Are you looking forward to upgrading to Copland next year? Apple suggests you might be waiting a bit longer. Also this week: news on Apple’s printing fix for PCI Power Macs, the new location of the gaea scripting archive, info on AOL’s new FTP and Web services for members, a followup to Adam’s articles on digital cameras, and a detailed article on the upcoming version of Quicken, the popular personal finance package.
Copland in 1997? In an interview in the 16-Oct-95 issue of MacWEEK, Vito Salvaggio, the product manager for Copland, indicated Apple can no longer commit to a 1996 release for the next major version of the Mac OS. Despite public statements from Apple officials that Copland was as little as two days behind schedule, rumors of schedule problems have circulated for the last few months and many saw Apple’s move to port System 7.5 to the Common Hardware Reference Platform (CHRP) by mid-1996 as a sign that Copland may not be ready on time. (The CHRP standard, developed jointly with IBM, should allow machines to run the Mac OS, OS/2, AIX, or Windows NT; the first systems should be available from other vendors by mid-1996.) If you’re upset, remember Apple originally claimed it was absolutely committed to shipping Copland in 1995. [GD]
Second Time A Charm? Last Tuesday Apple released version 1.0.2 of its 7.5.2 Printing Fix, after abruptly pulling version 1.0 from its servers the week before. Then, late Tuesday, Apple pulled that version, restored it a few hours later, then later moved it to a different directory. The extension is supposed to fix a crashing problem on the Power Mac 7200, 7500, 8500, and 9500 when printing to a busy network-based printer. If you need it, grab it while you can. [GD]
Study Finds Macs Cheaper to Support — A study of technical support costs in corporate computing by Gartner Group Consulting Services found no incremental costs for companies supporting both the Mac and Windows platforms, as opposed to the cost of supporting Windows alone. In addition, the study found supporting Macs costs 25 percent less than supporting Windows, and that the higher the percentage of Macintosh computers in an organization, the lower the total technical support costs. It’s worth noting the study was completed before Windows 95 was available, so the costs of upgrading to Windows 95 and its long-term support aren’t included. [GD]
I Think I Felt the Earth Move — Users of the AppleScript, Frontier, Nisus, and QuicKeys archives at <gaea.kgs.ukans.edu> might be in for a shock: the long-standing scripting archive site will soon be gone. However, thanks to the efforts of Fred Terry <[email protected]> and the generosity of Jaeson Engle and Acme Technologies, gaea has a new home on a Mac at ScriptWeb. The new archive site is running now, and all files should be updated within a week. Thanks to all involved in keeping this valuable resource on the nets, and thanks to the Kansas Geological Survey for letting the archives remain on the original site for the last two and a half years. [GD]
Apprentice 3 Available — Following up on the promise of twice-yearly updates for its CD-ROM compilation of Mac programming and development tools (see TidBITS-263), Celestin Company recently released the third edition of its Apprentice CD. The Apprentice CD-ROM consists mainly of free and shareware development resources, source code, utilities, programming environments, and demos of popular commercial tools. Although most of the material is available elsewhere, having it all in one place (and with full indexes for Easy View, FileMaker, and On Location) makes the disk a valuable resource for programmers and the technically inclined. The materials have been updated to the latest versions available, including fully-indexed archives of valuable digests and mailing lists such as <comp.sys.mac.programmer> and the Mac Scripting Digest. Apprentice 3 is available for $35 ($25 for education users or updates from previous versions). [GD]
The number of people who can distribute files via FTP and create World Wide Web pages has just increased by three and a half million AOL users. Last month, America Online opened a public beta test of member-created FTP areas and Web pages. Called My Place and My Home Page, respectively, AOL is providing these services to its members at no extra charge.
Using AOL FTP and Web Space — To connect to their personal directories, AOL members can use the AOL application to FTP to <users.aol.com>. Once they connect, they’re presented with the contents of their directories, and a set of buttons for uploading and managing files. All FTP files and Web files are placed in this common directory.
AOL allocates each AOL screen name 2 MB of disk space for both FTP and Web files. Since each AOL account can have up to five screen names, a total of 10 MB of disk space is potentially available; however, there’s no way to combine or reallocate disk space among screen names except through some creative use of Web pages. If a screen name exceeds the 2 MB limit, the next upload is refused with a "disk quota" error.
Anyone on the Internet with anonymous FTP capabilities can access all files in the common directory, though a "private" directory is provided for limiting access. Other people can access files in the private directory only if they know the names of the files – this allows members to give access privileges to their friends by telling them the names of the files.
[These "private" directories are only as secure as your friends are trustworthy, but should be fine for most people distributing private materials via FTP. -Geoff]
AOL members can also create a directory called "incoming" to allow FTP uploads. Files placed in the incoming directory count against that screen name’s 2 MB disk quota. Files uploaded to a member’s incoming directory can be accessed only by that member.
For complete instructions, check out the AOL FAQ. Version 2.6 explains the process of creating AOL Web pages and FTP areas.
Accessing AOL Web Pages — To connect to an AOL member’s Web page, form an HTTP URL using the site <users.aol.com> along with the AOL member’s screen name. (The AOL screen name is the part of the AOL user’s Internet email address before the @ symbol – remember to remove any spaces in the screen name, as you must do for Internet email as well.) For example, my screen name is macfaq, so the URL to my Web directory on AOL would be:
(You may sometimes see <members.aol.com> instead of <users.aol.com>. They both point to the same address, and are mostly interchangeable. At this time, AOL members who want to upload files to their areas must use <users.aol.com>, but AOL’s FTP administrator says this will be fixed shortly.)
When you connect, AOL looks for a file called index.html in the member’s directory. If it can’t find page with that name, an error will be returned, so AOL members are encouraged to use index.html for the name of their home page. Just as with any other Web server, members can create other HTML pages with different file names, and link back and forth between them or to other Internet sites.
Accessing AOL User FTP Areas — To connect to an AOL member’s FTP area, use the address <users.aol.com>. When you connect, you’ll be greeted by a sparse directory. Use the command "cd screenname" to change to the directory of a particular member. If you know the name of a particular file or directory, you can use an FTP URL to directly access it.
The Upshot — Until now, AOL members could browse content created by others, but couldn’t create their own. This prompted criticism that AOL was taking from the net without giving anything in return. With AOL’s new service, the doors are open for AOL members to exercise their creativity and provide content. Whether that content appears on Spider’s Pick of the Day or the Netscape Hall of Shame remains to be seen.
[Les Jones is the author of the mammoth AOL FAQ for Macintosh, thinks HTML is the coolest thing since six color Apple decals, and is currently pondering the best way to convert the AOL FAQ to HTML.]
We received a number of interesting comments about my articles relating to digital cameras. Among them was someone who wanted to take 5,000 pictures of an entire town (sounded like the QuickTake could handle it well), and a note from Chris Kimm <[email protected]> of Kinko’s commenting that you can test drive a QuickTake 150 from any Kinko’s store for $5 per hour or $25 per day. Several folks noted that the QuickTake’s CCD (the hardware that records the image) is probably at fault for the mediocre image quality, not its optics. In addition, Bruce Norikane <[email protected]> sent a pointer to a Web page his company has created listing available digital cameras. Basic specs and prices are included, so you can get a sense of how expensive these puppies can get.
Lee Zimmerman <[email protected]> writes:
You mentioned in your comments about the little Fargo dye sublimation printer that it would be nice to have an affordable, quality way to distribute digital images on paper. I bought a HP DeskWriter 855C a few weeks ago and have been impressed. At $550 it costs more than the Fargo printer but has the advantages of (1) being a near-laser-quality black and white printer, (2) being a near-photographic quality color printer, and (3) printing on 8.5" x 11" media. The color on this printer is not quite dye sublimation quality, but definitely acceptable. HP now has a new plastic-coated paper that is expensive (about $1 sheet) but makes the color output look even more like a photograph.
My parents are currently traveling the country in their motor home and I volunteered to publish a newsletter for them. They send me photos and text each month and I distribute the finished product. The first production run on the new printer was last weekend and I was extremely satisfied with the results. Also, I’m not much of a letter writer, but have been using the printer with Avery postcard stock to print quick color postcards to send to family members.
Matthew Hawn <[email protected]>, Macworld Online’s production editor, writes:
I thought I’d pass on some experiences with the Kodak DC40 and the threaded lens mount. Macworld Online is using a DC40 as a down-and-dirty option to get photos online fast. We’re happy with the image quality and the storage the camera offers but less happy about the downloads from the camera. Kodak told us there is a new version of the Photo Enhancer software in the works that will move compression from the camera to your Mac (where it belongs). They claimed we’d get something new before December, but they didn’t mention if it would be Power Mac native.
When we got the camera, we were working with beta versions of everything, so none of the optional lenses were available. Thanks to the helpful staff at Adolph Gasser, our local photography store, we put together a great collection of lenses for considerably less than many of the ready-made kits. Here’s what we got:
- a $20 Tiffen 37 to 49 step-up ring (this adaptor ring lets you use a wide range of standard lenses and filters with the camera)
- a $50 Hoya close-up kit (three 49 mm lenses: +1, +2, +4)
- an $80 Kenco wide-angle conversion lens kit (a 1.5x lens (KCT15) and a 0.5 lens (KCW05)). Kenco makes lenses for video cameras but they use the same threading as the Kodak camera.
The only other problem we’ve had with the Kodak and the extra lenses is the time it’s taken to adapt to the lack of a decent viewfinder. Using a special lens throws off the field-of-view even more than normal. It takes a lot of practice to make sure that you’re framing your subject properly, and we take many extra photos to be sure. After all, it’s not like we’re wasting film, just bits.
[Macworld Online requires authentication, but I discovered it works with the username "guest" and password "guest". -Adam]
Intuit has announced an October 26th release date for the latest Macintosh version of its popular personal finance software. In addition to many enhancements to existing features, the latest version offers some significant new capabilities.
General Overview — Quicken initially endeared itself to the Mac world by providing a powerful checkbook management program, which combined a strong feature set and a large selection of customizable reports with an intuitive interface and a well-written manual. Each successive release of Quicken has included refinements to the program’s initial strengths, plus an increasingly broad feature set including personal investment management, electronic checking, personal budgeting, financial planning, and some basic tax links to Intuit’s MacInTax software program. They have also demonstrated creative ways to integrate online help into Quicken, while continuing to provide very good manuals. To Intuit’s credit, these additions to the application have been accomplished without losing the ease-of-use in the checkbook portion of the software. However, as you would expect, to fully utilize all the program now has to offer, there is a learning curve to deal with – though this is greatly aided by the well-integrated nature of the program’s features and the excellent implementation of the Mac’s user-friendly interface.
Basic Features — One of the problems with a personal finance package is that you have to enter quite a lot of information to take advantage of its more powerful features. For those of you who might be thinking "Sure, it may be a good program, but who has the time to enter historical data?" you can relax. One of the refinements I was referring to above is called QuickFill. When you enter data in your checkbook register once, QuickFill remembers the entry. If it is a recurring expense/deposit, the next time you start to type in the entry, Quicken fills in the rest of the information for you on the fly. Further, Quicken maintains an editable list of all these entries. For instance, if you make a fixed payment each month (say for a loan), QuickFill can be "locked" to always fill in the payment amount along with the category and description information. If the payment varies each month (a utility bill for example), QuickFill can be set to fill in all the fields except for the amount. In practice, this greatly speeds up entering data into the checkbook register. If you hate to type, Quicken lets you double click items in the QuickFill list, or directly drag them to the register.
Quicken asks you to assign a category to each entry in the register. Categories let you organize your entries; you might have categories for automobile expenses, travel, taxes, etc. As with QuickFill, Quicken will maintain an editable category list for you, and to help you get started a list of commonly used categories is provided with the program. The advantage of using categories is that when you create reports, they provide an intuitive way for you to organize, view, and analyze your finances.
Actually, thoughtful and easy-to-use features are the hallmark of this program. For example, when you run a report (Quicken provides a large list of predefined and customizable templates and graphs to chose from), if you double-click the line of data you are interested in, QuickZoom creates a detail report to show you where the data came from. This can be done through successive levels of reports until you reach the register where the underlying data entry was actually made. At this point you can update any data in that entry, and all the reports you just zoomed through will automatically be updated to reflect the modified data.
For us non-accountant types, QuickZoom allows us to correct or update previously entered data with ease and without having to deal with double entry accounting. You may also go directly to a register at any time to update your data. Quicken has a password option for opening files or for changing data entered prior to a specified date. I use this feature to prevent me from accidentally changing an entry to a previous year’s data
Although there are far too many features and shortcuts carried forward from previous versions of Quicken to discuss here, I’ll list a representative sampling: handling of split entries (allocating an entry such as a credit card payment to multiple categories); a customizable Icon Bar; downloading stock quotes from CompuServe or from the Quicken Quotes Hotline 900 number; creation of custom "Memorized" reports based upon criteria you select from the large list of report filters; automatic scheduling of transactions; creating Transaction Groups; a monthly Calendar which displays transactions that have been performed and are scheduled to be performed; transferring funds between accounts; reconciling accounts; creation and monitoring of Budgets; multiple Personal Finance Planners; printing checks; creation of your own custom Command Key Shortcuts; customization of font styles and sizes used in displaying and printing reports; electronic tracking of your credit card purchases through Intellicharge (if you sign up for the Quicken credit card), and much more.
New Features in Quicken 6 — The first new feature becomes apparent the first time you launch Quicken 6: a window appears asking if you would like to see an overview of the new features in the program. (If you chose to skip this option, you can bring up the same item from the Help menu at a future date.) This brings us to a major enhancement in Quicken – it now uses Apple Guide technology for its help system. Intuit has included many help screens that guide you through a step-by-step process to accomplish a given task. For users of System 7.0 or 7.1, Intuit includes two extensions that bring support for Apple Guide – Intuit calls it Quicken Guide – to those systems.
Power Macintosh users will appreciate that Quicken 6 is available in a native version. This is a good thing, because the late beta release I tested was disappointingly slow on my 68030-based IIsi. Intuit says this is a known issue with data files which contain a large number of accounts; hopefully, this will be remedied by the time the program is released.
Some new reports have been added to Quicken 6, along with a new tabbed (index card-like) window for selecting and customizing the reports. The good news is that some new filters have been added along with an "Easy Report" set-up window that should be helpful to new users. However, I question whether experienced users will appreciate having to negotiate up to three tabbed windows to accomplish what they had previously been able to do in just one window. Also, the small table that in previous versions listed the filters being applied to a report has been eliminated. A long-standing concern of mine has been that with so many filter options available in the creation of a report, going back to a printed report after even a short period of time can lead to confusion in interpreting the data. Rather than eliminate the little support provided for keeping track of these filters, I would like to see at least an option to print a "filter page" with a report. Also, since Quicken makes it so easy to modify or update the information in its registers, a time-date stamp option for printed reports would be a welcome aid in tracking versions of a report.
A significant improvement to Quicken deals with the Budget feature. Creating a budget is now more flexible – allowing for a great deal of customization in both the content and appearance of a budget – and Quicken 6 supports the creation of multiple budgets. A nifty new feature is a window that uses color-coded bars to indicate how close you are to the budgeted amounts for specific budgeted categories.
Current Quicken users will notice the Portfolio window has been completely revised. Instead of having to open a separate window for each portfolio account, all securities may now be displayed in one window. I say "may" be displayed, because it is now possible to hide individual securities from the window (the data in the registers is not effected by this). Also, users can now choose to display a nice customizable selection of calculated values for their securities right in the Portfolio window. Many of these – like average cost per share – were not available in previous versions of Quicken. To help make the viewing of all this information easier to deal with, the window now has a horizontal scroll bar and the ability to click on a column to select its data as the basis for sorting the display (this method of changing the sort priority is also available in several other lists in the program). Columns may also be dragged to a new location so that you can prioritize which data always appears on the screen; you can even adjust the column field width to further refine your control of how the data appears in the window. My only complaint with the Portfolio window is that with so much information being presented, I would like to see some use of shading or color to make evaluating the data easier on the eyes.
The program’s preferences list has been redesigned and refined as well. Users no longer need go to several menus in order to access different preferences; instead, Quicken now offers one main preferences window. In this window, selecting an icon from a scrollable list brings up a group of related preferences.
Over the years, Quicken has added the previously mentioned electronic banking features. The unsuccessful merger with Microsoft does not seem to have interrupted this trend: new for Quicken 6 is what Intuit calls, appropriately enough, "Online Banking." As the manual puts it: "Now you can bank online instead of waiting in line." The online banking features weren’t included in the beta version of Quicken I tried, and as of this writing it looks like Intuit will be providing them in a free supplemental software release by the beginning of 1996. Intuit claims the online banking features will include getting up-to-date bank balances, seeing which checks have cleared, and transfering money.
The importance of backing up your data has also been addressed in Quicken 6. A thoughtful new preference tells Quicken to automatically create a backup of your data file when it’s closed.
Some General Observations — Clearly, Intuit has put a lot of effort into making their already fine program even better – there are more new enhancements in Quicken 6 than space available to address them. Although thoughtful features are abundant in Quicken, I feel there are still some weaknesses. For one thing, the handling of security lots is not very sophisticated. The workaround I use is to assign a separate letter designation to each lot in a given security. The printing of selected sections of large reports is awkward because, although Quicken provides visible, adjustable page breaks, scrolling to the needed section of the report while maintaining a count of the passed page breaks is tedious and inefficient. Page numbers should appear onscreen in each page of a report so you can immediately determine the numbers of the pages you need to print. Also, tracking the activity of a given security in the securities register can be quite a strain on your eyes and your patience. The ability to color-code each security/lot in an investment register would greatly aid in tracking these transactions in the register view. Additionally, though the new version of Quicken provides for more ways to analyze your investments than previous versions, there is still no calculation for the yield on bonds and bond funds. People who are more concerned with the cash flow produced by their investments than by the theoretical total return that includes unrealized capital gains and losses would benefit greatly if Quicken would calculate this value for them. Finally, with so many ways to configure investment reports, be careful to understand the meaning of a report’s results before acting on it. I have not seen the new manual that will come with Quicken 6, but with previous versions of Quicken, I felt this area was in need of more complete documentation.
The Bottom Line — When the above concerns are viewed in the context of the overall program, Quicken 6 is an impressive package. With the excellent integration of the program’s large feature set and the well-implemented use of the Macintosh user interface, the program is both easy to use and very powerful. For new users, I would suggest just setting up some basic bank accounts to get a feel for the program. Then, at your own pace, explore one or two new areas of the application at a time – I expect you’ll quickly find yourself transitioning into some of the program’s more powerful features. The Quicken Guide can help you perform some tasks if you get stuck. Also, for the cost of a long distance phone call, Intuit provides better-than-average phone support. Previous users of Quicken will appreciate the program’s significant added features and refinements. Intuit also plans to release a Deluxe CD-ROM version, which is expected to include an online manual, some tips, and financial advice. With an expected street price of around $50, Quicken 6 is not only the most complete personal finance software for the Mac, but also an excellent value.
Quicken 6 requires System 7.0 or higher, a machine with 4 MB of RAM (8 MB under System 7.5), and 4 to 8 MB of disk space.
Intuit, Inc. — 800/781-6999 — 415/322-0573
800/374-7057 (fax) — <[email protected]>
[Steve Becker is the owner of MacEase, a Macintosh training and consulting business in Berkeley, California, and regularly contributes to the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group Newsletter.]