Do you receive TidBITS via America Online? Find out how AOL suddenly changed your subscription last week! Also inside: information on a new virus potentially affecting users of Microsoft Word 6.0, a review of Connectix’s widely-discussed utility Speed Doubler, a few notes on the marketing excesses surrounding the Windows 95 launch, and a comprehensive overview of Apple’s forthcoming PowerPC-based PowerBooks.
"Excessibility" and Win95 — In case you were visiting the outer planets last week and missed the news, we thought we’d let you know that Microsoft finally shipped Windows 95. We also thought we’d point out some of the marketing excesses committed in its honor. For instance, Microsoft projected the Windows 95 logo on the Empire State Building in New York City; paid for the free distribution of a reported 1.5 million copies of the London Times, which were (of course) filled with large ads for Windows 95; and floated a forty-foot tall replica of the Windows 95 box in the Sydney harbor, prompting at least one observer to ask how many floppies the update required.
Apple countered with several smug advertisements, but a particularly appropriate one was plastered on the sides of buses driving Seattle’s route 253, which goes directly through the main Microsoft campus:
Perhaps the saddest part about this particular Apple ad is that people understand it. [GD]
Open Transport 1.0.7 — Last week, Apple released a patch that updates Open Transport 1.0.6 to 1.0.7. Version 1.0.7 can only be used on the Power Macs 7200, 7500, 8500, and 9500, and won’t work on other Power Macs or on releases of Open Transport other than 1.0.6. This release includes support for networks with more than 256 AppleTalk zones, as well as fixes for SLIP/PPP users. Please see the ReadMe file for details on how to use the fix; if you bought a 9500 and have an earlier version of Open Transport, call Apple at 800/769-2775, ext. 5617, to receive an update. [GD]
Frank Imburgia probably didn’t anticipate a flood of calls from TidBITS readers when he gave us his office phone number for T-shirt inquiries (see TidBITS-291). The company he works for (which has nothing to do with the T-shirts, it seems) was caught by surprise. Instead of calling Frank at the Yankee Group, call him at home at 617/630-9828. (Keep in mind time zone differences; Frank’s in Massachusetts, in the Eastern U.S. time zone, four hours behind Greenwich Mean until daylight saving time ends.) [MHA]
A week or so ago America Online significantly changed the way they handle Internet mail and file attachments to and from the Internet. Though these changes will better serve many AOL users, they have confused many TidBITS readers.
Previously, AOL’s Internet mail gateway would split email messages over 25K into multiple segments, and AOL subscribers to TidBITS received each issue as two email messages. AOL’s new system treats email messages over 25K differently. The first 25K of the message appears in the message body, and the entire message is delivered as a downloadable, MIME-encoded file attachment.
This might not seem like such a bad idea, but there are problems. First, this new system increases the amount of material users must download to receive a typical TidBITS issue from 30K to about 55K (since they receive both a 25K "preview" and a 30K file attachment). The same thing applies to any other email over 25K in size.
Second, AOL currently formats the file attachment as if it were an MS-DOS text file (lines ending with a carriage return and a linefeed rather than just a carriage return), and creates a DOS-standard filename using 8 characters with a 3 character extension. Last week, however, AOL’s Internet gateway did not try for MS-DOS text files; instead, it attempted to format text attachments as Unix text files, which are virtually unreadable in SimpleText or most word processors.
So long as AOL plans to deliver text files as DOS-formatted attachments, there are several ways to correct AOL’s processing. The first is to use a text file conversion utility to convert the DOS line endings to carriage returns. On AOL, you can use the File Search command on the Go To menu to search for DOSWasher, NetStripper, or Add/Strip. Several other utilities can perform this conversion, and it can be done using the find-and-replace feature of most word processors or text editors. Also, many programmer’s editors such as BBEdit Lite and Alpha can transparently read Mac, DOS, and Unix files.
If you don’t want to process issues that arrive via email, you can retrieve complete issues from AOL’s Macintosh Hardware Forum (MHW); they’re generally available at the same time TidBITS issues are distributed via email. In the meantime, we encourage anyone experiencing problems with these changes to AOL’s email system to contact AOL directly and express your concerns. Though we applaud AOL’s decision to include MIME support in their email offering, we would remind them MIME is intended to solve problems like these, not cause them.
Though the possibility of a cross-platform virus moving as interpreted commands in data documents has been considered by computer experts, none had been seen in the user community until this month’s discovery that a new virus was spreading within document macros interpreted by Microsoft’s WordBasic macro language. The virus, dubbed "Word-Macro-9508" by the Macintosh antivirus community, can spread on any computer system using a version of Microsoft Word 6.0.
So far the virus has been seen mostly on DOS, Windows, and OS/2 computers running Word 6, in various locations in North America and Europe. It has been referred to as "WinWord.Concept", "WW6", and "WW6Macro" in the Windows community, though it is by no means restricted to the Windows version of Word 6. Microsoft’s name for the virus is "Prank Macro". The code can be spread merely by opening an infected Word document – even one that has been transferred from a different operating system – since Word’s macros are stored as data and are automatically recognized by any current version of the application.
The virus adds several new macros to Word’s global macro pool, named "AAAZA0", "AAAZFS", "Payload", and "FileSaveAs". This last activates the virus in an infected file when the user chooses Save As from the File menu. The altered macros are then saved with the file. If the virus has infected your Word documents, you may see an alert window with the digit "1" in it when the virus is triggered, or you may notice that infected Word files are saved as templates rather than normal documents.
IBM has gathered a fair amount of information on the virus and how to combat it, and published it at:
Microsoft has released tools to combat the virus, obtainable on the Internet. As of this writing, Microsoft’s fix renames the virus rather than removing it, and there have been reports that a supplied file system scan function may not find all infected files on a Macintosh.
[Note that Microsoft still isn’t posting BinHex files correctly and this file must be downloaded in binary mode. Try using Netscape, which downloads most everything in binary, or Fetch, which has a Binary button that forces a binary download. Otherwise, configure your FTP client to treat the file suffix ".hqx" as a binary file, and be sure to change the setting back when you’re done. -Geoff]
Datawatch Corporation has released an update (version 5.6.1) of its commercial Virex utility for Macintosh, available on commercial online services and at:
No updates are currently planned for the other Macintosh antiviral utilities; most do not attempt to address viruses that don’t take a machine-code form.
Since Mac versions of Microsoft Word prior to 6.0 don’t incorporate WordBasic, and since even on newer versions these macros are easily spotted and removed, users need not panic about this virus.
The world is obsessed with speed and nowhere is that more prevalent than in the computer industry. Anyone who can find a way to make our computers work faster gains our appreciation – and our dollars.
Connectix Software has a reputation of doing more with less. One of the longest lines at Boston’s Macworld Expo this year was filled with people waiting for their newest miracle: Speed Doubler. Speed Doubler claims to double the speed of your Macintosh and – at its best – fulfills that promise. Let’s take a closer look.
From Garden Hose to Big Pipe — Speed Doubler has three components. The first of these is a disk caching extension called Speed Access. One of the bottlenecks in computer performance is that the computer’s CPU works far faster than it can read from or write to any disk. For example, if you could do it, you’d love to fill your new in-ground pool using a five-foot diameter water pipe instead of a garden hose. For both 68K and Power Macintosh computers, Speed Doubler simulates a larger water pipe as far as disk operations are concerned by improving disk caching algorithms. Although the Macintosh does have disk caching built into the operating system, the Mac’s disk caching, essentially a "blind" cache, operates the same way regardless of work patterns or data types, and it hasn’t been significantly improved in several releases.
Speed Access replaces and improves the regular Macintosh disk cache, intelligently caching frequently used data in preference to other, less-used data. Upon installation, Speed Doubler sets the cache depending on the amount of RAM you have. You can control this cache through the Memory control panel. When using Speed Access, allocate as much RAM as you can to the cache while leaving enough RAM to open all your needed applications. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to use any more cache memory than you normally do.
Multitasking in the Finder — The second component of Speed Doubler, an extension called Speed Copy, enables you to continue using your Mac while copying files. Speed Copy allows you to continue working in the Finder while copies are going on. You can also start multiple copies and have them proceed simultaneously. However, copying multiple sets of files at the same time significantly slows down your machine. Other utilities, such as CopyDoubler and Aladdin Desktop Tools, provide similar performance enhancements in slightly different ways, but Speed Doubler gives you this capability in yet another consumer mix.
Along with enabling you to do other things while copying files or emptying the trash, Speed Doubler’s Finder enhancements also offer extra information and capabilities. You’ll know how long the computer will take to copy those files now, and if you don’t like the idea of corporate spies getting their hands on your secrets, the new Empty Trash dialog box gives you a security erase option and lets you to select particular files in the Trash that will be deleted (if you have the Trash’s Warn before emptying checkbox set).
Faster Than a Speeding Power Mac — The final component in the Speed Doubler suite is the PowerPC Speed Emulator, and this component is what earns Speed Doubler its name. One of the weak points of a Power Mac is that it must run in the slower emulation mode when working with 68K-based software. Apple took some heat earlier this year for improving the Power Mac 68K emulator for the PowerPC 604-based Macs and not improving emulation in first-generation Power Macs. Well, fret no more. Not only does Speed Emulator improve the speed of your Power Mac when running 68K applications, it’s reputed to be 30 percent faster than Apple’s improved emulator! I’ve noticed a dramatic improvement of at least 50-75 percent over the week I’ve used it. Speed Emulator won’t improve the performance of native software – since native software already takes full advantage of the PowerPC chip – but remember that significant portions of the Mac OS are still non-native and Speed Doubler improves performance in those areas. Of course, Speed Emulator only works with Power Macs and is of no use on 68K-based machines, but Speed Doubler works on any Power Mac, not just Apple’s latest crop.
What’s it Gonna Cost Me? That’s the first question I put to Connectix’s at Macworld. The simple answer is $99, about $60 street price, or even less for owners of other Connectix products. But what about RAM? Ever since realizing 8 MB of memory was not enough to effectively run a Power Mac, I’ve been very conservative with my RAM. Speed Access – the disk caching area of the program – takes as much memory for disk caching as you specify in the Memory control panel. On Power Macs, Speed Emulator is advertised to use about 800K of RAM; however, I’ve observed my System size increasing by perhaps 1.5 MB. The system size increase will be greater for computers with a greater amount of available memory (because they need to purge material less frequently), which effectively means Speed Emulator is more efficient on machines that routinely have significant amounts of free memory.
Any software that modifies low-level functions of your computer teeters on edge of disaster in regard to software compatibility. I’ve used Speed Doubler for over a week on three separate machines, including a Power Mac 6100/60, and can report only one potential software conflict with a very specialized application. Every major application and game I’ve run has had no problems, and has benefited from increased performance. [I’ve also had trouble-free performance on a Power Mac 7100 and PowerBook 520. -Tonya]
And the Verdict is… Speed Doubler offers three basic improvements. Speed Access, its disk caching element, hasn’t impressed me because I haven’t seen much improvement that I can attribute to it. On the other hand, this is such an under-the-hood addition that it can be difficult to tell what portions of other speed-ups it may have been responsible for. Connectix did better with regard to their Finder improvements; the ability to copy files and continue to work with the Finder is a worthwhile addition, although not a new one. The biggest way Connectix could have improved this area was to find a way to multitask the formatting of a disk. Finally, on Power Macs, the Speed Emulator is a big win for those of us who still working significantly with 68K-based applications. I found it a noticeable improvement with no problematic conflicts.
If you like speed, have a Power Macintosh, and use 68K applications, get Speed Doubler. But if you have a 68K-based Macintosh, the package may only be worth it to you if find yourself doing a good bit of waiting for files to copy.
[Connectix has just released a patch to Speed Doubler allowing users to update their machines and master disks to Speed Doubler 1.0.1. Among the fixes included are better reliability on machines with PowerPC upgrade cards and the ability to run Microsoft Word 4.0 with Speed Emulator. -Geoff]
Connectix — 800/950-5880 — 415/571-5100 — <[email protected]>
Today Apple announced the long-awaited upgrades to its well-designed but aging line of PowerBooks in the form of the PowerBook 5000-series, the PowerBook 2000-series, and the PowerBook 190. As you might expect from the extra zero in the name, the PowerBook 5000-series and 2000-series contain PowerPC chips, in this case, the PowerPC 603e, which combines high performance with low power requirements. For owners of the existing PowerBook 500-series and PowerBook 200-series, upgrades to the new 603e chip are available via a daughtercard for the 500s and via a new logic board for the Duos. Machines in the 5000-series will be available on 11-Sep-95, and the others should appear in mid-October. Apple expects some shortages in the first few weeks due to massive demand, but thinks their supply will be sufficient after the initial crush. Let’s hope they’re right for once.
PowerBook 5000-series — The 5000-series PowerBooks looks much like the current 500-series, although there are some differences, most notably the inch of depth that Apple managed to shave off the new models. The 500-series measures 11.5" by 9.7", whereas the new 5000-series comes in at 11.5" by 8.5". Weight dropped as well, with the new machines ranging from 5.9 pounds to 6.2 pounds, fully configured.
Useful features shared among the 5000-series models include lithium-ion batteries that Apple claims offer battery life in the three to five hour range, 8-bit color video-out, built-in speaker, 16-bit sound input and output, integrated microphone, expansion bay with an IDE connector for third-party storage devices (the floppy drive normally lives in the expansion bay), built-in infrared networking, and two PC Card slots (the artist formerly known as PCMCIA slots) that can accommodate two Type 1 or Type II PC Cards or one Type III PC Card. Standard ports include the infrared window for wireless networking, video-out port, stereo sound input and output, SCSI, LocalTalk/printer port, and ADB.
The differences between the four 5000-series models are based primarily on configurations:
- First up is the $2,250 5300/100, which offers a PowerPC 603e chip running at 100 MHz, and comes standard with 8 MB of RAM, a 500 MB drive, and a 9.5" passive-matrix greyscale display.
- The 5300cs/100 improves on the previous model with the addition of a 10.5" dual-scan color display, the choice of 8 MB or 16 MB of RAM, and either a 500 MB or 750 MB hard disk. Prices range from $2,800 to $3,700.
- The next step up is the 5300c/100, which utilizes a 10.4" active-matrix color display that can display 256 or thousands of colors. It shares the 5300cs/100’s choice of RAM and hard disk, and prices range between $3,700 and $4,700.
- Finally, we come to the 5300ce/117, which costs between $6,500 and $6,800, and is probably well worth the money if you need its features. It uses a 117 MHz 603e chip for faster performance, and its 10.4" active-matrix color display can display 800 by 600 pixels in thousands of colors. The only options for RAM and a hard disk are 32 MB of RAM and 1.1 GB drive, which helps account for the stratospheric price. Personally, I can’t imagine carrying around $6,500 worth of PowerBook and possibly dropping it.
New Features — Apple is emphasizing the expansion bay, the PC Card slots, and the infrared networking, and all for good reason. The expansion bay ships with a 3.5" floppy drive installed, but you can easily remove that and replace it with other devices such as additional hard disks or magneto-optical drives. The expansion bay also sports internal power connectors, so third parties like VST Power Systems will produce power adapters that are entirely internal to the PowerBook. To reduce weight by about seven ounces, you can replace the floppy drive with Apple’s PC Card storage module.
PC Card support is extremely important in these new PowerBooks, since they don’t offer built-in Ethernet or an internal modem, as did the 500-series. To add Ethernet or a modem, you must use a PC Card, and Farallon has announced plans to create (for December release) a combination card that includes both Ethernet and modem capabilities. Other vendors, such as Global Village, Dayna, Focus, Megahertz, and Newer Technologies have also announced various PC Cards for use with the 5000-series. Although this move away from Ethernet on the logic board and an internal modem connector seems like a mistake (you have to waste one or both of your PC Card slots to get the functionality built into the 500-series), I think it’s quite positive. After all, the 500-series on-board Ethernet required a transceiver so it wasn’t exactly free, plus there is only one modem available for the 500-series and it doesn’t do 28,800 bps! Opening these PowerBooks up to the PC Card standard means more choices and lower prices.
The entirely new infrared networking capabilities are most interesting. All the PowerBooks have an infrared window in the back panel, and the included Apple IR File Exchange software makes transferring files simple. IR File Exchange automatically recognizes other IR-equipped machines in the vicinity (up to six feet away with a 30 degree angle) and creates guest folders for sharing files securely. Of course, standard File Sharing works as well for password-protected access to a hard disk. IR File Exchange supports multiple simultaneous infrared connections, and can automatically complete a file transfer after the beam is broken and re-established. For connecting to a desktop machine, Farallon will provide the Farallon AirDock. I don’t currently know the speed of the infrared connection, but it’s unlikely to be any faster than standard LocalTalk, if even that fast. The IR networking functions as a standard network connection, so you have to change connections in the Network control panel if you want to switch to Ethernet or LocalTalk. Of course, the best part of the infrared networking is that it enables you to play Spaceward Ho! or other network games in meetings. And just think of the note-passing possibilities in the K-12 market….
PowerBook 2000-series — Less innovative, but no less desirable is the new PowerBook Duo 2000-series, which is primarily a processor upgrade from the 680×0 line to the PowerPC 603e chip. There’s only one machine in the 2000 line right now, the PowerBook Duo 2300c/100, and it sports a 100 MHz 603e processor, 8 or 20 MB of RAM, a 750 MB or 1.1 GB hard disk, and a 9.5" active-matrix color display capable of displaying thousands of colors.
The main physical change to the Duo 2300c/100 is the replacement of the tiny trackball with an improved trackpad that can be used without a button (although the button is present). This new trackpad, available only on the Duo 2300c/100 and the PowerBook 190/66, enables you to click, drag, and double-click by tapping on the pad. According to Apple, the new trackpad isn’t yet included in the 5000-series because it might have hurt availability; it will undoubtedly be in future models.
The Duo 2300c/100 should be available in mid-October at prices ranging from $3,500 to $4,700. Existing Duo owners will be pleased that the Duo 2300c/100 is supposedly completely compatible with all existing peripherals for the current Duo series, and all previous Duo models can be upgraded in mid-October to the PowerPC 603e chip via a new logic board for about $1,300.
PowerBook 190/66 — Last, but not leased (since they’re cheaper), come the PowerBook 190/66 and 190cs/66, which combine the form factor and design of the 5000-series with the basic functionality of the 500-series. They include the new clickable trackpad and have the same expansion bay and PC Card slots as the 5000-series, but run on a 33 MHz (Apple calls it 66/33 MHz) 68LC040 processor. The difference between the two units is the screen – the 190 has a 9.5" passive-matrix greyscale screen and the 190cs has a 10.4" dual-scan color display. The 190-series uses a nickel-metal-hydride battery instead of the lithium-ion battery of the 5000-series. Prices range from $1,650 for a 4 MB/500 MB 190 to $2,300 for an 8 MB/500 MB 190cs, and both models will be available in mid-October.
Upgrades are plentiful for the 190-series. A logic board swap will get you a PowerPC 603e processor, and once you’ve done that you can add a 10.4" active matrix color display. Other upgrade possibilities are lithium-ion batteries, infrared networking capabilities, and a video-out port. Once you start looking at the possibility of upgrades though, you have to decide if it isn’t worth paying extra up front and buying a 5300 instead.
The 190-series sounds like a decent basic PowerBook, unlike the 150, which felt hamstrung. I think many 190 users will be confused by the labelling on existing products that claim they’re for use with the "100-series" – since the 190 models are very different from the previous machines – but Apple wanted to show that the 190 models were in the "value line" by using that number.
Overall Thoughts — I think these machines are going to be a big hit, in large part because of the expansion bay, the PC Card slots, the infrared networking, and the performance of the PowerPC 603e chip. They’re good, solid upgrades to the PowerBook line and Apple should be proud. However, I do feel a certain letdown in that the 5000-series is too much like existing PowerBooks. Apple took over the notebook market with the first PowerBooks, which were light-years ahead of the competition at the time. Since then, the PC notebooks have improved significantly. For example, the IBM ThinkPads have infrared networking and those extremely cool butterfly keyboards that expand out when you open the top. I have yet to see a PC notebook with a pointing device as good as any of Apple’s trackballs or trackpads, and the infrared networking in the 5000-series is no doubt much easier to use because it uses Macintosh software, but these machines aren’t a home run, and they won’t give Apple back the lead in the notebook market. Still, they do qualify as a solid double, and Apple has more at-bats delight its fans with some truly revolutionary new machines. (My apologies for the baseball analogies; I’m reading a book about the 1964 baseball season, and it’s hard to escape the terminology.)
A hint to Apple: a desktop machine that could sleep like a PowerBook would be at least a triple, if not a four-bagger.