For Star Trek and virtual reality (well, QuickTime VR) fans out there, we review Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual. We also review Mac Control, a utility for preventing unauthorized changes to public Macs, and Mark Anbinder looks at PageNOW from Mark/Space Softworks along with the new TelePort Gold II modem from Global Village. Finally, the Power Mac 8100/110 appears, along with notes about free Internet initiatives.
Just a quick note to let people know that the mirror script for the utilities directory on <ftp.tidbits.com> now works properly, so it holds Internet and communication utilities from various parts of the Info-Mac Archive.
Power Mac 8100/110 — Look for Apple to announce a new, faster Power Mac 8100 next week. The Power Mac 8100/110 uses a 110 MHz PowerPC 601 chip, has a 256K cache, and will ship in a configuration with 16 MB of RAM, a 2 GB hard drive, and 2 MB of VRAM. Apple claims a 30 percent speed increase over the 8100/80, which is not yet being discontinued. You’ll be able to order the 8100/110 as of 07-Nov-94, but don’t expect availability to be good for a month or so.
The Connectix QuickCam (see TidBITS-235) ships 31-Oct-94, just in time to be a last-minute Halloween treat. The company says the initial batch of finished cameras will go to customers who placed orders with MacConnection during the Macworld Expo in Boston this August, and they hope to have all existing orders filled by the end of November. With luck and careful planning, dealers will have them on the shelves for the holidays. [MHA]
Connectix — 800/950-5880 — 415/571-5100 — 415/571-5195 (fax) –<[email protected]>
Gavin Eadie <[email protected]> writes:
There has been an increasing amount of interest expressed in the Apple Open Collaboration Environment (AOCE) in various newsgroups recently. I’ve decided to sponsor a mailing list that covers these topics.
The list’s purpose is to provide a forum for discussion for PowerTalk users, PowerShare administrators, and software developers within which they can share advice, problems, and so on with each other and with Apple. Topics include Apple products that form the core of AOCE, including the system software components and PowerTalk and PowerShare, third-party "mail-enabled" applications, specific third-party applications like PowerRules that are dedicated to AOCE usage, AOCE programming, gateways (P/CSAMs), and AppleScripts.
I have a commitment from Apple and StarNine to monitor the list (there are already several subscribers from both these companies on the list) as well as people from other companies and users and administrators from around the world.
Karl Bunker <[email protected]>, the author of the freeware After Dark module "Barney Blaster" last week released Barney Blaster 2.0, an updated version of one of the most popular After Dark modules featuring everyone’s favorite purple dinosaur. Barney Blaster 2.0 is still free; it is available on the major commercial online services, and is on the Internet at:
PlainTalk Easter Egg — Marcus Stewart <[email protected]> passes on an Easter Egg that we hadn’t heard about yet. Apparently, if, using PlainTalk 1.3, you ask, "Computer, are there any Easter Eggs?" it will respond with "If there were any do you think I would tell you?" Nice to have computers that are up front about all this. [ACE]
Last week’s article about free Internet access in Bologna, Italy prompted a number of responses from other parts of the world that are also providing free Internet access to citizens, as well as a comment about Bologna’s history of innovation.
Frans Hoffman <[email protected]> writes:
The Digital City in Amsterdam has been offering free access in Amsterdam and surroundings since January 1st, 1994. Approximately 10,000 people have registered as citizens. The City of Amsterdam (city council, archives, political parties etc.) and the Dutch Senate (Archives and Senators) are among the available services.
Cheinan Marks <[email protected]> writes:
The state of Maryland offers a Gopher server containing information about Maryland, state and local government, and Internet access. The state is also in the process of providing all Marylanders with a free local access number. Six counties already offer connections locally, and the whole state should be connected in a year or so, although the major population areas should be done this year. Additionally, Baltimore’s library currently offers email service for $35 per year and FTP and Telnet for $100 per year.
Jack Machiela <[email protected]> writes:
New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, has a fairly progressive City Council, who have had their publicly accessible Citynet system up and running for some years now, giving free access to email, Archie, Usenet, IRC and a few other services. And when I say free, that includes the phone lines – New Zealand Telecom appears to be one of the last in the world to provide free local calls for residential customers. Citynet is provided as a VT-100 compatible menu driven front end over about a dozen phone lines. You can also telnet to it or access the information via Gopher.
David Peterson <[email protected]> writes:
Last week’s TidBITS (TidBITS-249) describes how the City of Bologna in Italy is providing free/low cost Internet service to its residents. But this shouldn’t surprise us. Bologna has had a reputation for innovation for over 900 years. In 1076, Irnerius, a liberal arts teacher, found the summary index to Roman law, which had been lost since the year 603 (Dark Ages and all that). He established a law teaching facility in a monastery, which evolved into one of the world’s first law schools by 1088. Benefiting from its location at the crossroads of "real" highways, the city soon had more law students than residents, and an international student body. By 1158, the law school had expanded into one of the world’s first universities, run by the students, who hired the teachers and wrote the rules. In the 1300s, the issue was "paper versus parchment." Bolognese took the radical "pro-paper" position, in spite of arguments that it was too fragile and would never last.
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
Expressing a tongue-in-cheek belief that "everyone should be able to afford gold," Global Village Communication earlier this month announced its new TelePort Gold II modem, with a suggested retail price of $155. The new modem replaces the popular TelePort Gold, offers most of the same features, and adds greyscale fax capability.
Physically, the TelePort Gold II resembles the TelePort Bronze II, the $109 2400 bps modem that replaced Global Village’s original line of ADB-connected modems. Unlike the Bronze II, though, the Gold II does not draw power from the Mac’s ADB port; it has its own AC adapter. The new modem replaces the original Gold’s AT&T modem chipset with a Rockwell V.32bis chipset. The Rockwell chips have appeared in several popular modems, such as those from Supra.
Although the TelePort Gold II has the same basic specifications as its departing sibling, such as 14,400 bps data communications and 14,400 bps send and receive faxing, it lacks the OCR (optical character recognition, or text scanning) feature previously included with the TelePort Gold. The OCR functionality is now available only with the TelePort Mercury, the company’s top of the line "V.32terbo" 19,200 bps modem that sports 14,400 bps faxing. Gold II owners will also be able to purchase the GlobalFax OCR software for $49 plus shipping. The TelePort Gold II includes Global Village’s popular GlobalFax software for sending and receiving faxes, and a free (fully licensed) copy of Dave Alverson’s ZTerm terminal software.
Global Village says the TelePort Gold II requires some version of System 7, up to and including 7.5. This requirement should only be relevant if you use the fax software, since for data communications it’s just a serial device. The GlobalFax software does not support QuickDraw GX at this time, though the company is working on a GX-compatible driver.
For the first time, Global Village is shipping its GlobalFax 2.1 software with a stand-alone modem. Version 2.1.3 provides greyscale fax sending capabilities at two quality levels comparable to the "best" and "faster" modes in Apple’s ImageWriter driver. It also offers intelligent requeueing of unsent or incomplete faxes and better handling of the memo text on cover sheets. Previously, GlobalFax 2.1 was bundled only with the OneWorld fax servers (see TidBITS-232 and TidBITS-236 for more details).
Global Village Communication — 800/736-4821 — 415/390-8200
415/390-8222 (sales fax) — <[email protected]>
Global Village propaganda
This July, Mark/Space Softworks announced that its new wireless messaging software, PageNOW, would soon be available. Mark/Space showed a pre-release version at August’s Macworld Expo in Boston, and soon thereafter shipped an "Early Adopter" version while continuing development on a final version. The software can send messages to alphanumeric pagers, or to PCMCIA messaging cards such as Motorola’s Newton MessagePad messaging card.
PageNOW is a scriptable application and supports a variety of custom Apple events, so it can be controlled from other applications and automated in several ways. The scripting feature takes advantage of AppleScript, and Mark/Space expects many users will create custom solutions for automatic paging in response to external circumstances. For example, PageNOW could be configured to forward electronic mail messages, report on the status of backups or other long procedures, or send appointment reminders.
In addition to providing documentation on the AppleScript and Apple event features that permit creative users to invent their own customized paging systems, Mark/Space includes samples that can be modified for a given circumstance or used as-is.
PageNOW 0.9, the Early Adopter version, is a fully-functional, fully-tested application that can be installed in 68000, PowerPC native, or fat binary versions. Version 0.9 does not yet support one-step group paging or full logging, and does not yet have a colorful box. Version 1.0, which will be provided to Early Adopters at no cost, will also include support for additional Apple events and more sample scripts and solutions than are provided with 0.9.
Mark/Space has released a demonstration version of the PageNOW 0.9 application that supports sending pages to a single subscriber, and adds a message to each page. The demo versions of this and other Mark/Space products are available on popular online services and on the Internet at:
PageNOW has a suggested retail price of $79.95, and volume pricing or site licenses are available.
Mark/Space Softworks — 800/799-4737 — 408/293-7299
408/293-7298 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Mark/Space Softworks propaganda
"I hate surprises."
At least that’s what I tell my high school students when they want to change the Macintosh environment in the eighty or so computers for which I am responsible. I teach six classes and take care of the machines in my "free" time, so I require a security program that lets me teach my students and keep them from making undesirable changes. Before I found BDW Software’s Mac Control, I tried everything from making folders invisible, to shareware and freeware programs, to other commercial security programs. Most had so many drawbacks that they made using the Mac more work than necessary. I finally found Mac Control, an easy-to-use program which seems to answer all my needs – no more strange sounds, hidden messages in the desktop, or unwanted startup screens.
After I set up Mac Control, students could make many changes (but Mac Control locks them out of dangerous places), but when the Mac restarts, everything returns to exactly how I last left it. Mac Control uses the desktop interface without resorting to a menu-driven system or to brute-force methods.
The Mac Control Manager can set users and passwords to determine who can use desk accessories, documents, control panels, and who can see inside the System Folder. The Manager can protect the hard disk from the moving, renaming, deleting, or addition of unauthorized files. This is a great deterrent against piracy as users can be prevented from copying applications to disks or running programs from their own disks. Mac Control can direct (or force) users to save their work only to floppies or servers or to their own areas in a locally shared folder. A master password overrides all other passwords, allowing the Manager to log in as any user, without keeping track of individual user passwords. You can lock icons so your hard disk doesn’t suddenly sprout a face you don’t want. Users can use servers and copy files to and from the personal folder if they want.
Users have sufficient access to delete, rename, or duplicate documents on their disks or in their folders, but not elsewhere. You can set up the shared folder so that each user automatically has his or her own folder inside the shared folder. Each user only sees what is in his or her folder, and can’t peruse others’ folders. You can create drop folders and have Mac Control keep a user log that shows which user did what, and when it was done (this feature gave me great information in tracking down abuse). You can also set the user definitions so certain users can use only certain applications at certain times of the day.
Installation and removal is simple, although you can lock the hard disk so that if the Mac starts up from a floppy the hard disk is unavailable. The Mac Control INIT takes 24K of RAM and works on all Macs from the Plus on up. Updating is easy because one set of users can be defined and then copied to the other Macs. If the Manager forgets the password (or students figure out the password, as has happened to me), you can reset the program with the original startup disk. There’s always a way around anything, but this one is tough. Anyone going to such extremes might as well do physical damage rather than try to bypass the program.
I currently have eleven users defined under Mac Control for each Mac in my classroom lab – one per class period, one for the Band director, one for myself (Manager), one for the local community college, and one for the technology coordinator and the technician to use. I demo lessons on the overhead using one of the student users, and before each class change, I simply restart and things revert to the original settings for the next class discussion.
Mac Control Remote, a useful additional option, enables you to control all the Macs on a network from any machine. The Remote program gives the Manager special abilities, including freezing all keyboards and mice (which you’d want during instructional time), raising all Macs to Manager level (to add files or make changes), restarting all Macs with a single command, shutting down all Macs (but it won’t flip off the switches for you!), and reversing all of these controls. The Remote program has saved me an amazing amount of time and energy. I recently taught a class first period and had neglected to set the memory for ClarisWorks high enough to work properly with graphics. Mac Control Remote helped me set all 27 Macs to the proper memory, restart, and be ready for the next class in nine minutes from start to finish. Without Mac Control, I would have lost the effectiveness of the lesson or would have taken most of the next hour to correct the situation.
A reduced version of Mac Control, Mac Control Junior, has all the security of the full version at a reduced price and with users and abilities preset. It is easier to use, but if you prefer to set things up exactly as you desire, the full version is great. I personally prefer the full version as I can set users and privileges in detail. BDW Software offers a fully functioning version of Mac Control Junior as a demo with the manual and full access to testing the features of the Junior product. The demo functions for thirty minutes after each restart, but can give the user a good feel for what the product can do.
Mac Control Junior costs $49 for use on one Mac and $299 for one building; Mac Control costs $59 for a single copy and $399 for a building. The building version covers all current and future Macs within the building (no need to purchase additional licenses when adding Macs). BDW offers many other pricing options for larger and smaller installations. Adding Mac Control Remote to Mac Control brings the building cost to $499. Competitive upgrades are available, and when I purchased a single copy to evaluate, BDW also applied that cost to the building price. I’ve found BDW’s support outstanding, and they are receptive to suggestions for future improvements. In fact, when I last called about a need I had, the request had already been incorporated into an update and within a few days, I had the new version.
I think the package and the associated benefits are worth the relatively minimal cost and the savings to my time. Compared to other products I’ve evaluated, Mac Control is outstanding and will save teachers or other Macintosh administrators significant time and effort. While allowing the user full use of the benefits of the Macintosh interface, the product halts the abuse of the friendliness and openness of that same interface.
[To compare Mac Control with a competing product, check out the review of MacPrefect in TidBITS-242. -Tonya]
BDW Software — 800/726-5462 — 612/686-5462 — 452-4902 (fax)
When I learned that my personal hero, Professor Stephen W. Hawking, had sat in the center seat of USS Enterprise and looked around from that vantage point, I was jealous. I’m not as jealous any more, now that I’ve done the same thing – virtually – thanks to Simon & Schuster Interactive’s first virtual reality offering, Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual.
The Interactive Technical Manual was a hotly anticipated product for several reasons. First, now that the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation has ended, this CD becomes the definitive reference for the series. Second, this CD debuts Apple’s QuickTime VR technology. QuickTime VR extends the animation functions of QuickTime with the awareness of spatial relationships needed for virtual reality programming.
I waited with bated breath for this CD-ROM and – when I opened the package – my heart was pounding because I feared I’d hyped the product in my own mind so much that I’d be disappointed when trying it. I wasn’t disappointed!
Installation of the program is simple. You copy QuickTime 2.0 from the CD to your Extensions folder and then copy one of two software folders to your hard disk, depending on how much disk space you wish to devote to the program. Once that’s done, you double-click the Interactive Technical Manual icon to run the program. Simon & Schuster provided both 68K and PowerPC versions of the software; the version you don’t use needn’t be copied from the CD, or you can keep both on a hard disk that travels between computers.
When you launch the software, the "LCARS" computer system from Star Trek’s USS Enterprise appears to take over your Macintosh. The futuristic user interface even includes the computer’s voice as portrayed by Majel Barrett (Gene Roddenberry’s wife). You can go on a guided tour of Enterprise or go off on your own to explore the ship. You can also use an alphabetical index to jump right to information you’re interested in, from warp propulsion system theory to the personal files of Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge. After you find something of interest, the LCARS interface makes it easy to access related areas.
Jonathan Frakes, in his TV persona of Commander Riker, narrates the guided tour of Enterprise. Riker takes you through such areas as the exterior of Enterprise, the Bridge, the Captain’s Ready Room, Ten Forward (the ship’s laid-back tavern), Sickbay, Engineering, and the Holodeck (a 24th century form of virtual reality). Upon entering each area, Riker describes the area and explains its purpose on the ship. During the commentary, the point-of-view pans the entire area in question so you see everything. You can wander around and explore every area of the tour at any time.
What makes all of this work is Apple’s (as yet unreleased to the public) QuickTime VR technology. QuickTime VR is based on QuickTime 2.0, but includes important additional capabilities. Rather than just offer video sequences, QuickTime VR incorporates spatial information about each locale and what surrounds it. As a result, the user can pan through two 360 degree axes (horizontal and vertical), and can move around the "floor," providing a view of any corner of each room. With this technology you can walk yourself from the main turbolift door on the bridge, across the back railing where the Security and Tactical station is, down the starboard ramp (turning your head to take a look at the Enterprise dedication plaque as you pass by it), to the Captain’s chair where you can look around to the chairs to either side, look up to the transparent dome above or down to the instrument panels located on the arms of your command chair. Software such as Virtus Walkthrough has offered such capabilities for mathematically rendered environments, but didn’t provide a way of incorporating a real location into the tour.
As you walk about Enterprise you can examine individual objects like the dedication plaque mentioned above. When you do so, text appears describing the object in question, and the computer offers a spoken summary. With some objects and rooms you can to punch up production notes that tell you "behind the scenes facts" about them. (Do you know after whom Captain Picard’s pet fish is named?)
QuickTime VR enables you to handle certain objects by grabbing them with the mouse and rotating them in three dimensions. In the case of a medical tricorder, the simulation is so good that lights and dials continue to blink while you manipulate the object! Also visually impressive is a user-controllable exterior view, in which the USS Enterprise, a large Starbase, and a planet appear. Apple’s QuickTime specialists believe this feature will be especially useful in museum catalog CDs. Such products will allow museum virtual visitors not only to walk from room to room viewing the exhibits, but also to pick up sculptures and other artifacts for closer examination from any angle, a luxury most museums don’t dare offer.
What kind of resources does a program like this take? The Interactive Manual requires at least 8 MB of memory and about 1.5 MB of hard disk space all told. (You can copy less to your hard disk, but the program’s responsiveness will suffer.) The native PowerPC version requires comparable resources. Testing on both a Power Mac 6100 and a Quadra 660AV showed good performance in both environments, though some canned video sequences (from Commander Riker’s tour) jumped a bit on a Quadra 610 that was also handling some background tasks (not surprising). The virtual reality pans were good on all of the tested systems, as was the ability to handle objects and rotate them to view all sides. If you don’t have 8 MB to play around with the program will run in as little as 5 MB, but the virtual reality features may be unavailable.
So what’s the final word for the Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual? Easy. If you are a Mac-owning Star Trek fan with 8 MB of memory and a CD-ROM drive, or you know such a person, then I’ve solved your Christmas gift-giving problems this year. This CD is simply a must have! The subject matter is elegantly handled, the user interface is well thought out and totally in character, and with over 630 MB of raw data they’ve included nearly everything that could be included. My only complaint is that I wanted the CD-ROM drive to access information faster than it was designed to.
Even if you’re not a Star Trek fan this CD-ROM is worth seeing just to view the incredible potential offered by the QuickTime VR technology. If Apple plays its cards right this technology could take the educational and architectural markets by storm. Imagine being an automotive student and viewing car engine parts from all sides simply by dragging your mouse. The real estate industry could likewise be transformed. As you walk through Enterprise imagine being able to do the same thing with the design of your new house before you lay the foundation! Apple did QuickTime VR right.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual is published by Simon & Schuster Interactive and is available now; the street price is about $40. Rush right out; you won’t regret it! And now, if everyone will excuse me, I’m going to take a walk down to Main Engineering. Mr. LaForge promised me a lesson in warp field dynamics.
[Doc’s gushing seemed a bit excessive until I saw the CD last night. I’ve known for a while what QuickTime VR can do, but seeing is believing. This thing screams. -Mark]
Simon & Schuster Interactive — 212/698-7000 — 212/698-7555 (fax)
Simon & Schuster Interactive