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Adam Engst No comments

Bits On PostScript

The furor over Apple’s and Microsoft’s announcement of TrueType has faded with time, especially since Adobe promised to release the specs of its Type 1 PostScript fonts. The font world has been in the news recently, though, with Adobe announcing that it plans to create drivers for the Mac, Windows 3,0, and OS/2 to take advantage of PostScript Level 2.

The Macintosh driver is Chooser-selectable and works with any Macintosh application. It will ship with the first printers utilizing PostScript Level 2, probably in the last quarter of 1990. The announcement from Adobe didn’t say anything about Apple’s current driver, but we got the impression that this driver was meant to be used by everyone with PostScript printers. Curious. The main goals of the new driver are to (a) improve performance on current printers and printers supporting PostScript Level 2, (b) support device-specific printer features such as special paper bins, printer-specific pages sizes, duplex printing, cut film, etc., in every application, and (c) allow exporting of PostScript files by printing to disk from the driver. Adobe is open to suggestions for this new driver which should be sent to them at the network address, [email protected]. If you are unable to use the nets, you could try calling them, but the phone may not be a proper channel for comments.

Adobe’s net announcement is especially interesting given recent rumors regarding PostScript and TrueType. Evidently, there has been talk about the future of TrueType being an eventual merger with PostScript. InfoWorld quoted Jim Stoneham, Apple’s text and type products manager, as saying "In my opinion, I think we could take the best of both formats and converge on one standard." Apple said that Stoneham’s remark does not represent the company’s official position, but admitted that two font standards may only confuse and irritate users.

Our feeling is that PostScript is here to stay because of the large investment many sites have in PostScript laser printers and fonts. It also doesn’t help that developing a complete font technology is a large task. The main carrot that TrueType has held out to us rabbits is the on-screen font scaling, which is done relatively well by Adobe’s ATM already. We hope that Apple will come to its senses about TrueType and form some sort of Open Font Foundation that will take the best parts of various font technologies and merge them into a single open standard.

Microsoft is the odd one out at this point, since NeXT and IBM have both endorsed PostScript over TrueType, and no matter what IBM may do wrong, its endorsement still carries clout. It seems clear that Microsoft wishes to control a part of the printer and font industry, but in this case Microsoft does not have its usual head start over competitors (as it did with Word and Excel for the Mac). It may be that Microsoft feels that it can control the entire microcomputer software (and we wouldn’t be too surprised to see more Microsoft hardware) market, especially given its recent coup with Windows 3.0 and dominance over IBM in OS/2 development.

Adobe Systems Inc. — 415/961-4400

Information from:
Adobe Systems Incorporated — [email protected]
Lawrence D’Oliveiro — [email protected]
Dominic Dunlop — [email protected]

Related articles:
InfoWorld — 23-Jul-90, Vol. 12, #30, pg. 1

Adam Engst No comments

Ehman Screen Real Estate

The king of the discount mail order firms, Ehman Engineering, introduced a two page monochrome monitor (it can’t do grey scale) at Macworld Expo last August. At the time we were rather interested in it because of its $899 price tag, but finance reared its ugly head and we ceased our investigation.

However, someone on the net recently asked for input on that specific monitor (obviously attracted by the small price on such a large screen) and received some interesting replies. Ehman received extremely good reviews on the quality of the monitor, although when the monitor was first available, a number of people had to wait for up to two months to receive their monitors due to the demand. Ehman’s monitor received six recommendations to one each for Apple, Radius, and SuperMac (and no, the original request for information was not biased towards replies from Ehman owners). Some people who owned several monitors said they preferred the Ehman monitor to Apple or Radius monitors. Looks like a case of the low end striking back.

One of the most informative postings came from someone who had ordered one, having looked at all other two page displays without being impressed. He felt that the Ehman monitor is as good as or better than the standard monochrome displays that come with Sun workstations, though not as good as the NeXT MegaPixel display.

It has a refresh rate of 78 Hz and an image size of 1050 by 817 pixels at 72 dpi. The phosphor is standard P104 (if you know what that means, we don’t) and cannot be upgraded to grey scale because the CRT inputs are digital, not analog. If you are using an SE or SE/30 at the same time, the small monitor is still usable. As an undocumented tip, one person found that you are given a choice of positions for the small screen if you hold down command-option while the Ehman monitor INIT runs. Other amenities include the necessary cabling, a card for an SE, SE/30, or Mac II-class machine, and in the overkill department, Stepping Out II for those who want the virtual screen size to be even larger than two full pages.

If you are worried about going the mail order route, Ehman has a two year warranty on the beastie as well as a 30-day money back guarantee. If you plan to attend a Macintosh show, you might be able to buy it even cheaper, as one person reported purchasing it for $745 on a show special. Pretty tempting, though we’re still lusting after the full-page color display provided by PCPC’s Flipper.

Information from:
John Hardin — [email protected]
John A Feinberg — [email protected]
Shirley Kehr — [email protected]
David Phillip Oster — [email protected]
Rick Genter — [email protected]
Jeff Stearns — [email protected]
Ed Darken — [email protected]
Robert C. Berwick — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

PostScript Trojan

There has been discussion on Usenet recently of a new trojan horse that is a bit different from the usual sort. Most trojan horses are fairly simple minded in that they try to erase files or entire hard disks, which has become tediously obnoxious. This new trojan, which has yet to be named, lives in certain PICT files and if you print these PICT files on a PostScript printer, the trojan is downloaded to the printer and executed. It changes the PostScript password in the laser printer to a random number, thus preventing you from using the printer. This is normally disastrous, because there are 65,536 possible passwords (it’s an integer) and you might have to try each one of them to set the password back to the default of 0. This is because you have to know the old password to set a new one. The PostScript language can do this automatically, of course, but rough estimates forecast the time it would take to be over three weeks of continuous checking. Not my idea of a fun month.

Luckily, someone came up with an ingenious PostScript program which resets the password to 0. You must have a program such as SendPS (free from Adobe) to send the code to the printer.

If you’re wondering why PostScript bothers with passwords at all when it defaults to 0, you do so justly. Adobe’s Red Book says that the password is included so system administrators can keep unauthorized people from changing any other (pseudo) permanent states of the laser. For this to work with the Mac, you have to change all versions of the LaserWriter (or possibly LaserPrep) file that are used with the printer to recognize the new password, which is a hassle. Don’t do this unless you consider yourself a minor PostScript deity and like using ResEdit as well. It might be best not to have a password at all if it is set to a default in most printers. Unused passwords lead to trouble, as it has done here.

Are you wondering what the alternative is if you can’t afford a month of downtime for your Mac and printer or can’t get a copy of the code to reset the password? One person said that his EEPROMs were somehow reset during a ferocious lightning storm, but it’s hard to fly a laser printer on a kite like Benjamin Franklin’s famous key. Remaining dry and on the ground, you can either reset the password by taking out one of the EEPROMs in the printer (our source didn’t know exactly which one) and risk destroying things or you can go to your friendly local dealer and purchase new EEPROMs for about $150. Neither is a good option. However, the code to reset the password and the SendPS program should be readily available for anonymous FTP on the nets at and, and if not, I will personally make sure they are on the Memory Alpha BBS (607/257-5822) in Ithaca, NY. Memory Alpha sports a full line of anti-virus tools and all are welcome. We’ll include an update next week in TidBITS if we find out which PICTs carry the evil code and what the trojan will be called.

In light of all the safe sex campaigning, wouldn’t it be ironic if even ogling a few lewd PICTs required that you protect yourself? Ah, cruel, cruel world.

Information from:
Doug Davenport — SNAP Technologies, Ithaca, NY
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
Chris Johnson — [email protected]
Werner Uhrig — [email protected]
Michael Newbery — [email protected]
Casper H.S. Dik — [email protected]
Mike Blackwell — [email protected]
Steve Liget — [email protected]