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This week we bring you news on PSI’s purchase of Mac developers InterCon and Software Ventures, and follow-ups to previous articles on the PowerTalk Key Chain and AOL’s recent purchases. We also have news of Netscape integrating Macromedia Director playback technology, plus news on StyleWriter drivers and cartridges, and, finally, the first part of a three-part essay by Luciano Floridi on the Internet’s potential impact on how we think about knowledge.

Geoff Duncan No comments

IBM’s Been Taking Notes

IBM’s Been Taking Notes — Lotus Development Corporation announced Sunday that it will let itself be acquired by IBM at a price of $64 a share, with the total deal working out to about $3.5 billion (see TidBITS-280). Acquisition of Lotus is expected to put IBM in a better position to compete with Microsoft in the areas of desktop applications and groupware products. There’s no word yet on the future of Lotus’s Macintosh products, although long-time Macintosh advocates might find it ironic that IBM could be peddling Mac software in the near future. [GD]

Brent Bossom No comments

PowerBook 550c in Japan

Brent Bossom <[email protected]> writes:

Apple Japan has announced the latest (and perhaps last) in the 68K PowerBook 500 series; however this one will only be available in Japan. On the outside, apart from a new graphite-black case, the new PowerBook 550c looks like the 540c. Inside, however, there are significant differences: a 10.4-inch TFT color display (640 x 480 at 256 colors or 640 x 400 at 16-bit color), a 33 MHz 68040 CPU with FPU, 12 MB of RAM, and a 750 MB SCSI hard drive are standard equipment. (There’s no modem-equipped model.) To accommodate the larger screen size, the 550c’s stereo speakers are slightly smaller than those on the 540c, and the contrast/brightness buttons have been lined up vertically rather than horizontally. The 550c is expected to be available at the end of June and sold at an "open price" (no list). It will ship with two Type-II batteries and built-in Ethernet. All this, and the 550c weighs 200 grams less than the 540c at 3.1 kg.

Geoff Duncan No comments

Netscape Finds Director

Netscape Finds Director — Netscape Communications Corp. announced last week that it plans to integrate Shockwave into future versions its Netscape Navigator Web client. Shockwave is playback technology for Macromedia’s Director, a popular multimedia authoring package. The idea is that as bandwidth to homes and offices increases, you’ll be able to transparently play back multimedia projects developed in Director live over the Internet, regardless of the platform of the host computer. Well, hey, it can’t be much slower than Director from your hard disk, right? [GD]

Adam Engst No comments

Eric Garneau

Eric Garneau <[email protected]> recently directed our attention to Everything Macintosh, an excellent Web page that brings together a huge number of links to Macintosh-related resources. Along with the Well-Connected Mac site (which has a lot of real content as well as links to other sites), Everything Macintosh looks as though it will be an excellent resource for Mac Internet users if it’s regularly maintained. [ACE] Macintosh.html

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

Cartridge Confusion?

Cartridge Confusion? In April, Apple replaced its previous StyleWriter and StyleWriter II ink cartridge (M8041G/B) with a new StyleWriter Ink Cartridge (M8041G/C). The cartridge itself is actually unchanged; it supports not only the original StyleWriter and StyleWriter II, but also the company’s new entry-level StyleWriter 1200 printer. [MHA]

Geoff Duncan No comments

New StyleWriter 1200 Drivers

New StyleWriter 1200 Drivers — Owners of the StyleWriter 1200 as well as the original StyleWriter and StyleWriter II might be interested in version 2.0 of the StyleWriter 1200 printer driver. The new driver adds the ability to print multiple thumbnail pages on a sheet, choose between halftoning methods or greyscale printing, share the printer over an AppleTalk network, and print watermarks. This update requires System 7.1 or higher and a Macintosh with a 68020 processor or better. [GD]

Adam Engst No comments

The Big Gulp Continues

After last week’s move by AOL to purchase GNN and WebCrawler, Internet access provider PSI decided to show its hand and purchase Mac developers Software Ventures and InterCon. InterCon is probably the largest commercial developer of Macintosh Internet software with its TCP/Connect II integrated Internet package, and Software Ventures is best known for its MicroPhone terminal emulator and, more recently, its Snatcher FTP client.

As with AOL’s purchases, PSI is trading stock for both InterCon and Software Ventures, 1.42 million shares for InterCon and 830,000 shares for Software Ventures. At PSI’s current price of about $13.75 per share, that works out to about $20 million for InterCon and $11 million for Software Ventures.

When I researched these purchases on PSI’s Web site where all the press releases reside, it became clear that PSI has been thinking about this for some time. Back in December of 1994, PSI announced, with InterCon and Software Ventures, TCP/Connect II for Instant InterRamp and MicroPhone LT for Instant InterRamp. PSI’s InterRamp is basically a personal Internet access service (via modem or ISDN); those versions of TCP/Connect II and MicroPhone LT were customized to offer online registration and automatic configuration with InterRamp. Then, in late May of 1995, PSI and Software Ventures announced Internet Valet, which offers TCP access to PSI’s InterRamp service via a bundle of programs including MacTCP, MacPPP, Enhanced Mosaic, Eudora, and MicroPhone Telnet (which I presume is a version of MicroPhone with the MP Telnet tool included).

Now, although this seems to make sense on the face of it, Internet Valet and TCP/Connect II do very much the same thing, and, to add to the confusion, PSI also recently purchased for about $11 million The Pipeline Network, a New York City-based Internet provider with a proprietary graphical package (in other words, it doesn’t require MacTCP and prevents you from using MacTCP applications). So it now seems as though PSI has three companies that all provide more or less the same thing. It’s possible that PSI sees their products in sufficiently different lights, but at the base level, each of the three acquired companies provides software for easy and graphical access to the Internet. I suppose there might be a certain sense of buying all the competing products to prevent someone else from getting them, since it’s entirely likely that other small Internet-related companies will now find themselves hunted by the larger fish.

One final thought: It seems that InterCon might have sold out for too little considering the $30 million that AOL paid last year for BookLink (which makes InternetWorks, an integrated Internet program that wasn’t even shipping when the company was purchased, (in contrast to InterCon’s long-standing TCP/Connect II for the Mac and for Windows), and the $100 million that CompuServe paid back in April for Spry, a more established company with a shipping product line, albeit one primarily based on a version of Mosaic. InterCon doesn’t seem that much different, although it’s possible there were other financial considerations that lowered the price.

Adam Engst No comments

AOL Acquisitions & Web Follow-up

A few people with more financial knowledge than I have set me straight on the fact that when one company acquires another by paying in stock, it doesn’t hurt the purchasing company particularly at all, especially if the companies being bought have no liabilities. (See TidBITS-280 for the article about AOL’s acquisitions.)

Charlie Mingo <[email protected]> explained:

As you noted in the article, AOL paid for all these purchases with AOL stock (except for $2 million of the $11 million for GNN). When you pay for a new asset with stock, we call it a "pooling of interests," and there are usually no negative financial consequences at all.

If you pay out too much stock per share of stock acquired, then you may suffer "dilution," which means your earnings per share goes down. But this is only of significance to your original (pre-merger) shareholders; the company itself isn’t affected.

In contrast, IBM’s offer to buy Lotus with cash will definitely have an adverse affect on IBM’s finances. They try to minimize this by saying they will finance the purchase out of ready cash (pocket money, so to speak), but I presume they were forced to offer cash because they couldn’t hope to do a hostile takeover while offering IBM stock.

Wesley Felter <[email protected]> added:

I think you missed one large thing in the AOL Buys Everyone story: MegaWeb. I’m not sure whether MegaWeb was originally being run by BookLink or ANS, but now it’s part of AOL and it provides free Internet access to my two Windows machines.

Still Weak? Nonetheless, Marketing Computers reported in its Jun-95 issue that America Online lost $2.8 million (on revenues of $106.4 million) for the three months ending 31-Mar-95. And, for the first nine months of the current fiscal year, AOL is down $40.5 million. AOL claims that the loss is due to the acquisition of ANS, BookLink, and NaviSoft last year, although one might wonder how much it costs to mail floppy disks to a large portion of the Earth’s mammalian population.

Mike Hutchinson <[email protected]>, AOL Services Webmaster, wrote to say that AOL is definitely working on getting a Web site up and running. He added that in the interim, you can check out:

Brian Pinkerton, the author of WebCrawler, has a substantial amount of information about AOL online, including all of AOL’s recent press releases.

Adam Engst No comments

Key Chain for the Web Follow-up

A number of people wrote in about my editorial in TidBITS-279 that proposed that Web browsers support the PowerTalk Key Chain (or at least something akin to it) to deal with the many authenticated Web sites springing up.

Andrew Anker <[email protected]>, president of HotWired Ventures wrote to defend HotWired’s use of authentication:

We actually offer a number of sophisticated features that result from our use of authentication. Most uniquely, we can generate a custom "What’s New" page for each HotWired subscriber that reports only what you haven’t seen. It looks up in the database (which can track your usage because of authentication) when you last saw each section and when they have changed and only tells you what you want to see.

There’s another higher level where you can set up a profile of what you want to see and what you don’t want to see. It stores your user profile (again, available only because you have to authenticate) and gives you a "your view" page, highly tailored to you as an individual.

I agree that authentication is kind of a pain and by itself is a silly thing to add. But we’re all about adding features that give our subscribers a much better time while in HotWired and that’s why we need authentication.

As to your proposed solution, I’m all for anything that simplifies the authentication process. I suggested a similar system to the folks at Netscape a short time ago, but I don’t know if they are doing anything with it.

Privacy — I also commented in email that authentication could on occasion seem like an invasion of privacy, assuming I didn’t want to jeopardize my future political career by getting caught nosing around a dubious Web site. Andrew responded, "Don’t forget though, that you are vaguely anonymous even with authentication. If you asked me to find out your ID on HotWired, I can only do that if you’ve registered as Adam Engst and/or used the email address <[email protected]>. If you used one of your more obscure email addresses (and we all have plenty of those) and didn’t use your real name, I’d have absolutely no way of finding out who you are or what you’ve done on HotWired. So if I register on some dubious site using the name John Q Public and create a special AOL email account (like John5342) for anonymity, they would have no idea that Mr. Public was actually me."

Reginald Braithwaite-Lee <[email protected]> commented that adding this sort of authentication is possible via AOCE. When I expressed surprise, since I’d been told that Apple hasn’t yet published the relevant information (although it may appear in the near future), Reginald wrote:

It is true that the templates for the Key Chain and AppleTalk Addresses are not published, however Chapter 9 of New Inside Macintosh (AOCE Application Interfaces) details the Authentication manager, which supports the features you describe. Although it is mostly about authenticated communications using a PowerShare server, it has plenty of support for using the PowerTalk local identity to "unlock" various services.

In the interests of encouraging this kind of work, you might direct your readers to the AOCE mailing list. I have received a number of excellent replies to the questions I have posted there. The address is <[email protected]>. It is moderated by Gavin Eadie <[email protected]>, who wrote several AOCE samples, which I have been converting to CodeWarrior. Also, Joshua Baer <[email protected]> maintains a useful AOCE home page at: /aoce.html

Another approach, admittedly more of a kludge, would be to create a CSAM (Catalog Service Access Module) with templates for the various identities you possess as you register with Web servers. The nice thing about this approach would be the possibility of accessing them through the desktop Catalogs icon. A button in the template could launch your Web browser and go to the page in question. Since this would be a CSAM, it would automatically be inaccessible without opening your Key Chain. This approach may or may not be as secure as using the Authentication Manager. A similar template from Martin Simoneau (without the authentication feature) has been available for some time.

Brian Korver <[email protected]> comments that work is being done on the problem of automatic authentication as part of the Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It wasn’t inherently obvious to me, but perhaps I simply didn’t read the specification closely enough. examples.html

Luciano Floridi No comments

The Internet & the Future of Organized Knowledge: Part I of III

[Note: we thank Professor Floridi for kind permission to reprint this material, which is a shortened version of a paper he gave at a UNESCO Conference in Paris, March 14-17, 1995.]

Part One: Understanding The Internet

The Internet: a population of several million people, interacting by means of a global network. It is the most educated intellectual community ever, a global academy constantly thinking.

Yet the Internet is also a completely new, hitherto unknown phenomenon. What is the Internet exactly? What can it be used for? And what will be the effects of such a radical revolution in the way we handle the world of information? These are the three fundamental questions that will determine the future of organized knowledge.

What The Internet Is — By the word "Internet" we refer to the international system of digital communication, emerging from the agglomerate of thousands of networks that interact through a number of common protocols worldwide. It cannot be physically perceived, or meaningfully located in space and time, over and above the set of interacting networks that constitute it. It is a collaborative initiative of services and resources, each network being accountable only for its own proper functioning.

Thus, nobody is ultimately responsible for it as a single enterprise, nobody is earning money from the service as a whole, nobody is running the system, and nobody will be able to control it in the future.

What The Internet Can Be Used For — This is not easy to determine. It isn’t that we don’t know how to use the system, but that the variety of things that one can do via Internet increases literally every single day. However, we can distinguish four rough categories of communication: email, discussion groups, remote control, and file transfer.

Thus, we can exchange private messages with a friend, publish an electronic journal, set up a "slow reading group" on Voltaire’s Candide, and access data in all possible forms: software, bibliographic records, electronic texts, images of paintings, statistical graphs, musical sounds, whole data banks on an enormous variety of subjects. Any exchange and manipulation of symbols, images and sounds is already possible on Internet, or soon will be. In the future even television will probably be remembered as just another episode of the computer age.

How The Internet Will Affect Organized Knowledge — This question is almost impossible to answer precisely. It is hard to give even an initial shape to our ignorance, since there may be much more we do not know than we could guess. After all, the Internet is already transforming some of our most fundamental conceptions and habits.

The Internet is fostering the growth of knowledge, yet at the same time it is generating unprecedented forms of ignorance. As always in the history of technology, whenever a radical change occurs, some individuals are left behind while the new technology makes those who do master it suddenly aware of other domains still to be explored.

The new model of "spineless textuality" represented by hypertext, the virtual ubiquity of documents, the appearance of online services and electronic sources that need to be catalogued, have radically changed the discipline of librarianship. Even the library itself may disappear: no longer a building, a storehouse of knowledge physically recorded on paper, the new "consulting" library will be a node in the virtual space of the digital encyclopedia, providing access to electronic information on the network. Instead of an object-oriented culture, producing multiple copies of physical books for each user, we will become a time-and-information culture, providing services charged per period of use.

Concepts of citizenship and privacy are changing too. In the new electronic marketplace of the global village, publicity has assumed an international scale, while privacy means electronic privacy in our email conversations. Our good manners are evaluated on the basis of a social "netiquette." Civil rights concern the way in which information about ourselves can be created and stored in databases, and then accessed and used through the network. Crimes range from electronic pornography to viruses, from the illegal reproduction of software to illicit intrusion into electronic systems, from infringement of copyright to electronic plagiarism.

Even the way we think may be affected. Relational and associative reasoning is nowadays becoming as important as linear and inferential analysis, while visual thinking is at least as vital as symbolic processing. And as the skill of remembering vast amounts of facts is gradually replaced by the capacity for retrieving information and discerning logical patterns in masses of data, the Renaissance conception of erudition is merging with the modern methods of information management.

Entire sectors of activity like communicating, writing, publishing and editing, advertising and selling, shopping and banking, teaching and learning are all being deeply affected. Such transformations are of the greatest importance, as they will determine our life-style in the coming decades.

We are now ready to explore what such an epochal change in our culture will mean in one special field: the future of the Human Encyclopedia.

What The Human Encyclopedia Is — The Human Encyclopedia is the store of human knowledge. It is constantly increasing, although at different rates in different ages and cultures. The rate of increase depends on two things: the quantity of information stored up until that time and the current degree of accessibility of the "memory" of the system.

The invention of printing has usually been considered a turning point in this increase, but its importance should not be misunderstood. The printed book represented a powerful new medium whereby a text could be reproduced more quickly, cheaply, and accurately, and hence be more safely stored and more widely diffused. It tremendously accelerated the recovery, conservation, and dissemination of knowledge among an increasingly large number of people. But this did very little to improve the degree to which an individual could take full advantage of the entire Encyclopedia, since the process of information retrieval remained largely unaffected by the printing of books.

Quite soon after Gutenberg, there were attempts to do for the processing of information what the printing press had done for the reproduction of knowledge (see Gulliver’s Travels). But they all failed, because such an enterprise required something much more radical than a merely mechanical solution. Only the passage from printed paper to digital data made possible a thoroughly new way of managing information, and much more efficient control over the system of knowledge. This explains why Information Technology, as the long awaited response to the invention of printing, has been much more pervasive than any previous technology. The press (mechanically) enlarged our intellectual space; only the computer has made it (electronically) manageable.

Three Steps to The Internet — Thus began in the 1950’s a process of converting the entire domain of organized knowledge into a new, digital macrocosm. This conversion has engendered three fundamental changes in how we access information: extension, visualization, and integration.

  • Extension. There has been constant growth in the kinds of information that could be digitized – not only numbers and text, but also sounds, images, and animation. The growing extent of this "binary domain" has soon required forms of access far more congenial to the mind than the merely digital, leading to…
  • Visualization. The invention and improvement of visual display units, together with the development of graphic interfaces and WIMP applications (Window, Icon, Mouse, Pop-up menu), have made possible a spectacular return of the analogical as the fundamental threshold between the binary macrocosm and the mind. Finally…
  • Integration. The translation of different kinds of information into a single language of bytes has increasingly brought together the various domains of knowledge into an ever-wider and more complex encyclopedia. This integration has subsequently grown qualitatively by the incorporation of multimedia and virtual reality. It has also grown quantitatively, as local domains have joined into an ever-wider environment of networks, tending towards a global, multimedial, and unique macrocosm of digitized knowledge. Obviously, this brings us back to…

The Internet Again — We can now see that the Internet is just the most recent form adopted by the organization of the system of knowledge, a mere stage in the endless self-regulating process through which the Human Encyclopedia constantly strives to respond to its own growth. Through the combination of the three processes of extension, integration, and visualization, the Internet has made possible management of knowledge that is faster, wider in scope, and easier to exercise than ever before.

As a stage in the life cycle of the Encyclopedia, the network has already given rise to unprecedented innovations and to new fundamental problems, some of which are especially relevant to the future of scholarship and organized knowledge. These will be explored in detail in the next parts of this article.