The 32-bit Enabler seems to have trouble enabling various systems – read on for details. Also, MBS Technologies offers free file synchronization programs to World Trade Center companies, Apple changes a PowerBook 165c configuration, Pythaeus relates problems with internal CD-ROM drives, Eric Anderson passes on Duo 210 observations (along with a note about free Duo keyboard replacements!), and finally, comments from our modem issue.
Povl Pedersen writes, "There is something more about the 72-pin SIMMs that you should note. They are all 32-bit, as opposed to the old 8-bit SIMMs. This means that you can upgrade one slot at a time. On older 32-bit data bus-equipped machines (all Mac II series and the SE/30) you need to fill four SIMM slots at a time."
Povl H. Pedersen — [email protected]
Gopher Site — Internet users looking for TidBITS back issues can use a new Gopher server at <gopher.sfasu.edu> [18.104.22.168]. They have all TidBITS issues in text form (though not searchable as an archive so it won’t put the WAIS out of business any time soon) along with back issues of Info-Mac Digest and Murph Sewall’s long-running but soon-ending Vaporware. You need a Gopher client such as TurboGopher to access this Gopher server, and the details are site specific after that, so I won’t delve any further.
World Trade Center Offer
Here’s a neat offer. MBS Technologies, makers of FileRunner file synchronization software for MacOS and DOS, is offering free copies of FileRunner to companies whose operations were disrupted by the World Trade Center bombing. The offer lasts for 60 days, so if you know of any bombed-out businesses that could use file synchronization software, have them call MBS.
I haven’t seen FileRunner, but I gather it targets using removable media for file synchronization. This facilitates synchronizing machines when you use SneakerNet, and it makes it possible to easily synchronize more than two machines. These features would make FileRunner especially helpful to companies setting up temporary offices or for people who have to work at home temporarily.
MBS Technologies — 800/860-8700 — 412/941-9076
165c Configuration Change
In an attempt to avoid availability problems, Apple is changing the 160 MB hard drive configuration of the PowerBook 165c. Because Apple doesn’t expect to be able to obtain 2.5" 160 MB drives in large enough quantities soon enough to meet demand, it is replacing the 160 MB drives with a 120 MB drives. Apple hopes this will make 165c available in quantities sufficient to meet the expected high demand.
We’re pleased to see Apple nimbly changing direction and modifying a shipping product. This flexibility means more 165c machines for people who want them, and less bad press for Apple. This change comes at a time when the 180 is almost impossible to find because of low yields on the active-matrix screen, and availability on the 145 is low due to low demand, making 160 and 165c the most available options. 120 MB is still a generous size for a portable computer’s hard drive, so we hope few people will be seriously disappointed by the decrease in megabytes.
In addition, the Spring issue of "Apple Report," Apple Ireland’s quarterly magazine, claims Apple will release a PowerBook 185c in the summer. Given that the 165c has 180 performance with a passive-matrix color LCD screen, that might imply that the 185c will have better-than-180 performance with an active-matrix color LCD screen. We expect the 185c to actually be a 180 with an active-matrix color LCD, although there’s no telling with Apple. Apparently Sharp was showing off a new active-matrix color LCD screen at the Tokyo Macworld Expo, and that screen should ship by summer. It’s lighter than the 165c’s passive-matrix screen, but we haven’t heard if it consumes less power or will have a higher yield than the active-matrix gray-scale screen.
Jacob Ahlqvist — [email protected]
32-bit Enabler Problems
Those of us on 32-bit dirty ROM machines like the Mac II, SE/30, IIx, and IIcx were pleased when Apple finally released the 32-bit Enabler for System 7.1. Unfortunately, this enabler appears to suffer from numerous bugs and quirks, but only for some people. I isolated a weird problem in which the 32-bit Enabler prevents MacsBug 6.2.2 from rebooting my SE/30 – the programmer’s switch works fine, as does MacsBug when I revert back to MODE32. Other people have related tales of woe that range from the Mac failing to boot to major speed hits and frequent crashes.
We haven’t identified any common factor other than the 32-bit Enabler. Some blame accelerators, but we know of one DayStar-accelerated Mac II that doesn’t work, and another DayStar-accelerated SE/30 that does. Rumors have floated about an incompatibility with third-party drive formatters, most notably Drive7 from Casa Blanca Works. John Catalano of Casa Blanca Works said they had only one call about this problem, and the call only relayed the Internet rumor. John said the Drive7 programmers are checking for problems, and users of Drive7 and the 32-bit Enabler who notice anything should contact Casa Blanca Works.
Ed Rotberg of Apple clarified one quirk. Apparently the 32-bit Enabler requires version 1.2 of the Mac II ROMs, which are only available as part of the $400 FDHD upgrade. Of course, Mac IIs also require a separate PMMU, but the ROM version problem confused many people who had been successfully using MODE32, which does not require the newer ROMs. Ed cautioned users to install the 32-bit Enabler loose in the System folder, since it won’t work in the Control Panel folder, for instance.
Roy McDonald of Connectix confirmed that Connectix has received complaints about the 32-bit Enabler (Connectix programmed MODE32, but had nothing to do with the 32-bit Enabler). Connectix recommends users follow this procedure:
- First try the 32-bit Enabler. It works for many people just fine.
- If your Mac won’t boot or won’t use 32-bit addressing, try MODE32. Connectix was unable to reproduce any conflicts between System 7.1 and MODE32 (they initially thought virtual memory might cause crashes with System 7.1 and MODE32), so MODE32 should work, and if you do experience problems with MODE32, let Connectix know.
- If your Mac boots and goes into 32-bit addressing using the 32-bit Enabler, but you experience notable flakiness, add the Connectix Enabler Patch, which should be available from your favorite FTP site or commercial service. See TidBITS-162 for information on the patch, which is for use with all Enablers, including the 32-bit Enabler.
Why use the 32-bit Enabler? It can’t be turned off by extension managers. MODE32 can be turned off, and when you do this, MODE32 disables itself, turning off 32-bit addressing as well. When you turn MODE32 back on in the extension manager, MODE32 is still disabled, as is 32-bit addressing, and you have to re-enable MODE32 and 32-bit addressing manually before you can see all your memory again.
The items I launch at startup consume more memory than 24-bit addressing makes available, so if I forget to re-enable both MODE32 and 32-bit addressing, the Mac gets confused when it uses absolutely all of the available memory with ten more applications left to launch. If you boot with the Shift key down to avoid extensions, you get 24-bit addressing with either the 32-bit Enabler or MODE32, and MODE32’s settings and the Memory Control Panel’s settings aren’t changed for the next boot, which is nice.
We have version 1.0.3 of the 32-bit Enabler, which is the latest as far as we know, although we hope a 1.0.4 comes out relatively quickly to solve some of these problems.
Casa Blanca Works — 415/461-2227 — 415/461-2249 (fax)
Connectix — 800/950-5880 — 415/571-5100
Ed Rotberg — [email protected]
Paul Duckenfield — [email protected]
John Catalano, Casa Blanca Works — [email protected]
Roy McDonald, Connectix — [email protected]
Internal CD-ROM Quirks
For a decent multimedia machine, the Mac has some strange problems. The latest to surface concerns the internal CD drives in the Performa 600CD, IIvx, Centris 650, and Quadras. The drive works fine but does not allow access to the volume control dial and headphone jack on the AppleCD 300 (the identical mechanism) because Apple thinks people would be confused because Macintosh beeps don’t come from that jack. There’s only so far you should go in crippling hardware to make it easy to understand.
There are some real issues with the "Buick Case" bezel used on the Performa 600, IIvx, and Centris 650.
- Why did Apple make the CD-ROM hit light invisible? When copying large images from PhotoCD, which can take several minutes, you have no indication that the computer is functioning. It looks as though it’s frozen. (There is a similar problem with AppleTalk Remote Access, the Finder’s watch cursor, and the "AppleTalk doubleaxe" arrows.)
- Only the Sony CD-ROM drive fits behind the current removable slotted bezel.
The bezel is easy to remove, but if you install a different CD-ROM drive (the Toshiba or the Texel with the pull down doors) you need to make an auxiliary handle for the drive doors because the bay is so deeply recessed even with the bezel cover completely removed.
So where are the generic 5.25" and 3.5" bezel covers from Apple? MicroNet says they had to tool their own – whether they are available separately or not I don’t know.
With the Texel drive, you can cut and fit a small piece of Radio Shack heavy duty hook & loop velcro (it’s clear plastic knobby velcro, adhesive-backed) under the door tab, providing enough of something to grip with a fingernail to open the spring-loaded dust door.
The Toshiba mechanisms are tougher, since they have a smooth curved tab on the door.
In either case it would be possible to epoxy a second tab onto the dust door or even, using a small bit, drill a hole and tie a piece of knotted yarn through the hole as a door pull.
I know this is absurd, but I bring it up to illustrate how shortsighted Apple’s "designers" can be at times. [Gee, I wonder if the marketing department that hosed the Apple Adjustable Keyboard might be implicated in this as well? -Adam]
Henry Ford: "Any color as long as it’s black."
Apple: "Any CD-ROM drive as long as it’s ours."
Duo 210 Observations
Now that I’ve traveled to Japan and back with my Duo 210, I have comments which might be helpful to potential buyers. Please send me suggestions or comments if you have similar experiences.
Snoring — It snores! When my 210 sleeps with the power plug removed, it snores. A light buzzing comes from the rear, near the power jack. In any but the quietest places, you have to put it within a few inches of the ear to hear it. Battery life is good when asleep, so there is no evidence that this is a fault. I’d like to know if anyone else hears this! (When shut down, or the battery is removed, it is completely silent.) At least one other person has confirmed this.
Battery life — I took four batteries with me for the flights across the Pacific. I never ran out of power – the flight from Los Angeles is eleven and a half hours, but between meals and movies I only used up two batteries. With the screen set to minimum (quite bright in a dark plane) and the conservation set to maximum (not too annoying) and processor cycling on, but full CPU speed, I got well over two hours of use per battery. These batteries discharge when not in use, and after 24 hours they’ve lost maybe 20 minutes of charge. So plan ahead and keep them topped off. I suspect I could get close to three hours booting from a big RAM disk.
While we’re talking about the battery, I have had zero problems with loose connections. Just make sure that it is tightly latched as intended and you should be fine.
The battery slip-case has sharp innards that dig grooves into the battery. This is silly. Discard the case, or sand down the ridges in the case (not so easy). You can also slice off the pin way inside the case that latches the battery in there and it’s much easier to use the case. The primary latch, in front, is good enough without that darn plastic pin.
Screen — The screen is excellent in black and white mode, but I never use that mode, because the 16 grays look much nicer. Black, single-pixel-high horizontal lines cause slight shadows to extend down the screen. Window title bars, with six parallel lines, are the worst offenders. Try setting the background to alternating horizontal lines of white and black – the screen quality plummets. I use a 50% gray background with a grid highlight, similar to one provided in the "General" control panel. The grid lines help to hide shadows. Cranking "up" the contrast (the top button) can also reduce shadows. [If you’re familiar with ResEdit, consider modifying the procedure Conrad Halling passed along in TidBITS-160. -Adam]
When the screen is off, it takes a minute to warm up. It comes on fairly bright, but gradually increases to full. This is subtle enough that I thought it was my eyes for a while. Does anyone know what kind of lights are used to light the screen? Do they ever burn out? Should I keep them off when I’m plugged in and don’t need backlighting?
Keyboard — This keyboard just isn’t a desktop keyboard. It is adequate, but the spacebar takes some getting used to, and it will always be a little less comfortable than a full-sized keyboard. For extended use at home you’ll be happier with a real mouse and keyboard. The floppy adapter has one ADB port, so it is the least expensive way to add the real keyboard and mouse.
[Important! The 08-Mar-93 issue of MacWEEK reported that Apple will replace Duo keyboards that have a problem wherein the Shift keys or the spacebar don’t respond when the user types too rapidly. Either call your dealer or the Apple technical assistance hotline at 800/767-2775 if you experience this. -Adam]
Network Connections — A simple ImageWriter II cable works fine to connect any two LocalTalk ports such as between the Duo 210 and a LaserWriter or the 210 and a IIci, etc. It’s a lot more compact than a pair of PhoneNet connectors.
Summary — I love it. Sun Computers wants $1,999 for them; developers can do better but may have to wait a while – perhaps as long as three to four months. They are abundant in San Diego stores. I see no need for the faster 230, though the dealer said most people opt for the 230. My most desired option now (in addition to four batteries, two power supplies and one charger) would be 4 MB or 8 MB more RAM. It’s a well-balanced machine, but 4 MB is a little tight.
Negatives — [On the negative side, common complaints about the Duos include the paucity of the Apple Express Modem and the docks, most notably the MiniDock, the lack of an internal floppy drive, the lack of an ADB port, the difficulty in taking it apart for anything but adding RAM, the smaller trackball size (although it does use a jeweled bearing that improves the feel significantly), the cost of an overall Duo Dock system, and the loss of the internal screen when docked in the Duo Dock. Of these, I’m only really concerned about the last – all the other problems will either go away or force you to suffer with a traditional PowerBook. -Adam]
Eric Anderson — [email protected]
Modem Issue Comments
We stirred up hornet’s nest with our review of the PPI and Supra modems in TidBITS-163. People made many comments, which you’ll see a sampling of below, but first I want to explain that TidBITS is not MacSolarSystem, so it is impossible for us to review every modem or test every situation. Instead, we used these modems heavily in our daily work, which occasionally produces results you couldn’t find any other way.
Supra Problems — The comments that concerned us the most had to do with the Supra modem, which evidently has not worked out well for some.
Tony Huang <[email protected]> writes:
As anyone who occasionally browses the relevant newsgroups on the net would know, there are two groups of Supra users: those that are very happy with the product and those that are extremely dissatisfied. The majority seem to be in the latter category. I own a Supra modem. I use it primarily to access the Cornell SLIP server and a few commercial services. For these applications, the Supra is a fine product. However, Supras are known to have problems connecting (and maintaining the connection) to many modems, especially to one another! So, Supras are not good choice for BBSing, if that’s your primary application. The commercial services typically use more-expensive modems (such as the Motorolas, Hayes or USR Couriers) that will connect to any modem.
Joe Clark <[email protected]> writes:
I own one of those kooky Supra modems you talked about and have had a few problems. I ordered the free ROM upgrade and couldn’t install it because one of the screws on the case simply wouldn’t budge. Then the speaker died. Also, Microphone 1.7 is primitive, and FaxSTF’s interface and performance are much less fabulous than you think. (If it "can’t confirm the last page," whatever that means, it keeps redialing and sending the whole document over again, possibly racking up major phone charges.) In addition, I have a hard time logging onto my local Internet source (up to fifty tries are necessary). If I can get enough money together to buy a completely new modem, I will. You’ll find lots of flames like mine on comp.dcom.modems, where opinion is split about the Supra models.
Other good modems — A number of people wrote to tell us about how much they like various other modems, including modems from ZyXEL, US Robotics, and Global Village.
I’d suggest that while the Supra may be fine for the casual communications user, it may well prove problematic for those with intensive data communication needs, noisy phony lines, etc. I know that in response to Usenet discussion threads I bought two ZyXEL PLUS’s. I’m glad I spent the extra money because these modems have been exceptionally reliable (not a single lost connection) in many intensive tasks.
Thomas B. Cowin <[email protected]> writes:
We have been using Global Village TelePort/Gold modems, which have performed well – high marks to Global Village for fax software and capability. Also, in researching v.32bis fax modems for PCs, I ran across a religious conversion occurring on comp.dcom.modems – almost everyone seems to be absolutely crazy about the ZyXEL modems’ features and reliability. I have one on order. In a rating of popular modems on a scale that runs from -10 to +10, the ZyXEL comes in at +8.2, and Supra a +5.8 (over 40 survey responses.) There’s a summary put together by <[email protected]>, and even a ZyXEL FAQ by <[email protected]>.
Eric Hoffmann <[email protected]> writes:
US Robotics (USR) has a number of modems that support v.32bis, such as the Mac & Fax Sportster, and I feel it is a better modem than either of the two you reviewed for a similar price. Proprietary protocols are nothing new, or even unique to USR. By my reckoning, USR, Hayes, ZyXEL, and Telebit have all introduced modems with proprietary protocols that achieve top speed only when connected to another modem of the same model.
Fax Software — A number of comments concerned fax software, both recommendations for other programs and fixes for FaxSTF (which does have some problems – just the other day I tried to fax something and FaxSTF sent it all fine except the PICT of my signature).
Doug Smith <[email protected]> comments:
I have the Global Village PowerPort/Gold modem. If the fax software for Global Village’s desktop modems is anything like what comes with the PowerPort, it is fantastic. I’ve had total success in both sending and receiving faxes; even the first time I tried it.
Eric Hoffmann writes:
FaxSTF does have a nifty little application that goes into your Apple Menu items folder: FaxState. Using FaxState, you can completely bypass the seven steps it takes to activate or deactivate the software. You bring up the application and if the software is active, it turns it off. If the software is off, it turns it on. Look for it inside the "Unsupported Software" folder on the FaxSTF software disks. You might also mention a utility called CommCloser that forces a serial port to close. Sometimes ports get left open and you can’t get communication programs to work without restarting. CommCloser closes the port and lets you avoid a restart.
Edward Reid <[email protected]> writes:
I just got an upgrade from STF. (You can do this for $9 by sending in your original disk, even if it came bundled with a modem and has some other vendor’s name on the disk.) They claim the OCR package is available for $109. It’s a special-purpose version of the Calera software (WordScan), so it should be good. I can’t compare directly; I have TypeReader, which I find nothing short of amazing. However, even a clean high-resolution fax requires editing after recognizing, and graphical objects like logos, letterheads, mastheads, etc., are likely to be handled poorly.
A review of OCR programs in the Jan-93 MacUser included fax tests. Unfortunately, although they tested lo-res and hi-res paper faxes from a fax machine, they only tested a fax modem with hi-res faxes. In my experience, most people use lo-res unless you insist on hi-res. MacUser’s review placed WordScan at the top of the heap at recognizing faxes, though TypeReader was too new to make that review. Accuracy on hi-res to the fax modem was good (about 99%), possibly good enough to auto-delete faxes after recognizing if you are willing to accept some errors, or to review the text version and delete the image without looking at it if the text looks OK. Recognition of lo-res paper faxes, scanned, was down at 90%, which is unusable. Even though that will improve with eliminating the paper step, I doubt it will reach the 97% level that is needed to make the effort worthwhile.
On the other hand, it might be useful just to display the recognized text side-by-side with the image. That way one could choose to read whichever turns out better. That could be especially useful, since viewing faxes on screen is such a disaster that I usually print important faxes anyway.
Another feature which would make fax OCR much more useful would be for the recognition engine to save as graphics any images (obviously not text) and any sections of text that are not recognized with high reliability. Perhaps future versions of these programs will offer something like that. The MacUser review says little about saving graphics.
Technical Support — Comments about technical support from various companies and interested users included these two bits.
Eric Hoffmann writes:
For support issues, you should mention that people should hang out on the Usenet newsgroup comp.dcom.modems. You will find terrific support for Telebit, Hayes, US Robotics, and ZyXEL modems there. Over the past several months there has been a high level of dissatisfaction with Supra modems with various ROM revisions.
Geoff Duncan <[email protected]> writes:
I had a Supra technician talk me through a very confusing set of undocumented command settings to get the thing to connect to – get this – a bookstore POS (Point Of Sale) system. Not only was that out of the realm of "normal use," but he spent a good hour with me getting it to work correctly – all on Supra’s phone bill. As a result, I have a high opinion of their support staff. However, I’ve yet to receive my promised ROM upgrade, and I found several important technical errors in their documentation. Still, good support is hard to find.
Bits and Pieces — And finally, we received a bunch of random pieces of information that should be useful to those who need to know.
Eric Hoffmann writes:
While you’re mentioning sources for genuine "hardware-handshaking" cables, don’t forget about Paul Celestin’s company. He has been making the correctly wired cable for years now. He worked (and may still) for Software Ventures, makers of MicroPhone. He’s a nice guy to boot, and I swear by his cables.
P.O. Box 10949
Oakland, CA 94610
Norm Steffen <[email protected]> writes:
Patrick Chen has compiled a good document on the nuts and bolts of modem communication. It is titled "What You Need To Know About Modems" and is part one of three in a work titled "The Joys of Telecomputing". Part one is free. I plunked down the $18 bucks for parts two and three and think it was a good deal. It took him a little longer to respond than I had hoped, but he came through.
My edition is out of date as far as prices go, but much of the rest of the information is still good. [Patrick Chen didn’t answer email at any of his electronic addresses. -Adam] You can find this file via anonymous FTP on sumex-aim.stanford.edu as:
Edward Reid writes:
Users might want to compare prices of these modems in Computer Shopper; some distributors sell them without software or cable, both of which you can purchase elsewhere.