New Macs once again grace the electrons of this issue, with details on the Quadra 605, the LC 475, and the Duo 250 and 270c, not to mention an infinite number of strangely numbered Performas. The Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh hits the shelves and is also available for direct ordering at discount for TidBITS readers. Finally, Wolfgang Naegeli reports on PowerTalk, and the AudioVision video input port turns out not to be live.
Matthew Cravit <[email protected]> writes "A colleague of mine at work just purchased a Centris 660AV and AudioVision monitor. After sorting out the adapter mix-up, he tells me that the adapter has one glaring weakness. If you plug something in to the Video In port on the monitor, the adapter completely ignores that signal. In other words, the Video In jack on the AudioVision monitor is useless." [Noah Price of Apple was kind enough to confirm this, but he noted that the video input signal is present on the large cable, so a third party could make an adapter that brings it through to the video input port on the AudioVision monitor. -Adam]
We forgot to mention the release of the PowerBook 165 a few weeks ago. It’s not surprising, since it’s simply a PowerBook 160 with a 33 MHz 68030 processor instead of a 25 MHz processor. Unlike the 160, the 165 comes bundled with AppleLink and AppleTalk Remote Access Client software (no server though – maybe Apple would be so nice as to set up a public ARA server?). Prices range from $1,969 to $2,579.
More recently, Apple introduced the PowerBook 145B Plus Pack, a 145B that includes an internal fax modem, TouchBASE Pro, DateBook Pro, Macintosh PC Exchange, AppleLink, and ZTerm (interesting, considering ZTerm has always been shareware). Prices range between $1,649 and $1,699, but you can only purchase the Plus Pack from mass merchants.
My book, The Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, is printed and available for ordering. Bookstores should have it in stock soon. You don’t have to go through a bookstore, since Hayden accepts credit card orders via email, phone, and fax. TidBITS readers receive a 20 percent discount by providing the magic code "310D" (The discount works for orders of ten books or fewer). Shipping costs about $3 per book for U.S. mail or $6 for Federal Express – your choice. If you order from overseas, Hayden may mail the book from a distributor in your country, thus reducing the postage fees. If you live in Indiana, Hayden charges sales tax as well.
Spreading the word — If you’d like to help me, and in the process help others gain access to the Internet, please let Internet providers and user groups (who get discounts on bulk orders) know about the book. In addition, if your friendly local bookstore doesn’t carry the book, please ask them to do so. I especially hope college and university campus bookstores carry it, since students and staff often have difficulty finding good information about the Internet despite having amazing connections to the Internet. Thanks for your help!
The Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, by Adam C. Engst.
Published by Hayden Books. ISBN 1-56830-064-6.
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My editorial on the proliferating number of Macs in TidBITS #192 incited plenty of comments, ranging from those who agree with me (although some think it is too late and that licensing the MacOS fit in there as well), to those who thought I wasn’t looking hard enough for this information (check out the mac-facts files in the /info directory at <sumex-aim.stanford.edu>), to those who thought I had lost my marbles in suggesting that Apple stoop to the level of PC clones. Apple’s marketing people didn’t respond, and it didn’t sound like any of the readers who commented had any more clout than I do, so I guess we’re limited to academic speculation for the moment. And of course, back seat driving is always easier.
Nonetheless, October is fluttering into view like a softly-falling leaf, and as we all know, October means new Macs. Here’s what I know so far.
Naming Schemes — As I mentioned several weeks ago, Apple will rename the current Centris line and add them to the Quadra line, theoretically reducing confusion. The Centris 610, 650, and 660AV will retain their numbers but become the Quadra 610, 650, and 660AV. That seems straightforward, but just to pull our chains a bit, the $1,550 Quadra 610 will be exactly like a Centris 610 with a full 25 MHz 68040, not the FPU-less 68LC040 that it sports now. The $2,300 Quadra 650 will pull a similar stunt, resembling a Centris 650 with a bump in clock speed from 25 MHz to 33 MHz. The Quadra 660AV will merely get a new nameplate. I wonder if this means that the few people who bought Centris 660AVs can consider them collector’s editions and sell them for a lot of money in 50 years.
Quadra 605 — Don’t count that 68LC040 out with the demise of the Centris 610. The new $1,500 Quadra 605 will use a 25 MHz version of the chip in a completely new case that’s reportedly even smaller than the LC case. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a new, smaller case, but I hope the motherboard size becomes a standard so we don’t see another orphan case, as was used for the IIsi. The case won’t have room for removable-storage drives such as CD-ROM drives, although it will have room for a single PDS card. I wonder if, like in the Centris 610 and 660AV, if the size of the card will be limited, and if so, to what size?
LC 475 — The Quadra 605 will share the 25 MHz 68LC040 with the new LC 475. Internally, the LC 475 will differ from the LC III by supporting all of Apple’s monitors up to the 21" model, presumably with additional VRAM and perhaps improved video circuitry. The LC 475 will be fully Energy Star-compliant, which means that it will use significantly reduced amounts of power even when in operation rather than relying on a sleep mode.
PowerBook Duos — Apple’s much-maligned (but extremely cute) PowerBook Duo line will gain two new models, the 250 and the 270c. The 250 shares the innards of a Duo 230 but adds an active matrix LCD screen, that, much like the PowerBook 180, can display 16 shades of grey. The 270c, on the other hand, adds an FPU and the capability of handling up to 32 MB of RAM (up from 24 MB, although I haven’t heard of many people able to afford even 24 MB of Duo RAM), along with an 8.4" active matrix color LCD screen. In a new twist, it will be capable of displaying 16-bit color (Apple’s standard these days, it seems) in 640 by 400 pixels (the standard size for most PowerBook screens), or 8-bit color at 640 by 480 pixels (the standard size for 14" monitors). Both of the new Duos use a new type of nickel metal hydride (NiHy) battery that Apple claims will power the 250 for 2.5 to 6 hours and the 270c for 2 to 4 hours. I wonder why Apple’s battery technology advances only keep pace with the increasing power appetites of new PowerBooks.
Prices on the new machines will be a bit steep at about $2,750 for the 250 and $3,300 for the 270c, but for those of us (yes, Tonya just bought a Duo 230 named Molly) with Duos, upgrades will be available. Call me a stick in the mud, but I don’t mind even the passive matrix monochrome screen on Sally, our PowerBook 100.
Performas — Several people noted in response to my proliferation article that Apple is splitting the lines, aiming Quadras aimed at businesses, LCs at education, and Performas at home users (PowerBooks cross all boundaries). I can accept the basic idea, but I have a quibble with limiting LC purchases to education, if that is indeed Apple’s plan, and forcing home users to buy machines at Big Bob’s House o’ Computers. I’m sure many superstores and mass market resellers do a fine job of support, but every time we’ve visited the Performas at Sears, at least one of the machines is crashed, one isn’t set up right, and talking to the salesthings gives the impression they aren’t entirely sure which side of the mouse is up.
That may be our fate, though, and the choices will become utterly confusing with the addition of seven new models. I’m going to explain these in terms of existing models, since that’s the only way I can wrap my mind around them.
First comes the Performa 410, an LC II with an 80 MB drive and 4 MB to 10 MB of RAM, priced around $1,000. The 405 and 430 may go away, since they are also LC IIs with differing RAM and hard disk configurations. The 450, an LC III, sticks around, but will be bested by the Performa 460, 466, and 467, which share the LC III’s specs but a 33 MHz 68030 over the usual 25 MHz CPU. As far as I can tell, the 466 and 467 will have different hard disk and monitor configurations, and the lot of them will range from $1,100 to $1,400.
Home users won’t have to stop at 68030 processing power with the new 475 and 476, both of which use that FPU-less 68LC040 that’s in the Quadra 605 and LC 475. Otherwise they resemble the LC III in case and memory capabilities (36 MB maximum) and differ only in price and hard drive size (160 MB for $1,550 versus 230 MB for $1,800).
The final addition to the Performa line is the Performa 550, a souped-up (33 MHz) LC 520, the all-in-one Mac that has yet to see the light of day for non-education users in the U.S. It includes a color monitor and internal CD-ROM drive, and from all reports, is a slick machine. In addition, the IIvx-clone Performa 600 remains in the line.
Still with me? You’ll never hold on after this one. MacWEEK reported that Apple will only sell certain models to certain retailers. The MacWEEK list claimed that, for instance, Price Club will sell the 466 and 476; Circuit City the 460 and 476, and Sears the 460, 475, and 550.
Put yourself in the shoes of Joe Homeuser. Joe wants to buy a Mac, and if he does his homework, he might go to Sears to buy the cheap 410. But Sears doesn’t carry it (and can you imagine the salesthing telling Joe to go to Wal-Mart instead of pushing a different model?), so Joe is out of luck unless there happens to be a Wal-Mart nearby. Assume instead that Joe hasn’t done his homework and goes to Price Club. Never mind the fact that the Performa 550 might be the ideal machine for Joe, if they don’t sell it the salesthing isn’t going even tell Joe about it, and Joe will either buy a machine that’s not right or go home unhappy, thinking Macs aren’t for him. I won’t pretend that the dealer channel is necessarily any better, but as it stands, a dealer can sell most any Mac and thus won’t be as tempted to pull the wool over the buyer’s eyes. I’m sure abuses happen, where a salesthing convinces some poor sap to buy a machine that’s more powerful than necessary because of the higher commission, or perhaps a machine that isn’t right because the right one isn’t in stock at that moment, but making the user find the proper store to buy a certain Mac strikes me as lunacy.
[Next week Apple will reportedly release PowerTalk, the AOCE client software, although the server software, the PowerShare Collaboration Server, won’t ship until early next year. PowerTalk will appear along with System 7 Pro, which also includes AppleScript, QuickTime, and some small enhancements, possibly along with version 7.1.1 of the System. Like System 7.1, Apple will sell System 7 Pro via retail channels and may bundle it with certain Macs. To introduce PowerTalk, Wolfgang Naegeli prepared this report after Mactivity ’93, the networking show held early this summer. -Adam]
Mactivity ’93 was kicked off by Gursharan Sidhu (the "father" of the AppleTalk protocol and now the Technical Director of Collaborative Systems Development) with a presentation and live demonstration of PowerTalk. Sidhu demonstrated PowerTalk on a PowerBook running the Golden Master Beta of PowerTalk. In what was clearly not a rigged demo, everything worked robustly and smoothly. Andy Lauta, Senior Product Manager, gave an in-depth presentation of PowerTalk in a later session.
PowerTalk differs from workgroup computing solutions such as Lotus Notes or Windows for Workgroups in that it focuses on the individual user rather than the group. Apple research found that large numbers of users are part of more than one work group, and that the one-solution-fits-all approach of the competition has many problems in such situations. PowerTalk hides the complexity of various individual technologies, presenting the user with a standard interface to all of them. It is not simply an add-on application, like many other groupware products; when installed, PowerTalk becomes an integral part of the operating system.
Design Goals — PowerTalk’s design goals were to effectively address four challenges important in collaborative computing:
- Separation – Not all workgroups are located in one place. Increasingly, teams spread over more than a single building, city, or country. Team members may travel or work at home. PowerTalk integrates mobile computing effectively with stationary computing using AFP (AppleTalk Filing Protocol) for file sharing, Apple events for IAC (Inter-Application Communication), CTB (Communication Toolbox) to access remote systems, and various directory services.
- Simultaneity – Not all workgroup members are reachable at the same time. PowerTalk’s advanced store-and-forward architecture facilitates work flows among team members on different schedules and in different time zones. This architecture uses AppleMail, fax, voicemail, and other email and messaging services.
- Trust – Sidhu contends that present systems tell the user, "I am God, give me your password!" PowerTalk implements standard mechanisms to ensure message authenticity, privacy, and approval for access to services. The user can insist: "Prove to me that you are God." Technologies used include authentication, encryption, digital signatures, and electronic directories (catalogs).
- Comprehension – It is not enough to display information as common data formats, such as the traditional ASCII text. The system needs to be knowledgeable about the various components of typical information streams and about the relationships among them. Technologies used are standard message formats and translators.
In addition to the system software extensions for the client computer, which require about 1 MB of RAM, plus some 100K for additional Service Access Modules (SAMs), Apple will sell At Your Service (AYS) server software that runs on any 68020 Mac or better with at least System 7.0. AYS includes mail, catalog, and time services. Apple will ship SAMs that support direct AppleTalk connections, dial-up connections, and the AYS store & forward mechanism. [I believe the AYS server is what Apple now calls the PowerShare Collaboration Server. -Adam]
Catalogs — PowerTalk enriches the Macintosh desktop with three new icons, one of which is the Catalog Browser. Catalogs are implemented in an open object database architecture and contain free-form "Info Cards." Third parties can create their own object catalog templates. The templates included by Apple are user-customizable. Virtually everything can be aliased and dragged and dropped. A "business card" template allows users to easily maintain a host of address and other personal contact information. For example, a person’s new email address can be added to an existing business card in the user’s personal catalog by simply dragging it from an address list found in a public catalog on a server and dropping it on the business card. The Catalog Browser supports multi-language sorting.
The AYS Catalog Server is open ended and content-neutral. Its information is easily distributed and replicated across multiple servers. Catalog services can be extended by installing extra Catalog Managers. Apple will probably support AppleTalk, SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), Unix White Pages, and X.500 (X/OPEN directory services).
Catalogs are hierarchically structured and scalable. Folders can be distributed and replicated for fault tolerance or backup purposes throughout a network but will appear as a single catalog on the desktop. After a communications or network failure, catalogs automatically update. I asked how conflicts would be resolved if the same entry in two (or more) replicated versions of a catalog had changed in different ways during a network outage, but I did not receive a clear answer. Possibly the most recent version of the record will prevail.
The Catalogs feature also offers an alternative – and eventually a replacement – for the networking uses of the Chooser. One of the icons in the Catalogs window is an AppleShare icon. When opened, other icons become visible for each AppleTalk zone. Inside those are icons for the servers in each zone. These icons may be aliased by dragging them to other locations in the catalog structure for quicker access to frequently used servers and other entities.
Mail — The second PowerTalk desktop icon is the Mail icon. Mail provides a universal in box. It receives mail from any and all email services via SAMs [generally provided by third parties -Adam] that automatically convert file formats. Other SAMs list incoming faxes and voicemail. Networked users can send files to each other’s computers by dropping icons on the entries in a Catalog listing. If the recipient’s machine is not turned on, the file will remain on the server until it can be forwarded.
Apple provides good sorting and filtering capabilities for the universal in box, but the real idea is that third-parties will develop intelligent agents that can preprocess and display the contents according to personal needs and desires. For example, an agent may assign priority and project tags based on the contents of the messages or might recognize a request for a reprint and automatically forward it appropriately.
The AppleTalk-based PowerTalk Mail Server is designed for high performance, and can handle 8,000 messages per hour. It includes options for message encryption and authentication, and accommodates server-based gateways. A visitor’s mailbox feature allows installation of multiple mailboxes on a desktop.
AppleMail is a bare-bones program, and users will be able to directly send mail from every PowerTalk savvy application via Apple’s application integration mailer, but again, Apple expects third parties to provide alternative mailers. CE Software, for example, has promised to ship a PowerTalk version of QuickMail within 60 days after Apple ships PowerTalk. CE also is working on QuickMailBar, an API developers can use to incorporate QuickMail addressing and action buttons into any document. The PowerTalk version of QuickMail will be able to use the AOCE mail transport but probably will also come with a SAM for the native QuickMail transport. CE Software recently spent 15 programmer-years rewriting its transport and making it "rock solid" for QuickMail 2.6 and future versions, according to Ned Horvath, Director of CE’s Network Products Team. Contrary to Sidhu’s optimism, CE expects some customer sites to take several years to switch to AOCE, and plans to provide continued support for several mail transports.
Key Chain — The Key Chain is the third new Desktop icon and perhaps the most important PowerTalk feature. It provides quick, transparent access to any number of password-protected servers or services through a single system-wide logon password. All applications and services are integrated with a single security model. For every service, the user creates a key. Each key has account information, communications settings (such as. modem settings, addresses, and system identifiers), and an encrypted password. After this one-time setup, the user attaches the key to the Key Chain and can forget the password. From now on, the system will automatically and transparently connect to the protected service when needed.
Apple feels that this mechanism is especially secure since a user will find it easier to remember a single, frequently-used password and will be less likely to write down a list of passwords. At any time, you can lock the Key Chain by issuing a command or through an inactivity time-out. When the Key Chain locks, all windows containing information from protected services are hidden.
Apple claims that PowerTalk is more secure than most other off-the-shelf software solutions since those use less secure algorithms to avoid export restrictions. Apple is the first company to receive an export license for a DES-based product.
A new "I am at…" menu item (e.g. Home, Office, Car, Hotel) lets the system know which services are accessible and automatically resets communications settings for Ethernet, modem connection, packet radio, etc. so the system can continue to transparently establish connections over available media.
A PowerTalk server can act as a trusted party in establishing authenticated communications across the net. Network traffic is encrypted with the RC4 algorithm of RSA and delivered via ASDSP (Apple Secure Datastream Protocol). ASDSP adds only about ten percent to the communication overhead. At least in the initial release, peer-to-peer traffic cannot be encrypted. [Sorry for all the acronyms! RSA is a company. -Tonya]
Digital signatures, based on RSA Public Key Encryption, provide a secure way of ensuring data has not been altered and was signed by a particular person. The mechanism is similar to Kerberos [a security system developed at MIT -Adam], which was not mature enough at the critical point in PowerTalk development. Apple anticipates supporting Kerberos in a future PowerTalk release.
To sign a document, simply drops it on a Signer icon. A prompt for the personal signer code then appears on the screen. If the content of the signed document later changes in any way, the signature becomes invalid. While being signed, a file automatically is locked to avoid inadvertent invalidation. The Get Info window of a signed file is used to uncheck the file lock, and it contains a Verify button with which the recipient can assert the integrity of the file and authenticity of its signature.
Large companies can become trusted signature issuing agents for their employees by obtaining a titanium blackbox with key interlocks from RSA. The box contains a certain number of key combinations and can be connected to a Macintosh which runs an RSA-signed signature issuing application. Individuals can acquire a personal signature code through a notary. RSA always is at the root of the issuing process and signatures expire after two years. The issuing cost of a digital signature runs about $25.
One limitation of the signature mechanism, at least in the initial implementation, is that only one signature can be attached to a document. This may be worked around by designing forms such that each signatory vouches for the authenticity of the previous sender’s signature.
Other Technologies — PowerTalk complements AppleScript and AppleSearch to form a powerful information processing environment. Non-programmers can create highly sophisticated workflow applications in a fraction of the time previously required.
PowerTalk works synergistically with the voice recognition, speech synthesis, and video-conferencing capabilities in the new AV Macs. Once the new printing architecture in QuickDraw GX becomes available and third parties rewrite Chooser devices for the PowerTalk Catalog, many common operations will not only be more consistent, intuitive, and easier to learn, but also will give the user more control over the end product.