Skip to content
Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 34 years
and the TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals
Show excerpts


New Enablers, new SIMM standards, new viruses, new antiviral utilities – where will it all end? Not with Apple certainly, and we have two articles looking at the new Adjustable Keyboard and the furor surrounding it. We also have a full list of current System Enablers, an article on the PowerBook/DOS Companion package, and finally, some juicy Apple rumors about new machines, digital cameras, and new versions of the System software.

Adam Engst No comments


As many of you found out yesterday, the LISTSERV is busy sending out its renewal notices to weed out unused accounts. I didn’t realize, in my original posting, that the Reply-To address would be set to an address that bounced directly to me. Thus replying to the renewal letter WILL NOT WORK (and I’ll get swamped with email).

To renew your subscription to our mailing list when the LISTSERV asks you to, send email to:

[email protected]

with this line in the body of the mailfile:


One other note. Several people have sent the CONFIRM TIDBITS mailfile correctly, only to discover that the LISTSERV claims they aren’t on the list. I see two possibilities here. The most likely is that your email address appears differently in your header information than it does in the LISTSERV’s list – thus the two don’t match and the LISTSERV thinks you aren’t who you say. In this instance, I recommend letting the old subscription lapse and subscribe again from your current account. Send

SUBSCRIBE TIDBITS your full name

to the same LISTSERV address listed above. The second possibility is that you receive TidBITS from a local distribution list, and we haven’t configured that list in such a way that it doesn’t need to renew. If you’re the list administrator, send me email and I’ll fix that for local distribution lists. I’ve already asked the estimable Mark Williamson at Rice (he’s the LISTSERV guru there) to fix the local mailing lists that were in this last batch.

Adam Engst No comments

TidBITS Discussions!

TidBITS Discussions! — Feedback on articles continues unabated, which is great because we at TidBITS benefit from the ideas, stories, and suggestions. However, it’s not so great in the sense that I’m becoming overloaded and nobody else gets to read the discussions. We would all be better served if much of the thought generated by TidBITS went to discussion groups, rather than to only me. That way more people can read ideas and respond to them, creating healthy discussion. As such, I encourage you to send letters to discussion areas I frequent, since then I will possibly reply to and use your messages, but others can benefit as well.

The best places to continue discussion of issues raised in TidBITS include: the Info-Mac digest, and its mirror on Usenet, comp.sys.mac.digest; the TidBITS section on CompuServe; the MacWEEK and MacUser forums on ZiffNet/Mac (especially appropriate if the topic has also been raised in either of those magazines); the TidBITS Announcements folder in the Macintosh Hardware Forum on America Online; and the mac.hack/tidbits area on BIX. Thanks for thinking about our articles!

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

Enabler Availability

Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers

In TidBITS-164, we reported the release of Apple’s long-awaited 32-bit System Enabler, replacing MODE32 for System 7.1 users, and a Hardware System Update, consisting of performance enhancements for some users. Unfortunately, there’s been confusion as to availability of these items. Different quarters at Apple gave conflicting reports as to whether these items existed, or if they’d been released, and the fact that the software was already circulating confused the issue even more.

Suffice it to say that the software IS now available, on AppleLink under the path "Software Sampler -> Apple SW Updates -> Macintosh -> Supplemental System Software," via anonymous FTP on in the directory </dts/mac/sys.soft/>, from dealers, and from user groups and other online services that are licensed to distribute Apple software, including CompuServe, America Online, and BIX. Apple’s order-processing house will accept orders for the $10 disk-by-mail version if you call 800/892-4649. Shipping should take six to eight weeks, according to the nice lady at the order line.

Apple Enabler Orders — 800/892-4649

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

Update Your Antiviral Utilities!

Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers

According to an announcement from Gene Spafford at Purdue University, Macintosh virus-busters now face two new variants of existing viruses. Variants of the CDEF and T4 viruses forced several antiviral utility vendors to update their products last week.

Some existing utilities already detect the new CDEF variant, which appears to function identically to the previously-known form of the virus. According to Disinfectant author John Norstad, this variant escaped detection by the Disinfectant protection INIT, though the Disinfectant application successfully locates and removes it.

Some, but not all, of the existing antiviral utilities detect the variant of T4, called T4-C. Like previously-known strains of T4, this variant attempts to modify system boot code, tries to change the names of some applications to "Disinfectant," and can cause damage to the System software and some applications that requires a complete reinstallation rather than a repair.

Current versions of the Gatekeeper package (1.2.7), Rival (1.1.9w or later), Virex (3.91), and Virus Detective (5.0.6) already handle these new virus variants. Versions of SAM later than 3.5 (3.0 for SAM Intercept) recognize both virus variants and repair CDEF infections, but you need SAM 3.5.3 to repair T4-C infections that can be repaired. Central Point Anti-Virus 2.01c handles the new variants as long as it has the new 2/24/93 revision of the MacSig file, and John Norstad has released Disinfectant 3.0 to handle the new variants.

Norstad stressed that Disinfectant 3.0 is not a major new release of the utility, despite the change from 2.x to 3.0. It contains only changes necessary to handle the new variants of CDEF and T4, but Apple’s version numbering scheme does not support a minor revision following 2.9. (Using another decimal place indicates a bug-fix revision, which is not appropriate.)

Users of antiviral utilities should make certain that AT LEAST one of the utilities they have is up-to-date. Subscribers to a commercial utility providers’ update services should soon receive notification about a new version. In the meantime, updates are available from:

Central Point Anti-Virus: CompuServe, America Online,, Central Point BBS — 503/690-6650.

Disinfectant: usual archive sites and bulletin boards,
including,,, AppleLink, America Online, CompuServe,
Genie, Calvacom, MacNet, Delphi, comp.binaries.mac.

Gatekeeper: usual archive sites and bulletin boards, including,,, comp.binaries.mac.

Rival: AppleLink, America Online, Internet, CompuServe.

SAM: CompuServe, America Online, AppleLink, Symantec Customer
Service — 800/441-7234,

Virex: DataWatch BBS — 919/419-1602

Readers who have no current antiviral utility installed should select one of the free or commercial utilities and install it at once according to the provided instructions. John Norstad recommends that people who expect to need tech support or automatic updates should select a commercial virus checker. We feel that Disinfectant is the perfect choice for users who stay informed, but we agree that the commercial vendors do have the advantage of offering professional support for their products.

Spafford reminded readers that creating and spreading computer viruses violates a number of state and federal laws in the U.S. and is illegal in many countries. In case anyone retains foolish notions after reading that warning, he added that several Macintosh virus authors have been apprehended thanks to the efforts of the Macintosh user community, and that some have been successfully prosecuted.

Adam Engst No comments

SIMM Standards

Before Apple’s 15-Feb-93 Macintosh release, most Macs used 30-pin SIMMs. The new Mac spec sheets tout 72-pin SIMMs as "Industry Standard," causing us to wonder if we’ve been hallucinating when thinking about SIMMs for the last five years. From several reports we gather that recent NeXT machines, such as the NeXTstation Color Turbo and various recent PC clones from IBM, Compaq, and others do use these 72-pin SIMMs. Since many memory vendors serve more than the Macintosh market, it makes sense that these vendors should have 72-pin SIMMs in equal quantities soon. Although it may take a bit for prices to equalize in the Macintosh world, we shouldn’t see too great a spike. Of course, since most Macs in the known universe still take 30-pin SIMMs, there’s no need to worry about a shortage of those any time soon.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that the old 30-pin SIMMs do not work in the new 72-pin sockets. So, as unfortunate as it sounds, that memory you just popped in your Mac will stay there. In all likelihood Apple will never ship another machine that uses those SIMMs, so you won’t be able to migrate them to newer Mac.

Information from:
Geordie Korper — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Do You Feel Enabled?

Life in the Macintosh System Folder used to be simpler. System 7 may be flashy with the System as a suitcase rack, not to mention the Apple Menu Items, Control Panels, Extensions, and Preferences folders, but with Apple’s new System Enablers and new-Mac-of-the-month policy (collect them and trade them with your friends!), support people are running into a snarl of drivers, drovers, Enablers, extenders, suspenders, Tune-ups, tune-outs, and frankly, there’s a rabbit hidden in there too. Keeping track of what version of what does what could keep you busy full time. Since most of us don’t have the time, here’s a handy summary of Apple’s latest Enablers. Tape it to your forehead, laminate it and carry it in your wallet, or commit it to memory and eat the printout. Just remember, it will change approximately 37 seconds after you read this.

System Enablers as of 10-Feb-93:

                                     System          Current
     Macintosh                    Enabler Used       Version    Note
     Macintosh Centris 610        System Enabler 040  1.0
     Macintosh Centris 650        System Enabler 040  1.0
     Macintosh Color Classic      System Enabler 401  1.0.4
     Macintosh IIvx               System Enabler 001  1.0.1
     Macintosh LC III             System Enabler 003  1.0
     Macintosh PowerBook 160      System Enabler 111  1.0.2      A
     Macintosh PowerBook 165c     System Enabler 121  1.0
     Macintosh PowerBook 180      System Enabler 111  1.0.2      A
     Macintosh PowerBook Duo 210  System Enabler 201  1.0.1
     Macintosh PowerBook Duo 230  System Enabler 201  1.0.1
     Macintosh Quadra 800         System Enabler 040  1.0

     A - Included with Express Modem Disk 1.0.1.

System Enabler Changes:

 System Enabler 001
     1.0   - First release.
     1.0.1 - Improved support for high speed serial communications
             and improved system clock accuracy. Addressed a rare
             problem where floppies do not eject properly at

 System Enabler 111
     1.0   - First release.
     1.0.1 - Manufacturing release only.
     1.0.2 - Express Modem support.
     [It appears that the version of this enabler initially posted
     on AppleLink and perhaps was corrupt, unlike the
     version posted on as of 25-Feb-93, and unlike
     the version on the Express Modem disk.]

 System Enabler 201
     1.0   - First release.
     1.0.1 - Addressed a rare problem where a PowerBook Duo may not
             come out of sleep properly when attached to a Duo

You or your local Apple dealer can locate Enablers on AppleLink under the path Software Sampler -> Apple SW Updates -> Macintosh -> Supplemental System Software -> System Enablers. They are also on <> for anonymous FTP in:


Enabler Complaint Department — Hey Apple! How about naming the Enablers after the Macintoshes they enable? This might cause some duplication, but would make things easier from the support standpoint. If it’s not possible to name them after Macs, how about a numbering scheme that makes sense (do you suppose there’s a Satanic message coded in the numbers?).

We wonder about the utility of the Enablers. At first glance, they’re great because they allow Apple to avoid creating a new version of the System for each new machine. That’s good. Unfortunately, aside from the confusion they cause, there is room for serious problems. That’s bad. Apple provides machine-specific Installer scripts that have the potential to give headaches if you want to boot another machine with that machine-specific version of the System. Similarly, if I upgrade a IIvx (Enabler #001) to a Centris 650 (Enabler #040) will it boot until I install the proper Enabler? Unlikely. Will I receive a set of System disks with that Enabler when I upgrade? Unlikely.

Like the Installer scripts, we’d like to see a Universal Enabler that boots any Macintosh. Those of you who never anticipate changing hardware can stick with the machine-specific Enablers – I’ll take a universal one any day. I have heard rumors that Apple is or will be making available a boot disk containing all Enablers, which helps, although it doesn’t simplify the issue.

Information from:
Apple propaganda
Conrad Halling — [email protected]

Sandro Menzel No comments

PowerBooks Do DOS

Systems Engineer, The Computer Store

Apple recently released a package deal that should be popular with the connectivity crowd. It’s now easy to purchase software from Apple that helps with file translation as well as connectivity to DOS computers, VGA monitors, and most any printer in existence.

PowerBook/DOS Companion: — Apple has noticed a whole class of users with PowerBooks and Duos who need to transfer data to and from their DOS machines. To this audience, Apple is marketing the PowerBook/DOS Companion, a combination of four compatibility products: Macintosh PC Exchange, a special version of MacLink Plus/PC from DataViz, the MacVGA Video Adapter from James Engineering, and GDT Software’s PowerPrint.

Macintosh PC Exchange we all know well. It is Apple’s utility that allows us Mac users to mount MS-DOS disks on our desktops and facilitates all those wonderful file translations, some of which are built into our applications (such as Word). Macintosh PC Exchange also allows us to map MS-DOS extensions to our Macintosh applications.

This version of MacLink Plus/PC boasts more than 700 conversion combinations between MS-DOS and Windows to Macintosh. Translations can be done via cable connection, disk swapping, or modem. Specific cables for the PowerBook are included.

The MacVGA Video Adapter displays up to 256 colors on VGA and SVGA monitors when connected to a PowerBook 160/180, or MiniDocked Duo 210/230. Apple is quick to supply two lengthy lists, one of monitors that are known to work and the one those that definitely do not.

Ever try to print to what we in the Mac environment would call a non-standard printer? To address this, Apple includes PowerPrint from GDT Softworks. The literature claims PowerPrint prints text and graphics to any of more than a 1000 different printers, whether they be laser, ink-jet or dot-matrix. Rather than send us looking for cables, PowerPrint includes a serial-to-parallel cable.

[In our limited experience, PowerPrint worked wonderfully on an old Epson LX-80 and Hewlett-Packard DeskJet. It was amazing to see a screeching old LX-80 knock off decent-looking Macintosh output after five years of service. -Adam]

I live and work in a Mac-only environment. Occasionally, I need to work with foreign data formats. For this, Macintosh PC Exchange and the MacLink/Plus Translators have been useful. For Mac users in a primarily MS-DOS environment, I can easily see the need for all four utilities.

Information from:
Apple propaganda

Adam Engst No comments

Drooling Rumors

Every now and then I hear about good stuff that’s possibly going to happen, but you never know with rumors. In any event, the latest whispers say Apple is working on digital cameras for capturing images to manipulate on the Mac. The first ones will be 8-bit gray scale and hold 40 shots, but later models will go up to 24-bit, and presumably, color. The cameras will be Mac and PC compatible, not surprisingly, and I hope Apple sells them at a reasonable price. True digital cameras would be ideal, but even an Apple-produced still video camera (which is analog and requires a digitizing board to acquire the images for use on the Mac) would be interesting.

System 7.2 — I just upgraded to System 7.1 now that the 32-bit Enabler is out (no reason to bother before), but I hear that 7.2 will be the cool version that Apple should have started to charge for. Perhaps the snazziest feature planned for 7.2 is spring-loaded folders, which make hierarchies easier to traverse. If you have a file on your desktop that you want to move to a folder three levels down, just move it over the first folder, wait for the folder to spring open, move it over the second folder, wait for that to spring open, and then drop it in the final folder. When you let up, all those folders automatically close. It sounds great, but it also sounds you’ll want a click-lock feature or a foot switch to use it. Neat ideas, and I’m still agitating for a replacement for the Standard File Dialog box.

MacInTalk — A while back I mentioned a nifty new MacInTalk, and although it appears Apple has finished it, they are waiting to release it with the Cyclones or Mac IIIs that will ship this summer. These new Macs may have AT&T 3210 DSP (digital signal processor) chips that simplify voice synthesis and voice recognition. DSP chips provide interesting features including 16-bit digital sound, voice mail capability, video-in and video-out capabilities, and even standard modem functions. Of course, you’ll need software to do this, but DSP chips make it possible.

Cyclone Macs — The Centris is neat, but I’m waiting for something truly different, like a Cyclone, before I upgrade from my now-venerable SE/30. I’ve heard of plans for two models of the Mac III, much in the same mode as the two Centris machines. One will have a 25 MHz 68040, one NuBus 90 slot, and two 72-pin SIMM slots, whereas the other will have a 40 MHz 68040, three NuBus 90 slots, and four 72-pin SIMM slots. They will share DMA (Direct Memory Access) to all the I/O ports, and unlike the IIfx, they will support DMA in the system software so it will actually improve performance. Of course, the Cyclones will precede the first PowerPCs by six to nine months, but since early rumors have the Macintosh emulation on the PowerPCs running at greater than Quadra speed (impressive for emulation!), I may wait a little longer. The PowerPCs apparently pack so much horsepower that adding the DSP chip would slow down voice recognition and synthesis software.

Information from:

Joe Clark No comments

Apple Adjustable Keyboard

Let’s not get all excited about the new Apple Adjustable Keyboard. Don’t get me wrong: I think the keyboard’s signature feature – the fact that it opens up to 30 degrees to keep your hands from bending sideways at the wrist – is a knee-smackingly right-on idea. It’s significant that a $7-billion company has produced such a keyboard; doing so gives the idea legitimacy. I predict articulated keyboards will be commonplace in under five years – yes, you closet DOS/NeXT/Vax/Amiga/Atari users, even on your machines! This may translate into a reduction in overuse injuries, particularly tenosynovitis (an inflammation of the sheaths surrounding tendons).

But there’s a big problem, and it’s the function-key module offboard of the main body of the keyboard. It contains all 15 function keys, a numeric keypad, and all the arrow and extended-arrow keys on the Extended Keyboard II (Up/Down/Left/Right, Help, Del, Home, End, Page Up/Down). Sure, you can put the module more or less wherever you want, but if you want to use the delete key (not backspace, the delete forward key) you have to reach all the way over and press it. Or click it, I should say: Like all the keys except the numbers and the basic arrows, that key is actually a little semi-recessed Chiclet key that clicks when you push it. It looks like a Tylenol gelcap and feels like the Pop-a-Matic dice-roller in the 1970s board game Trouble.

And if you’re like me, a heavy user of function keys (or the escape key, as many users of terminal emulation programs are), you’ll find every possible obstacle in your way to efficient computing. Most function-key users don’t even think of them by number; it’s just "press that key over there." I have to look on my template now and then to sort out shift vs. option vs. command, but beyond that I just hit the damn things. Not on the new keyboard: Instead of groups of keys in a single row, you get five rows of three. So forget about a template with enough room to document all the various modes, and forget about using your built-in sense of proprioception (spatial awareness of body parts) to hit the right key almost without looking. If you want to press command-option-F8, you have to hold down two keys on one board and hunt for another on a second board, press it (click!), and return your hands to home position. And if you’re a right-hander, you probably have the module on the left but press command and option with your left hand, meaning your right hand crosses over the left to push the function key.

This is progress?

I interviewed the product manager for the keyboard at Apple, Paul Prebin, and he claimed their tests showed almost no one used function keys or even the delete forward key. Huh? He admitted, though, that many journalists who’d interviewed him voiced complaints similar to mine. He’s very open to suggestions on future keyboard designs; he doesn’t even rule out a fully-articulated keyboard that pops up from the desk, supinating the hands into an even more nearly-neutral position. As for the Chiclet keys (which Apple coyly calls "buttons"), they already are found on the Duos and likely will reappear on new machines, too. Oh, great.

Look for my other stories on the keyboard in the "Village Voice" (19-Jan-93), "Toronto Computes" (April-ish), and "Toronto Globe and Mail" (who knows when).

Information from:
Paul Prebin — [email protected]; 408/862-3185 (fax)

Scott Mandell No comments

Apple Sued For Ergonomic Keyboard

[This article reprinted with permission from CLiCKS, the newsletter of MUGWUMP, the Ithaca Macintosh Users Group.]

According to the developer of Apple’s Ergonomic Keyboard, Sandy Williamson, Apple is currently being sued for patent infringement by the makers of The Tony keyboard. When asked more about the keyboard and the suit, Mr. Williamson had "no comment."

A second suit is pending from Lee Volman, a noted keyboard designer, and a third from a hand surgeon with whom Mr. Williamson consulted. The hand surgeon suing Apple says Mr. Williamson contacted him for help with a personal problem with his keyboard. The surgeon spent at least six hours telling Mr. Williamson what he should do to lessen his pain while typing, never told that this information would be put into product development. The surgeon also says that Apple’s keyboard is not designed correctly.

Dale Redder of Industrial Innovations (makers of the DataHand keyboard) in Phoenix, Arizona, says Apple could have avoided these suits and the general disrespect from the keyboard industry by paying some of their approximately $2 million per day R&D budget to the rightful patent holders. Mr. Redder said Apple thinks they are so big they can push the little guys aside without penalty, but he thinks Apple will lose these lawsuits if they don’t settle out of court.

[I’ve heard dissenting opinions as to Apple’s legal stand from sources at Apple, and Apple may settle out of court even if they have not infringed on patents. I have also heard that Apple settled the suit with Tony Hodges, although I have been unable to confirm this. -Adam]

Mr. Redder’s opinion of the new Apple keyboard? "Of the fifteen ergonomic issues that our DataHand addresses, Apple’s keyboard addresses only one. Not to say it isn’t an improvement… it’s like a sailboat whereas a conventional keyboard is a rowboat. But we like to think of the DataHand as a steamship."

Jeff Fzmanda, Vice President of HealthCare Keyboard, Inc., says that all of the keyboard designers and manufacturers should stop suing each other and should share some of their information in order to make healthier keyboards for the consumer. HealthCare, Inc. makes the Comfort Keyboard, which was recently named a Finalist for the National Merit Award.

[Speaking as someone who suffers from some of these problems, I second Jeff Fzmanda. If these keyboards can reduce the incidence of repetitive stress injuries (which only thorough and extensive testing can verify), these companies should all shut up, curb their lawyers, and work together to prevent the pain and suffering that many keyboard users endure. Think of the extent to which the market will shrink when millions of people cannot type on even one of these keyboards. Time’s a-wasting! -Adam]