Tune in to this week’s issue to find out about new StyleWriters and a new Newton. We also have news about Netscape 2.01, a public beta of Now Utilities 6.0, and reports of a problem with PowerBooks, RAM Doubler, and System 7.5.3. The issue continues with a review of the first Nisus Writer book, an analysis of the importance of Apple’s new Network Servers, and a look at out how recipients of Apple’s Cool Tools awards have put their prizes to use.
StyleWriters and Ethernet — Last week, Apple announced the Color StyleWriter 1500 and 2500, which offer color inkjet printing at about $280 and $380, respectively. The new printers print in black at three and five pages per minute (though they are considerably slower with color), and the 2500 offers water-resistant ink. Apple also announced the StyleWriter EtherTalk Adapter, which enables users to connect a StyleWriter 2500, 2400, 2200, 1500, or 1200 to an EtherTalk network using either 10Base-T or ThinNet. Apple expects the EtherTalk Adapter to be available in early April for about $190. [GD]
RAM Doubler, PowerBooks, and 7.5.3? Connectix reports it’s investigating a problem using RAM Doubler 1.6.1 on PowerBooks. Apparently, the machines may crash when they wake up if they’re running System 7.5.3. According to reports, installing Apple’s low-level debugger MacsBug prevents the problem from occurring. [GD]
Netscape’s beta release of a Java-enabled version of Navigator for Power Macs also expired last week, prompting Netscape to re-post the release with the expiration date set to 01-Jul-96. No other changes are included in the release. [GD]
Now Utilities 6.0 Public Beta — Not wanting to miss out on the public beta craze that’s now de rigeur among software companies, Now Software has announced a (brief) public beta of Now Utilities 6.0, which it plans to ship on 29-Mar-96. Now Utilities 6.0 updates Now Menus and Super Boomerang, and adds three new components, including Now AutoType, which is supposed to automatically generate macros for repetitively typed words and phrases. Updates for current owners will be $29.95, with a special "buy two, get three" upgrade special. The beta expires on 01-Apr-96. To try the beta, follow the "Download the Demo" link at the URL below. The beta is not available as we wrap up this issue; however, it probably will be by the time you read this. [GD]
The Nisus Way (ISBN 1-55828-455-9), a book written by Joe Kissell <[email protected]>, doesn’t have much of a plot, but it does offer good writing and generally excellent explanations of how normal people can make Nisus Writer lie down at their feet and perform a variety of tricks. In this regard, though, Joe’s book is much like about thirty new computer books that came out in the past year, and TidBITS doesn’t review all the good computer books that appear. So why mention this book?
Two reasons. First, consider this: Nisus Writer offers a perfectly respectable set of word processing tools, but a common reason why people choose Nisus Writer over other word processors is that Nisus Writer offers text manipulation features that make other word processors look like primitive stone tools. Nisus Writer’s non-contiguous selection, multiple clipboards, sophisticated GREP-based (and optionally multi-file) searching, and two macro languages make it possible for Nisus Writer users to chew up their text and spit it out arranged in most any way imaginable. Sandra Silcot, a savvy Nisus Writer user, took advantage of these features to write a set of Nisus Writer macros for HTML, macros that – for people who can handle a certain lack of spoon feeding and who don’t use many HTML extensions – make Nisus Writer the HTML editor of choice.
Although Nisus Writer’s manuals adequately explain the program’s word processing features, they trip all over themselves explaining how to tame the powerful text manipulation tools. A few Internet users have written online tutorials to overcome this problem, but none of them much helped me, a reasonably together power user type who has always feared to tread where scripts lie. (I’m still recovering from my Advanced Placement Pascal class, which I took ten years ago in high school.) Joe’s book, the only book available about Nisus Writer, overcomes the problem with the manuals, and gives power users (and also people who are not power users) the keys they need to unlock the doors to Nisus Writer competence.
The second reason why The Nisus Way is important is that it comes with a CD. The CD has the usual things that come on disks with books: custom toolbars, custom macros, sample files, and other sundry items. But, the book also includes a 90-day, fully functional demo copy of Nisus Writer 4.1, and – if you like the program after your 90 days are up – you can then purchase it for $79 (Nisus Writer lists for $257.50). So, if you’ve ever toyed with the idea of buying Nisus Writer, this would be the way to do it. Also, note that though Nisus Writer 4.1 includes a slightly improved version of Sandra’s original HTML macros, the book also comes with Joe’s even more improved version of Sandra’s macros; book owners can use either version. (Nisus Writer users who are not using Joe’s macros should note that Sandra’s macros are now at version 2.5.2; you can upgrade using the URL earlier in this article.)
Although Adam and I attended different high schools, we both spent some enjoyable science and health classes watching educational movies about a fictional "Joe" and his organs – "I am Joe’s Heart," "I am Joe’s Kidney," and so on. We even named our QuickTake Joe, as in "I am Joe’s Eyes." Though I doubt Joe Kissell is the Joe in the movies, those movies were so great that after reading The Nisus Way, I’ve dubbed it "I am Joe’s Book."
To find out more about the $29.95 book from MIS:Press (and see a few sample chapters), check out the Web page Joe has made for it at:
I have been intently watching (and participating) in Apple’s evolving server strategy, especially since I have managed AppleShare (and other servers) for many years. Apple’s efforts in the server arena have been truly stunning. If you think back not too many years ago, they were giving the market away to Novell by selling such lame solutions as AppleShare 2.0, running on SE/30s. If you had more than a handful of users or files of any size, this strategy forced you to look elsewhere for a reasonable server solution. A watershed event happened in the summer of 1992 at the Mactivity Conference in Santa Clara. Product Managers from Apple’s Server group (then called Enterprise Services Division) met in a large hall with a crowd of network managers and actually listened and made an effort at dialog. One comment that stuck in my mind was, "We could give you a really high-performance server, but it would have to run on top of Unix. Would you be willing to buy and use such a machine?" The resounding response from the crowd was "Yes!"
A year later at Mactivity ’93, they unveiled the Apple Workgroup Server 95 delivering a purpose-built file server solution. ["Purpose-built" means the machine was built specifically for its intended purpose, which doesn’t apply to using just any desktop Mac as a server, for instance. -Adam] It was a wonderful machine that finally made good use of A/UX, Apple’s now-orphaned Unix implementation. The AWS95 was (until the Network Server series) the best Apple server for a large workgroup. At my last job, my AWS95 comfortably served 60+ people using word processors and spreadsheets, while simultaneously serving huge image files to five to ten scanner operators and image retouchers. It stood up to Novell NetWare in performance, and soundly trounced it in total cost as well as setup and administration.
Meanwhile, those of us in the pre-press industry had adopted a server scheme for reducing print wait times and network traffic associated with high-resolution images: OPI (Open Pre-press Interface). Running an OPI server is extremely network, I/O, and CPU intensive. The Mac OS, though we love it dearly, is just not up to being an OPI server. Pre-press vendors such as Helios, IPT, Hyphen, and so on, have all delivered OPI solutions built around Sparc workstations from Sun Microsystems. We were not using these Unix machines as anything more than robust AppleShare file and (OPI) print servers. While a Sparc 2 or 10 makes a great AppleShare server, it is not a purpose-built server box. Apple’s timing with the Network Server line could not be better, because a lot of us are facing the costly option of replacing aging early-nineties Suns and SGIs with yet more expensive pizza boxes. In comes Apple with the Network Servers, which have the following advantages:
- The Network Servers are Apple-branded, elegantly engineered, and purpose-built.
- They run a first-tier, supported, industry standard Unix: AIX. (In the process discarding Apple’s nice but scorned-by-the-industry and 68K-bound Unix: A/UX.)
- They run on a PowerPC 604 and are binary-compatible with just about every application written for IBM’s RS6000 line of workstations. So you can run thousands of applications on the Network Servers, right now. Nice bonus.
- They ship with your choice of two industry-leading OPI solutions.
- They are very price competitive with those Suns and SGIs; even more so when you look at the enclosure and their strengths.
- Finally, they are remotely manageable from a Macintosh. Apple has put AppleTalk in AIX’s kernel, and more importantly Apple events (program to program communications) and AppleScript capability. Apple and third parties can enhance the server with front-end management tools.
Best of all, Apple stepped outside the ivory tower and consulted with hundreds of network managers to help build this box. They brought this server in varying levels of development to our local ANMA (Apple Network Manager’s Association, a user group) chapter meetings on three occasions over the past year and a half. Considering the swelling cry from the Macintosh community about involving us in Apple’s future, it’s ironic that the Server Group has built a success story by doing just that since 1992.
Now, with all that background, I must address a few points in the article about the Network Servers in TidBITS-317. TidBITS commented the Network Servers might damage the marketing message of the Apple Internet Server Solution machines. I beg to differ. The Network Server is not meant to compete with the current Internet Server line. That’s like saying GM’s heavy truck division cannibalizes Chevrolet Corvette sales!
[I still believe this is a danger. I’m not talking reality, I’m talking marketing message. Apple has gone to great lengths to convey ease of use and low cost, and wonderful though these Network Servers may be, they’re harder to use and more expensive than the Internet servers. The problem lies in perception, if it exists at all. -Adam]
If anything, the Network Servers complement the Apple Internet Servers. I’ll give one example: CGIs are generally the largest drain on a Web server’s performance. Here’s a solution: run your Web site on an Apple Internet Server and offload your big CGIs to a Network Server. The Mac would pass the CGIs via AppleScript and Apple events to the Network Server via an AppleTalk network connection over a secure line (because you can stuff a number of Ethernet cards into a Network Server and control what protocols you bind to them). The Network Server has the horsepower to run a CGI against a huge database (while simultaneously serving files to the whole department), and return the completed query faster than the Web server could have performed the same job, all without distracting the Web server it from its primary task. With the tools Apple has delivered with the Network Server, this sort of setup is quite easy too.
TidBITS also commented the Network Servers won’t be as easy to set up or maintain, and may not be as secure either. I won’t argue about ease of setup, but I will say that my experience with setting up the Network Server (I was a beta tester) was much easier than my past experience setting up Suns running SunOS and Solaris or a Compaq Proliant running Windows NT. The Mac-based administrator tools, plus IBM’s SMIT (Systems Management Interface Tool), made setting up the Network Server a relative joy.
I will argue the maintenance and security issues, though. IBM’s JFS Filesystem is the most robust and stable filesystem I have worked with, better than the Mac OS’s HFS by far, better than Sun’s UFS, and better than Microsoft’s NTFS in stability, crash-resistance, and recovery. The enclosure itself is designed to be easy to maintain, and based on my experience, it succeeds. Security is a bit of a red herring. Any good network manager will have a good packet filtering router between themselves and the Internet and another one between their Internet servers and their internal network. Add to that the Network Servers’ robust network configuration options, and it’s relatively simple to build protocol-based secure networks in and out of the box.
A bigger issue TidBITS raised is Apple’s ability to sell and support a Unix machine. I can’t address this, other than to say Apple should consider licensing the Network Servers to interested parties, especially those that believe in it and stand behind it 100 percent. The pre-press world is hungry for a box like this, and there are companies with strong ties to the pre-press world that could market and sell this box.
In the end, the bottom line is performance, and the Network Servers excel. Quite simply, they blow the ceiling on AppleShare performance through the roof, period.
In his interview in TidBITS-305, Peter Lewis suggested checking in on the recipients of Apple’s Cool Tools Awards from September of 1994. It was such a good suggestion that I gathered up email addresses for those folks and sent out some queries, and I received responses from everyone other than the Cornell CU-SeeMe folks. I wanted to know, first off, if the Power Macintosh 7100 that Apple had awarded to each recipient had been useful, and what it was being used for now. I was also curious what the recipients thought of Apple giving out awards recognizing innovative developers. Back in TidBITS-247 I wrote:
"Finally, as much as my cynical side wants to say that this is a freak occurrence, I sincerely hope that the attention and positive press these awards provide for Apple encourages the company to continue in the same vein periodically. Apple’s most powerful allies are its loyal users and developers, and it can only help Apple to give them a quantifiable nod every now and then."
Well over a year has passed since those original awards, and there’s been no word from Apple about repeating the program. I think awarding a few programmers a Mac each year would be great publicity for the Macintosh platform, and in the overall scope of things it would be a cheap way of attracting talented programmers to the Mac. Perhaps this article can raise the issue within Apple one more time.
John Norstad of Disinfectant and NewsWatcher fame wrote:
My "cool tool" has been enormously helpful in my work. Previously, I had the choice between a Mac Classic and a PowerBook 180 for work at home. A 7100 was a big step up, and it has increased my productivity enormously. I wrote a ton of NewsWatcher code and other code on it over the last year.
My kids certainly enjoyed the upgrade from the old Classic too! "Wow, Daddy, color and everything!"
I think the Cool Tools awards were a great idea and continuing them in other fields would be wonderful.
Steve Dorner of Eudora fame also commented on the home use of that Mac:
My 7100 has been my main development machine ever since I got it. I’ve done all the Eudora 3.0 development on it, as well as 2.x releases. This week [some weeks ago, at this point -Adam], I’m going to get a PowerBook 5300 to use for development, and then my wife will get the 7100, which she’ll use for dealing with her desktop publishing needs. The Quadra 605 she currently shares with the kids will then be the kids’ alone, promoting family harmony.
So there you have it; my livelihood and tranquility for my home, all in one Power Macintosh 7100.
John Hardin, who wrote MacWeb and MacWAIS, wrote:
The Power Mac 7100 Apple awarded me as part of their Cool Tools awards contributed directly to the development of the Power Mac-native version of MacWeb. It was literally my second development machine (in addition to the Quadra 800 I was using at the time). I now have a Power Mac 9500 at work, so about four months ago I took the 7100 home, where it enables me to continue development there occasionally. On the lighter side, it lets me connect to the Internet so I can surf with MacWeb when I’m not writing it.
The 7100 is now my family machine, so it gets a lot of use along those lines, as well, with things like educational programs, games, and home publishing. My children are young and have known no other type of computer, so I guess it’s helping to produce little Mac zealots. [Perhaps we can get Guy Kawasaki to start a program to donate Macs directly to children to create lots of little Apple addicts. -Adam] Who knows, maybe Turtle Logo will eventually turn into C++ or Java. We might have little Mac developers in the wings!
As far as the award itself goes, I was flattered, honored, and encouraged to have been publicly recognized by Apple with this award. I would wholeheartedly recommend that they continue to recognize Mac developers in this or similar ways. I’d also like to thank TidBITS for providing this opportunity to express my gratitude publicly.
Peter Lewis, author of Anarchie, NetPresenz, and many other programs, answered:
I received my 7100 late in 1994. With it, I had a viable home office, so shortly after that, very early in 1995 I started working part time from home. Later in 1995 I finished up at Curtin University and now work full time at home writing shareware, mostly Internet applications. Without the 7100 that came with the Cool Tool Award I would probably have had to delay my plans for at least several months, so the 7100 had what I think was Apple’s desired effect, namely enabling me to spend more time writing Mac programs.
I would certainly like to see Apple continue with the awards. However, the tricky part is figuring out who is most in need of the computer – people who are already visible probably will not benefit as much. I also think Apple should print some certificates for the awards (maybe they did and mine didn’t make it to Australia?). As wonderful as the computer is, in a few years it’ll be a door stop (or at least a low-end server), whereas a printed certificate could be framed and would last forever. I would also like to see two different sorts of awards, one for individuals and the other for companies. There’s no need to give computers to companies – they can generally afford them anyway – but it was a shame that companies like InterCon weren’t recognized for their work in promoting the Internet on the Mac, even if that meant just getting a nice certificate and no Power Mac.
Jay Whittle of the Internet Society wrote:
The Internet Society is not a development shop but gets a great deal of use out of the Power Macintosh 7100 anyway. Prior to the award, the Society did not own a single Macintosh. Part of the Society’s mission is to remain familiar with the new and innovative applications available for use on the Internet. The 7100 has opened the door for the Society to explore those applications which were developed first or exclusively on the Macintosh platform.
In addition, its ready-made multimedia capabilities makes this machine an excellent demonstration platform. Many Internet Society guests have browsed the Internet using this machine.
Thomas Redman of the Software Development Group at NCSA wrote:
The 7100 awarded to NCSA has been very useful in the development of NCSA Mosaic for the Mac. That particular machine was used by one of the developers to pursue such flowery technology as the inter-application API used by Mosaic, enhancements to the communications facility and direct support for Open Transport and Internet Config. Coincidentally, the developer who used that machine was without a reasonable development platform at that time, so the award was both timely and very appreciated. There is no metric to measure the usefulness of the machine to the group; PowerPC machines are leaps and bounds superior to the alternatives!
Should Apple continue the program? Damn tootin’! Any way to acknowledge developers of Macintosh software is very important to Apple’s future. Mac users and developers have a special interest in seeing the platform being successful. That attitude must be nurtured by Apple, and programs like this one are very useful to that end.
Farhad Anklesaria of the Gopher Team at the University of Minnesota commented quickly:
The 7100 that Apple gave us as part of the Cool Tools Award is being used by a graduate student intern on another cool network tool project – more info when that gets closer to release!
Aaron Giles, author of JPEGView, wrote:
Well, I can pretty much say that my Cool Tools award helped me land my dream job. Shortly after receiving the 7100, I picked up a copy of LucasArts’ Rebel Assault and was disappointed that it wasn’t PowerPC-native. So, in a furious fit of late-night hacking, I managed to write a patch which was at least partially native – enough so the game ran decently on my new machine. Foolishly releasing the patch to the net, I was on the verge of getting a cease and desist order before LucasArts decided to hire me. Now my 7100 allows me to work late nights cranking out great games for the Mac.
I definitely think Apple should consider doing the Cool Tools thing again. As a struggling shareware developer, having a hot new system dropped in my lap was both a great way of recognizing the years I spent working on JPEGView and an invaluable help in working on PowerPC-native versions of all my shareware. I think that using the Cool Tools awards to recognize great shareware/freeware contributions would be a fantastic direction for Apple to take.
Chuck Shotton, author of WebSTAR, said:
Apple’s Cool Tool Awards couldn’t have happened at a better time, both for me and for Apple. In my case, I’d been developing MacHTTP on a Mac IIci. I managed to get MacHTTP 1.3 out the door as one of the first PowerPC native Mac applications to ship using a loaner Power Mac 8100 from Apple. (Aaron Giles beat me with JPEGView only by virtue of his one hour time zone advantage!) Anyway, the 8100 had to go back to the mother ship shortly thereafter, and I was stuck trying to test and maintain PowerPC code without a Power Mac. Needless to say, the arrival of the Cool Tool 7100 made life much easier! MacHTTP 2.0 was birthed on that 7100, as were the initial versions of WebSTAR.
In Apple’s case, the timing was great for them. Under increasingly harsh criticism from their developers, it was a great gesture on Apple’s part that recognized the hard work from a lot of people that made the Mac the awesome Internet box that it is. While many developers bemoaned the state of Apple development, a few individuals at Apple came up with a great idea to motivate and reward some of the non-commercial developers that needed a pat on the back. The only downside to the award was that there was a limit to the number of Cool Tools that could be awarded, and some very deserving developers didn’t get the kudos they deserved.
Apple should definitely make this an annual event, perhaps expanding the scope beyond just Internet tools. There are a lot of unsung heroes developing for the Mac and this is a great way to tell them Apple appreciates their efforts. As for my 7100, it’s now part of the www.biap.com site and is merrily chugging away, serving its little heart out to the Internet.
Jeff Ferguson of the Weather Underground wrote:
The Weather Underground used the Cool Tools 7100 for the development of an Internet manager for six months. The 7100 provided us the machine to develop this code.
The 7100 then moved to our TV studio where it was used in producing a live program in which viewers were taken on a tour of the Internet. The content was meteorology and the audience was K-12 teachers and students. The program was hosted by Perry Samson and Herbie Fox, our puppet friend. An A/V video card was added and the 7100 was one of three machines in the studio during productions. It was used to create a virtual set, including Antarctica, an ocean beach, and a scene in the midst of a hurricane.
Now the 7100 is being used to ingest hourly weather images and display them on the university cable system’s UM-WeatherTV.