Hot off the phone lines comes Mark Anbinder’s report on the MBDF authors pleading guilty! We also have the details on how IBM managed full-screen, 30 frame per second video on the Ultimedia, a report of a net tizzy over utilities removed from Now Utilities 4.0, notes from the bargain-hunting Murph Sewall on the Abaton Scan 300/Color, and finally, the second installment of our Gateways series, focussing this time on CompuServe.
In regard to Mark Anbinder’s article "Watch Out, QuickTime" in TidBITS-139, Robert Wilson offers this clarification.
I had an opportunity to check out the IBM Multimedia solutions a few weeks ago. It was impressive and it looks like IBM is sinking a good amount of resources into this technology.
In the recent TidBITS article you mentioned these machines could do full-screen, 30 frames per second video, but failed to mention that these machines use a Micro Channel adapter card, ActionMedia II, developed by Intel and IBM, which does the real-time decompression from the hard disk. This dedicated hardware does most of the work, not the 386 SLC chip.
The ActionMedia II display adapter with an educational discount is $1,197. The ActionMedia II capture adapter with an educational discount runs an additional $570. So the hardware isn’t all that cheap, and I’m sure QuickTime works much better with a card that can decompress in hardware.
[And in fact, to judge from some other email we received, SuperMac and other companies have such hardware for QuickTime coming soon (most notably the $6,000 Digital Film due from SuperMac at the end of the year), along with some cool new software as well. -Adam]
Robert Wilson — [email protected]
Three former Cornell students, who had faced a total of forty computer tampering and related charges in connection with the creation and release of the MBDF virus affecting Macintosh computers this February, struck a plea-bargain agreement here in Ithaca yesterday.
David Blumenthal and Mark Pilgrim, each of whom had faced felony first degree computer tampering charges, pleaded guilty to one count each of second degree computer tampering, a misdemeanor. Randall Swanson pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct. Swanson was not originally implicated in the case when the virus was traced to Blumenthal and Pilgrim, but was charged this summer.
None of the three are currently enrolled for the fall semester at Cornell University. Although the University is prohibited by federal law from revealing the outcome of disciplinary action against students, unofficial word has it that some of the students have been expelled from the University, and the other(s) suspended for at least one year. An August 27th memorandum from William Streett, the Dean of Cornell’s College of Engineering to "Engineering Students and Other Users of Cornell Computing Facilities," referred to an unnamed group of students who had been charged with violating Cornell’s Code of Academic Integrity "as a result of improper and unauthorized use of computers and network systems." Streett said that the punishments in these cases "include expulsion and suspension for a year or more." The memo went on to remind students of their responsibility in maintaining academic integrity standards in computer use, and suggested that students with special talents in computing and network systems "put these to constructive use by tutoring other students or through volunteer work with one of the local social service agencies."
The plea bargain arrangement specifies that the State will not seek jail time or fines when the three are sentenced this October. Each will have to pay $2,476 in restitution (for virus-related damages to computers and users). Blumenthal and Pilgrim will also have to fulfill community service requirements, forfeit their personal computer systems, and face probation.
Two tiny extensions have sparked a storm on the nets recently. In a slightly surprising move, Now Software announced that it would remove a few utilities from its popular Now Utilities package when it went to version 4.0. The utilities on the chopping block include AlarmsClock, a menu-bar clock and alarm program; DeskPicture, which displays a PICT in desktop background; and ScreenLocker, a simple screensaver with password protection.
Now intends to merge AlarmsClock’s functionality in a future version its full-featured calendaring program Now Up-to-Date, a move which makes sense in light of Now Up-to-Date’s mediocre alarm mechanism in comparison with AlarmsClock’s less-obtrusive and non-modal approach. We look forward to seeing the combination in Now Up-to-Date 2.0. Now says that DeskPicture and ScreenLocker, though popular, didn’t quite fit in with the overall vision of the utility package and will reappear in yet another collection of utilities, presumably oriented more at cosmetic and screen-oriented enhancements. No word on when that will appear or what Now might call it.
This seemingly innocuous move prompted a rash of complaints from devotees of primarily AlarmsClock and DeskPicture. The complaints stemmed in part from incorrect information supposedly provided by someone at Now who didn’t know better. When asked, this person apparently said that the new Now Utilities 4.0 would not work with the older versions. Needless to say, this worried those who liked AlarmsClock but did not wish to upgrade to the more expensive Now Up-to-Date.
It turns out, however, that (unless Now has changed even this in the meantime) all that will happen is that the installer program will default to removing the old versions of the Now Utilities, including those modules which have no replacement, like AlarmsClock and DeskPicture. Thus, all you have to do is move those two out to the desktop, install the new version, and then drop AlarmsClock and DeskPicture back into their appropriate folders. Alternately, just copy them again from your original Now Utilities 3.0 disks.
As numerous people pointed out, Now has absolutely no reason to make the new versions of the Now Utilities specifically incompatible with those two extensions, and since they don’t rely on any core technology, it’s quite unlikely that any new conflicts will arise. In fact, the first reports from those who have received their upgrades indicate that AlarmsClock and DeskPicture do indeed work fine with the updated utilities (and we’ll have more information on the upgrade in the future). Pat McDougall of Now Software Technical Support said that it wasn’t possible to satisfy everyone by including AlarmsClock in both the Now Utilities 4.0 and Now Up-to-Date 2.0 because of enhancements planned in the combination. McDougall went on to say:
I would emphasize, however, that the exclusion of AlarmsClock from version 4.0 of the Now Utilities in no way prevents you from continuing to use version 3.0 on your system. The 4.0 collection is completely compatible with AlarmsClock, and we will be continuing to post updates to AlarmsClock on the online services as necessitated by any future system software releases.
So those of you who appreciate and use AlarmsClock can relax, although we doubt that Now will add any new functionality along with any necessary tweaks to keep AlarmsClock 3.0 working with future versions of the system software.
Pat McDougall, Now Software — [email protected]
Russ Arcuri — [email protected]
Murph Sewall — [email protected]
Erik A. Johnson — [email protected]
Charles L. DuBois — [email protected]
One of August Macworld’s most tempting bargains was the Abaton Scan 300/Color (a 24-bit color flatbed scanner) bundled with Adobe Photoshop 2.0.1 for only $899. This was practically a bargain at twice the price, with two of the best known mail order vendors asking $548 for Photoshop 2.0.1, and the scanner listing for $1,995. Of the others at Macworld, the next closest show special was over $1,100. That $899 temptation was too much for me to resist, but should others follow in my bargain-hunting footsteps?
The May-92 MacUser Color Buying Guide describes flatbed scanners as ideal for the "beginning color user." That is, a professional expecting to earn significant income from color graphic work will likely prefer a more expensive (by about fifty percent) slide scanner or even a high-end ($30,000 and up) drum scanner.
The scanner has a resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi), but the supplied Photoshop Plug can create resolutions as high as 1200 dpi using software interpolation. The Scan 300/Color is compatible with Abaton’s Scan 300GS if you are using optical character recognition (OCR) software.
On the basis of the literature, for the ordinary Macintosh owner, a more than $200 price break on the Abaton 300/Color appears to be a good value, if not an amazing steal. After all, both the current Personal LaserWriter NTR and Hewlett-Packard DeskWriter C print at 300 dpi and most color monitors are only 72 dpi. Most users should find the resolution more than adequate.
So, what’s the catch (isn’t there always a catch) and why don’t I sound enthused? It shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s a reason why one vendor finds it necessary to offer a much more attractive price than others. Abaton’s support for this product is lackadaisical. Not hostile, just indifferent.
Neither the Color Scan DA (designed to permit scanning within any application that supports graphics) nor the Photoshop Plug is 68040 compatible. Fortunately, the Scanner driver itself and even Abaton’s Black and White DA are Quadra compatible. In itself, the absence of 68040 compatibility will not bother most Macintosh owners. Even Quadra owners can use the software by including the Abaton Color DA and Photoshop itself in the Alysis Compatibility exception list. Using Compatibility, of course, more than halves Photoshop’s performance, which may have ranked high on your list of reasons for purchasing a Quadra in the first place.
The disappointment came when I contacted Abaton’s technical support to inquire about plans for updated software. The response to both phone calls and letters is simple indifference. It does not appear that Abaton has any effort underway to update the ten month-old Abaton Photoshop Plug for the newer Macintoshes. Quite apart from the fact that Apple is committed to upgrading mid-range Macintoshes to the 68040 CPU early next year, is it wise to do business in a competitive marketplace with vendors who are not committed to their products?
On balance, I can only conclude that if you are in the market for a color scanner and if you can purchase the Abaton scanner for substantially less than competitors’ products, then you may want to buy one. Other things being equal, the Microtek, La Cie, UMAX, and Hewlett-Packard scanners all are preferable to the Abaton. Furthermore, if Abaton’s attitude toward supporting their scanner is an indicator, then I would recommend exercising caution with respect to other Abaton (and Everex, the parent company) products.
MacUser — Dec-91
MacUser — May-92
Macworld — Jun-91
Macworld — Oct-91
We talked a few issues back (TidBITS-130 and #133) about various fascinating things on the Internet as an introduction to a series of articles aimed at bringing all of the users of commercial services closer together via the Internet. Along the way, we’ll talk about where TidBITS lives on each of these services and what special connections those services have made available, along with their limitations and workarounds.
One of the oldest commercial services, CompuServe, has long provided basic Internet access through an email gateway. Some people find it a bit harder to use than some of the other gateways, since you must prefix the Internet address with the string
and if you don’t get that right, your mail won’t go through. Sending email to someone on CompuServe from the Internet (or through another gateway to the Internet and then on to CompuServe) is quite easy. Just take the ugly CompuServe address like 72511,306 (my address), replace the comma with a period, and add (minus the quotes) "@compuserve.com". Thus, the Internet form of my CompuServe address is:
Gateway size limitation — CompuServe has one of the better gateways to the Internet, especially with some recent changes. Until quite recently, CompuServe imposed an approximately 50K limit on the size of incoming messages, which made it difficult to for CompuServe members to participate in certain digest-based mailing lists like the ever-popular Info-Mac Digest. Recently, however, CompuServe upped that incoming limit to the thoroughly-useful 500K, so most everything will fit through.
Do keep in mind that not all systems along a path will necessarily allow 500K files to go through, so even though CompuServe will allow such a large file, another system in the line may refuse to send it along. You shouldn’t run into that with most true Internet machines, but UUCP-only sites often impose message-size limits. Of course, a 500K file may cost up to $10 given the various fees you will have to pay. More on fees in a bit. First let’s talk about some of the problems you might encounter with transferring files via the gateway.
BinHex problems — CompuServe’s Internet gateway does have its fair share of problems. It is text-only, so you will have to Binhex (with the BinHex 4.0 format, found in StuffIt Lite, Compact Pro, Downline, and numerous other programs) any binary files that will pass through the gateway. You may at some time run into a serious problem where certain lines in a BinHex file are different lengths, which is a great evil and will prevent you from defunking that file. Apparently CompuServe’s HMI (Host-Micro Interface) uses the @ sign for its own nefarious purposes, which prompts CompuServe Information Manager (though version 2.0.1 seems to be OK) and Navigator to double the @ sign in sending mail and to strip an extra one from incoming mail. You will not see this problem if you avoid the HMI programs for uploading and downloading mail, but, as Joe Sewell says, "depending on who sends and who receives, the phase of the moon, and other predictable factors, you might get zero, one, or two @‘s for each @ in the original message." Be careful out there, and when in doubt, drop back to a terminal program.
TidBITS on CompuServe — Now that you know a bit about the gateway and things to watch out for, how can you get TidBITS through it? Those of you interested in subscribing to our Internet mailing list for TidBITS via CompuServe can do so easily. Just send email to:
with this line in the body of the mailfile:
SUBSCRIBE TIDBITS your full name
But… Since email comes in as uncompressed text, you will find it cheaper to download each issue of TidBITS from CompuServe directly each week. I currently make TidBITS available in three places, the ZiffNet/Mac DownTech library #7 (GO ZMC:DOWNTECH), the Macintosh Community Clubhouse library #8 (GO CIS:MACCLUB), and the Desktop Publishing Forum library #16 (GO DTPFORUM). I upload the straight text version to the Desktop Publishing Forum’s library, so if you cannot defunk a StuffIt 1.5.1 file for some reason, you will want to get TidBITS from there or via the mailing list.
CompuServe’s charges — As long as we’re talking about money, what will all this cost you? CompuServe charges for you to receive mail, so participating in Internet mailing lists can add up. CompuServe has two fee plans. The recently-introduced Standard Service costs a flat $7.95 per month and allows free access to a certain subset of CompuServe services (others, including the computing forums, are billed at normal connect time rates listed below). Internet email costs extra however, so the first 7,500 characters will cost $0.15 and each additional 2,500 characters of Internet email will run you $0.05. However, just to confuse the issue, you get a $9.00 credit each month, and CompuServe only charges you when your email charges exceed that $9.00.
The connect time fee structure (which makes more sense if you spend all your time in the non-free areas that would use this fee structure even under the Standard Services plan) costs $2.00 per month plus $22.80 per hour for 9600 bps and $12.80 per hour for 2400 bps, but Internet email doesn’t cost anything extra. Despite no additional charges for email, the connect charges can add up, especially since CompuServe appears to limit its 9,600 bps connections to 960 characters per second throughput, whereas internal modem compression protocols like v.42bis could theoretically increase throughput to 3,000 characters per second on uncompressed text such as email.
One note of interest – if you do not read an Internet message sent to you within 30 days or delete it without reading it, CompuServe doesn’t charge you for it. That can be handy if you can identify junk mail by the subject. Of course, if you automate your mail with MicroPhone II’s LORAN, CompuServe Information Manager, or Navigator, you won’t have a chance to delete mail unread easily.
Still, you may find CompuServe a useful and economical choice for limited Internet email access, although I should mention quickly that the most economical choice for receiving lots of Internet email is a deal through MCIMail because receiving email is free after a $35 per year fee. We’ll cover that in a bit more depth in a future Gateways article.
ZiffNet/Mac — I mentioned the ZiffNet/Mac DownTech library rather blithely above, but ZiffNet/Mac requires some explanation. Although it exists on CompuServe’s computers, ZiffNet/Mac is a separate, private service that carries a $2.50 per month membership fee. If you already use CompuServe, that $2.50 comes on top of your $2.00/month normal or $7.95/month Standard Services CompuServe membership fee. The same connect charges ($12.80/hour at 2,400 bps, $22.80/hour at 9,600 bps) apply to ZiffNet/Mac as to CompuServe, except for a few special free areas. You can join from CompuServe by typing GO ZMAC at any prompt. Alternately, give them a call at the number listed below.
Although certainly smaller than the MAUG (where the Mac people hang out) forums on CompuServe proper, the ZiffNet/Mac forums do well in terms of lively and interesting discussions, and since many of the prominent journalists for Ziff-Davis publications (including MacUser and MacWEEK) hang out there, discussion often centers on columns and articles in those magazines. All in all, ZiffNet/Mac is thoroughly enjoyable place for hobnobbing with industry wizards and one I often find less overwhelming than the MAUG forums.
ZiffNet/Mac — 800/666-0330
Internet Access Services — As much as an email gateway will provide a good deal of access to the Internet, it won’t give you certain useful features, like Usenet news. To address this problem, a company called Bear Software set up Internet Access Services. For a fee based on the amount of data you want, they will snag postings to Usenet newsgroups (and even filter them for you for a bit more money), send you by email any file available via anonymous FTP, and even collect and archive all mailing list messages for a day, uploading a compressed file of the day’s messages to you via CompuServe mail, thus saving time because you can download a single compressed file.
For these services, Bear Software charges $0.50 per 10,000 bytes of compressed text, or $0.60 per 10,000 bytes if you want them to filter the news. It appears from some rough calculations that Bear Software’s services cost about the same as getting information such as Usenet news from CompuServe directly (if it were available there, which it’s not) due to the compression of the text files.
Being Unix PC-based, Bear Software generally uses PKZIP to compress everything, but they can also send files in the standard Unix "tar.z" format, and either way, various defunking utilities exist. For more information, contact Bear Software.
Telnet to CompuServe — Now for the really funky stuff. It appears that those of you on the Internet can connect to CompuServe via a telnet connection provided by Merit in Michigan. Simply telnet to <hermes.merit.edu>, and enter "compuserve" (without the quotes) at the "Which Host?" prompt. Entering "help" at that prompt will return information on other hosts that are available, such as Dialog and Dow Jones, along with lots of other useful help information. Entering "um-dns" even gives you a domain name server if you need to look up a machine’s Internet number or other information. Keep in mind that this connection to CompuServe, while neat, does not come free. SprintNet (formerly Telenet) bills CompuServe for those calls, which are set up as collect calls via SprintNet from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Merit’s machines live. CompuServe then passes the charges on to you with a surcharge of $1.70 per hour for non-prime time usage (which isn’t too bad) and $11.70/hour for prime-time usage and for calls from Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, or Mexico. For those of you in other countries the surcharge increases to a ghastly $49.70 per hour.
This sounds pretty bad, and not all that useful, but the non-continental United States charges should never apply because that phone call originates from Ann Arbor, Michigan, not from the country you telnet from initially. So CompuServe users in other countries especially may find this an economical access method.
Merit Dial-Out — Jeff Needleman, in addition to providing much of the information above, also mentioned a cheaper way of connecting to CompuServe or any other modem-based service or BBS via the Internet.
Among the hosts available at hermes are dial-out modems here in Ann Arbor Michigan. Ann Arbor itself has local call access to CompuServe’s own network, as well as local access numbers for Tymnet and SprintNet. With a telephone credit card or a University of Michigan telecommunications account (which is available to non-U-M people), you can dial-out anywhere in the world through the Ann Arbor modems. So you can reach any computer anywhere accessible by a modem just by telnetting through the Internet and linking up this way. For local Ann Arbor access, there is a sign-up fee of $50, which includes $10 for set-up and $6.80 for overhead; the balance is credited to your dial-out account. Each local dial-out call is charged at $0.25 regardless of length. CompuServe makes no extra charge for use of its own network, and that’s just a local call via Ann Arbor dial-out. The dial-out modems are unfortunately limited to 2,400 bps, but since CompuServe itself is limited to 9,600 bps [and for actions other than up/downloading, which you may not be able to do through this connection anyway, you will never see anywhere near 9,600 bps anyway -Adam] this is not a severe drawback.
You can get more information on how to sign up for this dial-out service by sending email to:
with this line as the first line of the message:
You may have trouble downloading binary files from the CompuServe libraries through either of these connections due to the number of different steps and machines involved. If your machine can generate a true hardware break (not a software-generated break), then it’s more possible, but frankly, I’m not putting any money on it. You’ll have to ask the folks at Merit <[email protected]> for the specific details. It gets confusing fast, so we’re just trying to point you in the right direction. Basic text access should work fine though. We hope you find all of this information interesting, if not immediately useful, and file it away for some time when your situation warrants. I’m just amazed that all these various connections exist, and I long for the day that we can stop worrying about them and get on with the business of communicating with each other.
Merit Network — 313/764-9430 — [email protected]