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Adam Engst No comments

The System in the New Machine

As you may already know, the Classic will boot from a ROM disk if you perform the dextrous feat of holding down the command-option-x-o (XO was the Classic’s code name) keys during startup. This 357K internal disk has the same icon as the Mac Portable’s RAM disk – a SIMM-like item interposed on top of a picture of a 3.5" floppy disk.

Double-clicking the ROM disk icon opens a window, which contains nine file icons: System 6.0.3; Finder 6.0; General 6.0.3; Macsbug 5.3 (for Mac 512KE – SE according to the GetInfo Box); StartUp Device 6.0.3 (which you can use to make the ROM disk the default startup device, though it won’t override a floppy disk); AppleShare 6.0.3; Brightness 1.0d2 (a new cdev introduced with the Classic – the Classic has no external brightness knob – the cdev looks much like the brightness control section of the Portable cdev.); and AppleShare Prep (version not available). All of these programs were last modified in the past four years, with the exception of the Finder, which was last modified on December 11, 1967.

I wondered if I could use the ROM system to boot up a different Mac, so I tried copying it to a floppy disk. The copy went fine (though when I tried to boot a IIcx, the computer complained that the system was too minimal for it), but as I watched the copy dialog box on the Classic I noticed the Classic claiming that it was copying 26 files. Funny, I only saw nine icons.

Not yet being particularly competent with ResEdit, I used the Font/DA Mover to take a closer look – just one font installed, Monaco. No DAs whatsoever, not even a Control Panel for access to the Brightness cdev. But, if I tried opening files in the ROM disk to bring them up in the Font/DA Mover, I discovered two choices: System and a folder called "Brought to you by." "Brought to you by" had five folders: three empty folders having the names of people, a "Hardware" folder, and a "Software" folder. The "Hardware" folder contained six empty folders, and each sported one of six more names; the "Software" folder contained five empty folders, and each sported one of five more names. I didn’t record the names, so check them out yourself if you are curious.

Add all these folders to the nine original files and you have the 26 that the Classic identified in its Copy dialog box, which explains that little anomaly. Nothing like a little mystery to add some interest to the daily grind.

After these internal explorations, I opened a word processor to check out Monaco. It looked pretty tiny, but Monaco 12, though not my favorite font, looked usable. Many people think the ROM disk will be used in some future network configuration, but it might also provide a tiny bit more flexibility for the occasional person who can afford a Classic but can’t afford a hard disk or external floppy.

In addition to future enhanced networking capabilities, I’d like to see Apple add some font and printing capabilities (either by adding them to the ROM, or by adding some kind of hook from ROM to disk so that Chooser Documents and fonts could be stored on floppy (or on a network) but still interact properly with the System). At that point, hordes of people who are sure they will use a Mac only for basic computer activities could start out with a sub-$1000 computer (most programs will fit on a 1.44 MB floppy), and then add a hard disk six months later if they want a more flexible system.

For those of you that prefer more graphic goodies than ROM disks, try setting the date of a IIci to 20-Sep-89 (the introduction date) and booting it while holding down command-option-c-i. The same trick produces something different on the IIfx; on that machine you set the date to 19-Mar-90 and hold down command-option-f-x while booting.

Information from:
Tonya Byard — TidBITS Editor
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor

Adam Engst No comments

Hot Printers

For those of you who haven’t been napping through the printer innovations of the last two years, one of the classiest and snazziest printers around is the Hewlett-Packard DeskJet (and no, they didn’t pay us anything to say that – we’ve used it for several years personally and have watched the line grow from the DeskJet to the DeskJet Plus, branch out to the DeskWriter, and then move back to the DeskJet 500 – of course if they wanted to pay us lots of money we wouldn’t complain). If you look at what Apple’s done in those last two years, well, you should have been napping.

The only thing to show up in the Apple printer department that has been interesting is the Personal LaserWriter NT, a well-designed, reasonably quick PostScript printer (though one which doesn’t outperform the QMS-PS 410, a similar printer with the same engine and a faster processor). If I remember correctly, Apple may have also redesigned the innards of the ImageWriter II to make it more durable and easier to repair – those were the major problems with the ImageWriter II when I was in charge of public computer rooms at Cornell. I don’t specifically remember when the ImageWriter LQ came out, but it certainly wasn’t something to write home (or much of anywhere else) about. Apple just canceled the ImageWriter LQ rework program, which was necessary if you had a normal ImageWriter LQ, in other words, one that didn’t work right. That’s unfair of course, but let’s just say that the ImageWriter LQ was not a smashing success.

Now it looks like Apple may been trying a little harder in the printer department. We’ve heard that a 300 dpi inkjet printer will be coming out of Apple soon, perhaps in the spring (soon is relative, RSN could easily be Relatively Soon Now). We don’t know much about the details, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if the printer were released at the same time as System 7.0 so it could take advantage of TrueType’s font-scaling abilities. The LaserWriter IISC and Personal LaserWriter SC haven’t been hot sellers because of their lack of font scaling abilities, despite the availability of ATM.

Now the question is, what will make this printer stand out from the DeskWriter, which is surprisingly quick on its platen and is priced to move? Apple isn’t known for competing in the price category, so we’re guessing somewhere around $700-$800 street price. That would place the new printer, known to its friends as Tabasco, right in between the ImageWriter II and the Personal LaserWriter SC. Or, perhaps I’m wrong and the inkjet printer will replace the ImageWriter II and have a $350 street price. Nah, probably not, considering that inkjet printers don’t do the multiple part forms that businesses love to inflict on their customers. Nonetheless, for those people who don’t do PostScript but would like better quality printouts along with the six-color Apple logo on the front, Tabasco may be just the ticket. But then what will HP have up its sleeve?

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor

Adam Engst No comments

Comdex Laptop Bonanza

Yeah, they’re cool and they’re fun to own and they let you show off how hard you work by making it look like you are working absolutely all the time, even in the bathroom. But now it seems that everyone is joining the laptop/notebook party and you can’t tell the players apart without a scorecard, or at least a spec sheet.

That’s the main problem with the big news from Comdex this time. There are so many new laptops and notebooks, and almost without exception they are 286- and 386SX-based DOS computers. Humph. Few of them are even all that interesting, so I’ll only mention the ones that caught my eye in the many reports I’ve heard from varied sources.

Toshiba is introducing a 20 MHz 386SX laptop whose claim to fame is that it employs a color, active-matrix LCD screen that is supposed to be just wonderful. Of course the laptop makes you pay through the nose for feeding your eyes – the list price is $8999. That can’t even compete with Sharp’s color laptop, which lists for a cool ten grand. Color is nice as we’ve found out recently, having added a Micron Xceed card and an Apple 13" color monitor to our computer hardware fold, but we’re not sure who will pay that kind of money for a color laptop. If the laptop is used as a main computer, maybe, but then is a 386SX enough processor power to drive a color screen and still run Windows? Good question and one which we don’t know the answer to.

A laptop from a company called Astarte will feature the J-key mouse pointing device that we talked about many months ago in TidBITS. Essentially, one of the keys is mounted such that it can serve as a pointing device as well as for entering its letter – originally it was mounted under the J key, but we don’t know if Astarte has kept it in the same place. This type of pointing device is intriguing because with all the hubbub about Windows, few people have talked about how easy it is to use the keyboard commands instead of the mouse. That’s because it isn’t easy – it’s pretty nasty and not too many people will run Windows on laptops until some sort of decent pointing device is built in. Apple’s trackball is a good start, but it does increase the size somewhat. The Isopoint device used by Outbound in their Mac-compatible laptop is interesting, but I had trouble adjusting to it since my hands are fairly large. Apparently the Isopoint that Outbound uses is not the latest in the Isopoint design, though, but another DOS laptop, the GRiDCase (I’m sure I’ve destroyed their capitalization somewhere in that name.) does use the latest Isopoint and with the Astarte Quest may be one of the few laptops that can actually run Windows happily. Oh, in the new-features-we-hadn’t-realized-we-needed department, Astarte’s Quest also comes with a built-in microphone and speaker phone (a headset connector is provided for those confidential conversations). All this gadgetry allows you to carry on a conversation while sending a fax or using a modem (neither of which were mentioned as options). Of course the part they ignore is that you have to have two phone lines for this, but hey, that’s a detail.

The portable-overkill award goes to, you guessed it, IBM. This is the company which has never done a portable computer right. IBM’s portables are always heavy and awkward and seldom have made much of a splash in the market. This one will make a splash, at least, if only because it weighs in at 22 pounds and uses a 33 MHz 486 chip. Don’t even ask if it has a battery. I guess that IBM is targeting the behemoth at the bodybuilder power users among us. Oh, make that wealthy bodybuilder power users. The PS/2 Model P75 will run anywhere between $16,000 and $19,000, depending on what sort of hard disk it has installed (that’s more than our house, and we’ve got a nice hard drive!). Now if only they had put retractable wheels on it so it could be wheeled through airports like luggage. Any bigger and IBM better start talking to the American Tourister R&D department for case design ideas.

Of course there were no portables announced by Apple at Comdex. They might have been the only hardware company without one from the sounds of it. Well, maybe something will happen with their rumored negotiations with various Japanese companies such as Toshiba and Sony. Sony is interesting in that respect, because of all the major electronic manufacturers in Japan, only Sony (as far as I know) doesn’t have a computer line. "Curiouser and curiouser," said Alice.

Astarte — 303/449-9970

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor

Related articles:
PC WEEK — 19-Nov-90, Vol. 7, #46, pg. 19, 29
InfoWorld — 19-Nov-90, Vol. 12, #47, pg. 1
PC WEEK — 12-Nov-90, Vol. 7, #45, pg. 16, 17
InfoWorld — 12-Nov-90, Vol. 12, #46, pg. 1, 27

Adam Engst No comments

Three Small Updates

These aren’t the exciting ones that promise great features that you would have given your first born for. No, these are the little ones, the updates that you need because otherwise you’ll be irritated for the rest of the week because your new program isn’t working quite right.

The first and most important update is to QuicKeys 2. This update to 2.01 fixes a couple of irritating bugs, including one that made the timed QuicKeys go off at random intervals (that happened to me and was extremely frustrating "No I didn’t want to run QuickMail Administrator right now. Stop it!"). The update also includes an Extension Manager, which isn’t much different from the Font/DA Mover in interface and which allows you to manage the QuicKeys Extensions that are one of the major new features of QuicKeys 2. All in all, this upgrade is a must have. It’s definitely available from America Online in CE Software’s forum in Industry Connection and the Utilities forum, but I don’t know about the various other online services and the Internet.

The second update is for Super Boomerang, which registered users of the shareware Boomerang and the commercial Now Utilities will want. The updater works with version 2.0 and 2.0.1 and takes them to 2.0.2. The major bugs that were fixed in 2.0.2 include a problem with loading under 6.0.2; the numbers of permanent and temporary files weren’t correctly displayed in 6.0.4 and earlier Systems; the assignment of the Group folder didn’t work as documented; and in some programs, such as DeskPaint, the Save dialog didn’t show up properly. Again, this is a recommended upgrade if you’ve been having any troubles with Boomerang at all. It is also available from America Online, and probably some other places that I don’t know about yet.

The third upgrade I haven’t seen quite yet since it’s downloading in the background as I type. It updates Nisus 3.01 to 3.04 and the only feature that I know has been added is support for printing every other page of a document, which is useful for double-sided printing. The Nisus update is available via anonymous FTP at in the pub/tmp/NisusUpdate/ directory. There are five files that have been created with StuffIt 1.5.1 and then binhexed. Just download them, debinhex them, and then use StuffIt’s Join… command to put them together. Jon Matousek warns that you must update an exact copy of 3.01, so copy 3.01 from your original master disks and work on those files.

These are all free updates, which is as bug fixes should be. I would suspect that calling the company would be another way to get the upgrade, though they might charge you $5 or $10 for shipping and handling then. Still, buggy software is a pain and these updates could make your life a bit easier.

CE Software — 515/224-1995
Now Software — 800/237-3611
Paragon Concepts — 800/922-2993 — 619/481-1477

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
Jon Matousek — [email protected]

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 20-Nov-90, Vol. 4, #40, pg. 4

Adam Engst No comments

Xanadu Addresses

It seems that the Xanadu special issue we put out last week was quite a hit. However, at the time we didn’t have complete contact information. We have gotten some more names and addresses and even email addresses. So if you read our article and wanted to know more, write to Xanadu and ask for more information. They have several brochures on the Xanadu Server in particular. [insert our standard plug about mentioning TidBITS when you contact them 🙂 ]

For marketing or business information, contact:

Joel Voelz
Xanadu Director of Marketing
Autodesk, Inc.
2320 Marinship Way
Sausalito, CA 94965
415/332-2344 x 2852
[email protected]

For general, technical, or developer information, contact:

Susan Schumaker
Xanadu Operating Company
550 California Avenue
Suite 101
Palo Alto, CA 94306
[email protected]

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor