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This week brings news of fixes, upgrades, reworks, and refunds, so pay attention if you use a PowerBook 100, a 8*24 GC Video Card, HyperCard 2.1, a SuperMac hard drive, or a Macintosh Portable. We also quench a rumor about the StyleWriter’s demise, analyze Apple’s policy of charging for System 7.1, peek at the new Apple Catalog, and just for fun, crack open an HFS Easter Egg.

Adam Engst No comments


Oops. A couple of people wrote in to correct our mistake about the type of tape backup cartridge available for the Apple Tape Backup 40SC. Mark accidentally wrote that it takes DC600 tapes, when in fact it uses the DC2000 size instead. Sorry about that.

Information from:
Robert Rosenberg — [email protected]
Michael Naber — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Discount Prices

Last week we threw in a table of suggested retail prices for a number of Macintosh models mostly because we had it on hand and thought it might be interesting to read and to refer to in the future. Charlie Mingo promptly sent us a table of published discount prices from various vendors listed in 15-Sep-92 issue of the New York Times, and we added in a couple from the 20-Sep-92 Seattle Times. The different vendors account in part for strange differences in prices, but one way or another, we think you’ll find this table more interesting. Please note that we are not pushing any specific vendors here, so you’ll have to find a dealer yourself, and that dealer may not have the volume of a New York City or Seattle store to match these prices. But next time you’re in the city…

                                    Suggested Retail  Street Price
     Macintosh Classic II 4/40            $1699          $949
     Macintosh Classic II 4/80            $1849          $1049
     Macintosh LC II 4/40                 $1699          $1089
     Macintosh LC II 4/80 w/512K VRAM     $1849          $1299
     Macintosh IIsi 3/40                  $2499          $1399
     Macintosh IIsi 5/80                  $2999          $1649
     Macintosh IIci 5 MB w/Cache Card     $3299          $2089
     Macintosh IIci 5/80 w/Cache Card     $3999          $2249
     Macintosh IIci 5/230 w/Cache Card    $4599          $2599
     Macintosh Quadra 700 4 MB            $5199          $3299
     Macintosh Quadra 700 4/80            $5899          $3999
     Macintosh Quadra 950 8/230           $8499          $5799

Information from:
Charlie Mingo — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

SuperMac and Manager7

A friend writes to tell us that SuperMac has arranged with Casa Blanca Works to release a special subset of their Drive7 software which only works on SuperMac hard drives, including the LaserFrame rewritable optical drive. The package is called Manager7 and users of SuperMac drives can get it for free.

Manager7 updates most SuperMac hard drives and LaserFrame optical drives and formats almost all SuperMac hard drives, including DataFrames. The main drive not supported is the 20 MB Iomega Bernoulli portion of the DataFrame 60+B drive (you’ll have to talk to Iomega if you’ve got one of those). Manager7 supposedly completely solves all the System 7 and Quadra problems found in Manager 4.2.

You can download Manager7 from CompuServe, America Online, GEnie, AppleLink, and SuperMac’s BBS, and for a $10 disk and shipping charge Casa Blanca Works or DriveSavers will ship it to you. In addition, owners of SuperMac drives can purchase the full package, Drive7 2.3, for half price, or $39.97, until 01-Feb-93.

Casa Blanca Works — 415/461-2227 — 415/461-2249 (fax)
[email protected][email protected]
DriveSavers — 415/883-4232
Iomega — 800/777-4197
SuperMac — 408/245-2202 — 408/773-4500 (BBS)

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

HyperCard Player Bundled with Macs

Apple has announced that, as of 14-Sep-92, it has begun shipping new Macintosh computers with a run-time "HyperCard 2.1 Player" program in place of the more-functional HyperCard 2.1 software that has shipped with all Macs since last fall. The company’s license from Claris to distribute HyperCard itself expires on 30-Sep-92.

The Performa line, available through consumer retail outlets rather than dealers, is the first group of Macintosh computers to include the new HyperCard 2.1 Player software, which includes the player application, a special Home stack, and a Read Me file but no sample stacks or a manual. By the end of the month, Apple expects all computers in their inventory to include the new software in place of the full HyperCard version.

For Macintosh models of which a floppy-only configuration is available, such as the Quadra family and the IIci, a HyperCard 2.1 Player floppy disk will come with the system. Other CPUs will only include the software pre-installed on the internal hard drive.

New Macintosh purchasers who want the complete HyperCard package in order to develop their own stacks will still be able to purchase Claris’s HyperCard Development Kit, which retails for $199. Most Apple dealers sell this kit.

Apple’s research has shown that most people who use the free copy of HyperCard that came with their Macs simply use stacks that other programmers have designed, and Apple feels that few people will be affected by this change. While we feel that this may limit the number and variety of nifty stacks generated by "average Mac users," it does make sense not to force all Macintosh purchasers to pay for something that only a few use. (The same logic applied to Apple’s decision to introduce the Macintosh IIsi with a single expansion slot, after they learned that most users of three-slot and six-slot machines only filled one anyway.) If Apple did not include the new HyperCard Player with the machines, we would complain vociferously… but this seems to be a good compromise.

Claris — 800/544-8554 — 408/987-7000

Adam Engst No comments

Portable Batteries Live On

Ed Mechem writes, "Good news for Mac Portable users. There is a third party battery replacement available from Shadow Technologies, and it provides twice the life of the original battery. I’ve used my (non-backlit) Portable with the hard drive running continuously for close to five hours, and the battery still had some juice in it. My Portable has 9 MB of RAM (mostly low-power pseudo-static), and a 120 MB Connor 30100 hard drive. Shadow Technologies also makes PowerBook and Portable RAM (including the only user-expandable card that can hold up to 8 MB, to my knowledge)."

[I talked to Shadow Technologies about this, and the battery, which retails for $149, should start shipping in quantity soon. They estimate that it will provide two and half times the battery life of Apple’s batteries due to different lead-acid cells. In addition, you can disconnect the battery for storage by simply removing it, flipping it 180 degrees, and reinserting it, rather than removing it or putting mylar between the contacts. Shadow Technologies has other products for the Portable and the PowerBooks in the works, including a $550 backlighting upgrade for the Portable and some other possibilities they didn’t want to announce yet. -Adam]

Shadow Technologies — 510/548-0130

Information from:
Ed Mechem — [email protected]
Shadow Technologies representative

Adam Engst Mark H. Anbinder No comments

As Does the StyleWriter

A nasty rumor has surfaced recently on the nets, claiming that Apple has either discontinued the StyleWriter entirely or has made it exclusively available to the consumer electronics channel. The rumor is not entirely unfounded, because Apple has removed the StyleWriter from some price lists temporarily not because it is unpopular, but because it is too popular. Rest assured that the StyleWriter is here to stay, although it may take a while to get one.

The StyleWriter is in short supply right now because Apple severely underestimated the demand, and has run into a long lead time to produce more. Apple purchases the inkjet engine for the StyleWriter (manufactured by Canon) months in advance, and Canon cannot currently deliver more units than Apple has ordered.

As a result, Apple has taken the StyleWriter off the price lists for some of its channels, notably government, K-12, and one of two higher education channels. This is because, for these channels, Apple must legally deliver ordered products within a certain length of time, and since they can not be sure of being able to do that, they do not want further orders placed.

Sears and other consumer retail outlets selling the Performa line will have trouble getting StyleWriters for a while since Apple estimates two months or so before the shortage clears up. So don’t worry if you have your heart set on a StyleWriter, but if you’re not picky, you might consider the comparable, though slightly more expensive HP DeskWriter.

Adam Engst No comments

8*24 GC Video Card Refund Program

My apologies for losing this in my article database. On 15-May-92, Apple announced that they had identified a software bug in the 7.0 version of the GC Control Panel that ships with the 824 GC Video Card. Despite the fact that the video card provides accelerated graphics, it has to run with the 68040 caches disabled, a major pain for Quadra users. If you bought an 824 GC card for use with a Quadra or a VRAM Expansion Kit for your Quadra’s 8*24 GC card, you can return the item for a cash refund from Apple through 30-Sep-92.

You don’t have much time, but if you have a Federal Express number, Apple can FedEx you the forms, and you can FedEx everything back to them. They must receive everything by 30-Sep-92, which is why you must act fast. I’ll bet Federal Express hates it when people use their name as a verb, just as Xerox hates it.

Contact Apple’s fulfillment house at the number below between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM Mountain Standard Time to request an 824 GC Video Card Refund Program Return Form. That form includes the instructions you’ll need as well as packaging materials to return your card. You then pack up your card in their packaging materials (the offer is void if you use other packaging) along with copies of your invoices for your 824 GC Video Card and your Quadra (with the serial number clearly listed), the invoice for the VRAM Expansion Kit if you bought that, and the completed Return Form. Remember, time is of the essence!

Apple Fulfillment House — 800/824-7779

Information from:
Apple propaganda

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

PowerBook 100 Rework

Last Wednesday, Apple requested that owners of some early Macintosh PowerBook 100 computers return the units to the company for a minor modification to the logic board. The company says that the modification, to be made on some 60,000 PowerBook 100s, eliminates the possibility of a safety problem occurring with these machines.

The problem, of which only three instances have been reported, involves an electrical short circuit that results in the melting of a small hole in the bottom of the system’s outer case. Apple will make the modification (clipping the relevant component leads) at no cost (save the brief absence of the PowerBook. Apple believes that the problem occurs when a component lead contacts the metallic liner inside the bottom case.

Apple stressed that this problem is unlikely to occur, and that, even if it does, the case is made of a high-grade, flame-retardant plastic composite, but that, in the interest of maintaining a high level of safety and quality standards, they are taking this proactive step to insure that all of the PowerBooks that have been sold are safe.

Apple indicated that only a certain range of PowerBook 100s are affected, and that the 140, 145, and 170 models are unaffected by this problem. Only PowerBook 100s with serial numbers below SQ211xxxxxx or below SS216xxxxxx are affected. (The PowerBook 100’s serial number appears on the underside of the computer on a narrow white sticker.) Currently shipping units (including most of the PowerBooks selling under $1000 at the Price Club and some dealers) do not have this problem, but users should check their serial number in case the computer they have just purchased was sitting on a shelf for a while.

PowerBook owners within the United States whose computers fall within the affected serial number ranges should call Apple’s dedicated PowerBook 100 Safety Helpline at 800/572-1731 to arrange for the modification. (PowerBook owners who have returned their registration cards will be contacted if their machines are affected. Always wondered why you filled those out, didn’t you?) After confirming that the PowerBook in question requires modification, Apple will arrange for an overnight shipping service to pick up the PowerBook and bring it to a special repair center. The unit will then be modified and sent back via overnight service. Apple’s plan is that this procedure will take no more than three business days for most owners. Early reports indicate that the procedure is painless.

Apple subsidiaries in the European and Pacific regions will release information to customers in those areas to explain how those customers should proceed.

Asked whether PowerBook owners could perform this modification themselves to avoid being without the PowerBook even for a few days, Apple replied that this was not an option; they would be unable to guarantee the consistency or quality of the modification if customers performed it themselves, even though it is "a simple procedure when performed by trained professionals in a controlled environment." A few dealers have recently become authorized PowerBook repair centers, but Apple does not allow them to perform this modification for their customers. Our experience has been that PowerBook modifications are inappropriate for end users to perform; the PowerBook is too sensitive, and some of its components too fragile for even some technically-oriented users to work on. (See TidBITS-090 "Quadra Quirks" for a warning about opening PowerBooks.)

Based on Apple’s descriptions of the problem and modification, it seems that most PowerBooks will never experience this… but since the repair is free, if your PowerBook falls within the affected serial number range, backup your hard drive and let Apple perform this repair.

Apple PowerBook 100 Safety Helpline — 800/572-1731

Information from:
Apple propaganda
Cindy McCaffrey, Apple Computer, Inc.

Adam Engst No comments

System 7.1 & the Golden Eggs

Given the lead time necessary for mastering disks, it’s not too surprising that System 7.1 has recently gone golden master. We talked about some of the features it will make available to users in TidBITS-137 and #138, although not all of them will make it into the initial release on October 19th with the new machines that require System 7.1. Can you say "Hardware drives software."?

That’s the good news. The bad news, to judge from some net discussions and general rumors, is that Apple will not make System 7.1 available to copy freely, which implies that Apple will only bundle it with new machines and sell it through its growing software distribution network. We’ve heard mixed reports about this, so it’s always possible that Apple will recant and allow user groups and bulletin boards to distribute the system software for free again, as they did with System 7.0, but frankly, at this point it doesn’t look likely.

Most people will initially react poorly to this news, not surprisingly. After all, Apple has always distributed system software for free so they could be sure that all users at least had access to the latest and least buggy software. At the same time, Apple would cease to support older versions of the system software, so when Apple moved from System 4.2 up to System 6.0.2, they pretty much started ignoring 4.2. That stopped with System 7.0 when Apple said it would continue to support System 6.0.x (although all we’ve seen was the addition of new System 7.0-compatible printer drivers to bring System 6.0.7 up to 6.0.8). If they continue along this path of supporting older versions of the system software, the Macintosh market will become significantly more confusing and fragmented, what with System 6.0.8 running on older 1 MB machines, 7.0 on a large percentage of the newer machines, 7.0.1 on a number as well (and let’s not forget Tune-Up 1.1.1!), and now System 7.1 running on power user machines (i.e., the people who will pay for the upgrade) and all new CPUs other than the Performa 200 and 400, which will still use System 7.0.1P.

The decision not to make System 7.1 freely available will further dilute the customer base using any one version of the system software, which will in turn discourage third party developers from taking advantage of system-specific features. Even if the third party vendors do exploit new system software features, they will still have to increase the size and complexity of their programs by ensuring that those programs work with other system software versions. That will slow the time to market and will require more work providing technical support ("Let me see, sir. You’re running System 6.0.3 with Tune-Up 1.1 and the System 7.1 printer drivers and Microsoft Word 5.1 prints messages from the devil in your headers and footers? Have you checked for INIT conflicts? Yes? Then I’m afraid you’ll have to shoot your hard disk.")

Pretty bleak, no? On the positive side, Apple stands to make a lot of money from this policy, and as much Apple seems to make a heck of a lot more money than most of us, we all do have a stake in keeping Apple healthy. Microsoft earns a ton of money from sales of DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1, not to mention all the bundling deals, and I’m sure that Apple got a bit jealous. Also, keep in mind that hardware is a cutthroat business with ever-sinking profit margins and plenty of sharks circling. Although it certainly takes time to create and support software, it has very low material costs and high profit margins. A hefty package like Excel, for instance, probably costs barely $20 to produce, but still sells for about $300 discount. To compare, the Quadra 700 with 4 MB of RAM that Apple sells at discount for $3300 would have to cost $220 to manufacture. I don’t know material costs for most machines, but I’m willing to bet that a Quadra 700 costs a bit more than $220 to make. My point? Merely that as Apple makes more money from high-volume, low-priced software, they will be able to lower prices on lower-volume, higher-priced hardware to better compete with the PC-clone hardware sharks. As much as I dislike higher prices, I’d prefer that Apple prospered, lowering the hardware prices that are the entry fee into the Macintosh game.

The details — It looks as though Apple will have three different upgrades for System 7.1, one which will include only System 7.1 for $39 ($20 street), one which will also include QuickTime 1.5 and WorldScript for $99 ($49 street), and the CD-ROM multiple user version for large sites. Despite the complaining above, most people can probably afford $20 for the seven disks or so that will comprise the upgrade. I’ll bet that most QuickTime-based products will include QuickTime 1.5, and unless you use multiple languages, there’s not much reason for WorldScript.

What I’m getting at is that many people may not want to upgrade until AppleScript, OCE, and QuickDraw GX ship, which may happen as late as this spring. I know that I have no real need for System 7.1 until I can use AppleScript and OCE, and frankly, at the moment, rumor has it that AppleScript, OCE, and QuickDraw GX don’t work together. Of course, those who want to use multiple languages and international users will jump at the upgrade for WorldScript alone, although they’ll have to wait like the rest of us for QuickDraw GX.

Information from:

Adam Engst No comments

Apple Catalog

Well, it’s happened. Apple has started selling products directly to customers via mail order in The Apple Catalog. The catalog will contain Apple products, accessories, supplies, peripherals, and selected third-party products. We don’t know if they’ll offer cool Apple t-shirts from it or not, but we wouldn’t be surprised.

Sartorial sarcasm aside, did you send in your Macintosh registration card to get that free mouse pad or subscription to Macworld? It appears that Apple is going to use that list for pretty much the first time (well, they’re informing affected PowerBook 100 users of the recall mentioned above, supposedly, and they might have used it a few times in the past, although I’ve never gotten anything from them in over five years). The Apple Catalog will go out to 1.1 million Apple users in the consumer and general business markets sometime in mid-October, and updates will follow approximately every 13 weeks.

The propaganda claims that Apple will offer only "selected Apple Macintosh computer hardware products including the Macintosh PowerBook 145" and the third party products will come initially from Claris (surprise!), Aldus, and Kensington. Don’t throw out your MacConnection catalog just yet, though, since aside from the small selection, all Apple products will be for sale at Apple suggested retail price of more money than you would pay anywhere else.

You will pay for convenience since Apple will take orders around the clock every day. You can order by phone, fax, or mail, but you must pre-pay by check or credit card. Like other mail order houses, Apple will provide a 30-day money-back guarantee. You should get products quickly since Apple is aiming for next-day turnaround on orders taken by midnight Eastern Time and will ship products weighing less than 20 pounds overnight for free. Heavier items will ship free, but via surface. No word on how Apple will help if you want something heavier than 20 pounds shipped overnight.

You receive a year of toll-free support directly from Apple on all Apple hardware ordered through the catalog, as well as help with installation, configuration, compatibility, and basic use.

[I find Apple’s one year of support policy intriguing. I’m curious if the help line will end up helping anyone who calls in with any question or, if not, what criteria they will use to turn away people who have called without being qualified for help. -Tonya]

Interestingly, dealers can order from the catalog for customers as well, at which point Apple will ship the item to the customer directly. The dealer will receive a percentage of the sale in that case. Perhaps equally interesting, businesses can now order directly from Apple rather than going through the dealer network. Apparently large businesses dislike having to work with a dealer instead of with Apple directly, and the catalog will solve that problem.

Overall, I’m unimpressed, mostly due to the prices. The Apple Catalog’s shipping and warranty policies are in step with the rest of the mail order industry, but gone are the days when you could get away with either bad service or high prices. The Apple Catalog may be the only legitimate way to buy a Mac via mail order, and perhaps the premium will be worth getting a guaranteed clean Mac, but frankly, for everything else, I don’t think that the good mail order companies should worry much.

Apple Catalog — 800/795-1000

Information from:
Apple propaganda

Adam Engst No comments

HFS Easter Egg

I came across these postings on Info-Mac a while ago and thought you might enjoy reading about how one finds a deeply buried Easter Egg.

Francois Grieu: I have discovered an obscure Easter Egg in the System 7 implementation of HFS.

When the Macintosh requests a disk because it’s off-line, there are provisions for displaying a hidden message.

Try it!! Rename a disk exactly to:

     KMEG JJ KS      (this is 8 uppercase letters and 2

Eject the disk with command-E so that you have a gray icon of it on the desktop. Now double-click on something in the disk and check out dialog box that wants the disk back. Oh well, it’s only a message…

Question: Who are dnf and ksct?

Difficult problem: what’s the name of their disk?

David N. Feldman: Congratulations – you have not only found the HFS Easter Egg in System 7, you’ve managed to do it in a way only vaguely imagined by the author of the egg.

To answer your questions, dnf and ksct are David N. Feldman and Kenny S. C. Tung, the two Apple Engineers responsible for the extensions to HFS under System 7. The name of their disk is a bit less complicated than you make it out to be. You see, that string is triggered off of a checksum of the disk name. The intended disk name is "Like Wow Man. HFS For 7.0!" (the space after the period is an option space, just to be arbitrary) Your string, "KMEG JJ KS" just happens to have the same checksum, and so is greeted with the same message.

When I wrote the patch at Apple, I wondered (ever so briefly) what the chances of a collision in the checksum space were. You have answered the question. For your interest, check out the code hanging off the pointer at $3EA in lomem. You should quickly catch the innocuous subroutine call which calculates the checksum.

Francois Grieu: Thanks for your kind answer, and for relieving my curiosity. Here is more on the checksum algorithm, and how I found this Easter Egg.

As you may recall, the checksum algorithm zeroes D1, then does,

     ADD.B   (A0)+,D1    ;add new byte from disk name
     ROL.L   #3,D1       ;spread it around for each character in
                          the disk name,

and finally tests D1 against $7609F56D.

The chances that a random name (over 10 characters long) matches the checksum is about one in 4000 million. Assuming a disk name per day per 10 million users for five years, the odds are that about four names would trigger the recognition. In practice, it’s even less likely, for people tend to choose short names and the shortest name that matches is nine characters long, or 10 restricting to usual characters.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t find the string "KMEG JJ KS" by mere chance; rather, I happened to break into the debugger at a location close to the checksum code, and got my eye caught by the CMPI.L #$7609F56D,D1. I took that as a late weekend puzzle. I found how it was called, and wrote a small program to construct matching strings.

The program uses a simple heuristic varying the string (replacing wildcards in a template with characters taken from a chosen set) to minimize the bit distance with the checksum. The program finds matches within fraction of a second, because two nearly identical names tend to make nearly identical checksums.

"KMEG JJ KS" is just a short, reasonably mnemonic string that worked. Another names that triggers the Easter Egg is "Hello world JS N A DTP".

Using my algorithm, it’s nearly impossible that I could ever reconstruct "Like Wow Man. HFS For 7.0!", especially with the option-space after the period.