The big news this week is System 7.5.5, a new revision of the Mac OS that squashes lots of bugs. We also have news of Motorola’s upcoming Macintosh clones and plans for future Apple and Sun products to work together better. David Blatner contributes an article about QuarkImmedia, Adam presents some image map creation tips, and we offer the top ten reasons why products sometimes don’t get mentioned in the press.
Motorola Announces Mac Clones — Last week, Motorola officially announced its first line of Macintosh clones, dubbed StarMax. The StarMax line consists of eight machines (four each in the 3000-series and 4000-series) available in desktop and minitower enclosures, featuring 603e and 604e PowerPC processors at speeds ranging from 160 to 200 MHz, IDE drives, and an industry-leading, five-year warranty. Although reports indicate that Motorola’s machines don’t offer shocking performance improvements over Apple’s current Macintosh line (and their processors reportedly are not mounted on removable daughter-cards), they’re expected to be solid performers when they become available in November, with prices beating Apple’s comparable machines. [GD]
Sun and Apple Eye Enterprise Market — Apple and Sun announced last week that they intend to build a seamless bridge between Macintosh computers and Sun’s high-end Solaris enterprise servers, in an effort to combine high-performance networking services with the Mac’s multimedia and ease-of-use. Perhaps more significantly, Apple and Sun announced plans to make QuickTime and OpenDoc interoperate with Sun’s various Java technologies. Although currently targeted at the corporate intranet market, Apple-Sun cooperation could also give Apple technologies an inside track to some future Internet technologies, particularly if the much-hyped promise of Java begins to be fulfilled. [GD]
Quark finally released the Macintosh version of its long-awaited Immedia product, just as Seybold San Francisco got underway earlier this month. QuarkImmedia (long-ago code-named Orion) turns QuarkXPress into a multimedia authoring tool. If you know how to use QuarkXPress, you’ll be able to create multimedia projects in about an hour… it’s that easy.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably looked at using Macromedia Director. Unfortunately, I’ve never had two weeks free to sit down and read the manuals to learn it (and Lingo, its scripting language). Similarly, I’ve used Adobe Persuasion for slides and such, and though the outlining feature is great, the program doesn’t give me nearly enough control over laying out type and pictures. Immedia probably handles 75 percent of the stuff people need Director for, and because it works on top of XPress, there’s more than enough layout control.
Buttons, Movies, and Sounds, Oh My! Immedia lets you use the full accouterment of multimedia: buttons, sounds, pop-up menus, animations, QuickTime movies, transitions, cursors, and more. You can make an animation slide along a path and quack when you click it. You can build buttons that look like animated eyeballs. You can build projects as simple as a promotional piece that will fit on a floppy or almost as complex as a game like Myst for CD-ROM.
Because Immedia’s interface is so simple (pop-up menus and palettes), it’s easy to learn and fast to use. And even when Immedia doesn’t give you all the control you need, it’s still a brilliant prototyping tool for projects you’ll later build in Director (Immedia is still a 1.0 product, and although it’s good for multimedia work being done today, it’s not quite a high-end product).
CD-ROM, Kiosk, and the Web — Immedia can create projects for CD-ROM, kiosks, and even the Web. Quark has been pushing Internet and intranet uses of Immedia recently (for obvious reasons), and indeed Immedia lets you put stuff on the Web that would be impossible (or at least difficult) to do in other ways. The key is that Immedia does not export HTML… it’s a separate format, much like Acrobat’s Portable Document Format (PDF). Although you can view Immedia projects in the authoring tool itself, you can also export them in several formats and then view them with the free Immedia viewer (about 750K). According to Quark, the viewer requires a 68030 or better processor, an 8-bit (256-color) monitor, and System 7.1 or higher with Sound Manager 3.1 and QuickTime 2.1.
Of course, though Immedia lets you include QuickTime animations and such, you may not want to place these on your Web site yet. In general, anything you’d feel comfortable putting in a Web-based Acrobat PDF, you could put in a Web-based Immedia document. However, you can create much more robust projects in Immedia than with Acrobat. Nonetheless, because of bandwidth, in many cases Immedia pages may feel more at home on an a high-speed intranet than on the modem-heavy Internet.
Should I Get It? With a suggested retail price of $995, Immedia is not inexpensive. To use Immedia, you’ll need QuarkXPress 3.32 or QuarkXPress Passport 3.32, as well as Adobe Type Manager, System 7.1 or later, Sound Manager 3.1, and QuickTime 2.1. Your Mac must be a 68030 or better, have at least an 8-bit monitor, a CD-ROM drive, and 4 MB of free RAM.
QuarkImmedia is an impressive product. People who have played with it or have seen it at trade shows typically say "I want Immedia now. I don’t care how much it is. I use XPress, and this is perfect for me." Now that it has shipped, they’ll have their chance.
Quark, Inc. — 800/676-4575 — 303/364-5735 — 303/343-2086 (fax)
[David Blatner is a graphic arts consultant who specializes in QuarkXPress and Photoshop. He is the author or co-author of many books from Peachpit Press, including The QuarkXPress Book and Real World Photoshop. He’s currently working on Real World QuarkImmedia.]
Comments in favor of appropriate use of graphics on Web sites continue to pour in, and two of them offer suggestions for reducing the problems caused by large image map graphics that prevent navigation of a site by users who can’t or don’t view graphics.
Tony Grant <[email protected]> passes on a tip from Bill Shackleton that involves some extra work, but ensures that access to an image map-based site is at least possible, if not elegant, without graphics.
First, create a small, single-color GIF file (say, two pixels by two pixels). Make it transparent, which renders it invisible to users who have graphics turned on. Then, for every link in your image map, place an <IMG> tag for a copy of this invisible graphic on the line below the image map’s HTML. Link each invisible GIF to its eventual destination, and, most important, create a descriptive ALT attribute for each one.
The end result is that in a browser that doesn’t support graphics, has graphics turned off, or (less commonly but more importantly) uses a text-to-speech converter, the ALT text stands in for the graphical navigation controls in the image map.
Drew D. Saur <[email protected]> points out:
I read your recent TidBITS article on the redesign of your Web page, and there’s one problem with your discussion of image maps. Two weeks ago, Foteos Macrides released Lynx 2.6, which now supports client-side image maps (and quite elegantly, too, I might add). Lynx is still freely available, and people should ask that their system administrators upgrade. There’s no excuse not to implement client-side image maps any more, since it’s possible to implement them while still implementing standard image maps – all without cluttering Web pages with redundant links.
A common refrain heard by anyone who writes regularly about software goes along the lines of, "Why didn’t you mention X?" The implications are usually that the author doesn’t know the topic well or is engaged in an active conspiracy to prevent the public from hearing about said product. Tonya, Geoff, and I hear comments along these lines often enough that we thought we’d give you all a look into the dark underbelly of computer journalism and give you the top ten reasons why products aren’t mentioned in articles.
10: It’s Inappropriate — The main reason a program might not garner a mention in an article is that it’s simply inappropriate. Articles come in different forms, and if I’m writing an announcement about the release of a new version of the program, it may not be appropriate to mention competing programs. And, even if I do mention a competing program where a specific feature compares well or badly, that doesn’t mean that I want to mention all existing competing programs.
9: The Program is Lousy — Let’s face it, much of the software out there isn’t all that hot. I’ve run into situations where I’ve been writing about a particular class of software and one or more of the programs just aren’t worth mentioning. They crash on launch, repeatedly pop up error dialogs, are poorly written HyperCard stacks, or just plain don’t work. Almost as bad are programs that work but don’t have any features worth mentioning.
8: There isn’t Space — We’re not particularly concerned about space issues in TidBITS, but most paper publications live and die by space constraints. When I write an article for MacWEEK, I have a special template file that I use. I aim for 115 lines in that template file, and if I’m trying to cut a few lines, removing a gratuitous mention of a product that doesn’t really fit in the article is a good way of doing that. Even in TidBITS, space is a consideration, since although we don’t care about the size of individual articles, issues almost always come in under 30,000 characters.
7: The Almighty Editor — In edited publications, the author is seldom the last person to see the text. In many cases, the author submits the article and doesn’t hear anything more. When the article appears, it may have significant changes about which the author knew nothing. Many editors are good about sending back queries or drafts of edited versions, but even then, if a few words have to come out because of space considerations, a copy editor may remove mention of some ancillary products. In short, the author isn’t always responsible for omissions.
6: Lists are Boring — In some categories, there are only two or three programs, which makes it easier to mention all of them. However, if you consider the number of Web servers for the Macintosh, for instance, you can see how difficult it might be mention all of them. I can think of at least 17 Macintosh Web servers off the top of my head, but it’s utterly ridiculous to mention all of them every time I write about one of them or about running a Macintosh Web server. Even worse, in TidBITS we’d feel obligated to include URLs to the home pages of all of those 17 programs, and including 17 lines of URLs is ludicrous.
5: Companies from the Moon — Some companies are incredibly hard to deal with, which makes it much more likely that their programs will be overlooked. For instance, if the company has a confusing Web site, lacks a free demo version that writers can download, doesn’t respond to email, requires non-disclosure agreements written by lawyers from hell, doesn’t return telephone calls, won’t send review copies, or something along those lines, it’s easy to avoid mentioning that product. It’s an author’s job to write about software, not to act like an investigative journalist and hunt down basic details that a company won’t divulge for whatever reason.
4: Private Information — Sometimes we don’t mention products because we know something that’s not public about that product and the developer has asked us not to divulge that information. For instance, if a program is slated for a significant upgrade in the near future, the developer may not want the previous, more-limited version reviewed.
3: Wrong Product, Wrong Publication — We often get email asking if we would mention some product, Web site, or worthy cause. Frankly, it’s a little awkward to be asked to cover something, but even worse is when that something isn’t along the lines of topics we cover. It’s not uncommon for us to receive information about Windows programs, which we almost never write about in TidBITS, and although we do mention the occasional Web site, we don’t make a habit of it, so we’re unlikely to mention every neat Web site someone tells us about, no matter how cool or otherwise worthy it might be.
2: Conspiracy Theories — Although it’s almost unthinkable, it is conceivable that a product wouldn’t merit a mention in an article, or even in an entire publication, if there was some sort of truly weird circumstance, like the developer was having an affair with the author’s spouse, or the author heard voices telling him that the developer was the spawn of the devil, or some such nonsense. I know of no such instance, and every conspiracy theory I’ve ever been subjected to has been so completely wrong as to be laughable.
1: Authors are Fallible — Every now and then, we authors just blow it and omit a product that should have been mentioned in an article. Sometimes we just didn’t know about the product, especially if it’s new or badly publicized, but more frequently, we simply forget or just don’t have time to check something out. When you’re keeping a lot of information in your head at once, every now and then something just slips away and you forget to mention it when you’re writing. If your editor doesn’t know a great deal about the topic, which isn’t uncommon, the slip isn’t rectified.
After a delay of a few weeks, Apple has released the much-anticipated System 7.5.5 Update, billed as a collection of fixes and updates designed to improve the performance and reliability of Macs running System 7.5.3. The update is available as both a set of three floppy disk images and as a single "net install" archive; either way, the update is about 4.1 MB in size. Apple has made the update available on a number of its own servers as well as third-party sites, and Apple is maintaining a list of sites carrying the update. A URL to one download site is included below, along with a URL to Apple’s list of sites.
If you use the floppy disk version, you will need a program like ShrinkWrap to copy the image files to physical disks or to mount them on your desktop.
In the U.S., customers can order a floppy disk version of the update from Apple/Claris for $13 by calling 800/293-6617.
What’s Included — The 7.5.5 Update does not contain a plethora of new features, cool gizmos, and funky icons nestled in your System folder. Instead, the update is primarily a set of under-the-hood patches, fixes, and updates to System 7.5.3, including important updates to Virtual Memory, the SCSI Manager, LocalTalk and Ethernet networking, as well as a number of fixes for specific types of Macs. In addition, System 7.5.5 includes a welcome fix to the Modern Memory Manager that eliminates one cause of the infamous "Type 11 errors" on all Power Macs.
The primary features of the 7.5.5 Update are as follows:
- Improved Virtual Memory: System 7.5.5 includes significant changes to Apple’s built-in Virtual Memory; the result should be improved performance when using and switching between applications or documents that require large amounts of RAM. Also, several potentially-crashing bugs were fixed, and changes that had previously been made for Virtual Memory on Power Macs were rolled into the 68K version. Macs should boot faster using the new Virtual Memory code, and Power Macintosh applications should launch more quickly. Please note that these fixes only apply if you use Apple’s built-in Virtual Memory: if you use RAM Doubler or another third-party product for virtual memory, none of this applies.
- SCSI Manager: The SCSI Manager includes a number of low-level fixes to problems that could result in hangs and crashes on Power Macs.
- Code Fragment Manager: Changes to the Code Fragment Manager on Power Macintoshes should allow code libraries to load better in tight memory situations, which should be useful in improving the performance of PowerPC applications and games on entry-level Performas and other systems. (There are no changes to the 68K version of the Code Fragment Manager.)
- The System 7.5.5 extension set in Extensions Manager now correctly includes all QuickTime 2.5 extensions.
- Better-behaved background applications: In a very welcome fix, a long-standing bug with multiple background applications and the Process Manager has been fixed on all Macintosh models – basically, the system would hang if two or more background applications made a specific, common Toolbox call (MaxApplZone). Though this problem was well-known and well-documented, it’s been lurking for years and still catches developers (and users!) by surprise. Faceless background applications include things like the File Sharing extension, Microsoft OLE, and numerous helper components of other applications and utilities.
- Fixes for machines which support the Infrared Remote Control, including Macs with the Apple TV Tuner.
- Correct IR Talk control panels and drivers for all machines supporting IR Talk. System 7.5.3 Revision 2 didn’t include these items, resulting in varying "clean" installations of the IR Talk software.
- Improved Math routines: System 7.5.5 contains new, more efficient math routines, which might produce a slight performance improvements in some applications using these routines. However, these new math routines will also cause those applications to use 23K more memory (see below).
The System 7.5.5. Update also includes a number of machine-specific fixes:
- Fixes for a hang in the 68K emulator (and File Manager) on the PowerBook 5300, 2300, and PCI-based Macintosh computers.
- Ethernet fixes for 5400/6400-series computers that should improve communications on busy networks. (There’s also an obscure LocalTalk fix for 5400/120s being used both as a server and a Remote Access server.)
- A problem initializing the PCI bridge chip on fast (180 MHz or faster) PCI Macs has been addressed, and the systems should now start up "more reliably." Further, these machines now correctly format floppy disks (they weren’t waiting long enough for the formatting to complete), and floppy disk-related hangs on NuBus-based Power Macs have been fixed.
- All machine-specific fixes included in System 7.5.3 Revision 2.0 (see TidBITS-332).
Installing the 7.5.5 Update — The System 7.5.5 Update can only be installed on Macs running System 7.5.3. If you’re currently using a System prior to 7.5.3, you must upgrade to 7.5.3 using the System 7.5 Update 2.0 before updating to 7.5.5. (See TidBITS-318 for information on upgrading to 7.5.3.) For a system version prior to 7.5, you must purchase System 7.5 before updating to 7.5.5. The updater temporarily needs about 10 MB of free hard disk space to complete the installation. If you’re upgrading to System 7.5.3, please take care to update your disk drivers to SCSI Manager 4.3-compliant drivers before upgrading.
The System 7.5.5 update incorporates fixes included in System 7.5.3 Revision 2 (see TidBITS-332), so there’s no need to install it before the 7.5.5 Update.
Before installing, make sure to read the ReadMe file for the Update and the installation notes below. Although it should go without saying, always back up before installing any new version of the system software.
Apple expects localized versions of the System 7.5.5 Update will become available in the next several weeks. Don’t be misled by the many translations of the license agreement available in the Installer: the update currently available works on U.S. system software only. Do not try to install it on non-U.S. systems.
Before running the 7.5.5 Update installer, Apple recommends you run Disk First Aid on your startup drive. (Disk First Aid is included with the update.) If the program detects any problems, Apple recommends you repair them with Disk First Aid or another disk repair program before proceeding. Assuming your drive checks out, go to the Extensions Manager control panel and select "System 7.5.3" from the Sets pop-up menu. (If you use a third-party extension management tool, the precise steps will vary.) After that, re-enable any drivers for removable drives, video cards, or third-party input devices (Zip drives, third-party mice, etc.) that you need to install the update.
Also, I’ve seen reports of installer problems if you have version 1.x of the Energy Saver control panel installed. (This version is used on NuBus Power Macs and some Quadras which can use Energy Saver monitors, but can’t put the entire system to sleep.) Before installing the 7.5.5 Update, remove Energy Saver 1.1 from your Control Panels folder, then put it back after you’ve updated to System 7.5.5.
After setting your extensions and control panels correctly, restart your computer and run the 7.5.5 Update installer. The 7.5.5 Update installer is simple – there are no Custom Install options to worry about: just select your startup disk and click Install (after reading the licence agreement – it’s available in ten languages, so you can practice your foreign language skills). As the installation completes, the Installer will say that it’s optimizing your system for speed, which means it’s decompressing resources in your system file for faster access. When it’s finished, the installer will restart your computer, at which time you can re-enable your third-party extensions and control panels.
Please note there is no Remove option in the 7.5.5 Update installer. Since the updater patches the System file and updates existing code with non-optional updates, the installer isn’t coded to go back and remove optional portions of the installation. Be sure to back up your system before you install the update!
Important to Note — The following known problems and issues apply to the System 7.5.5 Update:
- If you have both the Motorola Math Library (see TidBITS-334) and Speed Copy 1.3.1 installed, Connectix Speed Copy cannot be used. To use Speed Copy, remove the Motorola Math Library and restart your Mac.
- Due to the new math routines included in the update, some applications may use slightly more memory after the update is installed (about 23K). If you find applications don’t have enough memory to launch, increase their memory allocations in the Get Info dialog by adding 23 to the application’s Preferred Size. Additionally, the new math routines apparently may cause some control panels to need 23K of additional memory. Since standard control panels live in the Finder’s memory space, this may cause the Finder to run out of memory on some machines. A few utilities can increase the Finder’s memory allocation, including John Brisbin’s Finder Heap Fix control panel. If you encounter this problem, it’s probably a good idea to make a backup of your Finder before you try to work around it.
- If you use the Desktop Shortcut component of Aladdin Desktop Tools, clicking on visible Finder windows from a Open or Save dialog box will no longer select that directory in the dialog. Aladdin expects to fix this problem soon.
- The Sagem GeoPort ISDN Adapter 1.0 is incompatible with the 7.5.5 Update. If you use this adapter, don’t install the update until Sagem resolves the conflict.
- Apple notes System 7.5.5 will be the last system software release to support non-32-bit machines (this includes the Plus, SE, Classic, Portable, LC, SE/30, II, IIx, IIcx, and the PowerBook 100) – all system releases after 7.5.5 will require 32-bit-clean machines, regardless of whether utilities like MODE32 or Apple’s 32-bit enabler are installed. However, that doesn’t mean owners of these older Macs (myself included!) are hereby forever finished with system updates: you can expect future versions of Open Transport, QuickTime, and other system components will continue to support these machines, at least for a little while longer.
What About System 7.5.4? A number of readers have asked why Apple skipped from System 7.5.3 to System 7.5.5. The simple answer is that there was a System 7.5.4: it was completed and distributed to key developers a few weeks ago. However, last-minute issues with IR Talk and Virtual Memory preferences on 5400/6400-series computers and a minor revision to the Energy Saver control panel needed to be included, so Apple decided to increment the version number rather than deal with two "final" versions of System 7.5.4.
Additional Information — Despite the plethora of detail in this article, there’s still more information available. Apple has released a detailed technical note about the 7.5.5 Update of particular interest to power users and developers. In addition, Ric Ford’s MacInTouch site and Ted Landau’s Sad Macs Update Site both carry copious information about the update – the sheer volume may be a little overwhelming, but good information can be found at both locations.