Mark Anbinder leads off this issue with reports on an upgrade to White Pine’s line of terminal emulators and a new package that enables Newton users to connect to the popular FirstClass bulletin boards. We also mention a few more Internet resources from Apple, talk about what you can do with those old Macs, and listen as Geoff Duncan ponders the problem of consumption versus communication on the so-called infobahn.
A number of people wrote to tell me that John Norstad has released NewsWatcher 2.0b3 shortly after TidBITS-233 came out, mentioning 2.0b2. The Internet moves quickly, and something in one issue may be out-of-date by the next (although I’m usually correct as of the day the issue is dated, since I check URLs during editing). You can get NewsWatcher 2.0b3 (and subsequent versions in the same directory) at:
Chuq Von Rospach of Apple wrote to correct and comment on the article about Apple’s Internet resources in TidBITS-233. We got the URL for the Apple Business Systems FTP server slightly wrong – the best one is:
The idea is that when the great coherency campaign begins (and Chuq has plans for it already), that directory will be easy for the other Apple FTP sites to mirror, making it easier to bounce from one to another.
Chuq noted also that the easiest way to get information about and subscribe to the MAE mailing lists is to send email to <[email protected]> with "info mae-users" in the body of the message. The reply walks you through the entire subscription process. In addition, he recommended checking <ftp.support.apple.com> for files before going to the other sites, either via FTP or Gopher at:
Gilbert Rankin <[email protected]> found another public Apple FTP site, this one containing information on Macintosh Common Lisp and Dylan, an object-oriented programming tool, at:
Finally, Peter Lewis just released Anarchie 1.2.1 to fix some small bugs, and I noticed among the new bookmarks an Apple ATG site (that didn’t seem to have anything useful on it, except maybe MPW GCC) at:
And, for those of you who are curious, I got the new copy of Anarchie from:
Jeffrey Norwood <[email protected]> writes:
Here’s a message I got from AppleCare today. As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up!
"Dear Jefferey [sic] Norwood:
"During August, 1994, the one year limited warranty on your STYLEWRITER II INK CARTRIDGE [their caps, not mine] will expire. After that, repair bills will be your responsibility. Unless you order AppleCare today.
"AppleCare is the easiest, most affordable way to continue to take care of your STYLEWRITER II INK CARTRIDGE. In fact, it’s the only extended service plan backed by Apple. And for good reason… etc., etc."
Golly, to think I’ve just been refilling those darned things all this time.
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
White Pine Software, one of the leaders in terminal emulation for Digital VT-series terminals, Tektronix terminals, and X services, has announced new versions of its Mac products, and new Microsoft Windows and X-Window products. The company is shipping version 1.3 of its Mac320, Mac330, and Mac340 products in the Mac300 series.
The new 1.3 version in all three Mac300 products includes tear-off function key and keypad menus, with small versions for PowerBook users. White Pine added ZMODEM and YMODEM-g file transfer protocols and enhanced the Kermit protocol, with support for long packets and additional configuration options. New interface features include ANSI color text and mouse positioning of the VT terminal’s cursor.
We don’t think highly of copy protection, but White Pine’s approach is to have the software check for serial number duplicates on the network when the application launches. If it detects another copy with the same serial number, the application tells you who’s running it so you can correct the problem. Quark uses a similar approach with QuarkXPress; only people intent on software piracy (or possibly users of network quota software in certain situations) should find this annoying.
Meanwhile, White Pine is shipping PC340 and PC320 for Windows users, and X340 for X-Window users. The X product is a bit pricey, at a retail price of $645, but the introductory price of $450 available through 30-Sep-94 offers a good deal. PC320 and PC340 carry $199 and $349 retail prices, with $140 and $245 introductory offers, respectively.
New Macintosh customers may buy Mac320, Mac330, or Mac340 at introductory rates of $140, $175, and $245 respectively, compared to the $199, $249, and $349 retail prices. Mac300 series owners may upgrade to version 1.3 for $50, and Mac200 series owners may upgrade to the corresponding Mac300 product, version 1.3, for $75.
White Pine offers multi-user pack discounts to large sites. Contact White Pine or your favorite software dealer for more information or for demo software.
White Pine — 800/241-7463 — 603/886-9050
603/886-9051 (fax) — <[email protected]>
— Information from:
White Pine propaganda
Adam and I are living examples of the difficulties in getting rid of old computers. We keep our aging SE/30 because we love it and may use it as a server someday and the Classic because nobody will buy it and because we occasionally use it to test programs. Last month we bought a LaserWriter Select 360 and haven’t found time to sell our four-year-old QMS-PS 410 that has a minor paper crumpling problem that none of our printer self-help books can explain. (We also haven’t found time to call QMS or decide if we need two printers.)
I finally gave up my NCR DecisionMate V (a pseudo-PC clone that ran WordStar) after four years in 1989 when my sister started college, and we kept Adam’s Atari 1040ST (you never know when you might need to play an old Atari game) for about a year longer than we needed it. Our local user group, dBUG, has a yearly swap and sell meeting; maybe next time we’ll bring the QMS and try again with the Classic, although it’s currently working with an analog-to-digital converter from Remote Measurement Systems to record how much power our house uses. It’s a simple task, and a simple Mac does it well.
Besides love and procrastination, people have trouble selling old Macs because it takes time and energy to sell them and sometimes because of the security issues involved in inviting strangers into your home (earlier this year, some people in California had extremely unpleasant experiences due to thieves responding to classified ads and coming to advertisers’ homes under the guise of potential buyers).
Even timeworn 128K and 512K Macs are worth something to the right person. Just yesterday I heard about someone buying a 512K Mac as a collector’s item. A Plus running appropriate software on the right person’s desk may has not lost the ability to provide the power to be your best, assuming your best doesn’t require multiple applications, lots of extensions, and System 7. And even if you can’t find a home for your Mac, you may find a dealer who has an eye on its parts.
The trick is to get those old Macs into the right hands, and in addition to donating them to relatives, swap meets, word of mouth, and taking out a classified ad, you might consider taking advantage of Apple’s trade-in plan or donating the equipment to a worthy cause.
Apple’s Trade-In Plan (Sorry U.S. Only) — Since 25-Apr-94, Apple has offered a trade-in program managed by Micro Exchange, a large remarketing company. According to the press release, you can trade in computers, monitors, and printers from a variety of companies, including Apple, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Compaq. In exchange for your equipment, Micro Exchange sends you "trade-in dollars" towards the purchase of new Apple equipment.
To take advantage of the program, you must locate an Apple reseller, who can give you a worksheet that you fill out. The reseller sends the worksheet to Micro Exchange, and Micro Exchange responds by sending the reseller a "firm price quote, good for 30 days." If you want to go for it, Micro Exchange gets in touch with you, you send the equipment to Micro Exchange, and Micro Exchange "evaluates it to confirm that its value matches the quote." After the evaluation, Micro Exchange sends you a check, and you must use the money to buy new Apple equipment.
To find the name and number of a nearby reseller, call 800/538-9696.
In addition to Apple’s program, you can usually find remarketer ads in the back of computer publications, such as MacWEEK.
Donating Equipment — If you prefer a more personal way of disposing of an old computer or printer, consider your favorite school or charitable organization. Depending on the organization and your tax situation, you may be able to deduct the value of the Mac from your income taxes, but kids, don’t attempt this without the help of an adult (preferably an adult CPA). If you need help finding a worthy recipient, take a look at a list of organizations maintained (as he has time) by Anthony Stieber <[email protected]>. Anthony’s list primarily consists of U.S.-based organizations, but he will add any organization, so that could change over time.
According to the list’s introduction, the list includes "non-profit organizations that will take spare, old, or obsolete computers and recycle them for use within their own organization or other organizations. The organizations range from local to national and global organizations covering a wide range of interests, computer and otherwise. This information is not guaranteed, and may be outright wrong. Use at your own risk. Please send additions or corrections." The list is available via anonymous FTP at:
One of the frequently asked questions in electronic forums devoted either to FirstClass or Newton devices – "Is there a FirstClass client for Newton users?" – finally has an affirmative answer. Black Labs, Inc. recently shipped FirstClass Retriever, which allows MessagePad users to send and receive mail messages with servers running SoftArc’s FirstClass communications software.
As NewtonMail users have discovered, the Newton handwriting recognition technology is hardly designed for writing long messages (I won’t try to claim I’m writing this article on my MessagePad 110, improved though its recognition is). Writing short messages is not a problem, though, and of course the MessagePad is perfect for quickly scanning a mailbox and reading a few messages.
Busy MessagePad owners who like to stay organized and in touch wherever they happen to be will find this software invaluable. (If getting at your email was the only remaining reason to carry both MessagePad and PowerBook wherever you went, you can now leave the PowerBook on your desk more often.) Macintosh network administrators in particular will appreciate the ability to scan their mailboxes for important notes at any time.
The $69 product uses a Newton-compatible modem to connect to a FirstClass server using its command-line user interface (CLUI) feature. In other words, it pretends to be a user connecting via terminal software. This means Retriever cannot create or display text styles such as fonts and sizes; all text will appear in the default font, size, and style. It also means that Retriever works only with FirstClass servers with the CLUI option installed. (If your FirstClass server supports DOS users and other VT100 callers, the CLUI option is installed.)
Two different modes, "Connect" and "Xchange," give Retriever users the choice of logging in, conducting their reading and writing tasks while online, and logging out; or automatically exchanging waiting messages, sending newly-written messages and retrieving messages in the mailbox during a brief toll-saving connection. The Xchange mode user can then read the incoming messages at his or her leisure while not connected, as well as compose new messages or replies.
Ironically, FirstClass Retriever is the only commercial FirstClass client software to provide offline message reading and composing. SoftArc’s own client software offers these functions only while connected to a server, and although the company has long promised a version with offline messaging, it has yet to materialize. A Mac shareware utility called BulkRate provides offline mail and conference messaging for FirstClass users; it also uses the CLUI, and has similar drawbacks when it comes to styled text. BulkRate is particularly unsuited to posting followup messages in conferences, because it breaks the threads that link FirstClass conference messages. (Usually, the user can follow a thread of discussion from one reply to the next, as Usenet users are accustomed to; BulkRate replies fall outside the thread.)
Although users of business-oriented FirstClass servers probably stick to one server at a time, administrators of these systems and hobbyist FirstClass users tend to hop from one FirstClass system to another. (If nothing else, FirstClass system administrators typically visit SoftArc Online, the company’s support BBS, from time to time.) These users will be pleased with the multi-server approach Black Labs took in designing Retriever. The software can keep track of several FirstClass systems, and it knows which system each outgoing message needs to reach. A quick series of Xchange sequences during your breakfast, one for each system on which you have a mailbox, and you’re ready to face your bus or train ride with a Newton full of mail to be read. (Note that potholes have an adverse effect on the MessagePad’s handwriting recognition, if you plan to write replies as well.)
Retriever sports an interface that cleanly melds the look and feel of SoftArc’s FirstClass client software with a familiar Newton approach. Tiny flags indicating unread incoming mail or unsent outgoing mail will be familiar features, and the software offers a pop-up folder menu providing access to current, saved, and unsent mail. A series of buttons at the bottom of the screen include a Connect/Hangup button, an Info button (which shows the FirstClass message history), and New and Delete commands.
FirstClass Retriever has been tested with an original MessagePad, MessagePad 100, and MessagePad 110. It works with Apple’s external Newton modem and PCMCIA modem card, and the Megahertz and DataRace 14.4 Kbps PCMCIA modem cards. Black Labs recommends using Apple’s PCMCIA modem, which offers 2400 bps data and 9600 bps fax capability. The company says the faster PCMCIA modems don’t actually provide anywhere near the expected six to one speed increase because of widely reported serial communication limitations in the MessagePad hardware, and will shorten battery life on the MessagePad and MessagePad 100. Black Labs has had limited success with third-party external modems; they say that, in their experience, most such modems don’t work well with NewtonMail either. Our own limited testing shows varying results; some external modems work flawlessly and others seem not to work at all.
Black Labs says they expect a future version of FirstClass Retriever will include the ability to connect to a FirstClass server via AppleTalk as well as via modem. Upcoming wireless AppleTalk transceivers will make this an especially attractive feature. Also slated for a subsequent release is the ability to send and receive Newton package files and PICT-format pictures as FirstClass message attachments.
At this time, FirstClass Retriever isn’t fully integrated with the built-in Newton mail capabilities. Black Labs plans to implement mechanisms to access email addresses from the Newton’s Names list, and to move text easily between the Notes area and the body of a FirstClass message. The company intends to provide many of these enhancements in free updates to existing owners.
A future product, tentatively called Retriever+, will allow users to browse FirstClass conferences and send and receive conference messages, rather than just private mail. Black Labs is offering an advance-purchase upgrade discount price, $20, to Retriever purchasers who buy Retriever+ before it ships. Once the new product does ship, the upgrade price will be $40.
The company also plans upcoming Retriever products for MessagePad-equipped CompuServe and Unix users.
Black Labs, Inc. — 303/938-8580 — 303/938-8546 (fax)
— Information from:
Black Labs propaganda
In the electronic magazine InterText, I write a sporadic column that’s mostly used as a soapbox for my opinions on electronic publishing. Responses to the columns are intriguing: sometimes personalities from the early days of network publishing (only about ten years ago) appear out of nowhere to agree, disagree, or corroborate certain points – and I feel like I’m talking back to my elders. Sometimes I receive letters enthusiastically agreeing with me, and sometimes I receive letters emphatically disagreeing with me.
Overall, one thing strikes me about this correspondence: almost without exception it has been civil, considered, and worthwhile. Even negative responses – although not as gratifying as praise – cause me to rethink, reconsider, and often revise my positions and opinions. The process has been one of communication rather than the expression of dogma: a surprising fact considering the range of differences – geographic, ideological, and cultural – between myself and many of InterText’s readers. Pretty amazing what technology can do.
Which brings me to today’s topic: something terrible has happened.
I refer to the information superhighway. It snuck up on us. There we were, innocent netters, minding our own business, then BAM! suddenly the media portrayed us as part of an information culture we didn’t know existed. The front pages of newspapers, magazine articles, television commercials, talk shows, and the evening news describe us as the current info-literati: the elite group of technically-hip, wired and inexplicably arcane individuals who represent a future uberculture of "digital convergence." Sure, the technology might be cryptic now, they say, but soon computers, televisions, and telephones will merge into new species of "information appliances." Imagine high bandwidth connections to every home, every office, and – through wireless, satellite-linked networks – to every vehicle and coat pocket in the world. Imagine video phones, video conferencing, limitless online information, voice recognition, online medical records, wireless financial transactions, and other high bandwidth information applications ad infinitum. "Have you ever tucked your child in from a phone?" asks one AT&T television commercial. "You will." (How touching.) That is the future, they say, and it’s only a few years away.
I imagine some folks are excited about this. But I’m not.
Pause for a moment and think about who will provide these services and applications for the information highway and why they want to do it. The who are today’s media and technology conglomerates: entertainment and publishing empires such as Paramount, Columbia, Time-Warner, and Fox; technology companies such as AT&T, IBM, Apple, and Microsoft; and service providers like Viacom, Sprint, and (again) AT&T. The why is universal: money. The "digital convergence" provides these companies a shot at all the money currently spent on movie rentals, cable television, telephone service, directory information, and online services. Each of these companies wants a cut of your monthly service charge, plus additional per-hour costs for "premium" services. They have reason to believe even more people will use the information highway than use these services today. They’re probably right, and that makes the financial potential even greater.
It’s said the video store will be dead in 1998 and I tend to believe that. I also believe telephone books, newspapers, magazines, mail-order catalogs, reference works, the postal system, ATMs, and advertising will not survive until the year 2000 in their current forms. You won’t have to go to an ATM to conduct your financial transactions and you won’t have to use a library or a reference book to look up information. Similarly, you won’t have to consult a thick, unwieldy newsprint tome to get a phone number or do much shopping since you can order and pay for most things over your television. You won’t have to rely on actually laying hands on a newspaper or magazine to keep up on the news, and you won’t have to buy tickets to concerts or sporting events because you can attend them online in full stereo and living color. It will be simple, convenient, easy to use, and it will all come to you over the infobahn. The purveyors of this technology want you to believe its the greatest thing since squeezable ketchup, and there’s no denying the idea is simple and powerful: anything you might desire comes to you through the wire.
But wait – think for a second: there’s nothing new about any of these applications. We’ve been shopping, we’ve used phone books, we’ve dialed long distance, we’ve been to the bank, we’ve purchased concert tickets and we’ve rented movies.
And that’s the point. These are activities consumers are comfortable with. They’re part of our lives now and the companies lining up to bring you the info-highway understand that. They want to give you things you already know how to do, and they want to charge you for it all over again – in a sense, they’re re-inventing the wheel. Why? So they can bill you for roads (cable, connectivity, and the highway itself), new tires (upgrades), driver’s licenses (training on using your info-appliances), fees (a myriad of small charges for that together add up in a hurry), and, of course, taxes (the information highway is not an inalienable right, after all, and government will want a piece of the action). You think commercials are thick on radio and television now? Just wait. The information highway will redefine advertising.
Now, I’m among the many people who think that a highway is a poor metaphor for the impending digital service networks, so I’m not going stretch it much further. (After all, my oldest, slowest computer is presently directly connected to the Internet: I affectionately refer to it as my "speed bump" on the infobahn.) But the basic point is that these new digital services aren’t going to provide much that we can’t do already. They’re simply going to provide it in a new, slicker, somewhat faster and (at least for the first few years) more costly manner. It’s not that there’s anything precisely wrong with these sorts of commercial applications; they will no doubt be successful and popular, thus being "good" for consumers and businesses alike. Without getting into the multitude of privacy and access issues raised by the info-highway, let me make it clear I do not oppose the idea of high-speed access to a myriad of services, as much as I may detest the particular applications that are likely to dominate such services. I think most netters share my interest in reliable, high-speed access to the Internet.
Instead, let me return to the thoughts that began this article. Simply put, the information highway we have now – a twisty and bumpy two-lane road, if you will – is primarily a tool for communication. The information superhighway and all the glittery, attractive, futuristic services to come with it will primarily be a tool for consuming. It’s the difference between a funky coffeehouse and an installation of McDonalds. Instead of promoting active interaction between individuals and groups, the infobahn will instead devote most of its resources to corporate and business concerns and one-way communication from provider to end-user. It’s the next generation of television, and no doubt one day there will be studies showing how many hours a typical person spends each day on the information highway. But, like television, it looks like we’ll be encouraged to spend most of that time in passive receivership. The couch potato simply gets a bigger remote control.
What to do? All we can do for the moment is to constantly make known our opinions about communication versus consumption. To whom should we do this? Anyone who will listen. Tell the engineers and schemers out there building the onramps, offramps, and cloverleaf exchanges of the infobahn that you want more than Gilligan’s Island on demand 24 hours a day! When precursors of services you don’t like begin to appear on the Internet, make your feelings clear! Tell any reporters or media contacts that you might have. The important thing is to disseminate our opinions in the hope that they might be a force for change along this one-way road of consumption. Not all that long ago, consumption also meant "a progressive wasting of the body." How apt.
Electronic publications like InterText and TidBITS do everything they can to make sure the information highway isn’t just a one-way street, but it’s really up to those of us out here now, in the digital frontier, to make sure the potential of digital communications – and what’s special about the Internet right now – isn’t lost in the shuffle.
[This article is adapted from volume 4, number 2 of InterText, a long-standing Internet fiction magazine edited by Jason Snell <[email protected]>. Note that the issue available via FTP is compressed in gzip format – use gzip under Unix or MacGzip to expand it.]