Apple throws more software into the pot with LaserWriter 8.1.1 and the System Update 2.0.1, the latter of which replaces the Hardware System Update 1.0 and 2.0, and of course with the release of System 7 Pro, which includes PowerTalk, AppleScript, and QuickTime. Dale Southard reviews the PSI PowerModem IV, Akimbo updates FullWrite, we look at some Newton synonyms, and I announce the creation of ftp.tidbits.com, although you may still have to use the IP number.
I took it on the chin last week for my comment that the overseas upgrade phone number for the Newton wouldn’t be that useful because the Newton only understands English, thus implying that people speak English only in the U.S. Whack! My sincere apologies to every one of my net friends overseas with whom I somehow manage to communicate in email despite the massive language gap between American English and the less, or at least differently, corrupt versions of the English language. Needless to say, I had nothing of sort in mind – I was merely trying to point out a limitation of the Newton that applies to many TidBITS readers (multi-lingual folk that you are), but hasn’t been mentioned much in the industry press.
Apple can’t avoid the blame entirely either, as Nick Rothwell <[email protected]> noted: "The fact that English is spoken in other countries does seem to be a point that Apple repeatedly ignores in all its marketing and service provisions. Since Apple U.K. in particular seems incapable of selling new Macintosh models even to a buying public that actually wants to buy them, I don’t see it managing to sell Newtons to a market that isn’t convinced of their usefulness. Accordingly, I agree that the number of overseas Newton users is now probably low and will remain so for the foreseeable future."
FullWrite has been upgraded by Akimbo Systems, the company that rescued the popular word processor from the depths of Borland after Borland purchased Ashton-Tate. The upgrade to FullWrite 1.7 fixes an incompatibility with the 68040 processor cache and a problem with System 7 that caused the Set Margins dialog to disappear. FullWrite 1.7 is available free to users of FullWrite 1.5 or higher and costs $20 for users of other versions, although if you later upgrade to FullWrite 2.0 (scheduled for early 1994) that $20 will be removed from the $99 upgrade price. Akimbo charges a $7.50 shipping and handling fee. If you use FullWrite 1.5s, an updater application is available on America Online and will be on CompuServe soon. No word on Internet availability yet.
Akimbo Systems — 800-375-6515 — 617-776-5500 — [email protected]
Tom Phoenix <[email protected]> writes:
My coworker and I tried to install the LaserWriter 8.0 software downloaded from CompuServe. Halfway through the install we got an ominous error alert reading, "Decompressor Atom has Expired."
The fine print on the alert box read, "c1992 Glen Canyon Software, Inc." That made us wonder: Have Apple’s programmers forgotten to pay their shareware fees?
So we called Apple’s help line at 800/SOS-APPL, and were told that we could install successfully by setting the system clock back to a date before 01-Oct-93, installing, and then setting the clock forward again. The tech support person wouldn’t commit Apple to an actual bug fix but did say that the programmers are aware of it.
[Of course, now that LaserWriter 8.1.1 is available online, including from <ftp.apple.com> in:
it’s a bit less of a big deal. LaserWriter 8.1.1 supposedly fixes a number of problems that people had experienced with LaserWriter 8.0. However, early reports from the nets indicate that LaserWriter 8.1.1 hasn’t fixed as much as it claims, and numerous problems still exist. Even the Read Me file includes a hefty list of known problems. I recommend that you keep older versions of the LaserWriter driver around – I had to switch back to 7.2 last week when I wanted to print an envelope from Panorama II 2.06. -Adam]
Pro Conflicts — Early reports indicate that some software compatible with System 7.1 may not work properly with System 7 Pro (see article below), and that some older software may need to be upgraded to the current version. Before leaping into System 7 Pro, which isn’t exactly critical, make sure you’re not running anything that will cause conflicts.
Pythaeus tells us that you’ll need to use Gatekeeper 1.2.8, released earlier this year; Now Toolbox 4.0.1p; Silverlining 5.28; AutoDoubler 2.0.2 (to be safest, turn off the DD icon brand); and After Dark 2.0x, though some modules, including Rain and Boris, might not work. The various publishers of these utilities should be contacted for information. (Gatekeeper is freely available on a variety of FTP archives such as <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> and other online services, and there’s a free After Dark Updater utility floating around.)
Also, current versions of BeHierarchic, Super Boomerang, More Disk Space, HAM, and Double Trouble are reportedly incompatible with System 7 Pro, and need to be updated by their publishers, whom you should contact for the latest information.
I’ve been hearing that people have had trouble finding my book in bookstores, which irks me since all I can do to help is to suggest that you explain to the bookstore why they should carry it and ask them to order a few copies from Hayden. And of course, if all else fails, you can order directly using the information in TidBITS #195 or via <[email protected]>.
Packing Slips — A number of people who ordered direct have noticed that their packing slips list the full price of the book, $29.95, and not the discount from ordering direct. Don’t worry, you should still be charged the right price on your credit card bill (and if not, complain to Hayden fast!). The reason, as it was explained to me, is that sometimes customers order books through bookstores, but have them shipped directly from the publisher. Since the customer has already paid the bookstore the marked up price, the bookstores don’t want the packing slips to show the much lower price they pay for the book, since it would confuse and irritate customers. Thus, the publishers simply print the list price on the packing slip. Sorry for any confusion.
ftp.tidbits.com — The first comments I’ve gotten back from readers of the book have been extremely positive, although most of them wonder about an aspect of the book I haven’t yet mentioned here. In conjunction with Northwest Nexus, the Seattle-area provider that offers flat-rate SLIP accounts for $22.50 per month for readers of the book (plus a $20 signup fee, although the first two weeks are free), I’ve set up a public FTP site. Called <ftp.tidbits.com>, this site currently holds over 25 MB of freeware and shareware software related to connecting a Macintosh to the Internet. I think I uploaded everything that I talk about in the book, and I know I uploaded a number of packages that have been released or updated since then as well. Eventually, I’ll upload all the issues of TidBITS, and perhaps start a directory for programs I mention in articles.
Unfortunately, this FTP site isn’t a huge one that supports hundreds of users at one time. In fact, I think it’s limited to 12 simultaneous users, although I’m talking with the Northwest Nexus folks about adding Gopher support to increase access.
The reason people have written to me about the site is that its name is still propagating, so your nameserver may not know about it yet. If that’s the case, use the IP number, <220.127.116.11>. Once you connect, look for files in the directory:
I hope you find the site useful, and if you come across a file that isn’t present or a new version of something, send me email letting me know where I can retrieve the missing file, and I’ll upload it.
International Distributors — A number of people overseas have asked for details about international distributors and prices and whatnot, and since I know literally nothing about this topic, Hayden whipped up this list for me. I believe the offer they’re talking about is the discount for ordering direct with the magic code of 310D, but if you have any questions, you’ll have to ask Hayden, not me.
Prentice Hall Canada
1870 Birchmount Road
Scarborough, Ontario M1P 2J7
Tel: 1-800-387-5200 (in Ontario region)
1-800-567-3800 (rest of Canada)
[Offer as stated; list price is $37.95]
- AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND, FIJI, PAPUA-NEW GUINEA
Prentice Hall Australia
7 Grosvenor Place
Brookvale, New South Wales 2100
[Offer in Australia as follows: Price $A 49.95 10% discount
off of this list, no shipping charges. All orders to the
attention of Barbara Honor.]
- UNITED KINGDOM, EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST, AFRICA (except South Africa)
Prentice Hall International – UK
Campus 400, Maylands Avenue
Hertfordshire HP2 7EZ England
MCI E-mail ID: 536-2875 ATTN: Mike Walford
[Offer in above countries as follows: Price = 18.50 pounds
Sterling. Will only accept Credit Card or Payment in Advance
orders. All moneys to be in pounds Sterling.]
Prentice Hall Singapore
Block #4, #04-31
Pasir Panjang Road
[Offer as stated, list price unknown.]
Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers
It’s a little less than a year since Apple split Macintosh system software users into two groups, and they’ve done it again. Apple released System 7.1 last October with a new policy requiring users to purchase an upgrade, unless they received the software with a new Macintosh, thus ending their long history of free upgrades for existing users. This time Apple has decided to support two separate levels of System software: a standard version which will still be called "System 7," and a more fully-featured version dubbed "System 7 Pro."
System 7 Pro consists of System 7.1.1 and QuickTime 1.6.1, plus AppleScript 1.0 and PowerTalk 1.0, each of which adds new technology to Apple’s operating system. Finder 7.1.3 and System 7.1.1, which ship with System 7 Pro, exist solely to provide compatibility with AppleScript and PowerTalk, and according to Apple include no other changes.
Apparently, more than 70 applications already support AppleScript’s desktop automation capabilities, including Excel, FileMaker Pro, PageMaker, and QuarkXPress. Through the use of CE Software’s QuicKeys, still more applications can be manipulated with AppleScript. Meanwhile, more than 35 third-party companies have already announced applications that support PowerTalk. Examples include personal gateways that link PowerTalk users to other messaging services, such as voice, fax, paging, and online services; software agents that can be assigned to perform a variety of tasks for users automatically; and team-productivity applications that create custom workflow solutions, such as scheduling, calendaring, and automating approval and document reviews.
Apple believes that most Macintosh users whose computers are on LANs or have modems will want to use System 7 Pro, because of its automation and network collaboration features. Apple claims that about 70 percent of its installed base of eight million System 7 users fall into this "non-stand-alone" category, since their Macs are connected to other computers or communications devices via networks or modems.
"One size fits all" has rarely been true in the computer industry, and Apple has recognized this fact by creating a new track for its system software to follow. By keeping System 7 and System 7 Pro separate, Apple makes it easier for users to leave unneeded software off their computers, thus conserving valuable memory, hard disk storage space, and processor time. The move also allows Apple to raise the bar a few notches and require a higher hardware configuration for the new system software than most Macs have right out of the box. System 7 Pro requires a minimum of 5 MB of RAM (most users will be comfortable with 8 MB or more), and Apple recommends 8 MB of RAM on Macs that will run the PowerShare Collaboration Servers product.
This release may further confuse the System software field slightly, but as a result fewer end users are likely to be confused by their Macs’ initial configuration.
The System 7 Pro Personal Upgrade Kit (item number M0439LL/A) should be available soon from Apple dealers and software resellers. A $50 mail-in rebate will be offered to customers who purchased the System 7.1 Personal Upgrade Kit or System 7.1 Update Kit between 15-Aug-93 and 01-Nov-93, and who also purchase the System 7 Pro Personal Upgrade Kit between 01-Oct-93 and 15-Nov-93.
The dust still hasn’t settled from the recent releases of the Hardware System Update 2.0 and the Software Utility Update 1.0, but Apple last week released a new collection of patches and utilities dubbed "System Update 2.0.1." This collection incorporates enhancements from the two previous versions of Hardware System Update (1.0 and 2.0) and some further enhancements. The new update is for users of System 7.1 and System 7 Pro.
Key in the new collection is Apple HD SC Setup version 7.2.2, which gives more flexibility for formatting large Apple hard disks between 1 GB and 2 GB and provides "significant bug fixes to previous HD drivers." Apple also included Disk First Aid 7.2, the same version released with the Software Utility Update several weeks ago.
A new PowerBook Control Panel (version 7.1.3) and Express Modem software version 1.1.2 enables PowerBook users to use their Express Modem with communications software that lacks Communications Toolbox (CTB) support. AutoRemounter 1.2, which attempts to remount previously mounted network volumes (for PowerBooks other than the 100, 140, 145, and 170), significantly reduces network traffic compared to version 1.0.
The collection also improves the way fonts use memory and includes System Enabler 131 (version 1.0.3) for the PowerBook 160, 165, 165c, and 180 to support 12" monitors and improve reliability.
The software is available on disk for a $10 shipping and handling charge to U.S. customers who call 800/769-2775, extension 6717. It will be included with System 7 Pro upgrade kits and on the hard drives of Macintoshes assembled after this week, and Apple says the software will be available for download from America Online, CompuServe, and AppleLink. It is currently available on <ftp.apple.com> in the directory:
Pythaeus and some MessagePad-pioneering readers have passed along this list of commands and their synonyms supported by the Newton Intelligence system. Many of these aren’t documented, though some are basic Newton functions. You can always write a command, such as "Call Adam," on any Note Pad memo, then tap the Assist button to have it executed. (If you do any correcting along the way, you must select the command before tapping Assist, but if the MessagePad interprets your command correctly on the first try, you can tap Assist as soon as it finishes the interpreting.) Of course, if you write a command on the memo you wish sent, printed, etc., the command will be part of the result! With that in mind, try some of the following:
Written action word — Result
- Call, ring, dial — Dial a phone number
- Fax, fax it — Send the item on your screen as a fax (requires a Newton fax modem)
- Mail, email, mail this, send this — Send the item on your screen as electronic mail
- Print, print it — Print the item on your screen to a printer
- Find, find it, look for, search for, locate, locate it — Search for text
- Remember, remind, remind me, to do, don’t forget to, don’t let me forget, don’t let me forget to do — Add a reminder to your to do list
- Schedule, meet, meet me, see, talk to — Add an appointment to your calendar
- Breakfast — 7 AM (optimistic, isn’t it?)
- Lunch — Noon
- Dinner — 7 PM
- Holiday — Add day note instead of appointment
- Birthday, bday, b-day, anniversary — Day note that repeats annually
- Time, time in, the time in, what time is it, what time is it in, what time, what is the time, what is the time in — Look up the time in another city
It wasn’t my first choice. That’s an odd way to start a review, but I was not planing to purchase a PSI modem. I was, though, planning to leave on a trip and since at the time the other PowerBook modem manufacturer was still promising a release date of Real Soon Now [of course, now there are several internal PowerBook modems to choose from -Adam], I settled for the PSI PowerModem IV (currently about $360 mail order).
Hardware — The PowerModem IV is a 14,400 bps data, 14,400 bps send/receive fax modem with v.32 error correction and v.32bis compression that provide a maximum theoretical throughput of 57,600 bps. [Not that that ever happens in real life. -Adam] The modem uses the standard Hayes AT command set and features auto-negotiation of normal mode connections. Normal mode means that the Mac-modem and modem-modem communications can occurs at different speeds (asynchronous operation). Ideally one can leave the serial port speed alone and let the modems automatically negotiate the highest bps rate and the best error correction. In my experience it wasn’t always that simple.
The modem itself is a single card that installs in the PowerBook modem slot. The modem is entirely internal; the only visible sign of installation is the modular phone plug on the back panel. Installation should be performed by an Apple technician, but if you already know how to void your warranty, have fun.
Software — During my review of the PMIV, the bundled software went through several revisions (and should go through another change by the time you read this). The things that did not change much are the bundled "trial memberships." An America Online membership package (with software) is included, as is a CompuServe membership and mail-in offers for other services. PSI also includes the required CCL files for AppleTalk Remote Access.
The fax software went through a major revision during this time. The modem originally came bundled with FaxSTF. PSI has bought the rights to FaxSTF and re-worked the package into FAXcilitate, which features an extension that adds a Fax menu to the menubar of all applications. All the features of the fax software can be accessed through this menu, though access is also possible by running the individual programs in the package.
In day-to-day use I found FAXcilitate’s menu easier to use than the previous software (which required several different programs and command-key sequences). To send a document, just select Fax from the Fax menu. FAXcilitate then presents an expanded print dialog. The list of fax number entries in the current user phonebook appears in a scrolling field on the left. To select a destination, drag the desired recipient into a field on the right (appropriately marked "Drag Destinations Here!"). If you need to send the document to more than one destination, drag the additional ones over as well (according to the manual, you can enter up to 2,000 destinations, but that seems like overkill). You may then send the fax immediately or delay sending to a later time or date, which is particularly useful for the PowerBook since I often work away from a phone line. Unfortunately, the software isn’t able to wake the PowerBook (except for the PowerBook 100) to send a fax .
I found the software’s performance adequate, though receiving faxes in the background did slow the computer slightly. The software supports viewing (with multiple magnification levels), printing, or forwarding faxes. It also features an OCR engine (licensed from Caere) that can translate faxes into editable text files. I have mixed feelings about the OCR feature. The results were only accurate when the received fax was high resolution, which wasn’t usually the case. Likewise, smaller point sizes tended to reduce the accuracy of the OCR translation. Though it might be useful in a pinch, its day-to-day utility seems dubious.
The modem originally included MicroPhone 1.7 for data communication. Beginning on 01-Jun-93, PSI instead bundles MacIntercomm Lite (MIL), a large improvement over MicroPhone 1.7. MIL supports X, Y, and ZMODEM transfers and features "preemptive" multi-tasking so that the transfers can run in the background even when running CPU-intensive foreground tasks. It supports terminal emulations through VT-102 and has a phonebook that stores the numbers, settings, and ten user-definable macros for each service. The upgrade to the full version of MacIntercomm (which adds a scripting language, VT-220 emulation, and Kermit transfers) costs $49. I won’t trade in my copy of White Knight for MIL, but I would not hesitate to recommend it as someone’s first telecom package.
Support — Technical support was easy to reach via email or toll-free call. The staff was always helpful and prompt with replies. When I called pretending to be completely ignorant of modems, the tech explained several things to try and faxed me a seven-page document that walked me through the setup procedures for connecting to several of the commercial service providers (AOL, CompuServe Information Manager, CompuServe Navigator, Prodigy) and low speed modems inside and outside the U.S. I cannot speak highly enough of this support, especially since I eventually needed it for real.
PSI also maintains a customer BBS and ARA server. The ARA server contains several files useful to modem users (such as a table listing the types of connection adapters required to use a modem in other countries).
Overall — What do I think of the PMIV on the whole? As I said at the beginning of this review, the PSI PowerModem IV was not my first choice for an internal modem. But at the time my first choice was vaporware. So I settled.
Having now stated my bias, YES, the PSI modem works well in both fax and data modes. I am a heavy modem user (three or more hours a day) and have experienced little difficulty connecting to modems from 300 bps to 14,000 bps, long distance and local. The few services I did have difficulties connecting to were older modems/muxes. I fixed the problems by manually setting the speed/protocol in the modem initialization string. It should be noted that I have yet to use a modem that could connect to these services 100 percent of the time without modifying the init string.
Fax results have been equally good. Having fax support built in proved much more addicting than I planned. I find it convenient to type up a quick letter and fax it off when I get near a phone line rather than go hunting for a printer, envelope, and stamp. The faxes I sent also look much better than ones sent from a regular fax machine. In 40 or so sends, I have yet to have a connection problem. Receiving faxes works just as well, though I don’t get many since my PowerBook constitutes a moving target. [I’m jealous – I’ve never had anything but mixed results from fax modems. -Adam]
Problems — What do I dislike? Well, PSI’s quality control seems a bit lax. My first PMIV was dead on arrival and eventually had to be replaced. My first FAXcilitate upgrade came with an incorrect disk. This is obviously only anecdotal data, but I can’t be the only one that these things happen to.
The documentation could use help. The current documentation is by no means bad and is much better than the original documentation. It contains an excellent tutorial and installation/configuration sections, but falls down in the technical details, not even listing the full AT command set. It also fails to mention some of the software’s features at all, such as what the AnyFax engine is. Much of this is addressed by the online documentation included on the installation disk, but online documentation isn’t a good substitute for a printed manual.
Finally the FaxMenu extension conflicts with any extension or control panel that attempts to display the PowerBook’s battery status in the menubar. I tried three different one; all butted heads with FaxMenu. I found no other major extension conflicts, but working without a battery icon is a real bummer when working away from an outlet.
All things considered, I would still recommend the PowerModem IV to anyone looking for an internal PowerBook modem. It performs well and the tech support and bundled software is first rate. PSI also seems to be improving the software on an almost weekly basis. The only question remaining is will you be happy with "only" data and fax when several other manufacturers offer options such as cellular connectivity and voice messaging?
[Yup, I would be. I’m getting more and more into a reality kick, in which I continually ask myself, "Will I really use this feature?" Too many of these new features will be wonderful for a small subset of users, and frills to the rest. On a more serious note, I just received a press release from Supra indicating that they purchased PSI after the Silicon Valley Bank foreclosed on PSI’s secured assets. Supra indicated that they would retain the PSI name and product line along with core PSI personnel. In other words, although the original PSI is gone, customers will theoretically see little or no difference now that Supra has taken over. -Adam]