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Gobs of great stuff this week, including a report on the just- released Performas! Also (deep breath), a bug in Internet email on CompuServe, news about Apple discontinuing more items, an upgrade for PowerPort/V.32 owners, a report from France about the new 4D, news about who will repair DataFrame hard disks, how to really do customer service, and finally, lower prices on Macs and a package of fonts from Apple!

Adam Engst No comments


Ramon M. Felciano, Associate Director of Stanford University Medical Media and Information Technologies, writes in regard to Rob Managan’s suggestion in TidBITS-139 for using Morph to animate scientific simulations, "Our research lab develops and does research on academic courseware in medicine. One of the biggest challenges is developing high quality animations for inclusion in the software. To date, we’ve resorted to conventional techniques: having our medical illustrator draw the images, then scan them in and animate. We tried using Freehand, which allows you to blend one image into another, but, ironically, it was too difficult to draw "freehand" to get the same image quality. We’re hoping Morph will solve this problem!"

Information from:
Ramon M. Felciano — [email protected]

Symantec Stamps

Allan Bloom writes:

Folks, this is too yummy to keep to myself. I read in a recent Macworld that Norton Utilities 2.0 had problems with "certain" accelerator cards and that one should contact Symantec for a fix. If one had a problem. Leslye’s goosed Mac II (DayStar 40 MHz PowerCache and FPU) has been going kablooie of late, for no more reason than usual, so I dropped NORTON.TECH at AppleLink a note. Mike said they’d send the update. Independent of whether I had even the slightest inkling that it was Norton instead of Leslye causing the kablooies.

A FedEx arrived yesterday with the complete set of Norton 2.0 disks. Being a proper dolt, I looked at the contents. Hmm. Same version (2.0). Same date (Monday, April 20). Did they send me what I already have? I dropped another note. No, you silly goose. Look at the time stamp on each file. Sure nuff, my originals were created at 2:01 PM. This new set was created at 2:03 PM. Mike thought it should have been 2:02 PM. They snuck a new one in on him. That makes the new disks two generations newer.

Is this a hoot or what? Symantec is using the time stamp for incremental upgrades instead of changing the version number/date. Leslye’s response was her ingenuous smile and a "We don’t admit our errors, do we?"

I dunno, Symantec, do we?

Information from:
Allan M. Bloom — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

CompuServe Email Bug

Ric Ford reported on ZiffNet/Mac that Navigator has recently (since about the end of August) stopped replying correctly to messages from the Internet. The problem, when we checked and as Mike O’Connor, Navigator’s author, confirmed, stems from CompuServe not including the initial ">" at the beginning of the Internet address. Without that character prefixing the address (see TidBITS-141 for the gory details of Internet/CompuServe connections), the mail never gets out of CompuServe.

Both the blame and the responsibility for a fix lie with CompuServe because as Ric said, Navigator hasn’t suddenly changed overnight. In addition, in my tests CIM 2.0.1 seems to suffer the same problem, although I didn’t check a normal terminal session. The only workaround in the meantime is creating a new message with the proper address format. Sorry about that, folks.

Information from:
Ric Ford — [email protected]
Mike O’Connor — [email protected]

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

Apple Discontinues Tape Cartridge

Apple seems to be doing its spring cleaning a little late, removing from its product lists the various obsolete products that have hung around for a while. The latest "victim" is the tape cartridge for Apple’s Tape Backup 40SC (the drive itself was discontinued long ago). The tape cartridge, Apple product number M0132, will be removed from price lists this month. Those users who have stuck by their Tape Backup 40SC drives should still be able to purchase compatible DC600 cartridges made by companies such as Sony and 3M.

While the software that came with the Tape Backup 40SC is not compatible with System 7, Apple recommends that users continue to use the drive with System 6, or purchase the Retrospect backup software published by Dantz. Retrospect works perfectly with Apple’s drive, even under System 7, and in fact is much faster at its job than the original Apple software.

Dantz Development — 510/849-0293 — 510/849-1708 fax

Adam Engst No comments

PowerPort Upgrade

We’ve heard from Global Village that until 22-Sep-92 you can upgrade an original PowerPort/V.32 modem to a brand new PowerPort/Gold for $399. That’s a pretty good price considering the PowerPort/Gold runs about $630 mail order. Since the modems are completely different units though (the PowerPort/Gold doesn’t have the external piece) you’ll actually get a new modem. The main difference, apart from the PowerPort/Gold’s entirely internal installation, is that the PowerPort/Gold is a v.32bis modem, whereas the PowerPort/V.32 only supports up to v.32. When talking to another v.32bis modem, the PowerPort/Gold can reach 14,400 bps in comparison with the PowerPort/V.32’s 9,600 bps.

Here’s the good part. You don’t have to send back your old PowerPort/V.32, so you can install it in another PowerBook or sell it, whichever you wish. If you do this, you can call Global Village and transfer the registration, at which point the warranty remains valid and that buyer can get the new version of Global Village’s software for free. Pretty neat, eh?

Global Village — 415/390-8200 — 415/390-8282 (fax)
[email protected][email protected]

Jean-Philippe G. Nicaise No comments

4D Goes Server

For a change the hot news comes from France. The first International Development Conference of ACI (known in the US as ACIUS) held in Paris provided the (final?) announcement of the next version of 4th Dimension and of the long-awaited 4D Server.

Warning: US and International 4D version numbers are two less than the French one. So 4D version 5 in France equals 4D version 3 for the US and International markets. Sorry for the confusion – blame ACI (ACIUS).

After seven years ACI has outfitted itself with new clothes in the form of a new company logo (it looks like an "ex-libris," an old seal of a 12th century publisher), a new 4D logo (no more impossible 4, sigh), and new boxes.

On to the technical stuff. 4D Server is a normal application that runs on a dedicated Macintosh and serves data to 4D Client applications located on other Macs in your network. No more file sharing! And it looks fast – 15 clients is a piece of cake, even with a LocalTalk network. Check your favorite Mac magazine for benchmarks in a few months – I’m sure they will have them soon.

4D Server can also serve structures and modules, which means that multiple people can modify the structure of the database while other people use it. If you use modules such as 4D-Write or 4D-Calc the server will transfer them to the client’s RAM, presumably speeding execution and reducing network traffic. The client is intelligent enough to keep the module in memory in case you need it later, further increasing speed and reducing traffic.

4D Server handles multiprocessing so what you did with 4D before can be considered as one process. One (and only one) window is attached to a process, but you can have as many processes as you want. This enables you, for instance, to build floating windows.

With 4D Backup you gain access to better security. 4D Server creates a log file containing all modifications of your database. If your data file crashes, if you accidentally delete 10,000 records, or if your dog unplugs your server, the log file will save your life. Security maniacs will be able to feed another Mac server with the log file every hour (or even more often) to keep a complete logical mirror of the database. They can use that backup immediately if something happens to the main server.

4D version 5 includes all the features of 4D Server (speed increases, multiprocessing capabilities, and the security log file) but is only single-user. New versions of 4D Compiler, 4D-XREF, and 4D Mover are also available.

ACI has copy-protected 4D Server with an ADB dongle on the Mac server. Three clients means three simultaneous people working on the server, but you can have more than three Macs which holds the client application. 4D version 5 asks for the key disk only at installation, so PowerBook users can now travel without their 4D key disks.

ACI will release 4D version 5 by the end of September and the Server by mid-October. Here’s a rundown of the pricing:

 4D Server prices
      3 clients     9 000 FF (French Francs) $1,495 US
      6 clients    15 000 FF  (2 000 x 3)    $2,495 US
     10 clients    21 000 FF  (1 500 x 4)    $3,495 US
     15 clients    27 000 FF  (1 200 x 5)    $4,495 US
     20 clients    33 000 FF  (1 200 x 5)    $5,495 US
     50 clients    69 000 FF                $11,495 US
     unlimited     75 000 FF                $15,000 US

 Upgrades from 4D version 4 to 4D Server:
     4D v4 to 4D Server:         4D Server, 3 clients, 50% discount
     4D v4 Runtime to 4D Server: 4D Server, n clients, 50% discount

 Single-user prices
     4D v5 new          6 200 FF       $895 US
     upgrade            1 400 FF       $195 US

     Compiler v2        6 000 FF     $1,000 US

     4D v5 Runtime      1 200 FF       $195 US
     Runtime x 4        3 600 FF       $595 US
     upgrade              150 FF        $25 US

Information from:
ACI propaganda
Golden (French Mac magazine), #7 — Oct/Nov-92

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

Service Done Right?

I may be talking a lot about non-Apple computer companies, but to be frank, my attention isn’t focused solely on Apple, and I suspect neither is yours. Today I’d like to tell you about three guarantees made by Dell for purchasers of its MS-DOS-compatible desktop and notebook computers.

Dell guarantees that if you call for tech support during operating hours (which are 6:00 AM until midnight, Central time), you will be able to speak with a technical specialist within five minutes. If you choose not to hold even that long, they guarantee a callback within one hour. If you don’t get someone within five minutes and a specialist doesn’t call back within an hour, they’ll give you a check for $25, or a $25 credit towards your next purchase.

They also guarantee that, if there’s a hardware failure on your system while it’s covered by a Dell service contract, and you notify them by 5:00 PM central time, a technician will arrive to address the problem by the end of the next business day.

Most impressively, if you encounter a compatibility problem with your Dell computer within three years after the original purchase, they will work with you to identify the cause of the problem, and if it can be solved by updating your system, they will provide the change at no charge. (This assumes that the incompatible product is something that was designed to be compatible with comparably-equipped systems of the same vintage.) If they can’t get it working, they’ll even let you return the machine for a refund (depreciated over time, of course).

Now, I haven’t reproduced all of the fine print above (such as the fact that the guarantees apply only within the U.S.), so if you’re interested in Dell’s guarantees, give them a call. However, I thought it was worth looking at the level of support being offered by some computer companies in the world of bad-reputation clones. Dell itself doesn’t have a bad reputation, but they certainly will make it difficult for less-dedicated clone manufacturers to hold onto their market share. At the same time, if Dell is actually making good on all of their promises, they would be a good role model for some companies you and I work with.

Another new idea comes from Compaq, the company Dell set out to undercut long ago. Compaq just introduced RemotePAQ, a custom software program that works much like Carbon Copy or Timbuktu, allowing a tech support person to actually see a user’s screen. Compaq will ship RemotePAQ with all machines it manufactures, and the service comes completely free, although you need a modem. All you do is boot the PC with a special diagnostic diskette and select "Prepare the System for COMPAQ Service Call" from the main menu. A Compaq tech support person can then call in and remotely run diagnostic programs, retrieve files for testing, or send new files, such as software updates or patches. For anyone who has tried to walk a novice through a complex process over the phone, the utility is obvious.

Dell — 800/433-2792

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

SuperMac & DriveSavers

Last month, SuperMac Technology and DriveSavers announced that DriveSavers has assumed all service obligations for SuperMac’s discontinued line of mass storage products, including the entire series of DataFrame and LaserFrame drives. DriveSavers will honor existing warranties on SuperMac products, as well as provide users with the latest DataFrame Manager software.

Owners of SuperMac storage products who require service for their drives, in or out of warranty, should call DriveSavers at 415/883-4232. The company will perform authorized in-warranty repairs for U.S. and Canadian customers within 72 hours of receiving the drives. DriveSavers has established its reputation in the industry by repairing a wide range of third-party storage devices and recovering data from damaged drives when commercial recovery software fails.

Current owners of DataFrame hard drives should also be aware that the Manager 4.2 software has a deficiency that makes using it with System 7 slightly tricky. In order to use a DataFrame hard drive with System 7, users must reformat their drives using Manager 4.1, and then use Manager 4.2 to update the SCSI driver stored on the drive. Drives formatted with Manager 4.2 may not work properly. There are no apparent plans for further revisions of the software.

In addition, many users have noted that DataFrame drives formatted with SuperMac’s software do not work properly with a Quadra 950, currently Apple’s fastest Macintosh. According to a SuperMac tech support consultant, the SuperMac SCSI driver installed by the Manager software is too slow in responding to the Quadra’s access attempts. Reformatting the drive with a universal third-party SCSI formatting utility, such as Hard Disk Toolkit from FWB, should clear up the problem. After the drive is formatted with software other than SuperMac’s Manager utility, though, the Manager will no longer be able to format that drive. Be careful if you have an old DataFrame with an OMTI controller since Hard Disk Toolkit (and most, if not all, other third party formatting programs) cannot successfully format old DataFrames. Unfortunately, we don’t know how to tell this offhand, but calling DriveSavers or SuperMac would be a good start.

DriveSavers — 415/883-4232
SuperMac — 408/245-2202
FWB — 415/474-8055

Information from:
DriveSavers propaganda
SuperMac Technical Support

Adam Engst No comments

Hot Spiced Apples

According to some possibly fallacious statistics I saw recently, we at TidBITS moved from the number two apple state, New York, to the number one apple state, Washington. In sheer dollar value, that may be true, but we aren’t terribly impressed yet with Washington apples. Why am I blathering about apples? It’s fall of course, and fall is both apple season and Apple season.

You’ve all heard about the new machines that Apple has on tap for this fall, and we’ve heard some more details about those. Today Apple announced the new Performas. In some respects I think the Performas have a good deal of importance for Apple, and in other respects I think they’re incredibly dull.

I can dispatch the Performa 200 and 400 with a single sentence. Think of the Classic II and LC II with a software bundle. Neat, eh?

Performa 600 — When the Performa 600 ships later in the fall it will carry more interesting specs because it mimics the rumored IIvi and IIvx. It has a 32 MHz (strange number, no?) 68030, will ship with either 4 MB or 5 MB of RAM, and include a 160 MB hard disk standard. The 600 will also support an multiple-speed internal CD-ROM drive which will read multiple-session PhotoCD discs, not that anyone has many of those yet. Along with three NuBus slots, the 600 will have a processor direct slot (oh no, not another different one!) called the Accelerator Slot. Although 512K of VRAM (enough for 8-bit color on a 13", and, one assumes, a 14" monitor) for the internal video comes with the 600, it will have only an empty socket for a math coprocessor, unlike the IIvx which supposedly will have both the coprocessor and the cache memory included. Finally, Apple encased the 600 in a metal case with screws, like a PC-clone, instead of Apple’s normal snap-together plastic cases. The metal case will save money, and it will certainly reduce electromagnetic emissions, but it will also weigh more.

New monitors — You’ll have to buy a monitor separately with the 600, but Apple has two new ones as well, the Performa Display and the Performa Display Plus. Both are 14" color monitors with 640 x 480 resolution. As far as we can tell, the main differences are the dot pitch (essentially a measure of how close the dots are together, the smaller the better), the price, and the emission levels. The Performa Display will cost less and have a larger 0.39 mm dot pitch, whereas the Performa Display Plus will have a thoroughly respectable 0.29 mm dot pitch and will meet the most stringent international guidelines for magnetic field emissions. That will cost you, of course, but we don’t have prices yet. Interestingly, the fact that Apple quoted dot pitch measurements implies that they don’t use the Sony Trinitron tubes, which, as I understand, use different method of drawing pixels that simply doesn’t jive with the dot pitch measurements. That’s why you seldom hear about dot pitches in the Mac world. They’re much more common in the PC world.

Bundled software — Software-wise, the Performas will include a special version of System 7 that will supposedly make the Performas easier to use for new users. As far as we can tell, though, the new versions of System 7.0.1P (for the 200 and 400) and System 7.1P (for the 600) lack only the DAL extension and network printer drivers, no great help or loss. Apple will also include Launcher, a new program for finding and launching pre-installed applications, At Ease, which provides a simpler and more secure interface than the Finder for launching applications and documents, and some sort of integrated software, probably ClarisWorks, GreatWorks, or Quicken. I wonder if BeagleWorks or Microsoft Works 3.0 will ever make it into any of those bundles? The Performa 600 CD will also ship with between eight and ten CD-ROMs, depending on where you buy it.

Waffling analysis — I like the Performas in the sense that they indicate that Apple means business and means to compete. I’m sure Apple doesn’t make much on the profit margins for the Performas, but if they sell as Apple has projected into the elusive seven million family home market, the overall Macintosh hardware and software markets will feel the beneficial results.

On the other hand, the Performas concern me as well. The name, which appeared soon after Compaq’s Prolinea line, doesn’t impress me, and I worry a bit about the recycling of technology into a new product line via the Classic II and LC II. It shows too that the Performa line is primarily a marketing move, although new users will welcome some of the new software. As the Macintosh line expands, technical support becomes all that much harder due to the number of models, especially when utter novices get into programs they stand no chance of understanding, like Microsoft Word 5.0 or PageMaker 4.2. I also wonder if the Performas will differ enough, at least in consumer perceptions, from the current Macintosh line to become truly popular.

Technical support policies for Performa owners will differ, however, so third parties and dealers won’t get hit with the majority of the problems. Apple will offer toll-free support for a year after purchase, and will optionally do warranty service for the first year in the buyer’s home. In-home service is stranger than in-office service because most people don’t stay home all day, but users can also return the Mac to the store, which will presumably have it fixed there.

[Nonetheless, I expect that technical support people, whether they work at small consulting firms or do phone support for large software companies will soon be learning some new tricks. I can just hear it now: "Hi, my parents bought me a Performa, but my roommate put JumboCalc on and it crashes whenever I try to print." Still at least we’ll be troubleshooting with clueless users on 68030 machines and not on 68000s. -Tonya]

Prices will vary greatly since Apple has no suggested retail prices for the Performas. Instead each retailer will choose what software and peripherals to bundle with the machines and will set the price based on those configurations. Apple said they expect prices to range from $1,250 for the basic Performa 200 to $2,500 for a 600 CD without monitor. Nonetheless, these machines will not undercut their existing equivalents, so a Classic II or LC II at a dealer should cost less than a Performa 200 or 400 at Sears.

I hate to waffle, but I simply don’t know enough to predict much more about the Performas. I don’t believe that anyone really knows how they’ll do, although I’m sure Apple has researched the issue thoroughly. These machines make the IBM PCjr and the PS/1 look sick by combining ease of use with a fair amount of real power and complete compatibility with existing Mac software. But is that enough?

Information from:
Apple propaganda

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 14-Sep-92, Vol. 6, #32, pg. 1, 26

Adam Engst No comments

More Apple News

New machines certainly take spotlight, but Apple has plenty more up its collective sleeve, so we’ll try to cover a bit of that here.

Discontinued… — With the new machines coming in, Apple will drop the Macintosh Classic 4/40 from the price list, along with the SE/30 logic board upgrade (too bad, that was a good one for SE owners), the Apple ISDN NB Card (guess it wasn’t selling to well without many ISDN connections available), and as Mark Anbinder reported above, the 40 MB Tape Backup Cartridges. I don’t have a complete Apple price list in front of me, but unless I’m mistaken, the Classic 4/40 was the last 68000-based Mac left after Apple dropped the PowerBook 100. The 68020-based LC went away when the 68030-based LC II took its place, and one way or another, Apple clearly wants to standardize all Macs on the 68030 as a minimum. Good for them, although they could have done a bit sooner.

Serious price cuts — Mark also passed on news of some serious cuts on the prices that Apple charges to dealers. Suggested retail prices have not changed, but dealers may be dropping prices now that they are paying less for the Macs in the first place. In case you haven’t recently reviewed retail prices, here’s a listing:

     Macintosh Classic II 4/40            $1699
     Macintosh Classic II 4/80            $1849
     Macintosh LC II 4/40                 $1699
     Macintosh LC II 4/80 w/512K VRAM     $1849
     Macintosh IIsi 3/40                  $2499
     Macintosh IIsi 5/80                  $2999
     Macintosh IIci 5 MB w/Cache Card     $3299
     Macintosh IIci 5/80 w/Cache Card     $3999
     Macintosh IIci 4/80 Parity           $4399
     Macintosh IIci 5/230 w/Cache Card    $4599
     Macintosh Quadra 700 4 MB            $5199
     Macintosh Quadra 700 4/80            $5899
     Macintosh Quadra 700 4/230           $6499
     Macintosh Quadra 700 4/400           $7199
     Macintosh Quadra 950 8/230           $8499
     Macintosh Quadra 950 8/400           $9199

Font Pack! — Still with me? Good, because here’s something you probably haven’t heard. Apple will soon introduce a package of 25 TrueType font families, including most, if not all, of the fonts internal to the original LaserWriter Plus. Along with those fonts come a whole slew of others, including popular fonts like Garamond and Helvetica Condensed. I don’t have a full list yet, but the package will include both display fonts for headlines and fonts for body text. Suggested retail price will be $99, which means that the street price will drop to around $60 or $70. The package comes, no doubt, in response to the package of TrueType fonts that Microsoft sells for Windows. One way or another, I think this package will serve as a good introduction to the world of alternate fonts for someone scared by Adobe’s high prices or the fly-by-night nature of some of the other font publishers. Let’s hope the quality of these fonts meets Apple’s usual standards.

Information from: