Lots of hot news in this issue: Apple announces new Macs, Adobe announces PageMill 2.0, Specular announces 3D Web Workshop, Connectix ships the Color QuickCam, and you can download betas of Eudora Pro 3.0 and Internet Assistant for Microsoft Word 6. This issue also brings you information on a few compatibility problems with the System 7.5.3 update and a follow-up to Adam’s recent article about Internet chain mail.
It’s been an interesting few days. Last Thursday, my main Mac – a Centris 660AV – started to experience weird errors and crashes. I tried basic fixes first, repairing minor problems with Norton Disk Doctor and rebuilding desktops, but the problems worsened. Around midnight I gave up on recovering the drive, and focused on recovering the one file that would have been hell to recreate – the third part of the Bookmark Managers article. At 1:40 AM, I managed to recover the file, so I went to bed. Sleep merely refreshed me for Friday, when I tediously reformatted and tested the drive with different formatting applications, only to confirm my 1 GB drive was toast. A quick call to APS late on Friday afternoon started a 2 GB drive (and a matching 2 GB drive and CD-R burner I need for the next edition of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh) on their way to me for Saturday delivery. The drives arrived as promised, and I spent Sunday reformatting, repartitioning, and restoring from our nightly DAT backup with Retrospect. Luckily, all of those things take a long time but almost no attention, so I enjoyed the nice weather on Sunday, and (in the first major wildlife sighting since moving) met a bear while running in the woods behind our house. I’d like to thank the folks at APS for service above and beyond the call of duty, and also the folks at Dantz for Retrospect, which saved the day once again. [ACE]
Eudora Pro 3.0 Beta Available — Qualcomm has released a public beta of Eudora Pro 3.0 for owners of Eudora Pro 2.x. I’ve been using earlier test releases for a month or so now, and find the added features extremely welcome. My favorites include much-enhanced filters that can automatically forward or reply to email, a Reply With menu item that makes boilerplate replies easier, a completely new rich text editing environment that’s not limited to 32K (and supports drag & drop), and the capability to launch URLs (which display in blue) by double-clicking them. Other features abound, including multiple signatures, an improved Address Book, an improved Find dialog, and a configurable toolbar. As usual, some of the best parts of Eudora are the little touches, such as the feature that lets you can Option-click any cell in a mailbox to select all messages matching the value of that cell (useful for selecting all message from a certain person or with a certain subject). I also like being able to set mailboxes to group subjects, which is essential for handling high-volume mailing lists. If you use Eudora Pro 2.x and don’t mind using stable beta software, take a look. [ACE]
Apple Unveils Four New Power Macs, Upgrade Cards — Today Apple unveiled four new PowerPC 604-based Power Macs: the 9500/150, 8500/150, and 8500/132 (essentially faster versions of current 9500 and 8500 models), plus the Power Mac 7600/120. Apple is gearing the Power Mac 7600/120 at business and education users, and claims the machine runs up to twice as fast as the current 7500/100. All these new machines support processor speeds up to 200 MHz. Prices range from $4,800 for the 9500/150 down to $3,000 for the 7600/120. Apple also introduced a 120 MHz version of the Power Mac 7200 starting at $1,900.
Apple announced it expects to have 120 MHz and 132 MHz PowerPC 604-based upgrade cards for the Power Mac 7500/100, as well as logic board upgrades for the Power Mac 8500 and 7200 by this May, although the logic board upgrades will not come with a processor card, which presumably must be purchased separately. [GD]
New All-In-One Macs for Education — Last week Apple announced the Power Macintosh 5260/100 and 5400/120, which are specifically targeted at the education market. Both systems are all-in-one designs with a built-in monitor, quad-speed CD-ROM drive, 16 MB of RAM, and a PowerPC 603e processor. The 5400/120 also features PCI slots, a video input card and video-out connector, and an expansion bay for an optional TV tuner. The 5260/100 is available now for $1,700; the 5400/120 should be available in mid-May for about $2,300. [GD]
Apple PC Compatibility Cards for Power Macs — Apple has officially announced its next generation of PC Compatibility cards, designed to provide Windows and MS-DOS capability to PCI Power Macs. Two versions will be available: the 12-inch card sports a 100 MHz Pentium, and the 7-inch version uses an "entry level" 100 MHz 586 chip (a third-party x86-compatible chip) that’s roughly equivalent to a 75 MHz Pentium in performance. Both cards incorporate an ATI Mach64 video controller, game port, 16-bit Sound Blaster Pro support, and 8 MB RAM (upgradable to 72 MB). Prices for the stand-alone cards will range from $800 to $1,050; Apple is also introducing a Power Mac 7200/120 PC Compatible with either a 586 or Pentium card for $2,600 to $2,800 (a substantially better value). Both the cards and the 7200-based systems should be available in June. [GD]
Free Email, but not for Us — D. E. Shaw & Co., L.P. today launched Juno, a nationwide free email service sponsored by advertiser dollars, claiming the model used by free TV and radio stations ought to work on the Internet. The custom software and service will be free to the user; the software will display ads tailored to the user’s "member profile" while he or she reads and writes mail, and while messages are transferred via modem. (Users who aren’t within a local call of about 200 dialup numbers will be able to use an 800 number at no cost.) The new service currently lacks file attachment capability, but more importantly, it lacks a Macintosh version of the free software, which is required to access the service. The company claims it will consider developing a Mac version if there’s sufficient interest.
D. E. Shaw & Co — 800/654-5866 — <[email protected]>
Almost two years after bringing video input capability within financial reach of ordinary Mac users with its attractive, spherical QuickCam video camera, Connectix recently upped the ante with the new Color QuickCam, available shortly from dealers and mail-order firms for about $230. The new camera sports the familiar spherical eyeball form, and connects to a Macintosh via both a serial port and an ADB (keyboard and mouse) port. The ADB connection brings power to the camera; the connector has a pass-through port so users won’t lose an ADB port. Connectix is offering a $30 rebate to anyone purchasing a QuickCam through 31-Jul-96 (the camera currently comes with a rebate form).
The new unit’s color CCD (charged couple device) array can take color still images as large as 640 by 480 pixels at up to 24-bit color depth and provides higher frame rates than the original QuickCam: up to 15 frames per second (fps) at 320 by 240 resolution and 24 fps at 160 by 120 resolution (even faster on high-end Power Macs). Connectix engineers developed a new video compression technology to enable up to 16:1 real-time compression of the video stream being sent through the serial connection to the computer, so even mid-range Macs can handle video streams containing three times the raw data of similarly sized greyscale video images. Still, Connectix recommends a 68040-based Macintosh or a Power Macintosh for use with the Color QuickCam, since a slower computer may have trouble handling a color video stream.
Color-capable versions of the QuickPICT and QuickMovie utilities developed for the original QuickCam come with the Color QuickCam. The new QuickPICT, intended for taking still snapshots, includes a new Auto Capture feature that’s useful for automatic updating of images on a Web page, security spot checks, or similar tasks. (Visit the Connectix Web site to see a color snapshot of the obligatory company fish tank, updated once a minute.)
QuickPICT also has a timed snapshot feature with visual and audible countdowns, and the ability to expose a still image for a user-selectable number of seconds. [QuickPICT is also scriptable, but just barely. -Geoff]
The QuickMovie utility, for recording video streams to disk, lets users set frame size and rates to optimize the video quality of the finished product. It stores video in QuickTime movie format, requiring between 1 and 2 MB of disk space for ten seconds of 160 by 120 video. The new version of QuickMovie offers digital effects such as image mirroring and flipping so users can change the video orientation while recording.
[The new versions of QuickPICT and QuickMovie appear to work with the original QuickCam, but there’s no word on when (or how) Connectix might make the software available to current QuickCam owners. -Geoff]
Connectix says the new camera works well with their existing video software products, QuickCards and VideoPhone. QuickCards sells for around $30 and creates self-running multimedia presentations for use as floppy-based greeting cards. VideoPhone, about $60 by itself (also available as a bundle with an original QuickCam or a Color QuickCam), offers network videoconferencing for local network or Internet use. The software supports AppleTalk and TCP/IP protocols, and unlike Cornell University’s free CU-SeeMe utility (or White Pine’s new commercial version of the same program), has broadcast capability without the need for a Unix server. Both VideoPhone and White Pine’s Enhanced CU-SeeMe have a white board feature for collaboration.
The Color QuickCam lacks audio capture. Connectix included a microphone in the original QuickCam so even users of fairly low-end Macs could produce QuickTime movies complete with sound, but adding additional audio data to the Color QuickCam’s serial stream impeded the smooth flow of video. Since most current Macintosh models have built-in or included microphones (or at least microphone ports), Connectix decided not to compromise video quality to provide separate audio input.
As with the original QuickCam, the Color QuickCam is available for Macintosh first. A Windows version should be ready in about a month; happily we Mac users needn’t wait.
Connectix — 800/950-5880 — 415/571-5100 — 415/571-5195 (fax)
In TidBITS-318 Geoff reported on System 7.5.3, and in TidBITS-322 and TidBITS-323, I talked about how you might obtain the update. Reports I’ve seen suggest once you’ve successfully installed 7.5.3 you won’t encounter many compatibility problems. Even so, users of Connectix’s RAM Doubler and Speed Doubler, as well as Symantec’s AntiVirus for Macintosh may save themselves a great deal of hair-pulling by checking out the rest of this article.
Speed Doubler — Speed Doubler users running 7.5.3 must update to version 1.1.2, which is available via Connectix’s Web site. If you need a localized version, note that Connectix should start posting localized versions later this week.
RAM Doubler — If you run RAM Doubler on a 68K-based PowerBook (but not any PowerBook using a PowerPC chip) the machine is likely to experience Type 8 errors upon awakening from sleep. To avoid this particular problem, either disable RAM Doubler or try installing MacsBug 6.5.3, which – according to Connectix – blocks the problem.
In case you were wondering, MacsBug is a low-level programming debugger. It won’t fix bugs, but programmers use it to isolate bugs and there’s no harm in non-programmers using it. To install MacsBug, place it in your System Folder and restart. After that, other than a "Debugger Installed" message in the Welcome to Macintosh startup screen, you shouldn’t be able to tell that MacsBug is installed – it doesn’t have a control panel, put icons in your menubar, or anything like that. However, if you crash, you may be "dumped" into MacsBug, a black and white display with lots of numbers and low-level programming stuff. To recover from the crash, try these techniques, in this order:
Type g and press return. (G stands for Go.) In a few instances, this may return you to what you were doing.
If g doesn’t work, type es. (ES stands for Exit to Shell – it’s like Command-Option-Escape in System 7.x.) This might return you to the Finder. If it does, quickly save any unsaved work in other applications and restart normally.
If es doesn’t work, type rs. (RS stands for Restart.) This should restart the computer, though you won’t get to save any unsaved work.
If rs doesn’t work, do whatever you normally do when your Mac freezes (you might press a reset button or Command-Control-Power).
Getting back on topic, if you have RAM Doubler with System 7.5.3 on a 68040-based Macintosh (but not the 660AV or 840AV) you are likely to crash while copying files in the Finder. MacsBug won’t help with this problem, though Connectix plans to fix all these problems in the next release of RAM Doubler.
SAM — If you update to 7.5.3, run SAM, and receive an error message saying SAM can’t find its Virus Definitions file, you can solve the problem by updating to SAM 4.0.8. (Symantec recommends 4.0.8 for anyone running 7.5.2 or 7.5.3). A patcher is available at Symantec’s FTP site.
If the 7.5.3 Update has become an important part of your life, and you want to stay abreast of each and every incompatibility, you might monitor Julian Daniel’s 7.5.3 Tips site as well as Macworld News’s running list of 7.5.3 incompatibilities, by Roxanne Gentile.
I’ve been slightly remiss in reporting on Web authoring stuff lately, so I want to mention a few noteworthy recent events and also share some of the information in Adobe’s official announcement of PageMill 2.0.
Tables for BBEdit — If you use BBEdit for Web authoring and wish to create tables, don’t miss Stephen Marshall’s $5 shareware BBEdit HTML Tables version 1.0.1, which brings rather good table-making abilities to BBEdit. Although the extension doesn’t add a visual way to set up tables, it does facilitate typing table tags and it can also convert existing delimited text to tables.
PageSpinner — Another recent shareware entry, the $25 PageSpinner by Optima System, is well worth a look, especially if you want to learn HTML in a friendly and reasonably robust environment. I’ve almost completed a review, but – because Optima System may update PageSpinner in the next week or so, I haven’t finished.
PageMill 2.0 — In the commercial arena, the big news is Adobe’s announcement of PageMill 2.0, due to ship in July for both Macintosh and Windows, with similar feature sets in both versions, though the Windows version will sport a Windows interface. If all goes as planned, version 2.0 will fix many problems (see my review of PageMill 1.0 in TidBITS-305). In particular, the new version will support reasonably sophisticated tables within its WYSIWYG interface, including a toolbar button for quickly dragging out a table’s dimensions.
Adobe has identified serious HTML geeks as an audience that – although perhaps not their largest – is certainly their most vocal, and they have eliminated a number of technical annoyances, such as the <BR> problem and much (though not all) of PageMill’s tendency to rewrite existing HTML code, hopefully eliminating the problematic aspects of this behavior. The HTML exported by PageMill will also be more nicely formatted, making it easier to work with in a more powerful, text-based program, such as BBEdit or Nisus Writer.
If you purchase PageMill 1.0 on 22-Apr-96 or later, and register, you will be eligible for a free copy of PageMill 2.0.
3D Web Workshop — Graphically oriented Web authors may be especially interested in Specular’s announcement of 3D Web Workshop. Scheduled to ship on 15-May-96, 3D Web Workshop will integrate features available in Specular’s existing products LogoMotion and TextureScape with PageMill (presumably version 1.0, initially). The integration will help Web authors create and use animated logos and backgrounds for both background tiling and coloring other Web-ready graphics. 3D Web Workshop will also include WebHands, a large collection of Web-ready graphics. 3D Web Workshop should retail for $399, though if you own PageMill you can purchase a light version for $249.
Internet Assistant — Microsoft has released a public beta of Internet Assistant for Word 6 for Macintosh (the beta only works with the English language version of Word). Given that I don’t have Word 6 installed, I’m unlikely to spend time with the beta. However, I did see a demo of a slightly pre-beta version of the product, and the Microsoft employees who demoed the product emphasized that they see it as a way to make Web pages within the Microsoft Office environment, making it most handy for people already familiar with Office. In the demo, Internet Assistant appeared to have a strong and reasonably well thought-out feature set.
What twisted round and round in my mind as I drove home from the demo, though, was not the fact that Microsoft appeared to have done quite a good job on Internet Assistant. Instead, I found myself thinking about the fact that – not surprisingly – Microsoft has integrated Internet Explorer extensions into the product and has done nothing to help users differentiate the currently uncommon Explorer extensions from more commonly used proper HTML tags and Netscape extensions. Although this makes it easier for Microsoft to pitch the value of their products to large sites running intranets (internal miniature Internets) and standardizing on Word 6 along with Internet Explorer, it only adds to end-user confusion about which HTML options are likely to work in which browsers. The fact the people who gave me the demo seemed far more excited about intranets than concerned about end user confusion on the Internet suggests to me that Microsoft doesn’t yet fully understand what the Internet is all about.
My article on chain mail in TidBITS-324 elicited more responses than I’d anticipated. They fell into a couple of categories that I found interesting, and I thought I’d share some of the information with you.
Creative Responses — Several people wrote in with creative responses to chain mail messages. One group keeps a list of ten volunteers who are willing to receive chain mail messages from anyone within that organization who can’t bring themselves to break the chain of a "bad luck" message. Needless to say, those ten volunteers delete the messages to ensure that the chain goes no further, and the people who forward the mail don’t worry about a spate of bad luck.
There’s also a clever piece of chain mail that frees "its recipients from the need to send future chain-letters." I have no idea how effective it is, but it should confuse the superstitious types (what happens when you have one chain mail note promising good luck if you send it along, and another promising bad luck if you do?).
A number of people requested my boilerplate response to chain mail messages I receive. My impression is that many people feel uncomfortable informing the senders of chain mail of what they’ve done wrong, especially since people who forward chain mail seldom act out of spite. This bit of text is no masterpiece of prose, but feel free to use it as a reply to anyone who sends you chain mail.
"By forwarding that message to me, you have participated in electronic chain mail, which not only irritates everyone involved but is also an abuse of the Internet. You have allowed someone to exploit you for their purposes. Even worse, you have helped them exploit even more people and waste more time, bandwidth, disk space, and money. It’s bad enough to be a victim, but it’s worse to become an accessory. If everyone forwarded every piece of chain mail to the number of people requested, normal email delivery would grind to a halt, thanks to the exponential growth of chain mail. Please do not ever forward chain mail again."
Finally, Mark Horne <[email protected]> comments:
For chain letters that involve sending money via the U.S. Mail (which is illegal, and commonly referred to as a "ponzi" scheme), you can alert the United States Postal Service by sending a hard copy of the offending document to:
Postal Inspector In Charge
United States Postal Inspection Service
Operations Support Group
222 South Riverside Plaza
Chicago IL 60606-6100
They’ll investigate, send warning letters or take legal action as appropriate, and send you a letter explaining what transpired (it may take a long time, however).
What about worthy causes? Several readers wrote in to say they felt chain mail about worthy causes was justified in some instances. I feel there is no cause worthy enough to justify abusing the Internet via chain mail. Those that use chain mail to promote a cause risk far greater damage to their reputations. Using chain mail for worthy causes suffers from two basic problems.
First, even if the information in a piece of chain mail was accurate at one time, situations change. The classic piece of chain mail is the one that requests that postcards be sent to Craig Shergold, a dying boy in England. Guess what? Craig was cured, he’s quite a bit older now, and the postcards keep coming, overwhelming the local post office. Craig was a classic good cause, but chain mail turned his wish for postcards into a nightmare.
Second, there are without a doubt a ton of good causes. If they all decided to use chain mail in order to raise money or gain support, the Internet would be swamped. Then there’s the issue of differences in opinion – your good cause may be my anathema, and vice versa. Of course, once a good cause proved successful, how far behind would the con artists and scam mongers be? The only way to deal with chain mail is to stop it whenever it rears its head.
Worthy causes can use other tools available on the Internet to garner support. For instance, the Web is ideal for disseminating information. You can update a Web page with the latest information so what’s disseminated is never inaccurate. A Web page can also provide source information so people can check for themselves and decide if they agree with you. You can even collect names for an online petition on a Web form.
Identifying and Analyzing Chain Mail — I’d like to leave you with a few bits of advice on how to identify and analyze chain mail.
- Look for specifics, especially a cut-off date, a court case number, or an FCC docket number. Most chain mail doesn’t contain much specific information, because otherwise people would see that it was a hoax.
- Look for an authoritative source. Who is the message from originally? Who forwarded it to you? (Be wary if you don’t know the person who forwarded it.) Remember, it’s easy to forge email. Also, if the message doesn’t come with an email address or Web page from which you can get more information, it’s likely to be chain mail.
- Verify the situation. Recently there was a furor over a proposed newsgroup called rec.music.white-power. The first chain mail message I saw exhorting people to vote against the group didn’t contain the call for votes (CFV) and without the CFV, there was no way to tell when the voting would end. Research in DejaNews revealed the voting had been over for almost a month, but the results hadn’t been released. You must take everything with a grain of salt, but the more information you have, the better.
- Finally, don’t be gullible. Just because something appears in an email message doesn’t mean it’s true or has any bearing on reality. Think before you act and encourage others to do the same.