This week we have news about important updates to THINK C and FileMaker Pro 2.0, a note about a procedure that makes that new HP LaserJet 4M print correctly, a good buy on ClarisWorks and Quicken, and reviews of two snazzy programs, the shareware Frontier Runtime from UserLand Software and the freeware MacEuclid, an innovative hypertext program.
HP LaserJet 4 and 4M Notice — Mark H. Anbinder passes on this note from Hewlett Packard. "Be sure to follow step number 10 in the "Setting Up Your HP LaserJet 4 Guide." The guide refers to two levers which need to be pushed down before operating the printer. These levers engage the fusing assembly. The print will not fuse to the paper and will smear if the levers are not pushed down. The documentation shows a picture of the back of the printer and the levers but tells the user to follow the instructions on the packaging material, which is not very descriptive. It is likely that this step will be skipped by many users and technicians alike."
Microsoft Creativity — Mark Zimmermann posted this to Info-Mac digest recently. "Saw an amusing quote in a New York Times wire service item earlier this week… In regards to Intel and Microsoft teaming up to sell full-motion video products for IBM-compatible PCs, Hugh Chang, Microsoft’s manager for multimedia products said:
‘The Macintosh has been accepted by the creative
community. That market isn’t very interesting to us.’"
[Yup, and remember, us creative Macintosh types can’t write good either ’cause we be too busy playing with our cute little fonts. Apple said something about being pecked to death by ducks, I’d like to amend that to feeling like being pecked to death by turkeys, something I actually have some experience in, having raised turkeys in my youth. – Adam]
Mark Zimmermann — [email protected]
Walnut Creek Fiasco — Dale Baker writes:
I thought I’d mention that Walnut Creek CD-ROM does not even own a Macintosh and when I spoke to the tech support guy he said "I wish we didn’t even sell Mac CD-ROMs." This was after I immediately called about the Garbo CD-ROM (as mentioned in TidBITS-148).
Walnut Creek could not tell me why I was unable to see any files in the window to access the disc. Eventually I found that if I went through a file dialog box that I could find the programs; however I still had to convert from MacBinary and decompress the files.
I wasn’t impressed (to say the least) and am waiting for my copy of the Info-Mac CD. I expect it to be better due to the fact that Mac users created it for a Mac, on a Mac. Thank the gods for HFS CD-ROMs!
I would steer Mac users clear of Walnut Creek until there has been a clear statement that they support Macintosh and own at least one Mac on which they test their product before selling it.
Dale Baker — [email protected]
Symantec fixed the bug in THINK C 5.0.3 that we mentioned in TidBITS-149 and has made an updater available for FTP on <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> as:
The update corrects problems with the Quadra, the code motion optimization, and other problems present in earlier versions. The file also includes a TCL (THINK Class Libraries) update that is identical to the one from the 5.0.2 and 5.0.3 updates. If you are currently using version 5.0 or 5.0.1 and use the TCL, you need this update.
If you have any questions about this update, or about THINK C or THINK Pascal in general, please send them to Languages Tech Support at:
Phil Shapiro — [email protected]
As a follow-up to my FileMaker Pro 2.0 review in TidBITS-150, note that Claris is now shipping FileMaker Pro 2.0v2. Several areas of improvement and squished bugs include Apple events, Browse Mode, Define Fields, Find Mode, Import/Export, Printing, ScriptMaker, and network operation. Specifics can be found in Claris support areas on major online services, and the details also ship with the update. This maintenance release is free to all registered owners of FileMaker Pro 2.0v1, but it is not automatic. You can order the update by calling Claris at the number below.
My review mentioned FileMaker Pro’s inability to dial phone numbers from within the application. The expected flood of little applications that would use Apple events to remedy this situation has yet to appear. What has appeared, however, is InTouch 2.0, a great little DA address book that does a multitude of things very well. It comes with a Control Panel called Snap*, which interacts with the DA from within other applications, even when InTouch is not open. Snap* can also dial a phone number from within any application by pressing a user-defined hot key. I’ve tested it with FileMaker Pro 2.0v2 on my extension-laden Mac and it worked like the proverbial charm. No hacks, macros, or Apple events required. You could even highlight the Claris number below and dial it from within this file. InTouch 2.0 is from Advanced Software, who seem to be taking their name seriously.
Claris — 800/544-8554
Advanced Software — 408/733-0745
If you’re thinking about buying ClarisWorks soon, you might add it to your Christmas list. Until 01-Jan-93 every ClarisWorks box includes a free copy of Quicken, Intuit’s popular personal finance program. I’ve never used Quicken personally (I started with MacMoney and these aren’t the sort of programs you switch easily), but it’s a pretty good deal if you need a personal finance program. Quicken normally lists for $69 and ClarisWorks for $299, but you can find them for as little as $42 and $199 pretty easily. It doesn’t appear from a quick call to MacConnection that you get Quicken with the $95 ClarisWorks sidegrade offer.
Claris Customer Relations — 408/727-8227
Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor
In the history of the Macintosh, only a few programs have developed a strong, cult-like following. The last program to do this was HyperCard; I think the next program with cult potential is UserLand Software’s commercial Frontier program and its loyal sidekick, Frontier Runtime, a $25 shareware program. Frontier lets wireheads create scripts that can do neat and extremely practical stuff. Frontier Runtime – which requires no head-mounted wires, less checkbook input, and half the RAM – executes those scripts.
Frontier scripting offers functionality previously only available via extensions or not at all, but without the expense and potential conflicts brought about by extensions. Right now, the Frontier family is trying to cross the road of a chicken and egg situation, and to get to the other side, it needs more Runtime users and more script writers creating Frontier scripts.
Frontier has gained some early popularity in large organizations where a network administrator can write scripts to provide extra functions to users, thus avoiding the cost and hassle of buying and installing commercial extensions and utilities. The next place I anticipate Frontier scripts catching on is on the Internet, where scripts can easily be stored and passed around, just like freeware and shareware utilities.
But back to HyperCard for a moment, because there are some analogies. Imaginative authors have used HyperCard to create gigabytes of stacks ranging from the useful to the trivial, from the insightful to the inane. Yet many stack developers long for more power than HyperCard provides internally; hence the popularity of the XCMD and XFCN collections from developers like Frederic Rinaldi. Frontier and Runtime provide much of that power internally with hooks into the Macintosh operating system and what they lack can be made up with Apple event-aware programs like the StuffIt family.
Unlike HyperCard, which can both read and create stacks, Runtime is a read-only tool, working with scripts created in Frontier. (However, we should remember that Apple is now shipping the read-only HyperCard Player with new Macs, at least in the US – they’re not doing even that in Sweden.) Keep in mind that many people use HyperCard in a read-only mode much of the time, using stacks others create and distribute. Runtime could – with the proper set of circumstances – be even more useful (though perhaps not so occasionally silly) than HyperCard to the average Macintosh user. We’ll look at Frontier and its power in more depth next week, but for the moment, I’m willing to venture that Runtime is more important.
So what exactly is it? — Frontier Runtime is a moderately sized application, (it likes 512K of RAM, half of Frontier’s 1,024K memory partition) and includes an Object Database that stores a number of types of information for use by scripts. Runtime runs most Frontier scripts, and can thus control most parts of the Macintosh operating system, including such tasks as copying, moving, deleting, and creating files, making aliases, checking file and folder sizes and contents, and so on. Special scripts, called agents, run at specific times, and other special scripts, called droplets, work on the file dropped on them in the Finder. Scripts can be made into stand-alone documents, or desktop scripts, for the ones that you only want to use occasionally with Runtime.
FinderMenu — The product that makes Frontier Runtime compelling comes from Steve Zellers, who by day works for Berkeley Systems (the After Dark folks). In his obviously copious spare time, Steve created an ingenious hack called FinderMenu. It’s a free utility composed of an extension and an application (probably destined to become a single faceless application) that places a Scripts menu in the Finder when Frontier or Runtime is active, no mean feat since Finder 7.0 is not particularly Apple event-aware. FinderMenu comes with a number of useful scripts immediately available, including one that allows you to click on a folder in the Finder and select a menu item or hit a command key to back it up to another folder. This is useful not just as a safety backup, but also as a logical backup that protects you from any deleterious changes you might make when playing. FinderMenu also has a synchronization script that is especially useful for PowerBook users, and includes scripts that can find text within files, set creators and types, create aliases in specific places (such as the Apple Menu Items folder, Startup Items folder, etc.), and create a list of applications to launch and folders to open from that single Finder menu.
Those functions may not sound tremendously innovative, but consider what other utilities you would need to duplicate them. I’d probably back up individual folders only manually (and thus not at all), find text with Super Boomerang, set creators and types with DiskTop, create aliases with Alias Director, launch applications from a menu with Now Menus, and open folders from the Apple menu. You may or may not already rely on those utilities, but you must admit that it’s an impressive feature set from a single extension and two applications. Most programmers I know shy away from running tons of extensions because of the uncertainty it brings to the Macintosh environment, and FinderMenu and Frontier Runtime can take over for a number of popular trap-patchers. I know that I’m ready to swear off some of them after suffering through a series of unexplained crashes.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from adding other scripts to your Scripts menu except the availability of those scripts. Here are some ideas for Frontier script writers to consider donating to the Macintosh community. I download files in a number of formats, BinHex, StuffIt, Compact Pro, and so on, into a single folder, and it would be nice to have a script go through and, communicating with StuffIt Deluxe or StuffIt Lite, defunk those files no matter what format they are in. I’ve written the rudiments of such a script, and such a script could work as an item in the Scripts menu or as a desktop script, one that you double-click from the desktop to activate.
Another idea is to create a script, probably a desktop script since it wouldn’t be used all that often, that would clean out a System Folder after an Easy Install. Wouldn’t it be nice to quickly and automatically eliminate DAL, the AppleTalk LQ ImageWriter driver, and similar junk?. For safety, this script would move those items to a Junk Folder on the desktop rather than deleting them; that would give you a chance to double-check.
Speaking of deleting files, a well-written script could do clever things like make it easy to delete files of certain names, types, or creators (like Word Temp files, perhaps, or maybe aliases without originals), again moving the files to a Junk Folder for manual checking. With a little work, a Frontier agent script might even be able to perform the same functions as TrashMan, which deletes files after they have been in the Trash for a specified amount of time.
The possibilities are literally limited only by your imagination (and someone’s ability to script in Frontier). In addition, if you’re a network manager type, think of the utility of providing a core set of functions to everyone in your organization without continually purchasing, installing, and troubleshooting additional software. And of course, keep in mind that Apple events can travel a network, which further increases the possibilities, including scripts that ensure public hard disks contain only a specific set of files. More on that next week.
If you wish to check out Frontier Runtime and FinderMenu (and I strongly recommend that you do), they (along with other Frontier scripts and related files) are available for anonymous FTP from <syrinx.kgs.ukans.edu> or <dartcms1.dartmouth.edu>. You can also get a list of files available from the Dartmouth machine (home of the Frontier LISTSERV, which we’ll discuss next week) by sending email to:
with this line in the body of the mailfile:
CompuServe users can check out UserLand’s GO USERLAND forum for all the latest and greatest, plus continuous discussion with Dave Winer and Doug Baron, co-developers of Frontier.
The power of a computer is to store, manipulate, and retrieve information; the power of the Macintosh is to present visual representations of that information which can be directly manipulated by the user. To me, anyway, this describes the Mac at its most Mac-like.
Contrary to popular supposition, the variations on this theme are far from exhausted. TidBITS has made a habit of calling attention to some of the more original and powerful contributions to the Macintosh info-processing world, with reviews of such hypertextual organizational milieus as Storyspace and Inspiration. Aficionados may now wish to look at a remarkable little freeware gem that has appeared on the nets, MacEuclid.
MacEuclid is a thesis project, the brainchild of Bernard Bernstein at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It is intended for visual representation and databasing of arguments. When I say "argument," I don’t mean just "a single organized line of reasoning" – MacEuclid is not an outliner. I mean "a knock-down drag-out debate." MacEuclid best handles data such as, "Person A uses evidence X to claim P, but Person B uses evidence Y to claim Q, which is supposed to refute P and support R." This may sound arcane to some, but to me, trying to notate scholarly debates for reference, for study, and for later incorporation into class lectures or published material, it’s bread-and-butter stuff. I discovered MacEuclid when I was at wit’s end because, try as I might, I could not stuff into an outliner in any convenient or meaningful form the scholarly debate on the nature and date of the arrival of the "Indo-Europeans" into Greece. Guess what? MacEuclid handles it.
MacEuclid is easy to describe. In a window, you create Text Objects. Each has a text, of course, but also, optionally, a source (who says this?), and a type (what sort of utterance is it? "claim," "definition," "premise," "hypothesis," "observation," and "conclusion" are possible examples; none are included, you make up your own). The text objects are represented as boxes which you can resize and move around the window.
Then you create Relations. These are essentially labelled arrows running from Text Object to Text Object, except that they can also run to or from other Relations, and any number of Text Objects or Relations can feed into or out of a Relation. Again, each has, optionally, a source (who says this?) and a type ("supports," "refutes," and "therefore" are possible types; again, none are included, you make up your own).
You can also create List Objects. These are essentially Text Objects consisting of sets of Text Objects. For example, if I have fifteen pieces of evidence that someone uses to show that the Trojans were Indo-Europeans, I might make a Text Object of each, then combine them all into a single List Object for simplicity. Now, MacEuclid is not itself a logical analyzer. It knows nothing of the "meaning" of any Relations that you create; you can’t use it to check whether a conclusion "really" follows from its premises. Indeed, that’s the point; we’re speaking here of arguments in which whether X is really evidence for P is precisely what is at issue. So, apart from making pretty pictures of debates (which you could have done with a drawing program), what’s it for?
Glad you asked. First, you can have multiple windows on a document, and the very same object can appear in several windows, being updated automatically in all if changes are made in one. These windows are called displays, and each is stored as a separate file; the linkages across them are maintained by a master database file. The diagrammatic representation of the argument thus becomes three-dimensional. A window need never become too crowded; one part of the argument can live in one display, another in another, and so on. You can organize for convenience and simplicity in each display, while links are maintained across all displays.
Closely related to this is MacEuclid’s capacity to hide and show objects. You can select objects, and hide them: they become invisible. At any later time, you can show any or all of them, selecting from a list. More important, you can select an object, and ask that any or all of its "relatives" be shown (each relative is a Relation leading into or out of your object, plus all Text Objects attached to that Relation). And you can do this in any display, regardless of the display in which you originally created that set of relatives: in other words, any part of the argument which you have marked in any display as relevant to a particular object can be examined from within any other display showing that object. This aspect of MacEuclid is referred to by its author, not without some justification, as hypertextual.
Finally, the whole argument, or a List object subset of it, can be queried as a database. As fields in your query you can specify text, type, source, Relations, and other features; found matches are gathered into a List object for you, and from there you can use the hypertextual features of MacEuclid to examine your results further. So once the argument is drawn up, it is easy to ask, in effect, "what observational evidence does Drews use to counter Kammenhuber’s claim that the Indo-Iranians never ruled in Mitanni?", and have instant access to just that part of the argument that answers this question.
A last feature of MacEuclid is one that I am not likely to use, but which may be one of its most powerful: an argument, as embodied in a database, can be worked on over a network by multiple users. Each user logs in to MacEuclid when starting it up, and can examine or add to any part of the argument, but can change only features of the argument which she or he created in the first place. Thus MacEuclid can be used not only to chart an argument, but to engage in an argument.
MacEuclid has both simplicity and power – in short, it’s downright elegant. It’s a work in progress: bugs exist, but the author wants to hear about these, and to receive any other feedback the netting public wishes to offer. It merits serious attention.
MacEuclid is currently posted at <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> as two files: