects the points into a polygon so you can see how vastly your spouse’s personality differs from your own!
In Excel 3.0, the Format 3-D View dialog box took the prize as the coolest feature in the entire program. Unfortunately, you will need to use that wire frame wonder much less often with 4.0, since you can now manipulate the 3-D view directly. Select the 3-D chart area, wait a moment, then click on it again. You will see a set of eight handles which correspond to the corners of a cube (or rectangular prism). Drag any of the handles and the 3-D view changes automatically.
Microsoft still needs to eliminate the distinction between worksheet and charting modes. I consider myself a power user (to steal a phrase, I actually consider myself a raging thunder-lizard of an Excel user). Even so, I get confused and forget that I have to double-click on a chart embedded on a worksheet so I can get at a certain menu item which exists only on the charting menus. Why not have the charting menu bar appear automatically when you have a chart selected, and have the worksheet menu appear when you click away. Heck, if Claris could figure that out for ClarisWorks, why not Microsoft for Excel?
- When you select a cell or range of cells which you’ve defined a name for, the name automatically appears in the reference area (to the left of the formula bar).
- Double-clicking on a cell which contains a formula causes Excel to select ALL cells which it uses to calculate the value.
- The color tool on the formatting toolbar makes choosing colors for cells or objects much easier – each click applies the next color in Excel’s 16-color palette. (Shift-clicking moves backwards through the colors.)
- Nearly every dialog box in Excel now has a title bar, which means you can drag it around and easily jump to another application and a help button which summons context-sensitive help.
- Functions, Number Formats, and Toolbar tools are grouped into categories in their dialog boxes.
- If you type a function and the open parenthesis, then forget the arguments to that function, just hit Control-A and Excel automatically enters the argument names.
- Worried about making a spelling error in your worksheet for the Annual Report? Never fear, Microsoft has added a spelling checker to Excel. It doesn’t use the Word dictionary, but it can share user dictionaries with Word.
- If your Mac has a microphone, you can record sound notes in Excel and attach them to cells. With the macro language, you can have Excel play any sound in any file on your Mac.
[Stay tuned next week… -Adam]
Microsoft Customer Service — 800/426-9400
Howard Hansen, The Oasis Group — [email protected]