Novell buys WordPerfect? Yup, and the big news had been the Aldus and Adobe merger, which they managed to keep secret the day of the Power Macintosh intro. We also look briefly at General Magic and grumble about insulting book titles. Mark Anbinder reviews Silicon Casino, a Newton game from Casady & Greene, and Doc Kinne examines the MessagePad 110, the MessagePad’s sequel.
The late-breaking news that we’ve had no time to digest is that today Novell purchased WordPerfect for a whopping $1.4 billion in stock, creating one of the world’s largest software companies. Wow.
In the wake of the Power Macintosh introduction, a friend at Apple wrote to tell us that the company had a Friday beer bash, the first in many weeks, and that the bash was sponsored by IBM and Motorola. Who would have imagined that one day IBM would sponsor Apple parties?
Apologies to Graphisoft Software and Graphsoft, Inc., the publishers of ArchiCAD and MiniCAD, respectively. In our "Power Macintosh Nativeware" article in TidBITS #217 we incorrectly listed both products as being from Graphisoft. Mark pleads our readers’ and the companies’ forgiveness; he was reading from a blurry photocopy of a fax while compiling his list! Thanks to an attentive Vittorio Dell’Aiuto <[email protected]> for living up to his name (which means "help" in Italian) and helping us out!
John Baxter <[email protected]> writes:
I’ve been running my Power Macintosh 8100/80 since setting it up Thursday. My general impression is that everything is fast, but since I’m comparing the new machine with my unaccelerated Macintosh IIci, that’s not surprising. What is surprising is that Eudora grabs mail much faster over my 14,400 bps modem connection using MacPPP. I had assumed that the modem connection was the bottleneck, and it probably is now.
I’ve found only one conflict so far on the Power Macintosh. I back up using Retrospect 2.0Bi (which came bundled with my DAT drive). Retrospect freezes several minutes into a backup run if Virtual Memory is active. I have destroyed two storage sets that way, although I’ve since rebuilt them. Retrospect seems perfectly happy with Virtual Memory turned off, whether or not the Power Mac’s Modern Memory Manager is turned on. [We weren’t able to discuss this with Dantz before deadline but felt that it was worth warning people to prevent backup problems during this week. We hope to have more next issue. Also note that Dantz is working on a PowerPC-native version of Retrospect that will undoubtedly fix any such problems. -Adam]
Dave Peltier <[email protected]> wrote to tell us that the AudioVision adapter cable, necessary to connect a standard Mac monitor cable to a Power Mac’s HDI-45 video port, is not included with every Power Mac as we stated in TidBITS #217. Some checking has revealed that the adapter is included with the Power Macintosh 6100, since that machine has only the single HDI-45 AudioVision video port. The 7100 and 8100 models’ bundled video card offers a standard DB-15 video port, so the adapter is unnecessary for most users.
Erik Speckman <[email protected]> writes:
In TidBITS #217 Mark Anbinder asserts that, instead of advancing the PowerPC architecture, the MPC 603 brings the PowerPC to low cost and low power applications.
This is only half right. The 603 advances the architecture by implementing separate instruction and data caches. It also implements a separate load/store unit, so that memory operations can execute in parallel with integer, floating point, and branch instructions. The 603 may not be the fastest member of the family but I think it looks more like the future of PowerPC than the 601 does.
Don Pickens <[email protected]>, Product Manager for Word for the Macintosh, writes:
In reply to TidBITS #217 on the Power Macintosh launch and Microsoft’s participation:
At the Power Macintosh launch on March 14, Microsoft showed a very powerful demonstration of a solution built in AppleScript using support of AppleScript in the new versions of Word, Microsoft Excel and FoxPro. Clearly, this is a Mac-specific capability. The applications being demonstrated were in fact running on the Power Macintosh and Macintosh, and hence should remove doubt from customers’ minds about the progress we’re making toward shipping these applications this summer. And although we weren’t able to ship by March 14, this is because rather than just porting our current applications to Power Macintosh, Microsoft is developing a whole new generation of applications for both the Mac and Power Mac. Our plans to ship new versions the five products we announced (Microsoft Excel, Word, FoxPro, Works and Office) actually demonstrates a stronger level of long term commitment. And, the minimal demo time we had didn’t allow us to restate or show our already announced support for PowerTalk, QuickDraw GX and other Apple technologies. Although most of the features demonstrated are available in the Windows versions of our products, compatibility across platforms without requiring file conversions has become a prerequisite not only to the majority of our customers who share files with users of other platforms, but also to over two-thirds of Apple’s top customers, as cited in MacWEEK in a January 1994 survey.
Jamie McCarthy <[email protected]> writes:
I just ordered a pair of the Yamaha YST-M10 speakers that Craig O’Donnell mentioned in TidBITS #216. The YST series is Yamaha’s part number for its cables; the first two dealers I talked to were puzzled by that. When I mentioned that I’d read about it in a computer magazine, they guessed correctly that the YST-M10 is a special model for computers that comes with the right cable. Dealers without the latest catalogs from Yamaha might not know this.
More interestingly, I found the speakers advertised in CDW’s catalog (part number CDW 33070) for $89, but they’d lowered the price to $69 plus shipping, which is $30 lower than the next-lowest advertised price that I found.
CDW — 800/906-4CDW
Kyle <[email protected]> writes to tell us that MEI/Micro Center now sells refill kits for HP DeskWriter printer cartridges. It seems that they have figured out how to refill both the original DeskWriter cartridges and the new high-capacity ones, which were previously thought to be good for only one use. I’d recommend calling and checking to make sure you get the right kit for your printer (or you can just ask for a catalog). The kits cost $11.99 each, or $10.99 for two or more, with $0.50 shipping for each one. MEI/Micro Center notes: "APO’s, FPO’s, and Canada add $4.00 additional for shipping. Orders shipped to AK, HI, VI, GU and PR, please call Customer Service (toll-free 800/634-3478). We cannot ship orders outside of the U.S. and Canada." Apologies to our overseas readers.
MEI/Micro Center — 800/634-3478 — 614/486-6417 (fax)
In the shocking news of the week, two of the 600 pound gorilla companies of the Macintosh market announced a plan to merge. That’s right, Aldus and Adobe agreed to become one and the same, dependent on the agreement of the shareholders at meetings in July. What with all the mergers failing these days, there’s room for this one to fall through as well, and the merger is subject to numerous conditions, with each company paying a break-up fee if those conditions aren’t met. Talk about a pre-nuptial agreement!
The company that emerges from the combination will be worth more than $500 million, and there was some fabulous corporate-speak about how the merger would take place. John Warnock, CEO of Adobe and future CEO of the new company, said it best with, "We are committed to achieving the cost savings necessary to make this transaction non-dilutive in the first full year of the combined operations." Hmm?
Chuck Geschke, president of Adobe, will retain his post at the new company, and Paul Brainerd, CEO of Aldus, will serve on the board of the new company. The propaganda claimed that the new company would maintain existing Adobe and Aldus facilities in Mountain View, California and in Seattle, Washington. It also claimed that all major products from both Adobe and Aldus would continue to be marketed and supported.
The press release contained the usual platitudes about how the merger makes sense technologically and financially, but some questions do arise. Perhaps the most interesting question concerns FreeHand and Illustrator, two leading PostScript design and illustration programs. Although Deneba’s Canvas sort of fits into the same category, most graphic designers I know use FreeHand or Illustrator, or both, depending on the job at hand. The new company may find it difficult to market two such closely competing programs without in some way differentiating them. The companies have also used competition to push advances in interface and features, each attempting to leapfrog the other. Will that disappear once they’re on the same side? And how will Aldus’s other two graphics programs, SuperPaint and the extremely neat IntelliDraw, fare after the merger?
The other question the merger raises relates to Aldus’s other major competitor, Quark. Although PageMaker and QuarkXPress both have adherents, QuarkXPress has apparently done extremely well in taking market share from PageMaker over the years, resulting in a program of choice for many high-end publishers. (And please, no PageMaker versus QuarkXPress arguments!) How might the merger affect competition with Quark? Might it suddenly become easier to work with Illustrator and Photoshop files in PageMaker? Will Quark react to the merger in any way?
On a more general note, the rash of mergers concerns me, what with Aldus and Adobe merging, Electronic Arts and Broderbund merging, and Symantec buying any utility developer that moves (rumors in MacWEEK put Central Point Software next on Symantec’s acquisition list, which isn’t surprising since Symantec bought Norton and combined the best of Norton and Symantec Utilities for Macintosh, so why not add in the best of MacTools as well?). I don’t like the feel of these mega-mergers. Perhaps that’s my bias toward the small developer who can come up with something that would never see the light of day at a large company because it doesn’t fit into a strategic direction. Or perhaps I like to see competition, and it’s hard to have much competition when game has only a few players. Or, maybe the computer industry is starting to feel like major league baseball, in which millionaire players and millionaire owners whine about how they’re not making enough money and get no sympathy from anyone. There just aren’t as many companies to root for as there used to be.
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
Early Newton technology adopters have paid quite a bit of money for the distinction of owning a Newton. The opportunity to spend more money seems a scary one! Not this time; Casady & Greene’s Silicon Casino software lets Newton owners win or lose "fake money" (and even borrow more as needed) through a series of fun casino-style games.
"Silicon Casino," which works just fine on the new MessagePad 110 as well as the MessagePad 100 and, for lack of a better name, "MessagePad Classic," includes blackjack, baccarat, craps, poker, and slot machines in its gaming room, which is conveniently laid out around the MessagePad screen. When the user selects a particular game, the display switches to a closer view.
The graphics are naturally neither as colorful nor as detailed as some Macintosh casino or card software, because of the small, monochrome MessagePad screen. For users in need of a quick diversion, though, the fancy graphics won’t be missed.
Despite the relatively simple graphics, this is a complex program. It includes lots of sound (which can be disabled at the user’s option) and clear explanations of each game’s rules. As a result, the program takes up almost 600K of user memory space, and won’t fit in a MessagePad without an extra PCMCIA RAM card. (Not even the MessagePad 110 has that much available user space.) The package includes both Macintosh and DOS formatted floppies, from which users may download the program to their Newton using the Mac or Windows Newton Connection Kit or the free Newton Package Downloader.
Silicon Casino takes advantage of the Newton user interface, allowing the user to drag coins and cards about with the stylus, but allows shortcuts in many situations for those who tire of the clever dragging metaphor.
Just as a MessagePad is a one-user device, Silicon Casino is designed to be a one-player game. Once you start playing, you can never "start over" with no debt and a good chunk of money. If you fall behind, you must borrow money to bankroll yourself until you’re back on your feet.
The single-user philosophy explains Casady & Greene’s copy protection as well. The company explains that it has tried to protect its software from piracy in as unobtrusive a manner as possible, and we believe they’ve succeeded. Users must enter the software’s serial number the first time they run the program on a given MessagePad, and never need to again, if they use it on the same MessagePad. Fair enough.
Silicon Casino is available through Apple’s StarCore distribution group, and retails for $59.95.
Casady & Greene — 800/359-4920 — 408/494-9228 —
I attended a talk by General Magic’s CEO, Marc Porat, a few weeks back, and although I’m not sure I’ve fully assimilated everything he said, I came away with one important realization – General Magic has the right idea. Their focus is on people, not technogizmos, an idea that far too few developers understand. Marc said that General Magic’s design axiom is "Never do anything to damage the self-esteem of the customer." If you’re a developer, please repeat that statement a few time every night before you go to bed.
The same applies to the Internet, which is one of the reasons I constantly push for SLIP or PPP access – I won’t pretend that the current graphical interfaces to the Internet are ideal, but they sure beat the more-powerful Unix programs in terms of making it possible for people to interact on the Internet without damaging self-esteem.
I don’t want to say too much about General Magic, in large part because although they’ve announced their two main technologies, Magic Cap and Telescript, there’s nothing but smoke and mirrors for likes of me to see. In short then, Magic Cap is an operating environment that presents a virtual world that maps more directly to the real world. That’s a mediocre description, but until I can play with it, it’s the best I can do. Conversations with others indicate that the interface, although it looks cartoonish and oriented to the novice, is quite deep. A friend told me how you can jump directly to any place within the world (in other words, you need not map real-world travel time into the virtual world) and how you can completely customize the environment. Those features will appeal to current sophisticated users. Young novice users (say, under 25) might not think of it in the same way, but having grown up with video games from the Atari 2600 to Nintendo and Sega, the concept of acting within a virtual world should be simple. The people I fear might have trouble with the Magic Cap interface are members of the generation that predates video games and who also haven’t used computers. I’m not saying that Magic Cap will be harder than anything else, and in fact it will probably be easier, but the world view necessary for certain types of human-computer interactions simply won’t exist for those people. Oh, and yes, there will be a version of Magic Cap for the Macintosh, although Apple has apparently grown a bit distant from General Magic because of the Newton, which doesn’t use Magic Cap and which will compete with the personal intelligent communicators from General Magic partners such as Sony, Phillips, and Matsushita.
Telescript is more obvious, more necessary and less likely to succeed than Magic Cap. Like PostScript, Telescript is a language, but more importantly, it’s an agent technology that enables intelligent agents to roam the networks seeking to fulfill your requests, which might range from a simple piece of information like a telephone number to a set of concert tickets to a little-known performer who only comes through town once every few years. The problem Telescript faces, as I understand it, is that everything must be rewritten to support it, and that’s never a popular requirement.
Telescript includes the concept of Teleclicks, electronic money that agents can spend according to your directions. Everything uses authentication technology to ensure the legitimacy of agents and to trace transactions back to the person who must convert Teleclicks into hard cash.
General Magic is realistic about the technology, and cautions that it could take ten or more years to catch on, starting in the second half of this year. Their two most dubious parts are the emphasis on electronic merchants, when, by their own admission, we as a society know nothing about electronic merchandising, and the use of interactive television as one of the main Magic Cap interfaces to the world, when pretty much every interactive television project has been a complete flop. People stare at televisions; they don’t interact with them. That might change, but I don’t see it happening soon.
Criticisms aside, General Magic has the right idea in focusing on people and doing nothing to damage a customer’s self-esteem. Products will appear and should be interesting to see, but if the industry can get its collective head around the concept of people, General Magic will have made its mark.
I spend a fair amount of time in the computer sections of bookstores these days, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. The trendy titles all insult the reader. There’s a whole slew of Books for Dummies, and there are almost as many of another line called something like the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Whatever. These books obviously sell well, since publishers don’t continue to release books in a line if the line sells badly, and in fact, I presume that many of the books are quite good despite the fact that they seem to target an audience of simpletons. David Pogue, author of "Macs for Dummies," qualifies as a talented and technically-savvy writer and I love his "Macworld Macintosh Secrets" book, which never implies its readers are blockheads.
But the titles make me cringe inside. I suspect these books sell because they feed the low self-esteem of the readers, and misery loves not only company, but confirmation. Implying the reader is a half-wit may make money, but is it a good thing? For the publisher sure, but for the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of readers, most of whom certainly aren’t numskulls? Not a chance. It’s a bit like putting a big sign on the wall above your computer saying "Have I mentioned how abysmally imbecilic I am today?" That’s what a line of these titles on a bookshelf says to me, and I suspect that it may speak similarly to others. I can’t imagine it would be a good thing to have your boss, for instance, subscribing an opinion of you based on your collection of Books for Boneheads.
I don’t know the details of how my car’s engine works either, but I don’t fret over that or go looking for a book called "Cars for Cretins." There’s no shame in consulting a manual or a book (although I’d argue that if the programmers couldn’t write it well enough that you can use most features without consulting the manual, they should be ashamed). Consulting a book is like talking to a teacher, but few teachers start conversations with, "You’re an idiot, what do you want to know?"
Why don’t we see books whose titles, as General Magic’s design axiom states, "do nothing to lower the self-esteem of the user?" A friend suggested "I’m OK, Click OK" or "Conversations with Your Mac’s Inner Child." I’m being flip, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with clearly targeting a book toward novices without insulting them.
The rationale behind these titles is that the programs make the user feel like a dumbbell, and although that may be true, I don’t buy it as a justification. I’d argue that the titles should focus on the program, not the user, as in "Beating GinsuWrite 6.0 Into Submission" or "Dominating DTPMaker."
Apple introduced Newton MessagePad 110 in early March, and it was immediately picked up and put through its paces by an eager contingent of Newton fans. The Classic Newton could be seen as the 128K Mac of the line; Apple’s first different machine of the 90s. Carrying this analogy further it could be said that the MessagePad 110 is the Newton’s "Fat Mac."
I’ve only had my MessagePad 110 for a few days and never did own an original, although I managed to play with one for over a half hour when they were introduced in Boston last August. Let me try to make some comparisons.
The first difference you notice on looking at the 110 is the new form factor. I think the MessagePad 110 looks better than the Classic MessagePad, since the longer look gives it a greater sense of professionalism. The Classic MessagePad in comparison looks slightly stocky. While the slimming seems minimal on paper, it becomes more important once the MessagePad 110 is in the hand, especially for people with small hands like mine. I found it difficult to hold the Classic MessagePad, but the new 110 is quite good in this regard.
The other great physical difference is the addition of the screen cover. The screen cover enables you to carry around the MessagePad without the screen getting dirty. Several people have complained that starting the MessagePad now takes an extra step, but since the cover folds out of the way and attaches to the back of the MessagePad when open, simply leave it open to avoid the extra step.
The 110’s pen changed for the better as well. Instead of the triangular plastic pen, we have a round aluminum pen. It’s heftier and feels like a real pen; so real, in fact, that there have been two incidents when I picked up an actual pen and tried to use it on my MessagePad, not realizing the difference until too late! The pen now lives along the top of the MessagePad in a way that preserves the form of the unit on both sides.
Upon turning on the new MessagePad you’ll find everything looks exactly like it did with the Classic MessagePad. However, if you go into Memory Preferences, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the much larger piece of real estate.
A few months before the Boston unveiling of the Classic MessagePad I saw demonstration of one of IBM’s pen-based unit’s handwriting recognition. I left the demo with my mind screaming, "This still belongs in a lab!" I’d never been so disappointed with a demonstration. With this background, I was skeptical about the MessagePad’s handwriting recognition. Although the Classic MessagePad’s recognition is an order of magnitude better than that IBM demo, it is still difficult. I was as pleasantly surprised by the improvement Apple made with the MessagePad 110’s handwriting recognition as I was about the Classic’s over the IBM demo. However, it’s still not perfect. MessagePad fans are correct when they say that the Newton takes some training. This was graphically demonstrated to me in inputting my names file. My MessagePad simply didn’t like "NY," but after a few tries it now gets it over 90 percent of the time.
My most pleasant surprise with the new MessagePad 110 came with its power management. In comparison to the MessagePad 110, the Classic MessagePad is a power hog! I’ve had my MessagePad four days now. During that time, I’ve engaged in an inordinate amount of data entry and general playing. Even after all that usage time I’m still at a 50 percent battery level using alkalines!
The smaller screen could be a problem, since some applications use a hardwired screen size, resulting in off-screen elements on the 110’s smaller screen. I’ve tried a couple of applications that seem to be affected by this problem, but so far, all the needed buttons are at least part way on-screen, so the applications are still usable if you can figure out what the obscured buttons do.
Interestingly, the MessagePad 110 has another compatibility problem beyond the screen size. One of the "Easter eggs" of the Classic MessagePad is its ability to inform you of the temperature if you hold your pen on the clock icon. The Classic MessagePad uses a temperature sensor to regulate the screen’s contrast via software as the ambient temperature fluctuates. The MessagePad 110 includes a dial to regulate screen contrast, so the temperature sensor no longer exists and software that took advantage of the sensor will not work.
Have there been any disappointments? Realistically, I have a couple. The MessagePad supposedly can dial a phone via DTMF tones sent out of the speaker, but so far, I can’t make the feature work. The screen is the part of the MessagePad most in need of improvement. Apple must also find a way to apply a non-glare coating to the screen. The type of screen Apple uses is fine for small screens such as those on watches, but is totally inappropriate for a non-backlit screen of this size. Also, the MessagePad 110’s letters appear to "shadow" more than on the Classic MessagePad, which makes them more difficult to read in the wrong light.
So what is the final analysis? Although the MessagePad 110 is a great improvement in nearly all things Newton, at this point it still is, as one of my friends so eloquently puts it, the ultimate "geek toy." There are more cost-effective ways of accomplishing what the Newton MessagePad was designed to do, even if they aren’t as much fun. Even so, the 110 demonstrates Apple’s continued support of a line and a technology of the future. We must look at the MessagePad 110 as the Fat Mac of the Newton line – the second generation but still far from the ideal. Its users will be the chip pioneers of the last decade of the 20th century, but the average person won’t buy one for another few years. Am I sorry I bought it? No way! It has already caused the same stir on my campus that my PowerBook did a year ago. In the final analysis, you probably can find a more cost effective way to do what the MessagePad does, but if you want to spend the money, grab a piece of history while you can. The early MessagePads will be something to tell the grandchildren about!