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Apple layoffs and Microseeds dropping Rival – where will it end? Not with the Newton or the PowerPC, that’s for sure, and we have more details on those two hot topics. Bill Seitz reports on PC Expo, Matt Neuburg comments on censorship on the Internet in New Zealand, and we take a long look at how the Internet is worming its way into government at the level of elected officials.

Adam Engst No comments


You probably already noticed our redesign in this issue. Like most publications, we spent months in consultation with graphic designers and information architects in an attempt to create the best possible look for TidBITS. Right, sure, in our spare time. Actually, only the top and bottom of the issue have changed. We felt that the top of the issue was top-heavy, so we moved all the administrative details and the multitude of electronic addresses to the bottom where you can find them if you need them.

For those interested in APS price lists, note that I will mark new ones at the top of the issue, so if it doesn’t change, assume that the price list is exactly the same as the week before.

Adam Engst No comments

DeskWriter owners

DeskWriter owners who have printers with serial numbers that begin with 2936 or lower should get "Free Upgrade Kit No. 02276-60106," a sheet that describes how to acquire the free upgrade kit mentioned by James Brigman in last week’s article about refilling DeskWriter cartridges. James also mentioned that the ink he’s found to work best for refills is Scheaffer Brand "Skrip" ink, which costs about $2 at most office supply warehouses.

Hewlett-Packard — 800/538-8787

Adam Engst No comments

PowerBook Prices Drop

PowerBook Prices Drop — Apple lowered even more prices in a drive to increase sales and profits after the $188 million loss in the company’s third quarter. This time all PowerBooks except the Duos received the red tags, with suggested retail prices dropping 7 to 34 percent. That 34 percent price drop was for the PowerBook 160 4/40, which fell from $2,429 to $1,609. If you’re in the market for a PowerBook, make sure your dealer has instituted the new prices before you buy. The $188 million loss sounds bad, but we find it interesting to note that Apple’s third quarter net revenues were $1.862 billion, a 7 percent increase over last year’s third quarter, and Macintosh unit shipments increased 20 percent over last year’s third quarter. Laying off employees is expensive, and that’s where the loss came from.

Adam Engst No comments

RSI Online

RSI Online — Rik Ahlberg <[email protected]> writes:

Just a note to let you folks know that there’s a new mailing list for those looking for information on repetitive stress injuries (including carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, occupational overuse syndrome, and cumulative trauma disorders), how to deal with them, and what resources are available to people living with pain.

The list is open to all those interested in joining and/or supporting a support, referral, and information resource for those suffering from repetitive strain injuries. Even if you are outside of the Boston metro area, please do not hesitate to join the group. To join the discussion, send mail to:

[email protected]

Boston-RSI meets regularly at the Boston Computer Society’s main office in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA, beginning in August.

Adam Engst No comments


BrushStrokes, or What happened to MacPaint? Claris has announced the shipment of BrushStrokes, a $139, 32-bit color, painting and image editing package. Two Swedish programmers, Christian Holmen and Nicklas Ungman, originally developed BrushStrokes for Casady & Greene, from whom Claris acquired marketing rights for the Claris Clear Choice label, which publishes innovative software from independent developers.

Claris — 800/3CLARIS — 408/727-8227

Adam Engst No comments

Apple Layoffs

Last week Apple laid off 2,100 employees, 1,100 in Santa Clara, 500 elsewhere in the U.S., and 500 in other countries. Another 400 layoffs in other counties are scheduled for the next 12 months. The layoffs come as part of a reorganization designed to cut costs and make Apple a tighter, more-focussed company, but whatever the rationale, it’s hard to see so many talented workers, including some friends, let go. We at TidBITS wish the best to both those leaving Apple and those remaining.

For those leaving Apple whose talents run toward programming, allow us to suggest that an excellent way to create name recognition in a competitive job market would be to create high-quality shareware. And of course, if you consider the variables that make a shareware program a financial success, quality, timing, distribution, and a sufficiently good cause, helping an out-of-work ex-Apple programmer is distinctly a good cause.

Adam Engst No comments

Centris/Quadra/PowerPC Notes

An alert reader notes in response to our article in TidBITS #182 that although the Centris 660av and Quadra 840av, and possibly the PowerPCs, will perform voice recognition, record and playback CD-quality audio, and work as a v.32bis modem, they most certainly will not be able to do all these tasks simultaneously. So forget about telling your Mac to interact with communications programs. In fact, the only report he had of Casper (voice recognition) on a Centris 660av beta machine was not promising; it was apparently too slow to be useful. Let’s hope that changes with the shipping code. And of course, there have been problems with the way the Duo and Express Modem work together to replace some of the guts of a modem, so emulating a modem may not be a wonderful idea in all cases.

He provided some other interesting details and comments. The Centris 660av and Quadra 840av will support 24-bit color with sufficient VRAM, just like the Quadra 700, but not the Quadra 800 or currents models of the Centris.

In addition, apparently Motorola just announced the low-power version of the 68040, so it’s likely that we’ll see an ‘040 PowerBook before the end of the year, and since the low-power version of the PowerPC chip won’t be out for some time after the first 601 chips ship, we’re unlikely to see a PowerPC PowerBook nearly as soon.

Jonathan Kolodny <[email protected]> writes:

Anyone on the verge of buying a new hard drive who might be concerned about compatibility with the Power PC (either through upgrade or purchase) should consider this advice from Paul McGraw of APS:

"Preliminarily, I understand that standard SCSI drives will work in a Power PC, though if I were a betting person, I would probably bet on the third-high (1" x 3.5") form factor, rather than what is referred to as a "half-height" or 1.65" x 3.5" form factor. Many large drive capacities are currently available in this form factor – some with spectacular performance numbers – and more are being announced each day."

If you don’t need high capacity (yet) you might want to wait three to five months when more high-performance drives will be available. Keep in mind that a slower drive will negate some of that speed advantage that tempted you to buy a Power PC in the first place.

Adam Engst No comments

MessagePad Trickles In

The first MessagePad details are trickling in from Pythaeus. "What is the MessagePad," you ask? Why the first of the Newtons from Apple, of course, and they’re appearing soon, so pay attention.

The first units will range in price from $800 to $950, and just like Barbie will have a bunch of nifty accessories that cost between $20 and $250. Accessories include batteries (alkaline and rechargeable), battery packs, chargers of various kinds, carrying cases (including spiffy leather ones), connection kits for Mac and Windows, fax modems, 1 MB and 2 MB storage cards, battery boosters, and some cool software packages. Ken is still sold separately. Other details for the curious include:

  • Weight: less than one pound,
  • Dimensions: 7.5" x 4.5" x .75"
  • Screen: 3.5" LCD
  • CPU: 20 MHz ARM 610 (a RISC chip)
  • Memory: 4 MB ROM, and 640K RAM (hmm, I think I’ve seen that last number somewhere before…)
  • Expansion: One PCMCIA slot
  • Connectivity: Infrared link, and one RS-422 port
  • Pens: Two, one black, one red (just kidding about the colors)

For automated Newton propaganda, call 800-7-NEWTON.

— Information from:

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

Rival Changes Hands

Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers

The authors of the Rival anti-virus utility for Macintosh announced last week that Microseeds, Inc. is no longer supporting the software. The authors, Frederic Miserey and Jean-Michel Decombe, stressed that a new structure is being formed to provide distribution and support, and in the meantime, support is still available.

They ask that all registered users provide them with contact info (see below). Users who provide an electronic address will receive the latest version of Rival (1.2.4) and all vaccines immediately, and will be added to a mailing list to receive updates and vaccines to handle new viruses, as they appear. (Users whose email gateways won’t support large files should so indicate when contacting the authors.) Bug reports and requests for technical support are also welcomed via the addresses below.

Fred and JMD
1705 Cowper Street
Palo Alto, CA 94301

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

The authors ask that users send a note with name and company name, postal and electronic mail addresses, telephone and fax numbers, Rival serial number and license specifics (single or multiple user vs. site license), and if possible, the version of Rival and vaccines already on hand.

— Information from:
Frederic Miserey — [email protected]

Bill Seitz No comments

PC Expo Comments

I attended PC-Expo in New York earlier this month on its first morning, since I wanted to hear Chairman Bill’s oratory. Am I the only one who finds it embarrassing that kick-off presentations for major industry conventions are used for mere PR pimping? No grand visions, just "here’s why my company is better than everyone else’s company." Gates is hardly unique in this regard – it’s a tedious invariant. Still, Bill did (inadvertently) make some interesting comments. To wit:

  • Applications push the operating system to improve. This has certainly been the Microsoft synergy game, and is a clear admission that there is serious interaction between the two sides of the Microsoft empire. It’s also just one approach. Consider Apple’s strategy that the OS pushes the hardware; this justifies Apple’s unwillingness to license the MacOS to other hardware platforms, since it would dilute their control over hardware, losing the control over the design and evolution process. It also points out how helpful Claris could be to Apple if Claris were a more effective organization. Is Claris held back for fear of harming the third party developers Apple relies on, or is there another explanation for Claris’s problems? Some Claris products are pretty good, but nothing pushes the envelope other than ClarisWorks.
  • Operating systems are moving from being application-centric to document-centric to eventually object-centric (where an object is seen as simply part of a document that can be consistently manipulated by a toolset). This is where everyone is going. It’s just a question of who gets there quickly enough to build momentum, and whether the advantages of such a system can be sold to the public as added value (witness the oft-repeated banality about how "Apple has less justification for their high prices now that Windows makes Intel machines almost like Macs"). By the way, this comment was in the context of Bill’s OLE 2.0 demo, which will supposedly be out this year, and which Microsoft will push across platforms.
  • Applications must internally support workgroup coordination. By this Bill meant they must support the delegation of updating pieces of a given document. This sounds to me like something that should be part of the object-centric OS.
  • Cross-application, and maybe cross-platform scripting languages will become increasingly important, as OS objects can be hooked together with greater ease. This may not be called application development, but at least can be considered application customization, and must be viable at least for power users. Visual Basic will be coming to the Mac in all Microsoft applications next year. [And will compete with AppleScript, Frontier, and a host of other scripting languages that are rumored to arrive soon, all compliant with Apple’s Open Scripting Architecture. -Adam]
  • Applications must provide intelligent assistance (agents, wizards) to help users with complex tasks.

Two other Microsoft notes of interest. First, Access (their Windows database) was mentioned only once in the entire presentation. Microsoft used Excel for a lot of user applications that seemed to me more natural as database applications. Second, when one of Bill’s lieutenants, in demoing Visual Basic, asked how many people use Visual Basic, he got more blank looks than cheers. This may be a giant reality check for user programming, despite the kudos it has received in the PC trade press.

The busiest booths seemed to be WordPerfect with their new DOS version coming out (ooh, the PC world is so exciting!), Corel, and Apple (for its Newton demo area). Prize for emptiest big booth goes to Claris.

Multimedia was one of the Expo’s running themes and had its own area (granted, it was the dungeon room). This theme seemed driven largely by New Media magazine, which had sponsored the InMedia awards for best interactive products. There were a number of machines set up with vendors like Newsweek Interactive and Nautilus. Multimedia still looks like an exciting area, but one with serious pitfalls. Newsweek, for instance, provided still photos and videos for the two stories specifically created for each issue, but only gives you the text of articles for the paper edition’s back issues on the disk, and all because they haven’t bought the electronic rights to the photos they print!

Another theme was clearly the PDA ruckus, what with Casio’s Zoomer, Apple’s Newton, Sharp’s Wizard/Newton, and AT&T’s EO. They all try to depend on handwriting recognition, but I was unimpressed by the accuracy of any of the systems; they all added support of an onscreen keyboard as a backup. All these booths interested passersby (especially Apple’s), but that doesn’t mean that a huge yawn won’t follow the product introductions (or more likely, loud gasps as people see the price tags). I see the Mac market as being the most open to this, as we are already the most involved in open communications systems (email, file sharing, etc.). Given their size, the units will be the most expensive DayTimers in existence if they can’t easily tie into desktop systems. This requires not only hardware and OS support for moving info, but application support for import, export, and synchronization of data.

Macintosh LC 520 — Along with a PowerPC beta in the skin of a Centris 610, Apple showed the new Macintosh LC 520 at PC Expo. Thanks to <[email protected]> for this information. The LC 520 (ironically using the same number as the old Atari 520 ST) is essentially an LC III with two internal front mounted speakers, an internal AppleCD 300i and an integral 14-inch color monitor (640 x 480 in 16-bit color). It looks like a Color Classic on steroids. One interesting feature is that this is an Energy Star computer, so its power consumption is reduced up to 50 percent. Don’t get too enthused about buying one yet, though, since they’re aimed at the education market last I heard.

Matt Neuburg No comments

Letter from the Antipodes: Censorship on the Internet

About a week ago, system administrators at the Computer Center at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, New Zealand, removed from the list of available Usenet newsgroups all those beginning with "", and perhaps others believed to contain pornographic material. Since this computer is the distribution point for Usenet news for the entire South Island, these newsgroups are no longer available to users in that half of the country. (If they have a friend in the North Island, though, I presume there’s nothing to stop the sending of an email message containing extracts from these newsgroups, which are still available there.)

This move made the media news, but did not raise the automatic hue and cry over "repression of free speech" that it might have in the United States. New Zealand has no written constitution at all, let alone one where the notion of free speech has been enshrined for two centuries; the concept of freedom of speech and other notions familiar to Americans were only guaranteed in law three years ago, and even then in an ordinary statute not considered to have ascendancy over other statutes. In this case, the system administrators were, they said, simply bringing themselves into compliance with a law against the distribution of pornography.

My own view of these events is unimportant and probably inaccurate. As an American, just two years a stranger in this strange land, I don’t know much except a lot happens here that I don’t understand. Personally, I had never noticed these newsgroups (honest!), and despite my knee-jerk ’60s liberalism, tend to applaud a system which can at least try to do something about pornography, unlike the U.S. which, in one view at least, becomes enmired in its own rhetoric while things get worse. But I rather think that the lesson is clear. The Internet feels like a free unimpeded flow of information, but in fact its packets must be relayed by nodes, where anything can happen, and there are no envelopes to steam open. Neither the University of Canterbury nor, as far as I know, anyone else, has plans to check my email to see if it contains words like "sex" or "communist." But that, as this incident seems to show, is a contingent fact, not a law of the universe. Let’s stay awake: there are going to be big issues to be decided one of these days.

Adam Engst No comments

The Internet Goes to Washington

As the Internet grows and brings more people online, those of us online become curious about who is available on the Internet. Services for finding specific people have never impressed me, so public announcements and word of mouth are still the best way to get in touch with someone famous who has appeared on the nets. Luckily this has been happening a lot recently.

Of course, the most publicized Internet arrival is that of the President and Vice President of the United States, Bill Clinton and Al Gore. To increase communication with the White House, the Clinton administration has set up an Internet site,, along with addresses for both Clinton and Gore (listed below).

Now, it’s a good bet that neither of them reads the email sent to those accounts. I have trouble keeping up with the my own email, and that’s only in the range of 30 to 70 messages a day. When you consider the hundreds if not thousands of messages that must pour in every day, I’d rather not have the leaders of the country spending their time reading email, and heaven forbid, becoming Usenet junkies or spending hours trying to create a saxophone with ASCII graphics.

For the moment, the staff will merely track how many messages are received, along with the subjects of the messages. Receipts will be sent, but they won’t be tailored to your specific message for the time being. The White House staff have made that a goal for the end of the year, and rumor has it that they have commissioned MIT to create software with a sufficient level of artificial intelligence that it can reply to the incoming messages. Could be interesting.

Bill Clinton — [email protected]
Al Gore — [email protected]

House of Representatives — In an effort not to be shown up, the House of Representatives (the second and larger body of the bicameral American Congress, for readers unfamiliar with the U.S. governmental system) announced a pilot program to provide email access to a small number of the representatives. Representatives taking part in the pilot program include (followed by their state abbreviation and district): Jay Dickey (AR-07), Sam Gejdenson (CT-02), Newt Gingrich (GA-06), George Miller (CA-07), Charlie Rose (NC-07), Fortney Pete Stark (CA-13), and Melvin Watt (NC-12). Gee, I wonder why Jesse Helms isn’t included.

Unfortunately, the House program suffers from the close-mindedness that comes from believing arbitrary boundaries have inherent meaning, especially in terms of the political patchwork method of defining districts these days. For the moment, if you wish to communicate with your representative via the Internet, you must first send a snail mail postcard to your representative’s office, including on it your Internet email address along with your name and snail mail address. The press release says, "This process will allow Members to identify an electronic mail user as his or her constituent." This bothers me, if only because I strongly suspect that special interest lobbying groups can gain access to representatives whether or not they happen to be from the proper district in the proper state. The point of the Internet is not to restrict the flow of communication.

Once they’ve figured out how the pilot program works, they plan to make any necessary modifications and then open it up to other members of the House of Representatives who wish to participate. All in all, it feels half-hearted. I could be wrong, and I hope I am, but the entire program smells of something dreamed up by people who don’t have a clue what the Internet is all about.

To receive more information on this program, send email to:

[email protected]

(Which, by the way, is a strange use of the domain addressing system. Something like [email protected] would make more sense in a meaningful hierarchical domain system.)

You can send comments about the service to:

[email protected]

Online Congressional Hearing — More promising than the pilot program is the announcement of the first Congressional Hearing to be held over a computer network. Appropriately enough, the hearing is on "The Role of Government in Cyberspace" and will physically take place on 26-Jul-93 in the Grand Ballroom of the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The hearing and an open house later that day are open to the public, but more interestingly, the hearing is open to the Internet at large.

The Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance will use 30 SPARCstations in the hearing room to allow everyone present to use email, Gopher, the WAIS, and the World Wide Web for research into the topics at hand. I hope everything is up and working that day! Some witnesses will testify remotely, sending audio and video over the Internet.

This is a chance to get your ideas into the public record, since an email address has been established for anyone on the Internet to use before and during the hearing. If you have ideas or comments on the role of government in the Information Age, send them to the address below. Topics you might address include:

  • Should government make public data available for free on the Internet?
  • Who should pay to build and maintain the Internet?
  • How should the Internet be used in the daily workings of the government?
  • How would you use the Internet to communicate with the government?
  • Should the FBI, CIA, and NSA keep their prying fingers away from the Internet? (OK, so that ‘s begging the question.)
  • And I’m sure you can think of plenty of other related topics.

The important thing to realize is that we of the Internet community have to let the U.S. Congress know that millions of us care about the Internet. It’s not enough to complain every time some new method of taxing modem users or selling off the Internet comes around. For many of us, the Internet is an integral part of our lives and livelihoods, and we must convey that sense of importance.

I’ll admit my bias. I want the Internet to be recognized as a community in its own right, on an equal footing with all the communities made up by arbitrary geographical or political boundaries. Perhaps for the first time in the history of the world, people have come together in a community based on mutual intellectual need without concern for race, sex, religion, or location (for the moment we’ll conveniently ignore the wealth, but more and more projects such as the Seattle Public Library’s public terminals are making the Internet available to those who can’t afford computers). I’ll argue that just as physical communities of people are considered worth preserving, protecting, maintaining, and funding, so is the virtual community of the Internet.

Send any comments, suggestions, and opinions (no flames, please, remember that we’re trying to paint a positive picture of the Internet) to:

[email protected]

I gather that you won’t necessarily get a response from this address, but another address has been set up where you can communicate with a human about the hearing. To talk to that person about the hearing, send email to:

[email protected]

And to give credit where credit is due, support for this event comes from Sun Microsystems, O’Reilly & Associates, UUNET Technologies, ARPA, BBN Communications, the National Press Club, Xerox PARC, and many others. And hey, if anyone goes to this event and wants to write an article on what happens, let me know.

— Information from:
U.S. Government propaganda