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Adam Engst No comments

More Apple Bits

Apple has been busy with System 7.0, TrueType negotiations, HyperCard’s transfer to Claris, and the like, but they continue to do interesting things. First off, if you’ve ever watched a TV show that had a Mac with a color monitor on it, you probably noticed how terrible the monitor looked. That’s because the scan rate of the color monitors is 67 Hz while the NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) standard is 30Hz. The scan rates don’t match; thus the flicker. To fix this problem and improve their look on television, Apple introduced a $35 cdev called VideoSync. VideoSync eliminates the flicker by changing the scan rate of the color monitor to 60 Hz (double the NTSC rate). VideoSync works with 13" color monitors driven by Apple’s color video cards, though we suspect it will not work with third party cards. VideoSync is available through APDA (Apple Programmer’s & Developers Association) and comes with documentation.

We’ve received news that the Macs to be announced October 15th will indeed have built-in sound digitizers. It seems that Apple is pushing them for use with the voice mail capabilities recently made available in applications such as QuickMail and Microsoft Mail. Easy addition of voice clips to various parts of the Macintosh interface certainly wouldn’t be amiss either, since voice communications can be faster and clearer than written communication. Of course, voice can also be far more ambiguous as well, which is why verbal agreements are so unreliable. Well, maybe we’ll be able to count on a Mac keeping its word.

APDA — 800/282-2732

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 18-Sep-90, Vol. 4, #31, pg. 5

Adam Engst No comments

Alarming Prospects

Lately the market for appointment and reminder programs has offered a number of useful programs. In some ways, it’s odd that it took so long on the Mac for alarm programs to appear, since they been around on the PC for a long time, dating at least from the introduction of Sidekick, an early do-it-all TSR (terminate stay resident program).

The shareware Calendar DA was perhaps the first of these programs, but it had no reminder capabilities, so it was easy to miss appointments. Then, Smart Alarms from JAM Software and Comment 2.0 from Deneba both appeared, allowing the Mac to sound an alarm at a pre-specified time. More recently, the shareware Remember? and CE Software’s Alarming Events have come onto the scene. And most recently, some new companies have shown up, TeamBuilding Technologies with the $99 AgentDA and TeamSynchro, and Psybron System with CalenDAr. JAM also updated Smart Alarms to version 3.03 and announced a more powerful version called Smart Schedules for maintaining multiple schedules. Smart Schedules is looking at a fall ship date.

TeamSynchro, also slated for the fall, sounds like it should compete with Smart Schedules. Both programs are aimed at work groups who need to schedule time quickly and flexibly and need to be able to modify each other’s schedules over a network to account for group meetings and the like. In contrast, CalenDAr is going after the low-end market with a $49.95 price and fewer features. CalenDAr can import sounds and record reminder sounds with Farallon’s MacRecorder (and probably other sound digitizers), though, so it’s not entirely featureless. Psybron is also working on a hardware device that can trigger external devices like lights and radios, but that will be sometime next year.

Despite all the bells and whistles (literally) of the new appointment programs, CE’s $129.95 Alarming Events, JAM’s $125 (more for multiple users) Smart Alarms, and Dave Warker’s $20 shareware Remember? all do the job perfectly well. Alarming Events and Smart Alarms both can work with multiple files over a network, though probably not so well as TeamSynchro or Smart Schedules. And while Remember? doesn’t have any multi-user capabilities at all, it is useful for an individual who uses the Mac much of the day. So, if you’re the sort who is always forgetting appointments, check out one of these programs – it may make your life a lot easier.

Dave Warker — 1330 W. North St. Egg Harbor, NJ 08215
Deneba Software — 800/622-6827 — 305/594-6965
CE Software — 515/224-1995
JAM Software USA — 415/663-1041
TeamBuilding Technologies — 514/278-3010
Psybron Systems — 800/866-4260 — 304/340-4260

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
CE propaganda
Remember? documentation
Comment 2.0 documentation

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 25-Sep-90, Vol. 4, #32, pg. 14

Adam Engst No comments


A few months back Mitch Kapor and others started the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help educate both government employees and the general public to the realities of computer use and abuse. The EFF claimed it was going to immediately step in and work on various ongoing trials, including the case of a programmer whose machines were confiscated supposedly because he was writing a manual on how to perform electronic espionage. In addition, Steven Levy, author of "Hackers," wrote about the complete computer ignorance displayed by several FBI agents who visited him in relation to the nuPrometheus investigation. Luckily Levy sat down and explained things to the agents he talked to – a small help but a help nonetheless.

In light of these troubling occurrences, we received an interesting note. A candidate for governor in the state of Nevada (for the benefit of our international readers, this state is located on the lower left hand corner of the United States map) is and has been deeply involved in the computer and telecommunications industries. Jim Gallaway, the Republican candidate, outlined the following positions, which we reprint for accuracy’s sake (an odd thought considering we are merely copying and pasting).

These are my positions, relative to some of the recent law enforcement practices by some government agents:

  1. Government responses to alleged misdemeanors and crimes must be no more than comparable to the seriousness of the wrong-doings.
  2. Simple electronic trespass without harm must be treated as any other simple trespass. It does not justify armed raids on teenagers, forced entry of private homes, nor seizure of telephone handsets, answering machines, computer printers, published documentation, audio tapes and the like.
  3. The notion that equipment can be "arrested" and held inaccessible to its owner, without promptly charging the owner with a crime, is absolutely unacceptable. The practice of holding seized equipment and data for months or years is a serious penalty that must be imposed only by a court of law and only after a fair and public hearing and judicial finding of guilt.
  4. Teleconferencing and BBS systems must have the same protections against suppression, prior restraint, search or seizure as do newspapers, printing presses and public meeting places.
  5. The contents of electronic-mail and of confidential or closed teleconferencing exchanges must have the same protections against surveillance or seizure as does First Class Mail in a U.S. Post Office, and private discussions among a group in a home or boardroom.

As Governor of the State of Nevada I will vigorously support all of these positions – both statewide and nationally.

-Jim Gallaway, candidate for the Governor of Nevada"

We know nothing more about this man or his other campaign positions other than a personal reference from Jim Warren, who originally posted the article on the Well. Since we don’t know Jim Warren, we can’t expound on the details. However, we do find it encouraging that a candidate for a major governmental position feels that his views on electronic freedom are an important part of his campaign. As Mitch Kapor has stated, the level of ignorance regarding computers and telecommunications at the governmental level is astounding. We even heard second hand that President Bush has joked that he uses a typewriter because he doesn’t know how to use a computer at all. Such ignorance is dangerous because of the level of regulation being proposed by these people, people who think every teenager with a personal computer and a modem is probably capable of duplicating the events of the movie "War Games." If you are curious about this, feel free to contact either Jim Warren or Jim Gallaway himself at the phone numbers or addresses below.

The concept of regulation is also often a problem because telecommunications in general is the sort of act which is either private or with a limited group. Admittedly, there are many thousands of people who participate on Usenet, but even still, the group is limited to those with the ability to get connected one way or another. Many people on Usenet pride themselves on the anarchic way Usenet runs. But run it does in spite of (or perhaps because of in part) the flames and the pettiness. Usenet runs because it somehow brings out the best and worst in people while avoiding all physical ramifications. Perhaps the distinction I’m trying to elucidate is that Usenet is direct whereas the United States government is representative and indirect. A representative organization will never truly understand a direct organization, and until government positions are held by people who understand the direct governing of telecommunication groups by their members, there is great danger for governmental abuse.

Jim Gallaway — 702/255-2828
Jim Warren — 415/851-7075

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
Jim Warren — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Online Service News

We far prefer the pseudo-free (meaning "somebody pays for this but it’s not usually me") electronic services such as Usenet or local BBS’s to the pay-per-millisecond-of-access-time services like CompuServe. Nonetheless, the pay services are often better organized and more comprehensive. They also offer easier connections – it is difficult to get on Usenet if you aren’t at a university or large business.

In the latest happenings in the commercial service front, Prodigy has expanded their phone number coverage widely, even hitting our town of Ithaca, New York. Unfortunately, Prodigy raised the monthly rate from $9.95 to $12.95 (although there is no charge for access time), which apparently irritated large numbers of Prodigy users. We’ve come across three other drawbacks to Prodigy in talking to their support people. First, the Prodigy software looks like it was ported directly from the IBM version. The fonts are blocky and ugly, it has an on-screen menu that encourages you to maneuver it with the arrow keys, and it bears no resemblance to a Macintosh application, unlike American Online’s software or even the new CompuServe interface for the Mac. Second, Prodigy has no program libraries so it isn’t possible to upload or download public domain and shareware software – something that I like doing a great deal. Third and finally, the reason Prodigy’s price is so low is that the bottom fifth of the screen is devoted to advertising. If I wanted to watch advertising, I’d get cable television.

More useful is GEnie, the online service run by General Electric. It is a full featured service with companies providing online support, program libraries, and electronic mail. Previously, GEnie was relatively expensive, at least in the same ballpark as CompuServe. As of October 1st though, GEnie is dropping its $29.95 signup fee and providing non-prime time unlimited access time for email, non-computer oriented bulletin boards, travel services, and the news and weather sections. Rates for the other sections have dropped from $10 to $6, at least for 2400 baud.

GEnie is still a command line based system, though, so for online services with decent interfaces you would have to look to America Online, CompuServe (with the CompuServe Information Manager), and Apple’s own AppleLink. In November, AppleLink will be updated to version 6.0, which will include a number of new features and enhancements. The entire service will be reorganized to make it easier to find information, and more third parties will have their own sections. New group discussion areas will facilitate communications by adding threading capabilities so users can easily filter out unwanted articles and search for specific ones. Mail will get some of the same filtering capabilities, files can be attached to mail messages, and the address book has been improved. Unfortunately, AppleLink is still a tad pricey for most of us with the startup kit at $70, a $12/hour access charge, and a kilocharacter charge of $.045 for non-prime time access (we assume that this last charge is a simple fee for the number of characters transferred, though we aren’t positive). Sounds like it would add up fast, though Apple did rescind the $45 annual membership fee.

Prodigy — 800-PRODIGY
GE Information Services — 800/638-9636

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor

Related articles:
InfoWorld — 17-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #38, pg. 42
MacWEEK — 25-Sep-90, Vol. 4, #32, pg. 14