News this week of Apple’s reorganization and its compelling new line of Mac-based World-Wide Web servers, plus information on a new virus and a new release of John Norstad’s popular anti-virus utility Disinfectant, a review of Iomega’s fast-selling Zip drive, and coverage from Matt Neuburg of the latest update to Now Utilities. Finally, we wrap up the issue with a less-than-fictional essay on the absolute essentials of word processing.
A number of people wrote in to tell us about ClockAdjust and AutoClock, two other free utilities for keeping a Macintosh clock on track (see TidBITS-271). Although these utilities don’t use the Internet (can you imagine!), many will find them useful. Both help you deal with Daylight Savings Time and also automatically fix deviations in the Macintosh clock. In addition, AutoClock can use a modem to dial an atomic clock and update the time. Although calling an atomic clock requires a long distance call, the call cost one reader a whopping 12 cents, so it would take a number of calls to add up to even a standard shareware fee. [ACE]
Thanks to the many people who either sent me Eudora plug-in files that provide a simple interface within Eudora’s Settings dialog for changing the settings I talked about in TidBITS-271 or who told me about Wagner’s Eudora Prefs, a single plug-in that provides an interface for a number of less commonly changed settings in Eudora’s Settings dialog. My major complaint with Wagner’s Eudora Prefs is that it also changes the quote character to a non-standard one, and it does so in a way that changing it back requires using ResEdit. I’ve also edited Gilbert Rankin’s <[email protected]> message splitting submission slightly and uploaded it for FTP if you’d like to see how he provided an interface to Eudora’s message splitting settings. [ACE]
Apple Announces Reorganization — Apple announced a sweeping reorganization last week, combining several groups into two primary divisions: "Worldwide Marketing and Customer Solutions" and "Apple Research and Development." The reorganizations should allow Apple to focus more closely on consumer, education, and entertainment markets while maintaining and expanding its core businesses. This is Apple’s first major restructuring since 1993; by some accounts that puts them behind schedule.
Worldwide Marketing and Customer Solutions will be headed by Daniel Eilers (who you may recognize as the current president and CEO of Apple’s subsidiary Claris) and will focus on consumer, home, business, and education markets, as well as adding a new group to concentrate on the entertainment industry. Interestingly, both Claris and eWorld will report to Eilers under this new organization. Apple Research and Development will be led by David Nagel, currently head of AppleSoft. His new group will focus on tightly integrating Apple software and hardware, overseeing Newton development and the Advanced Technology group, as well as the company-wide operating systems and licensing efforts. The reorganization did not change Apple’s sales, customer support, and manufacturing and distribution functions, and Apple does not plan to cut jobs as a result of the reorganization. [GD]
Canon Takeover Rumors Buoy Apple Stock — Apple’s stock dipped briefly with the announcement of its reorganization, but rose again last week amid rumors that the Japanese electronics giant Canon planned to launch a bid to buy Apple Computer. Canon denied any intention to buy Apple, but Apple refused to comment on the speculation. Word has it that a Macintosh licensing agreement with Canon would be a much more likely prospect, and Canon has previously expressed interest in manufacturing Macintosh clones. However where there’s smoke, there may be fire: during the last year we have heard repeated rumors about Apple possibly being sold (most recently to Motorola) and Apple’s stock performance has been lackluster despite earnings growth and a smooth transition to the Power Macintosh platform. [GD]
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
John Norstad of Northwestern University recently released Disinfectant 3.6, an update of his free anti-viral Macintosh utility, to handle a recently discovered nVIR B clone. The clone appears to have been designed explicitly to bypass checks in both the Disinfectant 3.5 application and its accompanying protection extension.
According to Norstad’s announcement last Friday, the new clone, which was first sighted in Great Britain, is functionally the same as the original nVIR B virus and its various clones. nVIR B and its clones infect Macintosh system software and applications and may make the Macintosh beep. (The original nVIR A virus uses MacInTalk, if it’s installed, to say "Don’t panic.")
In addition to detecting all known clones of the nVIR B virus, Disinfectant 3.6 adds the ability to use the Finder’s Get Info window to change Disinfectant’s memory allocation and paste in a custom Finder icon. The ability to change Disinfectant’s memory partition can be important for some users: the default memory setting may not be large enough to scan the large code resources in some modern applications.
Disinfectant 3.6 is available on the Internet at:
It should also be at other popular Internet FTP sites and on commercial online services. We recommend downloading antiviral utilities from known, trustworthy locations.
The authors and publishers of other popular free and commercial antiviral utilities have confirmed that the current versions of their tools appear already effective against the new nVIR B clone. Check with your antiviral provider to make certain that you are using the current version of whichever tool you rely on.
Apple today announced the addition of pre-configured Internet servers to its PowerPC-based Apple Workgroup Server bundles under the top-heavy name "Apple Internet Server Solution for the World Wide Web." These bundles are based on the Apple Workgroup Servers 6150/66, 8150/110, and 9150/120 (which Apple announced last week), run Mac OS 7.5.1, and include an extensive CD-ROM software bundle especially for setting up World-Wide Web services. The machines don’t come with any connection methods or hardware – so don’t look for modems, ISDN, or routers in the box – but all have built-in Ethernet and (in the case of the 9150/120) more expansion slots than you can shake a stick at. The idea is to offer inexpensive Web servers that are easy to set up, easy to manage, and don’t require administrators to learn Unix. Apple hasn’t provided specific pricing, but costs for the servers are estimated to start at $2,900 for base models, running up to $8,700 or more for high-end systems.
Lucrative Software Bundle — Part of what makes these Internet Servers appealing is their software – the bundle alone goes a long way toward justifying the cost of the machines. First on the list is WebSTAR from StarNine Technologies, which Mac users who are already running Mac-based Web servers will recognize as Chuck Shotton’s much-anticipated MacHTTP 3.0. WebSTAR enables the Mac to respond to HTTP requests from the Web, serve data to clients, and execute CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts to handle image maps, forms, and other custom interactive features. The bundling is utterly logical: MacHTTP is the pre-eminent HTTP server available for the Macintosh; however, unlike current versions of MacHTTP, WebSTAR is threaded, which should result in significant performance improvements because individual actions within WebSTAR can multitask within the application.
But wait – that’s just the beginning. The Internet servers ship with AppleSearch 1.5 – itself a $1,400 product – enabling rapid searches through a wide variety of information sources, including Internet-based WAIS databases. The Internet servers also come with Adobe’s Acrobat Pro and runtime versions FileMaker Pro, HyperCard, and EveryWare Development’s Butler SQL – any or all of which could prove valuable in producing or serving information via the Web. In addition, the servers ship with AppleScript (handy for writing custom CGIs), the Netscape Navigator Web browser, and a version of Bare-Bones Software’s BBEdit with HTML extensions for authoring Web pages (see TidBITS-202 for a somewhat dated review of BBEdit). And wait, even if we sound like a Ginsu knife advertisement, there’s more – the servers also include custom CGIs for handling email, image maps, and HTML forms, as well as a CGI similar to AppleWebSearch to let WebSTAR use AppleSearch for searches and database queries.
The only piece missing from this attractive collection is MacDNS, a Macintosh-based domain-name server. MacDNS is in beta right now and is reportedly available for the asking for those who purchase the Internet Servers; Apple expects to make it available on future Internet servers and as a software update to current customers.
Why Not Go With Unix? Sources at Apple indicate that they expect the lower-end of the Internet server line to be especially interesting to smaller sites that don’t have high-bandwidth connections to the Internet. After all, putting a 9150/120 on a 28.8 Kbps external link is nothing but an efficient means of overkill. This strategy is supported by the 9150/120’s inclusion of an internal DAT backup system, whereas the 6150/66 and 8150/110 don’t ship with built-in backup devices. Why? Apple and others expect the lower-end servers will have an appeal as "swarms" of low-cost, mirrored machines once MacDNS is available. MacDNS will enable "round-robin" DNS load balancing, permitting server requests to a single Internet address to be distributed to an array of identically-configured Macs. In this manner, a bank of 6150/66’s could significantly outperform a much more powerful (and much more expensive) Unix server. Since each machine is identically configured in this scheme, there’s no need for each machine to have a built-in backup system.
On a price/performance basis, these servers are downright cheap, especially considering the street price and utility of the bundled software. These are also the easiest Web servers available anywhere as far as installation and setup are concerned, and they don’t require Mac-based sites to learn and configure a whole new platform. Additionally, Apple is expected to offer the same extensive technical support options for Internet servers as it does for its Workgroup Servers, including on-site support. And, frankly, another point in favor of these machines is that they don’t run Unix, making them immune to the vast majority of security threats faced by administrators of Unix-based Internet machines.
All in all, Apple seems to be moving forward in promoting the Macintosh as a viable Internet platform, an these servers and software bundles go a long way to making that point financially appealing. Although this first crop of Internet servers aren’t quite a plug-and-play solution – users still need to work out the details of a dedicated network connection and DNS service, and the Apple Internet Servers don’t come with server software for email, FTP, or Gopher – they’re certainly a step in the right direction.
[TidBITS has received numerous requests for reviews of the new Iomega Zip drive; given the considerable interest, we’ll probably offer additional articles in future issues of TidBITS. -Geoff]
Iomega has released a new removable-media technology that brings expandable storage into almost everyone’s price range. The Zip drive costs only $199 mail order, and its 100 MB cartridges cost about $20 each; half the cost of the least expensive SyQuest and Bernoulli drives, and one-quarter to one-half the cost of media for those units.
The OOBE ("out of the box experience") with the Zip drive gives a promising first impression. It’s small (about the size of an external floppy drive), lightweight (about one pound), and an attractive navy blue. The disks are slightly larger than a 3.5" floppy, twice as thick, and fit in a pocket.
A closer look reveals several gotchas. The drive has a non-standard, 25-pin SCSI connection rather than the usual 50-pin; you can only set the drive’s SCSI ID to 5 or 6; the power adapter – which weighs considerably more than the drive – blocks access to adjacent outlets on a power strip; and the drive has no power switch – if the drive is plugged in, it’s on. This can be dangerous in SCSI devices; if you use a Zip drive, be sure to make all SCSI connections before plugging it in. The Zip drive does have switchable termination, so you can put it anywhere in the SCSI chain with the right cables, but due to the 25-pin connector and limited SCSI ID choices, if you have several SCSI devices, you may have to spend some time switching cables and IDs around before the Zip drive will work as a member of your overall system.
You must install a driver before Zip cartridges will mount, but Iomega includes a "Guest" application that temporarily loads the Zip driver into RAM, enabling you to mount cartridges without running the installer and rebooting. Iomega’s Tools program helps with formatting, checking, write protecting, and read/write protecting the cartridges. The write protection can only be changed via the software (there’s no write-protect tab on the disks), so if you lock a disk you can’t unlock it without the Tools application. Also, if you read/write protect a disk and forget the password, you’re out of luck.
Using the drive is a pleasant experience – it runs fairly quietly with negligible spin up and spin down times. Although it’s not as fast as a hard drive, the Zip drive definitely runs faster than a floppy disk or CD-ROM. In my unscientific testing, I estimate its read and write speeds are 75 percent those of my hard drive. Iomega claims a 29 millisecond average seek time, and 60 MB/minute sustained throughput.
I find the speed fast enough that I comfortably use the Zip cartridges as unlimited hard disk storage expansion for less frequently used applications and documents. For example, a Zip cartridge works well for storing all those files that come on CD-ROMs that you are supposed to copy to your hard disk for faster performance. Most of these files are only a couple megabytes in size, but as your CD collection grows, your hard disk shrinks. Now you can copy those files to a 100 MB Zip cartridge, and insert the cartridge as needed.
Backup becomes a breeze. Instead of swapping in and out a hundred floppy disks, you can back up a normal-sized hard disk to two or three Zips, and Iomega even bundles a simple backup program with the Zip drive. As an added bonus for me, the Zip drive is portable enough to use for moving large files between home and office.
The Zip drive has a one year warranty, and the media carry a lifetime warranty. If you can get past the SCSI limitations, it may be the bargain answer to your backup, archive, and hard disk expansion needs. But remember: this is a new implementation of technology, and only time will tell of its long term reliability.
Iomega Corporation — 800/697-8833 — 801/778-3000
801/778-3748 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Back in October (TidBITS-248) I reviewed Now Utilities 5.0 favorably, both as software in itself (I wouldn’t live without it) and as an update. Now a maintenance update release (5.0.1) has appeared on the nets which fixes a number of bugs and conflicts, plus adds new features. This release is also a demo version, so that those of you who still aren’t using Now Utilities (Bullwinkle voice: "Can there really be such people, Rock?") can give it a try; the demo disables itself after a week or so if you don’t have serial number to provide it. The file is large (1.7 MB binhexed, representing a high-density disk image), so those not wishing to download obtain a disk for $6.50 direct from Now Software should get:
This update is most commendable. As users have written me with questions and complaints about Now Utilities, I have consistently recommended contacting Now directly. Although Now does not always respond intelligently (or, indeed, at all) to bug reports and suggestions via email, there does seem to have been considerable trickle-up from vociferous users to designers. The most egregious bug with Now Menus is fixed, where drag-and-drop of a file onto an application name in a menu failed if the application was one that could open any file (such as ResEdit or StuffIt Expander). Plus, Now Software added two new features: you can tune the rate at which hierarchical menus appear or disappear as you move the mouse along the main menu; and, a Now Menus menu can include a list of current applications with their open windows attached hierarchically.
The advent of Microsoft Word 6 – whose relationship to the Mac interface and file system is peculiar to say the least – generated numerous incompatibilities with Now Utilities. Version 5.0.1 attempts to deal with these – rather courageously, in my view, since the problems are hardly Now’s fault – but the effort, alas, is not entirely successfully. The many who, like me, cannot abide a Standard File dialog without Super Boomerang, will be relieved to hear at least that, according to Now, the crashes when Super Boomerang is active have been fixed; I desperately want to believe this, and I haven’t yet been able to instigate a crash in the Standard File dialog, but I do occasionally crash my whole machine when quitting Word (though I can’t tell if this is Super Boomerang’s fault), so I’m not yet ready to consider the problem fixed. The story isn’t over yet, either; the Word 6.0.1 propaganda makes claims on Microsoft’s side that the conflict is fixed, but I haven’t received my copy, so I can’t confirm or deny this.
The conflict between WYSIWYG Menus and Word’s toolbar version of the Font menu is also fixed, though at first I thought it was not. On my computer, the wrong font was checked, and I could crash if I changed fonts, so I thought I must continue to work around by excluding Word via the control panel. But someone at Now told me that the problem was due to "corrupted fonts" and, sure enough, when I removed a font included with Word, MSLineDraw and one other font (called "Code9"), the problem vanished. Microsoft has now admitted in their Word 6.0.1 propaganda that MSLineDraw was corrupted.
Not all of my own desires for Now Utilities have been met. I think that some things should be customizable for distinct applications rather than across the board – for example, the rebound features of Super Boomerang, or the names of fonts used to create hierarchical groupings in WYSIWYG Menus). It beats the heck out me why an excellent feature of Now Menus – where holding Control as you select a file brings up the folder containing it – has not been implemented in Super Boomerang’s menus as well. Nonetheless, I find 5.0.1 a most welcome effort. Meddling so deep in the workings of the system means all sorts of unforeseen problems are bound to arise as new system versions, machines, extensions, and applications appear, and hence utilities of this nature require a constant heroic commitment to staying up-to-date, not to mention some fancy programming. This update, shows Now Software’s commitment to keeping their utilities current. Such support is comforting, exemplary, and all too rare.
Now Software — 503/274-2899 — 503/274-0670 (fax)
Feel like throwing out your word processor? I do. I yearn to liberate the untold megabytes of disk space occupied by my groaning, feature-heavy word processing software. The appearance of Word 6.0 has called into question not only my support for Microsoft’s flagship product, but for huge word processors in general. There has to be a better alternative – a small product with minimal features that boots quickly and doesn’t mess around with palettes, toolbars, or tips of the day. So, turning my back on Word 6.0, I opened my drawer of floppies to look for something leaner and meaner – something outside the current crop of word processors altogether.
The first contender I unearthed was a set of Word 4.0 disks. Even if you have a relatively old Mac, an even more antediluvian version of Word can make it feel surprisingly peppy. Old versions of Word are refreshingly fat-free, too. Many readers will remember the fuss that ensued when Word 4.0 failed to run correctly or at all on the first Quadras. Word 5.0 appeared soon afterwards, but in the interim Microsoft did produce a version of Word – version 4.0e – which ran on the Quadra. [Too bad that in Microsoft’s excitement over shipping Word 6 they discontinued it. -Tonya]
A little archeology in a friendly consultant’s filing cabinet (thanks, Kannan) unearthed some real gems, including Word 3.01 and, eventually, Word 1.05 (carbon dated to 1985). Throwing caution to the wind, we copied them to a Power Mac 8100, double-clicked and discovered that neither would launch. However, Word 1.05 did run on an SE/30, and it opened documents faster than any word processor I’ve ever seen on any Mac. It may be primitive, but Word 1.05 does have the advantage of a hard disk footprint of – wait for it – 124K. It was tailor-made for 400K MFS disks.
Of course, it’s possible to edit text without any fancy features at all. Scriptable Text Editor, the basic text editor that ships with AppleScript, was written as an example of something scriptable, but it’s a perfectly good text editor, and if you’ve bought a Mac recently the program is probably already on your hard disk. The features are basic – styled text. And, well, that’s it. But since it’s totally recordable and scriptable, with a little scripting you could build your own find/replace and word count features. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could script some other big application that has a spelling checker – and, let’s face it, that’s most of them nowadays – to add spell checking too. If you’re script-obsessed, this could be the right choice for you. Of course, the truly script-obsessed may already have a copy of Working Software’s scriptable Spellswell 7.
However, I’m not convinced support for styled text is all that important. Let’s get back to basics here – being able to mix fonts and styles won’t make that sonnet easier to write or make the troublesome first line of your novel read better. And I regard the use of italics for emphasis as a cop-out. The widespread use of programs like QuarkXPress to lay out text prepared in another application also casts doubt on the need for a word processor that does anything more than produce raw text. "As soon as I need style sheets and pagination, I switch straight to QuarkXPress anyway – it’s so fast" said one of my friends, whose Power Mac 6100 crawls along when running Word 6.0, but speeds past the sound barrier with the native version of QuarkXPress. So, in theory, almost anything with a basic editable text box can be used to compose text once you dispense with Font and Style menus.
Okay then – how about QuickDEX? I started using it as a word processor in the days of my PowerBook 100. QuickDEX, for those of you who manage to live without it, is a Rolodex-style, free-form database with a full text search that’s incredibly fast because all the data is held in RAM. And that’s the key – no hard disk spin-ups on PowerBooks, so you can scroll up and down in that dinky little text editing box for hours on end. The size gets to you eventually, though, although you can set the whole window to a small, readable font like Geneva 9. If you’re battery-conscious and a little insane, QuickDEX could be your ideal word processor.
If you don’t have a handy copy of QuickDEX, Notepad and Stickies also support primitive text editing. Yes, they’re tiny, but for fine-tuning a single sentence or a small piece of text such as a photo caption, they’re fine – they even offer proper clipboard support. I’ve used both of them to jot down notes from telephone conversations. When someone calls you up and you have to note something in the conversation, you don’t want to wait half a minute – or six minutes – for your word processor to boot. Of course, the ultimate in word processing simplicity, enforcing the elegance of haiku on your prose, is the Finder. Create a new folder and compose away to your 31-character heart’s content.
But this leaves just one real contender. It’s small, it’s fast, and it’s free with every Mac. It has the questionable capability of supporting the Speech Manager, and I used it to write this essay. I have a feeling Mac users everywhere are turning to it in droves. On my Mac, it’s permanently open in the background. It’s the choice of a new generation. My word processor for the time being is SimpleText.
Working Software — 800/229-9675 — 408/423-5696