This week we examine Novell’s purchase of WordPerfect more closely, announce the latest version of Easy View along with Unix and Windows versions, and take a look at new Quantum drives and reports that they may be in short supply. Mark Anbinder reviews the sad state of fax software for the Power Macs, and Brian Kendig gazes into the future of Apple’s system software.
Paul Durrant <[email protected]> and Steve Dobbs <[email protected]> note that the slightly smaller screen in the MessagePad 110 is not a problem, as mentioned in TidBITS #218, but in fact an excellent reminder to developers to check for screen size at runtime rather than assuming a certain size. As Paul says, "Taking advantage of the capability to write flexible software is good for the user, whose software doesn’t break, and for the developer, who doesn’t have to rush out tweaked versions."
Cliff Miller <[email protected]> of Pacific HiTech comments on Info-Mac that they have remastered the Info-Mac 3 CD-ROM to work around a conflict between the premastering software and NEC driver software. If you have the Info-Mac 3 CD-ROM and an incompatible driver, contact Pacific HiTech for a free replacement of the CD.
Pacific HiTech — 801/278-2042 — 801/278-2666 (fax) — [email protected]
Hard drive maker Quantum Corp. has introduced several new lines of drives, including the intriguing Grand Prix 4280 and 2140, which are 4.2 GB and 2.1 GB drives designed for multimedia applications. Despite their speed (7,200 rpm, 8.6 millisecond access time, and 7.3 MB per second sustained transfer rates), the drives are expected to have reasonable prices in the $2,500 and $1,650 range. Less expensive is the smaller Lightning line, which includes drives ranging in size from 365 MB to 730 MB and spinning at 4,500 rpm. That speed results in access times around 11 milliseconds, and prices should range from $315 to $599. Bringing up the bottom of the Quantum pack will be the inexpensive Maverick drives in 270 MB and 540 MB sizes, costing $265 and $489. The Mavericks are somewhat slower than the Lightning line, with spindle speeds of 3,600 rpm and access times around 14 milliseconds.
Unfortunately, you may have trouble getting your hands on some of these new drives, along with Quantum’s existing drives. Rumor has it that Apple has exercised an option to purchase almost all of Quantum’s drives for the next three months, and has another option it can exercise for three months after that. Thus, hard drive vendors may not be able to get their hands on Quantum drives quickly or in any quantity for the next three to six months, and we all recognize the roof that prices go through when demand outstrips supply. So, my advice is that if you’re considering buying a Quantum hard drive, make sure first that it’s in stock and can be shipped immediately, since orders may take forever to fill, and second, that the price is competitive with drives from other manufacturers, including Seagate, Micropolis, and Maxtor, among others.
In my experience, most drives are approximately equal in reliability (I’m talking here about the actual drive, not the case and power supply, etc.), so two of the other variables to check on are the throughput as it matches to your Mac and the noise of the drive. Different Macs have different SCSI speeds, and if you’ve got an SE/30, it doesn’t really matter how fast your drive is, since most will outrun the SE/30’s SCSI port. However, if you’re using a Quadra 840AV with multimedia applications, you may want the fastest drive around. I mention noise only because every drive sounds different, and I’ve used drives that sound like they’re drilling through my brain. No one should put up with that sort of environmental stress. The vendor you purchase a drive from should be able to help you with the speed question, although determining how much drive noise you can tolerate is up to you.
MacWEEK — 21-Mar-94, Vol. 8, #12, pg. 3
The short lead time for electronic publications can be fun at times. I added the comment about Novell buying WordPerfect to TidBITS #218 after a friend mentioned it during a phone call around 10:00 PM Monday night. I’d already queued the issue for distribution to the Internet, but after hearing the news, I deleted the queued files and modified the issue before re-queuing for Internet distribution and uploading to the commercial services.
The main piece of news that I missed in our last-minute rush was that Novell also purchased the Quattro Pro spreadsheet for Windows from Borland for $145 million. I guess when you spend $1.4 billion for WordPerfect, what’s a couple of hundred million dollars to pick up a decent spreadsheet in the process? It seems that Borland hasn’t been the same since swallowing rival Ashton-Tate several years back, and the company plans to post a loss for the year and to restructure after divesting itself of Quattro Pro. Makes you wonder if Borland itself isn’t a target for acquisition from Novell or Lotus.
Obviously, neither Novell nor WordPerfect is primarily a Macintosh company, but with WordPerfect’s strong showing with the most recent release of WordPerfect for the Macintosh, Mac folks do have some stake in what happens. In addition, it’s foolhardy to ignore what happens in the PC industry, given the large number of cross-platform users and companies.
The acquisition makes Novell the second largest software company in the world, although its merged annual revenues of $1.9 billion are well below Microsoft’s $3.75 billion. Lotus, which has more or less completely disappeared from the Macintosh market once again, brings up third with revenues of $1 billion. Ironically, in April of 1990, in TidBITS #001, we reported how Lotus and Novell planned to merge. That merger fell through several weeks later, and you have to wonder what Lotus is thinking now. Just for reference, the merger of Adobe and Aldus places that company, whatever it will be called, in fifth place.
As to why Novell decided to buy WordPerfect, I’m sure executives on both sides will issue the usual platitudes (I’d rather they issued platypuses, personally), but I suspect the real reason is simple – Microsoft. After acquiring WordPerfect and Quattro Pro, Novell suddenly has second-ranked word processor and the third-ranked spreadsheet in the Windows market to add to the DOS that it acquired from buying Digital Research some time back and its own Netware network operating system. Suddenly Novell’s product line looks a significant amount more like Microsoft’s.
I asked (rhetorically, of course) last issue if all these mergers were indeed good for the industry or, more importantly in my opinion, good for us users, and that question continues to nag me with news of additional alliances and mergers coming in all the time. However, the Software Publishers Association reports that the software industry is growing rapidly, not shrinking, and the association’s president noted in Investor’s Business Daily that "For every merger, there are five new companies coming into the industry." I would be curious to hear how the death rate of software companies has changed in recent times, since that affects the overall number of companies as well, particularly if these new companies cannot compete with the megaliths. I’d also be interested to see comparisons of how the overall market share is distributed these days, since I’ll bet that all the money is starting to pool at the top among the Microsofts and Novells of the world. Perhaps a little trickle-down economics might be in order?
Just to give you an idea of what else is happening, here are a few bits I’ve pulled from various news stories. Microsoft and McCaw Cellular are planning a $9 billion wireless network using low earth orbit satellites to provide various voice, data, and video services. The project comes under a joint venture called the Teledesic Corporation, and is more than ten times the size of Motorola’s competing Iridium project, which itself has been called overly complex and expensive. In case one wireless network isn’t enough, Microsoft is working with the largest paging company in the U.S., Mobile Telecommunications Technologies, to create a $150 wireless paging network for bidirectional use with laptops, pagers, and personal communicators. Microsoft has also been talking in more general terms with AT&T (which is itself in the process of buying McCaw Cellular in a $12.6 billion stock swap), and although nothing has yet to emerge from those discussions, Microsoft reportedly wants AT&T’s help in distributing various information services. AT&T has been especially busy, as it and Lotus just announced AT&T Network Notes, which is a public Notes server using Lotus’s Notes workgroup software and a new low-cost client version of Notes for users to connect to the service.
In other words, everyone’s in bed with everyone else, and I doubt that anyone has a decent idea of what’s going to happen. I’m depressed that the trend is toward mergers of massive companies that come ever closer to violating anti-monopoly laws. I’d be more interested in seeing what could happen, as Robert X. Cringely suggests in his excellent book, "Accidental Empires," if the software industry worked more on the movie studio model, where independent firms develop software and a software studio markets and distributes it. Tech support could be handed off to a company that specialized in supporting users, and everyone could continue to do what they do best.
Think of a program as a movie, where the director picks the best talent and puts together a team to create just that movie. After it’s done, everyone goes their own ways, having been paid a fixed amount, or in the case of the major players, anticipating additional payment in the form of royalties. Each product stands on its own, and if it’s a flop, there’s no sequel, just as in the movies, though I hope the sequels would be better than the typical movie sequel. Hints of this model have appeared in the software industry, mostly from game and multimedia companies, which come the closest to movie making anyway. But could it work with the big programs, the Words, the WordPerfects, the PageMakers?
In his InfoWorld column this week, Cringely compares the current situation not to the movie business, but to the car industry, noting that in 1920 there were 300 U.S. auto manufacturers, whereas now there are essentially three. That makes Microsoft General Motors, Novell Ford, and Lotus Chrysler. But such a comparison raises the question of who gets to be Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes, Volvo, or even Hyundai. It doesn’t seem to me as though the American car industry is the healthiest model to emulate, given the powerful overseas competitors that appeared in the U.S. market after the consolidation of manufacturers. But even the software industry wanted to, could it switch models now that so much of the market is concentrated among so few companies? That is the $64 billion question.
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
Global Village Communication, developers of the TelePort and PowerPort modem series, have told us that the GlobalFax software that accompanies their modems is incompatible with the new Power Macs. Even version 2.08a of the GlobalFax software, which was released to provide compatibility with Apple’s 660AV and 840AV computers, is incompatible. Some users have been able to send but not receive faxes, while others can do neither.
According to a source at the company, a software-based fix is now in testing and should be released within the next few weeks. The updated GlobalFax software will be available on Global Village’s FirstClass support BBS at 415/390-8334, and on the commercial online services that Global Village supports, including America Online, AppleLink, CompuServe, and eWorld, or on the Internet via FTP and the Web at:
When the AV Macs were introduced, little third-party fax software was compatible with the new machines and their new GeoPort serial port, even when a third-party modem was being used, rather than Apple’s GeoPort Adapter. A similar problem has arisen now, but even some software that has been fixed to support AV Macs still won’t work on the Power Macs.
For example, according to an internal memo distributed at Supra Corporation, the FAXstf software they distribute with their modems is currently incompatible with the Power Macs. FAXstf version 2.2.3, which Supra bundled with its modems until a few weeks ago, is incompatible with both the AV Macs and Power Macs. Version 2.6, now shipping with the Supra modems, is AV compatible but not Power Mac compatible. According to STF Technologies, version 3.0 is indeed Power Mac compatible, and is available to those who have received bundled versions of FAXstf for a $39 upgrade fee. (The upgrade is available directly from STF, or from MacWarehouse or MacConnection.) Supra will be testing version 3.0 with their modems, and may begin shipping that or offering upgrades to users.
Cypress Research Corporation, publisher of FaxPro network fax server software, says that, although its server software is not yet Power Mac compatible (a compatible version is planned within a few months), the client software works fine on a Power Mac. (Why not make your old Mac a fax server? That sounds better than "doorstop" on your tax return.) CommFORCE L.C., the Iowa company that sells 4-Sight Fax (see TidBITS #215), reports that their fax server software is also incompatible with the Power Macs.
Ideally, Power Macintosh computers shouldn’t be used as network resource servers anyway. Since the AppleTalk protocol stack hasn’t yet been rewritten in native PowerPC code, most network activity tends to be slowed, rather than accelerated, on a Power Mac.
Although I’ve never been a FAXstf fan (their user interface never impressed me) they deserve congratulations for having software that’s already compatible with the Power Macintosh. If the Power Mac compatibility is a coincidence that stems from their work on AV compatibility, that’s fine; it shows they did it right. If your fax modem came with FAXstf, by all means upgrade to the latest version. If it didn’t, and you don’t want to wait for your modem maker to catch up, call STF to see if their software supports your hardware.
Global Village has been fairly quick to provide software upgrades to take care of newly unearthed hardware incompatibilities, so I don’t expect their new update will take long. All of these developers have reported frustration in their attempts to obtain pre-release Power Macs for testing and development, so we shouldn’t be too surprised at the scarcity of software that’s ready. Global Village also says that users who need the upgrade may send in their name, address, and modem serial number, and will be put on a list to receive the GlobalFax upgrade once it’s available.
CommFORCE, L.C. — 515/224-0211 — 800/448-3299 (fax)
Cypress Research Corp. — 408/752-2700 — 408/752-2735 (fax)
Global Village Communication Technical Support — 800/736-4821
415/390-8300 — 415/390-8282 (fax) — 415/390-8334 (BBS)
STF Technologies — 800/880-1922 — 816/463-7972
816/463-7958 (fax) — 816/463-1131 (BBS)
Supra Corporation — 800/727-8772 — 503/967-2410
The browser of choice for TidBITS has long been Easy View, Akif Eyler’s simple setext browser for the Macintosh. That’s not about to change any time soon, what with Akif’s most recent update, Easy View 2.44, and those who enjoy TidBITS but read it on Windows or Unix systems might appreciate new programs that can browse setext files on those platforms.
Before I get into the new features and fixes in Easy View, consider some of the features it has long had, including the capability to search for a word or phrase and extract all the matching articles to a text file and the capability to decode the styles used in our setext format (including bold, underline, and separate body and headlines styles, all of which are user-definable). I also use Easy View to browse through the 30 MB of saved email that I keep around for occasional (but usually extremely important) reference purposes, since Easy View understands not only setext format, but also Unix mail format, the digest format used by the Info-Mac Digest, and various other less common formats.
Easy View 2.44 is a relatively minor upgrade that Akif recently issued to clear up the nagging bug with using styles in your views, and while he was at it, he added a few additional features that many users will welcome – I certainly have. Foremost among the new features is the added capability to break large sections into 32K chunks. This means that if you save a bunch of text files from the nets into a folder, you can create a view using the Plain format, and Easy View will display all the text of those files, even when a file is larger than 32K. In the past, Easy View simply ignored anything after the first 32K, limiting its utility in working with arbitrarily sized files.
Although this feature has made Easy View far more useful for me when browsing large text files, other people will enjoy the next feature even more. I continually receive questions on how to create setext files, and every time I have to tell people to create them by hand or to use a set of Nisus macros that I’ve built up. There are other ways, but none that have reached the world at large. Easy View 2.44 can save a view out as a setext file, though, so anything you can get into a view, you can turn into a setext file. You can use any one of a number of formats for doing this, so you could make a setext file from a Eudora mailbox (using the Mail format to view the files and then exporting as setext) or from a folder of text files (using the Plain format before exporting). I used this to merge a folder of several hundred messages I’ve saved from reading Usenet into a single file – I added all the files to a view, then exported it to a setext file before adding it to another view. Although the end result looked the same as the source view, I saved a lot of room on my hard disk (by turning 184 small files into one big file) and generally made the entire mess easier to work with.
The third big new feature is that you no longer must place text files in the same folder as the view document. Akif managed this feat by using aliases, so you can either use the Include Text command to add any text file anywhere on your hard disk to the view, or, with the target view open, you can drag text files onto Easy View’s icon in the Finder to add them. In either case, Easy View creates an alias to the original file in the view’s folder, enabling you to retain the organization you want while still viewing everything in Easy View.
Finally, Akif added a way to browse through the last 15 places in the view that you’ve visited. So if you’re bouncing back and forth through several issues of TidBITS, trying to figure something out, Easy View remembers where you’ve been and lets you get back there with the touch of a key on the keypad (check the documentation for the details).
Akif also modified how several common functions work, so for instance, if you’re scrolling through a document and hit the last screen of an article, Easy View now scrolls the text so that bottom line of the previous screen is on the top line of the next one. If you have only two lines in the last screen of text, this means that you can always start reading at the top of the screen and know that you’ve started where the previous screen left off. Many other programs do this badly and only scroll enough to display those last two lines, which means that you must scan through the entire screen of text looking for those last two lines that you haven’t seen yet. I’d like to see more programs operate like this. Easy View now displays a finger cursor over items that you can click on, and if nothing is selected when you choose Copy or Clip, Easy View assumes that you want to work on the entire section.
It’s hard for me to say much of anything about the Windows version of Easy View, since I’ve never seen it running, but it was written by Akif’s colleague, David Davenport of Bilkent University. Easy View for Windows is in beta release right now, and David is looking for testers. Needless to say, you need a Windows machine, but if you’re interested, send him email at <[email protected]>. Similarly, the Unix setext viewer, called sv in true Unix style, could use comments and testing from those who can compile it on their Unix systems (and if you don’t know how to compile something on your Unix machine, don’t try to mess with sv for the moment). Contact Akif at <[email protected]> for more information on testing sv.
You can download Easy View 2.44 from the usual spots, including America Online in the Macintosh Hardware New Files library (keyword MHW), ZiffNet/Mac in the ZMC:DOWNTECH #0 library as EASYVW.SIT, CompuServe in the CIS:MACAPP #2 library as EZVIEW.SIT, and on AppleLink in Support -> News & Support Guide -> TidBITS Newsletter (that’s where all the issues are too). Easy View 2.44 and the others live on the Internet at:
Or, if you prefer using NCSA Mosaic, try the following URL instead:
While the Power Macs capture the public’s attention, Apple is hard at work on many other things. Here are a few of them:
The $549 Macintosh Application Environment was introduced just after the Power Macs on March 15th. It enables System 7.1 and Macintosh 68000 applications to run unmodified in an X window on Sun Solaris Unix and Hewlett-Packard HP-UX systems, with support for DEC Unix coming later. It works with any standard X window manager, including Motif and Open Look.
System 7.5 is due to ship this spring. There will only be one version; gone will be the distinction between System 7.1 and System 7 Pro, and both the 68000 and PowerPC versions will ship in the same box. All of the elements of System 7 Pro and more will be rolled into System 7.5, and a new installer will only install the software that you have enough memory to run (it won’t try to install QuickDraw GX on a system with only 4 MB of memory, for example). The Finder in System 7.5 will be fully scriptable.
The Apple Guide (formerly Apple Help) will come with System 7.5. When I saw it at Macworld Expo, it reminded me vaguely of the hypertext help that Windows and OS/2 provide, but the Apple Guide was organized much more clearly and thoroughly. Ask it how to do a task, and it tells you the steps you need to follow. Ask it for more help, and it circles in red magic-marker on your screen the things you need to click on. Say you need even more help and it uses Apple events to automatically guide you through the process.
I haven’t found anything about this in print, but the Drag Manager will probably also arrive with System 7.5. It lets you select a range of text or a graphic in any window, and drag it into place in any other window or to the desktop (where it will appear as a "scrap"). I saw it at Macworld and was duly impressed – imagine the text dragging feature of Microsoft Word or Nisus integrated into the system software. I’ve heard that it will allow dragging anything into anything else where that would make sense; for example, some applications like Fetch or Anarchie might support having desktop icons dropped into or dragged out of their windows.
QuickTime 2.0 will be released this summer. Its main feature is increased speed, playing back on an LC 475 in a 320 x 240 window at 30 frames per second, or in a 640 x 480 window at 15 frames per second, which is twice the speed of QuickTime 1.6. If you put an MPEG board in your Mac, QuickTime 2.0 enables you to play MPEG movies from a CD-ROM like several CD-I systems on the market can. (A CD-ROM can hold up to 74 minutes of full-screen full-motion video and CD-quality sound.) QuickTime 2.0 also enables you to play a movie across a network (allowing for "interactive TV"), and it supports MIDI (for music playback) and SMPTE (to sync sound with video).
OpenDoc will probably arrive in System 7.8 later this year. OpenDoc does away with the concept of a document "belonging to" an application; you’ll simply have various mini-applications that can work on different parts of your document. Your word processor will let you edit the text in your document, while your draw program lets you edit the graphics. If you want a better spell checker, then just get a better spelling checker application, and it will fit right in with the other application modules.
The Appearance Manager will probably be part of System 7.8 too. I haven’t seen anything about it in print either, but according to what I’ve heard, it enables you to customize any part of the Mac’s interface to appear however you want. For example, imagine a Macintosh interface that looks just like Microsoft Windows, all the way down to the menubars in the windows. So much for Windows users being afraid of having to learn a new operating system, or for Motif users complaining they hate the Mac’s interface!
Apple’s new micro-kernel architecture, code-named Gershwin, is due to appear in 1996. This will provide the Macintosh with protected memory (meaning that when one application crashes, you can kill it and continue using your system without a reboot) and preemptive multitasking (meaning that the system is more clever about partitioning CPU time out to the active applications).