Rumors flew this week, and the industry settled down with Corel as the new owner of WordPerfect and with Michael Spindler leaving Apple. Along with details on these events, we also have news about new versions of Netscape, FreePPP, and NetPresenz, as well as a look back at San Francisco’s recent Macworld Expo and an enthusiastic review of CE Software’s currently free WebArranger.
I wanted to comment quickly that we’re aware of the passage of the Telecommunications Reform Act and of the furor surrounding some of its wording. Until we’ve had a chance to investigate more seriously, though, we didn’t want to write about it. More soon – in the meantime, consider checking out the protest pages below. [ACE]
Corel Buys WordPerfect — Last week, Corel Inc. purchased Novell’s business applications division for $115 million in cash and stock, considerably less than the $1 billion Novell paid for WordPerfect and Quattro Pro less than two years ago (see TidBITS-302). Corel plans to integrate their flagship graphics software with WordPerfect applications in a challenge to Microsoft Office – a phrase that’s becoming a broken record in the industry. Corel CEO Michael Copland declined to comment on the future of the Mac version of WordPerfect, although he denied reports WordPerfect will abandon Mac development. However, reports to TidBITS indicate Novell’s WordPerfect Mac division was down to just four people by Macworld Expo in San Francisco, which makes one wonder how Corel – a company with little experience developing Mac software – plans to acquire the resources necessary to pursue Macintosh development. [GD]
Apple Demos Mac OS on PPCP — At Demo 96 last week, Apple demonstrated a development version of the Mac OS running on a prototype computer built to PowerPC Platform (PPCP) specifications. (See TidBITS-304.) Machines built to the PowerPC Platform spec can theoretically run any operating system designed for the platform, and Apple, Sun, IBM, Microsoft, and others have announced plans to support it. The prototype, built by IBM, ran mainstream Power Macintosh applications and used third-party peripherals. Apple said a final release of the Mac OS for the PowerPC Platform should be available in the second half of 1996, with the first Macs based on the spec appearing in 1997. Potential Mac OS licensees see support for the PowerPC Platform as an important part of Apple’s licensing strategy. [GD]
Netscape 2.0 Released — Netscape released the final version of Netscape Navigator 2.0 last weekend, with few apparent changes from beta 6 released a few weeks ago. The archive is about 2.5 MB in size; once again, the installer will attempt to launch Netscape and connect to a set of registration pages when installation is complete, potentially causing problems if more than one version of Netscape is installed on your machine (see TidBITS-311).
As anticipated, Java support is not included in the final Macintosh release. Rumor suggests beta releases of Netscape Navigator 2.1 will be available for the Macintosh in a few months, and it should include preliminary Java support. Netscape has also released the first beta of Navigator Gold (with HTML authoring tools) for Windows, but not for the Mac or Unix. [GD]
FreePPP 1.0.5 Available — Steve Dagley has released version 1.0.5 of FreePPP, which now scrambles stored passwords (although it doesn’t encrypt them), uses resource-based strings for tone and pulse dial commands (for folks with ISDN terminal adapters who may need to modify the strings), and fixes a few bugs. Steve expects version 2.5 of FreePPP to be available in March, so if you don’t need features or fixes in 1.0.5, it’s probably fine to stick with your current PPP configuration. [GD]
And Now, NetPresenz! Peter Lewis <[email protected]> has released NetPresenz 4.0, a major upgrade and name change from FTPd 3.0. The name change comes in response to the fact that NetPresenz is now a full-featured Web server that supports CGI scripts in addition to the FTP and Gopher capabilities of past versions. Also new is support for Open Transport, which will probably improve performance by a noticeable amount. NetPresenz remains $10 shareware, and it is a free upgrade for anyone who registered FTPd since 01-Jan-95; previous users may upgrade for $5. If WebSTAR or InterServer Publisher is too pricey for your blood, NetPresenz’s $10 shareware fee is one of the best deals around. [ACE]
And This Just In… Two notable items from Apple today; first, Apple announced price cuts ranging from $100 to $300 on some PowerPC-based Performa models, in addition to Apple’s Power Payback program already underway (see TidBITS-312). Second, Apple and the Open Software Foundation announced a project to port Linux, a freely distributed version of Unix, to Power Macintosh. The port will operate on the OSF Mach microkernel, and an early prototype was shown at the demo. [GD]
Just days after Apple Computer chairman A. C. Markkula told concerned shareholders that Apple’s Board of Directors supported Michael Spindler, the board "agreed that it was in the best interest of Apple Computer to have a transition in leadership." Last Friday evening, Apple’s board announced the replacement of company president Michael Spindler, effective immediately, by National Semiconductor boss Gilbert Amelio. In an unprecedented move, Amelio was also named chairman, giving him solid control over the company. Markkula, one of Apple’s founders in 1977, will continue to serve as vice chairman.
The move comes on the heels of a string of changes at Apple following last quarter’s significant financial loss (which came at the same time Apple shipped more Macs – including over a million based on PowerPC technology – than in any other quarter in its history, totalling sales of over $3 billion). Among the changes were a major restructuring announced in mid-January, with goals of a reduced staff and a consolidated use of financial resources in markets that have traditionally seen duplicate efforts. Rumors of an impending merger or acquisition resurfaced last month as well, with Sun Microsystems discussed as a suitor in the pages of publications such as MacWEEK, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and the New York Times. (See recent TidBITS issues for details.)
In response, Apple has created an Apple Americas organization from the separate Apple USA, Apple Canada, and Apple Latin America divisions under Jim Buckley, Apple USA’s president. Though technically a regional change, Apple Americas should provide a major component of the required streamlining. Apple announced last Wednesday that Buckley’s management team would include Apple veterans Mike Dionne, Terry Crane, and Mike Lorian as senior vice presidents of the Business Markets Division, Education Division, and Consumer Division, respectively; this group will be responsible for the lion’s share of Apple’s marketplace. (Lorian’s appointment is described as an acting position.)
Spindler, a German engineer who helped Apple break into the European market in the late 1980s, replaced John Sculley in 1993, about ten years after Sculley took the place of Steve Jobs. In each case, the CEO’s departure could not be described as voluntary or happy.
Amelio has clearly taken to heart the title of his recent book; Profit from Experience, co-written with Bill Simon, chronicles Amelio’s transformation of the National Semiconductor Corporation into a leaner, more profitable business. Since he joined the company in 1991 as president and CEO after leaving his president’s post at Rockwell International, Amelio has been credited with the company’s dramatic reversal of fortune, including record earnings the past two fiscal years. (The company lost money in eight out of the eleven years prior to his arrival.) Just last July, Amelio was elected chairman of National’s board.
Amelio is no stranger to Apple; he has served on the company’s board of directors since last year, and Apple has long been a National Semiconductor customer. At the same time, Amelio has been serving on the board of Pacific Telesis and is on the board of governors of the Electronics Industry Association.
The challenge before Amelio is to accomplish what Apple has been struggling to do since profit margins began to drop precipitously a few years ago: focus product lines and markets to maximize profit margins, while reducing costs. Apple’s loss last quarter, despite record sales (both in unit volume and dollars), clearly shows that the company must change the way it does business in order to stop losing money.
It’s not likely to be an easy transformation for Apple; Amelio’s successes at National came at the expense of thousands of layoffs, closed divisions, and shut down factories. At least the stock market seems to think the changes will be good for Apple. Even though Apple didn’t release an official announcement until after the U.S. financial markets had closed, Apple stock traded heavily on Friday, closing at $29.25, up 88 cents, on the strength of National Semiconductor’s 8:30 AM announcement of Amelio’s departure and the quick spread of the unofficial news.
[We don’t have room for every comment we received about Macworld Expo, but we just had to make an exception for this list. -Adam]
You’ll read about the "important" stuff in all the trade rags and online ‘zines. Here’s some of what really happened at Macworld Expo a few weeks back.
Biggest Presence on the Show Floor — Power Computing. Many, if not most, of the machines on the floor were theirs, not to mention the big, loud, video wall. Next year’s buy-out rumor will probably be Power Computing buying Apple.
Hottest Party — Dantz. Literally, the hottest party. Held at the Cartoon Art Museum, this packed event overwhelmed whatever air conditioning there may have been. If not for the great food, refreshments and conversation, I’d have left. Glad I didn’t.
Other Biggest Presence on the Show Floor — The Web. Every vendor was hawking its application as a Web tool. "Known us for years as a [database / spreadsheet / word processor / graphics application / floor wax]? Well, surprise, we’re really a Web site builder!"
Best Deal — Fujitsu. The company offered formatted 128 MB optical disks for $5 each. That’s about four cents per megabyte. I bought ten, or 1.25 GB, for $50.
Best Party — NEC. (The MetaTools party, while impressive, was a little too hip for its own good, and the free mixed drinks inspired many meaningful but incoherent conversations. I found the free shuttle buses a nice touch, though.) The NEC party hit on all counts: Great food (hors d’oeuvres, chili dogs, gelato, and more), great drinks (free beer, wine, soft drinks, and coffee), great location (the Gift Center Pavilion atrium), great music (D’ Cuckoo), great t-shirts, great lighting and sound, and even a great cause (NEC awarded Shriners Hospitals $25,000 at the event). About the only thing missing was sex. Which brings us to…
Best Breakfast — Well, actually, it was the only industry breakfast I attended – English company Dorling Kindersley’s introduction of their latest CD-ROM, Anne Hooper’s Ultimate Sex Guide. Appropriately, eggs and sausages were served. Or, as the British say, bangers.
Best Demo — Global Village, Friday, 11:25. The demo consisted of the demo guy and an actor who played, at various times during the demo, a Deadhead, a computer nerd, and an artsy French person. What made this particular session amazing was the audience. First, a guy stepped up and juggled the spongy globes Global Village was tossing to (and at) the crowd. Then, the demo guy got a snappy dialog going with a man in the audience. (Demo Guy: "The hottest thing going right now is the Internet. You, sir, you look like an Internet user. What to you use it for?" Man: "To waste time.") But the demo turned into hilarious improv when the woman pulled from the crowd to help with the demo turned and kissed the actor portraying the nerd. Both of the presenters barely recovered enough to finish. But recover they did, and brilliantly, weaving in and out of the prepared script. Major kudos to the presenters.
Personally, this was the best Macworld ever for me. Best people, most fun, best food, best ride (stretch limo to North Beach), most centrally located hotel. Oh yeah, I spent less money than my last three visits, and I even lost five pounds walking around. (Or maybe I just sweated them off at the Dantz party). I was thoroughly and joyfully exhausted.
Must have been the sex breakfast.
Recently, an amazing program I’d never heard of rescued me from a quicksand of information I couldn’t store and retrieve effectively, and from a quagmire of outliners, databases, contact managers, and calendars that couldn’t help me. What’s more, this program – on which I now rely totally – and about which I shall herein proceed to rave intemperately is currently free.
Looking for Trouble — The problem started when I switched from academia to business, and my needs changed drastically. I no longer wanted to store and retrieve only text (lectures and facts) or simple sets of items. I now edit a magazine, and I need to track prospective articles and their authors.
Suppose John Doe sends me email with an idea for an article on programming the Mac’s Widget Manager. [A fictional component of the Mac Toolbox – we hope. -Geoff] Under an outline topic "Proposed Articles" I would put a sub-topic "Doe, John" (to go with other authors who had proposed articles), and under that a sub-sub-topic "Widget Manager" (to go with anything else he might propose). I also wanted further information for each topic, so I used IN Control and added columns for an email address, a miscellaneous memo, and the date we had corresponded, ending up with something like this:
Topic Address Memo Date ------------------- --------------- ---------- -------- Proposed Articles Doe, John [email protected] Widget Manager good idea! 1/4/96
But there’s big inefficiency here: lots of empty space. After the outline (in the first column) I have three additional columns: address, memo, and date. Yet the address column is only used with the author’s name, and I’m using the memo and date columns only with the article title, so there are gaps in the outline. This is ugly and error-prone: it’s up to me, the user, to remember what each line represents, and to leave the address column blank after an article title.
Why such inefficiency? Because I’m trying to hierarchically arrange two different kinds of entities (three kinds, if you count the "Proposed Articles" header) where each kind has its own set of fields. But IN Control knows nothing of this.
Enter WebArranger — WebArranger is really Arrange, a program produced by Common Knowledge Inc. during 1991-93 or so. I never heard of it then; but recently, CE Software picked it up, and until 16-Feb-96 is giving it away as a URL hoarder. They adapted it for this purpose using a plug-in module for talking to Netscape, importing its bookmark and history files, and tracking changes to Web sites. Ignoring the Web and URL features, though, WebArranger is at its core a miraculously ingenious program.
One caution: if you’re like me, you won’t understand WebArranger right away. It took me hours to grasp the basic metaphors and realize what was happening. If you can’t find an old Arrange manual, you can download the Help file; it’s quirky and outdated, but better than nothing. This article will help too, though the terms I’m using are not the official terminology (as I find the latter opaque and confusing).
With WebArranger, you define entities you want to store, and each entity has its own set of fields. Then you can build an outline in which any topic or subtopic can be any of those entities. For my example above, I might define a Header entity, an Author entity, and an Article entity. To facilitate display and navigation of the outline, WebArranger uses a summary line where each entity occupies a single line built by WebArranger according to a format you define. When you click a summary line, the entity expands to show each field, labelled and arranged vertically. You can also double-click to expand the entity into a window of its own (to avoid shoving lines off screen). So, my outline now works like this (everything but the three summary lines – which I’ve marked with an asterisk – would usually be hidden):
* Header [summary line, "Proposed articles"] Header name: Proposed Articles * Author [summary line, "John Doe"] First Name: John Last Name: Doe Email: [email protected] * Article [summary line, "Widget Manager... 1/4/96"] Title: Widget Manager Comments: good idea! Date: 1/4/96
WebArranger builds on this metaphor of fields in entities in outlines, in ways so useful that my co-workers complain about my screaming "Yes!" and jumping from my chair with delight. To avoid repetitiveness, please imagine me saying "But wait! There’s still more!" before each of the next several paragraphs.
To help you store massive amounts of information, WebArranger provides a second, higher tier of outlining. Every outline of entities – such as the one we’ve just constructed – lives in a sub-folder which lives in a folder; i.e., a two-level organizational outline. This organization is shown at the left edge of the window, and clicking a sub-folder displays its contents in the main part of the window. So, I can have a folder called Business with two sub-folders inside it, Articles and Authors.
One benefit of this organization is that one author can be associated with more than one article. To save you from needless multiplication of entities (let’s hear it for Occam’s Razor), WebArranger lets you clone any entity, which is like making an alias to it elsewhere in the document. All the clones are identical and changes made to one are instantly reflected in all of them. So I can clone my author, John Doe, into the Authors sub-folder, and use that sub-folder as a repository of clones of all authors. Then, if any existing author proposes another article, I can clone him or her from the Authors repository when I make my entry in Articles.
Let’s make another change. WebArranger allows entities to have link fields. A link field contains one or more entities (letting you store an entity within an entity), and those entities can be clones. This lets me restructure my entities so that the Author, instead of being a separate line of the outline, appears as a field of the Article, like this:
* Header [summary line, "Proposed articles"] Header name: Proposed Articles * Article [summary line, "Widget Manager... 1/4/96"] Title: Widget Manager Link field: * Author [summary line, "John Doe"] First Name: John Last Name: Doe Email: [email protected] Comments: good idea! Date: 1/4/96
Since a link field can contain any number of clones, this also solves the problem of articles having more than one author. In practice, it’s also better to structure my fields in this way because link fields provide automatic look-up. If I create a new Article entity, a box pops up when I tab into its Author link field, where I type the last name of the author. The Author entity with that last name is then cloned automatically into the link field.
Conversely, to make my Authors sub-folder an effective repository of all Author entities, I can set it to auto-clone Author entities, any time an Author entity is created, a clone of it is automatically placed in the Authors sub-folder. Now, when I make a new Article entity and tab its Author link field and type the author’s last name, if that Author entity already exists, it is automatically cloned into the Author link field (because the link field is set up to do this), and if not, I create it in the Author link field and it is automatically cloned into the Authors sub-folder (because the sub-folder is set up to do this).
All entities have certain "system fields" which are filled out automatically by WebArranger but are not shown unless you want them – for instance, the date and time this entity was created, and the date and time it was last modified. This feature is a godsend when you’re using WebArranger as a contact manager. I’ve created an entity type called MemoDated, consisting of a text field and the entity’s creation date. Each time an exchange about an article occurs, I make a new MemoDated entity and make it a subtopic to the article. This gives me dated records of the history of contacts concerning that article.
Queries and Views — As you accumulate large amounts of data, you can query it in useful ways. One such way is to examine an outline using sorting and matching criteria. For instance, my auto-cloning Authors sub-folder grows in no particular order, but I generally want to look at it sorted by Last Name and First Name – and, on occasion I might add a matching criterion too, for instance looking at just those Authors who have no email address. A set of criteria for sorting and/or matching is called a View, and the rules for every View are automatically saved with the outline in a handy pop-up menu. A View shows either all the lines of the outline or just those which are of one specified entity type, and can combine this with a "table" structure where rows are entities and columns are fields (like a typical database browse window).
A View can also display as a calendar: you tell WebArranger what date field is relevant, and it puts the summary line for each entity into the right calendrical location. You can show a month at a time, a week at a time, or a day-book, and though there are some limitations the interface is remarkably flexible, in some ways beating even dedicated calendar programs like IN Control 3.5.
I can’t possibly describe all of WebArranger’s abilities here, so let me hasten through a brief concluding miscellany. There is a good Find feature which is remarkably fast. A Gather feature lets you collect clones of all entities that meet specified criteria. A Goto dialog lets you jump to a different sub-folder by typing the first few letters of its name. You can have multiple windows on a document. An Alarms feature turns any date field into an active reminder; WebArranger does not have to be open for the reminder to work (an extension handles it), and you can turn it off, "snooze" it for a specified time, or go to the corresponding item in your WebArranger document. A "grabber" control panel lets you copy the current selection in any program for later reference; again, WebArranger does not have to be open, and your "grabbed" items are imported into a designated home document the next time you open WebArranger.
Room to Grow — There are things about WebArranger that could stand improvement. It’s not for keeping large texts in (a field can hold a maximum of something like 10K). The outliner has deficient keyboard navigation. Certain actions have the side-effect of deselecting your current selection, which is counter-intuitive and causes you to lose your place. Also, export and printing are not great.
WebArranger is one of those programs that is picky about where you click. Clicking a summary line expands it, clicking its triangle shows or hides its sub-entities, and clicking its icon selects the entity itself. If you’re like me, you’re sure to miss much of the time.
Perhaps WebArranger’s biggest flaw is when you want to examine the deep levels of entity types and field definitions. For instance, you can find out what a given sub-folder is auto-cloning (though not easily), but you can’t find out in general what sub-folders are auto-cloning what sorts of entity. Similarly, you can learn all the names of all the fields used by all entities at once, but you can’t find out what entity uses any particular field.
CE Software plans to make WebArranger part of a forthcoming DayVision product suite, but I wouldn’t count on an interface improvement. Remember, this is CE, makers of QuicKeys (which offers a crummy interface to some pretty great software, although it’s badly in need of an upgrade) and of QuickMail (which – in my opinion – is atrocious software with an interface that gets worse with each upgrade).
Nonetheless, the release of WebArranger as a freebie is a wonderful gift. This program saved my bacon when I needed to take notes on discussions I had at Macworld Expo, and is now my primary contact manager. The program makes large amounts and many sorts of data easy to arrange and navigate; in fact, you’re tempted to keep your whole life in one gigantic document. If handing this program out for free is a hook to make me pay for a chain of upgrades, I’m a delighted addict.
CE Software — 800/523-7638 — 515/221-1801
515/221-2258 (fax) — <[email protected]>