New Power Macs! Apple introduces an impressive set of second-generation Power Macs at MacWorld Expo in Boston. Also this week, news and information on new Apple AV monitors, a patch for Netscape 1.1N, a plan that lets QuickTake 100 owners upgrade to a QuickTake 150, and all the details on the latest patch to the Power Mac version of Microsoft Office. Finally, Adam announces the third edition of his book and that it’s available – free! – on the Web.
Power Computing Sponsoring — We’re extremely pleased to welcome our latest sponsor, Power Computing, makers of some of the first Macintosh compatible computers. Needless to say, Power Computing hasn’t been around long, but from what we and almost every other magazine (including Macworld, MacWEEK, MacUser, and InfoWorld) have seen, they’re doing things right by emphasizing engineering (compatibility reports have been excellent), price, and customer support.
Coming from our Internet biases, it’s great to see that Power Computing has had a significant presence on the Internet for some time now. Although they don’t yet offer online ordering (soon!), you can use their Web pages to build a custom-configured machine – it even tells you the final price. I find this sort of tool preferable to the alternative of trying to use those horrible PC ads, where you must match base configurations with monitors, hard disks, and so on in order to figure out how much a complete configuration will cost. The Web site also includes technical information, along with a form and an email address for sending in technical questions. We hope that Power Computing finds electronic support to be as efficient an adjunct to live support as many other companies have.
Power Computing is a young company, but with the sustained level of hard work we’ve seen and with a little luck, we think they’ll do well. And frankly, we hope that Power Computing doing well will help Apple in the long run. In the past, if Apple misjudged the demand for a specific Mac model – as they often seem to – buyers simply had to wait, and some of them probably bought PC clones instead of waiting. Apple will still undoubtedly push the envelope with new machines and new system software, but Power Computing is small enough and fast enough to fill in niches that Apple ignores and pay more attention to customer feedback than Apple does. We wish Power Computing the best of luck and look forward to working with them in the future. [ACE]
Netscape 1.1N Patch for SLIP — It appears that Netscape has released patchers to Netscape 1.1N which install improved networking code that should "crash less on SLIP-based connections." I’m all in favor of Netscape crashing less; however, a couple notes are in order. First, it appears that the patchers only operate on Netscape 1.1N; folks who paid for Netscape Navigator have reported problems using the patch on the version 1.1 that they purchased. (A work-around might be to grab a freely-available copy of 1.1N from Netscape’s site.) Also, it’s probably a good idea to keep an unpatched version of Netscape around, just in case the patch doesn’t help or makes things worse. So, if you access the Internet via SLIP, the patchers are available at the following URL – make sure to grab the one matching the version of Netscape you use. There’s no word right now whether this patch helps with PPP connections, and the ReadMe file is remarkably unhelpful. [GD]
New Apple AV Monitors — Today Apple announced the availability of two new AV-style monitors today at MacWorld Expo in Boston. The AppleVision 1710AV is a multisync 17-inch Trinitron with a .26 dot pitch and resolutions from 640 by 480 (67 Hz) to 1280 by 1024 pixels (75 Hz). The 1710AV also has integrated stereo speakers mounted below the display area (with bass, treble, and volume controls, as well as mute switches), a directional microphone, and audio and ADB connectors built into the base. The Apple Multiple Scan 14 Display offers a .28 dot pitch on a 14-inch shadow mask tube, with multisync resolutions of 640 by 480 and 800 by 600 pixels and built-in stereo speakers. Both monitors are MPR-II and Energy Star compliant. The 1710AV has a suggested price of $1,159; the Apple Multiple Scan 14 Display has a suggested price of $359. [GD]
QuickTake 100 to 150 Upgrade — Apple announced last week that owners of the QuickTake 100 digital camera can upgrade to a full QuickTake 150 for about $200 through 30-Nov-95. Units have to be sent to an upgrade center to be fitted with new components, a close-up lens, batteries, and software. It’s worth noting that the Mac upgrade comes with PhotoFlash 2.0, a reasonably nifty and scriptable image editor. QuickTake 100 owners can upgrade by calling 800/399-5111 to receive a prepaid shipping container. Apple plans to turn around upgrades within two weeks. [GD]
InterCon Releases TCP/Connect II 2.2 — InterCon Systems announced last week it’s currently shipping version 2.2 of its TCP/Connect II integrated Internet connectivity software (see TidBITS-276). This version features numerous bug fixes and enhancements (particularly to its Web client), along with clickable URLs in mail messages and better handling of automatic file transfers. Registered users should contact InterCon for upgrade options and information. Demo versions of TCP/Connect II 2.2 are available online as well (about 4 MB). [GD]
InterCon Systems — 800/468-7266 — 703/709-5500 — <[email protected]>
AOL 2.6 Mac Client Available — America Online has made version 2.6 of its client software available via FTP. Version 2.6 optionally includes AOL’s Web Browser – based on code from InterCon’s TCP/Connect II – as well as enhancements to its client interface and bug fixes. If you have an Internet connection already, using the Web via AOL will prove slow and frustrating; however, if you have an AOL account, accessing AOL via TCP/IP is surprisingly spritely. These archives are large, so if download time is a problem, I’m sure AOL will send you a disk or three in the mail before too long. [GD]
After a few months of my work, and another month of work by Hayden Books, the third edition of my book, Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, is available (ISBN 1-56830-197-9). Bookstores may still have the second edition on their shelves, but they can order the third edition for you. I recommend you get the third edition, unless you’re only buying the book to pick up a copy of MacTCP, at which point the cheapest method is to find a remaindered version of the first edition, which has sold for as low as $2.19.
On the whole, the basic book is similar to the second edition. It still contains plenty of background information on what the Internet is, where it came from, how the various services work and how you might use them, and that sort of thing. I still cover the main commercial services in terms of Internet access, and still concentrate on the MacTCP-based methods of getting on the Internet. My chapters on MacTCP still have more information than any other source I’ve seen, and my troubleshooting chapter still contains tons of good tips (although it’s grown longer to accommodate everything I’ve learned since last year). The disk still contains MacTCP and MacPPP and the main applications you need to get started on the Internet.
So, what’s changed? I’ve added two new chapters, one on choosing an Internet connection, which compares the different methods of connecting to the Internet and explains the many variables involved in choosing an Internet provider. Tonya actually wrote the second new chapter, which covers how to create your own home page on the Web using Macintosh tools. It’s not a boring reference or a mind-numbing tutorial, but is a nice mix of the two that I think people new to the Web and HTML will like. Tonya is also basing a Mac-oriented book called Create Your Own Home Page on that chapter; her book is essentially done and should be out in a few months.
Aside from those two new chapters, I reduced the size of the book significantly, roughly from 1,000 pages to 750. Frankly, the book was just too big (everyone was surprised when the second edition came out that large) and with skyrocketing paper costs, the page count had to come down. To that end, I cut the newsgroup and resource lists in the appendix, created a concise capsule review format for less-used programs that weren’t quite worthy of a full discussion, and – horrors! – chopped out information that just didn’t belong any more. The entire discussion of how to use Unix is gone (let’s face it, this is a Mac book, and I’m no Unix guru), and I removed, under a certain amount of duress from my editor, the entire UUCP chapter as well. I still feel that the UUCP information is useful, though, so I’ll make it available to readers who want it electronically (see below for one method).
The contents of the disk stayed pretty much the same, although I removed MacWAIS and TurboGopher and added StuffIt Expander and Internet Config. The full list, then is, MacTCP 2.0.6, MacPPP 2.0.1, Internet Config 1.1, InterSLIP 1.0.1, Anarchie 1.5, Eudora 1.5.1, MacWeb 1.00A3.2, and StuffIt Expander 3.5.2. I know Anarchie and Eudora have been revved since I finalized the disk, but I still have a folder of bookmarks that always point at the latest versions of the essential Internet programs. MacWeb now points at a page that provides links to what I feel are the most important sites on the Web for a Macintosh user, including things like Yahoo, WebCrawler, Apple, and Info-Mac mirrors. The software updates page and modem strings page are still available from the home page as well, and anyone is welcome to visit it.
Oh, and one last thing. At the last moment, Hayden decided to increase the price to $35 from $30 to account for the paper costs. Sorry about that. My editor relayed a telling quote from his previous job at General Motors, "Sure, we lose money on each car, but we make up for it in volume."
Should you buy this version if you’ve got an earlier one? That’s up to you, but I can help you decide. You can now read the entire book, screenshots and all, on the Web. It’s got even more information than the paper version, since the UUCP chapter made it back in. Bill Dickson, my co-author on Internet Explorer Kit for Macintosh, and his friend Rob Furr converted the files that went to production into HTML (it was a little more complicated than that, but suffice it to say that Nisus Writer did the majority of the text munging, and they manipulated all the graphics in Photoshop). They did use some Netscape-specific tags, so it looks best in Netscape, but should work fine in MacWeb or Mosaic. If you use Netscape, use the first URL below. With anything else, jump directly to the second one.
I hope you find the online version useful, with all its hot URLs and email addresses and newsgroup names. I suspect most people will find that the online version is a useful adjunct to the paper version, since you can’t very well read about troubleshooting online if you’re having trouble, but typing in URLs when following along with Tonya’s HTML instructions is going to be a real pain.
In the past, Hayden offered a discount to people who purchased the book via email. They’re no longer doing that, but if you purchase the book via the Web, they’ll ship in the United States via FedEx for free, which is worth a good bit considering the weight of the book.
Shipping costs for international customers are unfortunately relatively high, as is common, so you might wish to look at the list of technical bookstores on the Internet and compare shipping costs.
Of course, you can also purchase the book through normal bookstores and other channels, like the telephone, if you prefer those methods. Or, you can just read it online for free. Your choice, and no matter how you read the book, I hope you enjoy it.
Oh, and for those Mac users who need to use the Internet via a Windows machine, the entire second edition of Internet Starter Kit for Windows will also be available online soon (if it isn’t already). Check the Hayden home page for a link there when it happens.
Macmillan Computer Publishing — 800/428-5331 — 317/361-5400
317/364-7190 (fax) — <[email protected]>
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and if you use (or support) the PowerPC version of Microsoft Office 4.2, consider this article an ounce of prevention. If you run the PowerPC version of Microsoft Office (or have separate Power Mac copies of Word or Excel), it’s time for an update, in the form of the Office 4.2x Update for Power Mac. The update prevents crashes (with what Microsoft calls a "System Error 11" message) that may occur if you launch an application after quitting Word, and that may occur when you print under QuickDraw GX 1.1.1 or 1.1.2, from any PowerPC version of Word 6 or Excel 5. The update should be placed in your Extensions folder, and – like most extensions – it loads into memory when you start up your Macintosh.
A contact at Microsoft explained that the first type of crash typically occurs after launching and quitting Word several times in one work session. On some Macs, the problem might occur after quitting Word only once, but typically, you have to launch and quit Word three, five, or even ten times in order to experience the problem. If you restart your Macintosh, another work session begins, and the problem should go away for several launches and quits. The Application Note that comes with the update suggests that the problem can occur after launching Word, but before quitting Word; however, my contact was quite clear about the fact that you must quit Word to bring about the problem.
Unfortunately, the original version of the update has two separate conflicts with each of two common extensions: the Global Village Toolbox extension and an extension that comes with STF Technologies’s FAXstf software. Kyle Johnson <[email protected]> gave a detailed description of how he encountered the conflict: "About three to five seconds after launching any part of the Office Suite, a grouping of about ten pixels in the upper right corner of the screen began rotating colors and the machine locks. The onset of the hang can be accelerated by selecting any menu item."
Hang on, it gets more confusing. Microsoft has finished an update to the original Office 4.2x Update for Power Mac, and the update should be available now. Both versions are called Office 4.2x update for Power Mac, but if you do a Get Info on the original version, the version number will be displayed as "n/a." If you do a Get Info on the latest version of the update, the version number will be 1.01.
[A note about obtaining this update from Microsoft’s FTP site: Microsoft apparently doesn’t understand that BinHex (".hqx") files are text-only, so they are posting them on their server incorrectly (surprise!). In order to download this update, you must do so in binary mode. We recommend you download the file from the URL below using Netscape, which downloads pretty much everything in binary mode, or using Fetch, which has a Binary button that can force a binary download. Otherwise, configure your FTP client to treat the file suffix ".hqx" as a binary file (and make sure to change the setting back when you’re done). -Geoff]
The online version of the Microsoft Knowledge Base does not currently document this problem, but I found an Application Note about the update at:
To find additional Word information in the Microsoft Knowledge Base, try:
Microsoft Corporation — 800/426-9400 — 206/635-7200 (support)
Apple today announced the availability of three new desktop machines: the Power Macintosh 8500, 7500, and 7200. These second-generation Power Macs put technology introduced in the Power Mac 9500 (see TidBITS-282) into aggressively priced packages designed for professionals and mainstream users.
These machines underscore Apple’s commitment to the new PCI bus (each featuring three PCI expansion slots) and DIMM memory modules. Unlike the 9500, however, each of these machines includes expandable, multiple-resolution built-in video, audio capture, and (in the case of the 8500 and 7500) built-in, high-quality video input. In short, these systems look to offer significantly improved performance and capability at prices in the range of today’s Power Macs.
Power Macintosh 8500 — At the high end of the new machines is the Power Mac 8500, a mini-tower design similar to the existing 8100 in terms of appearance, but revised in nearly every other respect. The heart of the 8500 is an upgradable 120 MHz PowerPC 604 processor on a removable daughterboard, similar to the 9500, which should offer snappy performance even at computing-intensive tasks. The 8500 also features three PCI expansion slots, a Fast SCSI internal SCSI bus capable of transferring up to 10 MB per second (external SCSI will handle up to 5 MB/sec), a 256K level 2 cache on a DIMM, and an internal Apple quad-speed CD-ROM drive. The unit has 8 DIMM slots for RAM expansion (with 16 MB of RAM standard), has a bay for an additional internal storage, and is available with either a 1 GB or 2 GB internal hard disk. There is at least one major headache with the Power Mac 8500: although access to the PCI slots and CPU daughterboard is simple, like the 8100 and 9500 before it adding RAM requires removing the entire motherboard.
Video support in the Power Mac 8500 is exceptional. Unlike the Power Mac 9500 (which must use a PCI card for video), the 8500 comes with high-quality internal video supporting resolutions up to 1280 by 1024 pixels, a 64-bit data path to the VRAM, and 2 MB of VRAM that’s upgradable to 4 MB (which would support 24-bit video out to 1152 by 870 pixels). The Power Mac 8500 comes with composite and S-video input and output, with 24-bit video real-time playthrough up to 640 by 480 (NTSC) or 768 by 576 (SECAM and PAL). The Power Mac 8500 can also capture 24-bit video at 25 frames per second using NTSC at sizes up to 320 by 240 (quarter-screen), and has 24-bit NTSC and PAL video output described as "near broadcast quality" by Apple. These video capabilities exceed anything offered by Apple on previous Macs (including the AV options on previous machines); however, they aren’t part of an optional AV add-on. Every Power Mac 8500 ships with this video horsepower.
The 8500 doesn’t stop there. The machine features both RCA phono and mini jack stereo audio input and output, all supporting 16-bit audio and 44 kHz sampling rates. Like the 9500, the 8500 features built-in Ethernet via both Apple’s AAUI and the more common 10BASE-T connector. Also, the 8500 includes an internal DAV (digital audio/video) connector for video compression/decompression cards.
In addition, the 8500 ships with an armful of new software that you wouldn’t ordinarily expect. Like the 9500 before it, the 8500 ships with System 7.5.2, including Open Transport, more PowerPC-native core code, speech recognition and text-to-speech capability, and an improved 680×0 emulator for running non-native applications. But the 8500 also includes QuickDraw 3D, support for QuickTime Conferencing (QuickTime-based video conferencing from Apple), plus a plethora of goodies such as a version of Apple’s Control Strip which works on desktop Macs and enhanced sound and display control panels which are fully scriptable. The QuickDraw 3D and QuickTime Conferencing software will work on the Power Mac 9500, 8500, 7500, and 7200, and Apple says it will synchronize the software bundles with each machine.
Done yet? Not quite. The suggested prices for the Power Mac 8500 begin at $3,900 (keyboard and monitor sold separately), with correspondingly higher prices for a 2 GB internal drive.
Power Macintosh 7500 — If the 8500 is aimed at high-end users, developers, multimedia authoring, and video production, then the Power Macintosh 7500 is the "enterprise" machine of Apple’s new product line, targeted at mainstream application users who are looking for good value in a machine that can deliver power and performance in day-to-day tasks. Starting around $2,700, the 7500 offers decent performance, video, and future expandability.
The Power Mac 7500 is built around a 100 MHz PowerPC 601 processor on a daughterboard, and features a new desktop case design (which it shares with the new Power Mac 7200). As with the 8500, the Power Mac 7500 offers three PCI expansion slots, an Apple quad-speed CD-ROM drive, a Fast SCSI internal SCSI bus capable of up to 10 MB per second (the external SCSI handles up to 5 MB/sec), 16 MB of RAM standard, a bay for an internal storage device, and either a 500 MB or 1 GB internal hard disk. The 7500’s audio capabilities match the 8500, with phono and mini jack stereo audio input and output at 16 bits and up to 44 kHz sampling rates. The 7500’s video hardware is also like the 8500’s, with 2 MB of VRAM (expandable to 4 MB), a 64-bit data path to the VRAM, and display support up to 1280 by 1024 pixels.
The 7500’s video input capabilities are nearly as impressive, with both composite and S-video input, real-time video playthrough up to 640 by 480 pixels (NTSC) or 768 by 576 (PAL and SECAM), and 24-bit 320 by 240 (quarter-screen) video capture at 15 frames per second with NTSC. What’s missing in comparison to the 8500 is video output capability; although the 7500 comes with an internal DAV connector to plug in video compression/decompression boards, the video capability in the 7500 is aimed more toward video conferencing and basic capture than toward production and high-end output. The Power Mac 7500 ships with the same software bundle as the 8500.
One welcome feature in the new 7000-series Power Macs is inside the box: the chassis where the internal hard disk, CD-ROM, floppy drive, and power supply are mounted is hinged, so the entire chassis can unsnapped and swung upward without disconnecting any of the components. (One of the plastic chassis connectors even functions as a "kickstand" which prevents the unit from becoming unbalanced and toppling over.) This allows easy access to the VRAM, 8 DIMM slots, PCI expansion slots (which have their own swing-out vents) and the CPU daughterboard. Getting memory and other components in and out of the new 7000-series case should be a breeze, especially compared to the much more awkward 8500 and 9500.
The Power Mac 7500 has a replaceable CPU daughterboard, and Apple is already saying the machine will be upgradable to a PowerPC 604 processor. The unit also has space for an optional 256K to 1 MB of level 2 cache, so there are a variety of options for wrenching more performance out of the machine.
Power Macintosh 7200 — The Power Mac 7200 rounds out the lower end of Apple’s new Power Macintosh offerings, and is available in two configurations surround a 75 MHz or 90 MHz PowerPC 601 processor. It shares its external case with the Power Mac 7500, along with its quad-speed CD-ROM drive and decent video display capabilities (although it comes with only 1 MB of VRAM standard). However, the Power Mac 7200 features neither video capture nor video output, so video conferencing or QuickTime authoring are trickier propositions requiring PCI peripherals. The 7200 does come with three PCI expansion slots, but it also has a slower SCSI bus than the 8500 or 7500 (up to 5 MB/sec internal or external), only 4 DIMM slots and 8 MB of RAM standard, and an optional level 2 cache that can be increased to 512K. Apple has no planned CPU upgrade for the 7200 (although Apple does promise an upgrade – probably an expensive one – to a 7500).
But don’t knock the 7200 too hard: it wasn’t so long ago when Mac users would have been very happy to see a machine like this, and with a suggested price starting at $1,700 (75 MHz model) to $1,900 (90 MHz model), the 7200 should have a healthy life with same sort of customers who currently are considering Power Mac 6100s. The 7200 should prove a capable machine for home, small business, and education users, who need PowerPC capability at a decent price.
The "Promise" of PCI — Apple’s new Power Macs deliver on the technology introduced earlier in the Power Mac 9500, and take Apple further toward being a RISC-based platform using industry-standard PCI components. At MacWorld Expo in Boston this week, Apple will be waving around impressive lists of manufacturers who have committed to ship (or are shipping) PCI cards for Power Macs. However, the long-term proof of PCI on the Macintosh remains to be seen. In the Windows world – where PCI has been an option for some time – software drivers are the fly in the ointment. Vendors and manufacturers are constantly updating drivers and components, resulting in a confusing panoply of versions, updaters, and hardware. Although it’s true that Apple started its PCI efforts on more solid ground – with a well-defined API for Macintosh drivers, a better hardware standard, and a lot of hand-holding for vendors – it remains to be seen whether these efforts will pay off in the long run. After all, in many cases Apple is dealing with the same vendors who are principal instigators of driver-confusion under Windows. With luck, Apple will be able to work with PCI vendors and maintain the levels of quality and ease-of-installation that Macintosh users have come to expect and which add so much value to the platform. But with only a few months of real-world PCI history behind us, it’s just too soon to tell.