Tune in this week for important news about an upcoming change to our mailing list, plus news of Apple’s third quarter results, Power Computing’s speedy new Macs, Speed Doubler 1.3, and HyperCard 2.3.5. Additional articles cover a variety of Internet server software announced at Mactivity, the WYSIWYG Web authoring tool golive, and rumours about upcoming Macs from Apple.
Small Apple Loss Better Than Expected — Last week, Apple released financial results for its third quarter of 1996, recording a loss of $32 million. Though $32 million is a lot of money, it’s important to note that Wall Street was expecting Apple to post a loss three to ten times larger than that, although Apple fudged its balance sheet a bit through a one-time sale of holdings in America Online and another one-time tax benefit. Nonetheless, the numbers caused many brokerage firms to upgrade their ratings of Apple stock, and confidence in Apple’s new management seems to be growing, though Apple is careful to point out it doesn’t expect to return to profitability until the second quarter of 1997. Nonetheless, it appears BusinessWeek’s recent pronouncements of Apple’s death may have been slightly exaggerated (see TidBITS-312). [GD]
Power Computing Announces High-End 604e-based Macs — Power Computing has announced its new PowerTower Pro line, the first computers to feature the PowerPC 604e processor. The PowerTower Pros are aimed squarely at the high end of the Mac market, with six PCI slots, nine expansion bays, eight interleaved DIMM slots, and blazing clock speeds of 180, 200, and 225 MHz. The machines also feature 1 MB of Level 2 cache, an 8x CD-ROM drive, 16 to 32 MB of RAM, an IMS Twin Turbo 128-bit video card with 8 MB of VRAM, and a 10 MB per second internal Fast SCSI bus. With prices ranging from $4,200 for a basic PowerTower Pro 180 to $6,300 for a fully-loaded PowerTower Pro 225 with an AV card and built-in Iomega Jaz drive, these machine aren’t for users on a budget, but could be perfect for people who live for disk- and processor-intensive tasks such as animation, video editing, scientific visualization, and engineering.
Power Computing also announced that CPU upgrade cards based on the PowerPC 604 and 604e will be available in September for owners of existing PowerTower, PowerCenter, PowerWave, and PowerCurve systems, with speeds ranging from 132 to 200 MHz. To qualify for ordering a processor upgrade card, you must call Power Computing and provide your machine’s serial number. Prices range from $400 to $1,200. [GD]
Power Computing — 512/388-6868 — 800/999-7279 —
Speed Doubler 1.3 — Connectix has released Speed Doubler 1.3, a maintenance release containing fixes for Speed Emulator and (particularly) Speed Copy. Speed Copy now has improved overall performance, better response over slow connections (like ARA), compatibility with Asante’s NetDoubler, and fixes for a number of other interface problems and bugs (such as a crash involving copying with an open control panel). Connectix recommends all Speed Doubler owners upgrade to version 1.3; updaters are available online for free, or registered users can receive the updater on a floppy for $10. [GD]
Connectix — 415/571-5195 — 800/950-5880
HyperCard 2.3.5 Updater — Apple has finally released an updater to version 2.3.5 of HyperCard, catching up with the previous releases of version 2.3.5 of some HyperCard stacks and the HyperCard Player. The update to HyperCard itself fixes cosmetic and performance problems, and a long-standing bug with saving some colorized stand-alone stacks. Two updaters are available: one just for HyperCard, and one for HyperCard and the updated stacks. The updated stacks and the HyperCard Player are also available separately; the following URL points to the directory where all these items can be found. [GD]
Consider this an alert from your TidBITS early warning system. Sometime in the next few weeks, we’re going to move the TidBITS mailing list from the LISTSERV at Rice University to a Power Mac 7100/80 running ListSTAR/SMTP and FileMaker Pro 3.0 with some glue provided by other tools and applications. As with the Apple Workgroup Server that runs our Web server, mail server, and other Internet services, the new machine will physically live at the offices of our friends at Point of Presence Company and use their T1 line. We’re hoping to have the new machine up and running within the next week, and we’ll probably send out a short test message at that point. Shortly thereafter we’ll distribute the first issue via ListSTAR.
We’re eternally grateful to Rice University and Mark Williamson there for hosting our extremely large mailing list for so long. However, all things must pass, and Rice is moving their mailing lists off the IBM mainframe that runs the LISTSERV program so they can shut down that machine. In the process, they’re also limiting the lists they run to local lists, which means that TidBITS and Info-Mac must find new homes (Info-Mac doesn’t currently have a move plan in place).
We looked at a couple of options, but the problem with the TidBITS list is that it’s at about 40,000 people and can grow by up to 1,500 people per month during busy times. Even though we only send one message a week, that’s still a significant load. More significant, however, are the administrative tasks of handling subscription commands, bounces, and other errant mail; based on our experiences with the 6,400-person DealBITS list, we believe we’ll receive bounced messages from 1 to 2 percent of our subscribers every week. With DealBITS that means 60 to 120 messages bounced each week; with TidBITS it means 400 to 800 bounces. Our hope is that we’ll be able to automate much of the bounce handling; we already have some code to do this sort of thing for DealBITS bounces, and we plan to leverage that for TidBITS as well.
Bringing the list home and running it ourselves will certainly be more work, but it also provides an additional level of control and flexibility. For instance, last week’s issue was a day late because an SMTP mailer at Rice ran out of resources. All we knew was that the issue hadn’t gone out; it wasn’t until late in the day on Tuesday that Mark Williamson managed to take a look and let us know that we needed to send the issue again. Being physically closer to the machine should remove some of that uncertainty.
In addition, the FileMaker database back-end that Geoff has written for ListSTAR should enable us to run more lists. We’ve had requests over the years for a variety of different lists, ranging from a short announcement of the availability of each issue to distribution lists for TidBITS translations issues. I can’t promise that we’ll have time to set all these up right away, but we’ve kept those additional lists (HTML in email has been another popular request) in mind while designing the system.
We will of course support the most common LISTSERV commands at the address <[email protected]>, but we plan to rely primarily on the technique we use for DealBITS, with the <[email protected]> and <[email protected]> addresses for subscribing and unsubscribing. We’ve found that those specialized addresses are far less prone to user error than subscription and unsubscription commands sent to the mailing list manager address. So, subscribing and unsubscribing to TidBITS (which is also what you do to change addresses) will be a matter of sending email to <[email protected]> and <[email protected]>.
Finally, I have a request for all of you. This is not going to be an easy technical task, and although we believe that we’ve covered our bases, there’s no telling what could happen. The TidBITS list will be one of the largest mailing lists handled by ListSTAR, and we’re relying on FileMaker and other tools as well. Being technically cynical people, we’re sure that something will go wrong at some point. Here’s where you come in: We’ll know when something has gone wrong, so please don’t send us mail asking if an issue’s late, or telling us you got two copies of an issue, or anything along those lines. If something has blown up in our faces, we’ll be very much aware of it and busy fixing the problem. Trying to answer basic status queries will only slow us down. Thanks for your understanding and patience!
Last week we wrote about a couple of new programs that were announced for the Mactivity show down in San Jose last week. That was just the tip of the iceberg, though, and we’ve looked at a number of other announcements in the meantime.
LogDoor Clarification — First, a clarification from last week. I implied that LogDoor, from Open Door Networks, only worked with the company’s HomeDoor product. That’s not so; LogDoor works with any WebSTAR server to provide real-time logs. If you use HomeDoor, LogDoor can provide statistics on the different sites you support; if you don’t run HomeDoor, LogDoor works equally well at providing the real-time statistics for individual folders within your WebSTAR hierarchy.
Sonic Servers — Sonic Systems introduced a suite of Internet servers that you can use together or separately. The suite includes an email server, an FTP server, a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server, a DNS server, and a Web server, all of which you configure and manage via a single program called InterManage that works over a network or the Internet. The email server supports SMTP and POP3, APOP security, and mail forwarding, and provides another mail server alternative besides Apple Internet Mail Server and CommuniGate. The FTP server can handle multiple simultaneous users and uses System 7 Users & Groups to define access restrictions. It supports BinHex and MacBinary file transfers and can resolve aliases. The DHCP server dynamically assigns IP numbers and other configuration information to Macs (running Open Transport), Windows 95, Windows NT, and Unix client machines. The DNS server, providing competition for QuickDNS Pro, MacDNS, and NonSequitur, supports load balancing and can act as either a primary or secondary name server. Finally, the Web server claims to be able to handle an unlimited number of simultaneous hits, has built-in security, and supports all current Macintosh CGIs. The first server costs $495, with each additional server costing $199.
Village Compass Bundle — Not to be upstaged by Sonic’s suite of Internet servers, a group of developers has banded together to offer a large number of Internet server-related programs at the significant discount of $1,475 (street price of the separate programs would be about $3,800). In addition, the group offers discounts on some additional, less-essential programs that customers might want.
The bundle centers around MDG Computer Service’s just-released 4th Dimension-based Web server, Web Server 4D 1.0.1 and includes eighteen programs with discounts on seven additional programs. See the URL below for a complete list.
The Village Compass Bundle is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the pricing is only good for a few weeks. At that point, the bundle will be re-evaluated and adjusted. The second round of bundle will debut at Macworld Boston and sell through 01-Dec-96, and a third round is slated to appear on 02-Jan-97. The goal of these short availabilities is to adjust for the constantly changing Internet server market. Second, three of the optional programs, DNEWS for NT (a Mac version is in progress), NTMail, and NTList, require Windows NT, whereas the rest of the bundle is all Macintosh-based.
Web Paging — Mark/Space Softworks released PageNOW/Web, a Web interface to alphanumeric pagers. The $695 PageNOW/Web requires a Web server and PageNOW Workgroup or Enterprise Edition, and enables anyone to visit a URL, pick a recipient, and type in a message to be sent to that recipient’s pager. You probably wouldn’t want to make the access page available to the world, but it’s a great interface to pagers that users can access from anywhere on the Internet.
More Web Servers — Quarterdeck’s WebSTAR may be the most popular Macintosh Web server, but the release of MDG’s Web Server 4D and now ResNova’s Boulevard and PWS show that other companies haven’t conceded the market. The $395 Boulevard and $39 PWS share many features, including CGI and ACGI support, WebSTAR API support for WebSTAR plug-ins, built-in image map handling, and automatic form processing. Boulevard adds high-end features, such a three-tiered caching scheme for high performance, activity graphs, remote monitoring and configuration, and a setup assistant. PWS, in contrast, concentrates on personal Web server features, such as a simple control panel interface, a personalized home page that doesn’t require knowing HTML, on-the-fly styled text to HTML conversion, and a message box where visitors can leave messages for the owner. PWS is optimized to run in the background and use relatively little memory, which makes it a step in the direction I outlined in my article about personal Web servers in TidBITS-316.
Although some Web authors have settled down happily with programs like BBEdit, PageSpinner, and PageMill, others are still seeking the Holy Grail of the perfect Web authoring program. Golive 1.0.1, a $49 program from gonet, isn’t at Holy Grail level, but it’s worth a look, especially for those who like the WYSIWYG approach of PageMill, but want a broader range of features.
Golive isn’t for folks using older Macintoshes. It requires a 68040- or PowerPC-based Mac running System 7.5 or later. Although golive will run in 4 MB on a 68K Macintosh and in 5 MB on a Power Mac, gonet recommends that you run it with an 8 MB RAM allocation. You also need at least a 4-bit grayscale or 8-bit color monitor.
Editing mavens may be wondering about the capitalization of gonet and golive – they’re meant to be all lowercase. In both cases, I’ve chosen to capitalize them when they begin sentences. Gonet spells golive with a blue "go" and yellow "live," and repeats these shades throughout golive’s toolbars, palettes, icons, and dialog boxes.
A Pretty Face — Golive’s interface invites you to settle down for a pleasant authoring session in a calm, appropriately colorful, and well-organized environment. The toolbar is one of the best I’ve seen – the buttons are grouped by function with plenty of space between groups, and they use color sparingly. You can leave the toolbar at the upper left of the screen or drag it to any location. The dialog boxes are well-formed, with clearly labeled controls. The interface will make friends due to its lack of quirks that require banging your head against a wall or careful manual reading to figure out.
Smarts Under the Hood — Golive is completely WYSIWYG and geared toward Netscape 2.0. The documentation explains this in an up-front manner and recommends that you test your pages in other browsers to make sure they look okay. Given that single-minded design decision, in my testing, golive did an good job in implementing Netscape 2.0 HTML, and golive supports a great number of the tags supported by Netscape 2.0, including font colors and sizes as well as custom horizontal rules. Notable failures include no table support, and some unpredictability in creating entities for high-ASCII characters, though golive does convert such characters far more often than not.
If you open an existing HTML document into golive, golive will alter its tags. I experienced particular troubles with <P> and <BR> tags being added and eliminated in undesired ways, and I saw cases where golive didn’t import the same document in the same way twice. Golive also ignored the last ten lines at the end of a relatively short document. The program appears to be careful with table tags; in my testing, it not only did a good job with importing them intact, it also formatted them as "Pure HTML" and displayed them as red text. You can type HTML tags directly into golive and format those tags as Pure HTML, though golive offers no macro or glossary functions for speeding the insertion of such tags.
If Netscape frames are your thing, you’ll find golive’s implementation usable, though it takes a little experimenting to understand that golive displays two versions of a page – one that will appear in browsers showing frames and one that will display in browsers not showing frames. Golive also features extensive support for creating form interfaces, though not for creating form CGIs or for testing forms to see what names and values would be sent to a CGI if the form were filled out in a particular way. Golive supports only one form per Web page. Golive does a nice job with helping you create the <APPLET> and <EMBED> tags for Java applets and plug-ins. It specifically helps create the attributes for QuickTime, QuickDraw 3D, and Shockwave plug-ins and with generic plug-in support.
You can hook golive to one Web browser and use that browser to preview your work as it will appear on the Web. You must set up a preferred browser by hand; golive doesn’t support Internet Config.
When it comes to text editing, golive has little to offer except for a reasonably intelligent Find feature. When it comes to site editing, golive offers a Project window, though its features are limited. The Project window helps you identify relative links errors and gain an overview of what files are used in a site, but it doesn’t automatically display files saved from golive; instead you must drag them in from the Finder. Likewise, external links don’t appear automatically; instead, you must add them by hand. You cannot use the Project window to repair damaged links.
Another quibble with golive is that it uses a default font of Times 12-point. Golive should let the user set the default font – many people cannot work in Times 12-point for long without experiencing eye fatigue.
Graphics and Image Maps — Golive imports PICT, GIF, or JPEG images, and it displays them in your document as they will appear on the Web. Gonet hasn’t quite worked out the ALIGN=LEFT and ALIGN=RIGHT options for graphics, and graphics using these options don’t display correctly in golive, though they do display correctly in Netscape and should display correctly in golive 1.1. You cannot change the shape or size of imported images or edit them. Once you’ve imported an image, you can store it in golive’s Gallery, which works much like the Mac’s Scrapbook.
Golive sports a nice environment for creating image maps (NCSA or CERN), complete with options to help you better see what you are doing. You can optionally reduce or enlarge your view of an image while you work with it; view differently mapped areas with differently colored, translucent overlays; and show link URLs on top of their corresponding mapped areas.
Wrap-Up — Golive is a fairly good program for novice and amateur Web authors who have no intention of learning HTML and don’t wish to use golive’s higher end features, like frames and plug-ins. Golive’s clearly written documentation gets you started nicely, but assumes – particularly with the higher end tags – that you know how they work behind the scenes. If you didn’t know HTML, I think you’d find setting up options like frames and plug-ins frustrating, if not impossible. According to gonet’s technical support, golive 1.1 will ship with a more detailed manual.
Golive is a good choice for experienced and professional Web authors who need to mock-up layouts, especially if they are designing primarily for Netscape users and can create tables in a different tool. To some degree, complete, professional Web pages can be created in golive. Given the choice of PageMill 1.x or golive 1.0.1, I’d recommend golive. Neither program supports tables, but golive’s interface is much nicer to use and look at, and it offers a wider range of tagging options.
Gonet plans to ship version 1.1 of golive in just a few weeks, and that new version will fix a few bugs and possibly add a few minor features. In the meantime, you can check out a two-week demo version of 1.0.1, which is available from gonet’s Web site. The demo download comes in around 2-3 MB, depending on whether you download the 68K, PowerPC, or fat version.
There are about a thousand half-truths about the computer industry, but there’s only one law: new machines will appear any day now. Apple has been doing such a poor job of keeping some forthcoming models secret that I felt some general notes were appropriate. We’ll cover these products briefly when they’re official; in the meantime, here are some details to whet your appetite.
Performas — Apple is widely expected to introduce the Performa 6400 series at Macworld next month. The Performa 6400s (codenamed Instatower) are the mini-tower configurations based on the Performa 5400 motherboard design. These Performas should feature a PowerPC 603e processor running at 180 or 200 MHz, an 8x CD-ROM drive, two PCI expansion slots, an extra front drive bay, and the ability to handle an internal modem and/or Apple’s TV Tuner. I’ve also heard persistent rumors the Performa 6400s may ship with a bundled video editing system and a sophisticated sound system complete with a sub-woofer (a speaker designed for lower-frequency sounds often lost on smaller, low-power computer speakers). Although the target market is a little unclear, Apple seems to be going after multimedia and video enthusiasts, as well as small businesses and production houses. The Performa 6400 series is expected to retail between $2,500 and $3,000.
Power Macintosh — It comes as no surprise that Apple is expected to revise its existing Power Macintosh line at Macworld, with units coming available in September. New versions of the 7200, 7600, 8500, and 9500 will sport 8x CD-ROM drives and higher clock speeds ranging from 132 MHz for the 7600 to 200 MHz for the 8500 and 9500. In addition, the fastest 8500 and 9500 models will be based on the PowerPC 604e chip and ship with 32 MB of RAM standard. Prices should range from $2,300 for the 7200 to about $5,000 for the high-end 9500.
Those revisions are predictable: more exciting, however, is the anticipated Power Macintosh 9500/180 MP. This machine, expected to be available in September or October, will sport dual PowerPC 604e processors running at 180 MHz. Although not the first multi-processor Macintosh available (DayStar has been shipping its Genesis MP models for some months, sporting two to four PowerPC 604 processors at 150 MHz), at about $6,000 Apple’s offering should be price and feature competitive. Although software must be specifically engineered to take advantage of multiple processors, 3-D rendering and graphics applications like Strata Studio Blitz and Photoshop already support multi-processor machines, and more applications are in the works. Even though the 9500/180 MP’s clock speed might not match other machines, if your life revolves around a multi-processor capable application, it might be worth considering. Apple and other vendors are expected to offer more multi-processor machines in the coming year, particularly for high-end workstation and server markets. DayStar has already dropped prices on its Genesis MP line in anticipation of the Power Mac 9500/180 MP, so it’s possible price competition may make these machines more affordable.
PowerBooks — Apple’s PowerBook line has been in a state of consternation, plagued by a dealer recall that even Apple says may have cost as much as $100 million. Furthermore, new PowerBook models have been repeatedly delayed: a revved-up 5300 to be released several months back was cancelled, and PowerBooks sporting CD-ROM and PCI expansion have been pushed back until later in 1996.
According to the best of my current rumor mill, Apple will introduce two new PowerBook models codenamed Epic and Hooper in October or November of 1996. Both will feature active matrix or dual scan color screens and the longer-lasting lithium-ion battery packs originally slated for the PowerBook 5300 series.
Epic will have a 117 MHz PowerPC 603e (like the current top-of-the-line 5300-series), an optional CD-ROM drive, and an upgradable CPU chip. Reportedly, Epic will not be able to use expansion bay devices designed for the 5300-series, although that might be offset by an estimated street price at or below $2,000 for a basic unit.
Hooper, conversely, will sit at the high end of the PowerBook line, sporting a PowerPC 603e processor running at 180 or 200 MHz, optional Level 2 cache, a CD-ROM drive, a 12-inch screen, and PCI expandability. Hooper will reportedly be able to use expansion bay devices designed for the 5300-series, and will use the PCI bus for external video and the expansion bay, as well as a card slot on the motherboard. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realize that PCI peripherals designed for Hooper will need non-standard designs and connectors, which raises a serious issue regarding vendor adoption. Apple will probably start the ball rolling with a modem and/or Ethernet PCI device for Hooper, but I haven’t heard of any plans from other vendors. Though Hooper sounds speedy it could also be an expensive turkey, with prices estimated to range between $4,500 and $6,000.
That’s Not All, Folks — In the coming months, you can expect to see other new models from Apple and every Macintosh clone vendor. In addition, IBM and Motorola have both have sub-licensing agreements for the Mac OS, which will have ramifications in the coming year, particularly in overseas markets and as the Power PC Reference platform becomes a reality. So if you think the Macintosh model situation is confusing now, it’s only going to get more complicated.