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Welcome to our two hundredth issue! News this week includes a POP mail client for the Newton, the release of Aladdin’s SITcomm communications program, a better PageMaker tip, and details on the new SuperDrive. We also have a report on the Seybold publishing conference in San Francisco, reader comments on the Handeze gloves (including non-800 numbers for overseas readers), and news of a chilling legal decision for RSI sufferers in Britain.

Adam Engst No comments


Knoware, a Macintosh Internet provider in the Netherlands, has created a prototype of a simple POP (Post Office Protocol) client for the Newton, according to Merik Voswinkel of Knoware. Although Apple’s NewtonMail has access to the Internet, many Newton users want direct access to their Internet email, which is often accessible via a POP server running on a Unix host. Although Knoware isn’t yet sure if they will complete their Newton POP client, they stated that if not, they would release it to the net for someone else to finish. Steve Dorner has said that he isn’t working on a Newton version of the popular Eudora, a POP and SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol – for sending email) client for the Mac.

Knoware — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

SITcomm shipped

SITcomm shipped last week, marking Aladdin Systems’ first foray into the communications market after years of concentrating on utility programs. SITcomm’s claims to fame are ease of use, automatic handling of logins to many different types of systems, automatic expansion and compression of files using StuffIt technology, and translation of files from non-Macintosh formats using StuffIt translators. Even better, SITcomm is scriptable and recordable with AppleScript or Frontier. Elegance abounds, from a battery-saving design for PowerBook users to one of the first available ZMODEM tools for Apple’s Communications Toolbox. SITcomm requires System 7 and 2 MB of RAM and lists for $120, although you can buy it for $39 if you own another Aladdin product or for $49 if you own a competing communications program.

Aladdin — 408/761-6200 — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Alan Stearns

Alan Stearns <[email protected]> writes:

Thanks for the write-up of the tracking changes in PageMaker 5.0. We did receive some feedback that tracking was too tight in earlier versions, so now all five tracks are slightly looser than they used to be – not just Normal and Very tight.

Your workaround of adding manual range kerning may work in some cases, but it doesn’t take you back to the original letter spacing of a 4.0 or 4.2 document. And, if your file has many different stories with the old tracking applied, it can become time consuming. (Also, there is no way to do a "half-tap." You can only kern in increments of .01 em).

My own workaround is less drastic than the one you see in the Getting Started manual. I assume you’d want to use the new tracking values in your new work, and merely want to keep your old documents from changing when you convert them. This workaround makes use of the fact that PageMaker looks for the tracking values file in the document’s folder first, and then looks in the Aldus folder if it can’t find a local file. (This is why when you choose to save with "All files for remote printing," PageMaker makes a copy of the tracking values file in the document folder.)

Make a "Convert" folder somewhere where you keep your old documents. Then make a copy of the old Kern Tracks file and put it in the Convert folder, renaming it to "Tracking Values." Now, whenever you want to convert an old document to 5.0, move it to the Convert folder and open it from there. All documents residing in the Convert folder will use the old tracking values, and everything else will use the new tracking values that reside in the Aldus folder.

Adam Engst No comments

New SuperDrive

I briefly mentioned that my new Centris 660AV came with the new SuperDrive that doesn’t do automatic inject, as the older SuperDrives did. In that respect the drive is more like the floppy drives on the PowerBooks. However, I find the ergonomics of the PowerBook drives better because the PowerBook drives are located on the side, making for an easier motion than pushing a disk in from the front.

Either way, it’s not a big deal, and the new floppy drives do have one nice feature not shared by the older floppies. A major problem experienced by older Macs is that the floppy drive slot is used for ventilation, and the airflow through the drive slot resulted in dirty drives. The new SuperDrives sport a protective dust cover that should reduce the amount of garbage inside the floppy drive. The new drive is slightly larger than the old ones, so Macs require new front panels to accommodate the new drive. These panels resemble nothing so much as a pair of puckered lips, but the important fact is that you can’t mix and match the old and new SuperDrives.

Apple claims that the new SuperDrives are functionally and electrically the same as the old ones (other than the manual inject and the dust cover), but Apple’s rationale for switching is that Apple can more easily source the new drives, which means that the company can go to different suppliers to buy them, thus reducing the price and ensuring a constant supply. In theory this means Macs will cost less, but in fact it’s more likely that Apple or the channel will absorb the difference in the ever-shrinking margins. Current model Macs made as of September, and all new Macs, will incorporate the new floppy drive.

— Information from:
Apple propaganda

Adam Engst No comments

Two Hundred Issues?

I’m astonished. Two hundred issues is a lot, and I had no idea we would reach this mark, not because I ever planned to stop publishing TidBITS, but because I seldom think about the future in that respect. The anniversary prompted me instead to think about the past, and had I been able to scrape up the time, I would have written an abbreviated history of TidBITS for those of you who haven’t been reading since April of 1990. Time is in ever-dwindling supply, it so often seems, and instead of poring over back issues to pull out our most successful stories and the most embarrassing mistakes, I’ve decided to publicly thank some of the people who have made publishing an issue of TidBITS almost every week for over three years a true pleasure. In the process, I’ll tell you a bit about each person so you know more about the people whose text you frequently see.

Tonya Engst deserves the most credit, of course, because even though she only writes articles on occasion, she reads and edits every issue of TidBITS, tightening my prose and often catching the stupidities and infelicities that creep into anything that must perforce be written quickly. Tonya has a degree from Cornell University in Communication, with a minor in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.

Mark H. Anbinder, our ever-vigilant News Editor, has devoted an incredible amount of time to TidBITS over the last three years as well. Although Mark graduated from Cornell (with a degree in Linguistics, I believe) the same year Tonya and I did, we became friends afterwards, when he was doing technical support for BAKA Computers, the main Apple dealer in Ithaca, a medium-sized town in New York State, and home of Cornell University. Mark has been the president of MUGWUMP, the Macintosh Users Group in Ithaca, for several years now, and also runs a FirstClass BBS called Memory Alpha.

Matt Neuburg has graced our screens over the past few years with long and insightful reviews of word processors, outliners, and hypertext editors. Matt is currently a professor of Classics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, but we met when he taught Greek Composition at Cornell, the class that I rank above any other in terms of helping me as a writer. (Greek is a verb-based language, whereas English is a noun-based language, so to translate from English into Greek, you have to determine the meaning of the sentence to express the concepts in Greek.) As I’m sure you’ve noticed from his reviews, Matt is an excellent teacher and writer, and I owe him thanks for help with TidBITS and during my years at Cornell.

Ian Feldman created the setext format that we introduced to the world in TidBITS #100, and he has provided megabytes of comments and discussion on TidBITS, electronic publishing, and the nets in general. Ian is a master of ASCII formatting, and that skill shows through in some of the articles he’s written or formatted for us. Frankly, it’s a unclear what Ian does, although he’s continually bombing off on long bike trips in Northern Europe.

Akif Eyler of Bilkent University in Turkey wrote Easy View, the excellent text browser that enables readers to easily skim through issues of TidBITS and other structured text files. Without Easy View, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to refer to past issues of TidBITS stored on your Mac.

Mark Williamson of Rice University set up and has maintained the TidBITS mailing list on Rice’s LISTSERV for about a year and a half now. His efforts have made TidBITS available to many people who could not otherwise retrieve issues each week. Mark also maintains the Info-Mac list at the same site, and his dedication behind the scenes deserves recognition. Thanks are also due to the kind folks at Rice who allow their machines and networks to be used for the good of the Macintosh net community.

Ephraim Vishniac of Thinking Machines created a WAIS source for TidBITS that makes it easy for Internet users around the world to use the power of WAIS to search all of our back issues. Within weeks of creating the macintosh-tidbits.src, it was being searched over 300 times a day. I wonder what it’s up to now.

Pythaeus, our own voice of the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, has continuously gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide hitherto unknown information about every topic under the Macintosh sun. You know who you are.

Scores of others have helped along the way as well, and the number of people and the ways in which they have helped are too numerous to mention here (or I’ll have written that history after all). Nevertheless, you too know who you are, and please consider this a personal thank you to each and every one of you. I never intended to monopolize TidBITS each week, since I don’t pretend to be an expert on everything, and the addition of expert voices from around the net and around the world vastly improves our content.

Adam Engst No comments

RSI & Handeze Gloves

My article on the Handeze gloves in TidBITS #199 provoked a number of comments and questions, the most common of which was a request for a non-800 number for Dome Publishing. Sorry about that – I realized I didn’t have the non-800 number too late in the day. The numbers are:

Dome — 800/432-4352 — 401/738-7900 — 401/732-5377 (fax)

I received some comments from a doctor concerning the use of heat and cold in healing. The general guidelines seem to be that cold is useful in the first 48 hours after an acute injury, since it decreases the amount of bleeding into the injured area. Heat, in contrast, increases circulation, which aids healing by providing the white blood cells needed to clean up the cellular debris and by providing the nutrients, oxygen, and raw materials needed to repair the damage.

Several people noted in reference to the strange four-hole design of the gloves that in playing certain instruments like piano and guitar, beginners are encouraged to increase the strength and independence of the third and fourth fingers (middle and ring fingers) which perhaps indicates that the design was created to provide extra support for a vulnerable tendon in that area.

Rick Holzgrafe <[email protected]> commented that you might be able to find the gloves more cheaply at crafts stores that specialize in hobbies like knitting, sewing and needlepoint, since people who participate in such tasks often suffer from RSI as well.

Angus McIntyre <[email protected]> and Fearghas McKay <[email protected]> wrote to say that the British legal establishment, in the person of Judge John Prosser, has ruled that RSI is "meaningless" and has "no place in the medical books." The ruling came down in a case involving a Reuters desk editor suffering from "upper limb disorder." It appears that the editor’s doctor wasn’t a particularly confident or sure witness, in contrast with two experts called by Reuters who claimed that RSI has "no medically recognised symptoms which could be put down to a physical condition."

Excuse me? Just because medical science doesn’t fully understand why millions of people around the world are suffering tremendous pain from repetitive motions doesn’t mean that they’re all hallucinating, or as in the case of the desk editor (according to Judge Prosser), suffering from a "lack of confidence in his ability and feelings of being watched and even victimised by his colleagues at work." I agree that medical science doesn’t understand RSI completely, based on my research into the subject last winter, but the pain is all too real. I doubt a doctor could discover a pathology for blind justice either. Medical science also doesn’t know entirely how aspirin works, but you may have trouble finding a doctor who won’t prescribe it because of that minor failing. If problems that have no medically recognized symptoms have no place in the medical books then everyone suffering from psychological problems should just stop whining and get on with their lives. That’s sarcasm, for anyone reading too quickly to notice.

Rumor has it that the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is considering an appeal of the case, and the NUJ has some seventy similar cases pending that could be in jeopardy if this ruling stands. Other groups, including professors, physicians, physiotherapists, and the British Chiropractors Association, have come out against the ruling, which, incidentally, applies only to England and Wales, not to Scotland (and presumably Ireland), since Scotland has its own legal system.

From various reports, Judge Prosser has something of a reputation for having his decisions overturned. According to an article in the Independent, in February he freed a 15-year old accused rapist and ordered him to pay 500 pounds to the victim so she could have "a good holiday." The successful appeal replaced the fine with a sentence of two years detention. Perhaps the good judge will start suffering from a little gavel elbow as his courtroom becomes increasingly full of angry RSI-sufferers.

If the consequences of the ruling weren’t so tragic, the whole thing would be funny in a sick way. Some rulings have been more successful, with several recent cases involving an electronics worker and workers in a turkey factory (assembling turkeys is very repetitive, I guess). The Trade Union Congress estimates that 100,000 people in the U.K. suffer from RSI, and we can only hope that some of the RSI cases still to come before the courts will be favorably received.

Jeff Veen No comments

Seybold SF Pushes Publishing Even Farther

[email protected]

Conferences have a way of splitting their attendees into two groups, and the Seybold San Francisco Expo was no exception. In the conference rooms, executives and managers hypothesized on the future of publishing, debating standards for electronic document distribution and high-fidelity color halftone screens. But on the floor, dashing from display to display, were the users. The users work in the trenches, pushing the machines and software everyday – for hours and hours – and they wanted a peek at their future. They wanted to see the products that could make their work easier, more productive, and more creative.

A number of vendors offered faster imagesetters with an increasing number of features. Others lauded direct-to-plate printing from the desktop for short-run color printing jobs. But the most excitement focused on none other than the Macintosh and related products. It’s refreshing to see that our beloved machine still has a stronghold in the publishing industry.

Of interest mainly to publishers were a number of companies offering high-end solutions to age-old printing problems. It seemed that at almost every second booth, another software firm offered WYSIWYG trapping applications (programs that deal with the interface between colors on a printed page). On-screen imposition programs were quite popular as well. [Imposition programs print multiple pages of a publication on a single piece of film in the proper sequence and orientation for going directly to the press to facilitate final folding and bindery, bypassing the film stripping process, which involves pasting individual pieces of film onto another piece of paper. -Adam] But all eyes continuously turned to graphics and design applications.

Instant Images — The obligatory new product buzz was alive and well at Seybold. The honor fell this time on HSC Software with their announcement of Live Picture, a product that promises to change the way we edit images. The $3,495 software package is similar in concept to Adobe Photoshop but with a marked difference: you don’t touch the image.

When you open an image in Live Picture, the program creates a mathematical representation of the data. This process, known as FITS Technology (Functional Interpolating Transformation System), allows real-time editing and correction of any size image. HSC Chairman and CEO John Wilczak proved the power of the software during live demonstrations throughout the conference. Using a stock Quadra 840AV, Wilczak opened a 150 MB file, resized it three times, rotated it twice, and adjusted the contrast – all in less than 15 seconds. He then zoomed into the image more than a dozen times (instantly) and edited the shape of individual pixels to prove his point: there is no data here.

Once you manipulate the image into a finished product, the real work begins. Since the changes have been made only virtually, saving your work can take some serious time – from a couple of minutes to a few hours, depending on how drastically you altered the image – since Live Picture must now update the data file. Once it completes the calculations; however, you have a finished product and something called a FITS file. This file, containing only the changes you made to the mathematical model, can then be compressed and sent to a client, who can apply it to her copy of the original image. This means that instead of sending a SyQuest cartridge overnight, you send the changes via modem in ten minutes.

The importance of Live Picture was immediately obvious. Now, when editing high-resolution images on the Mac, the focus can be placed entirely on the creative process. No more waiting for screen redraws and filters to calculate. A designer can experiment with many different choices and still meet his deadline.

Of course, this means little to the majority of Mac users who can’t shell out over three grand for an application, not to mention that the program needs a Quadra with 32 MB of RAM. But it is the first step in a new direction and competitors will most likely follow suit with similar technologies.

The technology for Live Picture was developed by Paris-based FITS Imaging and is being ported to the Mac by HSC, who hope to have the product shipping early next year. The company offered an early adoption program, where professional users could help beta test the program. As awed audience members lined up after the demo, Wilczak said he had sold nearly $100,000 worth of Live Image by the third day of the conference [which is actually only about 30 copies… -Tonya].

Freedom for FreeHand — Aldus pushed the illustration software envelope a bit further by announcing FreeHand 4.0. The program boasts a completely overhauled interface including an "Inspector palette." This new feature will come as a blessing to those previously frustrated with the way the program buried many of its most powerful commands under layers of dialog boxes. Now, you can access everything from page size to text formatting to measurements from one central location.

The new version offers drag & drop transfer of colors and gradients between palettes and objects as well as between different palettes themselves. The text handling features of the program have been greatly improved as well, including – finally – the ability to enter text directly on the screen. New kerning controls, column features, and text wrap options have been added to make you wonder why you even need PageMaker.

The upgrade will be available by Christmas and will cost $150 no matter what version of FreeHand you currently use.

XPressing Apologies — Quark busily hyped XPress for Windows during the conference but had little to say about version 3.3 for the Macintosh. Expected to ship soon, the new version comes only weeks after XPress 3.2 hit the shelves. Quark explained that they rushed version 3.2 so it would coincide with the release of the Windows version, ensuring immediate cross-platform compatibility. The update to 3.3 will include additional features planned for 3.2 but not included when it shipped. Quark will concurrently release both the Macintosh and Windows upgrades of the program.

In the continuing melee between XPress and PageMaker, Quark continues to both push ahead and catch up, offering a number of new features to the package. Mimicking a new addition to PageMaker, XPress will now recognize colors in an imported EPS image. Text boxes will act like picture boxes, offering any number of variable shapes. The document layout palette, which Quark modified in version 3.2 to the horror of many users, has been "enhanced," meaning that it will most likely look more like it used to.

The upgrade will be free to 3.2 users; $195 for everyone else.

News from the Top — Apple’s display hummed with talk of the Power PC. The new machines were there, too, but you couldn’t see them. A number of demos were running, but each consisted of a monitor and a mouse with cables running behind the scenes. One showed a 486 based PC displaying a fractal-rendering program. Next to it was a Power PC-based machine drawing 20 to 30 of the same fractal in the same time. [Hmm, that’s the same demo Apple showed at Macworld Boston. -Adam]

Apple showed off its new QuickDraw GX, which features desktop printer icons for drag & drop printing and queue viewing. A new print dialog box offers different page sizes for different pages in a document as well as printer selection without going to the Chooser. Text attributes have been revamped from the old bold/italic/shadow/outline days to include a slider for tracking, a pop-up menu for special characters like swash caps, and Multiple Master-like scaling of width and weight. QuickDraw GX will also ship with "smart fonts" that automatically space and weight individual characters based on their size and placement in a particular word.

Apple’s two recently-released LaserWriters gathered a lot of attention, in great part due to their Postscript fax options. Apple will offer an internal modem for both the LaserWriter Pro 810 and Select 360 that will enable anyone on a network to send a high-quality fax as simply as printing the document. The 810 stands as a monolith to printers with three paper trays, 800 dpi, and a 20 page-per-minute print speed. The 360 offers two paper trays, 600 dpi , and 10 pages per minute. Both printers are based on a RISC processor and run Postscript Level 2.

After the Storm — If a trend were to be found at Seybold San Francisco, it was the shift in power from hardware to software. It was obvious that programs will soon offer new techniques that leave processing for later and put creativity first. With virtual editing just around the corner and scripting of repetitive tasks already in place, we may soon find that we no longer wait for our machines to catch up to what we see in our minds. Look for a wide application of these concepts, and start looking for them soon.

HSC Software — 310/392-8441 — 310/392-6015 (fax)
[email protected][email protected]
Aldus Corp. — 206/628-2320
Quark Inc. — 800/788-7835
Apple Computer — 408/966-1010