Gil Amelio announces a sweeping reorganization of Apple Computer, and Apple announces a contest for the best Mac-built pages on the Web. Also, check out details on why you aren’t seeing PowerBooks on store shelves, plus information on repair programs for Performas, a new CompuServe client for Newton 2.0, and TableWorks, a new WYSIWYG HTML table editor. Finally we round out the issue with news about an online course on cyberspace law, and a brief essay on being an Internet provider in a time of flood.
Amelio Announces Apple Reorganization — Following through on his promise to reorganize the company, Apple CEO Gil Amelio last week announced a host of structural changes effective 01-Jun-96. Broadly speaking, the changes set up the majority of Apple’s product, marketing, and sales functions into a series of distinct profit-and-loss centers reporting to Macro Landi (former head of Apple Europe, Middle East, and Africa). New supervisors, drawn from within Apple, will run each unit. Concurrently, Jim Buckley, president of Apple Americas, resigned to pursue other interests. [GD]
Cyberspace Law for Non-Lawyers — If you’ve wondered about legal issues that relate to the Internet and wondered about the validity of free legal advice from people who play lawyers on the net, check out a free electronic course being presented by the Cyberspace Law Institute and Counsel Connect. It starts today and will be run via email at the rate of three messages per week. The mailing list is one-way only, but its Web site provides a discussion area. The course covers six areas of law: copyright, privacy, trademark, libel, free expression, and contracting. The course does focus on United States law but still might interest folks in other countries. To subscribe, send email to <[email protected]> with the command "subscribe cyberspace-law Your Name" in the body of the message. [ACE]
LeVitus Leaves Power Computing — Power Computing announced last week that evangelist Bob LeVitus has left Power Computing to devote more time to his writing career. Bob is an established Macintosh author, with about 20 computer books to his credit, in addition to columns for MacUser and other publications. Bob joined Power Computing a little over a year ago as Director of Evangelism. [GD]
Digital Technology Buys FaceSpan — Digital Technology International has purchased the interface design and application development tool FaceSpan from Software Designs Unlimited. FaceSpan is an interface builder for Mac OSA languages (like AppleScript and UserTalk) used to build user interfaces with windows, dialogs, and other functionality that’s not normally built into the languages. Digital Technology has indicated it plans to pursue FaceSpan development aggressively (starting with a version 2.1 update on 01-Jul-96), including plans for OpenDoc and cross-platform capabilities. [GD]
Win Prizes for Web Pages — Interested in winning a QuickTake digital camera? How about a "Been There, Done That" Apple t-shirt? If you’ve created a home page using a Macintosh and are willing to write a short essay, be sure to enter Apple’s new "Create the Best Page with Macintosh" contest. The contest has four categories and each category winner will receive a QuickTake. The categories are: Personal/Family, K-12 Education, Higher Education, and Business. Apple will use four criteria in judging the pages: overall design, originality, best use of technologies (i.e. QuickTime), and essay persuasiveness. The deadline for sending in your entry by email (to <[email protected]>) is no later than 15-Jul-96. Unfortunately, the contest is restricted to U.S. residents; I hope to see future contests held on a world-wide basis. [TJE]
Amid little apparent fanfare, Apple released its free CompuServe Mail Software for Newton 2.0 client last week. This software has been anticipated since Apple announced plans to discontinue eWorld (see TidBITS-318), resulting in many disgruntled Newton MessagePad users who had relied on eWorld for Newton email connectivity.
CompuServe Mail Software for Newton 2.0 can be considered a replacement for the eWorld mail software built into the Newton OS 2.0 ROMs. As distributed by Apple, the software weighs in at a little over 700K and consists of two functional files: the CISmail Newton package itself and documentation in Adobe Acrobat format.
The CISmail package installs like any other Newton software package. Using the Newton Backup Utility included with the MessagePad, choose the Install Package icon to load the CIS mail client into your PDA. On installation it leaves a 97K icon, which resembles a cube, in the Extensions folder of the Extras Drawer. It also adds CompuServe mailing functionality to your MessagePad: wherever a choice for eWorld appears on a menu, you’ll now also see a choice for CompuServe, and the CompuServe client’s functions are completely integrated into the Newton operating system.
Functionally, CISmail operates much like the eWorld mail software it replaces, though with a few striking omissions. Operating through eWorld, you could send "ink text," sketches, and software packages across the Internet, at least to other Newton 2.0 users. Unfortunately, CISmail doesn’t permit this; instead, you’re restricted to text-based notes and items from the Names file, Datebook, and Calls applications. Fortunately, though, the client works as advertised. Using a Megahertz 14.4 CruiseCard PC modem, I have successfully sent and received multiple email messages using my MessagePad through my CompuServe account.
What happens if you don’t have a CompuServe account? Catamount software offers Aloha 2.2.4, which enables AOL users to exchange mail between their MessagePads and the Internet through the AOL online service. Version 1.1 of Aloha also works with MessagePads that can’t run Newton OS 2.0, although both versions are a little pricey at $50.
Though the CompuServe Mail Software for Newton 2.0 is an important package for the functionality of the MessagePad system, I can’t help but see it as merely regaining ground that had been lost by Apple. Years after the MessagePad’s introduction, the dream of having it function as a portable communications device is still largely unrealized, and CISmail does little to advance that vision. However, if you travel a good deal and previously used eWorld to maintain communications with people via your MessagePad, this client might be your most cost effective solution for the foreseeable future.
If you can’t get to the software online, you can acquire a copy of CompuServe Mail Software for Newton 2.0 by calling the Apple Assistance Fulfillment Center at 800/211-1537.
TidBITS-326 reviewed of several utilities for making Web-ready tables and talked a bit about why you’d want such a utility, but the issue was slightly too early to mention TableWorks 1.0r2, a WYSIWYG table editor from SoftTools. TableWorks strikes me as a promising young utility, and I recently spent some time playing with it, enjoying the exercise of creating a table without even thinking about HTML tags.
Upon launch, TableWorks offers an area to fill in the title of a Web page and a blank area where you create tables. You control TableWorks either through menus or keyboard shortcuts, and TableWorks offers a friendly face on a wide range of commands for creating tables.
You can set up cells that span more than one row or column, resize cells by dragging their edges, change the border width, set cell padding and cell spacing, and more. These visual changes show nicely onscreen, with far fewer display oddities than I’ve seen in other programs that attempt a visual table editing environment, programs such as Miracle Software’s World Wide Web Weaver and SoftQuad’s HoTMetaL Pro. TableWorks shows a good approximation of what your table will look like in Netscape 2.0, with nary an HTML tag in sight.
TableWorks table cells can be either text cells or picture cells. A picture cell can contain only a graphic, and TableWorks provides a nice dialog for setting up the graphic. Such a graphic can also be set up to link to another URL. Text cells contain text. You can also make a text cell link to another URL, but the entire text of the cell must be part of the link.
TableWorks’ Save and Copy HTML features don’t turn on until after you register and pay the $39.95 registration fee ($54.95 in Canada). In my testing, TableWorks put out clean HTML, which you could easily paste into any HTML authoring program. Because TableWorks will appeal particularly to people using Adobe PageMill (a visual tool for creating Web pages), I should mention that you can paste into PageMill and simply format the resulting mass of HTML as Raw HTML. (PageMill 2.0 should offer table editing features, but its release may be slightly delayed from Adobe’s original projection of July.)
TableWorks comes with useful documentation, which – if you try TableWorks – I recommend you spend five or ten minutes reading. The documentation reads as if it were translated into English, but it is understandable and it conveys a friendly, helpful tone.
A somewhat personal problem that I ran into with TableWorks is that I know Word 5 extremely well, and I missed some of Word’s shortcuts for working quickly in tables, especially Option-clicking to select a column. Word also offers a number of ways to select rows, cells, and portions of cells, depending on specific locations and appearances of the pointer combined with clicks and double-clicks. I’m not suggesting that SoftTools should duplicate Word’s specific control mechanisms, but I did miss some of the subtle ways of selecting in a table that Word offers.
I’m pleased to see TableWorks because it provides one of the best visual tools currently available for making HTML tables. Even so, TableWorks feels very much like the 1.0 release that it is. For instance, selecting an entire table darkens the document margins, not the table; there’s no way to change the default font size from the rather small Times 12; and I’d like to see TableWorks add a smattering of basic formatting tags or the ability to enter HTML tags within the table. SoftTools plans to add an undo feature and to enable the Split Cell command in version 1.0.1.
I work for an Internet provider called Teleport Internet Services, based in Portland, Oregon, with points of presence throughout Oregon and southwest Washington. I don’t know how wide coverage was, but a few months ago record flooding was saturating Portland and (to a greater extent) the many smaller towns throughout Oregon and Washington. I felt it might be helpful to share some of our experiences with the floods, what we learned, and how we dealt with things during the emergency. I don’t intend any sort of solicitation or horn touting for Teleport; I’m just one person sharing experiences for the betterment of all.
First, a little background. Teleport Internet Services is located in downtown Portland, four blocks from the Willamette River. (Portland itself straddles the Willamette where it joins the Columbia.) Our network connections come from SprintNet, Structured, MCI, and RainNet. We house our T1 lines and phone lines, along with other equipment, in a basement. We’re the largest Internet provider in Oregon, with have roughly 17,000 subscribers.
When the floods came, the Willamette River was projected to crest above the seawall that protects downtown. If water entered the basement, we would be out of service for who knows how long before US West could repair or reinstall our T1 lines, phone lines, and so on. Needless to say, it was a tense situation. We were intent on operating until the last moment possible. One of the first things that seemed important was to get the insurance claim process underway in the background before anything happened. If disaster did strike, every insurance claim agent in the state would be back-logged for the next year, and it would be doubly disastrous for us to be offline for a long time.
Then we made the Web our focus. Almost all or our users use our home page as their default page, and many people turn to it for current information. First, we put up a notice that we might be going down. Then we changed the outgoing message on our voicemail to reflect the emergency conditions. We compiled a list of current flood news and links on the top of the home page, and we worked closely with emergency crews and the city to post the most recent emergency instructions and requests for volunteers, sandbags, and other supplies. In case we went down, we made arrangements to inform the news media, so they could list us with other outages and cancellations, much as they do for schools, colleges, and large businesses. In general, we tried to post current information about which roads were closed, which areas were flooded, and so on.
Then the emergency agencies began telling people to stay off the phones because the phone system infrastructure couldn’t handle the load as many people tried to call 911 or other numbers. So we put a prominent notice on our home page that basically said "GET OFF THE INTERNET!" (What a strange thing for an Internet provider to say.) We had some internal debate as to whether we should shut down entirely to free up phone line bandwidth for emergency calls, or stay online for people using the net as a resource for flood information. We choose to stay online, and we were lucky in the end, because the city of Portland came together and built a wall on top of the existing seawall. In addition, the river crested below the predicted level, leaving downtown Portland untouched, though covered with sandbags.
In the end, we became fully aware of our role as an information provider and a means for distributing current information. During the emergency, organization within the company became extremely important, as did communication with emergency agencies. Our Web team established many ties that weren’t in place before, and those ties will benefit us all the next time around. Perhaps most importantly, pulling together to fight the flood became an excellent opportunity for building community, something that many local Internet providers must emphasize as they struggle to compete with the Baby Bells, cable companies, and national Internet providers. Heck, we even got pictures as some of our crew went outside to pose with sandbags on their lunch breaks. The flood opened many people’s eyes and helped them see how the Internet can become as essential as television or radio; it also made us realize how helpless we (and everyone else) would have been if Mother Nature had flooded downtown Portland.
Covering Macintosh hardware is not one of TidBITS’ current strong points. Though we generally try to mention new and noteworthy Macintosh models and the occasional nifty gadget, we rarely do hardware reviews or evaluations. First, as a small virtual organization without a well-defined location, we don’t have the necessary resources to devote to extensive hardware testing. If we buy something with our own money and are pleased with it, we may write a review or article.
Second, hardware is complicated. If you think it’s difficult to find your way through the maze of system and application software, betas, updates, and utilities, just try keeping track of hardware issues. For most users, hardware is magic. It just works. If it doesn’t, we usually fill ourselves with righteous indignation, complain loudly, and write letters to the editor. But the reality of the hardware world is at least as complicated as the software world; usually more so. So, without further ado, lets take a look at three hardware issues that have cropped up recently – just to get a look at the Dark Side.
Epoxy on Thee — Although these events transpired many months ago (which is ancient history as computers go), the case of the mysterious problems and crashes some customers experienced with Power Computing’s Power 120 desktop units serve as a good illustration of the complexities of computer manufacturing. Since TidBITS still gets email about this problem, some details seem in order.
The situation started as early as November of last year, as users occasionally reported random crashes with (then) new Power 120 machines, often in combination with odd video artifacts when moving items and windows. These symptoms are classic indications of a heat problem with the CPU chip (in this case, a 120 MHz PowerPC 601), and although Power Computing accepted the units for repair (and began shipping fans to affected customers), they didn’t know what the cause of the problem was.
As it turned out, the problems experienced by some Power 120 users had nothing to do with the engineering of the machines, or some obscure software bug that only affected Mac clones. The trouble stemmed from a bad batch of epoxy glue used to attach heat sinks to the processors on some Power 120s. (Heat sinks are metal fins attached to processors to conduct and dissipate heat.) The bad epoxy eventually dried out, reducing the effectiveness of the heat sink, which caused the processors to overheat. Before you ask, no, determining whether a batch of epoxy glue is defective isn’t simple. Epoxy is ubiquitous in industry and manufacturing, and it’s not exactly a high-tech item: computer manufacturers buy epoxy like painters buy paint.
If you purchased a Power 120 before 15-Jan-96 and are experiencing frequent crashes and monitor problems, contact Power Computing technical support at 800/769-5833. Please note the symptoms should appear within a month or so of use, so if you’ve been using a Power 120 without experiencing these problems, you don’t have to worry.
Apple Repair Extension Programs — In recent weeks, Apple has announced two repair extension programs, one for 5200, 5300, 6200, and 6300-series Performas and LCs, and the other for the PowerBook 5300-series and the PowerBook 190 series. These programs are often described by users (and in some industry press) as recalls, but I find recalls a somewhat misleading term because it is generally used to indicate a customer recall, wherein a manufacturer contacts all known customers in order to repair or replace defective or dangerous products. (This sort of action is rather common in the U.S. automobile industry.) Another type of recall, a dealer recall, happens when dealers either repair or return unsold units, but units that have been sold remain in customers’ hands. At one time or another almost every major computer manufacturer has issued a dealer recall. Apple’s two programs are dealer recalls, combined with seven-year waranty extension programs (which Apple’s calling "repair extensions") so customers who experience specific, known problems will be able to have their machines serviced for the foreseeable future.
Although Apple has been very public about the situation – even setting up mailing lists to keep customers informed – judging from email to TidBITS and threads in online forums, misinformation about the repair extension programs abounds. Further, Apple customers – particularly those looking for a new PowerBook – have been frustrated by empty shelves and dealers who say they have no idea when PowerBooks may be back in stock. Also, users who have their PowerBooks in for service have been waiting for weeks – even months – for Apple to deliver parts to dealers so their machines can be repaired. What’s going on?
PowerBook 5300 and 190 Series — Apple’s repair extension program for the PowerBook 5300 and 190 series addresses a set of well-defined problems. The PowerBook 5300s are probably most famous for the "burning PowerBook" incident (see TidBITS-295), and I’ve seen a lot of speculation this repair extension program is connected. Fortunately, that’s not true: these problems are unrelated, and there’s no safety issue with these PowerBooks.
The PowerBook 190 and 5300 series Repair Extension Program addresses the following problems (note that these problems are not common; just because you have one of these machines doesn’t mean you have a problem):
- Cracked and separated plastic casings at the base of the PowerBook screen.
- Problems connecting the PowerBook’s AC adapter, and longer boot times with 5300s when starting up using the AC adapter.
- Freezes in 5300s when using expansion bay devices in conjunction with PC Cards.
- Problems with the PowerBook 5300s dropping off LocalTalk networks.
If you encounter these problems, contact your Apple dealer, or (if you live in the United States) try calling Apple at 800/767-2775 to schedule repairs.
The cracked casing problem is an instance of form not entirely coping with function. Essentially, laptop users want small, sleek, lightweight designs they can drop off tables with impunity. Unfortunately, the design in the PowerBook 5300 and 190 series doesn’t seem up the to strain many users put on it, and the result is cracking and separation of the plastic bezel. This isn’t to say all separated cases are the results of falls, but there’s an inherent trade-off between lightweight design and durability.
The problem with simultaneous use of a PC Card and an expansion bay device (like a floppy disk or a magneto-optical drive) relates to power consumption and may occur when you use a PC Card with a high power draw simultaneously with an expansion bay device that also draws a lot of power. Apple’s repair consists of a new motherboard. The new motherboard changes also should fix the problem of PowerBook 5300s dropping off LocalTalk networks.
Troubles with the AC power connectors becoming separated are hardly restricted to PowerBooks; in fact, many electronics devices that use AC power adapters (like camcorders) suffer from similar problems because the power connectors are merely soldered to a circuit board rather than anchored against the unit’s casing or chassis. Nonetheless, it’s no fun if it happens to you, and Apple’s motherboard replacement should correct the problem, although it’s unclear whether there are engineering changes to make the connector more reliable. Apple is also adding shielding to improve hard disk performance; presumably this better protects the disk from some sort of interference.
Though I have not received official confirmation, it appears Apple will append "/B" to serial numbers of updated units, so when you see PowerBook 190s or 5300s in stores, you can look at the serial number in order to determine whether the machines have been updated. I’ve heard rumors that a few dealers have received corrected PowerBooks back from Apple, I’ve also heard estimates are that it will be two to four more weeks before these PowerBook models are widely available.
Do these problems indicate a fundamental quality problem at Apple? Do the suggest that Apple is about to go under? Though these problems don’t help Apple, these issues are typical within the laptop industry. In the PC laptop world, such problems usually merit a simple dealer repair advisory, rather than a public (and costly) repair and warranty extension program. Reputable computer manufacturers like Compaq, NEC, and IBM have all had laptops that caught on fire while in customer’s hands, or had processors get so hot they literally melted out onto the laps of users. Compared to incidents like that, Apple’s PowerBook quality has been remarkably good.
Performas and LCs — Apple’s Repair Extension Program for the 5200, 5300, 6200, and 6300 series machines is designed to correct two problems.
- Sudden and intermittent changes in monitor hue and color in 5200 and 5300-series machines. (This problem is caused by a bad cable.)
- System freezes
In both cases, Apple dealers do the repairs rather than sending the Macs back to Apple, and dealers should have information and parts for the repairs. If you experience these problems, contact an Apple dealer.
However, it can be difficult to determine if system freezes you’re experiencing are caused by a faulty machine because since so many things can cause a freeze. According to Apple, the problems stem from "specific, known component issues that have been identified by Apple" – a fancy way of saying there are known motherboard problems.
According to MacWEEK, the difficulties stem from component issues with ROM, cache, and clock chips; unconfirmed reports cite problems with a particular non-Apple component manufacturer and hint these problems may also be responsible for Open Transport 1.1 not working on these Macintoshes. (Open Transport 1.1.1, described as a bug fix release, is reportedly nearing beta, and Apple will soon distribute it to selected developers. It may work with these Performa and LC models.)
Apple will repair for free any machines exhibiting the problems Apple has identified, and the program will be in place for seven years. However, if a crashing problem has some other root cause, Apple dealers won’t necessarily identify and correct the problem for free, so do your own troubleshooting before taking your machine in.
- Power Computing
- Apple Computer