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Adam Engst No comments


Well, they’re at it again, this time in France. Another virus has recently been discovered, though it isn’t new. ANTI-B is a slightly different strain of the ANTI virus that despite being discovered almost two years later, appears to be the initial version of ANTI. ANTI-A has some code in it which neutralizes the ANTI-B virus, which is the main difference and the evidence for the evolutionary sequence. Most virus detection and prevention utilities have been updated to find ANTI-B, resulting in new search strings for SAM and Virus Detective and a new version of Disinfectant (version 2.2). We’re not as familiar with the update mechanisms for most commercial virus programs because we wholeheartedly support John Norstad’s Disinfectant. As such, we haven’t been including the search strings for Virus Detective or SAM in recent virus articles – please let us know if that would be a more useful service than merely publicizing a new version of Disinfectant.

Disinfectant 2.2 includes a few minor bug fixes and enhancements along with the ability to detect ANTI-B. Most notable of these is the addition of the menu item "Desktop Files" in the Scan and Disinfect menus. This option allows you to quickly scan or disinfect just the invisible Desktop files for the WDEF or CDEF viruses. If you use Disinfectant, we recommend that you get the new version, though it isn’t quite as imperative as with previous versions.

Speaking of CDEF, there has been a bit of a flap in Ithaca, NY recently because the author of several Mac viruses (we assume MDEF and CDEF) was found to be a 16 year-old high school student here. The police are not releasing his name and have said that he is cooperating fully. Short of that, we have little information about the incident. It is nice to know that not all virus authors get away with never being detected, though we have no idea what the punishment will be (or has been) in this case.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
John Norstad — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Boomerang Makes Good

One of the most popular shareware utilities of all time has been Hiro Yamamoto’s Boomerang. Initially free, Boomerang provides several important functions in the standard Open and Save dialog boxes. First, Boomerang keeps track of up to the last thirty files and folders you have visited and allows you to open one of those files or go to one of those folders with a single menu selection from the Boomerang pop-up menu. Boomerang also provides a "Rebound" feature that remembers the last file you used in each folder and automatically highlights it in the scrolling file list. That way you don’t have to scroll down to the bottom of a folder with lots of files in it each time you want to open something that starts with the letter "x." There are a host of other useful features, such as a Find File feature that is faster than Apple’s and the ability to create a new folder while still in the Open or Save dialog box.

In any event, when Boomerang stabilized at version 2.0, it became shareware with the promise that only registered users would receive later versions. In addition, Now Software recently made a deal with Hiro Yamamoto to bundle it with version 2.0 of their Now Utilities package. Version 2.1 of Boomerang adds a hierarchical menu to the Open menu item. This hierarchical menu lists the recently visited files without the user having to see the Open dialog box, among other things. Even more impressive, though, will be version 3.0, dubbed Super Boomerang. Super Boomerang will do everything that previous versions could do as well as sort files in the Open and Save dialog boxes by date, size, etc. Super Boomerang will copy, rename, and delete files directly from the dialog box. Previously, these features were available only in Directory Assistance, an INIT that comes with Norton Utilities. Unfortunately, Directory Assistance and Boomerang 2.0 don’t coexist particularly well, so upgrading to Boomerang 2.1 is probably the best way to go. The Find feature will be enhanced in Super Boomerang as well, making it one of the fastest Find File utilities available (reportedly able to search a 600 meg CD-ROM disk in 15 seconds!). Registered users of Boomerang will automatically receive Super Boomerang when it comes out and will also receive a discount on the Now Utilities.

Whether you opt for the full Now Utilities package or choose to stick with the shareware route, we highly recommend Boomerang to anyone who works with the Mac – it reduces the time you spend in foolish file searching and disk navigating. It is heartening to see that a program can start out it’s life as freeware (during its beta test mode, which was not plagued by many bugs), move to shareware, and then earn money for its author as a commercial offering. Now if anyone wanted to offer us lots of money just to keep providing TidBITS for free… :-).

Now Software — 800/237-3611

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
Greg Youngs — GregYoungs on America Online
Gene — GeneS3 on America Online

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 11-Sep-90, Vol. 4, #30, pg. 31
InfoWorld — 01-Oct-90, Vol. 12, #40, pg. 46

Adam Engst No comments

Canon Optical Card

Bored by that ho-hum magnetic storage? Yawning at the speed of the optical drives? Frustrated by the reliability of floppies? Well Canon has something for you. They call it the Optical Card, and it is a credit card-sized storage system that can hold about 2 megabytes of information per card. The card uses WORM technology, which disqualifies it from the general purpose uses floppies generally fulfill, but is admirable at storing relatively inert information, such as (we hope) medical records, maintenance records, personal identification, etc. The Optical Card has an inner recording layer sandwiched between two hard plastic layers for protection against physical damage. The recording layer has 2500 parallel tracks, on which data is written by a laser beam several microns in diameter. A lower-powered laser beam coupled with a photo sensor reads the data back from the card.

Because the method of storing information physically puts tiny pits in the recording layer, the cards are not susceptible to either magnetic fields or static electricity. This level of data safety is not true of the popular magnetic strip cards commonly used for ID and credit cards nor of the larger IC cards that combine CPU and memory chips on a card. The price of the Optical Card is also much cheaper than either of the other types in terms of the amount of information stored. The real prices are likely to be between $4 and $35 for the cards and $1500 and $3000 for the Reader/Writers necessary to access the information on the cards. Those prices have large ranges because Canon doesn’t currently know how popular the system will be, and the lower prices require volume production. The initial models will only work with the IBM-AT bus, but SCSI models for the Mac and other platforms should follow shortly.

What will these little things be used for? It’s a good question, and one which Canon tries to answer in its propaganda sheets. They offer suggestions such as a storage medium for medical records or vehicle maintenance records, assuming that such information should be relatively stable with additions only. Other suggestions include secure identification cards, because 2 megabytes is plenty of room to store fingerprints, retinal scans, and photographs, and data distribution cards for publications or software that is unwieldy on either paper or floppy disks. Basically, the issue seems to be that applications for the card are those that store a relatively small amount of information that is relatively static.

Needless to say, while 2 megabytes is a good amount of information, we would all like it if they could hold more. On-board compression could effectively double the space without any speed loss. Oh, speaking of speed, they aren’t all that fast. Writing speed is 15.3 kilobits per second, reading speed is 100 kilobits per second, and access time ranges from 23 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds with a 1.5 second average. However, considering the paper data the cards might replace, any computerized access time will be faster than the human access time searching through a file folder of papers.

Because it is unsure of the market for the cards, Canon seems to be looking for people to test the units and evaluate their applicability in various areas. If you are interested in using this technology, contact Bruno Dosso at Canon at the phone number below. As with all of our articles, we ask that you mention where you heard about the product so we can build our reputation in the industry.

Canon — 516/488-6700

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
Canon propaganda

Adam Engst No comments

Portable Computer Clothing

Sure portable computers are nice. It’s fun to just set up wherever you happen to be and work. Unfortunately wherever you happen to be is seldom a good place to set up a machine designed to be placed on a table in a relatively well-lit room while you are sitting on an ergonomically designed chair. The answer? Portable computers need to be integrated into what we wear, so putting on your computer in the morning is little different from remembering to strap a watch to your wrist. The technology is closing in on this goal, though no one that I’ve heard of has a design for it in the works. The Private Eye monitor technology from Reflection Technology puts a monitor on a headband (the viewing device is only a couple of inches large and uses optics to appear the size of a 12" display) and a friend who tried one claimed that it was wonderful to use, though a little hard on the eyes when used for extended time periods.

Keyboards are another sticky point, though a small chording keyboard could be easily attached to a belt without appearing bulky. Disk drives would be a pain, but many portables these days only have an internal hard drive anyway, so floppy access could be external and left at home. A mouse is also a problem, and current trackballs don’t really solve it. Something like Felix, a mini-joystick, or the UnMouse, a pointing tablet, mounted on the back of a chording keyboard might help, but more research would have to be done in that area. Of course, advances in handwriting and voice recognition would be nice too, but they might require a bit more thought before they would be as unobtrusive as a small chording keyboard with integrated pointing device.

The chip companies are doing their bit for smaller computers (pun not intended). Intel is reportedly working on a new version of the 386SX chip that will combine a 386SX processor with a cache and memory controller. A later version will include a 387SX math coprocessor. Both versions of the chip will have built-in sleep modes to conserve power, which is another bugaboo for lightweight portable computers. Intel is going farther too, with the Genesis chip, which integrates a 386SX, I/O ports, a memory controller, and a display controller on a single chip.

Not to be completely outdone, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) last week announced that they have succeeded in putting almost an entire IBM-AT-clone motherboard (286 CPU, memory controller, DMA [direct memory access] controllers, interrupt controllers, real-time clock, expanded memory manager, and a bus controller) on a single chip, the AM286ZX. Another chip, the AM286LX, will include power management functions as well, making it ideal for low-power portables. AMD says the chips will be available in 12, 16, and 20 MHz versions, and a computer with the 20MHz AM286LX chip will probably be as fast or faster than 386SX computers at the same clock speed. The speed increase is probably due to the closeness of the components on the chip in comparison to the closeness of the components when they are strewn around a motherboard.

AMD’s main problem is not with speed, but with the fact that the world is moving towards 32-bit chips like the 386 and 486 (not to mention the 68030 :-)). Many buyers are avoiding 286 machines because they are unable to run 32-bit applications or concurrent DOS applications. One way or another though, these chips point at an increased level of integration and power management, both of which will be necessary for tomorrow’s computer clothing.

Reflection Technology — 617/890-5905
Intel — 800/538-3373
AMD — 408/732-2400

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
Matt Lewkowicz

Related articles:
InfoWorld — 01-Oct-90, Vol. 12, #40, pg. 6
PC WEEK — 03-Sep-90, Vol. 7, #35, pg. 1
PC WEEK — 01-Oct-90, Vol. 7, #39, pg. 1
PC WEEK — 01-Oct-90, Vol. 7, #39, pg. 137