TidBITS begins this week with a smattering of MailBITS, including information about a potentially serious problem with early Pentium chips and news about Apple’s upcoming Multimedia Tuner. We then continue with a look at DeskTape, a clever program that lets you mount DAT tapes on the desktop. Rounding out the issue, Dave Reiser shares his thoughts about what’s new in WordPerfect 3.1.
For all those who have been asking, Tonya is recovering nicely from her neck injury of five weeks ago. It’s been a slow process, but luckily she has the luxury of healing properly. That means spending most of her time concentrating on getting better rather than dealing with life, and I think it’s made a big difference. [ACE]
APS on the Internet — Two weeks ago, I visited APS after giving an Internet presentation the night before to a great crowd at the Kansas City MacCORE users’ group. I spent most of the day helping bring up their dedicated 56K Internet connection, a process that required merely persistence in having each party (Southwestern Bell, the phone company that installed the line; Cory Low, the consultant who set up the router and Mac server; Tyrell, the provider; and Sprint, Tyrell’s provider) double-check everything and help fix problems in each part of the connection.
The initial utility of the connection is that APS can receive Internet email more easily than before, when everything went through CompuServe and into QuickMail. Now, their QuickMail server also runs StarNine’s <[email protected]> Mail*Link/SMTP. You can find more information about the gateway at the following URL:
Using the gateway along with QuickMail, APS has created a number of public Internet addresses (and APS strongly encourages people to use these addresses rather than the old CompuServe address). They are: [ACE]
Apple to Release Multimedia Tuner — Rumor has it that Apple just completed work on Apple Multimedia Tuner 2.0, a system extension designed to enhance the performance of QuickTime 2.0 and Sound Manager 3.0 on systems 6.0.7 through 7.5. The system extension improves QuickTime and audio memory management and helps applications that do not "properly" initialize movie playback under QuickTime 2.0. It should also improve reliability in low memory conditions on the Quadra 840AV and 660AV.
Preliminary tests indicate that the Tuner does help QuickTime and audio playback in low-memory situations on a variety of systems. One wonders if there was ever a version 1.0 of this patch, but sometimes it’s best not to ask too many questions. Multimedia Tuner 2.0 will reportedly be distributed free of charge; keep an eye on Apple’s FTP servers and appropriate Usenet newsgroups for an announcement. [Pythaeus]
Math Bug Confirmed in Pentium Chips — Earlier this month, reports of a floating point division bug in Intel’s Pentium chip began to surface on CompuServe and in Usenet newsgroups such as <comp.sys.intel>. Mathematics professor Thomas Nicely of Lynchburg College in Virginia is generally credited with the first public announcement of the bug, which Intel claims to have discovered as early as June.
The bug – involving double-precision floating point divide operations – occurs once in every 9 or 10 billion divides and seems unlikely to affect the average user. However engineers, analysts, and others who bought Pentium systems as a substitute for high-priced workstations have expressed genuine concern.
Intel claims to have corrected the problem in currently shipping Pentium chips, but there are no part-number changes or other markings on the corrected chip. According to the 21-Nov-94 issue of Electronic Engineering Times, Intel indicates they will replace the part if customers are concerned. However, Intel is apparently not planning to upgrade existing Pentiums or inform their customers. In the meantime, programs are circulating which determine if the bug is present on a given machine. [GD]
Intel Technical Support — 800/628-8686
Brady Johnson <[email protected]> writes to announce a new product that might be of interest:
DayDoubler is a new product from Connectrix that gives you those extra hours in each day that we’ve been asking for. Using sophisticated time mapping and compression techniques to double the number of hours in the day, DayDoubler gives you access to 48 hours each day. With the shareware hack MaxDay, you can easily stretch your day to 60, 72, or even 96 hours! Connectrix warns that at the higher numbers DayDoubler becomes less stable and that you run the risk of a temporal crash in which everything from the beginning of time to the present would come crashing down around you, sucking you into a black hole.
Should this occur, be sure to reboot with the shift key down.
These days, people mainly use removable storage media for distribution, backup, and data sharing. SyQuests are perhaps the most common removable media, but the most frequently used SyQuests are limited to 44 and 88 MB of data. What if you need to send someone many megabytes of data but would prefer not to send expensive cartridges? Optima Technology’s DeskTape may solve your problem, assuming that both you and your recipient use DAT drives for backup.
DeskTape 2.0 is a one trick pony. As its lone trick, DeskTape mounts DAT tapes on your desktop as normal, albeit slow, Finder volumes. You can do most anything with a DeskTape volume that you can do with any Finder volume, with a few exceptions. Most importantly, because files on a DAT are written sequentially, you cannot mount a DeskTape volume and edit files stored on the volume. Similarly, you can’t reclaim space from deleted files. Finally, you can’t (or shouldn’t) share a tape over a network because of the ways networks interact with tape drives. In addition, you’d be wasting time to launch applications from the tape or rebuild the desktop on the tape because you could grow old waiting for the process to finish. Interestingly, Optima gives instructions for playing QuickTime movies from tape, which apparently is possible if everything works just right (and there’s a full moon).
In other words, use DeskTape to copy files to a DAT tape and copy files from a DAT tape, but try to avoid other tasks. So maybe a DeskTape volume isn’t quite as useful as a Finder volume, but how many Finder volumes do you have that cost $10 to $12 and can hold several gigabytes? Not many, I suspect, but DAT tapes fit the bill precisely.
Optima ran into an interesting problem with DeskTape. DeskTape works well for sharing tons of data, but it’s a little unreasonable to expect people to buy DeskTape just to read a few files from a colleague. As a result, DeskTape comes copy-protected and can only be installed three times, using a special DAT tape with keys on it. You can uninstall DeskTape to increment the counter again, but avoid reformatting your hard disk without uninstalling or you lose one of your three installs. I suspect it would be difficult, if not impossible, to copy the special DAT tape containing the keys. To share data, users send their colleagues copies of the DeskTape control panel on a floppy disk. Without the key, the DeskTape control panel permits the tape to be used only in read-only mode, turning the DAT drive into something of a tapeWORM.
DeskTape supports hardware data compression features in many DAT drives, but make sure your recipient’s drive also supports compression. If in doubt, leave it off – you’ll still have more free space than you know what to do with. To increase the admittedly mediocre performance (hey, we’re talking tape here, adjust your expectations), DeskTape does things like store the 5 MB (default size) tape directory on the startup volume (in the Preferences folder – make sure you have space), and provide configurable controls for the RAM buffer that help keep the tape streaming during copying. The default size of the directory file limits the number of files you can copy to the tape to between 8,000 and 25,000, but the manual recommends leaving the directory file size at the default if you plan to share tapes with other users.
The DeskTape control panel includes various utilities for testing the tape drive and media, rewinding, retensioning, positioning, and ejecting the tape, and, should you need them, utilities for resetting the SCSI bus, and creating or repairing the end-of-data marker that enables the drive to locate the last block written.
Optima should be commended for being up front about the various limitations surrounding DeskTape, which is good because otherwise you might run into problems with disk recovery programs (don’t use them on a DeskTape volume) or Retrospect (which won’t see a tape as a tape, but as a hard disk). If you use DeskTape and Retrospect, I recommend using an extension manager to link the DeskTape control panel and the Retro.startup extension so that both cannot be active at the same time. That should prevent Retrospect from starting up automatically while DeskTape is active.
In the end, most people will use DeskTape with inexpensive DAT tapes for ad hoc backups and archives (I recommend Retrospect 2.1 for real backups), and for sharing large quantities of data with colleagues. Someone once asked about the best way to regularly send a gigabyte of data to another office several hundred miles away via the Internet – the answer is to use DAT and an overnight courier and avoid bogging down the Internet.
DeskTape is not a utility for everyone, simply because not everyone has the necessary DAT drive and gigabytes of data for DeskTape to be useful. However, if you do have a DAT drive and regularly work with massive quantities of data, especially if you send those files to other people, DeskTape could save you time, money, and hair. DeskTape lists for $299, and none of the big Mac mail order companies seem to carry it, so contact Optima directly.
Optima Technology — 714/476-0515 — 714/476-0613 (fax)
[I asked Dave to write this review as a follow-up to the review of WordPerfect 3.0 that he wrote earlier this year. Dave would like us all to note that his opinions do not necessarily represent those of his employer. Assuming my neck continues to heal nicely, I’ll follow up in a few weeks with some thoughts about how WordPerfect 3.1 compares to Word 6. -Tonya]
I recently dug up my review of WordPerfect 3.0 (from TidBITS-205) and read through it, wondering what they’ve done for me lately. In WordPerfect 3.1, Novell has done quite a bit. In addition to enhancing the program, Novell sped up several features, did not slow down any part of the program that I’ve noticed, and did not create a disk storage monster.
New Features — The most visible changes to 3.1 are QuickCorrect (an automatic typing corrector) and the new features for System 7.5, which include support for the Drag Manager (exchanging information between files and applications without having to copy and paste), Apple Guide (interactive help), and QuickDraw GX printing (see TidBITS-243 for more about QuickDraw GX) .
I haven’t used Drag Manager much, but it seems to work as the manual says: drag a selection out to the desktop and the Mac puts a copy there, available to be dragged into another document (the document could be from WordPerfect of from or any other compliant application).
I have seen the future of computer "How To" writing, and that future is Apple Guide or its successor. People seem to be of two minds about Apple Guide: some are indifferent; others are drooling at the thought of seeing a really good help system. Being in the latter category, I’ll offer the defense that anyone who has done much computer support has run across features they have had to demo time and again. A help system that can walk the user through a process, using a real example of the user’s choosing, and explaining the operation while it happens, is truly music to my soul. WordPerfect Guide (the WordPerfect specific files that run under Apple Guide) includes only a subset of topics in the regular help file, but it’s a good start. If I could only get Novell to throw out that lousy clone of Microsoft Help they use for the regular help files, I’d be happier. I find Apple Guide a bit too slow on a IIci, but for a beginner it probably isn’t too bad.
QuickDraw GX printing makes it much easier to create a program that can handle landscape and portrait pages in the same document. I’ve been waiting for the ability to include a few landscape pages in a standard portrait document since Apple promised it two years before the original System 7.0 shipped. It finally works, and it’s almost enough to justify the extra memory GX takes. People with lots of printer choices on a network will probably appreciate GX printing support. I also think that Hoefler Text (one of the GX fonts Apple includes with System 7.5) represents a definite improvement over the PostScript fonts most of us are used to working with. If Apple can get enough companies to create and support GX fonts, computer typography will take another leap forward. On the other hand, Hoefler Text is kind of tiring to look at on the screen.
QuickCorrect is WordPerfect’s name for what I call a typo catcher. It fixes simple things that people mis-type, such as "teh" instead of "the", multiple spaces between words, no capitalization at the beginning of a sentence, or an inadvertent second capital letter at the beginning of a word. QuickCorrect isn’t a full spelling checker, or it would be way too slow. It does catch little mistakes quite well, in exchange for a slight hesitation in some screen operations.
You can also use QuickCorrect as a mini-glossary. You can edit QuickCorrect’s substitution list to include up to 254 characters for any "word" you want to be shorthand for the longer piece. For example, if you always want to write out "alternating current" instead of "ac", just edit the list appropriately.
Native Power Mac support was added in 3.0a last March, and 3.1 adds a fat binary install option. PowerTalk support also existed in a previous version, but I haven’t tried it.
Speed — Scrolling is only slightly faster than 3.0a, but screen redraw action is much quicker in normal text entry. If you type in tables on a 68030-based Mac, the screen redraw still gets jerky when the text is being entered in a cell that is right along the edge of the document window. It’s sad to see my IIci become the slowpoke of the Mac family, but I still find 3.1 serviceable on the old machine. Novell says 3.1 will run on a Mac Plus under System 6.0.7 in a 2 MB memory partition. I believe it would run, but I’m almost positive I’d use a text editor with a mark-up language before I’d wait for any long document editing on a Plus. Maybe one of these days I’ll drag out my Plus and see what it’s like.
If you want some numbers (all times in seconds), I’ll pick on scrolling and word count for the WordPerfect Read Me file, which has 67 pages and about 19,500 words. In case you’re wondering why the file so long, 40 pages are appendices which offer a list of all the command key equivalents, an Apple event dictionary, macro commands, and macro variables. All this information is available online, but not in the bound manual. Apparently Novell took so much heat for not printing it that they put it in the Read Me file.
jump jump to jump word Machine System to end beginning to end count ------------------------------------------------------------------ IIci 7.0.1 (w/tuner) 19 sec 4 sec 7 sec 35 sec IIci 7.5 10 ? 4 19 7100 with 7.1.2 4 <1 <1 4 L2 cache
The reason I include multiple jumps is that the first time through the file, WordPerfect checks some formatting information as it goes, after that it remembers most of what it checked. For anyone tempted to inject an "I can do that instantly on xxx," I’ll throw in the additional test of using the scroll box to go part way through a large file. WordPerfect’s times are proportional to the distance through the file. The "instant" jumps in other programs often go away when you go somewhere other than the beginning or end. Scrolling with the scroll arrows is much too fast to read on the Power Mac. On the IIci, arrow scrolling goes quickly for just text, but gets jumpy or slow when graphics are involved.
In the last review I complained about text entry in a ten column by thirty row table. On the IIci, I can still out type the screen redraw by the time I’m halfway into the table, but the screen redraw is noticeably better than 3.0. (My work-around is to do heavy data entry in tab delimited form, select it all, and convert it to a table with the Text-to-Table function. It only takes a few seconds.) On the 7100, I didn’t have to wait for the screen at all.
I’ve been on a speed binge for a while, and I find myself asking whether this much emphasis on speed makes sense. It may, in that anything distracting will irritate a writer, and lack of speed is distracting. [Indeed! -Adam] Other things are important when considering power and ease of use: consistency of the interface, ease of access to the most often used functions, predictable access to infrequently used features. I’ve thought for a long time that WordPerfect’s creators had a strong design vision. Most of the time I like their design strategy, so I like the program.
What’s Present and What’s Missing? — The review of 3.0 gives a lot more information about the implementation and features. Almost none of that information has changed in 3.1 – except, of course for items mentioned here.
I think the biggest negative surprise in 3.1 is that Outlining is still nothing more than flexible paragraph numbering. I guess Marketing figured keeping up with Apple was a bigger plus than waiting for other major feature additions.
The other disappointment is the lack of character-based styles. The way WordPerfect handles paragraph styles pretty much requires that manual formatting changes be avoided if styles are ever edited or different styles applied to existing text. Since the ability to make those changes is supposed to be one of the major advantages of styles, I find WordPerfect’s styles not useful enough to bother with often.
WordPerfect now includes Macintosh Easy Open from Apple and Microsoft Word translators from DataViz. You can finally export to Word format. There is also the choice of the built-in or DataViz version of the Word import translator. I think WordPerfect’s converter does a better job than DataViz’s (on slow save format files – if you have extensive fast saved Word files, the DataViz translator will probably be your only choice). I still have several complaints about the how much cleanup I have to do after importing files from Word. This issue is my biggest nit to pick with WordPerfect. If you’re trying to take on the market gorilla, you must be prepared to swing from higher trees.
The Document Experts and clip art that WordPerfect mailed to people sending in their registration cards for 3.0 now come as disk 6 in the upgrade package. I don’t know if first time buyers get disk 6 with the rest, or if they still have to register first. The Experts, which you can think of as combining stationery and macros, have become smarter in some cases. The envelope macro (which is a Document Expert run from the Macro menu) allows better control of address offsets from the default margins set up the first time you run the macro. I still have to trick the envelope macro into working properly with my DeskWriter C, but I appreciate the improvements.
Hardware Requirements — WordPerfect 3.1 takes up around 12 MB of disk space on a 68K based Mac, if you include all the fonts, Document Experts, clip art, documentation, and tutorial files included in the package. I use a 3,000K RAM allocation for the program (even on the Power Mac, as long as virtual memory is on or RAM Doubler is in use). Novell claims it will run in 2,000K on a 68K Mac, but I’ve always found their minimums a bit optimistic.
WordPerfect document files are not svelte. Compression programs can regularly squeeze 75 percent of the space out of WordPerfect files. The Save As dialog box offers a "WP 3 Compressed" option, but I haven’t been able to get it to give me smaller files, despite taking a lot longer to save. I think there is a bug here.
Pricing — Anyone can buy WordPerfect Mac 3.1 for $99 until 31-Jan-95. Upgrades from prior WordPerfect versions are $59. After January 31st, the retail price goes to $395 and upgrades to $69. The upgrades are free to anyone who purchased 3.0a after 15-Aug-94 and until 30-Nov-94. If you do want to take advantage of the free upgrade, be sure to upgrade on or before 30-Nov-94.
All in all, I still like WordPerfect Mac a lot, and I have every intention of using it as my main word processor for the foreseeable future.
Novell Applications Group — 800/451-5151 — 801/225-5000
801/228-5077 (fax) — <[email protected]> (support)