Check out this issue for the story of how we put in a dedicated Internet connection, along with Mark Anbinder’s article about the TCP/IP FirstClass BBS module that provides access over the Internet. Mark also passes on news of Apple opening up eWorld United Kingdom users, and Andy Williams reviews Apple’s fastest new printer, the 16 page-per-minute LaserWriter 16/600 PS.
Apple’s PowerShare software (the server component that can be used with the PowerTalk client software) will no longer include a copy of System 7 Pro in the box, effective today. The server software will require (but will not include) System 7.5 with PowerTalk installed. Some sites use PowerTalk in its basic peer-to-peer form, which requires no server, but others find the PowerShare server useful. [MHA]
Why meet in person? Bittco Solutions is now shipping Co-motion 1.5 and the new Co-motion Lite. Co-motion enables users at different locations to engage in brainstorming and decision-making sessions, using most any network as a communication conduit (including the Internet over a TCP connection). Co-motion 1.5 adds many new features, including features for enhanced personal interactions, organizing information, and navigation. Co-motion Lite is shareware, and makes it possible to see how Co-motion works at a low cost. [TJE]
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc..
Apple last month moved closer to a plan for a worldwide online service by introducing eWorld in the United Kingdom. So far, the eWorld system includes eWorld for Macintosh, with an "online town square" metaphor, and the company’s NewtonMail service. A Windows eWorld client is still in the works.
New U.K. eWorld members who register before 15-Feb-95 may take advantage of Apple’s introductory trial offer, which consists of a $26 credit (covering two hours of free online time) and a waiver of the first $8.95 monthly fee. Standard charges will include a monthly subscription fee of $8.95, $7.95 for each of the first two hours used in a month, and $12.90 per hour after the first two each month, in one minute increments. Apple plans to bill charges in U.S. dollars. Subscribers’ credit card companies will convert the charges to local currency.
Apple is often taken to task for an incomplete approach to localization of products and services. In this case, while there is still no true worldwide support, the company seems well on its way to at least providing local eWorld services in the United Kingdom. Users may access eWorld through a network of local access numbers within the U.K., much as they do in the U.S. (We can only assume that U.K. users on holiday in the States, and vice-versa, will be able to use local numbers.) Further, Apple is providing a toll-free eWorld support line within the U.K. for new member enquiries and user assistance. We do hope the company will consider arranging a more localized billing approach for other markets. As things stand now, users must commit to a monthly fee and hourly connect rate that may vary wildly to their perspectives, depending on the vagaries of the currency markets.
The press has complained about eWorld’s general lack of substance so far; threaded discussion areas are numerous, but in many cases are not particularly active. Third-party support forums and Apple support forums are likely to form the core of any potential eWorld popularity, and we believe that rapid completion of these areas is critical if Apple wishes to retain customers’ interest. Towards that end, Apple has now brought "more than 140 publishing partners" into the service, offering a wide variety of information resources. Beyond computer-related information eWorld now offers such resources as world news, business, entertainment, travel information, and online reference works such as dictionaries and encyclopedias.
Apple’s hope is that the "town square" metaphor, which includes such buildings as a Post Office, Learning Centre, Business Center, and an Information Booth, will put prospective users at ease. The interface does not differ in any tremendous technological way from that of America Online, but the more relaxed visual approach may help.
Interested Macintosh users may call one of the eWorld support lines to request a free user kit.
eWorld — 0800 896206 (U.K.) — 800/775-4556 (U.S.)
At the end of October, SoftArc released FirstClass 2.6, an update to its group communications software, with the ability to communicate with Macintosh and Windows clients or between servers, via TCP/IP (see TidBITS-238). SoftArc has released updates to both the server and client applications; the server also offers improved performance on Power Macintoshes.
Server updates are free to registered users, though the TCP/IP capability requires an optional TCP/IP Protocol Module, which SoftArc sells (directly or through its SoftArc Certified Consultant network) for $995. (There are educational, non-profit, and hobbyist discounts for this, as for most SoftArc products.) SoftArc’s "a la carte" approach to supporting multiple network protocols allows them to charge each site only for capabilities that will be used at that site.
In what seems like a departure from the company’s usual practice, SoftArc is not restricting TCP/IP access to the more expensive "network user" licenses. The less-expensive "remote user" licenses (previously called "telecom user" licenses) will support TCP/IP connections as well. We expect a resulting surge in Internet-accessible vendor support services and public BBSs. (SoftArc requires the purchase of a $395 Four Remote Port Upgrade if a system administrator wishes to support more than two remote connections at once; this was true for modem connections in the past.)
Macintosh client users need Apple’s MacTCP control panel (included with System 7.5, or Adam’s Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh book), and Windows client users need a Windows Sockets-compliant TCP protocol stack. Previously, TCP/IP client access was only possible (and often unreliable) using one of a few Communications Toolbox TCP/IP connection tools with the Macintosh client application.
According to SoftArc, FirstClass Server 2.6 also now supports the Modern Memory Manager, and offers significant speed improvements on Power Macintoshes. Neither server nor client software incorporates native PowerPC code, but compliance with the Modern Memory Manager dramatically improves server performance.
Registered owners may download the updated server software from SoftArc Online, the company’s FirstClass-based support BBS, or may order a server upgrade package with new disks and documentation for $95. Credit card orders may be sent to <[email protected]>. The upgrade package (whether downloaded or purchased) provides an upgrade path from any previous version of the FirstClass package. Users who already have 2.5 or later packages will find the documentation largely unchanged.
As always, the client software is available at no cost. You can download it (using a previous FirstClass version, or any VT100 terminal program that supports XMODEM or ZMODEM file transfers) from SoftArc Online, or retrieve it on the Internet from:
SoftArc — 800/364-1923 — 905/415-7000 — 905/415-7151 (fax)
905/415-7070 (BBS) — <[email protected]>
Apple’s new LaserWriter 16/600 PS sports a new naming scheme that ties the name of the printer to the printer’s features. The name indicates three things: pages-per-minute (ppm), dots-per-inch (dpi), and page description language. In this case, the name indicates a 16 ppm, 600 dpi, PostScript printer. (Interestingly, the printer is actually 17 ppm with letter size paper but perhaps Apple decided 16/600 PS sounds better than 17/600 PS.)
Vital Statistics — The 16/600 PS uses the same case the LaserWriter Pro 600 series used. For those of you keeping score, this means a 12.13" high by 16.75" wide by 16.9" deep case. It weighs in at 40 pounds.
The 16/600 PS is driven by a 25 MHz AMD Am29030 RISC microprocessor and a Canon LBP-ZX Laser-xerographic engine. The printer comes with 8 MB RAM (filling one of two slots) which is expandable to 32 MB, using 72-pin SIMMs.
It includes a paper tray at the bottom that handles up to 250 sheets of letter size paper and a multi-purpose tray on one side that can take up to 100 pages of letter size or legal size paper and supports variable paper sizes including envelopes. The printer does not provide a straight paper path but instead a "C" path with the paper exiting the top of the printer and landing in a stacking bed.
The printer sports a internal SCSI device bay and an external SCSI port (PowerBook style), a LocalTalk port, a parallel port, and an Ethernet port (which itself supports EtherTalk, Novell NetWare IPX, and TCP/IP). EtherTalk users need a transceiver such as Asante’s FriendlyNet or Farallon’s EtherWave (we tested the printer using the latter).
FinePrint, Apple’s type-enhancing technology, works in only 8 MB, but PhotoGrade, Apple’s improved gray-scale printing technology, requires at least 12 MB. Both are available at 600 dpi. Previously, PhotoGrade was only available only in 300 dpi (thus making you choose between 600 dpi and no PhotoGrade or 300 dpi with PhotoGrade).
The printer is EnergyStar-compliant and has a user-definable idle time before the printer goes into a reduced-power sleep state. It generally takes about a minute for the printer to warm up from this state. The warm-up time presented a small problem when I tried to download a PostScript file to the printer. It aborted with the error message "Warming Up" rather than waiting for the printer to warm up.
Apple Printer Utility — The printer ships with a brand new printer utility from Apple. Apple Printer Utility 1.0 is a much-needed improvement over the older (and still included) LaserWriter Utility. First off, the program does not rely on the Chooser to know which printer to configure. (How many people are familiar with selecting a printer in the Chooser, using LaserWriter Utility to rename said printer, and then having to return to the Chooser to select the printer under the new name before proceeding? Those days are gone.) In addition, the printer options are presented in a single window in a nice format, making printer administration simpler.
Expansion Options — In addition to RAM expansion, the printer supports Apple’s Fax Card, enabling the printer to function as a plain paper fax machine. It can receive faxes directly to paper and you can also opt to print via fax through the printer. This option also supports PostScript fax so you can print vastly superior quality text and graphics when faxing to another Fax Card-equipped printer.
Finally, you can expand the printer’s paper handling via optional 500-sheet and 250-sheet universal cassettes which provide support for A4, B5, and Legal sizes. Apple also sells a 75-envelope feeder.
Print Quality — With regard to text, the print quality is superb. In fact, on text printed both with and without FinePrint I was unable to see any difference without a magnifying glass. I found text in small sizes clear and easy to read. Text printed in grayscale increments down to 5 percent were still legible even in small sizes
Graphics, however, were a bit disappointing when printed with PhotoGrade disabled. We tested our printers with three different graphics: a 72 dpi bitmap, a 150 dpi bitmap, and an Illustrator PostScript file. In all cases we found mild banding (which we expected). What we did not expect was distinct posterization in some areas of our grayscale images. It was almost as if rather than dither the images the printer just reduced the number of grays, leaving heavily banded areas on our images.
With PhotoGrade enabled, the grays were much nicer and the banding was reduced to a minimum. Also, PhotoGrade brought out detail that had been lacking in non-PhotoGrade prints, especially in areas otherwise too dark for any real detail.
Copies of our sample images as well as scans of some of the results on the 16/600 PS (as well as on other printers) can be obtained from the Computer Resource Center Web pages at:
Printer Speed — In our timing tests, the 16/600 PS made an impressive showing. Of all the Apple printers we have tested, this one is the fastest by quite a margin. Our timing tests include a simple demo page with a small black and white 72 dpi bitmap and a variety of fonts in various sizes, a four page paper in Palatino 12 point (both from Word 5.1a), and a full page 72 dpi bitmap (from Adobe Photoshop 2.5.1). Included are the times for the 16/600 PS as well as a few other Apple printers for comparison (all times are from the clicking of the print button to when the last sheet comes out of the printer):
Demo Page 4 Page Paper 72 dpi bitmap Total Time ----------------------------------------------------------------- 16/600 PS 0:38 0:45 0:32 2:55 LW Pro 810 1:08 1:24 13:42 16:14 LW Pro 630 0:58 1:42 9:13 11:53 LW Select 360 0:39 1:08 2:37 4:24
Further printing times can be obtained from the Computer Resource Center Web pages at:
Conclusion — The LaserWriter 16/600 PS is surprisingly fast and provides impressive quality text at all sizes and shades at an ApplePrice of $2,429 (according to the 03-Oct-94 MacWEEK) If you intend to use this printer for serious graphics, I recommend upgrading the RAM to at least 12 MB to enable the PhotoGrade option. We found a dramatic improvement in printed graphics when PhotoGrade was utilized.
Tonya and I recently put in a direct connection to the Internet, and I promised to pass on some of the details so others would know just how hard it is. The moral of the story is that it’s not at all hard, or even that expensive, but it helps to have some expert help.
I’d considered setting up a direct connection for months, ever since Ed Morin of Northwest Nexus mentioned that a 56K frame relay connection cost about $70 per month from U.S. West plus a several hundred dollar installation fee. Keep in mind that that rate is related to the distance from your eventual destination, so even others in the Seattle area, might find it more or less expensive. However, it is a flat-rate connection so I don’t pay by the byte or anything like that.
The reason it took me so long to get around to setting up the connection is that high speed connections are confusing, and it’s difficult to find someone at the phone company who can help. Other types of connections that might work for you (but which I know little about) include ISDN (it costs 1.5 cents per minute here but is flat rate in some parts of the country), switched 56, dedicated 56K leased lines, and of course faster connections up to T-1 and T-3 lines.
The deciding factor in getting the connection was when Cory Low, one of my co-authors on Internet Starter Kit for Windows, asked why I didn’t have one yet. He’d set his up his several months before and loves it. I admitted that I was confused and short on time, so he graciously volunteered to set everything up with U.S. West for me. Sometimes the best end to procrastination is to have someone do the job for you.
It took U.S. West about a month to get to installing the connection because they had to install a repeater between our house and the central office several miles away. Then one day, the installation person appeared and connected an additional two pairs of wires (four wires all told) that came from the pole in the street to the phone company’s network interface box on the outside of our house. We had some of the right sort of phone wire left over from all the phone and network wiring we’d done in the house with our friend Sandro Menzel, and since there was only one pair of wires left over from the original four-pair wire (two phone lines and one LocalTalk network), we ran another four-pair wire from the network interface box into my office. Luckily, it’s easy to run wire under our house. We ran all this wire ourselves because we knew how to do it (especially since we could borrow Sandro’s staple gun) and because the phone company charges $80 per hour to do in-house wiring.
The wiring from the phone company’s network interface box went under the house and up into my office, but I didn’t have the proper RJ-48 8-pin jack to plug the wire into. The guy from the phone company (who had to come twice due to mistakes that had been made up the street in the cross-connect point) told me what to get, but after I hung out with him for a while and chatted about connections, he decided he liked me and gave me the jack I needed. Rule number one about installing phone company stuff: Be nice to the installation people and they’ll go out of their way to help you.
I attached the jack to the proper color wires (don’t guess, there are specific colors you should use to avoid confusing the phone company folks – they’ll tell you). Unfortunately, the connection still didn’t work, so a few days later another installation guy came out to see if he could fix it. He kept backing up from my jack, to the network interface box, to the pole outside the house, to the cross-connect pole at the top of the street, until he finally figured out they’d accidentally installed a defective repeater (remember the repeater?). A quick swap, and he was done. (Actually, he found another problem involving a "longitudinal imbalance" at the cross-connect point that I didn’t understand at all, but he fixed it as well.)
Next came Jim Barrett, a U.S. West technician who is also in the local Mac user group (which was good, since he understood our planned uses for the connection). He tested the line to make sure it was properly conditioned, which amounted to unpacking his $50,000 protocol analyzer with a built-in 80386 PC, connecting it to the jack, running a program, and saying, "Yup, it works fine." He also gave me an additional Ethernet crimp connector when he heard I only had two and thus couldn’t afford to ruin one, even though I’d never built an Ethernet cable before. See rule number one. Interestingly, he mentioned that the frame relay group at U.S. West is being completely overwhelmed by the demand for these connections – at those rates I’m not surprised.
That took care of the installation of the 56K frame relay line into the house. At that point, we only had LocalTalk for internal networking, and we wanted Ethernet to connect up to the Internet (I presume it would have been possible to get a LocalTalk-to-Ethernet router as well and stick with our LocalTalk, but there seemed to be no reason to go with the slower LocalTalk when the entire point of the exercise was to get fast Internet access). Running Ethernet required deciding on an Ethernet cable type – twisted pair, thin, or thick. There didn’t seem to be any reason to mess with thick, and twisted pair requires a hub and is (I’m told) mainly useful when devices are frequently added to and removed from the network. So we went for thin coaxial cable, and ran a long length between our offices under the house. That required attaching the crimp connectors to the coax cable with Cory’s cutter and crimper, which was easy after I ruined the requisite first one (and had to resort to the one Jim gave me). For the rest of the cabling in the offices, we used pre-made ten foot cables and T-connectors, with the occasional barrel connector to combine two cables into a twenty foot cable length.
Of course, you have to connect the cable to the Macs, and for that we bought Asante AAUI transceivers for the Power Mac 7100 and the Centris 660AV, an Asante Ethernet card for the SE/30, and a Dayna SCSI/Port SCSI Ethernet adapter for Tonya’s Duo 230 (which has a MiniDock). Once the cable was run and the adapters and transceivers all installed, with appropriate drivers for the SE/30 and Duo 230, everything was ready.
The next part was to connect up the CSU/DSU and router. I’m no networking expert, but think of a CSU/DSU as a digital modem of sorts, and a router as a device that connects two dissimilar networks, in this case the Internet and our Ethernet network. You can’t use just any router since it must support the appropriate type of connection, frame relay in my case. Because of that, I didn’t shop around, but bought the router my provider, Northwest Nexus, recommended and sold, a Livingston PortMaster IRX, which cost about $2,000 (it even supports PPP if I attach a modem to it). They also sold me a BAT Technologies CSU/DSU for about $300, although I gather there are fancier, CSU/DSUs that are much more expensive.
I’m not sure what Cory did to configure the router, but since it only took about five minutes after we connected to it using the PowerBook 100, a serial cable, and a terminal program, I can’t imagine it was all that hard. Cory gave me a fair amount of information that he’d gotten from Northwest Nexus (who had to set things up on their end) – I presume any Internet provider would do the same.
After bringing the router online, we configured MacTCP on each Mac with the appropriate gateway IP address (the router’s IP address) and the appropriate IP address for each Mac. Cory recommended leaving the first ten IP addresses in our Class C address (204.57.157.* in our case) for network devices like routers, and then use numbers above that for the Macs.
Since then, everything has worked. We no longer dial out – MacTCP programs connect instantly. Transmission speeds in Anarchie and Fetch went from about 1,600 bps via modem and a PPP account to around 6,000 bps via the 56K line. Web browsers are more fun to use, and I don’t worry about retrieving large files via FTP any more.
The only irritation was that the PowerBook 100 and our laser printers are LocalTalk devices, and it’s a pain to switch from Ethernet to LocalTalk in the Network control panel every time we want to print. Cory lent me his unused copy of the Apple Internet Router program, which I installed on the SE/30 in about five minutes, and that’s worked fine for connecting the LocalTalk and Ethernet networks. I’m leaning toward replacing it with a microBridge/TCP from Sonic Systems because that will off-load the processing from the SE/30 and provide TCP/IP access to the PowerBook 100 as well, something that would require the Apple IP Gateway software extension for the Apple Internet Router. Besides, Cory will probably want his Apple Internet Router software back sometime.
Aside from the speed, the main neat thing I’ve done is to install Timbuktu Pro (in case I want to control it from another Mac on the network or via the Internet while I’m travelling – see TidBITS-241), MailShare, FTPd, and MacHTTP on the SE/30, which is called <king.tidbits.com> (all the Macs are named for species of penguins). MailShare is a SMTP and POP mail server from Glenn Anderson that works well with Eudora (but doesn’t support the autoReply function that I use so heavily in uAccess, which is why I haven’t switched my incoming email yet). Peter Lewis’s FTPd provides FTP and Gopher services, but because of the load on anonymous FTP, I only set up Gopher for public access. Tonya expressed interest in creating her own home page in HTML, so I set up Chuck Shotton’s MacHTTP for that. Other than fussing with System 7 file sharing privileges for FTPd, I don’t think any of these programs took more than about five minutes to install and configure – a friend who had just spent four days fighting to configure sendmail on his Unix box was a touch jealous, I think.
As far as the money goes, we spent about $3,000 on hardware. The installation of the 56K line cost $365, and as I said, the monthly cost for the line is about $70. The account with Northwest Nexus would cost $300 to set up and $300 per month, but they wanted to sponsor TidBITS on regular basis in exchange for one of each of their Internet accounts (since I have to do so much testing for the books). Overall, I think it should be possible to set up this sort of connection for under $4,000 capital costs and $500 per month, which is a lot for an individual, but not that much for even a small business that has real use for the Internet.
I recommend that if you want to set up such a connection that you talk to your local Internet provider (and I’d use a personal account with them for a while before jumping into a dedicated connection, so you can decide if you like their services) to find a network consultant in your area who can help with the technical details. It’s not impossible for a novice to set up such a connection, but coordinating the phone company and the provider and your network can be a bit tricky if you don’t know all the variables. I certainly didn’t, and couldn’t have done it without Cory Low’s assistance.
Interestingly, I don’t know many Internet resources that will help you with this process, perhaps in part because it’s different in every locale. However, there is a mailing list called inet-access at earth.com that might be of some help. Send email to <[email protected]> to join, and you might also check out the Usenet newsgroup <alt.internet.access>.