This week we bring you news from the Macworld Expo in San Francisco, including an extensive overview of Web-related products at the show, plus our annual superlatives collection of the show’s best and worst. Also, check out the latest on turmoil at Apple, a complete system update for 5300-series PowerBooks, and forthcoming Macintosh models. Finally, we sadly say goodbye to Robert Hess, one of the Macintosh industry’s best known and most respected journalists.
Turmoil at Apple
Turmoil at Apple — Apple announced last week it expects to report a $68 million loss for its first fiscal quarter this year, despite growing unit shipments and revenues. Apple claims price wars in the personal computer market (particularly in Japan) resulted in sales and margins below internal projections. As if this weren’t enough, Apple bid farewell to no less than five vice presidents in an executive-level shake-up and reorganization, which added to rumors CEO Michael Spindler’s days may be numbered. [GD]
New and Rumored Machines
New and Rumored Machines — Power Computing was showing off the PowerCurve 601/120 at Macworld, a desktop Mac with three PCI slots and a 120 MHz 601 processor on a CPU daughter card. Expected to be shipping in a month or two, the PowerCurves will be available in desktop and low-profile cases, have options for NuBus slots (once Power Computing’s Stargate technology is available), and offer a lot of horsepower for just a bit more than Apple’s current prices for the Power Mac 7200 series. Rumors were also circulating about a Performa-branded new mini-tower design from Apple codenamed InstaTower to be priced around $2,000, and a forthcoming PowerBook, codenamed Epic, that sports a full-sized CD-ROM drive. [GD]
Apple Drops PowerTalk Until Copland
Apple Drops PowerTalk Until Copland — According to MacWEEK, Apple has confirmed it will be moving away from PowerTalk as its core communications solution until the next major revision of the Mac OS is available, citing very low adoption by users and developers. PowerTalk 1.1 will ship this quarter, but won’t re-appear until a wholly-rewritten version based on OpenDoc and Internet technologies (like Glenn Anderson’s Apple Internet Mail Server) ships with Copland. [GD]
PowerBook 5300 System Update
PowerBook 5300 System Update — Apple has released a new set of system disks for the PowerBook 5300 series. Although this isn’t the much-anticipated System 7.5 Update 2.0, it includes many components expected to be in that release; highlights include Finder 7.5.4, an improved emulator, more PowerPC native system components for better performance, and fixes to the PC Card modem extension and the application launching process (which particularly help Word and Excel).
The update is available in two forms – as a net install or as 14 floppy disk images – and weighs in at a whopping 20 MB. (That’s over 90 minutes download time on a 28.8 Kbps modem.) See the ReadMe file before you begin downloading; if you saved the disk images that came with your PowerBook, you don’t need the entire update. There have also been reports of corrupted downloads and users needing to remove or delete their Finder Preferences file after installing the update. The update can be used on PowerBook 5300s and 190s, the Duo 2300, and PowerBooks and Duos with PowerPC Upgrades. Right now, rumor suggests that the update only works with U.S. systems, so users of international system versions should check newsgroups like <comp.sys.mac.portables> to see if there’s any information on using the update with a particular system. [GD]
ftp://ftp.support.apple.com/pub/apple_sw_ updates/US/mac/PowerBook/PB_5300_SW_ Update/
There is no good way to say this.
On January 12th, 1996, at age 29, Robert Hess died from complications due to pneumonia.
In lieu of flowers, Robert’s family has requested that contributions in Robert’s name be made to DQ, 584 Castro St., #560, San Francisco, CA 94114. If you wish to make a personal remembrance of Robert, you can do so by sending email to his family at <[email protected]>.
Robert was my editor at MacWEEK, a long-time correspondent, and in one of the many strange ways of the Internet, my friend. Despite numerous attempts to hook up at various Macworlds, we only met once, at a dark and smoky Mac the Knife party at Macworld Boston in 1995, and then only for several minutes. After that show, he sent me mail asking if he’d behaved strangely because his evil twin had been in control.
I went back through my years of stored mail to see what Robert and I had talked about and found some interesting quotes. From May of 1992, when I was struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome and before he joined MacWEEK, Robert closed a message with, "Get well. PS: I’d make some crass remark about hurt wrists and late nights alone but we’re not good enough friends for that sort of humor… yet. ;)." Ever brash and irreverent, Robert noted in regard to a comment I made about the pointing device used by IBM’s ThinkPad notebooks that, "It always makes me feel like I’m manipulating someone’s nipple." That note made it into TidBITS-261, and the conversation, which also included Peter H. Lewis of the New York Times, continued in email. Robert wrote:
"This is a creepy message. We have technogeeks from three major rags (well, my major rag and your couple of minor also-rans) in an email at once.
"I’m surprised at what our editors are letting us get away with these days. Two weeks ago the Knife had an OJ joke that kicked a little sand over the libel line, then last week he said Clinton was "abandoning the liberal tie-dye for Republican drag." I guess we’re feeding our editors well these days.
"But I think a nipple line might get vetoed in print, though I’m welcome to spew elsewhere all I want."
Along with breaking into the world of Macintosh journalism, something he had wanted to do rather badly, Robert was a decent programmer. His best known utility identified users who connected to a Mac running file sharing, and was initially called Shaman. In June of 1994, ZiffNet/Mac (ZMac) licensed it and renamed it ShareDevil. Unfortunately, although the ZMac/MacUser Utility of the month is now available on the Web each month, past utilities are still only available to ZMac subscribers on CompuServe (and I presume eWorld). Perhaps ZMac could re-release ShareDevil in Robert’s memory.
In October of 1995, I became a contributing editor with MacWEEK, and Robert was assigned to be my editor, a move that pleased me because I’d known him for so long. I’d like to say that our working relationship had been a barrel of laughs as well, but after commiserating with one another about having to use Microsoft Word after I handed in the first column, communications broke down. I sent in the second column but didn’t hear back, because he had been on vacation and then sick for a week and the column had been lost. I resent it, and a week later heard back from Carolyn Said at MacWEEK, who said Robert was sick again and that she was helping out. That column made it in, and when he came back to work, I asked Robert when he wanted the third column. He said the Sunday before Macworld, so I sent it early since we were leaving for San Francisco that Sunday. Then, when I checked email on Monday night, there was a note from Robert:
"As you know, things change in this business. We had some advertising changes and now I can’t run your column next Monday."
Things do change in this business, but I wasn’t expecting Robert to be one of them. Those were the last words I received from him. On Wednesday night at the APS party, Mark Hall, MacWEEK’s editor-in-chief, told me that Robert had been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. I knew it was serious, but not until the next night at the Netter’s Dinner did I realize how bad. Avi Rappoport told me that people were planning to do something for Robert the next day at the Developer Central pavilion, and that Robert wasn’t doing well. Then, just before noon on Friday, Raines Cohen came by in the middle of a signing I was doing and told me that Robert had died.
Goodbye, Robert. I will miss you, MacWEEK will miss you, and the Internet will miss you.
Macworld SF 96 Superlatives
Every year we try to do some sort of a superlatives article – the people, booths, products, and events at Macworld that in some way struck us as especially good, bad, interesting, insipid, or somehow out-of-the-ordinary. Here then, is this year’s installment.
Biggest Button Bonanza — Iomega, makers of the popular Zip and Jaz removable hard drives, easily won the award for most creative button advertising. Iomega reps constantly handed out large yellow buttons with a variety of slogans on them, and some show-goers virtually armor-plated themselves with the buttons. The slogans were great, and I recorded most of them, along with some comments in parentheses.
I am creative (so why are you wearing an advertising button?)
I am easy (potentially dangerous for those of the female persuasion)
I am graphic (isn’t that illegal in some states?)
I am loaded (downright stupid, especially on the streets of San Francisco)
I am protected (from what?)
I am smart (sure, buddy)
I am the walrus (Paul is dead)
I do WYSIWYG (but not Windows)
I feel bitmapped (me too)
I give As (no wonder we have problems with education)
I got lucky at Macworld (hmm, multiple interpretations here)
I got Quarked (does that hurt much?)
I like Apples (now if only Wall Street did)
I like recess (you never fell from the monkey bars)
I surf (far out, dude!)
I was recovered from Mac HD (with only a little data fork corruption)
Biggest No-Show — Where was WordPerfect? They’ve had one of the most well-attended booths at Macworld Expos for several years, but it appears that the company’s fortunes have turned on them after being held up for sale by Novell (see TidBITS-302). An article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal talked about the corporate culture clash between WordPerfect and Novell and the damage done to WordPerfect. Apparently, Novell is still shopping WordPerfect’s remnants around, but has yet to find a taker.
Best Teaser — This award goes to a product we can’t name that acts as a bidirectional gateway between HyperCard and WebSTAR. In other words, it enables you to publish HyperCard stacks on the Web, displaying the contents in both text and graphical forms. Geoff and I were wowed by how cool this baby is, even given its extremely early status. We’ll keep you posted when we can say more about it, but I think this product may go a long way toward differentiating the Mac as a Web server, given all the HyperCard stacks out there. It might even help revitalize HyperCard.
Best Tchotchkes — StarNine, working on being called Quarterdeck, cops this prize for their foam brains inscribed with the StarNine URL and the phrase "Blow Your Mind." Apparently, David Thompson, StarNine’s Director of Marketing, came up with the idea (undoubtedly affected at a subconscious level by the name of Chuck Shotton’s company when WebSTAR was still MacHTTP – the name was BIAP Systems, and BIAP stands for Brain In A Pan). StarNine then called a company in Berkeley that provides all sorts of tchotchkes, and asked for a foam brain. That company didn’t have any (who stocks foam brains, I’m asking?), but apparently there’s a world wide database of tchotchke companies, and there’s one company in Taiwan that made a foam brain, originally for a meeting of the America Neurological Association. The tangled webs we weave… .
Softest Floor — We have to hand it to Microsoft – the company really knows how to rent thick carpet pads. After a hard day of moseying around Macworld, the next best thing to sitting was checking out the Microsoft Home CDs like Cinemania, Music Central, Wine Guide, and the more staid Bookshelf and Encarta. Let’s face it, Word and Excel just don’t set the heart aflutter any more, not that I personally have ever experienced much in the way of Microsoft palpitations.
Coolest Digital Camera — Kodak wins this award hands down for the Kodak DC 50, which takes the basic feature set of the DC 40 (which in turn is an enhancement of Apple’s QuickTake digital camera) and adds features like a 3x motorized zoom with a close-up mode for shots within 19 inches. Most important, based on comments during my digital camera articles this summer, the DC 50 can either download images via a serial cable or store them on a Type I or Type II PC Card that you can then insert into a PC Card reader attached to the Mac. The Kodak staff weren’t particularly helpful, but other basic specs are 756 x 504 pixels of resolution, 24-bit color, three levels of compression (7 pictures per MB, 11 per MB, and 22 per MB), and a price around $1,000. I’m fond of my QuickTake, but I might consider moving up if the price was right.
Monitor Lust — The coolest monitor (perhaps literally) that I saw at the show was a 20-inch color gas plasma display from Nishiden that was about two inches thick. It only ran at 640 x 480, and I don’t know what bit depth it was at, but for $6,000, I decided that my curiosity could be put on hold for a few more years.
Most Geeks Per Square Foot — Jean-Louis Gassee’s new company, Be, wins this award, which was especially interesting given that the BeBox isn’t even Mac-compatible. Even still, I never managed to push through the crowds to check out the BeBox close up (I don’t know if I’m quite enough of a geek to qualify, since I haven’t the foggiest idea with what I’d do with the special 37-pin GeekPort. [I had no trouble pushing through – I think they were scared of my hair. -Geoff] Be was handing out "We be geeks" pocket protectors for their tchotchke, and a sign on the otherwise standard booth read: "Surgeon General’s Warning: Unfit for consumption by human beings." And just in case you didn’t get the message, it said (or I assume it said) the same thing in French.
Best Booth Furniture — Hayden Books and Metrowerks share this award for their use of extremely comfortable leather couches. It’s bad enough that you have to spend most of the show standing and walking, but when you do get to a chair, they’re often the uncomfortable industrial sorts. Nothing beats being able to sink down into a cozy couch and chat for a while, or in the case of the Hayden booth (which attempted to imitate a Borders bookstore) read a book for a while.
Most Ubiquitous Programmer’s Toy — Nearly everywhere you looked, developers were using Troy Gaul’s excellent Infinity Windoid to create palettes, toolbars, status windows, pop-up windows, online help, and more. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I think seeing your name in the credits of dozens of new programs must be equally gratifying. Congratulations, Troy!
Best New Solution for Old Problems — How many people do you know using overpowered spreadsheet programs to calculate loan payments, or merely average a column of numbers? A forthcoming program from Casady & Greene called C+G Solutions offers a visual, easy to use approach for flexibly integrating data and calculations. Operations are tied to data by dragging operators off toolbars and drawing relationships between them, and the data and relationships can be changed or added to at any time. Once an operation is set up the way you like, it can be "crunched" down and used as a single operator elsewhere in the program. C+G Solutions offers a new paradigm for performing both straightforward and sophisticated calculations, although it is (perhaps unfortunately) being billed as the first spreadsheet innovation in 10 years. C+G Solutions is expected to be available this spring.
Light at the End of the Tunnel: Web and HTML at the Expo
Desktop productivity applications have become background noise: the UltraWriters and MegaMaths of the world no longer make me wonder if I’ll live long enough to experience enough of the great stuff computers can do, if only we can design and use them correctly. Recently, all my thrills and chills have come from the Internet, and my only concern was whether the Mac platform would transcend the weight of its current application suite and arrive as a mean lean Internet machine. Last week’s Expo made me forget my worries – I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and start using all these great new products!
Why Print? Many companies attending Macworld Expo showed off products that don’t assume your final output will be to paper. Many such products are not yet shipping, and many of them will ship with freely distributable Netscape plug-ins. Several help you manage bookmarks, and we’ll be reviewing a number of them in future TidBITS issues. Some looked just horrible; some looked promising. Three that grabbed my attention were Acrobat, QuarkImmedia, and Virtus Voyager.
Adobe’s Acrobat lets you "print" to an Acrobat file, and then share and view that file online. Acrobat has been around for a few years, and Adobe is still tweaking it; upcoming improvements include a Netscape plug-in and the ability to link to a PDF file from a Web page. Acrobat’s increasing integration with the Web makes me somewhat more interested in seriously checking out its next shipping version.
Quark showed off the not-yet-shipping QuarkImmedia, which you use along with QuarkXPress. QuarkImmedia’s claim to fame is that people who know QuarkXPress can easily make multimedia presentations that can run in a viewer or a Netscape plug-in. Not knowing QuarkXPress, I found the product completely inscrutable; I gave up on the lengthy demo after about 20 minutes. Call 800/788-7835 or 303/894-8888 to request a "prototype demonstration" CD of QuarkImmedia.
Virtus showed off Virtus Voyager, an alpha release VRML browser which currently (in the version I just downloaded) functions as a helper application for Netscape. VRML, Virtual Reality Modeling Language, is used to create three dimensional environments. Voyager enables you to view and navigate VRML documents with fluid links to and from normal Web pages or to and from other VRML documents. Voyager can import files from Virtus WalkThrough Pro 2.5 or from any other 3-D program that can do VRML export (and I haven’t the foggiest idea if any exist; I should have asked!). The alpha version of Voyager is available for download via the Virtus Web site.
Web Authoring — At last August’s Boston Macworld Expo, HTML authors couldn’t get enough of Ceneca’s (now Adobe’s) PageMill and SiteMill (see TidBITS-290 and TidBITS-305). Although SiteMill still isn’t shipping, PageMill made a big splash at Macworld Expo – Adobe had a small computer classroom on the show floor and gave seminars that helped people learn to use PageMill.
Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit 3.5.2 now offers an extension called PageMill Cleaner, which fixes some problems that PageMill creates in HTML code. BBEdit 3.5.2 provides an integrated spelling checker that automatically skips HTML tags, a better interface for extensions, as well numerous other improvements. BBEdit 3.5.2 also comes with version 2.0 of Lindsay Davies’s BBEdit HTML Tools, a set of popular BBEdit extensions (PageMill Cleaner is part of this set). Bare Bones Software has also released BBEdit Lite 3.5.1; the update fixes some problems in BBEdit Lite 3.5.
Another possible option for cleaning up PageMill’s HTML is a straightforward AppleScript application from Clint MacDonald <[email protected]> called FixPageMill. It works with any version of BBEdit 3.5 to clean up HTML generated from PageMill.
A company I hadn’t heard of before, Vermeer Technologies, showed off the not-quite-shipping Front Page, a Web site management and HTML authoring tool that offers many of SiteMill’s features, but with the addition of what Vermeer calls WebBots. A WebBot helps you use and customize a good sampling of CGIs through dialog boxes, instead of by scripting. Vermeer’s WebBot CGIs work with a variety of Web servers including NCSA, CERN, and Netscape. Unlike PageMill, and according to Vermeer, Front Page will not alter existing HTML code if you import an HTML document.
Front Page is currently available for Windows, and the company representative who gave me a demo had – apparently – never heard of PageMill before coming to the show. Front Page looks promising, so I hope the shipping Mac version works with Quarterdeck’s WebSTAR. I also hope Vermeer is Mac-savvy enough to compete with Adobe.
[Microsoft is expected to announce 16-Jan-96 it will purchase Vermeer Technologies. So instead of Vermeer versus Ceneca, we get Microsoft versus Adobe. -Geoff]
CGIs — In the CGI department, several companies offered CGIs that you configure in dialog boxes, not through programming. A CGI (Common Gateway Interface) is an application or a script that extends a server’s capabilities. A common example of a CGI is one that processes information returned from a form. A dialog-like interface for a CGI application makes setting up the CGI possible for people who don’t do scripting.
Foresight Technology featured CalendarSet/CGI, a set of CGIs that should ship in February and enable you to "create and manage" a calendar on a Web page; Web Broadcasting offered Web FM 2.0, a product that helps you link WebSTAR to FileMaker Pro 3.0 databases; and Blue World Communications showed off MacSite Searcher, a product that works with WebSTAR, Frontier, and FileMaker Pro 3.0 to index a Web site, so people who view the site can search it.
Maxum makes a variety of useful add-on products for WebSTAR, but their new product is RushHour, which is essentially a Web server dedicated to rapidly sending out graphics. I saw a demo where RushHour served a series of frames from a QuickTime movie; frames from the movie had been saved as JPEGs and were being served from a Duo 210 over Ethernet. Netscape, the client, was running on a different Mac and displayed the frames quickly enough that they looked like the original movie. Of course, that won’t work over a modem, but it’s still a great demo.
Teachers might check out WEST’s WebSTAR add-on, also called WEST, which sets up an online classroom of sorts, with options for tutorials, work sheets, asking questions in a forum, and so on. WEST, hailing from Ireland, has plans to ship versions of WEST that work with other servers as well. In case you were wondering, WEST stands for Web Educational Support Tools.
Serving up the Web — Quarterdeck was at the show, promoting their Web server, WebSTAR, and giving out squishy miniature brains. Originally sold by the now-bought-out StarNine, WebSTAR is no longer the only commercial Mac server in town. Whether other companies can compete remains to be seen, but three Web servers – Delphic’s OneSite, MDG’s Web Server 4D, and Spider Island Software’s TeleFinder Internet BBS – have all entered the market, each offering a different feature set. And of course, Peter Lewis’s $10 shareware FTPd can also act as a Web server, and for the truly broke, there’s the free httpd4Mac.
All in all, the show had a cartload of products that let Mac users create, manage, and experience the Web. After several shows where the high points involved comparing how many pounds the already obese desktop productivity applications had gained, this Expo gave a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.
Adobe — 800/411-8657 — 206/628-2749 — <[email protected]>
Bare Bones Software — 508/651-3561 — 508/651-7584 (fax)
Blue World Communications — 206/313-1051 — 206/313-1056 (fax)
Delphic Software — 909/792-7932 — <[email protected]>
Foresite Technology — 800/701-9393 — 817/731-4444
817/731-9304 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Quark — 800-676-4575 — 303/343-2086 (fax)
<[email protected]ol.com >
Quarterdeck (StarNine) — 800/525-2580 — 510/649-4949
510/548-0393 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Maxum — 847/830-1113 — 847/830-1262 (fax) — <[email protected]>
MDG Computer Services — 708/622-0220 — 708/622-8893
Natural Intelligence — 800/999-4649 — 617/876-4876
617-492-7425 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Vermeer Technologies — 800/932-0075 — 617/576-1780
Virtus Corporation — 800/847-8871 — 919/460-4530 (fax)
Web Broadcasting — 415/329-9676 — <[email protected]>
WEST — +353-1-706-8766 — +353-1-283-0669 (fax)