Last week was Macworld Expo Boston, and everyone who writes at all regularly for TidBITS attended the show. This issue brings you Mark’s Expo Superlatives, Adam’s Expo thoughts, and Tonya’s favorite shipping Expo product – surprisingly, a CD about Thai food and culture. This issue also covers an upcoming version of FirstClass that will support TCP/IP connections and the issues surrounding Iomega’s recent licensing of SyQuest cartridge technology.
Our sincere apologies for missing the netters’ dinner last week in Boston. I was stricken with the Martian Death Flu on Thursday, and decided that a three-hour nap in the middle of the day was the better part of valor (and dinner). The alternative was to fall asleep on the floor of the Apple Pavilion and be trod on by the multitudes wending their way through to the eWorld demo. And that wouldn’t be much fun… . Tonya opted out of navigating the wilds of Boston at night alone, especially since her throat was feeling a bit ragged and she didn’t want to get sick too. [ACE]
Apple’s new PowerBook 150 doesn’t work properly with most internal modems, according to Global Village, makers of the PowerPort modems. Apparently Apple’s original 2400 bps fax/data PowerBook modem works, but that’s about it, even though Apple intended for all modems designed for 100-series PowerBooks to work. The problem seems to be related to the power supplied to the modem through the internal port. Global Village has been working with Apple to solve the problem, and expects a software fix will be available soon. [MHA]
IBM is contacting Mac consultants, asking them to work on the Mac OS personality module team in Austin, according to Pythaeus. What a radical thought, asking people who know the Mac well to help out. Maybe IBM is finally getting the right idea. [ACE]
It was a rough show. As usual, Boston obliged with heat and humidity so thick you had to wonder if the wetness on your skin was sweat or condensed essence of city. I wasn’t the only one suffering from the Martian Death Flu, to judge from some of the complaints from the vendors, and people looked run down even before the end of the week.
Here’s where I wish I could segue into a bit about how it was all worthwhile because I found the show itself exciting and innovative, and how crowds of people just mobbed all the booths. Unfortunately, I can’t say that, because overall, it was a mediocre show.
Some booths were mobbed, such as WordPerfect’s (part of the Novell Applications Group, if you want to NAG me about accuracy), but aside from the clever things that they’ve done with WordPerfect 3.1, it was clear that most people watched the demo for the free umbrella, the M&Ms, and a chance to rest their feet. Other booths fared worse, and although the crowds were present, they weren’t on the whole excited crowds. Almost everyone I asked had similar opinions about the show, and the one person who said that he’d seen something super-cool wouldn’t tell me what he’d seen. It couldn’t have been all that obvious.
A number of companies that normally grace the aisles of Macworld declined to attend this year, most notably utility maker Now Software. Other companies that failed to appear included Farallon, GCC, DeltaPoint, and Kensington. All I can assume is that they decided the exposure simply wasn’t worth the expense or trouble of attending such a general purpose show. The variety of products led to another quibble. It was downright difficult to find many specific companies at the show, and it seemed that you were always walking by something completely uninteresting. It would undoubtedly never happen due to marketing reasons, but it would be nice if the booths were roughly organized so that it was easier to find and compare products within a certain category.
Part of the problem was that no theme or amazing product carried the show. Last year in Boston was the Year of the Newton, and in San Francisco this year RAM Doubler wowed everyone. Probably the most interesting product of the show was Connectix’s QuickCam, but since we covered that a few issues back (see TidBITS-235), it wasn’t exactly news.
This isn’t to say that there weren’t good upgrades to existing programs, or some neat new products from small companies. There were supposedly several Doom clones (a popular and bloody arcade-style game for the PC), a number of companies showed Power Mac-native versions of their programs, and products such as Keep It Simple Software’s solar panel for the PowerBook and Live Oak Multimedia’s 4 Paws of Crab CD caught our eyes. We’ll have more on these and other products. Mark Anbinder has assembled his usual Macworld Superlatives article below, but if you saw something that you found truly neat at the show and want to write about it, send me email to make sure we’re not already planning an article.
At a trade show with thousands of products, it’s impossible to see everything, or even all the important things. If you missed some of these products, or if you missed Macworld Boston entirely, please contact the companies mentioned below and tell them you read about their products in TidBITS. Some of these products may receive more in-depth coverage later on, but we wanted to get some of the juicy details to you right away.
Sensible Color Output — If you want to spend many thousands of dollars, buy one of the fancy Tektronix or SuperMac dye sublimation printers that takes forever to spit out a photo-realistic page. If all you need photo realism, however, consider Nikon’s new CoolPrint. It’s a $1,995 small-format dye sublimation printer that’s perfect for printing photos and color proofs.
Nikon — 516/547-4200 — 516/547-0305 (fax)
Lamest Booth Staff — When you can wander around a booth looking interested in the products, then talk out loud about competing products while two salespeople chatter away to each other, something’s wrong. Asante Technologies needs train its sales staff before the next trade show to learn how to strike up conversations with potential customers.
Asante — 800/662-9686 — 408/752-8388
Growth Property — A brand-new, small company called VST received our "Best Battery" award at last August’s Macworld Expo, so we’re pleased to see they have grown enormously since then. Their large booth showcased a wide variety of laptop batteries, chargers, and related products. Good for them. /P>
VST — 508/287-4600 — 508/287-4068 (fax)<
Cable Marathon — Do you wish SCSI cable chains weren’t so limited in length? Add ATTO Technology’s Silicon Express 4D NuBus card to your Mac and you can string your devices up to 81 feet away from the computer. Sounds great for secure installations or rooms where you’d rather not have loud devices. [We have a friend who pursues quiet by keeping his Macintosh IIfx on one side of a wall and his monitors, mouse, floppy drive, and keyboard on the other. -Tonya]
ATTO –716/ 688-4259
Mixed Feelings — CE Software’s new QuickMail 3.0 looks good, and we want to be impressed, but evidence suggests the MailManager feature (see TidBITS-237) won’t be as useful for real-life use. For MailManager to process incoming messages, your computer must stay on, and your connection to QuickMail must stay active. Such features would be best implemented at the server.
CE — 800/523-7638 — 515/224-1995
Best Connectivity — One reason ISDN hasn’t caught on as strongly as it could have is the variety of non-compatible hardware on the market. 4-Sight L.C. (previously CommFORCE) offers ISDN management software that bridges the gap not only among different ISDN services and cards, but between ISDN and such otherwise-incompatible services as Switched 56.
4-Sight — [email protected] — 515/221-2100 –800/448-3299 (fax) — +44 (0) 202 764401 (UK) — +44 (0) 202 761666 (UK fax)
Biggest Shame — Dayna Communications was among the vendors showing wireless network solutions, including a PCMCIA LocalTalk card. Pity the card won’t work on a Newton MessagePad! According to Dayna, the MessagePad can’t supply enough power to PCMCIA devices, even when the devices don’t try to draw more than the PCMCIA design allows for. Meanwhile, a wireless PCMCIA LocalTalk card could come in handy for 500-series PowerBook users.
Dayna — 800/531-0600 –801/531-0600
Best Paging Software — As has been customary the last few years, many vendors demonstrated software designed to send text messages to electronic pagers. Congrats to Desktop Paging Software for its NeuroPage product, which automates a schedule of messages for dozens of individual recipients. Originally designed to remind patients to take their medicines, the software could also work wonders for disorganized executives.
Desktop Paging Software — 716/634-9010 — 716/634-9003 (fax) — [email protected]
Bundle of Joy — Ex Machina is understandably pleased; their paging MSAM (a personal gateway extension for Apple’s PowerTalk messaging software) has been licensed by Apple to be included in all CD-ROM copies of System 7.5 retail packages. Anyone with System 7.5 will be able to send pages to electronic paging service subscribers with no further software. (A modem is required.) Diskette packages of 7.5 won’t include this, or the variety of other tools included on the CD.
Ex Machina — 718/965-0309
PostScript Big & Fast — Xante Corporation made a name for itself by offering accelerated, high-resolution PostScript-compatible printer controllers to replace the aging logic boards in Apple’s and Hewlett-Packard’s older printer models. More recently, the company started selling its own complete printers. This year, they took advantage of the lower price of real Adobe PostScript Level 2 and built it into their latest printer, the Accel-a-Writer 8200. It’s an 11 x 17 inch 1,200 dot per inch printer that can even print 11 x 25 at lower resolutions.
Xante — 205/476-8189 — 205/476-9421 (fax)
Cutest Feature Name — Fractal Design Painter 3.0 is impressive for so very many reasons, but it gets this award for its "image hose" feature. Just create a variety of images of a type of object (for example, nineteen discreet images of clover) then use the image hose to paint with that object; it randomly scatters the different versions. Instant clover field! No more laborious cutting and pasting to get the desired montage effect.
Fractal Design — 408/688-8800
Happy Anniversary! — Hewlett-Packard had its usual array of printers on display at Macworld, but what’s most noteworthy is that they’re celebrating ten years in the printer market, going back to the original LaserJet (and five years to the first DeskWriter, a major breakthrough in the low-end Macintosh printing arena). Other players in the field have been selling printers longer (Apple and Epson are two easy examples) but HP has come a long way, offering great laser, inkjet, and color solutions at both low- and high-end prices.
HP — 800/752-0900 — 301/670-4300
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em — Bravo to Iomega Corp. for snapping up Nomai’s SyQuest-compatible 44 and 88 MB cartridges and getting past the legal red tape to bring them to market. The company claims they’re much more reliable than SyQuest’s own product, but either way the product alternative will be good for the market and good for the end user’s wallet.
Iomega — 800/947-0928 — 801/778-3000 — 801/778-3748 (fax)
Best Drive for Video — Doing a lot of video processing? Want to show high-resolution video presentations at their best? Don’t get a general-purpose hard drive. The latest 2 and 4 GB AV-model drives from Micropolis seem to far outstrip the competition when it comes to sustained data transfer rate, which is critical for continuous video display.
Micropolis — 818/709-3300
Why Didn’t I Think of That? — If you live in the area from Boston north to Concord, NH, and from Route 495 to the Atlantic, you needn’t ever worry about your laser printers again if you subscribe to the Page After Page service. Subscribers simply call the service when their low-toner lights become worrisome. Within an hour or so, a technician will arrive, remove your old cartridge, thoroughly clean the printer, and insert a new cartridge, all for a bit less than you’re paying for your toner cartridges now. Saves time and eliminates the need to keep cartridges on hand. How do they do it? The New Hampshire-based company imports toner "by the ton, literally" and makes its own cartridges. Since each remanufactured cartridge has a brand-new drum, we’re not as concerned as we are with most rebuilt and refilled cartridges.
Page After Page — 800/441-0539 — 603/595-2522 — 603/598-4277 (fax)
Can I Play? — Parsoft and ThrustMaster get the award for most compelling game setup, complete with a fighter plane’s ejector seat set in front of three large-screen monitors in a row. The wide-angle flight simulator display (created simply by dragging the window to cover all three monitors) was stupendous. Add to that ThrustMaster’s foot-pedal rudder game controller, its joystick controller, and weapons pod, and you’ve got a serious looking game machine.
ThrustMaster — 503/639-3200 — 503/620-8094 (fax)
Get It There Now — When you copying files, you want them copied now. That’s the idea behind such copy accelerators as CopyDoubler. RAD Unlimited Networking (RUN) Inc. takes super-fast copying a step further by accelerating file copies over a network (and opening/saving of three specific file formats over a network). The company’s upcoming RunShare product watches your network and lobs extra packets into spaces in the data stream, which is rarely close to full. (Apple’s protocols are too polite when it comes to point-to-point traffic.)
RUN — 408/353-8423 — 408/353-8984 (fax)
Nifty Storage Product — SyQuest makes up for its sour-grapes attitude towards Iomega with an upcoming PCMCIA storage product. The device, a type III PCMCIA card (which will work in stacked type II slots), is a complete removable-cartridge drive. It uses SyQuest’s 1.8 inch 80 MB cartridges, which look just like the company’s 5.25 inch cartridges – except much, much smaller. The PCMCIA card won’t work on a MessagePad (which has just one type II slot), but we see tremendous potential for 500-series PowerBooks and DOS-compatible laptops. Imagine mailing a few hundred megabytes in a business-sized envelope.
SyQuest — 510/226-4000 — 510/226-4102 (fax)
Best Text Tool — Word processors keep getting bigger and bigger, but some people just need to write and edit ordinary text. For those folks, BBEdit from Bare Bones Software, is right up on top. In the words of one user, the new version 3.0 "still doesn’t suck." Among the ways it doesn’t suck are good support for such System 7.5 features as AppleScript and PowerTalk, PowerPC native code in many time-consuming components, and quite a bit of extensibility, which make it great for programmers or managers of World-Wide Web sites.
Bare Bones — 508/651-3561 — 508/651-7584 (fax) –[email protected]
Most Exciting Revival — Only long-time Mac fanatics are likely to remember Dark Castle and Beyond Dark Castle. Delta Tao Software, Inc., the company that brought us Color MacCheese and Spaceward Ho! among other nifty programs, has just acquired these games from Aldus and is working on color versions that’ll run on Macs of the ’90s. Delta Tao showed Dark Castle ’95 at the Expo, and it looked great!
Delta Tao — 800/827-9316 — 408/730-9336 — [email protected]
A few weeks ago, Iomega Corporation began advertising its new SyQuest compatible cartridges, for use in removable cartridge drives using 44 MB and 88 MB SyQuest mechanisms. Licensed by SyQuest, the advertisements said, the cartridges were actually "more reliable" and "more affordable." A poster at SyQuest’s booth at last week’s Macworld Expo, however, told a different story. "Just because they have a license doesn’t mean they know how to drive," it said.
According to SyQuest, they have indeed signed a licensing agreement permitting Iomega to sell SyQuest-compatible cartridges. SyQuest does not, however, approve them for use in SyQuest-manufactured cartridge drives; in theory, use of these cartridges voids your warranty. The company says it is unwilling to approve the cartridges because Iomega declined SyQuest’s offer of assistance in developing quality control procedures.
We understand SyQuest’s interest in maintaining a certain level of quality control in cartridges, but we don’t understand their approach. Perhaps insisting on spot-checking the quality of the end product or the manufacturing process would have made sense before signing a license agreement, but it hardly seems appropriate now.
If SyQuest indeed refuses to honor drive warranties for users who have used Iomega’s compatible cartridges in their drives, all is not lost. Iomega has pledged to replace any SyQuest mechanism adversely affected by one of its cartridges.
Meanwhile, Iomega continues to tout the advanced technology incorporated into the cartridges it sells. Reverse-engineered by a European company (see TidBITS-169) from earlier SyQuest cartridges, the Iomega cartridges are reinforced with a "diamond-like" coating that Iomega says provides greater resistance to head crash or shock. (The 44 and 88 MB cartridges work in 200 MB SyQuest mechanisms, but there is no 200 MB cartridge available from Iomega.)
SyQuest may well have agreed to license its technology because it saw licensing as simpler than leaping into protracted legal battles. Whether or not that was the intent, SyQuest’s money remains available for research and development, rather than for legal firms’ coffers, and the end user can only benefit. If cartridges become less expensive as a result as well, so much the better.
Iomega Corporation — 800/947-0928 — 801/778-3000
When Adam and I moved to Seattle from upstate New York, we discovered the delights of Thai food. After some experimentation with fish sauce, lime leaves, and curry pastes we learned how to make a few dishes at home, but our cultural background makes it difficult to locate and prepare the correct ingredients. As a result, I was excited to find Live Oak Multimedia’s 4 Paws of Crab CD in the list of products shown at Macworld Expo.
4 Paws of Crab presents 45 Thai recipes along with a great deal of cultural and practical information. What makes the CD more interesting than just a collection of cultural comparisons and culinary tips is the way in which the presentation does not overwhelm the informational content, as is common when developers realize all the fun things they can do with sound and video. For example, sound clips provide the correct pronunciation of the names of Thai ingredients, and pictures show recipes in various stages of preparation.
4 Paws of Crab has, as the more alert of you might have expected, four sections for exploration: Mirrors uses graphics, links, text, and so on to share the experiences of an American visiting Thailand and a Thai visiting America; Time Romp offers a comparative history of America and Thailand, set up so you can find out what happened in the two areas at the same historical time; Happy Market looks a bit more like a book and has illustrations and text describing Thai ingredients; and finally, Recipes shows recipes can be printed or used directly from the screen. The recipes have links that tie the Thai ingredients into the Happy Market section.
At $50 you won’t spring for the CD unless you have an interest in Thai food or Thai culture in relation to the American culture, but given the quality and contents of information and experience shared, if the topic does interest you, 4 Paws of Crab is worth checking out.
Live Oak Multimedia — 510/654-7480 — 510/654-4637 (fax)
SoftArc Inc., the Ontario-based developer of the FirstClass mail and conferencing software, announced earlier this month that an upcoming version of FirstClass will add TCP/IP to its suite of internally supported communications methods, which currently include asynchronous modem and other serial connections, AppleTalk, Communications Toolbox (CTB), and IPX links. The addition of TCP/IP support means that anyone using the Internet via a Macintosh or a computer running Windows with a TCP/IP connection will be able to access FirstClass boards hooked to the Internet, making for just one more in a series of ever-increasing explosions of information sources on the net.
FirstClass servers will also be able to exchange server-to-server mail and conference messages through TCP/IP links. Currently, CTB support within FirstClass permits jury-rigged IP-based connections using freeware or commercial CTB connection tools, but such links have been reported to be unreliable in many cases.
To take advantage of TCP/IP connectivity, FirstClass client users must run Apple’s MacTCP control panel on Macintosh computers, or must configure Windows systems with a WinSock-compliant TCP/IP protocol stack. MacTCP is available individually, or at fairly good site license rates, from Apple (and is rumored to be slated for inclusion at no extra charge in System 7.5), or is included free with copies of Adam’s Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh. Adam’s Internet Starter Kit for Windows includes a WinSock stack with Chameleon Sampler, and there are shareware WinSock stacks available on the nets – look at:
SoftArc says TCP/IP support has already been implemented at some of its corporate customer sites and plans to begin general shipment of TCP/IP-enabled versions of its server and client software by October. The protocol module that provides TCP/IP connectivity on a given FirstClass server will list for $995. The IPX protocol module, previously required for any network client-to-server connections for clients running Microsoft Windows, has a list price of $495, and the Windows interface option costs $295. The company may offer a discounted price to its hobbyist BBS customers; public-access bulletin boards already receive considerable discounts on the FirstClass server software.
According to SoftArc, the company elected to pursue this "a la carte" approach to supplying multiple network protocols and user interfaces so as not to force all customers to pay for unneeded features. Companies using FirstClass on a solely Mac-based network, for example, have no need for either a Windows user interface or IPX connectivity, and won’t want to pay for development of these capabilities. The FirstClass server software itself costs only $95; user licenses (mailboxes) and connectivity options are sold separately by SoftArc and a worldwide network of "SoftArc Certified Consultants.". Server and client software upgrades are always free. (Registered users may download updates, as well as foreign-language versions of the client software, from SoftArc Online, the company’s support BBS, found at the number below. The company moved earlier this month, so check the number before you dial.)
Steve Hall, a long-time FirstClass user and, since earlier this year, FirstClass administrator at Wellfleet Corporation in Massachusetts, says the TCP/IP implementation "works very well" and is "very reliable." His primary complaint at the moment is that the version Wellfleet currently uses does not support DNS (directory name services) lookups. As a result, his users must, for now, enter numeric IP addresses rather than domain-style names such as "ftp.tidbits.com." A surprise during Wellfleet’s testing was that Windows client access via TCP/IP is "much faster" than Macintosh client access via AppleTalk, so Steve’s main FirstClass client platform is now a Windows machine.
Hall adds that FirstClass works quite well over SLIP or PPP dialup TCP/IP connections, using both Macintosh and Windows client software. His Windows users work with Chameleon or Distinct to provide TCP/IP services. Because Wellfleet’s Windows users already dial in for FTP, terminal sessions, and database access using SLIP or PPP, it’s convenient for them to now use FirstClass through the same connection.
SoftArc’s TCP/IP project is likely to result in more and more FirstClass servers popping up on the Internet. Many will be private mail and conferencing systems run by companies for their employees’ use, such as the systems at Wellfleet, but quite a few are likely to be support bulletin boards run by hardware and software companies, or even public bulletin boards.
Ironically, these servers might have trouble exchanging messages with non-FirstClass systems on the Internet. Currently, there is no SMTP mail gateway available for FirstClass servers. SoftArc has yet to specify a release date for the gateway it has had under development for a while, and the sole third-party SMTP gateway for FirstClass is no longer available. SoftArc does offer a UUCP gateway, and Information Access Technologies has a FirstClass version of its HoloGate software, but neither offers the full-time, direct-access benefits of SMTP.
Some would say it’s just as well; FirstClass servers have been targeted as being particularly poorly behaved participants on the Internet in general and in Usenet discussions in particular. Most of the difficulties can be attributed to gateway problems (such as the recent barrage of unwanted article duplicates in comp.sys.mac.comm) but some are merely due to the fact that FirstClass itself is not an Internet mail program or a Usenet news program; the gateways must convert between FirstClass and Internet concepts, and there isn’t always a direct translation.
We hope that SoftArc will begin by fixing the more cosmetic problems their current gateway causes (mostly easy fixes) and use the resulting momentum and good feelings to tackle the tougher problems of cleanly incorporating FirstClass into a worldwide network where following conventions and adhering to standards means everything.
— Information from:
Steve Hall, Wellfleet Corp.