This week begins with a bevy of MailBITS, with news of Easy View 2.6.1, Word 6.0.1, S.314 passing the Senate Commerce Committee, and more. The issue continues with important information for some PowerBook 100-series owners, information about the recently released QuickDraw GX 1.1.1, LaserWriter 8.2.2, and Network Software Installer 1.5, and PowerTalk-related files. Last but not least, we finish with Tonya’s review of three well-known Macintosh books.
We’d like to welcome our latest sponsor, InfoSeek Corporation. InfoSeek is among the first companies to make commercial-quality information available on the Internet for searching via paid subscription (using authenticated Web browsers). Although the concept of paying to search databases is still uncommon on the Internet, it makes sense when the only way to bring that information to the Internet is by buying it from a commercial vendor – few companies wish to give away information that they can sell in other venues. InfoSeek has gone far in providing inexpensive access though, by charging $9.95 per month with 100 free transactions.
Among the standard collections are ComputerWorld; Usenet News (either the current week or the last four weeks); NewsBytes; Cineman Movie, Book, and Music Reviews; FrameMaker 4.0 Help Notes; Hoover’s Masterlist of U.S. Companies; and information from various wire services. Also included are premium collections that charge extra for each search or retrieval such as InfoWorld, Hoover’s Company Profiles, and the Computer Select full text database of 100 computer publications. Unfortunately, although InfoWorld and Hoover’s Company Profiles have reasonable additional rates, Computer Select requires that InfoSeek charge a ludicrous amount – $5 for a four-week subscription with one free retrieval and $5 per retrieval after that. Needless to say, I’ve limited my searching to the standard and free collections and have yet to use up my 100 free transactions each month. If you do research online in the sort of databases InfoSeek currently has, check them out at: [ACE]
Easy View 2.6.1 — Akif Eyler <[email protected]> has released version 2.6.1 of his popular text viewing and cataloging application Easy View. In addition to being the pre-eminent application for viewing many digest and text file formats (including setext, the format in which TidBITS is distributed), Akif has added full AppleScript support and recordability, background searching, and command-click URLs (using Akif’s Get URL BBEdit extension).
Using Easy View 2.6.1 with the Get URL extension, you can command-click URLs appearing in TidBITS or other files, including ftp, http, and gopher links, as well as the standardized file references appearing in the Info-Mac digest. Easy View automatically uses Anarchie and MacWeb to load URLs for you – note that although the Get URL extension is configurable, the applications it tries to use must have a concept of "bookmark files" for it to work correctly, which means it presently doesn’t work well with Netscape. Congratulations and appreciative thanks to Akif for maintaining and enhancing this essential application! [GD]
DreamWorks Interactive — Film and media moguls David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg – cover boys of this week’s Time Magazine – went on stage March 22nd with Microsoft’s Bill Gates to announce the formation of a new $30 million joint company, DreamWorks Interactive. In the rumor mill since December of 1994, this new company is expected to focus on highly interactive computer titles, including games and entertainment products. DreamWorks Interactive will be located in Seattle and Los Angeles and is expected to start hiring employees out of Microsoft as early as 01-Apr-95. Considering the net worths of everyone involved, $30 million isn’t a lot of money to start with; however, Gates did note that financial constraints weren’t expected be an operational problem. The company expects to have its first products on the street for the 1996 Christmas season. Taken in the context of Microsoft’s purchase of SoftImage last year, DreamWorks Interactive is expected to be a front-runner in the multimedia industry’s content-and-technology battle. [GD]
Interior Decor — Several people chastised us for not mentioning the $10 shareware program Decor, which does much the same thing as DeskPicture (see TidBITS-268). The two sport similar feature sets, although Decor fully supports JPEG files, but can’t handle multiple monitors. In addition, Decor is scriptable and Power Mac-native. We hadn’t intended to cover all the utilities that decorate your desktop, but if you want to check out Decor, it’s at: [ACE]
Dressing for Decency — A modified version of the Communications Decency Act of 1995, popularly known as the Exon Amendment and S.314, recently passed the Senate Commerce Committee and is attached to the telecommunications reform bill scheduled to go before the Senate as early as this week – despite Committee phone banks being so overwhelmed with calls that outside help had to be brought in. Previously covered in TidBITS-263 and TidBITS-266, this bill proposes to prohibit online distribution of materials deemed "obscene," "filthy," or "indecent." Though the bill has been revised to free some carriers from criminal liability, many groups feel new restrictions placed on the creators of online content are even more onerous than before, infringing on First Amendment rights and setting dangerous legislative precedents in electronic media. For current information and online initiatives (including an Internet petition drive that gathered over 100,000 signatures) regarding this proposed legislation, check out: [GD]
Word 6.0.1 Update — The latest news from the Word team at Microsoft has the U.S. version of Word 6.0.1 in manufacturing. Hoping to make up for the ill-will brought on by the many problems in Word 6.0, Microsoft is making 6.0.1 available at no charge to registered Word 6 owners. By no charge, I mean that registered owners can acquire the update by calling 800/315-5081 and asking for either Word 6.0.1 or Office 4.2.1. Microsoft then ships the software with no materials, shipping, or handling fees of any sort. U.S. owners who don’t call should receive update information via snail mail.
I asked Keith Armodt <[email protected]>, Macintosh Line Product Manager at Microsoft, about how people outside the U.S. can request the update, and he said the foreign subsidiaries would each handle updates for their regions. Apparently the other English-language versions are also in manufacturing, but other foreign versions do need to be localized and are "somewhat delayed." If you need contact information for a foreign subsidiary, look for it in the extensive contact information that begins around page xxii of the Word 6 User’s Guide.
Kudos to Microsoft for shipping the update when they claimed they would and making it freely available to customers. Unfortunately, according to the Microsoft representative who I spoke with when I ordered my update, the Power Mac-native version of Word is still not available on the Office CD. Let’s hope that Word 6.0.1 lives up to the user-friendly standard set by the free distribution policy. [TJE]
Info-Mac Mirror Lists via Email — Info-Mac moderator Liam Breck writes: "Next week, the Info-Mac Network will publish a new Info-Mac Archive mirror list in both text and HTML formats. To assist Web sites in providing the HTML version to the Internet Mac community, we are creating an email distribution list. Sites on this list will receive updates to the HTML version by email automatically. We can only support a limited number of sites with this email list, so it is only open to reasonably popular Web sites. The public may obtain the mirror list from these sites and our mirrors. To get on the email distribution list, send email to <[email protected]> briefly describing your Web site. Please include a URL to its home or main menu page."
Better to Rule in Hell than Serve in Heaven — In a story that hit everything from the New York Times to National Public Radio, SATAN creator Dan Farmer and Silicon Graphics, Inc., parted company last week, in no small part due to Dan’s involvement with the SATAN network security analysis program (see TidBITS-268). Reactions have been mixed – even among SGI employees – although Farmer himself doesn’t seem to have been particularly disturbed by the turn of events. He notes SATAN is still scheduled to be released 05-Apr-95. [GD]
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
The original 15-watt AC power adapters shipped with the first models of PowerBook computers have damaged a number of PowerBooks. When the tip of the plug’s plastic insulation becomes chipped, inserting it into a PowerBook – even when it’s not plugged into an electrical outlet – can short out the PowerBook’s internal fuse. Later power adapter models have a reinforced tip that prevents this damage. Apple has announced a "customer satisfaction program" to replace these original power adapters and any PowerBook fuses or logic boards damaged by this problem.
Only the original model M5140 power adapters, manufactured from August 1991 through September 1992, exhibit this problem, and only these will be replaced under the program. The affected adapters have "Model M5140" printed on their labels, and were shipped with the PowerBook 100, 140, 145, and 170 models. In PowerBook 100s, damaged fuses can simply be replaced. In the other models, the fuses are not replaceable and the logic boards must be exchanged. Apple will offer free out-of-warranty replacements of the fuse or logic board, as appropriate.
Users with these power adapters but without logic board damage may obtain a free replacement power adapter. PowerBook 100 owners will receive a 17-watt adapter, and owners of the other affected PowerBook models will receive a 24-watt adapter. This offer is available only through 29-Sep-95. Apple assures us that the old power adapters are being disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.
If you have one of these power adapters, or if your PowerBook has been damaged by one, bring both (make sure you bring the adapter) to your local Apple service provider. If there isn’t one nearby, call Apple’s service line at 800/SOS-APPL. If you believe a past repair may have been due to this problem, contact Apple customer assistance at 800/776-2333.
Among the system software components Apple released concurrently with the System 7.5 Update 1.0 were QuickDraw GX 1.1.1, LaserWriter version 8.2.2, the Network Software Installer "ZM" (multi-country) version 1.5, and some new PowerTalk gateways. Taken together, the simultaneous release of this new software has helped block access to Apple’s FTP servers, as Mac users all over the Internet rush to download new material. We would have told you about this stuff last week, except we couldn’t get our hands on it in time either.
There are numerous possible URLs for retrieving the software; unfortunately, many of them frequently refuse connections because of the heavy demand. Two useful locations for obtaining any of this software (and System 7.5 Update 1.0) are:
QuickDraw GX 1.1.1 — QuickDraw GX hasn’t exactly taken the Macintosh world by storm, with weighty RAM requirements, a substantial overhead for software developers, and a lack of cross-platform support. (See TidBITS-243, 244 and 245 for a detailed overview.) Many major application vendors – especially in the design and publishing markets – have taken a cautious approach to GX. In the meantime, a few major programs (such WordPerfect 3.1 and Microsoft Word 6.0) have incorporated GX printing support, and GX-specific applications and utilities are starting to appear (LightningDraw GX and Pierce Print Tools, for example). With the 1.1.1 release, Apple is showing that it hasn’t given up on QuickDraw GX.
The large update completely replaces the previous version, and consists of four high-density floppy disk images. The update offers several performance improvements, including faster printing of large character sets on printers that don’t have the fonts built in, plus faster display of print dialogs in non-GX applications. Also, GX no longer "locks users out" while downloading fonts to PostScript printers, and the desktop printer window now displays font downloading progress.
New features in GX 1.1.1 include the N-Up Printing Extension, which allows you to print up to 16 pages on a single sheet of paper – a handy feature for creating custom thumbnails of complex documents. The N-Up Printing Extension works with both GX-aware and non-GX-aware applications. Also included (in the GX custom installation!) is the EPS Extension, which lets you save a file as an Encapsulated PostScript document (handy for importing into non-GX-aware publishing and design applications).
I’ve read reports of problems using GX 1.1.1 with Word 6.0 on Power Macs; however, tests on Tonya’s Power Mac 7100/66 failed to produce any unexpected results. I’ve also read reports that the version of ATM shipping with GX 1.1.1 may fail if used with Adobe’s SuperATM. One possible workaround is to back up your existing ATM and SuperATM installation, then obtain the free Acrobat Reader 2.0.1 from Adobe. Version 2.0.1 of the Acrobat Reader includes a version of ATM 3.8.2 that appears to function correctly with both SuperATM and QuickDraw GX. If you installed this version of the Acrobat Reader before installing GX, you’ll need to install it again for the ATM setup to be correct – see the ReadMe files for details.
You might wonder what happened to GX 1.1: it existed for a day or so, but Apple withdrew it due to a "version string error." Shortly thereafter, GX 1.1.1 appeared on Apple’s FTP sites. If you have a copy of GX 1.1, you might want to hold onto it – it may not be as much a prize as original System 6.0.6 disks, but who knows? Maybe you’ll be able to auction it off at Southeby’s in 20 years.
LaserWriter 8.2.2 — LaserWriter 8.2.2 contains two bug fixes not present in LaserWriter 8.2: one prevents inadvertent faxing as a result of some applications’ manipulation of the print record, the other fixes a multi-zone network bug where users could not perform an "Auto Setup" on some printers located on the same network segment but in a different zone than themselves. The new version includes printer description files for all Apple LaserWriters, but not for third-party laser printers. Apple recommends that users of previous versions of LaserWriter 8 upgrade to version 8.2.2.
Please note that version 8.2.2 of the LaserWriter driver is not included with the System 7.5. Update 1.0. Apple released LaserWriter 8.2.2 at virtually the same time as System 7.5. Update 1.0, and it’s unclear why Apple chose to distribute LaserWriter 8.2 with the 7.5 Update if there were known problems with it.
Network Software Installer ZM 1.5 — The "ZM" in the name of this release indicates it is "multi-country" – you can use it to install network software on Macs running international versions of the system software as well as the U.S. system. Network Software Installer (NSI) requires System 7 or later, but does not require System 7.5.
NSI 1.5 contains new versions of AppleTalk, EtherTalk, and configuration files for Apple built-in Ethernet, NuBus, PDS, and Communications Slot Ethernet, plus updates to TokenTalk and Token Ring drivers. These versions fix known bugs with Virtual Memory (including RAM Doubler) and numerous model-specific fixes. Additionally, the Network Software Installer contains LaserWriter Bridge 2.0, a control panel that lets a Macintosh share a LaserWriter connected to the LocalTalk port with other Macs in the same network zone via Ethernet. Although it won’t let every Ethernet configuration see any LaserWriter connected to a LocalTalk port (Apple’s LocalTalk Bridge software offers a more comprehensive solution), LaserWriter Bridge provides a workable solution for sharing a printer on simple networks.
PowerTalk Gateways — Apple has posted a number of PowerTalk extras to its Internet file sites, including a Director-based guided tour; a "PowerTalk Solutions" document in Common Ground format, and – most interesting for actual PowerTalk users – real and trial versions of some third-party PowerTalk gateways. These include the STF PowerFax gateway (allowing faxes to be sent and received), the Ex Machina Notify! Pager gateway (enabling you to make other people around the world beep, buzz, and vibrate from your Macintosh – what fun!), and a CompuServe mail gateway, allowing easy email exchange with CompuServe. Also available are 60 day trial versions of StarNine’s QuickMail, Internet/SMTP, and Microsoft Mail gateways. In addition, the University of Michigan has made an X.500 Catalog gateway available (although not from Apple sites) that uses the LDAP protocol to let PowerTalk uses look up names, addresses, servers, and more using X.500 services. If you don’t know what X.500 is, you likely don’t need to worry about it, but if your life involves X.500, check out the PowerTalk Gateways ReadMe file and the following URL:
In Conclusion — If you can get through to Apple’s file sites, you’ll probably find some useful goodies. Access to the servers should improve with time, so if you can’t get through right away, try again during off hours or wait a day or two.
About once every nine months, Adam and I buy a new bookshelf. This practice seemed reasonable at first, but as our wall space fills up, we have become more selective about the books we keep. When it comes to large reference works about the Macintosh, three books have not only made it onto the shelves, but also have made themselves useful on multiple occasions.
I decided to write this review after Sharon Zardetto Aker’s "The Mac Almanac" saved me a great deal of fuss and bother twice in one month. The other two books I’m going to talk about are David Pogue and Joseph Schorr’s "Macworld Mac & Power Mac Secrets, 2nd Edition," and the venerable "Macintosh Bible, 5th Edition," by DiNucci and a team of known Macintosh writers. All three of these massive books cover the Macintosh operating system, Apple hardware, fonts, printing, trouble-shooting, and more.
Just for fun, I tested each book to see how it answered eleven questions. I tried to pick questions that would bring out the strengths and weaknesses of each book.
In this table, "MB" is the Mac Bible, "MS" is Mac Secrets, and "MA" is the Mac Almanac. The table shows whether each book answers a given question: "Y" means "yes," "S" means "sort of" (some information was provided, but was either not as good as that offered by the others, or incomplete), and "N" means "no."
Question MB MS MA -------------------------------------------------------- -- -- --
1. How do PostScript printers decide what font to print? Y Y Y
2. How do Chicago TrueType's special characters work? N N Y
3. How do I allocate RAM under System 7.0 and 7.1? S Y Y
4. How does the PowerPC's Modern Memory Manager work? N N N
5. What is the Mac TV? Y Y S
6. What monitor should I buy? Y S Y
7. Does the Mac have any accounting software? Y N N
8. How do I connect to the Internet? Y N N
9. What's PlainTalk and how do I use it? S S N
10. How do I type an em-dash? Y Y Y
11. What's the name of the Chinese Mac OS? N Y N
The test results provide data points, but they in no way replace reading each book, and since I’ve read portions of each book, here’s what I think of them:
The Macintosh Bible — Thumbing through the Mac Bible reveals a boring layout, but the Mac Bible does sport a large type size, which should make it popular in some circles. The Mac Bible’s strength lies in its broad coverage of the Macintosh world and its efforts to cover third-party products (both software and hardware), and it reads as though it were written for users, not for experienced computer consultants. The Mac Bible has an adequate discussion of the bare bones basics of using a Mac, which should be of use to many new users, though Robin Williams’s "The Little Mac Book" (also from Peachpit Press) stands out as better choices for a new user looking to get up to speed with mousing and general Macintoshing.
The Mac Bible has been around for years, and I expect it remains successful because it has good mass appeal and because it has established a reputation as a best-selling book. The Mac Bible still offers a coupon you can send in to receive an update (a cool feature), and it does come with disks, but you must fill out a coupon and pay $14 to get them. It’s a fine book, but I’d like to see Peachpit work on a more exciting layout and re-instituting the personality and enthusiasm in earlier editions. The Mac Bible is especially appropriate for people who want a book that gives general guidance for hardware and software purchases, or for novice to intermediate level Mac users.
Mac Secrets — Opening Mac Secrets for the first time reveals an attractive layout, though I wonder if the people who did the witty key-and-lock motif throughout the book particularly communicated with the people who did the icon graphics in the margins. Based on the minimal size of the bottom margin and tight layout, I’m guessing that David and Joseph turned in a longer manuscript than anticipated.
Mac Secrets has a great deal to offer in its exhaustive look at Macintosh CPUs and general coverage of most everything under the auspices of Apple, with a particular emphasis on subtle tricks and Easter eggs. In many ways, Mac Secrets is like the Mac Bible, but for a more technical audience. Mac Secrets doesn’t try to help new users, a refreshing approach for people who wish more books would use the "simple overarching concept" that "under no circumstances" should the book define the term "scroll bar." If you work in a Macintosh consulting capacity and can only buy one book, you won’t be sorry if you buy this one. If you want to learn tips, tricks, and Easter eggs – or if you are an intermediate level user who wants to be a power user – this book will take you where you want to go in a friendly, personable manner.
The Mac Almanac — Open the Mac Almanac, and right away you notice the slightly off-white pages, the unusual (though highly legible) fonts, the numerous fanciful graphics and sidebars, and the overall dreaminess of the design. The Mac Almanac rates as the most beautiful computer book I’ve ever seen.
The Almanac reads as though it was written by a Mac-based desktop publisher who – back in 1990 – knew a tremendous amount about everything Macintosh (and, after all, in 1990, desktop publishing was a lot of what was cool about the Mac). Imagine that same person continuing to stay up-to-date on desktop publishing and System-related topics, but blocking out all that new-fangled AV and telecommunications stuff. The Mac Almanac’s astonishingly excellent coverage of the System, fonts, printing, and the like make its merely above-average sections on hardware look weak. The coverage of topics such as audio, video, and telecommunications could use additional depth.
The Mac Almanac won’t turn off new users who are motivated and curious, though the depth of detail in some areas may overwhelm some. However, the book has much to offer to anyone who has jumped the initial hurdle and started turning into a confirmed Macintosh user. For example, the book begins with eight pages on how to turn on your Mac, covering power switches, power strips, startup devices, startup screens, and so on. No topic is too basic, and Sharon makes the complicated topics seem simple.
The Almanac has personality, class, warmth, empathy, and technical depth. It’s well-organized and practical, but it would also make a wonderful gift. Mac Secrets and the Mac Bible are books most any TidBITS reader would enjoy, use, and get a lot out of, but the Almanac stands out as one of the best books I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning.
- "The Macintosh Bible, 5th Edition" DiNucci et al, Peachpit Press, 1-56609-140-3. 3.75 lbs. (1.7 kg), 2 inches (5 cm) thick, 1160 pages. Also sold with a CD of shareware and various utilities. The CD is also sold separately. (I haven’t played with the CD, but I’ve seen it for sale.) $30 U.S., $42 Canadian.
- "Macworld Mac & Power Mac Secrets, 2nd Edition," David Pogue and Joseph Schorr, IDG Books, 1-56884-175-2. With disks in back cover: 4.25 lbs. (1.85 kg), 2.25 inches (5.5 cm) thick, 1100 pages. 39.95 U.S., $54.96 Canadian
- "The Mac Almanac," Sharon Zardetto Aker, Ziff-Davis Press, 1-56276-143-9. 3.25 lbs. (1.5 kg), 1.5 inches (4 cm) thick, 943 pages. 29.95 U.S., $41.95 Canadian.
(Measurements are rounded, and, yes, book paper can be of different thicknesses!)