Industry stories on hard drive prices and the PowerBook 100 phenomenon anchor this issue, which starts off with some comments on our KeyFonts review, covers some new CD-ROMs of several major Internet archives, passes on the good news that AppleShare 3.0.1 will work with QuickMail Server 2.5.x, and finally, takes a look at the Internet gateway to America Online and the brand new TidBITS library there.
Several people commented on Mark Nutter’s review of the KeyFonts package, casting additional light on the package and the problems Mark noted. A few people expressed the opinion that giving 100 fonts, especially lower quality ones, to someone with no design sense was akin to handing a loaded machine gun to a monkey with fleas. Although elitist, such an opinion is understandable when we see some of the abysmal results of desktop publishing. The worst instances of that are behind us (remember when every newsletter used San Francisco?) but it’s worth keeping in mind that lots of fonts will not make a well-designed publication.
Gene Steinberg, a consultant for FontBank, writes:
Mark Nutter made a valiant effort in printing out 100 fonts in both Postscript and TrueType format to check the quality of this low-cost font package. However, there are a few fundamentals that serious Mac font users should know that might help explain some of Mr. Nutter’s comments.
First, installing both Postscript and TrueType versions of the same font can cause a font conflict, resulting in, as Mr. Nutter reports, missing characters and erratic letterspacing. You have to use either PostScript or TrueType.
Second, the missing optional characters should not be blamed on the need to make these fonts compatible with the DOS/Windows environment. In their text faces, Adobe provides more or less the same character set for both platforms, with the addition of a handful of fraction keys that seem accessible only by PC keyboards. For display faces, based in part on traditional typesetting "film" fonts, the lack of some optional characters is a given. For text faces, it is a serious drawback.
Gene Steinberg — [email protected]
Swanson Clarification — Mark H. Anbinder writes, "As we reported in last week’s issue of TidBITS, there was some confusion as to the details of Randall Swanson’s sentence in connection with the MBDF virus case. His attorney contacted us after the issue was published, and he explained the situation. Swanson was not sentenced to serve forty-five weeks of community service; he was given a "conditional discharge." This means that no punitive sentence will be ordered provided that he obeys certain conditions for a period of one year. These conditions essentially amount to an order to "Stay out of trouble." However, Judge Friedlander did suggest that Swanson perform some community service on his own."
Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor
(c) 1992 MUG News Service
Having just returned from the CD-ROM Expo, I want to share a valuable find with you. Everyone knows there are thousands of files strewn around the Internet. Trying to find them all could take a lifetime, but Pacific HiTech, Inc., a new company begun by a couple of computer science students from the University of Utah, and Walnut Creek CD-ROM have produced some goodies that will help ease the search. They have taken entire collections of several Internet archives, pressed them onto inexpensive CD-ROMs, and are offering them for sale. Four CD-ROMs of immediate interest are summarized here.
Info-Mac CD-ROM — Although Walnut Creek markets this $39.95 disc, Pacific HiTech actually produced (and sells) it. Pacific HiTech downloaded the programs on this disc in August of 1992 from the Info-Mac archive on the Internet site <sumex-aim.stanford.edu>. The quarterly (Info-Mac is a moving target) disc contains 112 MB of software in HFS format, following the sumex directory structure. The disc includes thousands of freeware and shareware applications, desk accessories, games, virus-detection programs, and commercial demos. It is also packed with graphics, sounds, and HyperCard stacks, and everything is ready to run. No defunking here!
For those seeking archives of electronic discussion groups and publications, you’ll find TidBITS, Info-Mac Digest, and digests from comp.sys.mac.programmer for all of 1992 (so far) on the disc. Pacific HiTech initially intended to place the entire Info-Mac archive on the CD. However, they had to leave off some files due to copyright restrictions and the logistics of getting permission from all contributors. In the end, they managed to include roughly 75% of Info-Mac’s files, although a number of files have turned over since then due to the size of the currently (and soon to be replaced) 200 MB hard drive on sumex.
CICA Microsoft Windows CD-ROM — This $24.95 CD-ROM contains the entire collection from Indiana University’s Center for Innovative Computing Applications (CICA) – more than 140 MB of Windows goodies, including utilities, shells, games, and lots more. The entire disc is configured for OPUS, RBBS, and PCBOARD bulletin boards, similar to the Mac’s BBS in a Box, so sysops can have a ready-made file library with little effort. Many demos of commercial programs, drivers for a large number of printers and monitors, icons and graphics, source code listings and programming tools for C, C++, ToolBook, Turbo Pascal and Visual Basic, round out the collection. This disc was made in July 1992.
Garbo MS-DOS/Mac CD-ROM — This $24.95 disc contains more than 250 MB of DOS software and 125 MB of Mac software from the Garbo archive at the University of Vaasa, Finland. The majority of the many programs from Europe and America are in English.
For DOS users, the disc includes lots of animation, archive utilities, BBS programs, business programs, science programs, and education software, with special areas for astronomy, linguistics, and educational games. Also included are programming tools, tutorials and tech docs, and anti-virus software. On the Mac side, there are lots of graphics, fonts, commercial demos, HyperCard stacks, and programming tools and documentation. This disc was made in May 1992.
Simtel20 MS-DOS CD-ROM — Over 9,000 files (640 MB) of DOS programs from the Simtel20 archive are on this $24.95 disc. Many of the programs include source code and there is a great deal of technical documentation, utilities, and programming tools for APL, assembly, BASIC, C, and more. The disc includes several complete BBS programs and utilities, and like the Windows disc, it already has index files for RBBS, PCBOARD and OPUS so sysops can use it right away. This disc was made in September 1992.
Shareware note — Many of the programs on these CD-ROMs are freeware or shareware, and may have restrictions and obligations regarding their use, and the producers duly note the user’s obligations to pay a fee when requested. Any author of a program on one of these CD-ROMs is entitled to a free disc.
Since most of the CD-ROMs have ready-to-use indexes for popular BBS programs they make a great collection for bulletin board operators who want to offer Internet material without the high cost of a direct Internet link or email gateway.
The prices for these CD-ROM collections are extremely reasonable. All the discs are on ISO-9660 format and as such should work on all platforms. If you wish to order via email (be aware that email is not absolutely private), you can do so by sending Pacific HiTech your name, address, phone number, and VISA/MasterCard number and expiration date.
Contact the company at:
Pacific HiTech, Inc.
4760 Highland Drive, Suite 204
Salt Lake City, Utah 84124
800/765-8369 (orders only, please)
Walnut Creek CD-ROM
1547 Palos Verdes Mall, Suite 260
Walnut Creek, CA 94598
QuickMail/AppleShare Problem Fixed
CE Software announced that one long-standing annoyance for server administrators, incompatibility between CE’s QuickMail server software and Apple’s AppleShare 3.0 file server software, is a thing of the past. Apple’s upcoming AppleShare 3.0.1 release purports to fix the incompatibility, and intensive testing at CE has confirmed this. CE’s Director of Technical Services, Christian F. Gurney, says that, "Based on the results of these tests, QuickMail 2.5.x and AppleShare 3.0.1 are compatible when used on the same Macintosh acting as a mail and file server."
CE’s test scenarios included exercising QuickMail, AppleShare’s file server and AppleShare’s print server by sending QuickMail messages, reading and writing files, and sending print jobs. The tests were conducted on 68030 and 68000 Macintosh systems running System 7.0.1.
Gurney also reported that the QuickMail server software is still incompatible with the file sharing feature of System 7. CE fixed this problem in an upcoming release of QuickMail. Version 2.6 is planned for release later this year.
An update to AppleShare 3.0.1 will be available to registered owners of version 3.0, though Apple has yet to announce the specific upgrade path. According to Apple’s Customer Assistance Center, the new software is expected to be released this week, and TidBITS will pass on additional information when it arrives. In the meantime, please don’t call Apple (and certainly not CE!) for a release date or upgrade information.
CE Software Technical Support — 515/224-1953
Apple Customer Assistance Center — 800/776-2333
Gateways III/America Online
Perhaps the most important new Internet gateway comes from the commercial service America Online. Although America Online took their time making the gateway available, it seems that they prompted two of the other commercial services, GEnie and Delphi, to open up Internet links as well. I’m sure it’s not a specific cause-and-effect relationship, but that’s the impression one gets from the outside.
America Online to Internet — Sending email from America Online to the Internet (or any other service, like CompuServe or MCI, that also has an Internet gateway) is easy – you merely type the Internet address into the normal mail To: box. Otherwise mail works exactly the same as when you send it to another America Online member. Despite the ease of use, America Online has a few limitations on Internet mail that make it a less useful than it might be otherwise, but that’s what you get for free use – there’s no surcharge for Internet email.
Like normal America Online email messages, you can’t put more than 32K in the text of the message. That usually poses no problem on America Online because you can attach files to circumvent that limit, but file attachments don’t work to the Internet. You also can’t forward mail from America Online to the Internet, but copy and paste into a new mailfile makes that a moot point. All fonts and styles disappear of course, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. For basic email to the Internet, America Online’s gateway works fine.
If you wish to find out more about America Online’s Internet gateway from America Online itself, use the keyword INTERNET (type command-k to bring up the keyword dialog box), and America Online will transport you to the appropriate area.
Internet to America Online — Creating the Internet version of an America Online address requires that you know the conversion rule. You ignore the case, remove the spaces, and add "@aol.com" to the end of the address. Thus, my America Online address <Adam Engst> becomes <[email protected]>. (For the punctuation-impaired, ignore the greater-than and less-than signs – they’re merely showing where the address begins and ends and are not part of the address.)
The gnomes at America Online made one decision that disturbs me. They decided to limit the size of incoming Internet mail to 27K. I’m not inherently opposed to internal limitations on incoming mail size, and they decided to truncate the mail rather than simply bouncing it back to the sender, but why couldn’t they have used a 30K limit like AppleLink? This bothers me because I set 30K as my self-imposed length limit on TidBITS issues so they would pass through the AppleLink gateway, and here America Online lowers the smallest gateway size limitation to 27K. We’ll look at a workaround for this limitation in a future issue of TidBITS.
Those of you who subscribe to TidBITS on America Online through the Internet mailing list have experienced the truncation, and I’m sorry, but for the moment I’m not prepared to shrink future issues to 27K. I need that space each week. Because of this, I don’t recommend that you subscribe to the TIDBITS LISTSERV via America Online – sometimes we save the best information for the last part of TidBITS.
TidBITS on America Online — If I don’t recommend subscribing to our mailing list, how can you find TidBITS on America Online? Well, I’m pleased to announce that America Online has just opened the official, new, improved, family-size TidBITS library. Dedicated to TidBITS issues, you can find it in the Macintosh Hardware forum (keyword: MHW). The library holds every issue of TidBITS in setext format, and all of the issues since TidBITS-100 in compressed format as well. For those of you wanting to collect ’em all, the library will soon hold ten-issue archives of the entire set for easier downloading.
Even better, I have direct upload capabilities so issues will be available immediately upon uploading, usually late Monday night, Pacific time. All TidBITS issues will be available in the TidBITS library immediately, but not in the Macintosh Hardware New Files library as in the past.
For those of you who have become accustomed to getting your weekly TidBITS fix from the Macintosh HyperCard forum, where I originally uploaded the HyperCard format issues before 1992 and where I have been uploading the setext issues as well, don’t worry. The TidBITS library will soon appear in the Macintosh HyperCard forum as well.
Many thanks to Chris Ferino, the forum poobah of the Macintosh Hardware forum, since he arranged for the TidBITS library and went to all the work of uploading all the back issues individually.
Driving a Hard Bargain
I hadn’t checked up on hard drive prices seriously for some time because my storage needs, while continually outpacing my drive size, would do that to most any drive. So I stuck with my 105 MB drive and compressed everything in sight. When my hard drive seemingly died in a DWI-induced power surge, I ordered another 105 MB drive so the Safeware insurance would cover the replacement cost. Then, of course, my old drive came back to life a week later, recovering from SCSI self-test errors to complete health, so I can’t collect on the insurance since there’s no damage.
During all this I started watching prices a bit more, and although much lower than two years ago, prices seemed quite steady. I thought this was curious, but then Robert Brenstein sent me a note asking if I’d heard why all the mail order vendors had huge back order lists for the larger Quantum drives. Curiousity piqued, I called Paul McGraw, vice president of APS, a mail order drive vendor.
Apparently APS has been operating most of the summer on a 400 to 600 unit backlog on the Quantum 240 MB drives, and although Paul said that they actually had a few units in stock right now, most mail order vendors are in the same backlog boat. Paul recommended that people who want that specific drive call around to satisfy themselves that no company has them in stock, and then get on a waiting list somewhere because it may be a while before most vendors get those Quantums in any quantity. In other words, sign up now or be prepared to wait.
It seems that the root of this backlog traces back to Quantum itself. Of all the drives Quantum produced this year, only 20% of them were SCSI drives, the rest being non-SCSI drives for PC clones. That limits the supply a lot right there, but there’s more. Big companies like Apple and Sun that use internal SCSI drives have first dibs on the drives, further reducing the supply that can reach drive vendors like APS.
Being good little capitalists, we all know what happens when supply is low and demand is high, right? Prices stay high. Demand seldom changes much once it’s high, so the only way for prices to drop is for the supply to increase, and that’s what Paul sees happening in the next few months, mostly thanks to Maxtor, another drive manufacturer.
Maxtor was on the brink of Chapter 11 bankruptcy some time ago, but with a combination of salutary factors, has managed to revitalize itself and become a force in the drive market again. According to Paul, the Maxtor 7213 200 MB unit is as good as the Quantum 240 MB unit for anyone who doesn’t have a Quadra since the Maxtor drive isn’t quite as fast as the Quantum, but it’s still faster than the SCSI bus on all non-Quadras. This Maxtor drive has proven quite popular, and along with Quantum’s higher prices, has given Maxtor the breathing room it needed. Now Quantum is starting to notice that the Maxtor drive is cutting into Quantum’s business, so as supply goes up, price comes down and we consumers win again.
Another factor to keep in mind is that Maxtor and other companies have some 1" high 500+ MB drives coming out early next year. Both Paul and Cliff Wildes, president of Microtech, find these large drives extremely interesting, because of the small form factor (you’ll be able to use them as internal drives) and new manufacturing techniques. These drives and some new 1.5" high form factor (actually 1.62" high), 3.5" platter, 1 gigabyte (GB) drives (i.e., 1 GB internal drives) should help lower the prices on larger end of the market. That in turn should help shrink prices for the medium size drives as well. Cliff agreed with this, although he feels that the price cuts on medium size drives will not be as significant, but only in line with the lesser price reductions that have occurred over the last six months. Smaller drives aren’t likely to become much cheaper, simply because they’re close to rock bottom already. But hey, everyone needs a bigger disk anyway, right?
Paul McGraw, APS vice president
Cliff Wildes, Microtech president
The 100 Phenomenon
Poking around in the Sunday Seattle Times, I can’t find a single PC-clone laptop for under $1000. Those that range around $1000 are all slow machines that would probably die a miserable death running Windows. And yet we just adopted a cute little PowerBook 100 named Sally for under $1000, and that includes a RAM upgrade to bring her up to 8 MB. I’m writing this article on the 100 while sitting calmly in a beanbag in the living room, ignoring the 15 applications clamoring for attention on my SE/30. As the PowerBook 100 supply diminishes and the buying frenzy wanes, I wanted to look back at the phenomenon.
It started with Apple sending all the PowerBook 100 4/40s to Price Club superstores. Price Club generally priced the 100 under $1000, occasionally as low as $800, and suddenly the slowest-selling model of the PowerBook was in demand. Unfortunately, the only way to get a 100 from Price Club was to have a Price Club store near you and to become a member. Membership stopped no one, but there simply aren’t enough Price Club stores around to satisfy everyone. Even still, as fast as the Price Clubs could put the 100s on the shelf, they sold. One Price Club employee said that she’d never seen anything sell so quickly. The short and sporadic supply contributed to the frenzy, and the waiting lists grew.
The high-tension relationship between Apple and its dealer network threatened to snap (not that either can do without the other). One dealer said that they could sell the 100 as quickly as Price Club if they could charge the same price. Perhaps heeding this call, and perhaps because the Price Club deal was an experiment in dumping cheap hardware into the consumer channel, Apple sold the PowerBook 2/20 to dealers for either $550 or $650, depending on the inclusion of the external floppy drive. Suddenly dealers could compete with Price Club, and compete they did.
Prices to the consumer ranged from $599 on up, and it was relatively easy to get a machine for under $800. Of course, as we decided before even getting ours, 2 MB of RAM is not sufficient unless you wish to run System 6 (which works fine on the 100 although you have to find version 1.3 of the Portable Control Panel on <ftp.apple.com>. Apple also created, but did not distribute in the US, a special version of System 6 (6.0.8L) specifically for the 100, although it’s unclear what differentiates it other than the inclusion of Portable 1.3). Even still, mail order prices on a 6 MB upgrade card ranged from $250 to $325, making an 8 MB machine an easy reality and making System 7 an easy install. (I can’t use System 6 any more- it’s way too clumsy, so it doesn’t matter that windows open faster.)
Dealers found that they couldn’t keep the PowerBook 100s on the shelf at those prices either, but a third source quickly appeared for some people. Citibank offers a bonus called CitiDollars on selected merchandise to holders of its credit cards, and in the middle of all this they suddenly offered the PowerBook 100 (a 2/20, I believe). I don’t know how many they had, but they didn’t last long as PowerBook 100-hungry credit card users snapped them within several weeks.
At this point I doubt many US dealers or Price Club stores have any model of the PowerBook 100 left because Apple has emptied their warehouses. Stories abound of people who bought one and promptly lost it to their spouses. (I’m lucky Tonya’s got a 20 MB SE/30 with 80 MB hard disk and a nasty Compaq DOS box at work or she’d have ours all the time.) Such tales were met with little sympathy, given the price, and the complainers were advised to go buy another one and suffer with a mate who at least appreciated the Mac sufficiently to snag a PowerBook 100 when given the chance. [It all depends on to whom you talk. I thought we bought the PowerBook to replace my home Mac, a sluggish Classic, and that I would be nice enough to share it with Adam when he went out of town. And now he can’t keep his hands off it. -Tonya]
It’s not at all hard to peg the reason for this buying frenzy. At the lowest range, the 100 was a bit cheaper even than the floppy-only Classic, and the 100 destroys the Classic in almost every category. Its screen is bigger, it’s twice as fast, it can take up to 8 MB of RAM, it has an internal 20 or 40 MB hard disk (and let’s face, there’s no real difference between the two; they’re both too small for indiscriminate storage), it can boot from RAM disk, it can use an internal modem, it weighs a bit over five pounds, and it can run from battery for a few hours. If, like us, you intend to mainly write on a PowerBook, there’s absolutely no reason to buy a faster 140 or 145. In some respects, primarily power usage and weight, the 100 even outclasses its more powerful siblings.
Most people forget when looking at these fire-sale prices that the price cuts must affect someone. The dealers and Price Clubs did fine on their profit margins, which leaves Apple holding the empty money bag. An unconfirmed report put the cost of a PowerBook 100 to Apple at $1000. That includes design and testing along with manufacturing and shipping costs, I’m sure, but even still, that means Apple lost lots of money. Had Apple kept the 100 around longer, that cost per machine would have dropped as profit erased some of the one-time costs associated with a new machine.
We don’t know how many PowerBook 100s Apple sold (although we’re guessing around 175,000) and we don’t know how many they sold at what price. Thus, we can’t accurately check the number a source provided, namely that Apple lost $15 million on the PowerBook 100. Of course, reports claim Apple made $1 billion on the PowerBook line overall.
You can view that $15 million in several ways. First, if you own stock in Apple, it’s not good. Second, if you’re a user who snapped up one of those machines cheap, you don’t really care because you got a great deal. Third, if you are an Apple manager in need of a way to justify the money, consider the incredible public relations coup those cheap prices provided. All of a sudden, normal people without gobs of money could buy one of Apple’s coolest machines and they did, in droves, and they told all their friends about it. That looks really good and provides wonderful word-of-mouth advertising. In addition, the low prices provided extra free press coverage and megabytes of discussion online. Even still, people swap information about which dealers have machines left. Finally, in that same justification mode, I’m sure Apple gathered plenty of data on dumping obsolete machines cheaply via both existing and different channels.
It may be justification, but I think the dumping policy was beneficial to Apple. The question now is what happens to the PowerBook 100. "It just goes away," you say, "because Apple dropped it from the price list." Not so fast. Remember that Sony actually designed and manufactured the PowerBook 100, and we’ve heard rumors that with Apple dropping the 100, Sony obtains rights to continue manufacturing it and selling it, at least outside of the US. We have no idea how this might work – a Sony-labeled PowerBook 100, perhaps, or even a new name. It’s even conceivable that Sony could import the machine back into the US and continue selling it, at which point it would be the first true non-Apple Macintosh. Interesting stuff, and given the demand for cheap PowerBook 100s, Sony might well be considering it, assuming of course that these rumors, like all rumors, are utterly true and grounded in fact.
Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor