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The bad news this week is that Apple announced big losses and anticipates laying off employees. The good news is that there’s positive stuff happening in the Macintosh world anyway! We have news about Netscape betas, ShareDevil, and Shockwave, plus Adam reports on an Apple Internet Marketing dinner. Tonya details a few photo-related products from Macworld Expo, and Geoff offers a detailed report on the beta of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for Macintosh.

Adam Engst No comments


We’ll be moving our Internet server sometime this week. FTP, Gopher, and Web access to will be down at some point, and mail to all addresses at won’t be delivered until the machine comes back up. With luck, the downtime won’t last more than a few hours. [ACE]

Geoff Duncan No comments

Apple to Reorganize & Lay Off 1,300 People

Apple to Reorganize & Lay Off 1,300 People — Last week Apple officially announced a $69 million loss for its first fiscal quarter of 1996 (despite increased sales) and revealed plans for a company-wide restructuring which will include laying off about 1,300 employees from administration, sales, and marketing. The reorganization is expected to cost Apple at least $125 million next quarter, as well. Apple also announced plans to pursue broader licensing of the Mac OS and simplify its product line, possibly withdrawing from low-end and some mid-range markets. Supposedly, these markets would be opened for clone makers, although the ability of any clone vendor to meet demand in the low-margin, low-end market is unknown. Although the Wall Street Journal reports Apple has been shopping around for a buyer, Apple maintains it is not for sale, and analysts don’t see a problem with Apple holding onto its core markets in publishing, home, and education. Meanwhile, speculation continues about the future of Apple CEO Michael Spindler. [GD] /1996/q2/

Adam Engst No comments

ShareDevil Now Available

ShareDevil Now Available — Many thanks to the kind folks at ZMac/MacUser for making the late Robert Hess’s ShareDevil utility available for free on the Internet. ShareDevil enhances System 7’s file sharing, adding features such as a warning when someone connects to or disconnects from your machine, a file sharing and ARA status window, and an easy way of accessing the file sharing control panels. ShareDevil is an application and uses little memory, so it’s a great candidate for the Startup Items folder. Before we set up our SE/30 as a fileserver, I used my 660AV as a server, and I loved having ShareDevil telling me when Tonya was connected (in case I wanted to restart or try flaky software). [ACE] sharedevil.hqx

Geoff Duncan No comments

Netscape 2.0b6a Available

Netscape 2.0b6a Available — Netscape released beta 6 and then beta 6a of Netscape Navigator last week, including fixes for a b-tree corruption problem and performance improvements for JavaScript and plug-ins. The archive is about 2.5 MB, and the beta expires 01-Mar-96; see the release notes for additional information. Netscape2.0b6aInstall.sit.hqx relnotes/mac-2.0b6.html

Once again, Java support is not included in this release and Netscape’s Marc Andreessen has been quoted as saying Java support may not be included in the final 2.0 release for Macintosh. itstwueitstwue_476.html

Netscape has made changes to its installer with this release so the installer attempts to connect to a setup page after installation. If you have more than one version of Netscape on your computer, the installer may launch the wrong one, possibly corrupting preference files or causing other potentially serious problems. I recommend connecting to these pages manually after installation is complete. [GD]

Geoff Duncan No comments

Static Got You Down?

Static Got You Down? If you have a ton of RAM and feel like balancing on the razor-sharp bleeding edge, check out the development version of Macromedia’s Shockwave plug-in for Netscape 2.0b5 or higher. Shockwave enables Web users to download and display material created in Macromedia Director. Plugin/special.htm

Macromedia notes that this early version is "barely stable" and that seems like an accurate (or even generous) assessment. To use the plug-in, give Netscape Navigator at least 6 MB of RAM (I recommend 8 MB) and be prepared to spend a lot of time downloading Shockwave content once the plug-in is installed, since Shockwave files seem to range from 150K to 500K (or more) per item. If you ask me, that’s a high price to pay for a spinning logo and a sound file looping in the background – so far, nothing I’ve seen currently using Shockwave could be described as compelling. [GD]

Adam Engst No comments

Internet Marketing the Mac

One of the more interesting events I attended at Macworld Expo was a dinner organized by Apple. The goal of the dinner, which was suggested by Chuck Shotton of WebSTAR fame, was to help Apple figure out what to do in terms of Internet marketing. Attendees included a bunch of well-known people in the Internet world, who were matched in number by Apple marketing people and product managers.

After eating, we went around the room and introduced ourselves, each of us raising one or two points for discussion. Needless to say, the time allotted for discussion was nowhere near adequate. A number of attendees were worried about the messages Apple is giving about the Mac as an Internet client and as an Internet server. Others felt that Apple isn’t doing enough to push the Mac as the ideal Internet publishing platform, and issues surrounding the marketing of the Mac into companies for internal Internet servers (so-called "intranets") were also raised.

One of my pet peeves is that Internet service providers seldom know anything about the Mac, and related to that issue were concerns that Apple isn’t doing much to inform and educate resellers or other Mac professionals (in education, for instance) of the advantages the Mac has on the Internet.

In terms of future technologies, people were worried about Apple explaining Cyberdog well, especially considering the control Netscape exerts on the Internet market and the ascendence of Java. Finally, some discussion centered around the fact that few Apple employees participate on Internet mailing lists or newsgroups, and that in turn clouds any messages Apple tries to send about the company’s involvement in the Internet.

I don’t know that any issues were resolved in the few hours we had, but I think the meeting was tremendously valuable for a few reasons. First, if nothing else, a great deal of business works on personal contacts, and the dinner ensured that Apple marketing people met some of us who spend our lives using and promoting Macs on the Internet. Second, although I don’t think anyone left with the illusion Apple would suddenly understand either the Internet or how to market the Mac in terms of the Internet, most people I spoke with later felt that raising the topics we did would be cause for thought within Apple. Finally, I think one thing that did change at the meeting is that the Apple marketing folks realized the extent to which Apple isn’t doing much marketing of the Mac on the Internet itself. Even Mac users on the Internet may not realize that most any Mac makes a decent Web server, or how an array of identically configured Mac Web servers (the so-called RAIC, or rapid array of inexpensive computers) can handle most any load thrown at it.

Although I was but one of the voices at the meeting, I wanted to offer my top five suggestions for Apple in one nice convenient spot – here.

  1. Offer and heavily publicize an Internet client Mac. Make it a mid-level Performa, say, with a bundled 28.8 modem and the Apple Internet Connection Kit (or Cyberdog, if this can’t be done right away). And, although I’m utterly biased, I think Apple should bundle my Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh with it, because the Internet is a world unto itself, and to plop users down into the middle of it without explanation or a sense of historical placement is an injustice to both the user and the Internet community.

  2. Immediately offer email and newsgroup based official technical support on the Internet. I’ve been suggesting this for years, and it will cut costs and improve Apple’s image. Along with this, Apple should provide honest pre-sales advice for people interested in buying Macs. I can’t tell you how many messages we at TidBITS get asking what sort of Mac someone should buy. TidBITS doesn’t sell Macs, Apple does, and Apple should provide that sort of information via email. Such advice would help combat the confusion and misinformation often experienced in superstores and other dealers that don’t specialize in the Mac. shopper_sb1.html

  1. Find all Mac related mailing lists and newsgroups on the Internet and assign official Apple liaisons to them to track and participate in the discussions. When this is inappropriate (such as a list about a specific third-party program), Apple should strongly evangelize those companies to do the same. When Apple finds a significant topic without a discussion list, someone at Apple should start one. Apple has gotten where it is on customer loyalty – supporting and sponsoring discussions among users on the Internet can only help, and it’s an inexpensive way of creating community.

  2. Recognize innovative Mac developers in the freeware and shareware worlds, as well as individuals or groups providing quality Mac-related information on the Internet. 1994’s Cool Tools Awards are an excellent example of how this sort of recognition can help both Apple and the community (See TidBITS-247). (I should have a followup on the Cool Tools Awards done soon.)

  3. Make sure Cyberdog has an OpenDoc part that plays Netscape plug-ins and another that runs Java applets. This move is paramount to Cyberdog’s long-term success in the face of Netscape’s hegemony in the Web browser world and the potential success of Java. And let’s face it: Cyberdog is the killer app for OpenDoc, so for OpenDoc to succeed Cyberdog has to have some impressive new tricks.

Although I’m sure many of you will immediately want to offer your suggestions for Apple, please don’t send us your suggestions right now because (a) we can’t do anything with most of them, and (b) shortly there will be a way for you to submit them directly to Apple. I’ll write more about that when everything’s ready.

Tonya Engst No comments

Bits Rule!

Paper is dead. Yes, I know I’m writing this article with the help of a few paper handouts, but paper is dead. Easily half the booths at Macworld Expo featured products that do not assume your final creation will be paper output. In particular, several products revolve around the idea of photos as bits. Back in the old days, photos existed as atoms – physical objects that you pass around, arrange in albums, or archive in shoe boxes. Here in our wired world, photos exist as bits on hard disks and albums live on the Web, where friends and relatives from around the world can view them.

Adam and I have experienced this transformation first hand, as proud owners of a no-longer-new QuickTake, and we’ve found the QuickTake and its output far more compelling than the 4 by 6 color glossy photos that my not-so-old analog camera can produce. (See Adam’s article about the QuickTake in TidBITS-297.)

Cheap and Easy — If you have a digital camera or scanner, it’s easy to put your photos on a disk, but if you don’t, you might use Storm Technologies’ EasyPhoto Reader, a $259 scanner designed to make it simple to digitize photos. The scanner can accept photos up to five inches wide, and as long as you like. It has a resolution of 200 dots per inch, and scans at 24-bit color. The software comes on CD, but the package includes an offer for ordering floppy disks. Normally, you’d feed photos through it, but you can pop the unit apart and use it to scan something that can’t feed through (like a book page), though it looked to me like it would take practice to use the device in this mode. TidBITS reader Steve Maller <[email protected]> recently sent me comments about EasyPhoto Reader, and here’s his real life story:

"I was looking for a good, low-cost way of scanning photographs into my Macintosh. I have an older, 8-bit, grayscale Apple OneScanner, which works fine for documents and line drawings, but I’ve longed for color scans. I considered purchasing another flatbed or a slide scanner, but EasyPhoto Reader was cheap, so I decided to give it a try – 30-day return policies are great!

"Installation couldn’t have been easier. I attached the EasyPhoto Reader to a Power Mac 8500, a computer that I’ve found to be a compatibility challenge for many products. The scanner connects to the one of the two serial ports, and you don’t need to specify which. I had my first scan in about five minutes, including the 45 seconds it takes the scanner to warm up.

"The scanner’s software provides two ways of acquiring images: a stand-alone application called EasyPhoto and a Photoshop plug-in. I found no difference in the images acquired in these two ways, although the Photoshop plug-in seemed slower.

"EasyPhoto uses a gallery metaphor for organizing images. As you scan photos, they’re added to a scrolling window. They’re also saved to JPEG files on your hard disk, although that’s not obvious. [As a user, you have no control over the level of JPEG compression -Tonya.] EasyPhoto has limited (but effective) image-processing tools in its workshop. When you double-click a gallery image, EasyPhoto opens it in a window and displays a small suite of editing tools, including brightness and contrast adjustment, color balancing, and a nifty tool that removes red eyes. I was skeptical, but the red eye filter works. You can also rotate, scale, and crop pictures. In my experience, the file sizes are always less than 100K, and generally as little as 50K after fussing and cropping. Storm’s expertise in photo image processing shows in the power and simplicity of the tool set. Nevertheless, most Photoshop users will be more comfortable using the plug-in and relying on Photoshop’s vast array of tools.

"The bottom line with any scanner is: how do the scans look? As with any pursuit, the quality of the output is constrained by the quality of the input. I did most of my scans from ordinary photographic prints from my neighborhood one-hour processor. I’d rate the quality of the scans as good, with some better and some worse. The results were clearly inferior to the quality I’ve seen in Kodak’s PhotoCDs. Nevertheless, this product has a bright future. As more people clog the Internet with Web pages filled with pictures of their children and email enclosures of their family vacations, EasyPhoto Reader will provide an effective way of keeping those pipelines filled."

Steve suggests checking out Storm’s Web page for more technical details.

One way or another, once your photos are digitized, you’ll want to fuss with them. If you don’t spring for EasyPhoto Reader, or want to go further with another piece of software, you might use two products that debuted at the Expo: Adobe’s PhotoDeluxe or QuickMedia’s Living Album/Web.

Photoshop Made Easy — PhotoDeluxe is Photoshop for the rest of us (or at least those who have the hardware to run it; see below). With an estimated street price of $90, PhotoDeluxe is (in the words of an Adobe representative), Photoshop with a new user interface. Although PhotoDeluxe doesn’t offer high end features like help with color separation, it does support Photoshop plug-ins. PhotoDeluxe has two modes: in the Guided mode, it steps you through basic procedures, and helps you think the way a professional image editor would think. Guided activities range from basic scaling and cropping to projects such as calendars, greeting cards, Acrobat pages, and coloring books. You can also switch out of Guided mode and do your own thing in a more flexible environment.

PhotoDeluxe requires a 68040- or PowerPC-based Macintosh, System 7 or later, 8 MB of application RAM on a 68040, 12 MB total RAM on a Power Mac with 5.2 MB allocated to PhotoDeluxe, 45 MB of disk space, a color monitor that supports at least 256 colors, and a CD-ROM drive.

Online Albums — The $130 Living Album/Web 1.0 helps you store images online in what QuickMedia terms "multimedia albums." Such albums can include graphics, sounds, and video. It can also create Web pages that mimic analog photo albums, and users need not know any HTML to create what look like reasonable Web pages. A demo version of Living Album/Web is available on the Internet; according to a QuickMedia representative, the demo is fully functional, except it only lets you place six images in an album or Web pages. Living Album/Web comes on a CD and requires System 7 and 8 MB RAM.

Adobe — 800/411-8657 — 206/628-2749 — <[email protected]>
QuickMedia — 800/957-0009 — 415/508-1757 — 415/596-4643 (fax)
Storm Software — 800/275-5734 — <[email protected]>

Geoff Duncan No comments

Microsoft Unveils Internet Explorer for Mac

When Microsoft became a licensee of NCSA Mosaic and later shipped a Web browser for Windows called Internet Explorer, the Macintosh world didn’t even blink. Microsoft was just another company jumping on the Internet bandwagon: what did another Mosaic-derived browser for Windows matter? "Internet Explorer" was dubbed "Internet Exploiter," and that was that.

Late last year, Microsoft announced plans to bring Internet Explorer to the Macintosh. Of course, the Macintosh world barely blinked at this news. What could Microsoft – a company not known for its Internet savvy and whose recent mainstream Office applications for the Mac have met with less than unbridled enthusiasm – bring to the table that Netscape, InterCon, and TradeWave could not?

Well, last week Microsoft released a public beta of Internet Explorer for Macintosh and proved it can still surprise the Mac community.

Where to Find It — Microsoft has made the first beta Internet Explorer 2.0 available on their Web site. (Apparently it’s numbered 2.0 to maintain parity with the Windows version.) Versions are available for both Power Macintosh and 68K Macs, and each download is about 1 MB in size. macdl.htm

Internet Explorer requires a Mac with a 68030 processor or better, System 7.0.1 or later, and a at least 8 MB of memory (but see below for more memory details). The beta may be used until a final version is available, at which point users are required to obtain the final version and register with Microsoft (for free).

Basic Features — Based on NCSA Mosaic, Internet Explorer is an HTML 2.0-compliant Web browser that supports a selection of HTML 3.0 tags (including tables), many Netscape HTML extensions, and a number of its own extensions. Unlike Mosaic, Internet Explorer can load Web pages through multiple TCP connections, and progressively renders a page so users can examine the content before the page is fully downloaded. (These are the same features that originally gave Netscape a performance advantages over earlier browsers.) Explorer supports FTP, gopher, news, and mailto URLs, progressive rendering of GIF and JPEG inline images, backgrounds, text selection in the main window, and a bookmark feature (called Favorites). Explorer also has a bizarre history mechanism where pages you’ve seen can be listed at the end of the File menu, in a modeless History window, or in a pop-up on the browser window.

In terms of interface, Internet Explorer is very much a "post-Mosaic" application and breaks little new ground. The top of the browser window holds a text field for the currently-loaded URL as well as the obligatory button bar, although Explorer’s is cluttered.

Internet Explorer includes preliminary support for AppleScript, although it’s unfortunately modeled after Netscape’s and does not support the GetURL event. This beta version of Internet Explorer also does not support Frontier menu sharing or Internet Config.

What’s New — In a good move, Internet Explorer’s button bar sports controls that proportionally increase or decrease the size of the text displayed in the entire page. This is handy for viewing pages "enhanced" for Internet Explorer (which invariably come across in tiny 10-point type on the Macintosh), or for people who need (or want) larger type on their screens.

In place of Netscape’s animated "N" indicating a page is loading, Internet Explorer features either a spinning globe or an animated version of the Windows logo – a move sure to earn Microsoft lots of friends in the Mac community.

In a step ahead of other Web browsers, Internet Explorer handles a number of audio formats without helper applications, including Sun .au, AIFF, and Windows WAV. Additionally, Internet Explorer handles QuickTime movies by itself and supports inline AVI (Video for Windows) movies. Oddly, it does not come preconfigured to handle other common file types, including BinHex or StuffIt archives, and Explorer’s interface for configuring helper applications is weak (although I haven’t seen any Web browser handle this well.)

Internet Explorer also has predefined "home" and "search" pages, which you set in Explorer’s awkward, tabbed Options dialog box. When launched, Explorer tries to connect to its home page, which by default is set to the Microsoft Network Web site. Unless you want Explorer to try to connect to the Internet every time it’s launched (potentially dialing your modem and racking up phone charges), set the home page to an HTML file on your local hard disk. There’s currently no way specify you don’t want a page loaded at startup.

Explorer can be configured to show HTTP server messages (useful for some people), and Explorer’s HTML parser and layout engine both seem fast.

Road Testing — In my tests over a 28.8 Kbps modem, Internet Explorer performed respectably, but not significantly faster or slower than current versions of Netscape. Reports from users with faster connections indicate Explorer may outperform Netscape in some cases.

Although this is an early beta, a few missing items did stand out. Explorer offers no key commands for simple navigation or some common menu commands, and the Find command doesn’t always scroll the browser window to the found text (particularly if the page contains tables). Users of Netscape 2.0 will find Explorer’s bookmark-management features lacking, although, when first launched, Explorer will offer to use your Netscape bookmarks and configuration. Explorer’s newsreading capabilities are functional, though not outstanding.

The most troubling aspect of Internet Explorer is its memory usage. Explorer says it requires 4 MB of RAM; maybe I’m spoiled, but when I give an application 4 MB of memory, I expect it to stay there. During normal use, Internet Explorer uses significant amounts of temporary memory in the system heap to store information. Although this is a perfectly acceptable technique (used by programs like BBEdit to great effect), I watched in astonishment as Explorer increased the size of my system heap from about 4 MB to over 11 MB in under twenty minutes. Admittedly, I was doing intensive browsing to test Explorer’s bounds, and Explorer does relinquish this temporary memory when you quit. However, it’s too easy to get in trouble with this scheme, resulting in a bloated system heap that prevents you from launching other applications and possibly requires you to restart. As an experiment, I configured my machine so Explorer would only have access to a little system memory; in that case, Explorer correctly used space in its own partition, but its performance quickly deteriorated and the program eventually locked up.

Let’s Play <TAG> — The beta currently supports a number of Netscape extensions to HTML, but it does not support frames or other Netscape extensions introduced with Netscape 2.0. In a unique approach, Internet Explorer can pose as a version of Netscape, thereby receiving any Netscape-specific content that server might provide. (Some sites, like Yahoo, serve different content depending on your browser.) It’s unclear to me if there’s any point to identifying yourself as Netscape 2.0 when no Netscape 2.0 features are supported.

In a move that reminds me of two schoolyard bullies comparing the size of their muscles (or other parts of their anatomy), Microsoft followed Netscape’s dubious lead and introduced its own set of HTML extensions with Internet Explorer. These tags suggest that Microsoft doesn’t understand the point of HTML. Among Microsoft’s "innovations" are tags that make sounds play when a page loads (these can’t be turned off); specify a particular typeface (I’m not even going to start on why that’s a bad idea); add the ability to embed AVI movies in image tags; and give ability to specify "margins" for an HTML page (which basically guarantee you’ll have to resize your browser window in order to read the text). Fans of the Netscape extension <BLINK> will love Microsoft’s <MARQUEE> tag, which may only serve as proof Netscape exercised some restraint with its HTML extensions.

Conclusions — The word on the street is that the Mac version of Internet Explorer is being developed by a set of "real" Macintosh programmers from companies like Claris and Radius, rather than by Windows programmers in Redmond. This is certainly reflected in the first beta of Internet Explorer, which is surprisingly Mac-like given Microsoft’s recent history with Macintosh applications. The potential of Explorer is undeniable, and with Java support (Microsoft is a Java licensee) and support for Netscape and Explorer plug-ins, the picture gets more interesting. With better memory management, interface improvements, and support for technologies like Internet Config, Internet Explorer could become a significant alternative to Netscape Navigator. For this to happen, though, the program must successfully fend off the weight of Microsoft’s Windows-centric Internet strategy.