No April Fools issue this year, but you might like what we have from that auspicious day. We also have a look at the massive CeBIT show, the announcement of Apple’s new on-site service plan for all Macs, news of a Duo price drop, an editorial on why Apple releases a new Mac model every 7.4 days, and the long-awaited announcement of CE’s QuickMail 2.6. Finally, for those who track time, check out our review of WindoWatch and TimeLog.
To clarify recent comments on the Nisus upgrade, there are two versions, 3.4L and 3.4C, which differ in two ways. The most common version, Nisus 3.4L, supports Roman languages and Japanese, and is NOT copy protected. Nisus 3.4C adds support for all non-Roman languages (Farsi, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, etc.) and is copy protected with a dongle. I won’t discuss this issue further, but I’m sure Nisus Software would gladly listen to constructive suggestions on how they can avoid the dongle and still convince recalcitrant overseas distributors to carry Nisus 3.4C.
Nisus Software — [email protected]
New Performas — Expect three new models of the Performa to appear in mid-April, the 405, 430, and 450. The Performa 405 will be exactly the same as the Performa 400 (essentially a 4/80 LC II) with a new Apple Mouse and System 7.1P replacing 7.0.1P. The 430 will also be an LC II at heart, but with a 120 MB hard disk. The Performa 450 will continue the imitation tradition, mimicking the LC III with 4 MB of RAM and a 120 MB hard drive. All will come with an external 2,400 bps data/9,600 bps send-only fax modem. None will be priced competitively with comparable Macs.
Bill Waits — [email protected]
BCS Clarification — Roz Ault writes to clarify "A Tale of Two Cities" in TidBITS #170, "BCS Mac is starting its own FirstClass system this week. Also, the latest client for FirstClass is version 2.0.9, which available on <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> as </info-mac/comm/first-class-client-209.hqx>."
Roz Ault — [email protected]
Duo Price Drop — Mark Anbinder passed on news of a price drop on Duo suggested retail prices. The Duo 210 4/80 fell $410 to $1,839; the 230 4/80 dropped $310 to $2,299; the 230 4/120 descended $310 to $2,659, and the 230 4/120 with Express Modem sunk $320 to $2,899.
CeBIT is the world’s largest computer fair, held in Hannover, a town in northern Germany. CeBIT means a lot of people, a lot of companies, and a lot of stress. This year CeBIT boasted 600,000 visitors, with the masses pumping through the halls. CeBIT costs a lot, especially for the exhibitors, and even network giant Novell stayed away this year.
Apple didn’t stint on CeBIT, creating one of the biggest stands – including its own display area for an exciting show. The show was a running event; visitors had to fill out a boarding pass to enter. Entering Apple’s domed hall allowed a brief respite from the rush of CeBIT. Real Lauda Air and Lufthansa stewardesses opened the doors of the round showroom. In middle was the stage, cloaked in red and black. You could feel the excitement. Even the seats were unusual: real airplane seating rows.
The doors shut. A stewardess explained the exits like in a real flight, and the lights faded away. From the ceiling four projection screens lowered, and high volume sound flooded the room. The screens came alive with a flight through the universe, into our solar system, the creation of earth with storms, volcanos, earthquakes. It passed into the rising of mankind: cities, tools, industry, the computer. During this stunning event four dancers in tight black dresses took positions, their faces hidden under masks. Then we saw a DOS machine saying "Error." Pling! The Macintosh startup sound rang through and the happy Mac face loomed on the screens. The dancers removed their masks, switching from ghosts to humans, and entered a marvellous act replete with more sound, wild dancing, fog and lighting effects. This was no show, this was multimedia war. The pictures ceased for a moment, the dancers holding PowerBooks in their hands. The show ended with a big bang, but with no word spoken about a product. This was smoke and mirrors, image all the way. Buy a Mac and you will be part of the show. The stewardess collected the boarding passes and the audience stumbled back to the noisy show.
Apple fans left wearing big smiles because they were part of the show; other users filed out, fascinated; but I left unhappy. I wanted to see some new Apple products and the only one was the PowerCD CD Player, a cute 3.1 pound semi-portable that plays CD-ROMs on the Mac, Kodak PhotoCDs on a TV, and audio CDs on a stereo. Although the PowerCD sports a 550 millisecond access time, it is multisession PhotoCD-aware, can run on AC power or four C batteries, and will cost under $500 when it appears this summer.
Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers
Announcing a new suite of on-site repair services, Apple Computer today responded to complaints that they had fallen behind the pack in service offerings. Key to the suite is a network of on-site service providers, including many of Apple’s existing resellers and repair organizations.
Most interesting is Apple’s new on-site one-year warranty. Covering most of its desktop computers and many peripherals, this program replaces the company’s existing one-year warranty, which until today required owners to bring equipment to the dealer or pay for an on-site call.
Apple has made the on-site warranty coverage retroactive to cover equipment purchased after 01-Feb-93. This seems fair, though not as magnanimous as when Apple instituted its one year warranty a few years ago, and retroactively covered even some purchasers whose ninety-day warranties had expired.
Also new is an on-site version of AppleCare, the extended-warranty service that lets purchasers to extend protection in monthly increments. As before, AppleCare coverage provides the same protection and services as the warranty.
Finally, Apple will offer toll-free support to all users in the U.S. from 6 AM to 6 PM Pacific time, Monday to Friday. The number is below, but it hasn’t changed from the original 800/SOS-APPL.
PowerBooks and a few peripherals (and the upcoming Newton products) will continue to require mail-in service rather than on-site service, though PowerBook owners will still have the option of visiting a PowerBook-authorized repair location (some, but not all, dealers). Several models of Macintosh (primarily the older ones) and some peripherals will not be eligible for any on-site services, presumably because they would be difficult or dangerous to handle on-site.
The new on-site warranty program matches the free in-home warranty service provided with Performa purchases since the Performa line was introduced last year. Macintosh owners requiring a service visit call a toll-free number, and the central service connects the user with a local service provider who performs the repair at the customer’s home or office. Eastman Kodak has provided Apple’s on-site service to date, and although they could undoubtedly handle the extra work resulting from this change, Apple has decided not to cut their traditional service providers (primarily local dealers) out of the process.
Your local dealer will decide soon whether or not to participate fully in the new service program. For some, adding sufficient staff and equipment to support on-site repair might pose too great an investment. For dealers who already have outbound service technicians, though, or who are large enough to restructure their service division, this new service offering could revitalize a network of dealers who typically find it hard to distinguish themselves from the mail-order DOS clone vendors and superstores.
Once the network of on-site service providers is in place, anyone within 60 miles of one of these sites will be able to request in-office or in-home warranty repairs. Furthermore, dealers will undoubtedly offer on-site service – at an additional charge – for out of warranty equipment. A 60 mile radius may be a bit of a stretch, but most of Apple’s customers and dealers are densely enough packed that Apple probably isn’t worried, statistically anyway, about how many Macs there are that far from the nearest dealer. (Living in central New York State, I can envision many such locales, some of which my coworkers may soon find themselves visiting!)
Until that network is finished, on-site repair won’t be universally available, but it will be interesting to watch this system grow. If any readers can comment on some of the issues that may have arisen with Performa repairs, or on-site repairs for non-Apple equipment, we’d love to hear from you since we will be watching Apple’s new program closely.
Apple — 800/767-2775
Apple is mystifying the public again. Pushing out new models in multiple configurations virtually every month, it seems that Apple has launched more new Macintoshes in the last six months than in all the previous years that the Mac has existed put together. "I can’t keep up," Jane and Joe Consumer cry. "Why so many?"
Apple declines to comment, but I think I know, because I know their motivation, and motivation determines method. The motivation is increased market share. The method is shelf space war.
In retail sales, each store has only so much shelf space for any type of product. Manufacturers always clamor for as much of that finite space as possible. Having more space generally means better market share.
For example, let’s say that American Products decides to enter the widget industry. Since most stores have already allocated as much shelf space to widgets as they are likely to, a widget brand will have to be dropped so that American Widgets can be sold. This is why companies find it difficult to break into markets with well-established product lines.
Some companies discovered they could do even better by expanding their product lines. Let’s say General Widget is a successful widget company, and they decide to sell three new kinds of widgets. Because General Widget products have been successful in the past, most stores will sell the new General Widgets, but they probably won’t expand the shelf space assigned to widgets. That means that stores will have to drop some other brand of widget so they can sell General Widget’s new widgets. General Widget gains in two ways: first, if the product is good, they sell more, and second, some of their competitors are no longer sold. Thus, General Widget gains market share with little effort.
The classic example is soup companies. Campbell’s Soup won the shelf space battle years ago, dominating the market with something like 100 soup flavors. Many of those flavors don’t make any money, but they keep the shelves filled with Campbell’s soup cans and fewer Progresso soup cans.
Apple is doing the same thing in the computer industry. In the computer superstores, shelf space is at the same premium as at the supermarket. Currently PCs take up the majority of space, not just because there are more PCs sold, but also because more companies sell PCs. PCs, in essence, have lots of brands that force Macs off the shelves. Apple has decided to fight back, I believe, by selling more and more models so that they have need for shelf space. Smaller computer companies will be shoved out, and Apple hopes it will pick up market share.
Apple certainly has other motivations like creating a more diverse line to compete with the variety of PC clones, but their main thrust, it seems, is to increase market share by doing what the soup companies do.
I wish them luck.
Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers
Late last month, CE Software released a long-awaited upgrade to its popular QuickMail software. Version 2.6, available to 2.5 or 2.5.1 owners for $40, has three primary areas of enhancements: server architecture, administrator tools, and a new Windows client. At the same time, CE announced the "QuickMail Connect Now" program, and StarNine Technologies announced a new version of their QuickMail-to-SMTP gateway and a brand-new gateway between QuickMail and Banyan’s Vines mail system.
In designing QuickMail 2.6 CE focused on improving their mail server architecture, which has been criticized as being unreliable in large internetwork environments. The company has gone a long way towards eliminating problems with its "single-file" approach, which was introduced in version 2.5. This feature allowed the QuickMail server to keep only a single copy of mail to multiple recipients, but versions 2.5 and 2.5.1 would occasionally "forget" to delete that single file once all references to it were gone. CE also improved zone-list handling, especially in large internetworks where zones tend to come and go.
To make the software more "administrator-friendly," CE created a server monitor feature within its QM Administrator application, allowing the system administrator to track peak usage and the server’s load. The administrator may also now move a user’s mailbox from one mailcenter to another, or even from one mail server to another, without losing any mail. In addition, a new Mail Authentication Tool can create verified backups of the server’s mailboxes, while discarding unnecessary "orphaned" mail files. We conducted experiments on two busy servers and found that as many as two-thirds of the files on the server were unnecessary; on one server, the Mail Authentication Tool eliminated seven thousand files, dramatically improving server performance and freeing space.
For the first time, CE is providing a Windows client application, which was originally expected to ship with version 2.5. The result was worth the wait. The new software combines the friendly feel of QuickMail with a proper Windows interface – rather than, as is often the case, a Macintosh program ported to Windows but retaining Macintosh conventions. Unfortunately, QuickMail for Windows does not support AppleTalk connections to the mail server; it only allows file-based access involving a file server available to the workstation and the mail server.
CE dramatically improved its DOS client software (for both AppleTalk and file-based connections), and made minor modifications to the Macintosh client. The most obvious change to the Macintosh software is the "Turnerizing." The new version sports color control icons and color "About Box" displays. Unfortunately, the color icons take a step further away from the traditional Macintosh look and feel, and worse, they serve as a cruel reminder of the absence of the complete interface colorization that CE should have undertaken. Forms do not offer color pictures or text labels, and users cannot select colors for message text, as so many other mail programs offer these days.
Despite the disappointing Macintosh client software, the 2.6 upgrade is worthwhile, and certainly worth CE’s nominal upgrade fee. To convince skeptics, CE is offering a free five-user "QuickMail Connect Now" installation to sites that don’t use QuickMail. Similar to the company’s "QuicKeys Test Drive," which allows resellers to let customers try the software before buying it, the QuickMail Connect Now offer allows resellers to install the QuickMail software without charge to the customer, who can use QuickMail for a while and decide whether or not to buy a full package. Unlike the QuicKeys Test Drive, the QuickMail Connect Now software doesn’t expire after a while, but is missing some features, such as remote access and certain administration tools. Anyone who’s interested should contact their favorite CE Software dealer. (CE can point you to one if you call.)
StarNine Technologies hopped on CE’s new version bandwagon, announcing last Monday that it will ship version 2.2 of its MailLink SMTP package, an Internet gateway for QuickMail, by the end of this month. The new version, free to current users, provides "certified" support for QuickMail 2.6, and several other enhancements. StarNine’s new MailLink for Vines/QM will replace Banyan’s own MacVines gateway at the end of this month. MacVines users may convert for a discount, and pricing for new sites starts at $595 for ten users.
CE Software, Inc. — 515/224-1995
StarNine Technologies, Inc. — 510/649-4949
CE & StarNine propaganda
I called the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today – just for some forms, thank goodness – and it brought some programs to the front of my mind. One of the IRS’s more irritating habits is making you account for the percentages of computer time you spend on business activities compared to personal activities. You then use this ratio in figuring out how much of your Mac you can deduct or depreciate on your U.S. income taxes.
But how can you really tell? Short of recording what you do and for how long, it hasn’t been easy, although we gather the publishers of MacInTax had or have a program called MacInUse specifically aimed at this problem. Now, however, several programs have appeared that not only help you determine the ratio of business to personal use, but also help track how long you spend working on any one document for billing or other purposes.
WindoWatch — The first of these programs is the simpler. WindoWatch from ASD is an extension that watches window titles and records the amount of time you spend in each. This method has obvious flaws (you don’t give a damn how much time you spend in PageMaker’s Toolbar) but ASD eliminated most of them by providing filters that ignore bogus windows. Even still, you’d be surprised at how many programs have meaningless windows. For instance, SoftArc’s FirstClass BBS software creates a window for every message. In such cases, you can set WindoWatch to track only the amount of time in the application.
WindoWatch includes an application that allows you to sort your list of windows by name or time used, and to purge or merge individual or multiple windows from the list. That allows you to remove entries under two minutes, say, and to lump together the time you spent working on a single project composed of several files. You can set up "auto selects" that select the same files each time and merge them, and you can also modify the font, size, and style of the list. That’s about all the program does, which is an advantage in many cases, but don’t expect WindoWatch to replace Timeslips III, a full-fledged, but manual, time tracking and billing program that can slice, dice, and otherwise massage the raw data in its data files. We reviewed Timeslips III in TidBITS #107.
Using a compression scheme (incidentally, you cannot let AutoDoubler compress WindoWatch’s data file), WindoWatch keeps its data file incredibly small – about 15K for a few weeks of usage. This is great, but WindoWatch also has some real quirks and a few bugs that forced me to stop using it. The interface leaves much to be desired, what with multiple modal dialogs and the requirement that you type names exactly (if you want WindoWatch to ignore specific windows, for instance) instead of selecting them from an SFDialog. More serious for me is a bug that causes WindoWatch to drop into pause mode (which it does normally when there is no action for a user-specified amount of time) and pop up a dialog whenever I invoke a TypeEase QuicKey, which I use heavily for boilerplate text. The text comes out wrong and I get irritated fast. I reported the bug to ASD on AppleLink some time ago but received no word back.
Interestingly, and we didn’t test this, WindoWatch works over a network, so you can gather information on what someone has done on another Mac over the network. I see the utility of this, but without additional reporting capabilities I don’t know how many people will use this feature seriously.
TimeLog — TimeLog from Coral Research uses a different approach. Instead of creating a single data file, TimeLog creates a file for each file used, duplicating the folder structure of the disk that your files live on. This duplicate folder structure sits in your System Folder, and even though each file is small, the overall size grows quickly. TimeLog’s extension can warn you when the folder structure uses a user-specified amount of space, but I still don’t want to use disk space in this way.
Even though TimeLog’s tracking technique is clumsier than WindoWatch’s method, you don’t have extraneous information from windows unrelated to disk files, and TimeLog appears to have none of WindoWatch’s interface quirks or odd bugs (in my testing). TimeLog’s application provides more information about what you did than does WindoWatch’s application, allowing four ways to display the information and providing a slightly odd interface akin to the System 7 Finder for choosing which files to view.
You can look at the History chart, which displays a chronological chart of when each application and file was used (down to the minute for the really retentive), a graph of the percentage each application was used, a chart of the actual percentages, and a chart of the total time each file was used for. (There’s also a list of the most used files at any one time that you call up with a hot key set in TimeLog’s Control panel.) You can select which files to display and choose how you sort the displays, but I still found the information confusing, in part because I didn’t wish to modify the way I organize my work to ways TimeLog would better understand. If you create special folders for projects or clients, then TimeLog can more easily show you the information you want to see.
Conclusion — Both programs perform as promised, but both have design faults and thoroughly mediocre documentation. WindoWatch grabs too much information and provides little help in viewing or massaging the data, whereas TimeLog displays the data well, but wastes too much space on your boot disk. People like me who partition their hard disks with a relatively small boot partition will find TimeLog’s wasteful disk habits especially irritating.
For those thinking that these programs might help in tracking public computer lab usage, sorry. Neither program has any way of telling which user is on, just which programs are being used. You can tell how often each program on your public Mac’s hard disk is used, but that’s it.
I’m sure this suggestion is totally unthinkable, but these companies need to cooperate. TimeLog needs a small, compressed data file, and WindoWatch needs additional display options and TimeLog’s more useful method of determining what to record. They both need better reporting options for someone to easily use either program to bill for time spent working on a project, especially one that might involve work away from the computer. In that area, Timeslips III destroys both. Nonetheless, both are unobtrusive and easy to use, and unlike Timeslips III, they do something for you that you shouldn’t have to do manually. That’s what computers are for, after all, and if you need to track time spent in windows or files automatically, one of these two programs will do it.
WindoWatch 1.53 – $149 list for one user, $85 discount
4650 Arrow Highway, Suite E-6
Montclair CA 91763
TimeLog – $97 list
P.O. Box 2055
Stateline NV 89449
I was too subtle last year for our 01-Apr-92 issue, and this year I was too short on time to release an issue on that day. So, you’ll have to make do with two articles that might have appeared last Thursday.
Apple Discontinues Quadra — by Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor — [email protected]
Apple announced today that they will no longer manufacture the Quadra line. They have determined that the Centris 610 and 650 fill the basic need for 68040 computers (since they are available with optional FPU capability) and they do not want to interfere with sales of the Apple Workgroup Server 95 and other future high-end machines.
The AWS 95 is the "souped-up" server that Apple announced in March. It is based on the Quadra 950 platform and includes a PDS card that provides a large memory cache as well as direct-memory-access SCSI to provide high-performance storage capability that will finally live up to the performance capabilities of high-end hard drives and other components. The Quadra 950 platform is the only member of the Quadra family that has not experienced heat problems with the high-speed ‘040 processor. (The slower ‘040 in the Centris does not exhibit the problem.)
Although the AWS 95 will satisfy customers’ needs for high-performance servers, it won’t be suitable for users requiring high-performance workstations for graphics, publishing, animation, and scientific tasks. Rumors have abounded recently regarding Apple’s development of a version of the Macintosh operating system for Intel processors. Apple just laid the rumors to rest with its announcement that because of delays in development of the PowerPC processors, and the concerns about ongoing heat problems with the Motorola 68040 chips, Apple decided to take advantage of their "MacOS Blue" project and the ready availability of inexpensive Pentiums (Intel’s trade name for the processor commonly but incorrectly known as the 586) by shipping an Intel-based Macintosh late this summer.
[This assumes that the Pentium will ship in quantity and in high-speed configurations this summer, which many observers doubt. -Adam]
Apple Unbundles Return Key — by Steve Dorner — [email protected]
Effective immediately, Apple Computer has unbundled the "return" key from Apple keyboards. This allows Apple to lower the price of keyboards by $0.01. Users wishing to buy a return key will be able to do so through their local dealer. The kits will cost $99 installed, and are expected to be available in the third quarter of 1993. "We think this will enable more users to get return keys," said Apple chairman John Sculley. "Also, we want the money."